Mourning death of Willie Mays, Giants set to close series with Cubs

Field Level Media

June 19, 2024 at 7:27 am.

An emotional three-game series will conclude for the visiting San Francisco Giants when they face the Chicago Cubs in a rubber match on Wednesday afternoon.

Most of the players and coaches for San Francisco learned of the death of Giants legend Willie Mays shortly before the start of Tuesday’s game.

After a stunning come-from-behind 7-6 win in the series opener on Monday, the mood was somber throughout San Francisco’s 5-2 loss on Tuesday.

“I grew up watching games at Candlestick Park and loved baseball because of Willie Mays, it meant that much,” said San Francisco manager Bob Melvin, who spoke to Mays when he was hired by the Giants in late October. “He was great. The fact that he even remembered me, to me, was an honor.”

Melvin said Mays knew plenty about his coaching and playing career, which included three seasons as a catcher for the Giants from 1986-88.

“It was just an honor to talk to him,” Melvin said.

San Francisco right-hander Logan Webb, the starting pitcher for Tuesday’s game, said it was difficult to focus on the task at hand.

“It was a sucky moment,” Webb said. “I got to meet Willie for the first time when I was 17. It’s a sad day for the baseball world.”

The Giants had not yet named a starter for the series finale, but Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks will get another shot to prove why his stuff will still play at the major league level.

Hendricks (0-4, 8.20 ERA) made his most recent start on May 17, when the 34-year-old was rocked by the Pittsburgh Pirates, swelling his ERA to 10.57.

A World Series champion in 2016 who led the majors in ERA that year, Hendricks seems to have found his touch in recent appearances out of the bullpen, though. He hasn’t allowed a run in his past three relief appearances, covering 8 2/3 innings during that stretch.

Most recently, Hendricks replaced injured starter Jordan Wicks in the second inning on Friday and retired the first 11 hitters he faced, going on to blank the St. Louis Cardinals for 4 1/3 innings in a 3-0 loss.

“I think an outing like (Friday’s) is proof that that’s how Kyle conducts himself and goes about his day,” Chicago manager Craig Counsell said. “It’s to be ready for the next opportunity, no matter what is going on, or no matter what’s happened in the past.”

With Wicks and Ben Brown on the injured list, Hendricks figures to get more than one opportunity as a starter.

Many are also calling for Hendricks to become the closer after the struggles of Hector Neris, who gave up a three-run homer in the ninth inning of the 7-6 loss to the Giants on Monday.

Counsell turned to Keegan Thompson for the save on Tuesday night, and Thompson struck out the side in the ninth to preserve the 5-2 win and notch his first save since Sept. 1, 2023.

Left-hander Blake Snell, a two-time Cy Young Award winner whom the Giants signed to a two-year, $62 million contract on March 19, threw a bullpen session in San Francisco on Tuesday and appears close to returning from a 15-day IL stint because of a left groin strain.

“We’ll see how he comes in (Wednesday) and make a determination after that,” Melvin said.

Snell is 0-3 with a 9.51 ERA in six starts with the Giants.