Matos continues hot streak with five RBI night in win over Rockies

NBC Sports Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO — Farhan Zaidi doesn’t often hold press conferences during the season, but on Friday he knew he had to get in front of cameras and microphones. A few minutes after the Giants announced that Jung Hoo Lee will have season-ending shoulder surgery, Zaidi sat down in the dugout at Oracle Park to talk about how disappointing this turn of events has been.

For the organization’s president of baseball operations, it was a particularly painful week. Zaidi has built around players who control the strike zone, and in Lee, he found a center fielder that he felt was worthy of hitting leadoff for years to come because of his approach. 

As he talked about the horrible break for Lee and the Giants, Zaidi noted that coaches recently urged the rookie to be more aggressive early in the count since pitchers were taking advantage of his patience. It didn’t take long for Lee to slightly alter his approach, but any additional work will now have to wait until 2025. 

There hasn’t been a lot for Zaidi to smile about recently, but he was at least able to find a silver lining Friday afternoon. He pointed out that Heliot Ramos and Luis Matos have hit the ground running, keeping the Giants afloat without so many of their regulars.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” he said of watching the young outfielders. 

Asked about center field in particular, Zaidi didn’t hesitate. 

“Right now,” he said. “It’s Luis’ job.”

Lee is still the best defensive option long-term, but at the moment, the Giants will lean on Matos, who ultimately will likely slide to a corner in future years. Regardless of where he plays, he has the look of someone who doesn’t intend to relinquish a starting job in the outfield.

Matos capped a 10-5 win over the Colorado Rockies with a two-run double down the left field line, giving him five RBI on the night and 10 in four starts this week. In a sign of just how odd this season has been, Matos already has driven in more runs than Jorge Soler, who was brought in to provide thunder for the heart of the lineup. He already has passed Lee, who showed tremendous bat-to-ball skills but couldn’t always turn that into raw production.

The 10-run outburst was the Giants first since April 13 and just the second of the season. Half of them came off the bat of a 22-year-old who appears to have a knack for coming through in big spots.

If he can do it again Saturday, as the Giants go for their first three-game winning streak of the season, Matos will become the first Giant since Evan Longoria in 2021 to drive in a run in six consecutive games. Asked if he changes his approach when there’s a runner on, Matos paused and then nodded. 

“I’ve been changing my approach, mainly to make sure I put the ball in play with runners in scoring position,” he said through interpreter Erwin Higueros. “And also when there are two strikes.”

After a two-strike RBI double in the fourth, Matos saluted the dugout but wore a scowl. The Giants still trailed by a couple of runs at the time. Thairo Estrada’s blast gave them the lead and Matos wore a much different look when he again cruised into second in the eighth.

He had fallen behind 0-2, but he fouled off two fastballs from Anthony Molina before pulling a changeup inches above the outstretched glove of third baseman Ryan McMahon. The ball was hit just 68 mph, but Matos was rewarded for simply putting a two-out, two strike pitch in play. Far too often this season, the Giants have gone down looking or swinging in similar situations. 

Matos again saluted the dugout and this time he broke into a wide smile. He said later that he was just happy the Giants were on their way to a win. It was in large part because of the young outfielder who is taking this opportunity and running with it.

“It seems like he’s one of those guys that just absolutely loves runners on base,” manager Bob Melvin said. “You know, there are times you have to shrink the zone and he can get a little aggressive, but it’s working for him at this point in time. It’s not just fastballs, he’s hitting some breaking balls, too. A five-RBI night is a pretty good night and it seems like since he has been here he has really embraced guys on base — and that’s been a problem for us.”

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