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Why Dickerson's grand slam might have come at perfect time

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Alex Dickerson homer

For as long as he's wearing orange and black, Alex Dickerson will feel positive vibes when he walks out of the 110-degree heat in Phoenix and into the air conditioning at Chase Field. 

Dickerson made his debut for the Giants there on June 21, 2019, hitting a homer and driving in six runs to kickstart a stunning stretch where he carried the lineup and helped the Giants briefly think about competing down for a playoff spot. Dickerson has continued to see the ball well at Chase Field since that day, and his latest trip there could not have been better timed. 

Two years after he became one of Farhan Zaidi's first success stories in San Francisco, Dickerson was falling out of the picture. The Giants have watched LaMonte Wade Jr. and Darin Ruf become regular contributors, and they have Brandon Belt, Tommy La Stella and Evan Longoria on the way back. Kris Bryant joined the mix Sunday and will play every day.

This is a bad time for any hitter on the roster to slide into a slump, and Dickerson was hitless in 17 consecutive at-bats before stepping up to the plate in the fifth inning. Four hundred and thirty seven feet later, he was all smiles. 

Dickerson's grand slam was the biggest blow in a game the Giants would win over the Diamondbacks in extras, 11-8. He helped them build a six-run lead that would disappear, and then he helped spark a three-run rally in the 10th. 

 

With one run already across and Buster Posey on second, Dickerson came up against lefty rookie Miguel Aguilar. He doesn't face many lefties, but he drove a liner deep enough that Posey advanced and scored a batter later on a single to right. 

"That was one of his best at-bats of the year," manager Gabe Kapler said of the left-on-left out. 

This night was full of them. In addition to the grand slam, the third of his career, Dickerson had a 415-foot triple off the center field wall that would have been out of 22 other ballparks. He said he felt something click as he stood in the on-deck circle before his slam. All of a sudden, the setup of his legs just felt right. "Oh, that's how they're supposed to work," he thought to himself. 

"There's just that feeling. It's happened to me every year, where I just all of a sudden get on deck and try something new and I'm like, 'Oh, there it is,'" Dickerson said. "I've been kinda waiting all year to feel that."

Dickerson's teammates have been waiting to see it, and they were all smiles in the dugout. As Dickerson looked out over the dugout rail, Mike Yastrzemski, who also homered in the win, came up from behind and gave him a big hug. Dickerson started laughing. 

"It hasn't been the greatest year for me to this point, but I think they know and I know that I'm better than how I've played," he said. 

At times in Dickerson's run in San Francisco, he has been able to carry the lineup. The Giants have been waiting for that version to emerge all year, and despite the fact that his OPS dropped below .700, they still had faith. On the morning he put Bryant in the lineup for the first time, Kapler smiled and marveled at what a weapon Dickerson can be off the bench late in the season when he's not starting. 

The good news, Kapler said a day later, is that the Giants no longer need Dickerson to carry them for stretches. This is as deep a lineup as there is in MLB, and the Giants just need Dickerson to be part of the machine against righties. 

"I don't think he needs to be hot. I just think he needs to be the better version of Alex Dickerson, and that's a guy who is a really tough out at the plate against righties and occasionally has games with big damage like he did today," Kapler said. "I don't want Alex to put pressure on himself to be perfect every time out. Just be productive and keep the line moving, that's really how our hitters are behaving right now. Pass the torch to the next hitter and trust that he can get the job done."

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