NEW YORK — Mac Williamson’s parents tried to watch him play last September, but during all the time they spent following the Giants, Williamson never made his MLB debut. With the 26-year-old set to play at Yankee Stadium this weekend, the Williamsons made the trip up from North Carolina. They were waiting by the dugout on Friday afternoon, taking in the scene along with one of Williamson’s brothers. Some cousins and family friends also made the trip, and as the rookie outfielder scrolled through the guest list, he smiled and pointed out that mom and dad don’t add any extra pressure.
“They just want to see you play,” he said.
Williamson’s cheering party would have been happy just to see him take the field against the Yankees. But he has done more than simply play on this trip, and on Saturday he did all he could to snap a six-game losing streak to start the second half.
Williamson bounced back from a rough start to hit a game-tying homer in the fifth and the go-ahead single in the 12th. The Giants won 2-1, getting a win for the first time since July 10. Afterward, manager Bruce Bochy said one thing stood out above all from Williamson’s up-and-down day.
“What I liked about what happened is that Mac made an error and let in a run, but he put that behind him,” Bochy said. “That’s what you have to be in this game — resilient.”
Bochy might as well have been speaking for his whole team. While the Giants were winless on the road trip, they had shown fight. They almost overcame an eight-run deficit against the Red Sox. On Friday night, they scored off Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller before falling late.
Saturday’s game got off to another ugly start. Two scorched line drives found gloves with a runner on in the first. Conor Gillaspie’s blast down the right field line curled foul in the second, and Williamson was thrown out at the plate by two flat-footed-but-strong-armed Yankees, with inches keeping the Giants off the board. The Giants failed to get a runner home from third with no outs in the third.
“It’s frustrating,” Bochy said. “You’ve got to deal with this, but (Buster) Posey smoked it and (Brandon) Crawford smoked it (in the first). That could be deflating, but the guy on the mound, he sets the tone. He’s a battler, Johnny.”
Johnny Cueto threw 45 pitches int he first two innings but made it through six. Like Madison Bumgarner the day before, he showed that he’s the kind of workhorse that hardly exists in this game anymore. You can name maybe a dozen current pitchers who could give up one or two runs and throw 117 pitches on a humid 95-degree day, and the Giants have two of them.
That’s what made it so disheartening for Williamson when a single got past him in the fourth, allowing an unearned run to score. Williamson, who has gotten pep talks from Posey and Jake Peavy (who is letting Williamson stay at his place) in recent weeks, told himself there was a lot of game left.
“I really was upset at myself,” he said. “Cueto was throwing great, and to give him a run, it’s frustrating.”
Williamson got that run right back. Two seasons ago, on April 28, 2014, Dr. James Andrews, performed Tommy John surgery on Williamson and Ivan Nova on the same day. On Saturday, Nova threw Williamson one too many fastballs and he blasted it into the visiting bullpen to tie the game.
The bullpens took over from there, and while the Yankees have the big names — Aroldis Chapman, Miller and Betances combined for five innings — the Giants held tough. Javier Lopez looked like his old self. Derek Law and Sergio Romo chipped in, and when Josh Osich made a mess of his second inning of work, Santiago Casilla entered and threw two of his best innings of the year. Casilla left the bases loaded in the 10th. After Trevor Brown’s double and Williamson’s RBI single in the 12th, Hunter Strickland closed the Yankees out with ease.
“The ‘pen stepped up,” Bochy said. “These guys really did a terrific job of picking each other up.”
That wasn’t limited to the bullpen. Williamson and Brown kept Angel Pagan from having to live with a mistake in extra innings. Pagan was on third when Betances tried to intentionally walk Crawford. The first throw got away to the backstop, and Pagan didn’t react quickly enough. He wouldn’t score. Bochy glared at him angrily and then retreated to the clubhouse for a moment to cool down.
“I talked to Angel,” Bochy said. “The third baseman is on the bag and he didn’t know if they would throw over. He was being careful. He couldn’t tell if the catcher was going to catch it, and he didn’t feel like he got a good enough jump, so he held up.”
It ultimately didn’t cost the Giants on Saturday. No matter how Sunday plays out, this will have been a terrible road trip. But for a night, the Giants were all smiles as they shook hands on the infield. They nodded their heads to Crawford’s familiar victory soundtrack in the clubhouse.
“It’s been a tough go for these guys,” Bochy said, smiling. “They finally got a break. They deserved it.”