The SF Giants week got off on the right foot after sweeping a two-game series against the Seattle Mariners led by a titanic three-run blast by outfielder Mike Yastrzemski on Wednesday.
The SF Giants ended up nabbing a win from the Mariners with a convincing 10-1 defeat, but it was the three-run home run by Yastrzemski that proved to be the difference-maker.
Yastrzemski had a strong rookie campaign in 2019 where he slashed a .272/.334/.518 line (123 OPS+) with 21 home runs and 55 RBI while being worth 2.8 WAR across 411 plate appearances. Since he broke out as a 29-year-old, there were plenty of questions about whether his rookie season was a fluke.
Those concerns quickly disappeared as he took another step forward in 2020. In 198 plate appearances, the left-handed bat has posted a .290/.394/.562 line (159 OPS+) with nine home runs and 31 RBI.
The 30-year-old built upon a strong rookie season and he has quickly become one of the better and more valuable players in the National League this year.
His home run on Wednesday captured the Giants 2020 season in one swing of the bat in that it was a three-run bomb in a two-strike count. Giants fans are not used to seeing as many three-run home runs as we have seen this season:
#SFGiants 3-run home runs by season
2020: 13 (43 games)
— Kerry Crowley (@KO_Crowley) September 10, 2020
For the past several years, the Giants have struggled to hit for power and get runners on base. They have been much better at both in 2020 and the proof is in the pudding.
On top of this, Yastrzemski has done a lot of his damage this year in two-strike counts just as he was in Wednesday night’s game.
In two-strike counts, the Vanderbilt University product has posted a .920 OPS, including blasting eight of his nine home runs. He has found comfort despite being behind in the count, and that is not an easy trait to develop, especially for a second-year player.
When you mix a good two-strike approach with runners on base, you get a blast that sails deep into the night:
Yaz making everyone look at the sky again pic.twitter.com/FdPpJm11R5
— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) September 10, 2020
The Giants ended up scratching seven more runs across the plate, but it was the home run by Yastremski that originally put them on top.
The 2020 season has been weird for a lot of reasons with the COVID outbreak as well as some of the new rules, but there has been nothing weird about Yastremski’s performance. He has put himself in the middle of the MVP discussion.
The award will likely not go to the right fielder, but his performance merits being involved in the discussion. After several rough seasons, the SF Giants are in the middle of a playoff push, which would not be possible without Yastremski’s contributions. Their return to competitiveness may come sooner than we expected.