SF Giants’ power surge continues against Rockies to collect first sweep since July

The Giants homered 8 times, two apiece from Mitch Haniger and Thairo Estrada, and scored 24 runs in a three-game sweep of Colorado

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Gabe Kapler, the Giants’ manager, said he began to see signs of life from the team’s dormant offense even before the weekend set against the Rockies.

Sure, Colorado, with the worst pitching staff in the majors in terms of ERA and the third-worst record, provided a golden opportunity to score some runs and win some games. The main reason for optimism, according to Kapler, was that his lineup was nearly back to full strength.

Mitch Haniger, who returned from a two-and-a-half-month injury absence, provided some solid evidence over the weekend.

Haniger hit his second home run of the series, one of three for the Giants in a 6-3 victory over the National League West’s bottom team on Sunday. Beating the Rockies (51-91) is routine at this point, their 16th win in 17 tries, but a sweep? It was the Giants’ first game in a three-game series since their first one after the All-Star break, July 14-17 at Pittsburgh — their first home game since mid-May.

“Mitch Haniger getting going is a huge deal for us,” Kapler said later.

Haniger’s two-run homer in the third inning broke a 3-3 tie after Thairo Estrada tied the game with a solo shot to start the inning, and Joc Pederson added insurance in the fifth with a towering homer to the concourse in right field. They homered eight times in three games, more than any other three-game stretch at Oracle Park this season, with two each from Haniger and Estrada.

They scored 24 runs during the three-game sweep, which was more than their previous eight-game total (22).

The good news is that the Giants will play Colorado four more times in the next seven days, with three of those games against the sub.500 Guardians.

Even better, Michael Conforto could be activated as early as Monday, providing the Giants with the outfield they envisioned when signing him and Haniger this offseason.

Conforto’s reaction to his second day of batting practice on Sunday will determine whether he is added to the roster for Monday’s series opener against the Guardians. Even after a three-game sweep, it can’t come soon enough for a team that is still on the outside looking in.

The Giants gained a game, closing in on the D-backs, who lost to the Cubs, but they still need to catch the Reds (74-71) and Marlins (74-69), who both won.

“I feel, and I know a lot of guys in this clubhouse feel, that we have control over our own destiny,” Haniger said. “So, if we play to our potential and treat every game like it’s the most important game when we show up on the field, we’ll be in the playoffs.”

Cleveland’s pitching staff is significantly better than Colorado’s, with Gavin Williams (2-5, 3.34 ERA), Cal Quantrill (2-6, 5.70 ERA), and Logan Allen (7-7, 3.68) scheduled to start the three games. The Guardians’ staff ERA of 3.96 ranks eighth in the majors.

It will be an interesting test to see what this Giants lineup can do when fully healthy.

After passing on Aaron Judge and failing to sign Carlos Correa, the Giants committed $79.5 million to the pair of free-agent outfielders in the hopes of adding an everyday presence to the middle of their lineup. However, this has not been the case. Only 32 of the Giants’ 143 games this season have they started the same lineup. When Mike Yastrzemski and Austin Slater are included, there is little overlap in the availability of the four outfielders.

Haniger, a Bay Area native who lives in Aptos during the offseason, waited until Friday night to hit his first home run at Oracle Park, where he had previously witnessed Barry Bonds, Jeff Kent, and Rich Aurilia do the same. It was apparently so sweet that he did it again just 48 hours later.

“I’d like to hit a lot of them around here,” he said.

After LaMonte Wade Jr.’s second hit of the game in the third inning, Haniger brought him home on an inside fastball from Rockies starter Peter Lambert. The two-run shot to left was clocked at 108.4 mph off the bat, giving the Giants a 5-3 lead they would not relinquish.

He doubled and scored in the second inning, giving him three hits in the last two games (three in seven since being activated). Before homering in Friday’s win, he was 2-for-20 with nine strikeouts.

“It can be tough,” Haniger said of readjusting after missing 10 weeks due to a fractured forearm. “It’s never fun to be late. At the same time, I never expected to struggle so much after my injury. But I’ve been working with the hitting coaches for a while now, and I’m starting to see results.”

Haniger attributes his recent success to using his hips and seeing the ball deep in the zone.

Estrada’s homer was his second in as many games, and it came on the heels of a triple in his first at-bat as part of a two-hit night. He was the Giants’ most valuable position player when he was sidelined by a broken hand, and he has hit safely in 23 of the 31 games he’s played since his return from a month-long absence on Aug. 5.

Pederson finished with his fifth multi-hit game in 15 games since Aug. 21 with a single in his fourth and final at-bat. His 13th home run of the season was only his second since the beginning of August.

“Guys are coming together a little bit,” said Kapler. “The entire group has been together for a while now, and you can see that gelling happening. We’re not saying the Rockies series means we’ll hit a ton of home runs the rest of the way, but you can see one guy feeding off the other.”

In the second inning, Rockies first baseman Elehuris Montero lined a 108.4 mph line drive off the inside of Keaton Winn’s left leg, giving the Giants another scare. Winn, who earned his third career start after following Alex Cobb with five scoreless innings against the Padres last Sunday, doubled over onto the grass behind the pitcher’s mound, drawing Kapler and trainer Dave Groeschner out of the dugout, but remained in the game.

Montero was one of three runners to score as the Rockies took a 3-0 lead in the second inning, but Winn came back to strike out 14 of the next 17 batters. Winn pitched six innings, striking out nine batters and walking none. He combined a fastball that reached 99.1 mph, the fastest pitch in the game, with a splitter that generated 18 swings and misses.

“This is a team that likes to swing the bat a lot,” Winn said of his team. “A splitter is designed for teams like that.”

Winn also threw 62 of his 80 pitches for strikes, a 77.5% strike rate that piqued Kapler’s interest.

“We don’t see that ratio of strikes to balls very often, period,” said Kapler. “All day he was just filling it up on the first pitch, getting ahead, in count leverage.” He mixed his pitches really well, even mixing in his slider for some stolen strikes, and the split was in and below the zone. Just a really nice job all around.”

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