SAN DIEGO – For the better part of three wretched weeks, the Giants talked about showing more fight.
In the late-inning dusk at Petco Park Saturday night, they finally did.
Michael Morse thrust his arm in the air like he’d just won the pennant. Sergio Romo flexed and pointed so many times you’d swear he just clinched the World Series again. Those two hit and pitched the Giants’ way to extra innings, and they used hustle and a returning hero to win in the 10th.
After Morse’s solo home run tied the game in the ninth, Brandon Belt lofted a two-run home run into the right field seats that put them ahead and the Giants wrested a 5-3 victory from the San Diego Padres.
It was not the kind of statement they looked prepared to make. The Giants had two hits through eight innings, already had blown two meager leads and were three outs away from wasting another solid start from Tim Hudson when Morse’s blast in the ninth resulted in Huston Street’s first blown save of the season.
Morse’s defense in left field nearly cost the Giants the game, though. He couldn’t catch Chase Headley’s leadoff double with Romo on the mound, and the struggling former closer benefited from both a game-saving play from shortstop Brandon Crawford and a popped-up mistake by Cameron Maybin before he dusted off his best slider just in time to strike out Carlos Quentin and send the game to extras.
Hunter Pence led off the 10th against Dale Thayer with a ground ball to center field that he turned into a hustle double, energizing the dugout. Then came Belt’s home run, his 10th of the season and first since returning from the DL.
Even Buster Posey got into the act, hustling out his own double after Maybin slipped in center field.
Santiago Casilla pitched around a leadoff walk in the bottom of the 10th to record his second save of the season. The Giants moved to within a half-game of the Dodgers in the NL West.
Starting pitching report
Hudson posted his second consecutive quality start and his 12th in 17 outings as a Giant, keeping him in the conversation for a potential spot on the NL All-Star team.
He worked quickly, churned ground-ball outs and held the Padres to one hit while facing the minimum over his first five innings.
But Brooks Conrad and Alexi Amarista scratched him for two singles to start the sixth inning, and Hudson couldn’t wiggle through another scoreless inning. He struck out pinch runner Tommy Medica and got two strikes on Seth Smith. But after a lengthy mound conference with Buster Posey, Hudson couldn’t get the strikeout or double-play grounder he wanted. Smith hit a 2-2 fastball plenty deep enough for a tying sacrifice fly.
Hudson was in line for the victory when the Giants took the lead in the seventh but his decision disappeared just as quickly in the bottom of the inning.
Jean Machi is dealing with the same issue that caused Romo to lose his grip on the closer role. He has become entirely too predictable with his out pitch – a splitter, in his case – and the hitters are hunting for it.
Machi took over in a 2-1 game in the seventh and struck out Headley to start the inning, but showed his split three times. Yasmani Grandal was ready for a first-pitch splitter and served it into the right field corner for a double. Then Machi threw six pitches to Jake Goebbert and the final five were splits. Goebbert pounced on the first floater he saw for a tying triple.
By then Machi might as well have told the hitters what was coming. He threw two pitches to Cameron Maybin – both splitters – and the second one resulted in a deep sacrifice fly that put the Padres ahead.
Machi has allowed runs in three of his last five outings. Prior to that, he had been unscored upon in 25.1 innings – a streak that dated back to mid-April.
Jeremy Affeldt recorded all four batters he faced, and after Morse’s tying homer, Romo was tasked with getting the game to the 10th.
Morse’s misplay on Headley’s double made it a stressful inning and the game nearly ended after the second batter, when Grandal hit a sharp grounder up the middle that Crawford was able to stop with a full-extension dive. He threw for the out as Headley took third. After an intentional walk to Goebbert, Maybin popped up and held his helmet in disgust. Then Quentin came off the bench and Romo returned to form long enough to strike him out.
Casilla ensured the Giants wouldn’t need another comeback.
At the plate
The first inning provided a tidy summary for the Giants these days. They appeared in business when Hunter Pence reached on an infield single and Brandon Belt walked. But Buster Posey lined into a 6-4 double play. (It’s a miracle Bruce Bochy didn’t start the runners, which would’ve led to an easy triple play.)
Then Sandoval swung at an 0-1 slider that hit him on the left elbow. He was checked by trainers but remained in the game. He saw one more pitch, a ball, and Brandon Belt was caught trying to steal second base.
Sandoval was replaced at third base in the bottom of the inning. If Jean-Paul Sartre were a baseball fan, he would point out that Sandoval hurt himself at the plate without having an official plate appearance.
Gregor Blanco’s first home run of the season, dubiously estimated at 424 feet, put the Giants on the board in the second inning. But they had just one other hit off Odrisamer Despaigne, the recently signed Cuban right-hander who has held the Giants to one run and six hits in 13 innings spanning two starts.
The Giants loaded the bases in the third inning when Joe Panik reached on an error and Despaigne walked two. But Arias flied out near the warning track.
They took the lead in the seventh with a similar rally. Blanco walked, advanced on a wild pitch, took third on a balk and scored on Panik’s sacrifice fly of Kevin Quackenbush. But the add-on hit continues to be absent. Pence grounded out to end the inning.
They were down to their final three outs in the ninth against Huston Street, who hadn’t blown a save all season in 23 chances and had a Hoffmanesque 0.87 ERA. But Morse fouled a pitch straight back and didn’t do the same when Street left a second slider over the plate.
Morse thrust his arm in the air with such force that he nearly dislodged his helmet. It was his first home run in a month. His previous one came June 5, 90 at-bats ago. But the Giants managed just Panik’s infield single after that.
Morse giveth and Morse taketh. But Crawford redeemed him.
The Padres announced 36,127 paid. Maybe it’s time to bring back the Chicken.
The Giants and Padres wrap up their three-game holiday weekend series at Petco Park on Sunday. Tim Lincecum (7-5, 4.06 ERA) faces the Padres for the first time since he no-hit them June 25. He’ll oppose Padres right-hander Jesse Hahn (4-1, 1.95). First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. PDT.