'A whirlwind of emotions' as Black debuts vs. childhood team

Giants' No. 7 prospect surrenders five runs over 4 1/3 innings in sweep by Phillies

May 7th, 2024

PHILADELPHIA -- Tara Black has a picture on her wall of her two sons, Mason and Dixon, walking into Citizens Bank Park with their Phillies jerseys on when they were kids. She never could have imagined that one of them would end up entering the Majors at the very same place years later.

With Mason -- now a top pitching prospect for the Giants -- getting his first callup on Monday, Tara and her husband, George, needed to drive only two hours from their home in Archbald, Pa., to watch their son make his big league debut against his childhood team.

The MLB-best Phillies (25-11) didn’t exactly give Mason a warm welcome to the big leagues -- he surrendered five runs over 4 1/3 innings as the Giants fell, 6-1, to seal a four-game sweep -- but the 24-year-old right-hander still provided the 100-plus friends and family members in the stands plenty to cheer about early on.

Black matched Philadelphia right-hander Zack Wheeler with three scoreless innings out of the gate, but he was nicked for a run in the fourth and then ran out of gas in the fifth, allowing a pair of singles before hanging a first-pitch sinker that Bryce Harper drilled out to left field for a three-run homer. The Lehigh alum threw 84 pitches -- 13 more than any of his six starts at Triple-A Sacramento this year -- and departed with San Francisco trailing, 5-0.

“He pitched really good,” manager Bob Melvin said. “The line doesn’t really suggest how he pitched. He hasn’t pitched deep into games. We needed him to go out for the fifth today. Early on, two times through the lineup, he was really good. I’m proud of him.”

Despite the uneven outing, Black still walked off the mound to some nice applause from the crowd, including Phillies fans, likely in a nod to his local roots.

“A whirlwind of emotions, for sure,” he said. “It means a lot being close to home.”

While it was an indelible moment for Black, the overall series will be one to forget for the Giants, who have now lost six of their first seven games of this 10-game road trip to Boston, Philadelphia and Colorado. San Francisco’s lineup -- which was without Patrick Bailey (concussion) and Jorge Soler (shoulder) -- couldn’t overcome the early deficit against a dialed-in Wheeler, finishing with only five hits and a season-high-matching 13 strikeouts.

“That’s a really good team, obviously, but we didn’t give them much of a fight for four games,” Matt Chapman said. “I feel embarrassed.”

An agitated Melvin implied that he addressed the team following its latest flat performance, which sank the Giants (15-21) a season-high six games under .500.

“It’s still early, but it’s time to start having a little bit more urgency,” said LaMonte Wade Jr., who went 2-for-3. “I feel like everybody’s working hard. Everybody wants to compete. I don’t think anybody’s not competing. We just need to translate it to the game, and it’s a hard thing to do. This is a hard game. It’s a long season, though. We’re in a little rut right now, but it can turn around just like that.”

Aside from their offensive issues, the Giants have been struggling to get length from their starters, all of whom have been unable to complete six innings in each of their first seven games of the road trip. Black hadn’t gone longer than five innings or thrown more 71 pitches in the Minors this year, but he looked like he might be able to go deeper after breezing through the early innings.

The right-hander opened his outing with a 1-2-3 first that included a pair of strikeouts against J.T. Realmuto and Harper. Black got Realmuto to foul tip a 92 mph fastball into catcher Jakson Reetz’s glove for his first career punchout, then froze Harper with a perfectly executed changeup on the inside corner, drawing massive cheers from his loved ones in the stands.

“Amazing,” Tara said. “It’s just amazing that he’s here. No matter what he did, it would have still been amazing. But that was unbelievable.”

The Phillies got on the board via Whit Merrifield’s two-out RBI single in the fourth and then knocked Black out of the game after Kyle Schwarber and Realmuto singled to set up Harper’s opposite-field blast in the fifth. While Harper got the best of Black in their third and final matchup, the Phillies superstar said he was still impressed by what he saw out of the 24-year-old, who is expected to make another start for the Giants later this week.

“He has to feel good about his first four innings,” Harper said. “I thought he threw a really good ball the first four innings. And then, obviously, we put some good swings on him in the fifth and got to him. But I tip my cap to anybody who's able to get to the big leagues and do their job and get here. It's a really hard thing to do. I hope he enjoyed it with his family and his teammates and everything else. Because you only get one debut. I wish him all the best.”