Ramos playing with 'a lot of confidence' amid Giants' injury woes

June 4th, 2024

PHOENIX -- For the duration of one ninth-inning replay review, it looked like the Giants had gotten the break they’ve lacked during this season-high five-game losing streak.

With two outs, runners on the corners and the game tied on Monday night at Chase Field, Jorge Soler hit a high chopper down the third-base line. D-backs third baseman Eugenio Suárez had to make a hurried throw, and it sailed on him, forcing first baseman Christian Walker to leap off the bag. Walker made the catch and swiped at Soler as the big DH touched first, but the call was safe and the Giants had their first lead.

Unfortunately for San Francisco, Arizona challenged and a brief review showed Walker’s tag got Soler’s helmet just before his foot got the bag. The game went to the bottom of the ninth still tied, and a pinch-hit two-run homer by Pavin Smith sent the Giants to a 4-2 walk-off loss.

“Game of inches, right?” manager Bob Melvin said.

“It just comes down to one swing. We were aggressive early on with a guy that was a strike-thrower, finally got to him and scored a couple of runs. And we felt good about where we were, especially with the pitching that we had coming in, but like I said with the replay, literally a game of inches.”

The Giants had trailed since gave up two runs in the second inning, but the right-hander and the bullpen had since steadied while the offense fought its way back against D-backs righty Ryne Nelson, who allowed two runs on six hits over 7 2/3 innings.

When you have an injured list like the Giants, you’re going to need surprising players to step up. Lately, that production has come from 24-year-old outfielder , whose game-tying homer in the seventh was his second big fly in as many games.

Left fielder Michael Conforto returned to the lineup on Monday, and it has been unclear how the Giants’ outfield would shake out once that happened. It would have been an option to start Luis Matos in center field and slide Mike Yastrzemski into right, but Melvin opted to stick with Ramos’ hot bat and slide Yastrzemski into center.

“From the minute he got here, he’s played with a lot of confidence,” Melvin said of Ramos. “He’s playing left, he’s playing right, I’ve hit him everywhere in the lineup from the middle to leadoff, and he continues to play with a lot of energy. He’s playing great.”

Ramos was grateful to see the confidence his skipper has in him despite his limited resume. After all, this is a player with five career homers hitting in the five-hole against the reigning National League champs.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity,” Ramos said. “As long as they keep giving me the opportunity, I’m going to be grateful and I’m going to do what I do best, and that’s play baseball.”

On the pitching front, the Giants got a decent outing out of Howard, though it was rockier than his debut with the team last Tuesday, when he shut out the Phillies on two singles over six innings.

Following an opener again, Howard’s outing began with a Lourdes Gurriel Jr. homer to lead off the second and a Suárez triple moments later, but he regrouped to limit the D-backs to two runs on four hits in four innings.

“Early in the outing, not necessarily quality pitches with the offspeed,” Howard said. “But later I made good enough pitches where they had to respect it.”

Howard has filled a bulk-innings role on Keaton Winn’s turn through the rotation. Winn, on the IL with a right forearm strain, is scheduled to throw a full simulated game on Tuesday at the Giants’ Arizona Complex League facility, and Melvin indicated that could be the right-hander’s last step before rejoining the rotation. However, Blake Snell landed on the injured list on Monday with a left groin strain, so the club will need to lean on Howard a bit longer even after Winn returns.

Melvin was uncertain whether Howard’s next outing would be as a starter or again followed by an opener, saying it depended on what shape the bullpen is in when the turn comes around. Either way, Howard said he’s ready.

“I think spending the last year-plus solely in the ‘pen made me comfortable coming out of it,” Howard said. “Whatever I can do to eat innings for the ‘pen, I’m here for.”