Youngsters Matos, Ramos bringing 'new life, new energy' to Giants

May 14th, 2024

SAN FRANCISCO -- With Jung Hoo Lee and Michael Conforto on the injured list, the Giants are planning to give and a chance to play every day in the outfield. The two young hitters certainly made the most of the opportunity on Monday night.

Matos and Ramos accounted for the Giants’ entire offensive output after combining to drive in four runs, but it wasn’t enough in a 6-4, 10-inning loss to the Dodgers in the series opener at Oracle Park.

Ramos put the Giants ahead, 4-3, with a two-out RBI single that chased Dodgers starter Yoshinobu Yamamoto in the sixth inning, but San Francisco’s bullpen couldn’t hang on after that. Kiké Hernández came off the bench to launch a game-tying solo shot off rookie Erik Miller in the seventh before the Dodgers pulled away for good on Will Smith’s two-run double off Taylor Rogers in the 10th.

The late collapse once again prevented the Giants (19-24) from reeling off their first three-game winning streak of the season. They remain the only team in the Majors that has yet to win three in a row, which is emblematic of the club’s inability to hit its stride through the first 43 games of the year.

“We just haven’t played well enough in a lot of the facets of the game,” manager Bob Melvin said. “You still look at some of the numbers, they’re not that good, offensively and on the pitching side. Defensively, we’ve made some mistakes, too. You have to do a couple of things really well to put together a win streak. I believe we will. Obviously, there’s a lot of youth right now and some different players than we envisioned being here right now. But it’s part of the game, and we’re going to have to deal with it.”

The Giants have some major holes in their lineup following the injuries to Lee, Conforto, Patrick Bailey, Jorge Soler, Nick Ahmed, Austin Slater and Tom Murphy, but they got a much-needed boost from Matos and Ramos, both of whom were part of the wave of callups that arrived from Triple-A Sacramento over the last week.

The Dodgers opened the scoring after Mookie Betts hammered a leadoff homer against starter Jordan Hicks in the top of the first inning, but the Giants quickly erased the deficit behind Matos’ three-run shot off Yamamoto in the second. Matos jumped on a first-pitch curveball from Yamamoto, crushing it 385 feet out to left field for his first hit of the 2024 campaign.

“I wasn’t looking for the curveball there, but I was ready to swing early,” Matos said in Spanish. “I saw it hanging and managed to hit it out.”

Matos, 22, emerged as perhaps the Giants’ most impressive hitter during Spring Training, but he cooled off after being sent to Triple-A Sacramento to start the season, batting .218 with a .663 OPS and three homers over his first 31 games with the River Cats. The Giants hope Matos will be able to keep making an impact now that he’s back in the big leagues, as he’s likely to get the bulk of the reps in center field now that Lee is expected to miss significant time with a dislocated left shoulder.

“The swing has been there,” Matos said. “I was trying to make some adjustments. I was also making good contact down in Triple-A, but I wasn’t having a lot of luck. But you always have to make adjustments and keep working hard to get better every day.”

The Dodgers tied the game on RBI hits by Shohei Ohtani and Gavin Lux, but the Giants briefly regained the lead after Ramos delivered a two-out RBI single that got past a diving Betts at shortstop in the sixth. The 24-year-old left fielder is now batting .333 (7-for-21) with three RBIs since being recalled from Triple-A Sacramento on Wednesday.

“We’re relying heavily on the young guys right now,” said Hicks, who didn’t factor into the decision after giving up two runs on seven hits over five innings in his first career start against the Dodgers. “They’re bringing some new life, new energy.”

A rookie mistake also cost the Giants in the bottom of the ninth, though. After Wilmer Flores reached on a leadoff walk, the Giants sent the speedy Tyler Fitzgerald to pinch-run for him, but he ended up being picked off first base by Dodgers reliever Blake Treinen for the first out of the inning. Ramos followed by beating out an infield single and stealing second, but Treinen struck out Jakson Reetz on three pitches and then coaxed a flyout from Matos to preserve the 4-4 tie and force extras.

“We are making some mistakes still,” Melvin said. “That’s going to come with youth sometimes.”