Byrd's slam sets Giants' single-season record
SAN FRANCISCO -- Marlon Byrd might have figured that he'd hit another grand slam at some juncture of his career. But he never would have guessed the identity of the pitcher he would victimize.
Byrd's career-long slump against St. Louis starter Michael Wacha lengthened to 0-for-17 Friday night with a first-inning strikeout that stranded two baserunners. It was the eighth strikeout Wacha had recorded against Byrd. But Byrd wiped out the memory of many of those fruitless at-bats by belting a third-inning grand slam that opened the scoring in the Giants' 5-4 triumph over the St. Louis Cardinals.
Byrd's grand slam was the Giants' Major League-leading eighth of the season, establishing a franchise record. This total eclipsed the seven amassed by the club in 1951, 1954, 1970, 1998 and 2000.
Only Thursday, Kelby Tomlinson's grand slam against the Cubs pulled this year's team into that group. Byrd's slam marked the first time the Giants homered with the bases full in back-to-back games since June 11-12, 2003, when Pedro Feliz and Rich Aurilia did the honors.
Byrd, who collected his eighth career grand slam, was well aware of the spell Wacha had cast over him.
"Gosh, I've had a tough time against Wacha," Byrd said. "... I see the ball well. But he spots his fastball. He spots his cutter. He spots his curveball and changeup."
Wacha struck out Byrd in the first inning with a 96 mph fastball. Byrd wasn't at all discouraged. Rather, as he related, he reminded himself before his next plate appearance, "Be aggressive." This mindset proved helpful as Wacha began their third-inning confrontation by throwing a curveball that didn't break. It dangled. Byrd reacted to the mistake by driving the ball over the center-field wall.
It was Byrd's 22nd homer of the season and third in seven games since he joined the Giants in a trade from Cincinnati on Aug. 20 to compensate for the absence of injured right fielder Hunter Pence. Byrd also has 10 RBIs with San Francisco.
Said Byrd, who owned a .237 batting average and a .286 on-base percentage when he joined the Giants, "I wanted to come here and help produce. It's been a tough season up to this point, but right now I'm hoping to hit my stride."
The Giants squandered the 4-0 lead Byrd provided as St. Louis scored three runs in the fourth inning and another in the sixth. But they kept putting runners on base, accumulating three hits and four walks, before Tomlinson broke the tie with his bases-loaded, ninth-inning single.
"Those guys, I think they're about believing, period," Byrd said of his new teammates, while indicating that he listens to the between-innings music at AT&T Park. "I've been on teams [that] have a four-run lead and all of a sudden give up a run, two runs, three runs, and it's tied. And the air kind of lets out. We kept fighting, kept believing. You could see in every single at-bat, we were fighting hard every pitch."