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Following taxing journey, SF Giants return residence to honor Willie Mays

Heliot Ramos #17 of the San Francisco Giants loses his bat while swinging at a pitch against the St. Louis Cardinals in the eighth inning at Busch Stadium on June 23, 2024 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO — Following one of their more taxing trips of the year, a three-city, six-game trip that saw the franchise mourn the death of icon Willie Mays, the Giants returned to San Francisco to collectively exhale — while looking to break a losing streak, too.

“Obviously, we received some big news at the front end of the road trip with an iconic Giants player passing away,” said outfielder Austin Slater. “He’s someone who meant the most to this organization. We’re playing at 24 Willie Mays Plaza. Then, we didn’t perform well, so that doesn’t help. You mix in a third city and an event game and another emotional day.

“It was definitely a taxing road trip.”

Before the sudden death of Mays, this past road trip already presented its challenges: three games at Wrigley Field in Chicago; a single game at Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama to honor Mays and the Negro Leagues; then two games at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

Once the news of Mays’ death broke last Tuesday in the middle of their game against the Cubs, the Giants found themselves having to navigate a crushing emotional moment, too. San Francisco has lost all five games since Mays’ death, including a 6-5 loss to the Cardinals at Rickwood Field.

The elements didn’t help the Giants during their time away from San Francisco. The average game time temperature was a little over 90 degrees. Of the six games on the trip, only one game started with a temperature under 90 degrees.

“I always talk about how this ballpark — when I was in Oakland — can save your body a little bit over the course of the season,” said Giants manager Bob Melvin. “Now, when you go to places like that with extreme heat, you probably feel it a little more. We had six games that were really hot, but it is what it is. Whenever you go there this time of the year, you’re going to get that.”

Added Jordan Hicks, who pitched on Saturday in St. Louis: “For me, that was the biggest factor: the heat. With the flights, I just felt like I had no legs after the second inning and just had to battle.”

For all the logistical challenges, the Giants savored the opportunity to play at a historic venue, honoring the legacy of arguably the game’s greatest player while doing so.

“We were delighted to go to Rickwood and play there,” said Melvin, who played at Rickwood Field himself while with the Birmingham Barons. “It was one more stop in what felt like a longer road trip, but everybody wanted to do it. It was a great experience.”

“I would do it again,” Hicks said. “I wouldn’t change anything about it.”

The team will continue honoring Mays during their first home game since his death. In addition Mays’ No. 24 being etched into the outfield grass, every Giant will wear Mays’ classic number on Monday.

Melvin addresses Snell’s comments

After a rocky rehab outing with Triple-A Sacramento on Sunday afternoon, left-hander Blake Snell expressed frustration with how his recovery from a left groin strain has unfolded.

“I haven’t felt like myself yet,” Snell told the San Francisco Chronicle’s Shayna Rubin. “It’s just, ‘We need you. We need you. We need you.’ It’s not like, ‘Let’s get him right,’ and I have to deal with it.”

Melvin shared that he talked to Snell, who will throw a bullpen on Tuesday and pitch in Las Vegas against the Aviators on Friday.

“He’s frustrated like anyone else,” Melvin said. “He’s been out there a few times, got hurt a couple times, hasn’t been in sync yet. Definitely would not have him pitch if he doesn’t feel good physically. We’ll see where this next one goes on Friday.”

Snell signed a two-year, $62 million deal in March with an opt out after 2024, but has not looked the part of a reigning Cy Young Award winner due to a combination of injuries and underperformance. In six starts, Snell owns a 9.51 ERA over 23 2/3 innings with 31 strikeouts to 14 walks.

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