SAN FRANCISCO – It probably wasn’t how Bruce Bochy drew it up.
No way did Bochy sit back in his office chair and say, “It strikes me that we could turn a walk into a double play.” Or, “It’s high time we employed the ol’ passed ball stratagem to score the tiebreaking run.”
There was weirdness at AT&T Park Wednesday afternoon. There were sequences of baseball artistry that wouldn’t make your refrigerator, no matter how much you love your little scamp.
But at the end, there was a handshake line for the home team. That’s what matters most, right?
It wasn’t pretty, but the Giants avoided becoming the first team in their San Francisco-era history to get swept on a homestand of at least six games. Tim Lincecum got knocked out early but Andrew Susac collected his first major league hit, a passed ball put the Giants ahead in the seventh and they hung on for a 7-5 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Gregor Blanco reached base four times and the bullpen came up huge with 5 2/3 scoreless innings as the Giants finished 1-5 on the homestand and are 7-21 at AT&T Park since June 9. Maybe, just maybe, the victory gave GM Brian Sabean the slightest push to upgrade the roster ahead of Thursday’s non-waiver trade deadline.
The Giants hit the road for a 10-game trip that begins Friday in New York.
Starting pitching report
Lincecum was handed a 3-0 lead in the first inning but his stuff was tame and flat, and he didn’t have command of it. It was hard to expect a rookie catcher like Susac to make chicken salad out of that.
Josh Harrison hit a tying, two-run home run – his third in three games here – in the third inning and Jordy Mercer pounded a two-run shot in the fourth that put the Pirates ahead. The homer was costly in more ways than one, since it was a direct hit into a woman’s full beer cup in the first row of the left field bleachers, and as you might know from experience, refills aren’t cheap.
Lincecum issued a leadoff walk to pitcher Charlie Morton, a .059 hitter, ahead of Harrison’s home run. He also threw two wild pitches. A walk to catcher Chris Stewart ended Lincecum’s day after 3 1/3 innings – his shortest start of the season.
Lincecum began this wreck of a homestand with a bad start and he ended it the same way. The rotation was 0-5 with a 7.04 ERA over the six games.
Once again, the bullpen remains the Giants’ shining light since the All-Star break after working 5 2/3 scoreless innings.
Juan Gutierrez worked 1 2/3 innings and Jean Machi made one of the most intelligent plays of the season in the sixth inning to turn a walk into a double play.
A walk into a double play. A walk into a double play. A walk into a double play.
(Figured you might need a little repetition to get your head around that one.)
It began when Javier Lopez issued a leadoff walk to Gaby Sanchez, fielded Travis Snider’s sacrifice bunt and struggling shortstop Brandon Crawford clanked the throw at second base for an error. Machi entered and Mercer advanced both runners with another sacrifice.
Machi walked Stewart but Snider, apparently confused into believing the bases were loaded, got caught in between second and third. Machi alertly threw to get Snider in a rundown and Crawford, after tagging out Snider, noticed Sanchez headed to the plate. Machi continued to have his head in the play, and was stationed halfway down the line to receive the throw. Sanchez reversed course back to third and Machi threw accurately to Pablo Sandoval for the second out to end the inning.
Sergio Romo went through the heart of the Pirates’ order, striking out Andrew McCutcthen, to protect a one-run lead in the eighth. Santiago Casilla worked around a single to notch his seventh save in seven chances since assuming the closer role. Casilla, who struck out Harrison to end it, has a 1.13 ERA this season.
At the plate
The Giants entered Wednesday having scored five runs in five games. They surprised for three in the first inning, mostly on a series of station-to-station bloops and bleeders. Michael Morse’s mighty cut with the bases loaded resulted in a swinging bunt single, Joe Panik got an RBI with a walk and Blanco capped the rally with a flared single that barely cleared a leaping Mercer at shortstop.
They loaded the bases again on two soft singles and a hit batter in the third, and Susac snapped a 3-3 tie with a clean hit to left field. The kid from Sacramento Jesuit High was all smiles at first base after getting his first big league hit, and the sellout crowd gave him a standing ovation.
The Giants’ rally stopped there, though, as Lincecum for some reason was allowed to swing the bat with the bases loaded and one out with Hunter Pence on deck. He grounded into a double play.
The Giants needed to rally again after the Pirates reclaimed the lead against Lincecum. Morse drew a one-out walk in the seventh, Panik singled and Blanco came through with his third hit of the game to tie it. Then lefty Justin Wilson threw a pitch off Stewart’s glove to bring home Panik with the tiebreaking run.
Pablo Sandoval tacked on an RBI single in the eighth.
Crawford leads all NL shortstops with 16 errors. He’s better than that. Isn’t he?
With an official crowd of 42,272, the Giants extended their streak of announcing sellouts to 305 consecutive regular-season games.
The Giants do not play on Thursday but GM Brian Sabean will be busy leading up to the non-waiver trade deadline at 1 p.m. PDT. The club begins a 10-game road trip along with a four-game series against the New York Mets at Citi Field on Friday. Ryan Vogelsong (5-8, 3.94 ERA) takes the mound against left-hander Jonathon Niese (5-6, 3.23) First pitch is scheduled for 4:10 p.m. PDT.