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Defense shines before Lee Conforto steal the show


Defense shines before Lee Conforto steal the show

SAN DIEGO — The Giants piled on late Saturday, with Jung Hoo Lee’s first career home run and a grand slam from Michael Conforto, to pad their lead enough to survive a chaotic ninth inning and prevail, 9-6 over the Padres.

Called on to record the final two outs, Camilo Doval was nicked for two pitch clock violations and allowed a three-run home run off the right-field foul pole that cut the Giants’ advantage from eight to three, but the offensive explosion the inning prior allowed them to survive.

Even before the offensive spigot was flowing, they could take some measure of satisfaction in their offseason mantra paying off only three games into the season.

It was all about defense, and the Giants’ glovework — and the contrast to their opponents’ lack thereof — was on display for much of the afternoon.

Making his Giants debut and first start since 2022, Jordan Hicks slapped his glove, screamed and pointed to the visitors’ dugout after recording the final out of the fourth inning. Backed into a bases-loaded jam, Hicks escaped unscathed thanks to his Gold Glove-winning shortstop, Nick Ahmed, who nabbed a hard-hit line drive for the third out.

Hicks had plenty of occasions to be fired up by the play behind him while going five shutout innings, matching his previous career-high.

Third baseman Matt Chapman backhanded a grounder from Fernando Tatis Jr., twirled and threw to first in time to end the third inning, and it was Ahmed again who made Tatis the victim to end the fifth, charging a softly hit grounder, barehanding the ball and making the throw to first just in time.

On the flip side, the Giants built their advantage on defensive mishaps from Padres outfielders, including an egregious error from Tatis, a Platinum Glove-winner. A line drive to right field off the bat of Ahmed should have been the second out of the fifth inning but instead set up a sac fly from Jung Hoo Lee when Tatis completely whiffed on his attempt to catch the routine fly ball, allowing Ahmed to reach second and Tom Murphy, who reached on a one-out walk, to third.

Taking a 2-0 lead in the second inning, the Giants capitalized on a bloop double down the left field line from Michael Conforto that also put runners at second and third after a walk to Wilmer Flores. The shallow pop fly fell to the ground as left fielder Jurickson Profar and third baseman Tyler Wade converged but failed to make the play.

There was nothing cheap about the double that drove home Conforto, though, a 109 mph rocket down the left field line from Murphy.

The same could be said about the 406 foot, 104 mph home run off the bat of Lee for the first of six runs in the eighth inning. Turning on a 1-1 sweeper from Tom Cosgrove — a lefty, to boot — Lee lifted a towering home run into the right field seats that would have been gone in all 30 ballparks, according to Statcast.

After crossing home plate, Lee pointed to his family in the stands behind the third base dugout, then was greeted by a tunnel of high fives.

That was only the start of the celebration, though, as the Giants would load the bases only for Conforto to promptly unload them with one swing of the bat, his second home run in three games, raising his early season OPS to 1.539, the fifth-best mark in early action in the National League.

With a pair of power pitchers in Hicks and Dylan Cease on the mound, there wasn’t much quality contact to speak of through the first five frames. The two doubles amounted to the Giants’ only hits until the floodgates opened against Cosgrove in the eighth, while the Padres mustered just five until their ninth-inning rally..

Only four Padres reached base in Hicks’ five innings of work, and it took until Jake Cronenworth’s single to lead off the fourth for them to record their first hit.

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