Yastrzemski’s life-saving home run highlights Giants’ prized trait

The Giants didn’t tie the game in the seventh inning Wednesday, but they showed an important trait that helped them sweep two straight road series.

Even with Mitch Haniger and JD Davis down — and with a short bench because Davis hadn’t been put on the IL — manager Gabe Kapler had options. He was able to mix and match, dispatching Joc Pederson and Michael Conforto as potential even runs against right-hander Jordan Hicks. Pederson struck out and Conforto retired, but two innings later their spots closed again and Mike Yastrzemski took advantage.

Hitting in front of the pair, Yastrzemski homered two out, two strikes and two runs to stun the shocked Cardinals in the top of the ninth and lead the Giants to an 8-5 victory and their first sweep in St. Louis. in 25 years.

On NBC Sports Bay Area’s postgame show after the game, he said his mindset was simple.

“Honestly, once I landed two strikes, it was a complete ‘Put Joc home’ approach,” Yastrzemski said. “I think that kind of mentality sets you free. When you get a good pitch to hit, your body takes over and knows what to do. It was more of a reactionary thing than anything.”

The Cardinals would have been better off had Yastrzemski walked, while Pederson followed with a strikeout. But his presence comforted Yastrzemski and showed new depth, in part because of how quickly top prospects have developed this season.

Under Kapler and his team, the Giants have always been much scarier when given late game options, and often they even set up their starting lineup with the intention of using someone like Pederson or Austin Slater in a specific late game spot. The arrival of Luis Matos allowed them to go with a mini-line change on a day when a southpaw was on the other side.

Matos made his MLB debut and finished second, one spot behind Slater, who was replaced late in the game by Pederson. Conforto had six rounds to rest before taking over from Matos. Without Davis, who has a Grade 1 ankle sprain and will be out for at least a few more days, the Giants went with Casey Schmitt and David Villar, who had key defensive play in his return.

Depth does not guarantee production. Pederson and Conforto were hitless off the bench, and the rookies – Schmitt and Matos – combined to go 1 for 6. But that allows the manager to manage as he wishes rather than forcing left-on-left clashes a day like Wednesday. Pederson and Conforto loomed in the ninth, and Yastrzemski felt that helped settle him with the game on the line.

The Giants won two comebacks last week in Denver in large part because they were good at maneuvering late. Even without Haniger – who will have surgery on Thursday – Kapler should still be able to do so if Matos gets going. Likewise, Schmitt and Patrick Bailey allowed the Giants to chase the advantages of the pack in other places.

Someone still has to get that big swing, and Wednesday was Yastrzemski, who picked up his sixth tie-hit in the ninth inning or later. He kept up the momentum of a team that suddenly looks fearless on the road and will have to carry that to Los Angeles this weekend.

“We have several things going on,” Yastrzemski said. “We have a lot of youngsters who have come up and played very well and stepped in and taken certain positions on certain injuries. Obviously there’s a ton of value in that.

“And then we had a few conversations with the team where we were just calming down in the middle of games, whether we were big or low, we just let the games slip away from us. We talked about staying in the game no matter what and keep fighting until the last out.”

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