Jeremy Affeldt gave up a two-run home run in last night’s extra innings loss to the Phillies. After the game, Gregor Blanco got a talking-to from Bruce Bochy for screwing up on the bases. Both were heroes today in a game the Giants trailed by four runs — they won 6-5 to give themselves a chance to escape their 2014 house of horrors, AT&T Park, with a winning homestand.
If you needed one more comeback story on a Saturday afternoon, Sergio Romo picked up his first save in almost two months.
“Jeremy did a good job of bouncing back, and that’s what you have to do in this game. You have to be resilient and put the tough ones behind you,” said Bruce Bochy.
“Blanco, I talked to him a little bit. What happened yesterday, you can’t do anything about it. So you wash that off as we say, you come out here and be ready to go, don’t dwell on what’s happened. That’s what separates, I think, the average athlete from the good ones. He’s able to do that and have a short memory.”
If a zoologist shot me with a tranquilizer dart in the top of the sixth, with drugs strong enough to knock me out until after the game ended, oh, three hours or so later, and told me the Giants won after I woke up, I never would’ve believed it.
Up until the sixth inning, the highlights of today’s game were as follows:
1. Hunter Pence hit a nice little home run in the first inning.
2. A mosquito crept slowly toward me on the counter, and I squashed the bastard before it reached my arm.
The last Giants game I covered took place almost three weeks ago, when the Giants tipped their caps to Vance Worley. They appeared to be on their way to doing the same for Kyle Kendrick, the embodiment of a mediocre, replacement level player, and Buster Posey drilled a single up the middle on Kendrick’s first pitch of the sixth.
Then some great fortune, mixed in with a little solid contact, propelled the Giants to an unlikely victory. Down 5-1 to start the sixth, on an afternoon when Tim Hudson only lasted four innings, the Giants pulled off a four-run rally to tie it. The Giants sent nine men to the plate, with Pablo Sandoval reaching on an infield popup that fell between Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, Joe Panik collecting an infield single with the bases loaded on a high chopper to the pitcher, Gregor Blanco knocking in a run with a blooper to left, and a sacrifice fly by Angel Pagan.
Other than Posey’s single and a Morse’s first double of the day (he had two doubles and a triple, and seems to be heating up rather quickly), this was a ground attack extravaganza that included weakly hit fly balls that somehow fell. After so many popups earlier in the game with runners on base that were caught either in the infield or in shallow right or left field, to see balls hit the ground and hear the crowd roar with surprised approval gave the team energy.
“We came alive,” Panik said. “When you’re in a playoff race and you lose a tough one like last night, and come back in a day game after a night game, it really shows the character of this team, getting down early and coming back strong.”
In the eighth, Panik led off with a triple. He scored on Blanco’s grounder to Jimmy Rollins’ right, which got through because the Phillies shortstop broke toward second on the play.
Giants ready to Panik every day
This win doesn’t mean anything, really. The Phillies are a bad team, and the Giants got an inordinate number of fortunate bounces. They could lose Sunday’s game with Tim Lincecum on the mound, end up with a losing homestand, and end up back where they were before.
But this game, despite the quality of opponent and the Giants’ awful record over the last two months, wasn’t just about Affeldt and Blanco making up for the night before and Romo recording a save for the first time since June 22. It was a validation of the Giants’ decision to roll with Panik, a plunge they didn’t seem all that comfortable making weeks ago.
“He’s doing everything that we heard he would do,” said Morse, who has extra base hits in his last four at-bats after going without one in his previous 42 ABs. “He’s had great at-bats, he looks like a seasoned veteran out there. He’s getting big hits off big pitchers.”
Panik is pleasant to talk to after games, but there’s nervous energy behind his easy smile. It’s taking longer for Panik to reach that calm, zen-like feeling after games that he seems to display during late-game situations, but that’s better than the other way around.
“I feel like I’ve gotten comfortable with the preparation that it takes, the work that it takes, just the atmosphere, everything. I feel like I’m really hitting my stride now,” said Panik, who could be this team’s starting second baseman for the long haul.
“He has a knack of slowing down the game,” said Bochy.
“This kid has the ability to put the good part of the bat on the ball consistently, (against) righties and lefties. I think he’s earned going out there every day with the way that he’s played. It definitely helps your decisions at the end of the year when you’re looking at your needs.”
— What happened to Hudson?
“I didn’t feel in sync for much of the game. It just wasn’t a very good day for me,” Hudson said. “I just didn’t feel great from the start, honestly. Just one of those days.”
— I asked Bochy if Romo — whose two-out save gave him eight straight scoreless outings — has done enough to take the closer job away from Santiago Casilla. Casilla has allowed an earned run in each of his last three appearances and has taken two straight losses.
Bochy didn’t make any declarations.
“I was in a situation where I could give Santiago a little break. I didn’t know if I was going to use him or not. With the way it was set up there in the ninth, (Romo) was the freshest guy. Casilla, he worked pretty hard the night before,” he said.
“When you have a couple guys who are comfortable closing the game, it makes it a little bit easier to give one a break, maybe, and have the other who you’re comfortable with out there with the game on the line.”
— This was the first winning Giants game I’ve covered in person since Lincecum’s no-hitter.