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Webb pitches gem, nearly hits slam as Giants blank Rockies

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SAN FRANCISCO -- This is not a fan base that wants the designated hitter, and Logan Webb, who grew up a couple of hours north, knows that well. But as MLB and the MLBPA went back and forth over the offseason, Webb had a very specific reason for potentially wanting the DH to stick around past 2020.

Webb's final at-bat of 2019 was a base hit, and the young right-hander wanted to pull a Costanza and leave life as a big league hitter on a high note. He's glad that didn't end up being the case.

Webb threw six more dominant innings on Thursday night, which has become the norm for him, but the real highlight of his night -- and a 7-0 win over the Colorado Rockies -- came with a bat in his hands. 

The Giants were already leading 2-0 when the Rockies opted to walk the bases loaded in front of Webb. He immediately made them regret it. Webb got a fastball from Rockies ace German Marquez and crushed it 399 feet to dead center.

The good news was Webb picked up an RBI single and the longest base hit by a Giant since a Madison Bumgarner homer four years ago. The bad news was the ball hit the padding at the very top of the wall, robbing the rotation's youngest pitcher of a grand slam. 

"I think I've been told by everybody in the clubhouse to hit the weight room," Webb said, smiling. "So that's always good. I think it's because in BP I try to hit the ball as far as I can and everyone sees that, and I joke around and say I'm going to hit a home run and I almost did, so they're kind of giving it back to me right now."

 

As just about every mouth at Oracle Park dropped open, Webb stood at first base and fist-bumped coach Antoan Richardson. He wore a confident smile, and that was the aura he had on the mound, too.

Webb has always had the repertoire to be a frontline pitcher, but the Giants needed to see adjustments. They needed him to trust his stuff and not try to be so fine. They needed him to push the pace and let his defense do the work as his sinker induced grounder after grounder. And they needed him to pitch with the swagger that's now been on display for 10 starts. 

"He's smiling more. I think he's more relaxed on the mound and in the dugout," manager Gabe Kapler said. "He's even more engaged in conversations in the dugout, where you're really able to have a conversation and ask for him to do something ... I think he's been very responsive and I do think he has a lot of confidence right now. We chatted a little bit after the game and you can see that confidence growing."

To keep riding high, Webb needs only to look at the company he's keeping pace with. Since May 11, Webb has a 1.53 ERA in 10 starts. The only pitcher ahead of him during that span is Jacob deGrom, the early favorite for the Cy Young Award. The pitcher right behind him is Walker Buehler, who may be the current favorite. Webb kept the run going with six shutout innings Thursday that included eight strikeouts and 12 swinging strikes.

"It's pretty standard with what he's been doing the past five, six starts," said Curt Casali, who caught his eighth shutout. "Ever since he came off the IL he's been an absolute gem on the mound and a bulldog."

Webb is keeping company with another longtime ace, too. It was Madison Bumgarner who reminded this region that pitchers like to swing the bat, too, and while Webb will never approach Bumgarner's production, he certainly employs the same "swing as hard as you can in case you hit it" approach. 

Webb entered the night with just two hits in 32 at-bats in his career, but one was a 388-foot triple. He now has the two longest hits by a Giants pitcher since Bumgarner left the team. 

RELATED: What we learned from Webb's all-around dominant outing

"Logan has power," Kapler said. "If nothing else at the plate, he's got pop. We knew that when the ball left the bat it had a chance. I was thinking extra bases right off the bat. Obviously this ballpark can hold some balls up sometimes, so you never know, but it's obviously as big as any hit that we got in the game."

 

As Oracle Park was still buzzing about Webb's near-slam, LaMonte Wade Jr. parked one 430 feet away from the plate, capping a six-run outburst by the Giants. They would cruise home, extending their lead in the NL West to a season-high five games behind a young pitcher coming into his own. 

Webb is living up to his promise, but he might need to hurry up with that development as a hitter. It's likely the DH is coming back to the NL next year, and Webb is running out of chances to go deep for the first time since his Rocklin High School days. 

"Everyone keeps telling me I'm going to get one at some point," he said. "I'm working on it."

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