Mike Yastrzemski returns with a bang, Giants stay in control of their own destiny in NL wild card race

SAN FRANCISCO — When Mike Yastrzemski left last Thursday’s game against the Seattle Mariners with a right calf strain, there was significant doubt as to whether the second-year outfielder would see the field again this season.

Yastrzemski isn’t just available for the final weekend of the season. He’s back to leading a Giants offense that missed him dearly.

In the first game of a critical doubleheader on Friday against the San Diego Padres, Yastrzemski launched a two-run home run into McCovey Cove to give the Giants a 5-1 fourth inning lead en route to a nail-biter of a 5-4 victory. The Giants entered the day 1-5 against the Padres and 0-4 in doubleheaders this season, but they chased right-hander Chris Paddack from the game early with three home runs and a clutch two-out RBI single from rookie catcher Joey Bart.

The Padres scored three runs in the seventh and final inning and had the game-tying run at first base with no one out, but left-hander Tony Watson recovered from a costly throwing error to record the final three outs.

The victory pushed the 29-28 Giants back above .500 with three games left to play in the regular season and also kept them in control of their own destiny in a chaotic National League wild card race.

After the Padres took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning, shortstop Brandon Crawford answered in the bottom of frame with a solo shot to dead center field.

San Diego nearly went ahead in the third, but a flyball hit by center fielder Trent Grisham slammed high off the right center field wall in Triples Alley. Grisham’s leadoff triple would have been a home run in every other ballpark in the majors, but it stayed inside the readjusted confines of Oracle Park and gave Giants starter Tyler Anderson a chance to pitch his way out of trouble.

Anderson kept the ball in the infield the rest of the inning, inducing a groundout from MVP candidate Fernando Tatis, Jr. and ending the frame with a perfectly executed 1-6-3 double play to retire Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer. The Giants’ left-hander changed the momentum of the game by taming the heart of the San Diego order and gave his own lineup a chance to take command of the game.

In the fourth inning, designated hitter Wilmer Flores launched a solo home run to left center field to give the Giants the lead before Bart brought home third baseman Evan Longoria with a two-out RBI single that snuck past Hosmer’s glove on the right side of the infield.

Two pitches later, Yastrzemski belted his second career splash hit into McCovey Cove to give the Giants a four-run advantage in a must-win game. The Giants went 3-4 in the seven games Yastrzemski was out of the starting lineup, but rebounded from a crushing extra-inning loss to the Rockies on Thursday with their first win in a doubleheader game this season.

The Giants had scored just one run in their previous 28 innings in doubleheaders and will likely need the same kind of offensive output in Game 2 against Padres ace Dinelson Lamet. With right-hander Jeff Samardzija returning from the injured list to start for the first time since August 7, the Giants are gambling that the veteran has one good outing left in him before his five-year, $90 million contract expires at the end of the season.

Because the Giants and Padres are making up game originally scheduled to take place at Petco Park in Game 2 of Friday’s doubleheader, San Diego will be the home team.

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Author: Kerry Crowley