Back-to-back-to-back homers ignite SF Giants offense in comeback win over Rockies

Back-to-back-to-back homers ignite SF Giants offense in comeback win over Rockies

SAN FRANCISCO — Joey Bart, coming in cold from four months in Sacramento, was posed a difficult question before Friday night’s series opener against the Rockies. He’s seen this team at its best and its worst, so what were his observations with the team riding a six-game losing streak?

“I’ve witnessed it over the last couple years. I know what it takes” to turn it around, he said. “Sometimes it’s just something different. That’s not saying me. It’s just anything. Someone gets a big hit. Something happens. Then, bam, we’re off to the races.”

For five innings against journeyman lefty Ty Blach, a former Giant making his first start at Oracle Park in an opposing uniform, it was more of the same. They put a few runners on, failed to bring them home in the usual ways, and had Blach gunning for a career-high in strikeouts with six through four frames.

Something happened. And, bam, they were off to the races. Losing streak over: 9-8.

Ignited by back-to-back-to-back home runs from Wilmer Flores, Mitch Haniger and J.D. Davis in the sixth and a fourth from Blake Sabol in the seventh, the Giants erased deficits of 4-0 and 7-4 to come back and snap their six-game skid, tied for their longest of the season.

“We needed that badly,” said rookie Kyle Harrison, who left his second home start in a 4-0 hole after five-plus innings. “Working from behind obviously isn’t the easiest with a team like this. We’ve lost some games. But it’s good to see. We won the game at the end of the day.”

It took a pair of bases-loaded walks, from Flores and LaMonte Wade Jr., to complete the comeback in a three-run eighth inning after Taylor Rogers surrendered a three-run homer to Elias Diaz in the top of the seventh, negating the Giants’ trio of homers in the previous half-inning.

The Giants finished with 13 hits, three coming from 21-year-old center fielder Luis Matos, batting out of the leadoff spot for the first time in his career. Reaching base in his first two at-bats, Flores followed with hits out of the No. 2 hole each time, but each time it didn’t amount to anything, with Matos being thrown out trying to score from second by a 100.7 mph dart from the center fielder Nolan Jones in the third.

“I thought Matos’ at-bats were sensational today,” Kapler said, adding that third base coach Mark Hallberg would probably like his third-inning send back.

Matos learned he would be leading off about an hour before first pitch, when Austin Slater (dizziness) and Thairo Estrada (pink eye) were both scratched.

“I was very confident because I batted lead off in the minor leagues,” Matos said. “It’s almost the same approach. When they told me I was going to hit leadoff, I was very comfortable. I trust myself to do that.”

After Matos reached for a third time, with a walk to lead off the sixth, Flores took matters into his own hands.

He slugged a two-run home run, his team-best 22nd of the season, 404 feet to left field, and kicked something into gear. Haniger, backed into a two-strike count, put a defensive swing on a low-and-away offspeed pitch and drove it out, too. That brought the Rockies’ pitching coach, Darryl Scott, out for a visit. Two pitches after Scott returned to the dugout, Davis made it a trio — and tied the game — with a towering 413-foot shot to left field.

“That was a big one,” Kapler said of Flores’ home run. “Obviously it gets us within two (runs), and you can kind of feel the momentum in the ballpark shift. You could feel the momentum in the dugout shift. Obviously there were several other big swings in that inning, but Flo’s was a big one.”

For all their shortcomings (such as the majors’ fewest home runs since the All-Star break), by going back-to-back-to-back, they accomplished something no other group had since 2016. Against the Brewers on April 4 of that year, Denard Span, Joe Panik and Buster Posey became the last trio of Giants to homer in three consecutive plate appearances.

In Davis’ case, it seemed to be a literal race as he rounded the bases at practically a half-sprint after taking a moment to admire his long ball. He blew a kiss to the dugout as he touched third base, an exaggerated version of the celebration that has been mostly dormant lately, and acknowledged the stadium full of fans on their feet as he crossed home plate.

The homer barrage brought life to the late-arriving crowd of 32,448, for whom the main draw was the second home start for Harrison, the 22-year-old considered the top left-handed pitching prospect in the game.

Hoping to catch a glimpse of the budding young pitcher who struck out 11 over 6⅓ shutout innings in his Oracle Park debut last week, they saw him use his electric fastball to rack up five more strikeouts, bringing his total through four starts to 26, one shy of Juan Marichal for second in franchise history, and incorporate his changeup more than any previous outing.

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But Harrison left in a 4-0 hole after the first batter of the sixth inning, Nolan Jones, put his 90th and final pitch into the left-center field bleachers. The three other runs on Harrison’s line were hardly the fault of his own as he was dinked and dunked to death in a three-run second inning. It started when Davis couldn’t handle a 111-mph ground ball and was only made possible by a pair of balls in play at under 75 mph off the bat finding grass.

Harrison’s heater was also down a tick, averaging 92.9 mph, for his second straight start. He generated nearly as many swings and misses with his changeup (four), a third offering he’s long been searching for to pair with his fastball-slider combo, as he did his signature heater (five).

“I was feeling fine, personally, but I saw (the velocity) was down,” Harrison said. He “wasn’t personally too happy with some” of his pitches, but he was pleased with the changeup, a product of a breakthrough in a bullpen session between starts, he said.

“Definitely wanted to throw that some more,” he said. “I really had some good changeups today. Got some good strikeouts on it. That’s a pitch that I think can continue to grow for me.”