Thairo Estrada earns high praise as Giants complete sweep of Guardians

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Estrada breaks out, earns high praise as Giants finish sweep originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

CLEVELAND -- The Giants talked Thairo Estrada up all offseason, both in public settings and behind the scenes. They expected him to play a lot, to fill some of the holes that seemed glaring on the roster -- but they couldn't have quite expected this kind of time between the lines.

Injuries to Tommy La Stella and Evan Longoria have left the roster short on the infield, turning Estrada into an everyday player for a team that rides platoons. Gabe Kapler regularly hits Austin Slater for his left-handed outfielders and has looked for rest days for Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford, but when it comes to second base, there's not much to think about right now.

Estrada has played every inning at second this season, and on Sunday he had his biggest game of the year. A two-run homer got the Giants on the board and Estrada drove in two more runs and scored another, leading a varied offensive attack in an 8-1 win over the Cleveland Guardians that clinched a sweep.

"He's a good player, man," said Alex Wood, who threw five shutout innings. "He plays both sides of the ball, he's gotten some big hits for us, he plays good defense, he's made some 'Top 10' plays, a few of them so far. He just plays hard. He's got a good confidence about him. Anytime he's out there, you feel good about it."

Kapler called Estrada a "pretty complete player," noting his quality sprint speed and ability to drive the ball. Estrada hit seven homers in limited time last season and his raw power was on display with his second of 2022, a 380-foot shot that landed on top of the high wall in left field. It was particularly impressive in Sunday's conditions.

"Not many people were able to leave the yard to left field during this series," Kapler said. "A lot of balls were hit out there and Estrada's got out, so it speaks to his power."

Estrada had gotten off to a somewhat slow start at the plate, but his defense has been a plus through nine games, and the Giants know there's plenty of offensive production to be had. With Sunday's performance, Estrada raised his OPS from .578 to .750.

La Stella is one of three key Giants on the sidelines, along with Longoria (finger surgery) and LaMonte Wade Jr. (knee). None are expected to join the lineup on this road trip, but La Stella is considered the closest to a rehab assignment as he tries to move further away from offseason Achilles surgery.

Until then, second base will continue to belong to the 26-year-old who is second on the team in at-bats and has a big lead with 82 innings defensively. Brandon Crawford ranks second at 66 innings.

"Every single day is an opportunity," Estrada said through interpreter Erwin Higueros. "I'm happy with the opportunities that the manager has given me and I'm just trying to make the best of it in terms of taking every opportunity that comes my way."

If La Stella was healthy, he likely would be in line for a busy series in New York. The Mets will send four good right-handed starters out against the Giants, including new co-ace Max Scherzer. But given the makeup of the roster, Estrada should start every day, getting additional chances in a town he once thought he would live in for years.

RELATED: Belt, Crawford thrive in first career games in Cleveland

Estrada was a New York Yankees prospect and played 61 games for them before he was dealt to the Giants for cash considerations. He said he's excited to return to New York, but the focus is on winning games.

"I'm sure there are a couple of people that probably saw me play over there," he said. "But right now I have a new uniform."

That continues to work out pretty well for the Giants.

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