HOUSTON Division winners find the handshake line in manydifferent ways.
They can bash their way to a victory. They can stand behinda worthy ace to win 2-1. And, every once in awhile, they have to battle whendown to their last three outs, or even their last strike.
The Giants in 2010 found ways to claim those zombievictories, whether it was Juan Uribes huge home run at Dodger Stadium inSeptember or Freddy Sanchez singling off Craig Kimbrel in the NL DivisionSeries.
Its one road to the handshake line that these currentGiants hadnt traveled very often.
And as much as they would have preferred to trounce theAstros Tuesday night, as most of the league has done since the All-Star break,perhaps there is something more to be gained from entering the ninth down 2-1and entering that handshake line as 3-2 winners.
After all, the Giants were 2-50 when trailing after eight innings.Their pinch hitters had combined for a .177 average, dead last in the NL. Butafter Brandon Belt singled off a lefty, Wesley Wright, the bench camethrough. Joaquin Arias doubled in the tying run off Wilton Lopez and HectorSanchez, fully expecting a changeup, stayed back and got just enough of hisbroken-bat single to put the Giants ahead.
Sure, it came against the Astros, who mark save situations as if they were moon phases. No matter. The Giants won in a pinch, and they'll remember that the next time they need to win that way.
One more fun fact: Lo and behold, the Giants now hold a 3 -game lead in the NLWest their largest advantage of the season.
One of our biggest hits this year, Bochy said of Arias,who continues to scald the ball in August. It goes to show you how importantthe bench is. Its a tight ballgame and thats what you need. Were down tothree outs but youve got to keep fighting and they did that. Its why you gohard for 27 outs.
Sergio Romo said the Giants bullpen erupted with both ofthose pinch hits. So did Matt Cain, who had rolled in the dirt moments earlier,scowling in anger, when a wild 3-2 curveball allowed the Astros to score the tie-breaking run in the eighth.
This is great for us, to come back and win, Cain said. Thatswhat you want to be able to do with three outs left, and for those guys to stepup, I think thats going to build a lot of momentum for us during the week.
The Giants have three days left to see what the waiver wiremight bring them, but the Dodgers are behind them in the standings and might aswell have flyswatters in both hands. Its unlikely anyone who could help Scott Hairston, etc. will get through without being claimed.
So the Giants are likely to make do with the bench theyhave, and it is not an experienced lot. They have Ryan Theriot and Aubrey Huff,for whatever he might have left, will rejoin them as part of Saturdays rosterexpansion.
But Arias will get at-bats in key situations. So willSanchez.
Those guys, said Pablo Sandoval, beaming with pride, theymade it look easy.
Said Sanchez, of his single: He threw me a really good pitch,a changeup. Thats a pitch I was looking for and I tried to stay back. I brokemy bat, but I hit it in a good spot. Hey, I take it. Its a good one.
It wasnt the way the Giants wanted to beat the Astros, whoare 8-46 since June 28 the worst 56-game stretch of any major league teamsince the 1961 Phillies.
If anything, the Giants learned not to take the Astroslightly over the rest of this series and beyond, considering all but six oftheir remaining games (against the Dodgers) are against clubs that currentlyhave losing records.
I dont look at it that way and I dont want to hear it,Bochy said. Youve got to play your best ball. Thats the last thing I want tohear, or the players to hear. Youve got to be ready to go every night.
To the very end, too.