Rookies set stage for Yaz's walk-off homer

July 22nd, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO -- With each day like Sunday, the Giants look a little less curious and a little more legitimate.

Conner Menez and Zach Green took their turns alongside the other unheralded performers who have kept the Giants on the periphery of the National League Wild Card race.

Menez and Green, a pair of rookies making their Major League debuts, gave the Giants early life before Mike Yastrzemski finished the team’s triumphant afternoon. Menez lasted five innings and Green rapped a pair of meaningful hits before Yastrzemski drove a full-count pitch from Mets reliever Robert Gsellman over the left-field barrier to snap a 12th-inning tie and lift the Giants to a 3-2 win at Oracle Park.

The Giants won three of the series' four games. They've also won eight of nine games overall. The likes of Donovan Solano, Alex Dickerson and Austin Slater have sealed their record at 50-50 after 100 games. It wouldn't matter if Solano, Dickerson, Slater and the rest were Willie Mays and his famous teammates. At 50-50, the current Giants have earned the right to be mentioned among the Wild Card contenders.

"We're a bunch of grinders right now," said Yastrzemski, who recorded the Giants' first walk-off homer since Brandon Crawford belted one against Colorado on June 27, 2018. "It doesn't matter whether we're playing a doubleheader or extra innings."

In fact, several statistics detailing the Giants' methods of winning suggest clutch performances more typical of an elite team than a .500 club. The Giants improved to 22-10 in one-run games, 13-4 in games decided in their final at-bat and 9-2 in extra innings.

That says a lot about San Francisco’s bullpen, which bracketed the series with impressive overtime efforts. Giants relievers yielded one run in seven innings in Thursday’s 3-2, 16-inning decision over the Mets before adding seven more shutout innings in Sunday’s series finale.

But the day truly belonged to Menez and Green.

Menez, who appears destined to join the ranks of the Giants’ part-time starting pitchers, yielded second-inning homers to Michael Conforto and Amed Rosario. Other than that, the left-hander lived up to his reputation as a strikeout artist, punching out six Mets.

Menez happened to grow up in Hollister rooting for the Giants. So merely taking the field with the club was an almost indescribable thrill. Not to mention working with his particular batterymate, Buster Posey.

“It was awesome, growing up a Giants fan and always watching Posey,” Menez said.

Menez relied on the fundamentals of pitching, leaning on his fastball to set up his other deliveries. Besides the two-homer frame, he yielded just one hit in the other four innings he worked.

Green rapped a second-inning single for his first Major League hit, which put Posey in position to score the Giants’ initial run, and a fourth-inning RBI double. Green’s first hit was a rush -- in more ways than one.

“It happened like that,” Green said. “Next thing I knew I was at first base and Augie [first-base coach Jose Alguacil] was congratulating me.”

The Giants saved their biggest congratulations for Yastrzemski, who channeled his Hall of Fame grandfather’s flair for the dramatic by guiding his opposite-field, game-winning drive to left field on Robert Gsellman’s 3-2 pitch.

“It was either a home run or it was an out,” Yastrzemski said of his high fly.

There’s no telling how long Menez and Green will remain with the Giants. Menez became the team’s 10th different pitcher to start a game this year, and to listen to the club’s hierarchy talk, more starters could be waiting in line. Green will provide depth, but perhaps only until injured third baseman Evan Longoria, who has resumed performing baseball-related activities, makes his return.

Regardless of what happens, two rookies who behaved like veterans stole the show for the Giants.

“Their composure was incredible,” Yastrzemski said. “To see them come up here and play like they were here for five years was unbelievable. It’s almost more fun to be involved in someone else’s debut than it is your own.”