Throughout the first half of the 2021 season, stars and role players alike contributed to a stunning run that vaulted the Giants to the top of the National League West heading into the All-Star break.
Nearly every regular starter exceeded expectations, but the Giants’ 2020 MVP, Mike Yastrzemski, had a tough time finding a rhythm at the plate as he battled several injuries and only hit .161 with runners in scoring position.
It’s difficult to envision the Giants improving, but one way the club can hit another gear is with a power surge from Yastrzemski. It may have begun Friday in St. Louis as the slugger launched a pair of home runs including a three-run shot in the seventh inning to pace the Giants in a 7-2 victory.
“Yaz has been sneaky good,” manager Gabe Kapler noted. “Even with the ups and downs of the season, even with the injuries, he’s still an .800 OPS guy which is really impressive given with what he’s struggled through this year.”
Yastrzemski’s big night was initially overshadowed by another injury scare to a Giants star as Brandon Crawford exited the game in the eighth inning with what was later described as a left hamstring cramp. Crawford clutched his left hamstring in the batter’s box during an eighth inning at-bat before ripping a 105.3-mile per hour single into right field, but upon reaching first base, he came off the field alongside trainer Dave Groeschner.
Yastrzemski put the Giants on the board with a solo homer in the fourth inning and then broke the game open with his second home run of the night. The seventh inning homer came against Cardinals reliever T.J. McFarland, who has now allowed nine hits including three home runs in 10 career matchups with Yastrzemski.
The two Yastrzemski homers were sandwiched around a three-run home run from first baseman LaMonte Wade Jr., who gave a Giants bullpen that covered five innings behind starter Logan Webb a comfortable advantage.
Webb started in place of ace Kevin Gausman, who was placed on the Family Medical Emergency list hours before first pitch. The Giants don’t have an exact day pinpointed for Gausman’s return, but Webb filled in admirably as he tossed four innings of one-run ball against the Cardinals.
“I thought his stuff was really good and I think he’s slowly becoming a better and more dependable strike-thrower,” Kapler said of Webb. “I think he’s got a better understanding of his arsenal.”
The only run Webb allowed came in his fourth and final inning when he jammed second baseman Tommy Edman with an inside pitch that Edman looped into left field for a RBI single. Over his last five outings, Webb has now thrown 24.0 innings and only allowed three earned runs while striking out 27 batters.
After a challenging first half that included multiple stints on the injured list, Yastrzemski opened the second half with his 13th home run of the season as he hooked a cutter from Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright inside the right field foul pole to push the Giants ahead 1-0 in the fourth.
The big blow from the Giants’ offense came in the fifth after Donovan Solano led off the frame with a single and Steven Duggar followed with a walk. After a Curt Casali strikeout and a popout from pinch-hitter Darin Ruf, Wade drilled a curveball from Wainwright over the right field wall to break a 1-1 tie.
After Yastrzemski gave the Giants an even bigger advantage in the seventh, the biggest out of the night recorded by a Giants pitcher came from newcomer Jay Jackson, who had his contract purchased by the club on Friday. In his first big league game since 2019, Jackson entered with the bases loaded and painted a 93-mile per hour fastball on the outside corner to strike out Harrison Bader and end a St. Louis rally.
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Author: Kerry Crowley