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Donnie Barrels gets Giants on track with another clutch hit originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

It got lost in the shuffle on opening night, with so much attention paid to Buster Posey‘s return, the Brandons hitting milestones and then what happened late in the game, but the Giants, with all of their best hitters healthy and so many big names available, turned to Donovan Solano to hit third in their lineup.

That wouldn’t have made any sense at this time two years ago. For much of last season, it still would have raised eyebrows. But now, in Year 3 of Solano’s late-career surge, it just seems like the right fit. 

The Giants want Solano to be in the heart of everything they do against left-handed pitchers, and on Friday, batting third for a second time, he was. He had three hits, including a two-run double in the seventh that gave the Giants a lead and eventually a 6-3 win over the Mariners.

Solano’s game-changer showed off a lot of what has helped him become a Silver Slugger Award winner in his thirties after spending time in the minors. On a 3-1 count, he got a fastball inside and well off the plate, but he pulled his hands in and whipped the ball down the left field line. Two runs scored. Solano said he has worked hard as a Giant at finding better ways to attack velocity. 

“It doesn’t matter where you pitch him,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “It also doesn’t matter if you’re an off-speed-heavy pitcher or one with big velocity numbers. He’s a super aggressive hitter. He does go out of the zone from time to time, but he does have great barrel accuracy.”

A few Giants did on this night. Posey and Evan Longoria both homered for the second consecutive game, with Longoria’s oppo blast tying the game and getting Johnny Cueto off the hook for one bad inning on a night when he was mostly sharp. Solano led the charge after that, and did so in a spot that for so many years belonged to Posey, who has been batting seventh early on.

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Posey returned from his year off to a lineup that is significantly deeper. While the Giants didn’t reach their goals last year, they were one of the better offensive teams in the league, with Solano doing a lot of the damage. As Posey watched from home, he said what stood out the most about Solano was “just the consistency to find the barrel.”

“That’s not an easy thing to do at any level, especially the big leagues, and he’s able to cover a lot of pitches,” Posey said. “From a catching standpoint, he’s not a guy that you want to face, because he can beat you in so many different ways.”