SAN FRANCISCO – Sergio Romo stepped into a significant moment Monday night.
He entered a tie game with two outs in the ninth and an inherited a runner at second base. He faced pinch hitter Eric Hinske – a well-known power threat. Romo knows better than most, having surrendered a two-run pinch homer to Hinske at Turner Field in Game 3 of the 2010 NL Division Series.
Romo ended up the winning pitcher that night in Atlanta, because the Giants pulled their most clutch rally of the postseason on two-out hits in the ninth by Freddy Sanchez and Aubrey Huff.
Romo ended up the winning pitcher Monday, too, when the Giants’ Brandon Belt hit a walk-off single to beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 5-4.
But back to Hinske for a moment. Romo had a base open. Some managers would’ve ordered an intentional walk, even with another lefty hitter, Gerardo Parra, looming on deck. Some pitchers would’ve given Hinske the 10-foot pole treatment.
That’s not Romo. He threw a two-seam fastball that broke over the plate, but had enough late movement to keep the ball off the barrel. Hinske rolled out to second base. One pitch, and a winning decision. Not a bad night’s work.
Walking Hinske? Now that would’ve been out of character for Romo.
Amazingly, he hasn’t walked a batter since Aug. 2 of last year, when the Mets’ Jason Bay worked him for a free pass. Romo’s walkless streak is up to 32 1/3 innings spanning 38 games.
How good is that? Well, it matches the second longest streak of consecutive appearances without a walk since at least 1921, when data is available to figure such things.
And you’ve heard of the only guy with a longer streak. It’s Dennis Eckersley, who went 41 appearances without a walk from Aug. 17, 1989 to June 10, 1990.
Romo’s streak is the longest since 2003-04, when John Smoltz – his name ring a bell too? – went 38 appearances without a walk.
And in terms of innings, Romo’s streak is the longest by a Giants pitcher since our own Bill Laskey threw 36 2/3 innings without a walk in June, 1984.
Romo isn’t the only one twirling at AT&T Park. The Giants bullpen enters Tuesday’s game with a streak of 17 2/3 scoreless innings at home. They’d like nothing better than to be tasked with protecting a lead for Matt Cain, especially since the Giants are 0-4 in his starts thus far.
The Giants haven’t lose five consecutive Cain starts since June 19 to July 9, 2010.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy, on Pablo Sandoval: “He’s still going to expand every once in awhile. That’s him.”
Bochy was talking about the Panda’s strike zone, of course. And yes, Sandoval is a more disciplined two-strike hitter this year. He’s also leading the majors with a .571 average (12 for 21) with runners in scoring position.
Little wonder, then, that he leads the Giants with 18 RBIs in 20 games, and is on pace for 145.
Now throw in a percolating Buster Posey hitting behind him, and Sandoval figures to see more challenge fastballs than ever.
Yes, Brandon Belt is out of the lineup again with Arizona throwing left-hander Patrick Corbin. It’s important to note that his walk-off hit Monday came off a lefty, Tony Sipp. But I think Bochy had advance designs on giving Belt these two games to blow on the cartridge and reboot. (Am I showing my age with that reference?)
Once Belt gets going, you’ll see him in there against right-handers and left-handers again.
Looking ahead to the San Diego series this weekend at Petco, the Padres are scheduled to throw right-hander Andrew Cashner on Friday, lefty Eric Stults on Saturday and right-hander Jason Marquis on Sunday. (It’s Lincecum, Zito and Vogelsong for the Giants.)
I’ll be interested to see how Petco plays with the fences in. Mostly, though, I’m glad we’re not going to Coors Field for another couple weeks. Too many annoying ground-rule doubles whenever a ball rolls into a snowdrift.