PHILADELPHIA -- Veteran shortstop Paul DeJong spent his entire career in the Cardinals organization before being dealt to the Blue Jays at the 2023 Trade Deadline, a move he admittedly found a bit jarring. The 30-year-old didn’t get much chance to settle in with Toronto, as he was designated for assignment after going only 3-for-44 (.068) with 18 strikeouts over 13 games.
DeJong didn’t have to wait long for another fresh start, as he ended up catching on with the Giants, who signed him to a Major League contract on Wednesday.
“It’s been interesting,” DeJong said prior to the club's series finale at Citizens Bank Park. “I feel like I gained some experience about moving around and joining a new team. I think that will help me in joining this group.”
DeJong already seems to be handling his latest transition better than his first. He made a strong impression in his Giants debut, going 3-for-5 with a two-run home run and four RBIs to help San Francisco overcome a fourth consecutive blown save from All-Star closer Camilo Doval and rally for an 8-6 win over Philadelphia in 10 innings.
The Giants handed a 5-2 lead to Doval in the bottom of the ninth, but the 26-year-old flamethrower couldn’t shut the door, issuing back-to-back walks to Kyle Schwarber and Trea Turner before surrendering a game-tying three-run homer to Bryce Harper that sent the game to extra innings.
Doval has allowed six runs (five earned) over 3 1/3 innings in his past four appearances, but DeJong helped bail him out with a clutch hit off Phillies closer Craig Kimbrel in the top of the 10th. With Casey Schmitt at second as the automatic runner, Patrick Bailey walked and Wade Meckler reached on a hit-by-pitch to load the bases for DeJong, who lined an 0-2 fastball from Kimbrel to center field for a go-ahead two-run single.
“It’s hard to put into words,” DeJong said. “I’m just so happy to be out there and contribute for this team. I just had a great first day. It just feels right. I’m thankful for the opportunity, and [I’m] happy it worked out for me.”
The Giants (66-61) are a half-game back of the third National League Wild Card spot. They also took the season series with the Wild Card-leading Phillies (69-58) by a 4-2 margin, earning the tiebreaker in the standings.
“Obviously, we all saw that game was played like a playoff game,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We used basically everybody, and in fact, [we] used some pitchers that we didn’t expect to use or that we wanted to use, because that’s what the game called for. I think it’s going to be like that moving forward. Every game is going to really matter, and we’re going to fight and scratch and claw to get where we want to go.”
DeJong, 30, didn’t record an extra-base hit in his short-lived stint with the Blue Jays, but he regained his power stroke in his second at-bat with the Giants, launching a 1-0 fastball from Phillies right-hander Michael Lorenzen out to left field to extend his new club’s lead to 4-0 in the fourth inning.
DeJong should have an opportunity to keep contributing to San Francisco’s playoff push down the stretch, as he is expected to fill in for Brandon Crawford, who is sidelined with a left forearm strain. A 2019 All-Star, DeJong batted .233/.297/.412 with 13 home runs over 81 games with the Cardinals this season before being traded to the Blue Jays, who needed a short-term replacement following an injury to two-time All-Star Bo Bichette.
Despite his tough offensive stretch with Toronto, DeJong still represents a potential upgrade for the Giants, who entered Wednesday 25th in the Majors with a .636 OPS out of the shortstop position this year. DeJong also remains elite with the glove, and he flashed his strong defense in the fifth inning, ranging into the hole to make a backhanded grab on J.T. Realmuto’s grounder before spinning and firing to second base to record the forceout.
“I don’t think he could have come up any bigger throughout the game,” Kapler said. “The defense will probably go less talked about, because there was a home run in there and a huge base hit late in the game. But the defense was equally important.”
While the Giants may have found a solution to their shortstop void, they remain on the hunt for answers when it comes to Doval, who has looked far from his dominant self recently.
“What I see going on with him right now is the game is moving fast, which is not uncommon for a guy in his position,” Kapler said. “He’s got some big-game experience, but that doesn’t mean that you feel right in every situation. I think right now, he’s struggling with his pitch mix, he’s struggling with baserunners a little bit. This is the right time for all of us to rally around Camilo and remind him of how good he is. It’s certainly not the time to abandon ship.”