For the team with the best record in baseball, the offense didn’t see the All-Star break as a time to cool off. Instead, it reignited the home run power that the San Francisco Giants have wielded so well.
“We really did a good job of sticking to our approach and that's what made us successful the first part of the year,” Yastrzemski said. “Not try to do too much and not overthink things or try to be the only hitter in the lineup. It's nine of us versus one of them -- that's kind of the way that we think about it in terms of a collective offense.”
Entering Friday, the Giants had the most home runs throughout the Majors with 132. It was the third time since 1958, when the Giants moved to San Francisco, that they led MLB in home runs heading into the All-Star break. They were averaging just below 1.5 home runs per game, while more than 50% of their runs were being scored via the long ball.
The approach continued to work well in the series opener against the Cardinals. The offense supported a last-minute bullpen game after Kevin Gausman, who was scheduled to start, was placed on the family medical emergency list.
Right-hander Logan Webb excelled in a spot start by yielding only one run through four innings on 60 pitches (42 strikes). His offspeed mix between his sinker and slider kept St. Louis off the board for Yastrzemski, who continued his dominance at the plate by putting the Giants ahead in the fourth inning.
“Yaz has been kind of been sneaky good, even with some of the ups and downs of the season, even with some of the injuries,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “Just off the top of my head, I think he's still kind of an .800 OPS guy, which is really impressive given what he struggled through this year.
“But it would mean a lot to us if he was kind of the best version of himself because he can put a team on his back when he's at his best. It's kind of why he continues to hit right in the middle of our lineup, whether it's a left-hander or a right-hander on the mound.”
Yastrzemski flashed his power against right-hander Adam Wainwright and lefty T.J. McFarland, whom he has long batted well against with a total of nine hits (three homers) in 10 at-bats. Yastrzemski's 13th homer of the year left the bat at 106.5 mph and traveled 354 feet to right field, according to Statcast, for the Giants to take an early lead in the fourth. But the Cardinals responded with Tommy Edman hitting an RBI single against Webb in the next half-inning.
The Giants opened the fifth threatening to pull ahead. Donovan Solano led off with a single and Steven Duggar worked a walk out of a five-pitch at-bat. Two outs later, Wade faced right-hander Wainwright with a 2-1 count and crushed his eighth long ball of the season.
“The swings that came from LaMonte and from Yaz, but the production is really a team thing,” Kapler said of the Giants’ ability to get on base. “It's a team event and a three-run homer only is a three-run homer because the guys are on base in front of them.”
Yastrzemski’s power continued in the seventh with runners on first and second. San Francisco commanded a three-run lead over the Cardinals when the No. 2 hitter stepped up the plate. His smooth left-handed swing took a slider over the middle of the plate and sent it to right field for added insurance as six relievers combined for one run in five relief innings.
Yastrzemski owned two of the loudest knocks among San Francisco’s 10 hits, but credited the team’s selfless attitude for the overall success that has topped the standings.
"It's a lot of fun. I don't know if it's unique because I haven't played on a whole lot of other big league teams, but it feels pretty unique that we're genuinely rooting for each other,” Yastrzemski said. “We don't have any guys that really only care about themselves and really only want to play well for themselves.
“This is a collective thing that everybody's bought into and really wants to play well for the guy in front of him, for the guy behind him. That makes every aspect of it fun.”