The Giants offense finally came alive to beat the Pirates 7-5 and avoid being swept on a six-game homestand for the first time ever at AT&T Park.
It all started out well for San Francisco, as they tagged Charlie Morton for three runs in the bottom of the first. Brandon Crawford and Buster Posey hit one-out singles, and Pablo Sandoval’s walk loaded the bases. Michael Morse then collected an RBI on an infield single, Joe Panik worked a bases-loaded walk, and Gregor Blanco lobbed a ball over the head of Jordy Mercer at short to make it 3-0.
But Pittsburgh wouldn’t go quietly. Neil Walker led off the top of the second with a double, Ike Davis walked, and both runners advanced on a wild pitch. Travis Snider’s groundout to first got the Pirates on the board. They tied it up the next inning when Tim Lincecum walked Morton to lead off, and Josh Harrison hit his fourth home run in as many games into the left-field bleachers.
San Francisco scratched across a run in the bottom of the third to take a 4-3 lead. Sandoval and Morse led off with back-to-back singles, and Blanco was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Andrew Susac, who was making his second career Major League start behind the plate. Susac capitalized, punching an RBI single to left for his first big league hit and run batted in.
“It feels great. That was my main focus, was behind the plate, and it took me a couple innings to settle in today. At the end of the day, if you win, it’s a win. Anything I can do to help this team win, that’s what I’m here for.”
Who gets to keep the ball?
“I think my dad earned it,” he says with a laugh. “He stuck around for a couple 0-fers.”
The top of the fourth brought an end to the good feeling and Lincecum’s day, as he couldn’t produce a shut-down inning once again. Snider singled with one out before Mercer launched his own two-run home run into the bleachers to give Pittsburgh a 5-4 lead.
It was another tough outing for the Giants right hander against the Pirates, as this time he lasted just 3 1/3 innings, giving up five hits, five runs, three walks, two wild pitches, and two strikeouts on just 78 pitches, 46 strikes.
It seemed to deplete the Giants, who couldn’t get to Morton despite a struggling start on his end. Morton needed 95 pitches to get through his five innings of work, surrendering nine hits, four runs, three walks, one wild pitch, and two strike outs.
Then came the top of the sixth inning, and things took an upward turn for the Giants. After Javier Lopez walked Gaby Sanchez to lead off, Snider bunted. Lopez went for the runner at second, but Crawford couldn’t handle the throw, and the E6 resulted in two runners on and nobody out. Enter: Jean Machi. Mercer bunted both guys over before Machi walked Chris Stewart to load the bases.
And then it got weird. For some reason, Snider took off for third, perhaps forgetting that Sanchez was already there. Snider was caught stealing on a throw from Machi to Crawford, and as Sanchez broke for the plate, he was thrown out trying to advance home. It’s an odd play when a walk somehow results in an inning-ending double play. Even Susac was baffled.
“I wanna say Crawford called it out. I threw it back to him and put my head down, and all of a sudden I saw Crawford in a run-down and there I am getting ready for a pickle at home because he broke to home. I’ve never seen it before…I guess that works. It got us out of a tough jam.”
It did work, as the Giants scored the tying and go-ahead runs in the bottom of the innings. Morse worked a one-out walk, Joe Panik singled, and pinch-runner Juan Perez replaced Morse at second. The move paid off, as Blanco knocked a slow-roller into right, and the speed of Perez tied the game while Panik moved to third. With Susac at the plate during the next at-bat, a wild pitch from Justin Wilson allowed the winning run to score.
San Francisco added an insurance run in the eighth when Crawford walked with one out, Posey reached on an error by Mercer, and Sandoval singled. It gave the Giants seven runs on the day. They’d scored just six runs in the previous six games, all of them losses.
Apart from turning a spectacular double play to capitalize on Pittsburgh’s base running mistakes, the San Francisco bullpen was also impressive on the mound. Juan Gutierrez, Lopez, Machi (6-0), Sergio Romo, and Santiago Casilla (who got the save) combined to throw 5 2/3 innings of shut-out ball. Since the All-Star break, they’ve posted a 1.34 ERA and a 1.46 ERA in the month of July, the lowest in the Majors. Bruce Bochy knows how crucial his relievers have been.
“The bullpen, this whole series, they’ve been throwing well…the bullpen picked us up. They found a way to get it done today…what a job they did. They saved us.”
Bochy was proud of the way his entire team refused to quit on Wednesday.
“They grinded hard today. Great comeback off a tough pitcher there. A lot of good things happened. Panik and Blanco off a tough lefty – they grinded hard, and we put the ball in play today. A lot of those balls weren’t hit hard, but…it was ground attack….it’s good to see the guys have a little success. It’s been a tough homestand, but this was a big one to win as we head to New York.”
After struggling at AT&T Park for the last two months, it might be a welcome relief to start this ten-game road trip to New York, Milwaukee, and Kansas City. Friday will see Ryan Vogelsong (5-8, 3.94) take on Jonathan Niese (5-6, 3.23).