Jorge Soler

Flores, Soler break out on important day for Giants' lineup

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The Giants were trending on social media Wednesday morning, and for an odd reason. Their decision to option Luis Matos to open a roster spot for Austin Slater was not a popular one with fans, many of whom have latched onto Slater's slow start before a concussion. 

The longest-tenured Giant has been a hot topic for fans, but the issues with this lineup don't have much to do with a player who had fewer than 40 plate appearances when he returned, or the slumping 22-year-old who was sent back to Triple-A as a corresponding move. 

Wilmer Flores was the team's best hitter last season, and while the Giants took away avenues to at-bats with their offseason moves, they still planned to count on Flores quite a bit this season. Entering Wednesday's finale in Phoenix, Flores had a .573 OPS and just one homer in 50 games this season. 

One of the players who has taken time from Flores is Jorge Soler, signed in the offseason to be the everyday DH and cleanup hitter. Soler's .648 OPS entering play Wednesday was his lowest since 2017, and he's on pace to get about halfway to last season's 36 homers. Soler's bat went so cold in recent weeks that he was bumped down and then was fully out of the lineup Saturday against the New York Yankees, with minor league journeyman Trenton Brooks starting at DH. 

There are a lot of reasons why the Giants have slipped back below .500, but at some point, most of it is just background noise. They're not going anywhere unless their best and most experienced bats pick it up, and on Wednesday, they arrived to the party in a big way.

Flores broke the game open with a grand slam and Soler added a loud solo shot late as the Giants beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 9-3. The win snapped a six-game losing streak, their longest since last September. 

The outburst was one of the better offensive performances of the year for a group that has struggled since LaMonte Wade Jr. went down to a hamstring strain that will cost him at least another three weeks. The Giants got 14 hits and drew 10 walks. They made Diamondbacks pitchers throw 220 pitches, and unlike in Tuesday's demoralizing loss, they made them pay in big spots. 

"It's not a secret the way we've been playing," Flores told NBC Sports Bay Area's "Giants Postgame Live" following the win. "Everyone took great at-bats today. [There was] a lot of traffic on base, and that's what you want."

The Giants put so much pressure on Diamondbacks pitchers that they left 16 runners on base and still came away with a blowout win. It was a day for stat-padding, and that has been needed, particularly for a lot of the veterans that manager Bob Melvin planned to count on.

Perhaps nobody fits that description better than Soler, who signed a three-year, $42 million deal in the offseason but has spent most of the first half fighting his swing. He went through a lengthy afternoon BP session with the team's hitting coaches on Saturday, and there were signs of a better approach in recent days. In the eighth inning, he teed off on a low fastball, hitting a 108 mph moonshot that went an estimated 427 feet. 

The Giants will need a lot more of that from Soler, who has the raw strength to do what Aaron Judge and Juan Soto did at Oracle Park over the weekend. They'll also need this approach from Flores, who got off to a slow start last year, too, before having a big second half. 

Right now, they simply need a few veterans to join the 24-year-old who is leading the charge. It doesn't take much for an offensive explosion these days, not when Heliot Ramos is finding new ways to contribute at the top of the lineup every game. Others just had to join in. 

Ramos hit second on Wednesday, a spot usually reserved for the team's best hitter. At the moment, there's no doubt about who is hottest. He had a single, homer and four walks, each leading to a dramatic bat-toss down the first base line. The latest massive game raised Ramos' OPS to .917, the second-highest mark among NL outfielders with at least 100 plate appearances.

"He's just so balanced. Every take, every swing, he's just completely locked in," Melvin told reporters in Phoenix. "Who walks four times -- especially when you're hitting like he is, you want to swing. But they're deep counts, he gets to 3-2 and ends up taking a ball off the plate. It's really cool to watch because he's such a good kid and it was kind of a hard road for him to get here. He has taken full advantage of it."

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