Dad power in a pinch? Dickerson delivers

September 23rd, 2020

SAN FRANCISCO -- Before Tuesday night’s 5-2 win over the Rockies, Giants left fielder joked that he’d have to make his first son, Levi Ross, a scrapbook to document the “craziness” that unfolded in the nine months leading up to his birth on Sunday.

A global pandemic that shut down the baseball season for three months. A positive COVID-19 test result that temporarily placed Dickerson in isolation a week before his wife, Jennifer, was due. The stress from that harrowing weekend caused the family to fear that Jennifer would go into labor at 39 weeks pregnant, but their peace of mind was restored after Dickerson subsequently tested negative in multiple tests, suggesting the scare was caused by a false positive.

The saga took an emotional toll on Dickerson, though it culminated in a moment of unadulterated joy with the arrival of Levi on Sunday afternoon at 1:47 p.m. in La Jolla, Calif. Shortly thereafter, Dickerson boarded a flight back to San Francisco, where he began scripting a memorable epilogue to the story.

Dickerson homered in his second consecutive game since returning from paternity leave on Tuesday, crushing a pinch-hit, go-ahead home run in the seventh inning to help the Giants even this four-game series against the Rockies at Oracle Park.

After former Giant Kevin Pillar tied the game, 2-2, with an RBI double in the top of the seventh, Dickerson delivered one of the biggest hits of the season, launching a misplaced fastball from reliever Jairo Díaz out to center field for his 10th home run of the year. It was Dickerson’s third career pinch-hit home run and his first in exactly four years. The last time he accomplished the feat was as a member of the Padres on Sept. 22, 2016. The opposing team? The Giants.

Dickerson was dealing with some right elbow soreness after being hit by a pitch on Monday, but his decisive shot still traveled an estimated 409 feet, a testament to his newfound Dad Strength. The Giants later added a pair of insurance runs on a two-run, pinch-hit double by Brandon Belt to extend their lead to 5-2.

“It was a long process,” Dickerson said of his wife’s pregnancy. “I think I realized the weight off my shoulders on the flight back, just how good I felt. Everybody's healthy and looking great. I’m extremely excited for the offseason and getting to spend time with my family.”

If the Giants accomplish their goal of making the playoffs, it might be a while before Dickerson will be able to return to Southern California and reunite with his family. With the win, San Francisco (27-27) climbed back to .500 to tie the Reds (28-28) and the Brewers (27-27) in the National League Wild Card race with six games left to play. The Reds and Brewers hold a tiebreaker advantage over the Giants by virtue of better intradivision records, however.

Beginning on Wednesday, the Giants will check into a San Francisco hotel to begin a seven-day quarantine period ahead of their potential entry into Major League Baseball’s playoff bubble, another reminder that the regular-season finish line is quickly approaching.

“Every game is a must win,” Dickerson said. “This is kind of the last stretch. A lot of teams are in it. You go out there and give it everything you’ve got and see what happens. We know how important every single game is. We know our schedule is not easy to finish up. We’ll go out there and grind it out like we have all season.”

The Giants received contributions from up and down their lineup to rally for a victory. In addition to Dickerson and Belt’s timely hits off the bench, Austin Slater blasted his first career leadoff home run in the first inning and reached base five times. Rookie catcher Joey Bart, who received a mental break on Sunday due to his offensive struggles, showed signs of a turnaround by going 2-for-4 with two doubles.

Left-hander Drew Smyly also delivered a strong performance in his third outing since returning from the injured list, holding the Rockies to one run on four hits over a season-high 5 1/3 innings.

Smyly said he spent the bulk of his time before the game watching his former club, the Phillies, play a doubleheader against the Nationals. When the Phillies dropped both games to slip to 27-29, he knew the Giants would have an opportunity to move past them in the standings.

“I was watching the Phillies game basically up until I went out to pitch today,” Smyly said. “You don't put too much into it. We all know like if we win, we're going to be in the playoffs. It's not really so much, ‘Let's root for this team to lose,’ but we have to take care of business every night.”

They did on Tuesday, but they’ll have to keep capitalizing down the stretch to keep pace in a tightly packed NL Wild Card race that seems destined to come down to the wire.

“I think we all feel and should feel a sense of urgency with each game, a heightened and elevated sense of urgency,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “At the same time, we all need to stay even and relaxed and not put any additional pressure on ourselves. Tonight, we went out there loose and relaxed and played a good baseball game all the way around.”