SAN FRANCISCO If Hunter Pence was feeling down on himself at all when he came to the plate in the eighth inning of a tie game with two men on, it would have been understandable.
In his first 51 at-bats in a Giants uniform, Pence managed just seven hits for a minuscule .137 average. In his first four appearances on Sunday, the newly minted right fielder struck out twice with runners aboard, and twice made solid contact but was robbed of a hit in the second inning and lined into a double play in the fifth.
But Pence seemingly put his first 11-and-a-half days since a trade with Philadelphia behind him, and jacked a three-run homer over the left field wall to cap a come-from-behind victory over Colorado and keep the Giants in first place by a single game over the Dodgers, 9-6.
Theres definitely times that youre down, but I understand that the next at bat, everything can change, Pence said. I try to think of it as, let it go and go out there and try to do everything you can to win. Whether youre getting hits or not, play defense, and you never know when youre going to get another opportunity.
With perhaps his first boos from the home crowd on the line, Pence came through in dramatic fashion with his first home run in a Giants uniform, and was even awarded with a curtain call thanks to some assistance from Melky Cabrera.
Melky pushed me out there. I didnt even realizeit was pretty exciting. Those things dont happen very often, and is just kind of humbling, Pence said.
Buster Posey said: That was big. Hes been working hard, and its nice to see him come through there.
In fact, Poseys at bat prior to Pences longball may have been the key to the rally. The Giants trailed 6-5 when the red-hot catcher approached the plate with one out and the bases loaded to oppose Rockies reliever Rafael Betancourt.
No fewer than 10 pitches later, Posey, who has now hit safely in 24 of 27 games since the All-Star break, lifted a game-tying sacrifice fly into left field.
Pence was quick to give credit where credit was due.
That was huge. All the pressure is on Buster because were down at that point, he said. To wear down the pitcher like that and still get the job done, its obviously deflating for that pitcher because he just did about 10 wind sprints and we tied the game anyway.
Manager Bruce Bochy said: Its what you live for, that kind of competition, and Buster found a way to get it done.
But the afternoon belonged to Pence, who must finally feel like hes joined the pennant race on a fresh team.
We got it done, he said. A lot of things came together for that opportunity to come up, and I think everyone enjoyed it on our team.
But probably no one more than him, whether Pence wants to admit it or not.