— Ryan Gorcey (@RyanGorcey) April 30, 2019
ORACLE PARK — Evan Longoria stood on second base and pumped both of his fists, smiling, taking in the first “Beat L.A.” chant of the season. Longoria got chills.
A stadium full of San Francisco Giants fans who had spent a weekend being drowned out by the New York Yankees contingent, who had just endured a raucous cheer from Dodgers fans as Buster Posey struck out with the bases loaded, who had seen the Giants go 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position against Los Angeles, finally got to explode.
Trailing 2-0, Longoria’s bases-clearing, two-out double to left in the top of the seventh spurred a 3-2 comeback win for the Giants, who, in a season where offensive ineptitude and sparse crowds have been the norm, finally managed to put the pieces together, and did it against their hated rival.
“I’ve been waiting for that hit in a Giants uniform for a long time, more than a year,” Longoria said. “The rivalry is a big deal. It’s a big situation there. For me, for this team, every one right now is big.”
Longoria was supposed to be getting the day off. Hitting just .202, he had been benched recently for Pablo Sandoval.
“I was fine with that; Pablo’s getting more barrels than anyone right now,” Longoria said. ”I’m hitting .200. It’s not something where I can go into the office and say, ‘Why Pablo?’”
Sandoval, though, had banged his right knee pursuing a foul pop up against the Yankees on Sunday, and couldn’t bat right-handed, the training staff told manager Bruce Bochy before the game.
With Posey aboard with a leadoff double off the right field wall in the sixth, and left-hander Scott Alexander coming to the mound, Sandoval tried to go back into the dugout to grab his right-handed helmet. Bochy said no. Longoria — who had had a conversation with hitting coach Bam Bam Muellens when Alexander headed down to the bullpen — came in. He flied out to right.
Two innings later, he came through, lining a 2-1 fastball down the left field line.
“It worked out pretty well,” Bochy said. “He wound up getting the big hit.”
Longoria was only able to get that hit because the pitching staff held serve. Against the winningest team in the National League (19), a team that leads the Senior Circuit in runs (162) and ranks second with 49 homers, starter Jeff Samardzija didn’t allow a single runner to reach second in five innings, commanding his fastball, sitting in the low-90s and touching 94.
“We knew we had to have a good day just because they’re so hot right now,” Samardzija said.
Samardzija had re-invented himself this offseason, following an ineffective and injury-plagued 2018 in which he made just 10 starts and posted a career-worst 6.50 ERA. So far in 2019, Samardzija has been the Giants’ best starter, and came into Monday’s start leading the staff with a 3.00 ERA, striking out 24 in 27 innings.
Against Los Angeles, the 6-foot-5 right-hander walked one, struck out two and had allowed only three baserunners before he was lifted after 79 pitches for a pinch hitter in the fifth.
San Francisco (12-17) turned in several defensive highlights, including a second-inning diving stop by a shifted Sandoval on the right side of the second base bag. After stopping the shot from Max Muncy, he flipped to Brandon Crawford, who alertly tagged the bag with his glove for a double play.
“We saw a little second baseman out of him last year, right?” Samardzija said. “Pablo’s fun to watch, isn’t he? That’s why we love baseball.”
Gerardo Parra made a tough handcuff grab on a flare to right by Kenta Maeda in the fifth. He followed that up with a 9-1 put-out on a seventh-inning flare by pinch hitter David Freese.
The offense, though, remained stuck in neutral. San Francisco got seven hits off of starter Maeda in five-plus innings, and couldn’t push across a run. The left-handed heart of the Dodgers order, on the other hand, rocked Tony Watson in the sixth for four hits in five batters, plating a pair to take a 2-0 lead, thanks to a golfed RBI single to right from Cody Bellinger and an RBI double from Max Muncy.
The Giants went 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position, and had the added insult of being victimized by plus defense from Bellinger and Muncy. Crawford led off the second with a walk, and Pillar followed by rifling a single to right. Despite a good read and a very good jump, Crawford — the slowest shorstop in terms of sprint speed in the Major Leagues — was hosed at third on a one-hop throw from Bellinger.
San Francisco put two men on with one out in the bottom of the fifth after pinch hitting for Samardzija, but Muncie speared a Yangervis Solarte line drive ticketed for right. Brandon Belt struck out swinging to end the threat.
It’s been that kind of offensive display — or lack thereof — that’s kept fans away in droves in 2019, as the Giants have averaged just 32,701 per game this season — the lowest in the history of Oracle/AT&T/Pac Bell/SBC Park. On the season, San Francisco came into Monday 28th in baseball in runs scored, and hit a dismal .225 as a team with runners in scoring position (27th).
“We needed a big hit,” Bochy said.
When the Giants loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh, and Posey waved meekly at a slider away, a largely-blue-clad crowd of 32,212 roared its approval. Then Longoria, hitting all of .202, stepped to the plate and ripped a 2-1 Dylan Floro sinker down the line.
“I haven’t been looking at my average, because I know it’s not good,” Longoria said. “It doesn’t really take away from my mentality in those situations. For me, I’m just trying to go up there and have the mindset of every at-bat being a new opportunity … Bases-loaded doubles are always cool.”