Tyler Fitzgerald’s speed provides ‘refreshing’ element to Giants’ bland lineup – NBC Sports Bay Area & California

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SAN FRANCISCO — With two strikeouts in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Giants reached 1,468 for the season, a franchise record. With two errors in the top of the 10th, they extended their MLB lead in the category. With three groundouts in the bottom of that inning, they became the first team to lose an extra-inning game this year to the San Diego Padres.

That about sums it all up for the Giants, who lost 5-2, falling to fourth in the NL West standings and putting themselves in a position where only a sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers this weekend will guarantee even a .500 season.

There was a bright spot in the loss, though. Or you could call it a flash.

Speedy rookie Tyler Fitzgerald stole two bases in his seventh career game, showing off his defining trait, one that has been nearly entirely missing from an unproductive and often-boring Giants lineup. The Giants rank last in the big leagues with 59 stolen bases. They’re one of just two teams, along with the Colorado Rockies, with fewer steals than Ronald Acuña Jr. this season. 

But Fitzgerald envisions a faster future. 

“I want to bring speed to this team and make it exciting for the fans to watch,” the 26-year-old utility man said. 

Fitzgerald became just the second Giant to record multiple stolen bases in a game this season and tied Bryce Johnson for the fastest sprint speed (29.5 feet/second) by a Giant on a stolen base this year. Johnson is an interesting comparison, because he has followed a path Fitzgerald will try to avoid. 

As the old saying goes, you can’t steal first base, and Johnson hasn’t hit enough in his Giants cameos to fully take advantage of his speed. Fitzgerald has a .833 OPS through seven games, a promising start, and he hit 22 homers in the minors this season, so the Giants know there’s some upside there. It’s just a matter of tapping into it. 

If Fitzgerald can hit enough, he should be a big part of the mix next year. He worked his way through the minors as a shortstop, but he has added versatility this season and Gabe Kapler has been comfortable using him in center field and at third base over the last week.

It’s in center field where Fitzgerald’s speed could ultimately have the biggest impact for the Giants, who have had a couple of big hits drop in front of veterans in the outfield over the past couple weeks. Asked how much Fitzgerald’s speed would play into offseason discussions about improving the outfield defense, Kapler said “a lot.” 

“Tyler has got world class speed and athleticism. If we can get him to a place where he has those types of instincts and gets great jumps, we’ll really have a complete player potentially,” Kapler said. “He’s got some work to do with the bat, he’ll continue to work on those things. We want him to be good at all the positions he plays. It’s nice to get him some exposure to third base and he’s showing a little bit of range there. 

“Since the first kind of slightly inaccurate throw he had, he seems to be calming over there at the hot corner. We’ll keep trying to give him as many looks as possible.”

This might be new for the 2023 Giants, but it’s not for the player himself. Fitzgerald was 45-for-53 on stolen base attempts at Louisville and is now 72-for-81 as a professional. Across three levels this season, he has been thrown out just three times in 37 attempts. 

With just three games left, Fitzgerald doesn’t have much time to build a resume heading into the offseason. But Wednesday’s game certainly was one that team officials will remember as they try to overhaul a position player group that might be the least athletic in baseball.

“The word ‘refreshing’ was thrown around quite a bit in the dugout as he was stealing those bags,” Kapler said. 

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