SAN FRANCISCO –- Angel Pagan needed a day to rest his knee and recharge his body. Marco Scutaro still hasn’t made it out of Arizona and it’s anyone’s guess when or if he’ll play again.
The Giants needed a different 1-2 punch Wednesday afternoon. Gregor Blanco and Hunter Pence provided it.
They ignited one rally after another; Pence crushed a two-run home run as part of a four-hit day and Blanco achieved something that even Willie Mays never did as the Giants had plenty of fun in the sun during a 10-4 victory over the Atlanta Braves at AT&T Park.
The Giants took two of three from the Braves to capture their fifth consecutive home series win. Blanco, who entered in a 5-for-41 funk this season, tied the San Francisco-era franchise record with three stolen bases and also scored three runs –- a statistical combo done by just three others in 56 years since the Giants left the Polo Grounds.
Brandon Crawford hit a two-run splash homer and Michael Morse hit a solo shot as the Giants scored in six of their eight innings.
Starting pitching report
Madison Bumgarner matched his career high by giving up five extra-base hits. He got ambushed for two runs in the first inning and he coughed up a lead in the fourth.
That’s usually not going to get you a victory, especially at AT&T Park. But the Giants kept scoring. Bumgarner (5-3) survived the fifth inning and he extended his winning streak to three consecutive starts.
The Braves struck for two runs in the first inning when Blanco got turned around on Freddie Freeman’s RBI double to the center field wall and Chris Johnson roped another RBI double on an inside pitch.
The Giants handed Bumgarner a 4-2 lead but he gave it back in the fourth. Johnson did a good job keeping his hands inside again, following Evan Gattis’ double with another one down the left field line. Andrelton Simmons hit a tying triple that eluded a diving Blanco by mere inches in the right-center gap.
Bumgarner managed to hold a 5-4 lead in the fifth, but just barely. Third baseman Pablo Sandoval made a diving stop down the line to hold Tyler Pastornicky to a single (and nearly threw him out). Then the Giants got the benefit of the call when Justin Upton grounded to short and second baseman Brandon Hicks dropped the throw. Just 2 ½ weeks ago, Pastornicky would have been called safe. But MLB scrapped its tighter enforcement of the transfer rule following a flood of complaints from infielders and club officials. In either event, Hicks had the ball for such a brief instant that the Giants were lucky to get the call.
Bumgarner needed one more break to go his way and he got it when Gattis hit a towering drive that landed in the second deck but just foul. Having survived that brush, Bumgarner came back with a curveball to strike out Gattis and end his afternoon.
Juan Gutierrez accomplished two things. He threw a scoreless inning, and he made Santiago Casilla feel less lousy about his hitting ability. Jean Machi, who by all rights should own one major league hit, tossed two scoreless innings but didn’t get a chance to take some cuts.
At the plate
The top of the order ignited the Giants all afternoon, and it only took two batters to erase a 2-0 deficit in the first inning.
Blanco, receiving a rare start, drew a walk and Pence followed by getting every bit of a high fastball from Julio Teheran for a home run into the right field arcade over the 421-foot marker. It was a prodigious shot, and although it’s rare to see a right-handed hitter park one right of center, Pence is the third Giant to do it this season. Morse and Hicks did it earlier in the year.
The Giants ended up batting around and making Teheran throw 41 pitches in the first inning, and Crawford hit an RBI single to put them ahead. Bumgarner nearly broke the game open, yanking a line drive that landed a few feet foul down the left field line before striking out to end the inning.
Blanco kept up the pressure in the second inning by manufacturing a run all on his own. He walked, stole second base, stole third and advanced home when Gattis’ throw from behind the plate ended up in left field.
Pence started the tie-breaking rally in the fourth, hitting a one-out single and going from first to third on Buster Posey’s bloop single to right field. (Posey’s hit came after Gattis botched a catchable pop-up in foul ground.)
Sandoval followed by sneaking a tie-breaking single through the left side. The hit lifted his average over .200 for the first time since April 1, and also drove Teheran from the game.
The Giants didn’t shut it down there. Crawford started the fifth by slapping a double down the left field line off Alex Wood, and scored on Blanco’s two-out single. It was yet another hit off a left-handed pitcher for Crawford, and it lifted his average to .395 against them – with nine of his 16 hits going for extra bases.
Blanco took advantage of Gattis again to steal second base, then scored on Pence’s single.
It marked the first three-steal game by a Giant in nearly two years, when Blanco did it last. The full list of Giants with a three-steal game at AT&T Park is a short one: Just Blanco and Omar Vizquel.
The three steals also matched the Giants’ San Francisco-era record. No Giant has stolen four since Willie Mays in a 1957 game at Cincinnati’s Crosley Field.
Hard to believe, but Mays never stole three and scored three runs in a game in his epic career. Blanco became the fourth Giant in the club’s San Francisco era to do that, and the first since Darren Lewis in 1991. (Yes, that was 23 years ago, and now you feel as old as I do.) In addition to Blanco and Lewis, Bobby Bonds and Kevin Mitchell are the only other Giants in the San Francisco era with a three-run, three-steal game.
The Giants trotted for the rest of their runs. Morse hit a solo home run in the sixth and Crawford followed Tyler Colvin’s double with a two-run splash homer – his second water shot of the year -- in the eighth. This one came off right-hander David Carpenter.
Is there any doubt that Sandoval has more range at third base this season? He took three quick steps and a dive to glove Ryan Doumit’s would-be single, then got to his feet and fired across the diamond for an out to start the second inning.
Although Sandoval didn’t record an out on Pastornicky’s single in the fifth, he still showed off impressive range to his right and probably saved a double that would’ve made the fifth inning more problematic for Bumgarner.
The Giants played with edge in every respect. Posey, two innings after recoiling from Teheran’s chin music, even managed to push it and go from first to third on Sandoval’s tiebreaking hit to left.
The Giants announced 41,253 paid. Do they even sell SPF 30+ in the gift shop?
The Giants begin a four-game series with the Miami Marlins on Thursday at AT&T Park. Matt Cain (0-3, 4.25 ERA) will take the mound against right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (2-1, 2.86). First pitch is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. PDT. It’ll be Tim Hudson (4-2, 2.09) vs. right-hander Henderson Alvarez (2-3, 3.33) on Friday, Tim Lincecum (3-2, 4.78) vs. right-hander Tom Koehler (3.3, 2.57) on Saturday and Ryan Vogelsong (1-2, 4.22) vs. right-hander Jacob Turner (0-1. 6.75) on Sunday.