Hayden Birdsong

What we learned as Birdsong is solid again in first MLB win vs. Braves

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The Giants have been pretty good at clinching happy flights this season, but they've often had trouble once they arrive in a new ballpark. 

After going 5-2 on their homestand, they headed out for a tough trip against the Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Guardians, and they did so with a 16-25 record on the road. The first night, however, looked a lot more like what they showed last week at Oracle Park.

The Giants got three homers and Hayden Birdsong set the stage for the dominant bullpen as they beat the Braves 5-3 at Truist Park. The Giants have won three of four in recent days against teams headed for the NL playoff bracket, and they're back to within two games of .500.

Both teams went back-to-back early on, with the Braves getting solo shots from Austin Riley and Sean Murphy off of Birdsong and the Giants countering with Jorge Soler and LaMonte Wade Jr. 

The Giants worked surefire All-Star Reynaldo Lopez hard and took the lead after knocking him out of the game. Michael Conforto got them going with a double in the sixth and Riley couldn't handle Luis Matos' grounder to third, allowing Conforto to score the go-ahead run. 

Nick Ahmed added an insurance run on a sac fly and Heliot Ramos went deep in the top of the ninth for his 11th homer of the year, tying Matt Chapman for the team lead. 

Here are three observations from Tuesday's game:

Letting It Rip

Lopez went to three-ball counts on eight of the first 12 hitters and had 10 in all, including a half dozen 3-2 counts. The Giants clearly were trying to be patient, but early on it wasn't leading to much as Lopez took advantage of a big zone. In the fifth, the Giants finally took advantage of his lack of command. 

Soler jumped on an elevated fastball and rocketed a solo shot out to left, giving him 13 hits -- including four homers -- in 22 career at-bats against Lopez. Now hitting leadoff, Soler has five extra-base hits over the last three Giants games.

Wade followed with a moonshot into the jetstream in right field at Truist Park. The homer went an estimated 442 feet, making it the second-longest of his career, behind only a 474-foot blast in the thin air of Mexico City last year. What made it even more impressive was the fact that he went 442 feet on a 3-2 curveball.

Bird Is The Word

Birdsong was an out away from getting through five innings in his debut last Wednesday. On Tuesday, he got there, allowing two runs and striking out five. He showed off a four-pitch mix, led by a fastball that topped out at 97.7 mph and averaged 96 on a muggy night in Georgia.

Birdsong had command issues in the minors and a leadoff walk put him in a tight spot in the fifth, but he worked his way out of it. With two runners in scoring position and the game tied 2-2, Birdsong threw a nasty changeup to strike out leadoff hitter Jarred Kelenic. He then got Ozzie Albies to fly out softly to left, stranding both runners. 

The Giants will get Kyle Harrison back this weekend and Blake Snell should return on Tuesday, but they'll have a spot for Birdsong until the start of the second half, when Robbie Ray and Alex Cobb should be ready. At the very least, Birdsong is showing that the fastball-changeup combination could make him a bullpen weapon if the rotation does get back to full strength.

Doesn't Get Any Better

For the first time, Randy Rodriguez got to pitch in front of his parents at the big league level. The rookie from the Dominican Republic had a big cheering section in the seats and he made sure the night was memorable in every way.

Rodriguez breezed through the sixth, picking up where Birdsong had left off in the velocity department. He hit 99 mph a couple of times in a 1-2-3 inning. 

Rodriguez has a 4.32 ERA overall, but seven of the 16 runs he has allowed came during a rough back-to-back stretch last month. He has a 3.34 FIP and is averaging more than a strikeout per inning in his first big league season.

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