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'Ice cold' Wade Jr. not surprised by recent power surge

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SAN FRANCISCO -- When the Giants acquired LaMonte Wade Jr. in early February, the hope was that they could tap into some of his natural power, which had not previously shown in games with the Minnesota Twins. There was good reason to believe it, too, given how many players already wearing orange and black had displayed an ability to hit more home runs with swing or approach adjustments.

The Giants had a lot of faith, but even in their wildest dreams they probably couldn't have predicted it happening this quickly. Wade doesn't seem all that surprised, though. 

After hitting two more homers in a 6-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates, Wade said he wasn't trying to become a power hitter but he put the work in over the offseason to get to this point and has since trusted the plan put in place by the Giants' three hitting coaches. 

"I'm just trying to have a good approach and swing at good pitches to hit," he said. "Luckily some of them are going out of the park."

None of this seems like luck anymore. Wade has four homers in his last six games, getting to 12 for the year. Sunday was the first multi-homer game of his career and included his second leadoff shot. The two homers gave the Giants a lead and they cruised from there, getting a nice win after two rough days. 

 

"LaMonte is ice cold, man. He's ice cold," said Alex Wood, who improved to 8-0 when pitching after a Giants loss. "There's no other way to put it. He just grinds every pitch. He doesn't take a single pitch off. He's locked in from the very start of the game to the very finish. I think he likes those moments. I don't know if he would admit that but he wants to be in those moments. He wants to be a dude and he's proven to be one."

After disappointingly dropping the first two games of the series, the Giants fell behind 1-0 on Sunday. But Wade wiped that out with a solo shot to dead center that kept carrying and carrying, surprising Pirates center fielder Bryan Reynolds, who broke back on the ball but then just watched it fly.

Two innings later, Wade put a jolt into another one. He had blasted a JT Brubaker sinker for his first homer, and when Brubaker tried to sneak a changeup past him, Wade hit it 400 feet out to the deepest part of the arcade in right field. 

The homer made Wade the fourth Giant to reach a dozen homers this year. Wilmer Flores later joined the club, and while the power across the roster has been shocking, nobody's display has come out of nowhere as much as Wade's. He had just one minor league season with double-digit homers, reaching 11 in 2018 while getting nearly 500 plate appearances in Double-A and Triple-A. Wade has surpassed that in 171 plate appearances this season. 

"Thinking back to spring training, I think we saw the on-base (skills) coming, we saw the selectiveness, we saw the aggressiveness in the zone. I just don't know that we saw as consistent of an 'A' swing as we're seeing now," manager Gabe Kapler said. "You're seeing him get that really good, explosive, athletic swing off several times in each at-bat and it's really independent of pitch type. Breaking balls, balls that move on him, changeups, fastballs with velocity -- he's hitting all of them. I think that that is probably a byproduct of him being consistently on-time and being very confident right now."

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Wade later doubled, becoming the second Giant this year to reach 10 total bases in a game. It was a career-high, of course, for a player who seems to be getting better and better with every start. Wade showed flashes earlier this season, but he has taken off since being recalled June 25. He has eight homers since that point, raising his OPS to .936. 

"I'm just trying to be consistent with putting the ball hard in play," Wade said. "If the home runs come, they come. I'm definitely not going up there trying to hit them out. I don't think that would be a good key for me. I'm just trying to be consistent, be a tough out, not give away any at-bats, swing at the pitches I'm supposed to swing at, and if they go, they go."