LOS ANGELES – Pablo Sandoval used a pink bat to interrupt the mother of all slumps.
And he did it when it really mattered.
Sandoval wasn’t the only hero as the Giants locked jaws on a 7-4, 10-inning victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Mother’s Day to take a third consecutive series from their fat-walleted archrivals and finish a banner 7-3 road trip.
But it was Sandoval whose RBI single, his third hit of the game, broke a tie in the 10th. It was his first three-hit game of the year. It was his first RBI in 21 games. He chunked up that iceberg in the first inning, when he doubled in a run off Clayton Kershaw.
More than anything, in a game and on a trip when so many players put in their piece, Sandoval for once wasn’t puzzled at the plate.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Sandoval hits go-ahead single, Giants win 7-4]
There’s just one problem. He can’t use his pink Mother’s Day bat on Monday.
“If they let me, I’ll use it,” said Sandoval, flashing a smile that has been missing from the clubhouse all season. “I’ll use it.”
Sandoval entered the game hitting .173 but batted fourth because Giants manager Bruce Bochy wanted to give a day off to several players, including Michael Morse. When Sandoval saw the sheet, he sought out his manager.
“He asked me how much I had to drink last night,” Bochy said.
For once, Sandoval spiked the punch. He and the Giants even weathered Sergio Romo’s first blown save of the year. Hanley Ramirez hit a tying, two-out home run in the ninth. The Giants responded by loading the bases with no outs in the 10th. And this time, Sandoval didn’t kill the rally.
He was ecstatic. So were his teammates.
“So much of this game is between the ears,” said Tim Hudson, who had some bad luck in the sixth and left trailing 2-1. “A lot of people think it’s physical and mechanics and it is at times. But you know a great player is in there, and to get back to (being) that great player, it’s between the ears and getting that confidence back.
“I hope this will be something that will kickstart him to where he believes. Because we believe in him.”
Said Bochy: “He’ll turn around. He’s got a little bit of swagger now and he’s got to keep it going."
The Giants can walk in whatever fashion they want across the tarmac to their charter flight home. A three-city, 10-game trip is never easy. The Giants went 7-3 on theirs, and they did it against three teams (Braves, Pirates, Dodgers), that played playoff baseball last October.
“We felt we had some tough losses,” Hudson said. “It could’ve been even better.”
Said Bochy: “I can’t say it surprised me because I think they’re that good out there. Here it is the 10th game of a trip and they tie it in the ninth and they come right back against their closer. I can’t say enough about it.”
Angel Pagan had a thought flash through his mind when Ramirez’s low liner barely slipped over the fence in the ninth.
“I was leading off the next inning,” he said. “So I get it in my mind and my heart to have a good at-bat.”
He did, drawing a walk and scoring on Sandoval’s hit. Pagan also made perhaps his best throw as a Giant, heaving a one-hop strike in the fifth inning to throw out Adrian Gonzalez at the plate.
There were so many of those plays in this game, and so many on this trip. Shortstop Brandon Crawford filled a half-hour highlight show by himself. He added two more in a game he didn’t start Sunday. And we haven't even mentioned Brandon Hicks' huge, two-run homer off Kershaw that put the Giants ahead in the seventh.
That’s how you build to a 24-14 record, the best in the NL. That’s how you take three series from an opponent that is outspending you almost 2-to-1. That’s how you come home with seven victories on a road trip in which you lose your starting first baseman for at least six weeks.
“We never stop fighting,” Pagan said. “When we trail, we keep fighting. We keep putting pressure. That’s just the attitude of this team and I love it.”
That’s why Sandoval claims he never bashed his head against the wall despite hitting .173 in a free-agent walk year.
“We’re in first place,” he said. “Why am I going to be sad? Why am I going to be worried?”
What has Sandoval seen around him?
“No matter who’s in the lineup, bench guy, pinch hitter, everything, defense, offense, everything, we put all the pieces together and have a great game,” he said. “That’s what is special in this team. Everybody puts in a piece to win games.”
Including the third baseman.