Mac Williamson

Joe Panik's walk-off aided by slow Giants alertly stealing two bases

Joe Panik's walk-off aided by slow Giants alertly stealing two bases

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants have the slowest roster in the big leagues, but they won a game Tuesday night with some speed. Or rather, by mixing some smarts with some speed. 

Braves closer Luke Jackson showed zero interest in checking on runners in the ninth and Kevin Pillar and Mac Williamson took advantage, twice stealing second before Joe Panik’s single brought them both home in a 4-3 win. The late rally came in drips, but it led to a thrilling win on a night when the Giants were absolutely flat for eight innings. 

Jackson seemed to be having issues with the signs, repeatedly asking catcher Brian McCann to run through them again. He was deliberate, and Pillar took advantage first, a few moments after his RBI single with two outs brought Brandon Crawford screaming home and cut the deficit to one. Jackson never checked on Pillar with Pablo Sandoval at the plate and he took off, sliding in just ahead of McCann's throw. 

Sandoval ended up with his 10th pinch-hit of the year, but with Pillar at first, Josh Donaldson's diving stop at third would have led to a game-ending force. Instead, Pillar eased into third as Sandoval raced to first with no throw, reaching on an infield single. Sandoval was replaced by Williamson, who also received no interest from Jackson. On an 0-2 pitch to Panik, he stole second without a throw. 

"That was huge," manager Bruce Bochy said. "Kevin, he's a basestealer and that was a huge base. Once Mac got it, now you realize it just takes a hit to win the game. That's a big base."

Panik's eyes got wide once Williamson touched second. 

"I don't have to hit a double to win the game," Panik said. "I can stay within myself, stay in the middle of the field, and you can win the game with a single."

Panik did, ending a great at-bat by pulling a curveball into right, a few feet past a diving Ozzie Albies. The only speed Panik needed was to get away from a rush of teammates waiting with kidney punches and turkey taps. But before that, he took advantage of tendencies, too. 

Panik has been as locked-in as an Giants hitter the last three weeks, and he fouled off three pitches while getting to 2-2. When Jackson threw a fastball that never threatened the plate, Panik thought back to the scouting report. 

"I thought it was a setup pitch for his breaking ball," he said.

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It was. Jackson went to his curve on 3-2 and the game was over a few seconds later. 

"That's a great comeback," Bochy said. "We looked pretty flat. We just couldn't get going offensively. Their guy (starter Julio Teheran) did a great job on us. That's a huge win.

Why acquiring Aaron Altherr won't impact Mac Williamson's playing time

Why acquiring Aaron Altherr won't impact Mac Williamson's playing time

SAN FRANCISCO -- Just four days after Giants decision-makers declared that Mac Williamson would get a long look in left field, the club acquired Aaron Altherr, a corner outfielder who is two years removed from a big season at the plate. So Giants manager Bruce Bochy felt it was necessary to check in with Williamson on Saturday. 

"Mac will be out there," he later told reporters. 

The Giants got Altherr on a waiver claim from the Phillies and plan to use him as a fourth outfielder. The 28-year-old arrives in San Francisco on Sunday but won't be activated until Tuesday. Even then he'll be eased in, because he hasn't played since May 3 and hasn't started since April 25. 

Altherr was just 1-for-29 when the Phillies DFA'd him and hit .181 in 243 at-bats last season, but the Giants are banking on his raw talent. Altherr had 19 homers in 2017 and a 122 OPS+, making him well above a league-average hitter even when you account for Citizens Bank Park. 

"He's a good athlete that became available," Bochy said. "He's a kid with some good skills, a high ceiling. He's had some struggles but you like what's in there ... obviously we feel this is a guy that has a high ceiling and has the potential to be an everyday guy at some point."

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The Giants inquired about Altherr after the Phillies beat them out for Bryce Harper, hoping that he would be available. Two months later, they're getting a free look.

Bochy said the Giants would go with five outfielders -- Altherr and Tyler Austin on the bench -- for now.

Giants go for power in outfield, but get blanked by Reds Luis Castillo

Giants go for power in outfield, but get blanked by Reds Luis Castillo

SAN FRANCISCO -- It wasn't long ago, just a couple of weeks, that Bruce Bochy was regularly answering questions about his outfield defense, which he felt was perhaps the best he had experienced in San Francisco. Friday's lineup was a different story, as the Giants opted for power in the corners. 

With Kevin Pillar in need of a day off, Bochy moved Mac Williamson from left field to right and stuck Tyler Austin in left for the fourth time. On paper, it made a ton of sense. Austin hit two homers Thursday and Williamson hit a three-run bomb on Tuesday. 

But the tradeoff proved costly. Austin dropped a fly ball with one out in the second, kickstarting a four-run rally off Dereck Rodriguez, who allowed just the four unearned runs in five innings. The Giants lost 7-0 in familiar home performance

"He doesn't have a lot of experience out there," Bochy said. "You've got a guy swinging the bat the way he is, you're trying to find time for him. But hey, we'll get some work out there for him. It's going to get better."

Before the game, Bochy said he was comfortable with the alignment that in theory should have juiced the lineup. On this night it didn't, though, as Austin and Williamson combined to go 0-for-8 with five strikeouts. 

"Occasionally I will do this to keep them all involved," Bochy said of the new look. 

Austin, primarily a first baseman and DH before last month's trade, was supposed to be a regular in left but his development has been stalled by unforeseen factors. Elbow pain kept him from doing regular outfield work for several weeks, and the weather has not cooperated in recent days. 

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The Giants certainly can afford to keep experimenting. Their performance Friday was a reminder that they're a different team at home, one in need of an offensive jolt. After scoring 49 runs on a six-game road trip, they managed just four hits. Luis Castillo, a prospect the Giants once dealt for Casey McGehee -- yikes -- struck out 11 in six innings, getting 24 swinging strikes. 

As the Giants work to add punch to the lineup, they may be without a big bat for the rest of the Reds series. Brandon Belt has an inflamed right knee and will get an MRI, although the Giants are optimistic he'll miss just a day or two.