Defensive effort sets stage for Giants' bittersweet walk-off win

Defensive effort sets stage for Giants' bittersweet walk-off win
July 25, 2012, 6:39 am
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SAN FRANCISCO -- Brandon Crawford was named the Giants 2012Opening Day shortstop because of his glove, not his bat. But it was the latterthat gave San Francisco a 3-2 walk-off win over the San Diego Padres Tuesday atAT&T Park.Crawford and his teammates had a bittersweet victory celebration, though,because it came at a price: The left hamstring of Pablo Sandoval. The Giantsthird baseman turned first baseman did the splits to field a relay throw fromCrawford to complete a difficult double play and is scheduled for an MRIWednesday, according to manager Bruce Bochy.Well know the extent of it, but hell be down a few days at least, Bochysaid. We just have to find out how bad it is tomorrow with the MRI. Hopefullywe get good news.Sandovals injury, which Bochy said was on the high part of his hamstring, came on one of two spectacular doubleplays the Giants turned to keep the game tied 2-2.After Sandoval teamed up with Crawford and Ryan Theriot for the inning-endingdouble play in the third, Angel Pagan made a diving catch in the eighth tostart another twin killing that saved the game.With Chase Headley representing the go-ahead run after a one-out single offSergio Romo, Carlos Quentin drove a ball deep into the left-centerfield gap.Pagan, who has had issues with bad jumps and routes earlier this season, immediatelybroke into a full sprint and came down with the ball as he crashed onto thegrass just in front of the warning track. With his momentum still pushing him towardthe outfield wall, an off-balance Pagan hit cutoff man Crawford, who completedthe double play with a relay throw to Brandon Belt at first that barely beat ahustling Headley.When he hit it I thought there was no shot, said Madison Bumgarner, whostruck out nine and allowed two runs in seven innings of work before becoming aspectator for Pagans grab. It saved the game.Bruce Bochy was equally complimentary, although he may have offended GregorBlanco and his perfect game catch in the process.Its hard to find a better catch than Pagans, Bochy said.That saved us. Ive said this so many times: Defense can win a ballgame foryou Its hard to see a better play in baseball than that, especially withwhat was on the line. Pagan did not hesitate when asked to compare the catch to some of the otherhighlight-reel plays hes made over his seven-year career.What can I say? It was one of the best plays of my career, Pagan said.Pagans play wouldve been an afterthought if the Giantsdidnt come away with the win. But Belt, Pagan and Crawford put together arally against Padres reliever Joe Thatcher that made the defensive plays allthe more important.Belt, only in the game because of Sandovals injury, worked a full-count walkto lead off the inning and advanced to second when Pagan poked a base hitthrough the left side of the infield. Crawford, originally asked to lay down asacrifice bunt, had his assignment change when both runners advanced on apassed ball. With the winning run 90 feet away, Crawford sent Belt home andAT&T Park into a frenzy with a sharp line-drive single back up the middle.Crawford had a double taken away Monday when umpire Jordan Baker ruled he nevertouched first and was later ejected for arguing that call in his next at-bat.Tuesday, first base coach Roberto Kelly pointed to first to make sure Crawfordtouched the bag to complete the walk-off win.After the game, Crawford wanted to talk more about the defensive effort thanhis clutch knock.They say hitting is contagious, but I think defense is too, he said. Crawfords hit ended the game, but it was his defense, along with the effortsof Theriot, Sandoval and Pagan that set the stage for the late theatrics.The Giants 3-2 win coupled with the Dodgers loss in St.Louis gives San Francisco a 2.5 game lead in the N.L. West. Don Mattinglyssquad makes its second visit of the season to AT&T Park for three gamesstarting on Friday, and they may be bringing a new face or two with them. Late reports Tuesday claim the Dodgers have acquired Hanley Ramirez and Randy Choate from the Miami Marlins in exchange Nathan Eovaldi and an unknown minor leaguer. Sandoval made it clear that he holds out hope he canplay in that series.Well see whats going on tomorrow, but Im planning on playing, Sandovalsaid.

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