An awful lot happened in this game. Matt Cain looked as good as he ever did last season for five innings. The Giants gave up two leads. All anyone’s going to talk about is Juan Carlos Perez, and that’s totally cool.
Perez is a fun, hit-you-from-outta-nowhere story on a team that was stagnant and crumbling slowly in new and exciting ways every day. After three exhausting days of losses and travel, with a few unwelcome extra innings sprinkled on top like chili powder on an ice cream sundae, this latest reminder that Perez has the athleticism to stick around was more than welcome.
Perez threw out Mark Kotsay at the plate in the seventh with the score tied at 2-2. It was Perez’s fourth outfield assist … in seven games. Compare that to Gregor Blanco, who has played in 52 more games than Perez and has three assists. Hunter Pence (69 games) and Angel Pagan (46 games) both have one assist each. Andres Torres (48 games) doesn’t have any.
“I didn’t think it had a chance. What a great throw. Saved the game for us, won the game for us. You’re happy for him. Really been a shot in the arm for us,” Bruce Bochy said.
Opposing teams keep running on the Giants’ newest outfielder, and after the game Perez said he figures they’ll keep testing him. But his own teammates have seen his arm, and they believe.
Hey Brandon Belt, did you think Perez had a chance of throwing out Kotsay?
“Absolutely,” Belt said. “It was pretty much right on the money and we all know that he has a cannon out there. I was just there to fake the catch, but it looked good to me.”
Cain pitched quite well throughout most of his seven innings. He struck out 10 and allowed two solo home runs. But did he think another run would score in the seventh when Chris Denorfia singled?
“I did, actually. Kotsay was running at second, and he doesn’t run the way that he used to,” Cain said. “Then with Perez, the way he’s got an arm, you knew it was going to be close or have a good chance to do something at home plate. And he did.”
Perez collected the game winning hit on the seventh pitch he saw from Dale Thayer, a sinker low in the zone that he smacked beyond the reach of Logan Forsythe and into right field. At the risk of sounding like I’m impersonating Marty Lurie … that’s baseball, isn’t it? Perez crushes a ball into the night less than 24 hours before and Will Venable makes a heroic catch to keep the game from ending in the 12th, but a grounder past the second baseman was enough to win this game.
The Giants have been doing their best to keep this season from unraveling, and Perez isn’t doing it alone (Belt had three hits, and Gregor Blanco, Marco Scutaro and Buster Posey had two hits each). But it sure seems that way lately.
“He’s done well on defense and he’s gotten some big hits. He’s a talented player. He can run, throw and hit. That’s something we need right now. We’re banged up,” Bochy said.
The Giants have a decision to make when Angel Pagan comes off the disabled list, and judging by the way Pagan ran the bases and took batting practice before Tuesday’s game, his return should come relatively soon. The Giants won’t commit to anything one way or the other, but after a game where the athleticism was front and center once again, Perez’s comments belied the kind of impossible-to-rattle demeanor Bochy looks for.
“It doesn’t affect me at all,” Perez said of dealing with the pressure that comes from playing in the Majors for the first time. “I played a lot of winter ball games, they’re similar. The fans are [really] into the game, and the team I play for in the Dominican, we always got a lot of fans and I’ve been in a lot of tough situations.”
That team Perez referred to in the Dominican Winter League was Aguilas Cibaenas, which also included Joaquin Arias, Manny Ramirez, Miguel Tejada and Jose Fernandez. I asked Perez whether AT&T Park provides a similar atmosphere to what he witnessed in the Dominican.
Now, fans have already latched onto this guy to an almost unfair degree. Remember: seven games. Seven. But this quote won’t do much to stop people from rooting for him and wanting him to stick around as long as possible.
“These fans, they’re amazing. They’re in the game the whole time. They deserve good things from us,” Perez said.
— Brandon Crawford bruised two fingers on his throwing hand sliding into second base on a failed stolen base attempt. The x-rays were negative, so he should probably be back by Thursday or Friday. Belt was also caught stealing, but did not hurt himself.
— I had to scrap the first version of this recap. After Jeremy Affeldt gave up a two-run homer to Jesus Guzman and hung his head, this post was about the Padres’ supposed eight-game winning streak and the Giants’ supposed four-game losing streak. Two teams in opposite directions, what a story. Packaged and ready for consumption, although far less people consume these things when the Giants lose (a little trade secret, that).
— A lot was made of Guzman’s reaction to his go-ahead home run off Affeldt in the eighth.
Bochy refused to talk about it afterward, saying he doesn’t get into that stuff.
“I noticed it,” Belt said. “It was a big part of the game. He was pretty excited about it, and I don’t guess I blame him.”
This 27-second video starts with a question I asked about Belt having three multi-hit games in a row, then Belt talks about Guzman’s post-HR exploits:
— This post is getting a little too GIF-heavy, so I’ll just link to Affeldt’s reaction after Guzman’s homer.
— I’ll do the same with Posey’s reaction to Perez’s go-ahead base hit. I already said this, but making Posey smile that wide is worth at least two more weeks before they even think of sending Perez back to Fresno, right?
— Marco Scutaro on whether he expected to play tomorrow: “Maybe, yeah.” Then he smiled. Such an imp, that Scutaro.
— Since Andres Torres was on the bench at the end of this win, the celebration jump in the outfield came back! Alex Pavlovic recently reported that they were going to shelve the three-man leap at the end of games because Torres kept landing on the feet of others. But everyone made it through this one unscathed.