BREAKING: With first homer of 2024, Yastrzemski continues finding his groove

The early days of the season were a lesson in patience for Mike Yastrzemski and the Giants, but the outfielder is slowly but surely finding his swing.

Yastrzemski broke through for his first home run of the season as the Giants fell to the D-backs, 5-3, in Sunday’s finale to split the four-game set. The two-run shot off Arizona righty Slade Cecconi in the bottom of the fifth was Yastrzemski’s 24th go-ahead homer since 2021, which leads all Giants batters in that span.

Slade Cecconi, Diamondbacks earn 5-3 victory over the Giants | AP News

After a slow finish to 2023 that persisted into the opening month of ’24, Yastrzemski is beginning to look more like himself at the plate.

“Not a little bit, a lot,” said manager Bob Melvin, who wasn’t in the dugout for the final outs of the game after he and third-base coach Matt Williams were ejected for arguing a foul tip call in the top of the ninth. “He’s swinging it real good right now, seeing the ball well.”

Yastrzemski had not homered in 22 games dating back to last Sept. 23, which was the second-longest homerless streak of his career, behind only his 33 games without a long ball from Aug. 13 to Sept. 18, 2022. That same 22-game span was also the longest stretch without an extra-base hit in Yastrzemski’s career.

Mike Yastrzemski hits first home run of 2024

“As much as you try to ignore the scoreboard, it’s always just staring you right in the face every time you go out there,” Yastrzemski said. “You do as much work as you can to avoid it, but it’s tough at times. You go through a tough stretch in the middle of the season when you’ve had a good start and you hardly even notice.”

Cecconi, who got the ball for Arizona after Merrill Kelly was scratched with right shoulder discomfort, stymied the Giants’ lineup the first time through the order. Giants starter Jordan Hicks, on the other hand, battled his command but held the D-backs to one run that scored before either team got a hit in the game.

“Not giving up a hit and still giving up a run, I think that tells the story for what it was today,” Hicks said.

Jung Hoo Lee was the Giants’ first baserunner when he was hit by a pitch to open the fourth, and Thairo Estrada legged out an infield single for the team’s first hit with two outs in the fifth. Yastrzemski then followed Estrada with his big knock to temporarily put San Francisco in front, 2-1.

Mike Yastrzemski hits first home run of 2024

It has been a trying first month for Yastrzemski, who was mired in an 0-for-11 stretch to open the campaign after going hitless in his final 16 at-bats of 2023. After he notched his first hit on April 6 against the Padres, he continued to scuffle and entered Sunday batting .171 with a .432 OPS.

But in the four-game set against the D-backs, Yastrzemski showed promise at the plate. He hit safely in all three games he appeared in, delivering some insurance with a two-run single in Thursday’s 5-0 win and collecting a pair of singles in Saturday’s 7-3 victory.

“We don’t have enough time for the amount of things that I tried [to break the slump],” Yastrzemski said. “You just gotta keep throwing mud at the wall until it sticks and keep trying to go back to the things that have worked in the past, and if those don’t work, try something new.”

After Yastrzemski’s go-ahead homer on Sunday, the D-backs jumped out to a one-run lead in the sixth and added on two critical insurance runs in the ninth. The first of those runs was driven in by Kevin Newman, who appeared to swing and miss for strike three, but home-plate umpire Stu Scheurwater instead called it a foul tip.

The at-bat continued, and Newman cashed in with a double. Melvin and Williams exchanged heated words with Scheurwater and were subsequently ejected.

Yastrzemski came to the plate again in the bottom of the ninth, representing the tying run after the Giants rallied late to pull within two runs. But he went down swinging against Kevin Ginkel to end the game.

“We don’t know how the rest of the inning would have gone if he had called a punchout. It changes the at-bat for the next guy, and maybe something else happens,” Yastrzemski said of Newman’s foul tip. “It’s a game-changing play, but at the end of the day, we can’t really predict what could have happened. We just gotta live with the results and accept what happened.”

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