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Yaz gives Panda some credit for his pinch-hitting success

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Mike Yastrzemski, Donovan Solano

In two-thirds of a season together in 2019, Pablo Sandoval and Mike Yastrzemski -- or "Glass of Whiskey" as Sandoval sometimes called him -- became such good friends that Yastrzemski was invited to Sandoval's wedding that offseason. 

Yastrzemski often has said he learned a lot from the veteran, and some of that simply came from watching. After hitting the go-ahead homer in Monday's win over the San Diego Padres, Yastrzemski credited Sandoval for helping him learn how to handle big pinch-hit at-bats.

"I just watched him when he was getting ready for his at-bats. Everybody knows him as this fun-loving guy and the second that he knew there was a pinch-hit opportunity he was quiet about his business and made sure that he was completely mentally checked in and ready to take his at-bat," Yastrzemski said. "Just being able to see that and learn without even asking questions -- just being able to observe him and see how he prepared, what his mentality was and what his routine was -- is what has really helped me in those situations."

Sandoval was the best pinch-hitter in the league in 2019, Yastrzemski's first season, going 18-for-48 with two homers and eight doubles. He was so impactful that the Giants brought him back for Gabe Kapler's first season, although that didn't work out as well. Sandoval landed with the Atlanta Braves before the postseason and made the team out of camp this year, and he has one of the biggest pinch hits of the season's first week. 

 

The Giants already have two huge pinch-hit homers -- Yastrzemski's on Monday and Alex Dickerson's game-tying shot on Opening Day -- and that figures to be a theme all season. This is one of the deepest benches a Giants team has ever had. 

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On Tuesday night, Kapler was able to use Yastrzemski, Brandon Belt, Alex Dickerson and Tommy La Stella as pinch-hitters. When a righty is starting, he'll turn to guys like Wilmer Flores, Darin Ruf and Austin Slater in the late innings. The Giants have come a long way from the days when a Kelby Tomlinson or Alen Hanson would try to ignite a late rally with a single. 

"We've got a ton of talent on our bench, which not too many teams are lucky to have, and I think that's a weapon," Yastrzemski said. "It was really cool to be able to learn from guys like Pablo, who did really well in pinch-hit situations, and I think a lot of these guys have similar backgrounds in knowing how to take those at-bats."

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