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Yaz blasts 2 HRs, gives Giants walk-off win

@mi_guardado
July 30, 2020

SAN FRANCISCO -- Mike Yastrzemski’s first home run of the night required a bounce before splashing into McCovey Cove. His second needed no such help, landing straight into the Bay and lifting the Giants to a dramatic 7-6 walk-off win over the Padres on Wednesday at Oracle Park. After Donovan

SAN FRANCISCO -- Mike Yastrzemski’s first home run of the night required a bounce before splashing into McCovey Cove. His second needed no such help, landing straight into the Bay and lifting the Giants to a dramatic 7-6 walk-off win over the Padres on Wednesday at Oracle Park.

After Donovan Solano launched a three-run home run off Craig Stammen to tie the game, 6-6, in the eighth inning, Yastrzemski led off the ninth with a shot off left-hander Matt Strahm to cap the Giants' comeback and set up a rubber match for Thursday’s series finale.

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“That’s a dream thing to be able to say you’ve hit a ball into McCovey Cove,” Yastrzemski said. “To actually do it was super surreal and super fun.”

It was the second career walk-off home run for Yastrzemski, who also accomplished the feat against the Mets on July 21, 2019. The 29-year-old outfielder was met with a no-touch, socially distanced celebration from the Giants at home plate, with his teammates briefly encircling him and jumping up and down with their hands in the air.

“Yeah, that was weird,” Yastrzemski said. “I didn't know what to expect. Obviously, we're trying to do our best to stay safe and to avoid as much contact as possible. Sometimes in that situation, you’ve just got to follow the lead. Everybody was doing the right thing, so we just jumped around, I guess.”

Trailing 6-2 in the fourth, the Giants fought back to tie the game on a solo homer by Alex Dickerson in the sixth and Solano’s three-run shot in the eighth. The three Giants to homer on Wednesday -- Dickerson, Solano and Yastrzemski -- were under-the-radar pickups by president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi last year who now appear poised to take on greater roles in 2020.

The right-handed-hitting Solano was expected to draw most of his at-bats against lefties this year as the Giants moved toward embracing more platoons, but his consistent production over the first week of the regular season earned him a start against Padres righty Chris Paddack.

Solano, who is nicknamed “Donnie Barrels” by his teammates, continued to show that he can be more than a platoon option, driving in a career-high four runs on Wednesday. After putting the Giants on the board with an RBI single off Paddack in the second, Solano crushed an inside changeup from Stammen out to left field for his game-tying blast in the eighth. It was only Solano’s 14th career home run and his first at Oracle Park.

“He’s one of the best hitters that I’ve ever seen,” Yastrzemski said. “He doesn’t get his nickname Donnie Barrels for nothing. He always finds a barrel, always hits the ball hard, and he's super clutch. I think he had a couple walk-offs last year. To be able to hit a ball that was five inches off the plate, in on his hands for a homer, it's unheard of. Obviously, that was the biggest play of the game. I've just been super impressed and inspired watching him.”

Solano, 32, hadn’t played in the Majors since 2016 when the Giants signed him to a Minor League deal last offseason, but he quietly hit .330 with an .815 OPS over 81 games as a backup infielder in 2019. His success didn’t guarantee him a spot on the team this year, as the Giants added Wilmer Flores, Mauricio Dubón and Yolmer Sánchez to their crowded infield mix, forcing Solano to compete for a job during Summer Camp.

But Solano was undeterred by the competition, emerging as one of the club’s most consistent performers during intrasquad action at Oracle Park. He now leads the club with seven RBIs through his first five games and is making a case to be an everyday player for the Giants.

“I’m here to play as many games as possible,” Solano said in Spanish. “I want to represent this organization in the best way possible because they gave me a great opportunity. If I play every day, I’ll give it my best. If it’s only against lefties, I’ll do that, too. I give it my all every day. I think I’ve had success against righties and lefties, so I’m open to playing every day or whenever they need me.”

Yastrzemski, who finished as the Giants’ co-leader in home runs (21) last year, is showing that his breakout rookie campaign wasn’t a fluke, either. He hammered a changeup from Paddack out to right field to tie the game, 2-2, in the third before besting Strahm in a left-on-left matchup to win the game in the ninth.

With Buster Posey electing not to play and Evan Longoria and Brandon Belt on the injured list, Yastrzemski has looked like the Giants’ best player thus far, going 9-for-22 (.409) and starting each of the club’s first six games in the outfield.

"I think tonight was an important moment in Yaz's career," manager Gabe Kapler said. "He hit a changeup off of Paddack, which was really encouraging for the hitting people, who like to see the bat stay on plane and extend out through the zone and get that ball in the air to the pull side. That was a really impressive swing.

"And then obviously to hang in there against a tough lefty late in the game, also get that ball up in the air to the pull side, which is a real skill -- he just looks like a great all-around player right now. It's starting to seem like this is who Yaz is."

Maria Guardado covers the Giants for MLB.com. She previously covered the Angels from 2017-18. Follow her on Twitter.