Pill comes up big against rival Dodgers
Hunter Pence went 8-for-19 with five home runs and 12 RBI in the four-game series against the Dodgers. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
LOS ANGELES – The next time Hunter Pence watches his “dig-me” tape, he’ll want to bring a big tub of popcorn. Or more likely, an endless bowl of raw kale.
The footage is bound to be longer than “Dances With Wolves.”
Pence concluded perhaps the most destructive, productive series in the storied history of the Dodgers-Giants rivalry. He hit two more home runs, giving him five over this four-game series in Chavez Ravine, and Brett Pill’s solo pinch homer broke a tie in the eighth as the Giants won 4-3 on Sunday.
The ending was a thrill: Sergio Romo vs. Yasiel Puig with the bases loaded. Romo threw one pitch, Puig hit a hard grounder to short and Brandon Crawford flipped for the force as the Giants won three of four in the series.
Pill popped his tiebreaking shot off left-hander Paco Rodriguez, who was holding batters to a .158 average this season. And Pence was at full potency again, hitting a solo shot in the second inning and tagging a tying, two-run shot in the sixth.
He has 19 RBI over his last six games – the most ever by a Giant over a six-game span since the RBI became an official statistic in 1920, per the Elias Sports Bureau. Willie McCovey held the previous record in the San Francisco era, with 18 RBI over six games in 1969.
And Pence became just the second Giant to homer in all four games of a series against the Dodgers. The other? None other than Willie Mays.
If passing McCovey and matching Mays wasn’t enough, Pence also became the first Giant to homer in four consecutive games since Barry Bonds in September, 2005.
He could put his feet up and still contend for NL Player of the Month honors for September. But given that he’s started all 150 games this season, don’t bet on it.
The Giants took three of four at Dodger Stadium and improved to 9-7 against them this season. They’ll need to win one of three later this month at AT&T Park to capture the season series with their playoff-bound archrivals – a small but not insignificant consolation.
And there was nothing small about Pence’s 8-for-19, five-homer, 12-RBI show in four games here.
Starting pitching report
Ryan Vogelsong is ready to plead the fifth.
This is an astounding fact: Vogelsong has allowed 59 earned runs this season, and 28 of them – 47.5 percent – have come in the fifth inning.
For the third consecutive start, Vogelsong took a shutout into the fifth inning only to give up a crooked number. It was five against the Rockies, four against the Diamondbacks and three this time, all of them scoring on Adrian Gonzalez’s bases-loaded double.
It was something short of a meltdown this time. Vogelsong maintained an 89 mph fastball through the fifth inning and the rally started with a bit of bad luck when pitcher Edinson Volquez hit a spinning, jam-shot single. Dee Gordon singled up the middle, Mark Ellis was hit by a pitch and Gonzalez cleared the bases with his hard line drive past first baseman Brandon Belt.
But Vogelsong regrouped to get two outs to strand Gonzalez at second base. He had some of his own luck, too, when third baseman Pablo Sandoval snagged Skip Schumaker’s hard line drive.
Then Vogelsong did what he couldn’t do in either of his previous starts. He came back to pitch the sixth, and recorded three quick ground-ball outs. His six-inning, three-run outing met the minimum standards of a quality start.
Perhaps his finest hour came in the fourth inning, after Juan Uribe tripled on a ball that hit near the top of the center field wall and had to be reviewed. Vogelsong struck out Schumaker and then got a pair of lineouts to strand Uribe.
Jean Machi worked around his own throwing error in a scoreless seventh, striking out Uribe to strand two runners. He received credit for the victory after Pill put the Giants ahead.
Santiago Casilla worked a 1-2-3 eighth and Romo navigated the ninth for his 35th save in 39 chances. It was a Wilsonian ninth, though, as the Dodgers loaded the bases on two singles and a two-out intentional walk to Adrian Gonzalez.
Romo, who got a clutch strikeout of Mark Ellis to set up the intentional walk, then had to face Puig off the bench as the remnants of the crowd roared. One pitch and it was all over.
Speaking of Brian Wilson, the right-hander faced his former team for the second time in the series, entering after Crawford drew a one-out walk in the seventh. He got pinch hitter Angel Pagan to hit into a forceout and then he struck out pinch hitter Johnny Monell.
Wilson retired five of the six batters he faced in the series; Brandon Belt drew a walk against him Thursday night.
At the plate
What, you thought we were done with Hunter Pence stats and facts?
He tagged a 1-2 changeup from Edinson Volquez in the first inning that carried beyond the center field wall and then connected on a 2-1 changeup that landed near the Dodgers bullpen down the left field line.
The second homer was his 25th of the season, matching his career high. And it was his fifth home run in four days here, which tied the record for the most home runs hit in a single series against the Dodgers. The Phillies’ feared slugger Mike Schmidt was the last do do it, in 1979. Pittsburgh’s Frank Thomas also hit five in a series in 1958.
And Pence’s 12 RBI was the most in a single series against the Dodgers since the aptly named Ripper Collins knocked in 13 for the Cardinals in June, 1935.
Pence also matched the Giants’ San Francisco-era record of 12 RBI in a single series against any opponent; he shares it with Dick Dietz, who drove in 12 runs in a four-game series with the Atlanta Braves in 1970.
Finally, Pence became the first Giant to hit five home runs in a single series since 2002, when Bonds and Jeff Kent clubbed five against the Colorado Rockies in two different series.
The Dodgers could have gambled to score the tying run in the ninth, but they didn’t send home Nick Buss from second base when Dee Gordon singled off Romo. They must’ve respected Pence’s arm; he gathered the ball quickly and hit cutoff man Brandon Belt.
The Dodgers announced 47,302 paid. The next time the Dodgers come home on Sept. 27, they should have an idea where they’ll go for the NL Division Series.
The Giants take Monday to acclimate to Manhattan before beginning a unique six-game stretch against the Mets and Yankees. Yusmeiro Petit (3-0, 2.53 ERA), a former Mets prospect, takes the mound in Tuesday’s series opener at Citi Field. He’ll oppose right-hander Zack Wheeler (7-5, 3.22), whom you may remember as the Giants’ top prospect before the Mets acquired him for two months of Carlos Beltran in 2011. First pitch is scheduled for 4:10 p.m. PDT. It’ll be Matt Cain (8-9, 4.24) against right-hander Aaron Harang (5-12, 5.70) on Wednesday and Madison Bumgarner (12-9, 2.83) against left-hander Jonathon Niese (7-7, 3.88) on Thursday.