CINCINNATI -- Evan Longoria has never been ejected from a game in his 15-year career in the Majors, though he estimated that he came pretty close on Sunday afternoon.
Longoria wasn’t pleased with a few calls from home-plate umpire Shane Livensparger, and his frustrations mounted as the Giants’ offense struggled against Reds right-hander Tyler Mahle, who opened the game with 6 2/3 hitless innings before Thairo Estrada finally broke up the no-hit bid with a two-out double in the seventh.
San Francisco’s bats started to show late life against Cincinnati’s bullpen, but Longoria’s composure was tested again while facing Art Warren with a pair of runners on and one out in the eighth. The 36-year-old veteran third baseman thought he drew a walk after taking a 3-1 slider on the outside corner and began to drop his bat, but the pitch was called a strike, keeping the at-bat alive.
It ended up working out for Longoria, though, as he promptly drove the next pitch out to right field for a go-ahead three-run blast that lifted the Giants to a 6-4 win and helped them avoid a sweep at the hands of the Reds at Great American Ball Park.
“It’s good to feel some success in a big situation,” Longoria said. “I felt like that was something that the team definitely needed. … The last three days, it seemed like we were kind of waiting for somebody to get a big hit. I was obviously happy to be the guy to come through in that situation.”
The Giants had been held to only three runs in back-to-back losses to the Reds and entered the eighth trailing, 2-0, before Joc Pederson finally put them on the board with an RBI single off Warren. Longoria then put San Francisco ahead for good, crushing his fourth home run of the year and his second in as many days to make it 4-2.
“I think what was most impressive for me about the day for Longo was how he stayed composed when there were several calls made on him that could have gone the other way,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “I personally find it admirable for people to be strong-minded through those situations and not let those things get the best of them. Stay focused, stay locked in, and then deliver like Longo did.”
Luis González capped the six-run rally with a two-run double, providing a pair of insurance runs that proved critical after Camilo Doval surrendered a two-out, two-run shot to Albert Almora Jr. in the ninth.
The late comeback ensured that the Giants didn’t squander a quality start from veteran Alex Cobb, who worked six innings of two-run ball in his eighth start of the year. Cobb entered Sunday with the largest gap between his ERA (6.25) and his expected ERA (1.93) in the Majors, a sign of the Giants’ struggles to convert enough ground balls into outs during his starts, but he finally got the results he was looking for against the Reds, using his sinker-splitter combination to rack up eight strikeouts in the 87-pitch effort.
The Giants haven’t played their best defense behind Cobb this year, but he got an assist from Longoria -- his former Rays teammate -- in the sixth. After Tyler Naquin reached on a one-out walk, Longoria made a leaping grab to snare a rocket off the bat of Tyler Stephenson for the second out of the inning. The ball came off Stephenson’s bat at 98.4 mph and had an expected batting average of .910, according to Statcast.
Joey Votto followed with a double to extend the Reds’ lead to 2-0, but Longoria saved another run in the seventh, when he fielded a bouncer from Almora and flipped home to get Kyle Farmer at the plate.
“His natural instincts at third base are never going to leave him,” Cobb said. “He’ll be 65 years old and still be able to do that. He’s just a great teammate and a confident leader in everything he does.”
Longoria missed the first month of the season while recovering from right index finger surgery and endured a slow start after returning from the injured list, but he has begun to heat up over the last week. He’s now 8-for-22 (.363) with four home runs and 10 RBIs over his last six games, boosting his average to .240 and OPS to .789 on the season.
“I still feel like there’s a lot of work to do,” Longoria said. “I’m not anywhere close to where I’d like to be, but I feel like now, my legs are underneath me. I feel as healthy as I have, as confident as I have. Obviously, I would have loved to start out gangbusters right out of the gate, but it was the way it was. Now I’m starting to see the ball better. …Those are all signs that things are trending in the right direction.”
Longoria’s production is a good sign for the Giants, who will need their veteran hitters to carry the offense and get them back on track after an uneven 11-14 May, their first losing month under Kapler since August 2020.
“He’s just clutch,” Cobb said. “He comes up with the big hit whenever it’s needed. I saw him do that throughout Tampa, and he’s doing it here.”