Rewind: Petit and Blanco thrive in new roles with Giants

Rewind: Petit and Blanco thrive in new roles with Giants
August 28, 2014, 6:30 pm
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These are things we'll talk about, but it's hard to change (the rotation) with the job he did today.
Bruce Bochy on giving Yusmeiro Petit another start

SAN FRANCISCO -- Buster Posey, the team's biggest star, appeared to win a game almost singlehandedly last night. Thursday afternoon's victory was about role players pulling off surprising feats.

Yusmeiro Petit struck out nine while allowing just one run and four hits over six outstanding innings. He set a new major league record for consecutive outs with 46.

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"This game's been played a long time and that's quite a record to be proud of. It's amazing to me," said Bruce Bochy.

"He should be very, very proud of that."

Yet that still wasn't enough to get the Giants manager to promise Petit another start – at least not publicly.

"These are things we'll talk about, but it's hard to change (the rotation) with the job he did today," Bochy said.

"Of course, Timmy – this will allow him to work on some things."

Besides their chosen profession, fastball velocity and the team they play for, Tim Lincecum and Petit share almost nothing in common.

Lincecum's inability to get into a rhythm with runners on base often gets him into trouble. Petit pitches exclusively from the stretch.

Lincecum's motion is intricate, busy and almost impossible to reproduce on a pitch-by-pitch basis. Petit's mechanics and demeanor are quiet enough to lull batters to sleep.

"(Petit's) just always very steady-Eddie with his demeanor," said Andrew Susac. "As you saw, he's getting a standing O and he's ready to go on the mound. That's kind of the guy he is. He's a gamer."

Does Petit want Lincecum's spot in the rotation? Absolutely, but it's smarter to let the zeroes in his line score speak instead of making his case with reporters.

"I like (my current role). I know it's not very easy for every pitcher, but I try to make it easy to myself. I try to keep ready to start or relieve, because I know I help my team with the ability to do both," Petit said through a translator.

It's likely Petit will get one more start, but even that isn't a sure thing. The Giants would love to see Lincecum regain his starter's touch. Bochy called Petit a "shot in the arm" for his bullpen all year. He'd rather not relinquish such a valuable, versatile weapon if he can help it.

"It's not up to me. That's the manager's decision. I just try to do my job the best way possible, whether I start or relieve," said Petit.

So much has been made of Lincecum's mental turmoil, not just this year but throughout parts of the last three seasons. Petit has quietly dealt with his own hurdles. Interestingly enough for a relatively soft-spoken man, Petit talks to himself.

His struggles as a starter (6.32 ERA, compared to 1.84 as a reliever) have been well documented. Yet that's nothing compared to resurrecting a major league career after careening off course in 2009 with the Arizona D-Backs, when his ERA ballooned to 5.82. He didn't give up, pitching for the Mariners' Triple-A affiliate in 2010 and for Oaxaca in the Mexican League in 2011 before joining the Giants' organization in 2012.

"I think God gave me a second opportunity," said Petit.

"And I said to myself, 'He's giving me another opportunity. I'm not going to allow myself to not do it.'"

After falling just short of a perfect game against the D-Backs last September, Petit gave himself another pep talk leading into today's historic outing.

"I was more relaxed today. The other time, obviously I knew what was going on. But today I said to myself, 'Hey, this is not going to happen to me again.'"

This time, he succeeded. And after the record was snapped by a double from Jordan Lyles and Charlie Blackmon's single, Petit's pitching was nearly perfect in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.

Because of how Petit handled all that pressure, the Giants and Lincecum get some relief. They aren't forced to put Lincecum back in the rotation because they have no one else, and Lincecum won't start another game until he's ready.

***
Gregor Blanco hit a home run on Sunday off Stephen Strasburg that traveled 399 feet. It was to right-center, which means it might have been caught at AT&T Park.

It's not impossible for left-handed hitters to hit home runs in San Francisco, but it requires a different approach. The last time Blanco went deep here was June 13, 2012.

"Matt Cain's perfect game. That was the last home run that I hit here. It's tough. It's not an easy ballpark to hit homers," said Blanco.

"I was talking to Joe Panik about it and (said) we need to start pulling some balls and not hit it in that gap. That one here, you've got to hit it 430 feet to get a homer. It's too far. But if you can pull it, you've got a chance. I did it, and (Panik) was like, 'No way, he did it.' It was fun."

Blanco's home run in the fifth inning of Cain's perfecto traveled 344 feet. Today's blast went 359, but Blanco knows he can't go changing his role – even after two home runs in less than a week.

"It's not my swing. I'm a guy that tries to stay inside the ball a lot and not to pull it down the line too much," Blanco said.

"It's not my job to do it, but sometimes we need to turn on balls like that and hit a homer."

***
After blowing a save opportunity one night earlier, Santiago Casilla was back out there in the ninth on Thursday. However, that doesn't mean Casilla is the team's full-time closer.

"I'll mix it up. I like (Sergio) Romo there in the eighth with who was coming up. But both of them are fine with whatever role you give them, eighth or ninth inning," said Bochy.

Is Petit a starter or a reliever? Is Blanco a safety-squeezing speedster or a strategic slugger? Who's closing on any given night?

The Giants' third straight win didn't answer any of those questions. Perhaps continuity, predictability and set roles are overrated.

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