The Giants looked like they had Monday night’s series opener at AT&T Park with the Padres all wrapped up in the first inning.
A top-of-the-order rally against rookie starter Eric Lauer (ND, 0-1, 10.13 ERA) gave them a three-run lead over a San Diego team who came into San Francisco 10 games out of first before the stadium hot dogs had finished cooking.
But a sixth-inning Padres rally was a reality check for the Giants (15-14). One that opened the door for an improbable comeback win at the hands of Nick Hundley, who came off the bench with two outs and the bases loaded against closer Brad Hand (L, 1-3, 3.29 ERA) to deliver the seventh walk-off hit of his career and send the Padres (10-20) further into the NL West cellar.
San Francisco came in riding the high of their third-consecutive series victory — beating the Dodgers, no less — which lifted their win-loss record to an even .500. Conversely, San Diego came to the City By the Bay squinting their eyes and dusting the cobwebs from their uniforms, having lost nine of its last 12 contests.
The Padres have won just two of their nine series this year, the last of which was against the Giants in San Diego in early-April. So they may have been hoping they could get back on track coming into San Francisco.
But the Padres faced a different Giants team two-and-a-half weeks ago, or it felt like that anyway.
Brandon Belt continues to be a force of nature for the Giants offense, now batting .302 with an OPS of .994. And Longoria is climbing out of his slump, or as he recently put it, he “got the monkey off my back.” In 15 games prior to Monday’s, “Longo” had been batting .340 with five home runs and 12 RBIs, tied with Belt for the team leading six home runs on the season.
And the Giants flexed their muscles in a first inning that echoed the explosion of Sunday’s game against the Dodgers, scoring three on back-to-back-back hits out of the gate from Gorkys Hernández, Andrew McCutchen and Posey. A later knock from Austin Jackson made it 3-0.
After Hernandez singled to lead off, McCutchen throttled the first pitch he saw from rookie Lauer and launched it off the centerfield wall, good for three bases and an RBI. A line drive double into the right field corner from Posey scored Cutch, and a few batters later Jackson shot a line drive just over the glove of shortstop Freddy Galvis and into center field to score Posey.
But righty Jeff Samardzija (ND, 1-1, 5.27 ERA) labored early. In the Pads half of the first they loaded the bases and drew 22 pitches, though they did not score. “The Shark” made it through five innings giving up five hits and just two runs, striking out five, but he threw 89 pitches and Bochy opted to bring Reyes Moronta in to pitch the sixth, as Samardzija is still ramping up from his stint on the disabled list out of Spring Training.
Moronta has been very reliable in relief coming in to Monday’s game with a 1.29 ERA with 14 strikeouts in 14 innings pitched. But on Saturday when he came in to relieve Johnny Cueto in the seventh he was removed without recording an out after giving up a walk, a single and another walk. Monday was to be his rebound, but it didn’t work out that way.
He, again, walked the first batter he saw, José Pirela, and gave up a single to the next, Galvis. The leadoff walk hurt Moronta when Longoria committed a rare error on a grounder up the third base line that bounced off his glove and allowed Pirela to score making it 3-3. An A.J. Ellis sac fly brought another home run, and Chase Headley brought home one more on a single to right to give the Padres the 5-3 lead.
Meanwhile, the Giants new and improved offense and the swagger of the first inning seemed to be missing in action for the next seven innings. The crowd of 35, 470 had dwindled, and the game seemed a foregone conclusion to many.
But it was not a foregone conclusion to the Giants, and going into the ninth Bruce Bochy, pushed his entire pile of chips to the table.
Hand struggled with control and hit Slater pinch-hitting to lead off. Hand managed to strike out Hernandez and McCutchen but he lost a ten pitch battle with Posey issuing a walk and bringing up Longoria.
Longoria took the opportunity to make up for two errors in Monday night’s game, something he hasn’t done since September 27, 2013, by coming through in the clutch for the third time in as many days. Following a Buster Posey 10-pitch two-out walk in the ninth he hit a bloop double to left to scoring Austin Slater and put the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position.
Belt followed by drawing another walk from Hand to the tune of six more pitches so the by the time Hundley came off the bench to face him with the bases stacked, the closer had thrown 30 pitches in the inning.
“You can’t say enough about the at bats in front of me. [Hand] threw a lot of pitches before that at-bat so obviously it was nice to get in a situation where everybody in front of you was absolutely grinding at-bats and not giving up. In that situation its my job to come through.”
And Hundley did come through with a grounder to left field to bring home the go-ahead, walk off run.
The Giants took a step up one more rung of the ladder Monday night, and the Padres crept back to their well-worn seat in the cellar.
Of the win Bochy said:
It’s always a little bit of a downer when you have a three nothing lead and you can’t hold onto it, but the guys fought hard and that’s what you gotta do for nine innings. It shows you how important it is to keep grinding. We were facing a very good closer and we had our work cut our for us.”
Bochy was out of pitchers in the ninth inning of Monday’s game and was considering putting Brandon Belt on the mound if forced into extra innings—Pablo Sandoval was already on the bench. … Joe Panik got a second opinion on his left thumb sprain Monday morning and had surgery to repair the tendon immediately after. He is expected to be out for around six weeks according to Bochy. … Will Smith threw another rehab start yesterday and is expected to be activated with the Giants Wednesday. … Bochy is learning how to use Twitter this season and learned for the first time Monday that there are swaths of people on the social media platform who legitimately think his every day first baseman with a 1.2 WAR this season, is a bad player.