SAN FRANCISCO -- No front office, at least no good front office, makes decisions in late July based on one game. But there are times when even just a few days can seemingly change a whole organization's fortunes.
The New York Mets hoped to go on a run in July, but their inconsistency left them in too big a hole, and this week they've traded their ace and closer for prospects. On the other side, the Chicago Cubs have played so well over the last week that Marcus Stroman and Cody Bellinger might now be staying put. The San Diego Padres could shake up the entire market by committing to selling, but they've hung around long enough that they now seem likely to try and push for a wild card spot instead of trading Blake Snell and Josh Hader.
The Giants are comfortably in the playoff race and looking to add, but when the bottom of the ninth rolled around on Saturday afternoon, it would have been hard for anyone in the front office to feel too excited about making a move.
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The lineup was 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position through eight innings. In the top of the ninth, closer Camilo Doval had a rare stumble, coughing up a two-run lead that should have been much larger, and doing so in a strange fashion. A team that has had trouble reaching even the meager three-run mark in recent days looked poised for another tough loss, but J.D. Davis swung the emotional balance with one swing.
Davis crushed the first pitch of the bottom of the ninth off the foul pole in left. The Giants won 3-2, and it happened quickly. So quickly that his manager missed it. When he sat down in his office a few minutes later, Gabe Kapler opened with an admission.
"I'm not sure I saw J.D.'s home run," he said, smiling.
He did see the celebration, though.
San Francisco Giants
Davis watched as the ball soared toward left and started to curve. When it clanged off the foul pole, he turned and dramatically flipped his bat toward the home dugout. If it wasn't the most stylish bat flip in recent Giants history, it certainly went on Mount Rushmore.
"It was the longest bat flip of my life, that's for sure," Davis said.
For the Giants, it provided a release on a day that should have been much, much easier. The Giants scored by getting hits from their first two batters of the game -- and then left 12 runners on base the rest of the way. Ryan Walker and Sean Manaea combined to get that lead through the eighth, and Tyler Rogers shepherded it to Doval.
The closer has been as good as anybody in the game, but he opened his afternoon with eighth straight sliders, including four that missed the zone to the leadoff batter. When interpreter Nick Ortiz emerged from the dugout, he was accompanied by Kapler, not pitching coach Andrew Bailey. The message was a more forceful one: Mix up your pitches, because you have three good ones.
Doval did a better job of that the rest of the way, but still gave up a double and single. The damage might have been worse, but Patrick Bailey threw pinch-runner Rob Refsnyder out at second. That helped keep the Giants tied, and Davis took over from there.
Earlier this week, Davis took part in a long early batting practice session with hitting coach Justin Viele that included an unusual drill. For about 10 minutes, he hit hard ground ball after hard ground ball at Ortiz, who was playing shortstop. It was designed to help fix some issues that had popped up in recent weeks. Davis wanted to be shorter to the ball and stay in his legs, and on Wednesday night he saw signs of life.
"Over this last week, me and J.V. have been really honing in on getting back into my legs, getting back to how I loaded in the beginning of the year in spring training when I made that big adjustment in my stance," Davis said. "That has helped me keep my head more still and I've been able to hit pitches more in the zone. There are still some wrinkles that we need to iron out and stuff like that -- I'm not a finished product -- but it was a great result today."
Davis faced Jansen on Friday night and struck out on three pitches, but that gave him a fresh look at one of the best cutters the game has ever seen. When Jansen jogged on Saturday, Viele told Davis to focus on pulling the pitch.
Davis nearly pulled it too hard, but the ball stayed fair and the Giants had a much-needed win. They improved to 13-4 in bullpen games, which figure to be a staple of the second half. They still have a long way to go offensively, but Davis made sure his teammates didn't drive home thinking of missed opportunities.
"It's as if you're teeing up on a par-5 and you've got your best drive and you smoke one right down the middle and you're sitting there looking at it," he said of his walk-off. "That's the only way I can really describe it."