Cain on Sandoval: 'He's definitely a fun character to watch'
"We like pressure, man. It’s our favorite part. We play better in the bottom of the ninth, one run behind." -- Pablo Sandoval (USA TODAY IMAGES)
SAN FRANCISCO – A wall scraper would’ve counted the same.
But it was appropriate that Pablo Sandoval’s home run carried higher, further, deeper than that.
The Giants were coming off a road trip that was more calamitous – and a lot less funny – than a John Candy/Steve Martin comedy. Ryan Vogelsong spent the morning getting five pins inserted into his crushed pinkie on his pitching hand. Several players – Sandoval included -- received IV fluids to help them play through a flu bug.
Every team will hit pockets of the schedule when the body lags, or when confidence relaxes. Everything was hitting the Giants, all at once.
There is something in the ether about this year’s team, though. They hit back – especially in the late innings.
Gregor Blanco rescued the Giants after 26 outs and two strikes, hitting the tying triple over right fielder Bryce Harper’s head to force extra innings. And Sandoval put a Barry Bonds swing on a 1-0 changeup, hitting it nearly to the base of the cable car atop the right field arcade for a two-run home run as the Giants walked off the Washington Nationals 4-2 Tuesday night.
It was their 13th comeback win of the season, including their sixth walk off. Three of those have come on home runs – by Sandoval, Buster Posey and Guillermo Quiroz.
Last year, remember, the Giants hit just 31 home runs in 81 home games. Even the wall scrapers were as rare as a shark sighting in the Bay.
“We like pressure, man,” said a beaming Sandoval, who also beat Washington with his previous walk-off homer, in 2009. “It’s our favorite part. We play better in the bottom of the ninth, one run behind.”
ESPN Stats and Information calculated Sandoval’s shot at 464 feet.
ESPN’s computer must be broken.
“I don’t think Bonds hit them that high,” said Matt Cain, who spoke from experience.
“Pablo, he got all of that one,” said manager Bruce Bochy, mastering the obvious.
A year ago, the Giants were outclassed by the Nats while losing five of six. They were outscored 45-24. Now they’re positioned to try for a three-game sweep behind Madison Bumgarner, their most consistent pitcher all season.
They are positioned thusly because Cain found solid ground beneath the sand after a two-run first inning, because the bullpen met a tight spot with some tough pitches and because Blanco stayed aggressive with a two-strike count against Nats closer Rafael Soriano, who hadn’t allowed an earned run in more than a month.
Oh, and Buster Posey beat out an infield hit in the ninth. You don’t see that too often, either.
It’s hard to protect a one-run lead. It’s even harder to maintain a one-run deficit. It requires no let-up. It means you have to keep pushing, even when the tape is nowhere in sight.
“I knew I had to bear down and make better pitches,” Cain said. “Facing (Stephen Strasburg), we thought it’d be a close game and it’d come down to who made a mistake. I made a couple and he didn’t. I just had to hold it there.”
Hold on – and let go of the last road trip.
“It was a rough road trip for all of us,” Cain said. “As a starting staff, we definitely wanted to go out and throw well, give our guys a chance to do what they’re capable of. We need to bear down and keep doing that.
“That’s the thing. There are so many games. There’s a game the next day. You can’t really sit on it. With Vogey, it was hard to see Vogey go down the way he did, but we’re glad things should be OK.”
Said Bochy: “If they lose, it’s not because they’re laying down or quitting. They’re giving their all for nine innings, or 10 in this case.”
They got all of it, all right.