How Giants' Luis Matos' debut was upstaged by a phone call.
On Wednesday, June 14, Luis Matos made his heavily anticipated MLB debut for the San Francisco Giants. Matos was elevated given the absence of OF Mitch Haniger, who recently fractured his forearm.
Matos hit .350 with a .976 OPS this year for the Giants’ AAA team, the Sacramento River Cats, and stole 15 bases in the process.
Needless to say, the Giants were in dire need of another bat, but it will be Matos’ speed on the bases and range in center field that add the most versatility to the lineup.
Matos hit 2nd in the order on Wednesday and wasted no time making an inviting first impression, tallying his first major league hit in as many at-bats with a single through the 5-6 hole in the 1st inning. The rookie went 1-3 on the day.
However, while Matos’ debut was the headline going into the game, the rook’s performance would play second fiddle to one Mike Yastrzemski.
LaMonte Wade Jr. led off the 9th inning with a walk, but after a Blake Sabol strikeout and a Brandon Crawford flyout that did not move the runner, it appeared that all hope was lost.
And then Yaz stepped to the plate.
After an RBI single in the 7th to cut the Cardinals’ lead to 5-3, Yaz had a chance to bring the Giants all the way back in the 9th. He started down 0-2 but after working the count to 2-2, the lefty eyed a 95mph fastball down the heart of the plate. He didn’t miss it.
Yastrzemski roped the heater deep into right field, over the fence, and into the bright red bleachers of Busch Stadium. Cardinals fans were stunned.
The chilled feeling spread throughout the stadium and into the media boxes, as even the dumbfounded St. Louis color commentators were nearly speechless.
“I don’t believe it,” said one of the announcers.
After a shut-down bottom of the 9th from Tyler Rogers, the Giants headed into the 10th with the brooms out and “sweep” at the front of their minds.
However, before the start of the 10th, Gabe Kapler had a decision to make… at least, he almost did.
You see, in extra innings, the offense starts with a runner on second base, but that runner must be the player who made the last out. For the Giants, that would have been the pitcher’s spot because they gave up their designated hitter.
Fortunately, Kapler has a great staff. According to the manager in his postgame interview, someone called the dugout to inform (and educate) Kapler about the extra inning rule at hand.
By rule, if the last out was made by a player in the pitcher’s spot, the team may elect to run the player who hit one spot before the pitcher’s spot. In the Giants’ case, with Joc Pederson’s strikeout to end the top of the 9th, and Kapler’s decision to insert Rogers for Pederson to pitch the bottom of the 9th, Joc’s hitting spot matured into a picther’s spot, which allowed Kapler to turn to his ninth hitter, Yastrzemski, to run at second in the 10th inning.
Subsequently, with one out in the 10th, Thairo Estrada scorched a linedrive single into center field to knock in Yastrzemski, giving San Francisco a 6-5 lead.
Yastrzemski’s speed was crucial. Estrada’s single was hit so hard that a prudent, injury-concentrated pitcher would not have scored from second.
In a game full of key plays (and phone calls for that matter), Estrada made one more to put the Giants in position to add insult to injury. The All-Star candidate stole second base and would eventually score on a Wilmer Flores single to left field.
Flores would advance to second base on Jordan Walker’s throw to get Estrada at the plate. Finally, LaMonte Wade Jr. singled to right field to bring home the heavy running, molasses-mimicking Flores, giving the Giants an 8-5 lead.
In the bottom of the 10th, All-Star candidate Camilo Doval shut the door on the Cards. As Shawn Estes and Dave Flemming like to call him, Tranquilo Camilo had his 101mph sinker and sharp 93mph slider working in the 10th to seal the deal for the 3-game sweep.
Next up? Los Angeles.