SAN FRANCISCO -- Ronald Acuña made a habit this week of going back to the wall slowly, timing his leap, and jumping to catch a deep fly ball as a Giant dropped his head and the crowd groaned. But the Braves superstar could do nothing but watch as Tyler Austin's blast flew over his head and landed a dozen feet beyond the wall on Thursday afternoon.
Austin has been doing that pretty regularly, and he looks to be carving out a nice role for himself in an organization eager to embrace platoon life. Austin's homer off promising young reliever Sean Newcomb was his third in 33 at-bats against left-handed pitchers. He has 12 hits in those 33 at-bats, including two doubles. He also has six walks.
"He has got a history of doing a nice job against them," manager Bruce Bochy said after a 5-4 loss. "He got all of (that ball). When he hits it, it goes. He's got tremendous power."
This ball was smoked 💨 pic.twitter.com/U0KLuTShh8— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) May 23, 2019
The homer was Riley's second in as many days. On Wednesday, he became the third right-handed batter to hit one into the arcade this season, joining San Diego's Manny Machado and Los Angeles' David Freese.
So, why isn't Austin playing every day? For the Giants, there are two issues.
First, Austin's splits are jarring. He is just 3-for-23 against right-handed pitchers with 13 strikeouts, and this isn't new. He has a .958 career OPS against lefties and .654 OPS against righties.
The second hurdle is that the Giants aren't quite sure where to play him. The staff does not feel comfortable with Austin in left field, although Bochy noted Thursday that "we're working him out there." Austin has only started four games in the outfield since an April trade, while getting seven starts at first base, where Brandon Belt is entrenched as a good two-way player.
Belt's knee issues have kept him from moving over to left at times, but that also may open up more starts at first for Austin against lefties. For now, Bochy will try to find spots to get Austin more time, but at the very least, the Giants can take comfort in one thing. Regardless of how they use Austin, they appear to have traded for a pretty good weapon.