Matos' home run robbery leaves Webb in disbelief: 'He's a showman'

May 16th, 2024

SAN FRANCISCO -- thrust his arms in the air, his mouth agape with incredulity after witnessing young center fielder pull off a brilliant home run robbery in the fourth inning of the Giants’ 4-1 win over the Dodgers in Wednesday night’s series finale at Oracle Park.

Teoscar Hernández opened the frame by sending a drive deep out to right-center field, but Matos glided back to the warning track and made a perfectly timed leap at the wall, using every inch of his bright teal glove to pull the ball back and keep the Dodgers off the board.

“As soon as it came off the bat, I went out with the intention of catching it,” Matos said in Spanish. “It was hit pretty far, but luckily, I was able to make the catch.”

“He’s a showman, right?” Webb said. “That’s what excites people and excites us. Obviously, he saved us a run today. It was awesome.”

Matos came down hard after banging his left knee on the chain-link fence -- bringing back painful memories of an eerily similar play that left Jung Hoo Lee with a dislocated left shoulder on Sunday -- but the 22-year-old Venezuelan managed to brush off the impact and avoid becoming the Giants’ latest injury concern.

Matos’ jaw-dropping catch helped Webb spin six scoreless innings and snap his three-game losing streak, giving the Giants their first win in six games against the rival Dodgers this year. Webb gave up only three hits while walking three and striking out five, lowering his ERA to 3.03 through 10 starts in 2024.

“I think we were kind of embarrassed about how we played the first two games,” Webb said. “I felt that. We all felt that. I just wanted to go out there and give it all I could. Luckily, it turned out the way it did. There’s not many much-needed wins early on in the season. I thought tonight was a much-needed win. Hopefully this just gets us going.”

Webb gave up five runs over 3 2/3 innings in his last start against the Dodgers at Chavez Ravine on April 2, prompting the 27-year-old right-hander to tweak his approach on Wednesday. He mostly scrapped his signature changeup and upped the usage of his four-seam fastball, which accounted for 17 of his 103 pitches (16.5%), his most since May 2021.

“It’s no secret I’ve kind of struggled against these guys,” Webb said. “That was kind of the game plan tonight. Try to get in on some of them. I thought we did a pretty good job, for the most part, of that.”

The Dodgers loaded the bases with one out in the first inning after Mookie Betts singled, Shohei Ohtani walked and Will Smith reached on a hit-by-pitch, but Webb struck out Max Muncy swinging on a changeup and then induced a lineout from Hernández to escape the jam unscathed.

“He’s one of the better pitchers in the game,” Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman said. “When you have opportunities, you’ve got to cash them in. Once we didn’t cash that in, he started finding the strike zone a little bit more. He lives at the bottom of the zone. We got him up. We had pitches to hit. We just didn’t get the hit.”

Webb needed 32 pitches to get through the first, but he overcame the arduous beginning and managed to deliver his seventh quality start of the year.

“It’s 30-plus pitches and I’m wondering how he’s going to go four, let alone six,” manager Bob Melvin said. “To recover from something like that, where you throw that many pitches in the first inning against that club that tends to foul some pitches off and make you work, and then get it under control and give us six shutout innings, that’s probably his best work of the year.”

The Giants gave Webb all the support he would need in the third, when newly signed catcher Curt Casali singled to set up close friend Mike Yastrzemski’s two-run shot to right field. San Francisco added a pair of insurance runs on RBI hits from Heliot Ramos and Matos, who lined a two-out single to left-center field in the eighth to score LaMonte Wade Jr. from second and turn over a three-run lead to closer Camilo Doval.

The Dodgers put runners on first and second with two outs in the ninth after Betts walked and Ohtani singled, but Doval coaxed a groundout from Freeman to end the game and pick up his seventh save of the year.

“There are important wins over the course of the season,” Melvin said. “Early on, this was probably one.”