Perez: 'I had a lot of butterflies'
Juan Perez collected two game balls Sunday, one from a spectacular catch and another from his first MLB hit. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
PHOENIX – What was faster than Juan Perez when he sprinted in a blur, crashed into the center field wall, made a tremendous catch and held on through the impact – all in the first major league inning of his life?
How about Andres Torres talking about it?
“Wow,” Torres said. “That was amazing, great catch, great defense, huh? Great jumps. Amazing. I was like, wow. Impressive. Great defense. Good speed, really good, you know? Really good athlete, man, impressive, impressive, amazing. Wow. What a jump. Oh yeah, I love it.”
Perez emerged with more than a lifetime memory in the Giants’ 6-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks Sunday at Chase Field -- the club’s first road series win since they swept three games here more than a month ago.
Perez hit an infield single to collect his first hit and RBI. He got the game ball from the hit. And he wasn’t giving up the ball from that catch, either.
He also came away with a sore back and ribs on his left side, but otherwise felt no pain.
“I’ll be fine for tomorrow,” he said, showing all his teeth.
Someone will have to tell Perez that the Giants don’t play Monday. He’ll have to wait until Tuesday at Pittsburgh for another chance. The 26-year-old might need that long to return all the texts and phone messages he received.
His catch would’ve been spectacular in any context. The fact it came just three batters into his career as a big league outfielder made it all the more remarkable. He went full speed into the wall and stayed down for 20 seconds or so because he had the wind knocked out of him.
Then he made the long jog back to his dugout. He was more than a big leaguer. He was a conquering hero.
“Standing ovation,” said right-hander Chad Gaudin, who had to grit through his own issues, pitching six strong innings despite stomach distress that had him running to throw up in the third and sixth.
“You make a catch like that, you’re sacrificing your body for the good of the team,” Gaudin said. “Not everybody does that. It was deserving of a standing ovation.”
Said Giants manager Bruce Bochy: “I was hoping it wouldn’t go out and the next thing he was catching it. … After the adrenaline wore off, he was pretty sore.”
Football players often tell you the best way to get rid of butterflies is to knock them out with the first hit. Perez found a way to apply that approach to baseball.
“It was in the ballpark so I said, `I’ve got a chance to catch it,”’ said the Bronx native, who wasn’t drafted or recruited by four-year colleges out of high school. “I’ve run into some walls in the minor leagues that have no padding. Richmond … oh, that hurts.”
Gaudin said he felt queasy just prior to the first pitch and lost his lunch a couple times during the game but felt better afterwards.
When you’re fighting to keep your sports drinks down, you don’t get too embarrassed about getting thrown out on a 9-6 fielder’s choice. That’s what happened after Gaudin hit a bleeder to the right side and ended up reaching on an error.
Torres followed with a sinking line drive to right field that would’ve been a tough read for any runner, and Gerardo Parra, who has a terrific arm, came up firing after fielding it on a bounce.
Gaudin is 1 for 47 in his major league career. When was the last time he remembered being on base?
“Well, it’s got to be San Diego (in 2009),” he said. “I got a hit against (Jason) Grilli. That was my only other hit.”
That’s when Gaudin remembered the scorer gave Arizona first baseman Paul Goldschmidt an error for a missed catch.
“Or, wait … he didn’t give me a hit?” Gaudin said. “That’s jacked up.”
As for the baseball gods cursing him with a tough read?
“That’s all right,” he said. “It was probably better I sat down, with the way I felt.”
After holding an opponent to two runs over six innings for the second consecutive start, there’s little doubt Gaudin will get the assignment again Saturday in Atlanta.
Gaudin made an error when he threw off line after fielding a bunt. If not for that blemish, the Giants would have played their eighth consecutive errorless game.
That’s darn important, since they led the majors in errors in May.
Buster Posey still leads all NL players in All-Star balloting after the latest update provided by the league on Sunday. Pablo Sandoval leads at third base, with roughly a 200,000-vote lead on David Wright.
Don't take orthopedic advice from me. Prior to the game, I tweeted that Santiago Casilla had progressed from two crutches to one, but he appeared to be using it on the wrong side. Head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner set me straight afterwards. Turns out when you have a leg injury, you use your crutch on the opposite side. My apologies to Mr. Casilla. So much for that degree I received from Hollywood Upstairs Medical College.
Casilla's younger brother, Jose Casilla, is making great progress as well. After missing more than a year because of Tommy John surgery, the one-time top relief prospect made his first start Friday for Single-A San Jose and got 10 ground outs in 3 2/3 innings. His power sinker is his best pitch.
There's a lot of terrific pitching at San Jose, and you'll see the club well represented if you go to see the Cal League take on the Carolina League in the Single-A All-Star Game June 18 at Municipal Stadium.
Ty Blach (pronounced BLOCK) has a 2.70 ERA and a 57-to-6 strikeout/walk ratio in 66.2 innings. The Giants hope to get top prospect Kyle Crick back soon, too. He's throwing in extended spring after hurting his oblique in his third start of the season in mid-April.
Eric Surkamp continues to progress in his rehab from Tommy John surgery. He went two-plus innings Sunday in his second rehab start and retired six of his eight batters while striking out two. He threw 42 pitches and will start again Friday at Visalia.
It’s coming up. Thursday, June 13 is Matt Cain Day in San Francisco, by mayoral proclamation. It’s the one-year anniversary of his perfect game.
And how perfect is this? Cain is starting, at Pittsburgh.