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Giants' 19-run eruption an indication of offense they seek

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Steven Duggar hit a 427-foot grand slam, which was both the longest homer of his career and the first slam. Brandon Crawford hit his 11th homer of the season, keeping pace with league leaders on a day when the Giants' shortstop had six RBI. Darin Ruf flirted with the cycle by hitting a two-run shot, and Evan Longoria added his own blast.

The Giants had 16 hits and four homers in Thursday's 19-4 blowout of the Cincinnati Reds, but two of the most impressive plate appearances of the day completely escaped notice. Unless you were sitting in the visiting dugout at Great American Ball Park. 

In a 1-0 game, Mike Yastrzemski fell behind 0-2 while leading off the third and then watched a waste pitch, two very close inside four-seamers and a tempting splitter go by, drawing a leadoff walk. Three batters later, with the Giants now up a pair, Longoria fell behind 1-2 but drew a seven-pitch walk. 

Amid all the fireworks, Yastrzemski and Longoria had the kind of plate appearances that the Giants seek day after day, inning after inning over 162 games. Sometimes they won't lead to absolutely anything. Sometimes the opposing pitcher is too good to walk you, but you can still get to him with a couple of timely hits. And sometimes, as the Giants showed Thursday, it all comes together.

It has become abundantly clear that every Giants hitter who walks up to the plate has a good plan in place and trusts the preparation put in before games. There are a lot of different ways you could describe it, both with numbers and beliefs, but let's just simply go with this:

 

If you're an opposing pitcher, it's just a huge pain in the ass to face this Giants lineup.

"You know, sometimes you don't see it all clicking but you know that it's in there because you're seeing the quality of the at-bat," manager Gabe Kapler said. "I think we saw the quality of the at-bats today, working deep counts and seeing a lot of pitches, and then those at-bats were ending with a lot of loud contact and extra base hits. You don't expect a 19-run outburst like this. This happens once in a blue moon, but I do think it's an indication that we're having quality at-bats."

The Giants got just one run in the first inning, but three of their first four hitters went to a 3-2 count. They frustrated Tyler Mahle -- who was off to a very good start to the season -- by spitting on pitches just out of the zone, and by the end of the first he was already at 28 pitches. 

Starting with Yastrzemski, the lineup went walk, single, single, walk, single, single in the third to knock Mahle out of the game after 66 pitches that recorded just six outs. Four of those six batters saw at least five pitches. The exceptions were Crawford and Alex Dickerson, who both lined first-pitch splitters for singles. 

Duggar broke the game open with a grand slam on -- what else -- a 3-2 pitch and Ruf added a two-run shot that capped the nine-run inning. The Giants worked so many deep counts that they knocked Michael Feliz, Mahle's replacement, out of the game as well. 

In all, they saw 57 pitches in the third inning and forced Reds pitchers to throw 97 pitches to get the first nine outs. The Reds threw 205 pitches on the day, including 35 from two different relief pitchers. 

"I think when we see a batter get down in an 0-2 count or a 1-2 count, the goal is to see one more pitch, to fight for one more pitch, to get to 2-2, and that's how we're rooting in the dugout. 'See one more, let's go to 3-2.' Or if they're down 0-2, the mantra is 'Let's climb back into this count,'" Kapler said. "The further we get into a count, the more likely it is that we can get a mistake and a pitch that we can drive. I do think that's a process. It's not outcome-driven. If we're up 2-0 or we're up by a larger margin, we're still trying to compete and fight and scratch and claw for every pitch and every at-bat."

This was an extreme case, but it's nothing new for the Giants. Thursday's game was the 11th time a starter failed to complete five innings against them, and in 44 games, they have let an opponent record an out in the seventh inning just three times. Not surprisingly, they lead the National League with 4.08 pitches per plate appearance. 

 

"I think it's just a credit to (hitting coaches Justin Viele, Donnie Ecker and Dustin Lind), just the staff combined with really good players is a recipe for a lot of success," Duggar said. "It's been really fun to be a part of this team. The contagiousness all around -- even on days when we're scrapping you can just see guys throwing together good at-bats. We had Mahle's pitch count up pretty good in the third inning ... we were just looking for the knockout blow and we got it and just kept pouring on."

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The win clinched a sweep of the Reds and a 6-2 road trip that kept the Giants in first place in the NL West even as the Padres and Dodgers got going. They are assured of being atop the division when Trevor Bauer takes the mound at Oracle Park on Friday night, but nobody was celebrating too much on the way back home. They'll keep grinding, day after day, inning after inning. 

"We're staying humble and we're staying hungry," Kapler said. "We've got a long way to go."

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