Villar signals hope on horizon for Giants

July 5th, 2022

PHOENIX -- What the Giants needed on the Fourth of July was a boost. And they got one from a player who was in the clubhouse for the first time on Monday.

Though the Giants saw their losing streak extended to five straight with an 8-3 loss to the D-backs at Chase Field, rookie David Villar notched two hits in the first two at-bats of his big league debut and the likelihood that Brandon Crawford could be back in the lineup Tuesday marked some bright spots during a tough stretch.

Villar, called up from Triple-A Sacramento after leading the Pacific Coast League in home runs, hit a double off the first pitch of his inaugural plate appearance against Arizona starter Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco’s former three-time World Series-winning ace.

“It’s a surreal feeling, and a dream come true. I was just soaking it in from the moment I stepped out on the field,” Villar said. “Once I got the first one under my belt I was just trying to remind myself that it’s the same game.”

Aside from the heralded rookie’s emergence, there wasn’t much to cheer about. Coming off three losses at home against the White Sox, the Giants opened a seven-game road trip with an 11th loss in their past 14 games.

“We have a lot of work to do,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We certainly have to recognize that we haven’t been playing our best baseball, and we have to continue to work.”

Villar, batting seventh and starting at second base, brought a needed spark as he reaped the rewards for his hard work in the Minors.

In his second at-bat, also vs. Bumgarner, Villar blooped a 1-1 curveball for a single to score Evan Longoria. That knock sliced the Diamondbacks’ lead to 4-3, and lifted the mood in the dugout.

“His at-bats were great,” Kapler said of Villar. “He was very competitive and he looks dangerous at the plate.”

The D-backs had the last word on the game, though.

Stuck in a slump of their own having lost eight of their last 11 and tied with Colorado in the NL West basement, Arizona scored two runs in the first, second, sixth and eighth innings, and never trailed.

Things got out of reach when first baseman Daulton Varsho uncorked a two-run double in the sixth to widen the lead to 6-3 before 27,752 fans at Chase Field. San Francisco starter Carlos Rodón lasted five innings, allowing four runs on five hits while striking out seven.

“We’re playing really bad baseball,” Rodón said. “Until we physically do something and make a change, I don’t think we’re gonna see any results.”

Pressed about what that “something” could be, he offered, “Play with a little more fire.”

The Giants purchased Villar’s contract from Triple-A Sacramento prior to Monday’s game. Playing third base during his time with the River Cats, the 25-year-old had one of his team’s four home runs as recently as Saturday at Reno.

Villar has been so focused on his time and play in the Minors that he wasn’t sure what the deal was when he was brought into the manager’s office for what turned out to be the biggest news of his career.

“He told me I was going to Arizona,” Villar said. “I was confused about what was going on because I wasn’t sure where the big league club was. I was just getting ready to get on a plane to Salt Lake.”

Monday’s matchup came at an opportunistic time for San Francisco. With Kapler questioning his players’ energy the day prior, the Giants were facing their former ace and were looking to get back on track against a struggling Arizona squad.

Furthermore, the game opened a stretch of 10 straight against NL West opponents, with the Los Angeles Dodgers threatening to open up more space atop the division before the All-Star break. Three of the Dodgers’ upcoming four opponents entered Monday a combined 31 games below .500.

But the Giants could be getting another boost, with Crawford eligible to return from the IL on Tuesday after missing seven games to left knee inflammation.

“I’m not gonna say 100% but I think it’s very likely Crawford’s in the lineup for us tomorrow,” Kapler said. “I think he makes everybody around him better.”