SAN FRANCISCO – The Giants were dead as a morgue at home, and Bruce Bochy knows the sound of his voice becomes a wobbly ceiling fan after so many meetings.
So he called for a different voice Saturday morning: Roger Staubach, the Heisman Trophy winner and legendary NFL quarterback turned motivational speaker perfect for your corporate event or small group.
His message: “Go the extra mile.”
After five innings, Bochy might have wondered about Roger’s refund policy.
The Giants were dead as a morgue again. They pulled the gymnastic feat of wasting a leadoff triple, this time from Michael Morse, for the second time on this homestand. Tim Hudson didn’t record an out in the fifth, they trailed 5-1 and a sellout crowd sat on its hands.
“There are a lot of times they could be booing us,” said second baseman Joe Panik, his face brightening. “Hey, listen. I’m from New York. I’ve heard many, many boo birds.”
It’s remarkable, actually, that the crowds haven’t turned on them. They were 8-23 at home since June 9. Their general manager didn’t do anything to inflate the dinghy at the trade deadline. The World Series rings from 2010 and 2012 glitter just as brightly, but they are not defending champions. This was an even year, and yet since early June, everything has been such at odds.
Then came the sixth inning, and maybe the Giants didn’t go the extra mile as much as the crowd did. It took a ground single from Buster Posey, then a sun-ball pop-up from Pablo Sandoval and a goofy throw from Chase Utley. That was all it took to awake the fans, who came to their feet in a 5-1 game.
“They’re probably the best fans in baseball,” said Morse, who is suddenly in their good graces again.
Morse doubled and the rally blossomed to include a bloop, a chopper off the plate and a tying sacrifice fly. Morse ended the day with two doubles and the aforementioned triple, and that’s after socking a three-run home run the previous day. Before Friday, he had gone 22 games and collected two extra-base hits. Now he has four in his last four at-bats.
“The moon? The Supermoon?” said Morse, asked the difference.
Well, maybe not. The lunar calendar shows the moon is waning again. But there is something tidal about the crowd noise, as so many players have mentioned. It washes over you. It’s 42,000 coordinated, motivational speakers – and they don’t hit you up for a fat honorarium.
This is perhaps as good a time as any to mention that the Giants scored four runs in the sixth inning to tie the game, then pushed ahead in the eighth to take a 6-5 victory from the Philadelphia Phillies. Because of that, the Giants have a shot at a winning record on this brief, five-game homestand. Given the past few months, that is a more important goal than it appears on its face.
There were subplots: Gregor Blanco had a jigger of luck mixed with redemption after his brutal baserunning contributed to a loss a night earlier. This time, he got jammed on a first pitch but his blooper thunked on the grass in left field for an RBI single in the sixth. He placed the tiebreaking single in the eighth, too, when shortstop Jimmy Rollins leaned to his left and stood in cement galoshes as Blanco’s grounder skipped through to his right.
There was Sergio Romo, a bit fresher of arm according to Bochy and a bit cleaner on the recent game log than Santiago Casilla, getting a shot to record the final two outs for his first save since June 22.
And there was Panik, who keeps looking more nervous in his postgame interviews than he does between the lines. He hit a leadoff triple in the eighth, and wouldn’t you know it, the Giants managed to send him home.
It was his first career triple. He’s a .410 hitter in his last 11 games. It is too early to anoint him as anything but a nice contributor, but he does not seem to have the long or loopy holes in his swing like other young players – Brett Pill and John Bowker come to mind -- who have burst onto the scene only to be dissected as their scouting reports thickened up.
“He’s earned going out there every day, the way he’s played,” said Bochy, adding, “It certainly helps your decisions at the end of the year.”
Said Panik, who also threw out a runner at the plate: “Now, honestly, when I’m on the field it’s just natural.”
The Giants won’t have a ton to spend this winter and five areas to address: third base, second base, left field, starting pitcher (or two) and a late-game reliever. They’re determined to re-sign Pablo Sandoval and they understand that’ll take the biggest chunk of what is budgeted.
If they can solve some of those other areas internally – Panik at second base, perhaps move Buster Posey to first base and Brandon Belt to left field, use Casilla in the closer role – then they’ll have less surface area to spread the remaining money. Whom is more likely to re-sign, Jake Peavy orRyan Vogelsong? It’s a fascinating question to ponder, but perhaps the answer should be both. Then they could put Tim Lincecum in the bullpen, at least until they have a need in the rotation. You can’t very well count on Matt Cain the way you could in the past, and that means you need a sixth starter. A seventh and eighth, maybe, given the relative ages and odometers involved.
Those are conversations for another time in the near future. For now, the Giants have 40 games and an extra mile to climb.
“It was kind of fitting to hear that today,” said Panik, “with the way we came back.”