On a bullpen day that began with the Giants using a set-up man as an “opener” and a rookie making his major league debut as a “bulk innings” pitcher, Gabe Kapler’s club had the Texas Rangers exactly where they wanted them.
The Giants hoped to be able to turn Wednesday’s matinee over to closer Tyler Rogers with a ninth-inning lead, and that’s exactly what they did. Rogers, however, was unable to keep the Rangers off the scoreboard as a leadoff single and a pop-up that fell in between a drawn-in infield and a deep outfield defense allowed Texas to tie the game at 2-2 in the bottom of the ninth.
After trading runs in the 10th, the Giants lost 4-3 on a walk-off single in the 11th after Rangers infielder Brock Holt hit an 0-2 fastball from Jake McGee into center field to bring home the automatic runner, Nate Lowe, from second base.
The Giants failed to bring automatic runner LaMonte Wade Jr. home from second in the 11th after Wade was thrown out between second and third in a rundown following a groundball hit by Wilmer Flores. The late collapse cost the Giants a chance to match the Tampa Bay Rays with a major league-best 39 wins and took some of the spotlight away from an otherwise impressive performance from their bullpen.
Rookie Sammy Long became the 44th different player to appear for the Giants this year as he tossed four strong innings in relief of Zack Littell, who pitched the bottom of the first. The Sacramento State product had never thrown a pitch above A-ball before the 2021 season began, but a Giants organization that’s had its depth tested all year turned to a southpaw making his major league debut and watched the magic continue.
Rookie Jason Vosler, filling in for injured third baseman Evan Longoria, and catcher Chadwick Tromp, the replacement for injured backup catcher Curt Casali, each homered in the fifth inning against Rangers ace Kyle Gibson to provide Long and the rest of the Giants’ bullpen with the only run support they received on Wednesday in the first nine innings.
The Giants had high expectations for Long, who struck out 15 batters in 7 2/3 innings at Triple-A Sacramento, but the lefty managed to exceed them anyway as he began his day with four scoreless frames and seven strikeouts. The strikeout total matched Logan Webb (8/17/19), Andrew Suárez (4/11/18) and John “The Count” Montefusco (9/3/74) for the most by a Giants pitcher in their major league debut since Hall of Famer Juan Marichal struck out 12 in July 19, 1960 in a 2-0 shutout win against the Phillies.
Long, a Sacramento State product, was an 18th round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Rays in 2016 but lasted only two summers in the organization before he was released. He spent the summer of 2018 taking EMT classes in Sacramento, pitched for an A-ball affiliate in the White Sox organization in 2019 and was again out of pro ball in 2020.
Giants assistant general manager Jeremy Shelley, who has been a longtime front office leader in acquiring minor league free agents, has been credited with identifying Long and helping the organization sign him during the offseason.
Long found success against Texas by consistently spotting his fastball at the bottom of the strike zone and using an electrifying curveball to rack up swings and misses. The Giants hadn’t extended Long beyond 4.0 innings in any of his minor league outings this season, but on a bullpen day, Kapler tried to coax a few more outs out of him in the sixth inning.
Rangers’ left fielder Eli White ruined those plans for Long and the Giants by leading off the frame with a double to left field, leading Kapler to pull Long in favor of right-hander Dominic Leone. The hit was the first of the day for the Rangers, who added a run on a RBI groundout from Isiah Kiner-Falefa against Leone.
Vosler only had five hits on the season entering Wednesday’s game, but with the game tied 0-0 in the fifth, he gave the Giants their first lead with a majestic solo shot off the right field foul pole. The rookie’s third home run of the year set the stage for Tromp to go back-to-back when the Giants’ catcher launched a towering drive into the left field bleachers to extend the lead to 2-0.
After Leone exited, lefty Conner Menez continued an impressive run as he tossed a pair of scoreless innings before giving way to Rogers. In eight innings on the season, Menez has only allowed two baserunners and has now struck out 10 batters.
©#YR@ MediaNews Group, Inc. Visit at mercurynews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.