Alex Dickerson was supposed to be a marginal, incremental improvement piece. He was acquired in a minor league deal on June 10 for unheralded right-hander Alex Van Gurp.
Dickerson was the type of player that Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi uses to bolster not just the 25-man roster, not just the 40-man roster, but organizational depth. He’d been given a shot by the San Diego Padres, and had gone 3-for-19 in 12 games.
When Steven Duggar went down after tweaking his back on an eighth-inning swing on Tuesday, though, Dickerson got another chance. In his Giants debut — his first start, to boot — Dickerson made history, going 3-or-5 with a grand slam and six RBIs (more than any Giant in his debut since 1920) and leading the San Francisco to a resounding 11-5 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks one night after a gut-punch loss.
Dickerson, a 29-year old, third-round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2011, had 107 big league games to his name before Friday, had struggled at Triple-A Sacramento since being acquiared by the Giants, hitting .176 in six games. He was called up Friday morning as a short-term solution in the outfield while Steven Duggar heads to the injured list with a sore back.
Dickerson followed Kevin Pillar’s second-inning two-run homer his first hit as a Giant, but San Francisco couldn’t score him. Brandon Crawford grounded out, Jeff Samardzija struck out and Joe Panik lined out to end the inning.
Dickerson didn’t leave any room for error in the third. He slugged an 88-mph, mid-thigh fastball to the deepest part of Chase Field — the Coors Lite patio above center field, 458 feet away — for a grand slam, cashing in a Sandoval hit by pitch and a pair of walks to stake starter Jeff Samardzija to a 6-0 lead. It was the first time a Giants player has hit a homer of over 450 feet since Sept. 3, 2018 and the longest homer by a San Francisco player this season. It also made Dickerson the third player to hit a grand slam in his Giants debut (the others being Bobby Bonds and Crawford).
Samardzija, though, has been known this season for having one bad inning per outing, and on Friday, he had it in the fourth. After a run-scoring single from Ketel Marte in the third, Samardzija gave up four in the next frame, starting by serving up a belt-high, 2-0 fastball to Nick Ahmed, who took it over the wall in right for a two-run homer.
Samardzija’s 2-0, belt-high, 91-mph fastball to catcher Carson Kelly had similar results, as he one-hopped the wall in left center for a double. After a pair of groundouts, Ildemaro Vargas yanked a seeing-eye single through the right side to cut the lead to two. After a David Peralta single, Adam Jones sent a run-scoring base hit to center to cut the lead to 6-5, though he was tagged out trying to stretch into a double.
Samardzija, though, ground it out through the sixth, finishing by striking out two of the last three men he faced, getting the third to line out to Dickerson and exited having thrown 95 pitches on the night.
In throwing a full six (allowing five earned runs on nine hits and a walk while striking out five), Samardzija avoided placing any extra stress on a bullpen that has to hold up during the current stretch of 20 games in 20 days. Against the Dodgers on Thursday, four relievers threw after a 3 2/3-inning outing by Madison Bumgarner.
The Giants saw the first two men reach in the top of the seventh, chasing a reliever in T.J. McFarland who had held them to one hit over three innings. His successor, Matt Andriese, got Evan Longoria to fly out to the track in right, necessitating a sprinting, leaping grab by Jones.
An intentional walk to Brandon Belt loaded the bases, and Pillar lined a two-strike, two-out single to right to bring home two, giving San Francisco some much-needed breathing room.
Then, up stepped Dickerson, who skied the first pitch he saw over a leaping Peralta in left for a two-run triple, pushing the lead back to five. An RBI double by Vogt in the top of the ninth added more insurance. Will Smith came on in relief of Dereck Rodriguez to get out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the ninth by striking out Peralta and Jones on six pitches, giving the Giants an order of much-needed redemption after their ninth-inning rally fell short in Los Angeles thanks to a controversial missed call at third that likely cost San Francisco the game-tying run.