Long shines in first start with father in crowd

June 21st, 2021

Sunday proved to be a memorable Father’s Day for Trent Long, who was in the stands at Oracle Park to watch his son, Sammy Long, pick up his first Major League win in the Giants’ 11-2 victory over the Phillies.

Wilmer Flores homered twice as part of a four-hit day, and Mike Yastrzemski and Brandon Crawford also went deep to help back the 25-year-old Long, who allowed two runs on four hits over a career-high six innings in his first start for the Giants.

“That was awesome, to do that on Father’s Day with him here,” said Long, who hails from nearby Fair Oaks, Calif. “He’s one of the main reasons I’m at where I’m at today. I get my competitive nature from him. I get my work ethic from him. He taught me everything I need to know about how to succeed in life and in sports. It’s a special day to be able to share that with him and wear the baby blue for him.”

With the win, San Francisco capped a 6-1 homestand against the D-backs and Phillies and improved to 46-26, the best record in the Majors. After taking two out of three from Philadelphia, the Giants have either won or split their last eight series dating to May 25.

Long has been filling in for injured starter Logan Webb, but he made his first two appearances as the bulk guy behind opener Zack Littell. Long dazzled in his Major League debut at Globe Life Field on June 9, striking out seven over four innings of one-run ball against the Rangers. His second outing didn’t go as well, as he gave up four runs over five innings against the D-backs on Tuesday.

Still, the Giants felt Long earned the opportunity to draw a proper look out of the rotation on Sunday.

“I think my favorite thing about him is how aggressive and competitive he is on the mound,” manager Gabe Kapler said on Saturday. “He’s really confident, really trusting his stuff and his weapons. He believes in himself out on the mound -- a little bit unusual for a pitcher of his experience level.”

The Phillies stacked their lineup with right-handed bats -- Bryce Harper was the lone lefty -- but Long opened his outing with two scoreless innings and received early run support from Yastrzemski and Flores, who went back-to-back off Zach Eflin to stake the Giants a 3-0 lead in the first inning.

“I thought the second inning was the key to the game for Sammy, actually,” Kapler said. “The first inning, I thought there was some good fortune because he fell behind in counts, and he had to find a way to climb back in those. Putting those hitters in 2-0 counts and giving them the leverage was not going to be optimal for the game. I thought in the second inning, he made a great adjustment and started throwing more strikes. As the game went on, he started featuring his curveball more. That was a very effective pitch.”

The lone blemish for Long came in the third, when he issued a a five-pitch walk to Rhys Hoskins, his former teammate at Sacramento State, after a couple of borderline pitches at the bottom of the zone were called balls by home-plate umpire Greg Gibson. That brought up J.T. Realmuto, who crushed a first-pitch fastball out to center field to cut the Giants’ lead to 3-2.

“I thought I had him in that second [plate appearance], the one where I ended up walking him,” Long said of Hoskins. “But that’s how it goes.”

The rookie left-hander quickly recovered from the misstep, though. He responded by retiring 10 of the final 11 batters he faced, including Hoskins, who struck out in his third plate appearance against Long to start the sixth.

Long needed only three pitches to win their final battle, freezing the Phillies’ first baseman with a curveball at the knees. Five of his six strikeouts came on his classic 12-to-6 curveball, which he landed for nine called strikes on Sunday.

“His curveball, from what I’ve seen, is up there with some of the best curveballs in baseball,” Crawford said. “I mean, that thing drops out of the sky, and he’s able to locate it pretty well.”

Long departed with a 6-2 lead after Flores launched his second blast of the afternoon off Eflin in the fifth to give the Giants 107 home runs on the season, tied with the Blue Jays for the most in the Majors. The 84 pitches were the most Long has thrown in nine appearances between the Minors and the Majors this year.

The Giants had been keeping Long on strict pitch counts to start the season, but he showed that he’s capable of staying efficient and working deeper into games, which should make him a quality rotation option for the club moving forward.

“I was in compete mode,” Long said. “I don’t think about how many pitches I’ve thrown or any of that type of stuff. I’m making that next pitch until Kapler walks out and tells me I’m done, or he’s shaking my hand in the dugout. I’m going to keep going.”