Giants rookies provide spark with 1st HR, 1st MLB win

Bailey yanks first Major League homer in 2nd start while Walker makes debut out of 'pen

May 22nd, 2023

SAN FRANCISCO -- The two newest Giants crossed off major milestones in a 7-5 win over the Marlins on Sunday afternoon at Oracle Park.

Catcher launched his first career home run in just his second start, while right-handed reliever Ryan Walker earned his first win after working a scoreless sixth inning in his Major League debut. 

J.D. Davis also went deep and knocked in a pair of runs to help the Giants (22-24) secure their second consecutive series win and cap a 5-1 homestand against Miami and Philadelphia.

Bailey, the Giants' No. 11 prospect per MLB Pipeline, and Walker are the latest rookies to come up and make an instant impact for San Francisco, which has also received a huge lift from infielder (No. 3 prospect) , who went 2-for-4 with an RBI on Sunday to boost his batting average to .383 with a .979 OPS through his first 12 games.

“I think you always have to expect that young players are going to have some ups and downs and some struggles,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “It’s always nice when they have the ups first because it kind of sets the tone and brings a lot of energy to the ballpark.”

The Giants entered Sunday with a .653 OPS against left-handed pitchers, which ranked 28th in the Majors, but they got an early spark from the switch-hitting Bailey, who crushed a full-count 98 mph fastball from Marlins starter Jesús Luzardo out to left-center field to tie the game, 1-1, in the second.

Bailey’s homer rocketed off his bat at 107.4 mph and traveled a projected 423 feet, according to Statcast. While Bailey is viewed as a better hitter from the left side, his first two hits have come from his natural right side.

“It was crazy,” said Bailey, who made his Major League debut on Friday. “To be able to kind of get all the milestones out in a weekend and just kind of settle in is pretty cool.”

Bailey later went from one extreme to another, laying down a safety squeeze bunt to score Mitch Haniger from third base and extend the Giants’ lead to 6-4 in the sixth. Still, the 23-year-old also made something of a rookie mistake in the ninth, making an errant throw to first base that allowed the Marlins to score an unearned run off closer Camilo Doval.

Left-hander Alex Wood gave up four runs on six hits over 4 1/3 innings, with the bulk of the damage coming via a pair of homers to Jorge Soler and Nick Fortes. Wood has yet to complete five innings in his six appearances this season, as Kapler once again gave him the quick hook by bringing in right-hander John Brebbia to face Soler after the Marlins put two runners on with one out in the fifth. 

Wood departed after throwing 74 pitches, prompting him to shake his head as he walked back toward the dugout. 

“It’s hard because you feel like you don’t get to pitch anymore,” Wood said. “It’s like, 'Throw five perfect or get yanked in the fifth.' It’s frustrating.”

Brebbia surrendered a game-tying single to Soler before giving way to Walker, who was called up with Bailey on Friday after logging a 0.89 ERA over 15 appearances at Triple-A Sacramento.

Walker, a 31st-round pick out of Washington State in the 2018 MLB Draft, had been anxiously awaiting his debut the entire weekend, as he hoped to get a chance to pitch in front of his wife, Alexis, a San Francisco native, and her family. He finally got the call in the sixth, working around two infield singles to post a clean inning.

“It felt good,” Walker said. “Obviously, a little nerves like anyone else would, but I felt controlled and just played my game.”

“I thought he did a great job,” Kapler said. “It’s not easy to come out in that situation -- tie game, game on the line -- and deliver strikes. We know that if he is throwing strikes, he’s going to be really good. He’s super deceptive. The ball comes out pretty hot.”

Walker, who topped out at 98 mph via his funky crossfire delivery, returned to the mound for the seventh, but he was removed after giving up a leadoff single to Xavier Edwards. Jakob Junis and Doval combined to pitch the final three innings out of the Giants’ bullpen, which posted a 1.33 ERA over the six-game homestand.

The Giants have enjoyed more success at home (15-11) than on the road (7-13) this season, but they hope their recent infusion of youth will keep carrying them as they begin a seven-game swing through Minnesota and Milwaukee on Monday.

“It’s a good spark,” Wood said. “It’s been a lot of fun to watch those guys. Any help we can get, it’s always welcome. Hopefully those guys will keep playing well and keep the good start rolling.”