SAN FRANCISCO — A couple extras from the Twins’ first-ever two-game winning streak at the Giants’ beautiful park:
Kennys Vargas isn’t sure how they measure these things, but it didn’t matter when he caught that Jeff Samardzija fastball Saturday.
“I just hit the ball. I wasn’t sure how far it would go,” Vargas said. “But as soon as I hit it, I knew it was gone.”
Had he pulled it a little more, it would have landed in the water of McCovey Cove. Instead, it landed in the back of the bleachers, just to the right of straightaway center. It was measured at 471 feet by MLB’s StatCast system, the third-longest home run in the majors this season. It’s also the longest at AT&T Park in three years.
The genesis of that clout was an unsuccessful at-bat two innings earlier, Vargas said, an at-bat that ended up with former Twins teammate Eduardo Nunez making a difficult catch up against the dugout railing.
“I saw in my first at-bat he tried to attack with a fastball in. So I was ready for that spot,” Vargas said. “I knew it was going to be a fastball hard, and boom — I was able to get it.”
Chris Gimenez knows he, like all catchers these days, are being judged on how well they frame pitches — which is a nice way of saying, getting strikes called on borderline pitches. He admitted Saturday that he may have inadvertently done the opposite, turned a strike into a ball, for Jose Berrios during a critical at-bat.
With the bases loaded and two outs in the third inning, Berrios was trying to escape the threat by retiring Hunter Pence. Berrios used a changeup and a curveball to get a couple of called strikes, but he missed a couple times, too, and was at 2-2.
Gimenez called for another curve, and Berrios delivered a beauty, a pitch that appeared headed outside and into the dirt, but actually stayed up, clearly within the strike zone, according to the StatCast tracking. Pence flinched. Plate umpire Ted Barrett, though, called it a ball.
“Teddy said he had it a little outside,” Gimenez said. “What really happened, though, was I could have made it look better.”
The problem, Gimenez said, was that “I was anticipating it being in the dirt, hopefully out of his reach. And if that happens, with bases loaded, I’ve got to stop it. I can’t let it get past me, or it’s a run.”
So his glove was lower than normal, Gimenez said, and he received it low, running the count to 3-2. But Berrios was unfazed; Gimenez called for the same pitch, and this time it curled onto the inside edge of the plate — not quite as good as the previous one, StatCast said.
Didn’t matter. Strike three. End of threat.
“Give it to the kid — some guys get rattled if they don’t get a big call,” Gimenez said. “He just stuck another right in there.”