The bottom of the ninth was so very, very Giants, the kind of walk-off win that would’ve seemed routine last April. Madison Bumgarner was good but he wasn’t perfect, San Francisco’s offense was opportunistic but hardly powerful, but it was all enough for a 3-2 win and the Giants’ first on-field celebration of the young season.
Buster Posey lined a single up the middle with one out to get things going. Dodgers reliever Chris Hatcher hit Justin Maxwell with a pitch that glanced off Maxwell’s arm and into A.J. Ellis’ hand, sending Clayton Kershaw’s personal catcher out of the game with an injury and Posey out of the game for a pinch runner, Gregor Blanco.
That brought up Brandon Belt, and that’s where the fun began. Belt lined a single to left, too hard to score Blanco. Roberto Kelly, who’d already experienced his fair share of odd moments as the team’s new third base coach, ran toward third base and appeared to almost set a screen on Blanco (in basketball parlance) to keep him from trying to score.
This chain of events understandably irked Don Mattingly, who raced over and gave third base umpire Fieldin Culbreth (a perfect ump name) a piece of his mind. That didn’t work, so Mattingly took up his case with home plate umpire Clint Fagan. No dice. Then Mattingly retreated to the dugout, but within seconds he was back at the mound, motioning for Yasiel Puig to come in as an extra infielder as Joe Panik stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and one out.
“My first reaction was, ‘Now I know what an NFL kicker feels like getting iced at the end of a game.’ I felt like I was standing at home plate for a while,” Panik said. “I was just kind of tuning everything out, making sure I was loose and relaxed, breathing.”
Panik got a first pitch sinker that he lifted high in the air to medium-deep center. The crowd could sense Joc Pederson’s desperation in the way he was forced to turn with his back to the infield and sprint several steps to make the catch. Game over.
The Giants came into this series looking like the worst team in baseball, and could’ve fallen to nine games back in the division if the red-hot Dodgers came in and got a sweep. Instead, the Giants clinched a series victory, shrunk their deficit to four games, and everything feels hunky-dory once again.
“It was a great game. Really good game. The boys played well,” said Bruce Bochy.
Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner look in the mirror
The best regular season pitcher alive went up against one of the best postseason pitchers in the history of the sport, and while neither ace went that deep into the game, both pitched well.
The Giants struck first against Kershaw with Small Ball Supreme:
- Joaquin Arias (a somewhat surprising inclusion in Tuesday’s lineup) hit a single.
- Brandon Crawford walked after Kershaw started him 0-2.
- After fouling a bunt attempt to go to 0-2 and taking two pitches in the dirt, Bumgarner sacrificed both runners successfully.
- Nori Aoki drove in a run by grounding out to Jimmy Rollins.
- Matt Duffy pushed the lead to 2-0 with a bloop single to center.
Meanwhile, Bumgarner rolled along nicely. Both pitchers seemed to mimic one another — Bumgarner threw 53 of his 78 pitches for strikes through five innings, while Kershaw threw 52 of 77 pitches for strikes in the same number of frames. Kershaw went six innings, while Bumgarner went six and a third.
One can’t blame Bruce Bochy for trying to get one more inning out of Bumgarner, since six months ago that philosophy led to the team getting another set of big, gaudy rings on Saturday. Bumgarner hadn’t given up a run in his first six innings, but it took 101 pitches to accomplish the feat. Still, Bochy did what just about every manager would do in that situation. He put Bumgarner back in for the seventh, because this was Giants/Dodgers, Bumgarner/Kershaw.
But after getting Juan Uribe on a lineout to second baseman Matt Duffy to start the seventh, Ellis hit a single. That led Mattingly to take out Kershaw (93 pitches through his six innings), and pinch-hitter Alex Guerrero blasted a Bumgarner mistake into the left field bleachers.
Bumgarner spun around on the mound and sunk to a catcher’s crouch, infuriated.
Neither pitcher was at his absolute best on Tuesday night, but both were pretty damned good. Kershaw’s numbers (nine strikeouts, one walk, just three hits allowed) were better than his counterpart’s (six strikeouts, two walks, six hits). but it was Bumgarner who was able to pound six Budweisers at the same time in the clubhouse after the game. Juuuust kidding.
— “Good Vibrations” was blasting when we entered the refurbished, nightclub-like Giants clubhouse. The version by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, not the Beach Boys.
— “It was kind of weird, but at the same time I was already stopped at third. It wasn’t like (Kelly) stopped me or he told me to stop. I was slowing down,” was Blanco’s view of the controversial play, which ended up being a huge break for the Giants. “I knew with that ball that I wasn’t going to score.”
— Chris Heisey hit a ball foul down the left field line off Bumgarner that went as far as I can remember seeing one go in that area of AT&T Park during a night game, at least since drug testing started. It eventually landed in the second deck club seats right next to the ambulance area where Justin Maxwell hit his bomb the night before.
— One way things have changed since the Giants added Aoki: tonight was the first time I’ve seen someone eating edamame in the press box.
— Aoki did a phenomenal job getting back to first base when Kershaw had him picked off, too. “Nimble” is how Bochy described it. The ridiculously entertaining Aoki was like a wily serpent getting around Justin Turner’s tag, or maybe he’s a wizard who evaded Turner after throwing on his cloak of invisibility.
— More Panik on getting “iced”:
I guess I hit the field goal right away. It wasn’t really icing. (Mattingly) was just trying to get his defense set up. I was just having a little fun with (the icing comparison). Fortunately, having the extra guy in there really helped me with my game plan. Make sure you get something up in the air, not down in the zone.
— It would’ve been great if Belt came over and gave Panik the “icing a bro” treatment after his interview, but Belt wasn’t around and I doubt the Giants carry Smirnoff Ice in their trendy new clubhouse.
— “If only (Belt) would’ve squibbed it over Uribe’s head, the game would’ve been over,” Panik said. “He helped me out a little bit.”
— I asked Panik if Belt — notorious for getting in some cheap shots in those walk-off melees in the infield — got him with a punch or two.
“He had me early, but not too bad because he was right next to me. Once I saw, I started walking away from him.”
Turkey tap avoided … for now, anyway.