'He's a baller': Fitzgerald swipes 2 bags, 1st of year for Giants

April 10th, 2024

SAN FRANCISCO -- When the Giants arrived at Oracle Park for Wednesday afternoon’s series finale against the Nationals, they had a big ol’ goose egg in the “stolen bases” column of their team stats. In fact, they were the only team in MLB without a stolen base.

put an end to that.

The speedy Giants outfielder swiped two bags to spark an early rally as San Francisco beat Washington, 7-1, to fend off a sweep attempt.

“What are we, 1-0 [in games] with three stolen bases?” Giants manager Bob Melvin quipped. “No, look -- Fitzy has got a lot to do with that. He’s got the best speed on our team, and he needs to play too. It’s good that he got a really good game under his belt.”

Until the second inning, the Giants had gone 454 plate appearances this season without stealing a base. Then Fitzgerald swiped two bags in the span of two pitches, before coming around to score on an Austin Slater single. It’s a good thing Fitzgerald moved up those 180 feet, because Slater’s hit didn’t even leave the infield and he needed to scramble down the line to reach base.

Fitzgerald also deserves credit for turning an "Oh no!" moment into an "Oh yes!" during his first stolen base.

Initially, it looked like Fitzgerald was going to get picked off by southpaw Patrick Corbin as he crept off first base, but Fitzgerald sprinted to second and slid in safely when a throw from first baseman Joey Gallo went into left field. Two pitches later, Fitzgerald successfully darted for third base to double up the team’s stolen base total.

“It wasn’t one of my best reads. He had me picked off, but luckily I was able to beat it out,” Fitzgerald said of his first stolen base. “At the end of the day I had two bags. I’m happy with it.”

Slater might have been caught up in the stolen base fever, too, as he was thrown out trying to swipe a bag later in the inning. But, hey, the Giants finally got their first stolen bases of the season, and Matt Chapman added another in the bottom of the sixth.

Fitzgerald found himself in the middle of the Giants’ game-changing three-run rally, as Nick Ahmed had delivered an RBI triple before coming around to score on Fitzgerald’s run-scoring single. The 26-year-old rookie went 3-for-3, his first career three-hit game, while also driving in his first run of the season.

Fitzgerald had been used as a late substitute off the bench in three games recently, but Wednesday marked his first start since March 31.

“It’d been a while since I last played,” Fitzgerald said. “I just had a lot built up and I was ready to get after it and ready to play. I just got my opportunity and I’m excited I finally took advantage of it. …

“It is difficult, but I’ve taken more swings in the past week than I ever have in my life. I probably took 200 swings a day off the machine and it got to the point where the coaches told me to stop. But I just wanted to stay ready, because I knew the opportunity was coming eventually.”

His teammates were happy to see him contributing, too.

“That was sick,” starter Jordan Hicks said of Fitzgerald’s effort. “I’ve been waiting to see what he has in his game. He showed today he’s a baller.”

The early outburst keyed by Fitzgerald supported another sterling start from Hicks, the new Giants right-hander. Hicks, who signed a four-year, $44 million contract this offseason, tossed six innings of one-run ball to bring his ERA to 1.00; San Francisco has now won all three of his starts this season.

Melvin said Hicks has made a strong transition into a full-time starter role after being used almost exclusively as a reliever the previous five seasons.

“He’s talented, but what’s impressed me most is the mix of pitches he uses now,” Melvin said. “It was mostly fastball/slider [as a reliever], now he’s got a sweeper, a split. His velocity will go anywhere from 92-100 mph, which is very tough for a hitter to keep track of.”