For the first time in his 64 games as manager of the Giants, Gabe Kapler actually got to manage a true National League game. He talked excitedly about it before the game, discussing at length his strategy sessions with coaches, and after the game he was all smiles when asked about playing without a designated hitter.
"It's a lot of fun," Kapler said.
It's more fun when you win, as the Giants did Monday in San Diego, but what was interesting was how they won. Right now, with or without a DH, this is the type of offense you used to see in the American League, specifically the AL East that Kapler grew up in.
The Giants are bombers right now, and with three more homers in a 3-2 win over the Padres, they're tied with the Astros for the MLB lead at nine. The lineup has only scored 16 runs in four games, but the long ball is keeping them alive. Is this who the Giants are now after so many years lacking power?
"I guess we'll find out," Yastrzemski said. "Everybody's swing looks great right now. These guys, a lot of people like to say they're veterans, they're on the tail ends of their careers, but they're showing they're not going to give in. They want to win and they want to perform and it's showing up and it's always great to have guys who have that mentality."
The blasts Monday came in all different forms. Darin Ruf, a platoon bat in left, started against southpaw Adrian Morejon and took him to straightaway center in the second. Two innings later, Evan Longoria hit his third in four games. The surprise came in the seventh, when Mike Yastrzemski broke a tie by poking one just over the wall in center. It's never a surprise when Yastrzemski homers, but the Giants didn't know what they would get from him this series.
Yastrzemski got drilled at the end of the spring and had just an infield single in 13 at-bats against the Mariners. He insisted, though, that his left hand was fine.
"There's no excuse," he said Saturday night. "I just stunk this weekend, this series. That's it."
The situation changed on Monday during batting practice. Yastrzemski said swelling came up out of nowhere and all parties decided to be cautious. It was decided that Yastrzemski would be pulled from the lineup but could possibly pinch-hit, and he went down to the cage in the fifth and took some swings. He told Kapler he could go.
Yastrzemski got his chance in the seventh and jumped on a 2-0 fastball from Craig Stammen, hitting his first of the year.
"It's obviously a huge hit, a game-winning home run for us," Kapler said. "It's even more impressive to come off the bench and have a plate appearance like the one that Yaz did. I watched him hit in the cage and he looked pretty good as he was swinging. It was pretty much pain-free from that standpoint. It doesn't surprise me because he's such a good hitter and he's a good hitter off the bench.
"It was certainly a gutsy moment for him. He's a resilient kid and did a really nice job in that plate appearance."
In a game played with National League rules, Yastrzemski was limited to an American League role. He hit and then sat down, watching as Reyes Moronta, Tyler Rogers and Jake McGee closed it out, with McGee giving the fan base a taste of some classic Giants Torture.
It's unclear at the moment if Yastrzemski's role will change in this series. He indicated he was still in some discomfort late Monday night and said he would see how he feels in the morning. The Giants will be careful, but they also know what a difference-maker the right fielder is.
"My expectation is he comes in feeling better tomorrow," Kapler said. "We'll have a conversation. We'll have a lineup that Yaz is in for tomorrow's game and we'll see where we are."