DENVER — The Giants boast one of the most prolific power-hitting offenses in the Majors, so it wasn’t a surprise to see them continue their historic home run pace on a balmy Monday afternoon at Coors Field.
Darin Ruf and Buster Posey set the tone with first-inning shots against Colorado lefty Kyle Freeland, and Estrada and Mauricio Dubón added three hits apiece to help the Giants improve to a Major League-best 88-50 and maintain a one-game lead for first place in the National League West over the rival Dodgers.
The offensive output was even more impressive considering the Giants didn’t land in Denver until the wee hours of Monday following an intense matchup with the Dodgers on Sunday Night Baseball.
“This group came ready to play today,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “Obviously, late flight last night, get in at 1:30 in the morning. The whole crew has a very, very quick turnaround, and there’s some tired eyes this morning. These guys got ramped up well. They got prepared and ready to hit, obviously, from the first pitch of the game.”
San Francisco now leads the NL with 206 home runs this season and ranks second in the Majors behind only the Blue Jays (210). The 2021 Giants have already hit the fourth-most homers in franchise history with 24 games left to play, putting them on pace to surpass the record 235 they hit in 2001.
Unlike the 2001 club, which received 73 homers from legendary slugger Barry Bonds alone, the present-day Giants have benefited from a remarkably even distribution of power. No current hitter on the roster has more than 30 home runs, but 10 have reached double-digits, including Brandon Belt and Mike Yastrzemski, who are tied for the team lead with 21 homers. (That’s not counting Kris Bryant, who has hit 24 homers between the Cubs and Giants this season.)
Monday marked the 13th game in which the Giants have hit at least four homers this year, matching the single-season franchise record set by the 1954 club, but they received an equally important performance from right-hander Kevin Gausman, who gave up three runs over seven innings to help spell San Francisco’s taxed bullpen.
Gausman leaned heavily on his four-seam fastball — 70 of his 98 pitches were heaters — en route to delivering only his third quality start since the All-Star break. The outing was particularly meaningful for Gausman, who grew up 30 minutes away from Coors Field in Aurora and got to pitch in front of fans in his hometown for the first time in his professional career on Monday.
Gausman estimated that he had at least 30 family and friends in attendance to watch him take on Freeland, a fellow Colorado native.
“It’s weird,” Gausman said. “This is I think my fourth start here, and this is really the first time they’ve been able to come and see me. It was nice to know that they were there. They don’t get to see me play very often, so it was pretty cool.”
Despite the quick turnaround, the Giants wasted little time flexing their power against Freeland, as Ruf opened the game with his 15th home run of the year, a 375-foot shot to left field. It was the first career leadoff home run for Ruf, who has been filling in at the leadoff spot against lefties while Austin Slater recovers from a concussion. Two batters later, Posey crushed a 403-foot blast out to right-center field for his 17th homer of the season, staking the Giants a quick 2-0 lead.
“To be honest, I was kind of expecting everyone to be a little sluggish,” Gausman said. “We expended a lot of energy that last series, too, just mentally being locked in every single pitch. Really from the get-go, they were locked in. Quality ABs from the get-go, really making Freeland work. It was definitely nice to see.”
The Rockies got one run back on Ryan McMahon’s leadoff homer off Gausman in the second, but Freeland surrendered a third solo shot to Estrada to start the fourth. Gausman helped his own cause with an RBI slash-bunt single that made it 4-1, and the Giants later chased Freeland from the game with a four-run fifth that was highlighted by Estrada’s second home run of the afternoon — a two-run shot down the left-field line — and Ruf’s two-run triple.
After securing his first career multi-homer game, Estrada now has six homers over 42 games with the Giants, who acquired the versatile 25-year-old from the Yankees in exchange for cash considerations in April.
“I always try to compete and take good swings,” Estrada said in Spanish. “I just try to make good contact and hope the ball goes out.”