— Ryan Gorcey (@RyanGorcey) July 21, 2019
ORACLE PARK — Over a four-game stretch — their first home series since the All-Star break — the San Francisco Giants and New York Mets went to extra innings three times, playing a total of 47 innings.
In the one game that didn’t go extra frames, outfielder Mike Yastrzemski hit a ninth-inning homer to make the final 11-4 score at least somewhat respectable. His home run in the 12th inning of Sunday’s 3-2 series finale meant a bit more: It won the game.
“Just looking for something to hit to the middle of the field,” Yastrzemski said of the changeup he lofted 372 feet into the front row of seats in left center field. “Just squared it up. It was either a homer or it was an out.”
The victory moved the Giants (50-50) back to .500 on the season, two games back of the second National League wild card. While Yastrzemski — a 28-year old rookie who spent six-plus seasons in the minor leagues — won the game and clinched the series, it was two rookies who made their big league debuts — Zach Green and Conner Menez — who took center stage.
“These aren’t moves for the future,” president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said before the game of bringing up Green and Menez. “These are moves for now, because these guys, I think these guys can help us win a game today, and I think these guys can help us win going forward.”
Just as Zaidi predicted, Green and Menez were invaluable in the Giants’ win, with the former factoring into two of the team’s three runs and the latter showing promise in a solid first big league outing.
“The composure was incredible,” Yastrzemski said of his two new teammates. “To see [Menez] and Greeny come up here and play like they’ve been here for five years was unbelievable. I remember so clearly how nervous I was the first day and I never got that from these guys. They were big in this win.”
In his first big league plate appearance in the second, Green, a lifelong Giants fan and Sacramento native, sent a grounder up the middle for his first career major league hit in front of his dad Jesse, mom Kym, girlfriend and three sisters. The single was met with resounding applause and put Buster Posey in scoring position for Brandon Crawford, who knocked in Posey in the following at bat.
“Here he comes up, makes a big start, gets a big hit first time up, leads to a run,” said manager Bruce Bochy. “Quite a debut for him.”
In the fourth, Green smoked an RBI double down the left field line to tie the game at two apiece, eliciting yet another standing ovation from a crowd of 35,406. As Green trotted into second, his father thrust his fist into the air. Jesse was the first person Green called when he got news of his promotion, following batting practice with Triple-A Sacramento on Saturday. After surgeries on his wrist, elbow and hip cost the former third-rounder momentum in the Phillies system, leading to him signing with the Giants as a minor league free agent this winter, the call was emotional.
Green’s first experience with heartbreak was watching San Francisco lose the 2002 World Series, erased by the 2010 World Series win.
“For my first big league uniform to be a Giants uniform is extremely humbling and special,” he said.
Once his callup was announced by the Giants, he received text messages from the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins and the Royals’ Andrew Susac – both former high school teammates at Carmichael (Calif.) Jesuit.
Like Green, Menez — a Hollister native who had to reserve 60 tickets for family and freinds — is a lifelong Giants fan.
Menez debuted to a broken bat that he thought might hit him, sawing off good friend Jeff McNeil – the two trained together in Pismo Beach before the season – to open the game before settling down. While he received a no-decision for his five innings of work, Menez maintained his composure and allowed only three hits — two of them solo home runs to Michael Conforto and Amed Rosario in the second.
In a San Francisco rotation that already features two rookies in Tyler Beede and Shaun Anderson, Menez was the latest Giants youngster to get a shot at the big league level. His appearance marked the first time the Giants had three rookies take a turn through their rotation since 2007 when Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez and Pat Misch all got starts for San Francisco. In fact, Menez recalls that for his 12th birthday, his father Scott took him to a Giants game in which Lincecum was the starting pitcher and got him a Lincecum jersey.
Menez looked impressive in his debut, striking out six, of which five came on his four-seam fastball, which profiles as the rookie’s best pitch with a 95-mph top speed and a high spin rate.
“Any time I can try to give our club a chance to win is always the best,” Menez said. “That’s what I go out there to do, try to get W’s for everyone. And I was glad we got that W at the end. It made it special.”
After allowing a pair of homers in the second, Menez struck out the side in the third to get back on track. His last punchout of the third drew the ire of its victim, slugger Pete Alonso, who snapped his bat in half after swinging at strike three.
“He did get rattled,” Bochy said of Menez. “[But] the next three innings I just thought he got better as he went. He showed good poise.”
Menez’s parents, Scott and Gina, were among his eight guests in attendance, traveling all the way from Florida. When he got word he’d be headed to the big leagues, it was after 11 p.m. Unable to call them, he called his girlfriend Breanna. She, too, was in attendance, along with his aunts, uncles, both sets of grandparents and friends from Hollister.
“There was definitely a lot of Hollister fans there,” Menez said. “So that was cool that they let Hollister back me up out there. They’re always very supportive and especially coming from a small town it’s kind of fun to be able to make it.”
Behind the three rookies, the Giants bullpen looked sharp on Sunday, a day after serving up seven earned runs to New York. Reyes Moronta, Tony Watson, Sam Dyson, Will Smith, Mark Melancon and Trevor Gott strung together seven scoreless innings while striking out eight and allowing only four total baserunners.
In four games against the Mets, Giants relievers combined to pitch 11 extra innings – seven Thursday, one Friday and three Sunday. They allowed one earned run over that span and the Giants won all three games.
Center fielder Kevin Pillar was ejected in the eighth inning after barking at home plate umpire Mark Ripperger. Yastrzemski would move from left to center and Stephen Vogt came into the game to man left.
Alex Dickerson, the most natural fit to replace Pillar, was held to one pinch-hit at bat in the 11th as Bochy wanted to rest the outfielder, who sat out the majority of the game with back soreness.
On Monday, the Giants open a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs looking to edge above .500 for the first time this season. Right-hander Shaun Anderson (3-2, 4.87 ERA) will get the start against Alec Mills (0-0, 4.50 ERA).