Evan Longoria turns back time with four homers in Giants' sweep of Padres

Evan Longoria turns back time with four homers in Giants' sweep of Padres

SAN DIEGO -- Kevin Pillar hit three spots behind Evan Longoria on Wednesday night, so the longtime Toronto Blue Jay was getting ready to grab his bat in the third inning when the former Tampa Bay Rays star crushed a two-run shot to left-center to tie the game. It looked familiar to Pillar.

"He looks like the Longo of old," he said after the Giants' 7-5 win over the Padres. 

Longoria right now looks every bit like that player, the one the Giants hoped would lead them back to the postseason last year. He's had an up-and-down two seasons in San Francisco, generally putting up solid numbers but falling short of his previous standards, and also of what most fans surely expected. 

But over a three-game sweep of the Padres, Longoria destroyed a young pitching staff. He hit a homer and scored three runs Monday, hit two homers and drove in five Tuesday, and had that key early homer Wednesday. 

Longoria said the whole lineup has been able to relax because so many hitters up and down the line are hot. He doesn't feel like he has to save the day every time up, but he's doing plenty of damage. 

"The last seven games -- even the Arizona series I felt like we were doing a good job of stringing together hits and getting big hits when needed," Longoria said. "It's fun, having fun helps a lot."

As Bruce Bochy always says, a team can look depressed when it's not hitting. But the Giants were a raucous bunch in San Diego and Longoria was a big part of it. 

He teammed with Alex Dickerson on Wednesday to give the Giants back-to-back homers for the first time this season. Longoria is the first Giant since Jarrett Parker in 2015 to homer four times in three games; Barry Bonds (four times) and Ellis Burks are the only others to do it since 2000. Longoria also joined Andrew McCutchen and Hunter Renfroe as the only players to hit four homers in a series at Petco Park, and he has seven homers in San Diego since joining the Giants, the most of any visiting player. 

[RELATED: Giants keep rolling with fourth straight offensive outburst]

Pillar and Longoria have become friends in part because of their AL East connections, and as Pillar talked about the lineup's outburst, he pointed out that there's been a lot of work involved. Longoria has searched relentlessly for a solution and is constantly talking about hitting with Pillar. He took early batting practice recently and something has seemingly clicked. 

"People get maybe a misconception about guys who have been doing this a long time and have been paid and think they're okay with not being the best version of themselves," Pillar said. "But he's constantly working."

Giants, Madison Bumgarner's camp talking with Dodgers rumor swirling

Giants, Madison Bumgarner's camp talking with Dodgers rumor swirling

SAN FRANCISCO -- Sure they're the ones talking to agents in suites, discussing blockbuster trades, and spending millions on players, but at points of the MLB Winter Meetings, Giants executives are just like their fans. 

That was the case Tuesday night, when Gerrit Cole reportedly agreed a record contract and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic immediately reported that the Dodgers, a finalist for Cole, would turn their attention to Madison Bumgarner. Rosenthal's tweet instantly caught the attention of officials in the team's suite and some who were wandering the lobby. Those who had already left for dinner discussed the news after ordering their wine. 

The report startled the fan base. It did not shake the front office. You won't find many people who work for the team who are confident that Bumgarner will be pitching in San Francisco next season, but the Giants also do not believe he'll actually end up with the Dodgers. 

"A smart negotiation tactic," one source said, smiling. 

The Dodgers reportedly bid about $300 million on Cole and were in on Anthony Rendon, who reportedly got $245 million from the Angels, but they don't have a recent history of spending big on free agents. Cole and Rendon were special cases because they were at the very top of their respective markets. 

Bumgarner, per sources familiar with his thinking, is seeking a deal in excess of $100 million. It's unknown just how high the Giants would go and they're not thought to be at the forefront of discussions, but president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi met with Bumgarner's agents on Tuesday and said Wednesday night that the Giants are still engaged with Bumgarner's camp. 

Most in the organization are still preparing for Bumgarner's departure, and it's unlikely that the latest rumors will change that thinking. Zaidi isn't one to be bullied into a move by the possibility of a popular player signing with a rival. This will be a baseball decision for the Giants.

[RELATED: Why Giants hired 'player developments' coaches]

"We are kind of going through the process with all free agents based on where we are as an organization, what our direction is going to be, and there's a lot of rumors and a lot of innuendo and a lot of noise," Zaidi said Wednesday night when the latest rumor was brought up. "We just have to go based on what we know and the conversations that we're having."

MLB rumors: Giants bringing in Oracle Park fences, but only slightly

MLB rumors: Giants bringing in Oracle Park fences, but only slightly

The Giants promised there would be changes to the dimensions of Oracle Park, and they evidently have lived up to their word.

The fences are coming in -- but not by a ton.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle's Hank Schulman, San Francisco reportedly has marginally shortened the distance to all fields.

What about Triples Alley, you ask? Surely there must be more drastic changes to that area of Oracle Park, right?

Not really.

Six feet doesn't sound like a lot, but then again, Brandon Belt might have doubled his home-run total from last season under those dimensions. The Giants are removing the bullpen mounds from the first and third-base sidelines, and they are expected to be relocated to the extra space now created in the outfield.

[RELATED: Giants announce eight additions to Kapler's coaching staff]

So, it appears Oracle Park generally will maintain the same character, but likely will allow for more offense. Given the trouble the Giants have had in attracting free-agent hitters, perhaps the shortened dimensions will somewhat detract from its identity as a pitcher's haven.