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Giants' Tauchman bounces back from brutal day, ends on homer

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Steven Duggar, Mike Tauchman

Mike Tauchman is one of the fastest players on the Giants' roster, and few hustle as much as he does. But when Tauchman hit a three-run homer in the 13th inning at Angel Stadium on Wednesday, he took his time, getting around the bases in about 29 seconds. 

Nobody would have blamed Tauchman for adding a few more seconds to the jog to savor the blast just a little bit more.

Tauchman was one pitch away from becoming the first Giant to strike out six times in a game, an unfortunate feat that would have also given the team a franchise-record-tying 20th strikeout. Instead, he jumped on a 2-2 fastball from Junior Guerra and crushed a homer into the right-field seats.

It was a stunning moment in a bizarre game the Giants won 9-3. A few minutes after it was over, Tauchman was asked about his approach to that sixth at-bat. 

"Like, please, God, put something in play," he said. 

Tauchman has been making swing changes to try and find his way offensively, and he made no secret of the fact that he's still searching. That was apparent from his day, which was about as bad as it gets for a hitter until that final swing. 

"To be honest, I felt a little bit like a jumbled mess today," he said. "That's why this game is so difficult, but I think that you're only really as good as your last at-bat. We had a lot of guys that had a lot of big at-bats for us in extra innings and I was obviously fortunate to put a good swing on that. I'm obviously not satisfied with the way that I've played, but I'm not going to stop working and I'm not going to stop showing up every day believing it's about to turn."

 

His manager has felt the same way, and the front office backed Tauchman this week when a decision had to be made. LaMonte Wade Jr. was sent down to Triple-A instead, and you didn't have to spend more than a couple minutes on social media to see that most of the fan base was baffled by the move. The Giants believe in Tauchman, though. He is an elite defender in left field -- one of the best in baseball this year, per advanced metrics -- and has long at-bats and runs well. It's just the results at the plate that have been missing. 

"I know he's been grinding and working really hard to figure out his swing and his timing and his rhythm at the plate," manager Gabe Kapler said. "All hitters go through struggles. This has been a real significant one for Mike, but he's not a quitter. He's continuing to grind and fight and stay in at-bats. I think it was nice for all of us to see him have success in his last one."

The final at-bat came after 12 nightmare innings for Tauchman, who got his first start in nine days. He became the sixth Giant to strike out five times in a game, and he wasn't even making contact against Shohei Ohtani and the Angels bullpen. Tauchman had 10 swinging strikes on the day, but he caught all of the ball on his final swing. 

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There might have been a lot of noise outside of the organization -- and a lot of speculation about Tauchman's job security until Brandon Belt hurt his knee, potentially bringing Wade back this weekend anyway -- but this is a close-knit clubhouse, one that was thrilled when Tauchman connected.

"I mean, the guy just works his butt off every day, as we all do," outfielder Steven Duggar said. "We're all in this for him, man. He's been so important for us, especially on the homers he's brought back. He's just a good clubhouse guy and a lot of fun to be around. It was definitely emotional for all of us to see him get into one there at the end."

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