After a swing change and an experiment playing the infield this season at Triple-A Sacramento, former San Francisco Giants top prospect Austin Slater finally got his first chance back at the big league level this season against the San Diego Padres on Monday.
Hours after he was called up, the 26-year old outfielder went 2-for-5 with a pair of RBIs, but that was only one of more remarkable elements of the Giants’ 13-2 win.
In a game where Jeff Samardzija became the first San Francisco starter to get through the eighth inning this season, the Giants did something they haven’t done all season: Lit up a lefty. Led by multi-hit days from four players and multi-RBI days from five, San Francisco notched its biggest win of the season, and got July off to a rousing start.
After their first month over .500 in a year, the Giants rattled off 14 hits, including seven off San Diego starter Logan Allen. Coming in, San Francisco had hit just .222 off of left-handers, and .215 off of left-handed starters. They hit seven balls harder than 100 mph off of Allen in five innings, and finished the night with two home runs, five doubles and a triple.
The 22-year Allen allowed just a single over the first three innings, but walked Tyler Austin to start the fourth. With one out, Allen gave up a first-pitch Evan Longoria RBI double, followed by an RBI triple from Slater — his first big league hit since September of last season.
San Francisco — which tallied 14 or more hits for the fifth time this season, and first since June 15 — added on with four runs in the fifth, with a two-run double Tyler Austin (who went 1-for-2 with two walks and two runs) and a two-run double by Buster Posey, his 18th of the season. Posey, who hit .230 over his first 57 games, is now 5-for-12 with three runs and four RBIs over his last four games as he shows signs of getting back to his old, pre-hip surgery form.
After a Brandon Belt RBI single in the sixth, the Giants got solo homers from Longoria and Slater in the seventh and scored on a wild pitch in the eighth.
Slater — who has shown natural power — had averaged a launch angle of just 2.3 degrees last season, and 1.6 the year before. Over the winter, he was told he needed to change that. His triple left the bat at 22 degrees, and his homer — which landed 400 feet away — came off the bat at an optimal 31 degrees. The swing changes Slater worked on with the River Cats this season — which had him hitting .308 when he was called up — clearly took effect.
Center fielder Kevin Pillar — hitting .320 over his past 13 games — finished off the scoring with his fourth homer since June 18, and team-leading 11th on the season.
Meanwhile, Samardzija — who had averaged just under 5 1/3 innings per start this season— went eight for the first time since Sept. 15, 2017. The start was arguably Samardzija’s best as a Giant, as he scattered five hits and two runs, fanned six and threw an efficient 114 pitches.