Having already clinched a playoff spot due to Milwaukee’s loss earlier in the day to the Cincinnati Reds, the San Francisco Giants left nothing to chance, defeating the San Diego Padres, 9-8, Thursday night, in a shootout at AT&T Park. San Francisco took a 6-0 lead after five, allowed San Diego to explode for eight runs in the sixth and seventh innings, and then came back to score three times in the bottom of the seventh inning to record the improbable 9-8 victory. Tim Lincecum earned his 100th career win by throwing two pitches to close out the top of the seventh inning.
San Francisco wasted no time getting on the scoreboard against Andrew Cashner, who had just defeated them last Saturday night with a dominating effort in San Diego, scoring in the first on singles by Joe Panik and Buster Posey, and a sacrifice fly by Pablo Sandoval.
The Giants added another run in the second when Brandon Belt put one in the pond, the 68th time a Giant has had a splash home run. It also bodes well for the Giants that not only is Belt back, but that he is getting his swing in order. After watching him strike out three times on Tuesday night, it was gratifying to see him hammer one out.
San Francisco Giants first baseman Brandon Belt (9) hit a splash home run and drove in the tying run in the seventh inning at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports
Continuing their offensive surge, San Francisco scored two more runs in the third inning when Gregor Blanco and Buster Posey both hit doubles, scoring Blanco, and Sandoval singled, knocking in Posey. Brandon Crawford reached double digits in home runs by hitting his tenth of the season in the fourth, making the score 5-0.
Having scored in each inning, the Giants kept the trend alive in the fifth when Posey drew a walk, took second on a wild pitch, and scored on Pablo Sandoval’s single, the third RBI of the game for the Panda.
Considering Pablo had gone twelve games without an RBI and was hitting .208 in September, this is a good sign
Considering Pablo did not have a single RBI on the recently concluded ten-game road trip (twelve games total), and that he was batting .208 in September, this is a good sign.
Yusmeiro Petit started for San Francisco and pitched five-and-a-third innings, giving up three runs on five hits, with a walk and eight strikeouts. Having surrendered only two hits over the first five innings, Petit was taken out in the sixth after giving up a two-run home run to Max Venable and a solo shot to Yasmani Grandal. Mike Krukow likened Venable’s two-run shot to an alarm clock, saying that the blast woke the Padres up.
Jeremy Affeldt came in for Petit and after walking Seth Smith, got Giants-killer Rene Rivera to fly out to Hunter Pence. But when Affeldt gave up a single to Alexi Amarista, Bruce Bochy brought in Hunter Strickland to face Tommy Medica, by now the tying run. Throwing 98 MPH, Strickland struck him out, leaving the two runners stranded.
The respite lasted only until the start of the seventh inning, when Javier Lopez came in and gave up a pair of singles before retiring Venable on a pop-up to the infield. Bochy then brought in Jean Machi, who walked Jedd Gyorko and gave up a grand slam to Grandal, his second home run of the game. To punctuate the comeback with an exclamation point, Rivera then smacked one out to bring the score to 8-6.
Refusing to roll over and die, the Giants came roaring back immediately in the bottom of the seventh when the kids, Panik and Andrew Susac, just in at catcher for Buster Posey, singled to open the frame. Sandoval followed with another single and his fourth RBI of the night.
Matt Duffy squeezed in the go-ahead run with a bunt. Via Jason Grohoske/Richmond Flying Squirrels
After Pence ended up on first on a fielder’s choice, pitcher Blaine Boyer was replaced by Frank Garces, who promptly gave up the tying run when Belt singled in Susac. Nick Vincent then came in for Garces to face another kid, Matt Duffy, who once more came though in a clutch situation by squeeze-bunting Pence home from third with the deciding ninth run.
Andrew Cashner started for the Padres and went five full, giving up six runs on eight hits, with a walk and four strikeouts. It was as different an outing as could be imagined from his outing last Saturday night, when he went into the ninth inning having only surrendered one run. In that game Hunter Pence capped the scoring for the Giants by hitting a solo home run and the Padres won 3-2.
Yes, the Giants celebrated in their plastic-encased locker room after hearing a fired-up Pence give a rousing pep talk, designed to raise the frenzy to the highest level. Facing the one-game playoff proposition against either the Pirates or the St. Louis Cardinals, most likely on the road, did nothing to dampen the Giants’ enthusiasm.
Having faced six elimination games the last time they went to the playoffs in 2012, on the path to their second world championship in four years, San Francisco has seen it before. This does not guarantee success but it does not intimidate them either.
Experience plays a prominent role in the playoffs, especially when the same group has already been through it before. The task before them is daunting, but no more so than being down to their last game, six consecutive times.
With a delicious sense of anticipation, we can now watch the final weekend’s worth of entertainment, secure in the knowledge that the Giants have done what they could not do in 2013: overcome injuries and adversity to at least get a foot in the door.
If they can win the one-game playoff, then that foot becomes a leg, and comes with twenty-five seasoned playoff bodies, who know how to win in pressure situations, and are eager to keep their string of even-numbered years with world championship rings going.