Walton proving to be grand addition for Giants

Infielder clubs 1st career slam -- and 1st homer with San Francisco -- in win over Marlins

June 5th, 2022

MIAMI -- Donovan Walton was bombarded by his teammates when he returned to the visiting dugout at loanDepot park in the top of the fourth inning on Sunday, and for good reason. He had just finished trotting around the bases after hitting his first home run of the year to get the Giants on the board. It also happened to be his first career grand slam -- not only in the Majors, but at any level of baseball he has played. 

The excitement was palpable, given that with one swing, Walton had singlehandedly given the Giants all the offense they would need in a 5-1 victory over the Marlins and ensured the club would head home from its 10-game, three-city road trip with a split 5-5 record.

“Tie ballgame, 0-0, going into that, and then Donnie hits the grand slam,” said starter Jakob Junis, who threw six innings of one-run ball while striking out eight. “[It] gives you a little breathing room, but also gives me the freedom to go out there and just keep attacking the zone, putting the pressure on them and and making things happen.”

Walton, who has played just 48 career Major League games since his debut on Sept. 10, 2019, became the 13th player this season whose first homer of the year was a grand slam. Prior to him, the most recent to do so was the Rangers’ Marcus Semien on May 29.

The Giants acquired Walton from the Mariners on May 11 before optioning the infielder to Triple-A Sacramento. San Francisco recalled him for one game on May 14, then optioned him back to Triple-A the following day. But toward the end of May, with more players having hit the IL, the Giants recalled Walton for the final game of their homestand (May 25) before hitting the road.

“He's been a nice addition,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “And what we expected from him is what he's brought to the table on a daily basis with his at-bats.”

What Walton brings to the table is consistency, evidenced by his eight hits since May 25, seven of which went for extra bases. He has notched a hit in each of his past three starts (all in Miami), along with racking up seven RBIs during that span.

On Saturday, Walton went 1-for-4 with a bases-clearing double to give the Giants an early 4-0 lead, though that was squandered by some pitching miscues. The infielder has carved a role for himself at the bottom of the lineup and is proof of the depth of hitting talent San Francisco possesses, especially when the club’s players are given opportunities to succeed.

Jason Vosler, who homered in back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday, is another more recent callup (he was called up on Wednesday). Vosler spent time in the Minors getting his swing right before finding success of late in the big leagues.

For Walton, a reminder from Kapler during the club’s three-game series in Philadelphia earlier in the week helped him get back in a groove.

“You want to have a good start with the new team,” Walton said. “There's nerves going in. … I had a talk with Kap, and Kap, after a couple games, was like, ‘Just stick to you and just be like you as a player. That's why we got you, so don't try to do too much and just stick to your game.’”

Sunday was further proof for Walton that sticking to his own process and not trying to force anything would deliver results. His homer marked the second time in three days that a Giants shortstop hit a grand slam, after Brandon Crawford did so Friday. Walton also became the 16th San Francisco player since 2000 to hit a grand slam for his first homer of the season. Thairo Estrada was the most recent to do so on July 2, 2021, against the D-backs.

Crawford, whose first career hit as a Giant was a grand slam, has been impressed with Walton’s play, both at the plate and in the field. Having players like Walton provide depth at the bottom of the order is crucial, especially for a team that has struggled with injuries this year.

“There are a lot of games where we've scored runs at the bottom of the lineup,” Crawford said. “If we can do that and bring it back to the heart of the order, we have an even better chance of scoring more runs. I think that was a big reason why we won so many games last year, was getting contributions from the whole lineup.”