Sandoval enjoys hitting opposite-field home runs the most
Pablo Sandoval hit three home runs in a game for the first time since Game 1 of the 2012 World Series. (AP)
SAN DIEGO – Giants manager Bruce Bochy, GM Brian Sabean and the coaching staff sat around at Petco Park past midnight after Tuesday’s loss, spitballing how they could get this wasteful, singles-slapping offense going.
Someone must’ve said, “Hit more home runs,” and dropped the mic.
Obviously, it’s not that easy. But the game sure gets a lot simpler when you can pound a few over the fence. The Giants stunned by hitting six of them Wednesday afternoon – the first time they’ve done that in almost two years – and Pablo Sandoval mashed three of them while collecting a career-high six RBIs in a 13-5 victory over the San Diego Padres.
The combined eight home runs were the most in a game in Petco Park’s 10-year history.
Brandon Crawford hit a solo shot in the first inning, Hunter Pence hit a two-run homer in the fourth, Hector Sanchez added his own two-run shot later in the fourth and Sandoval followed Pence’s double with a two-run homer in the fifth.
Sandoval added a solo shot in the eighth. Then his intent was clear as he took some huge rips in the ninth, and he connected for a three-run shot over the left field fence. It was his first career regular-season three-homer game. And yes, the words “regular season” are necessary in that sentence, as Justin Verlander could tell you.
You could say the stage was a bit dimmer than Game 1 of the World Series last October, when Sandoval hit three home runs against the Detroit Tigers. But this power output was almost as unexpected.
Forget six. Forget five, too. The Giants hadn’t hit FOUR home runs in a game since Sept. 18, 2011, when they cracked open a six-pack at Coors Field. They hadn’t even hit three homers in a game since way back on May 12 of this season.
They entered the day with just 80 homers in 139 games and were on pace to hit just 92 – 10 fewer than the 102 they hit last year, which ranked as the fewest in the major leagues.
That pace has changed. Funny how an afternoon of trotting can put the spring back in your step.
Starting pitching report
It’s been a wasted season, but something extraordinary happens when Tim Lincecum pitches at Petco Park. He threw 148 pitches without allowing a hit July 13, you’ll recall.
Pitching here for the first time since that unforgettable night, he lost his no-hit bid on the first pitch to leave his fingertips.
Will Venable stroked a single to begin the inning. It was the start of a wild sequence that included a stolen base, a hit batter, a walk, a passed ball (that scored Venable) and a single. But Lincecum struck out two with the bases loaded to limit the damage.
He threw 33 pitches in that inning – a pace for 297 in the game. This time, there was no need to extend him.
Light-hitting Ronny Cedeno crushed a 420-foot shot into the upper deck in he second inning and Chase Headley hit a solo shot in the fifth. But Lincecum mixed elevated mistakes with pitches down in the zone. He got a pair of double-play grounders that helped him stabilize the game into the sixth inning.
Lincecum issued a pair of walks in the sixth and departed with two outs and an 8-3 lead. He ended up getting charged for five earned runs, though, because Mijares happened.
Lincecum (9-13) still managed to win his third consecutive start – something he hadn’t done since April 9-20.
Jose Mijares threw three pitches, all for strikes. And that sounds better than it was.
Mijares is cashing in runs like he’s afraid the check’s gonna bounce. He gave up hits to both batters he faced and allowed both of Lincecum’s inherited runners to score. It’s part of a disturbing pattern for the left-hander, who has allowed opponents to hit .593 (16 of 27) with runners in scoring position over his last 12 appearances.
He has allowed 19 of 45 inherited runners to score this season. That's 42 percent. And that's terrible.
The 19 inherited runners scored is the most of any NL reliever.
At least Jean Machi kept Mijares’ two runners from scoring to keep it an 8-5 lead. Then Sandy Rosario got roughly 1,000 feet of outs on three deep fly balls in the seventh.
At the plate
Padres left-hander Eric Stults is not William Van Launchingpad. He’d allowed a perfectly reasonable 12 home runs in 174 2/3 innings, and hadn’t given up multiple homers in a start since June 3.
But Crawford turned on a fastball and hit a shot down the right field line to put the Giants on the board. It had to be a gratifying swing for Crawford, who had been 1 for 22 on the first eight games of this road trip. He entered in a 4-for-45 slump against left-handed pitchers, too.
Pence was next. He followed Brandon Belt’s single by mashing a hanging curve for his 18th homer to put the Giants ahead. Pence is two more long balls away from becoming the first Giant to join the 20-homer, 20-steal club since Barry Bonds in 1998.
Brett Pill singled and Sanchez hit a breaking ball out to cap the four-run fourth and give the Giants a 5-2 lead.
And after Pence doubled in a run in the fifth, Sandoval greeted right-hander Brad Brach with a homer into the patio area where the Padres pulled in the fences over the winter. Sandoval later slipped one over the left field fence against right-hander Brad Boxberger in the seventh, then connected off right-hander Anthony Bass in the ninth.
It was Sandoval’s third home run in three plate appearances. Prior to that, he had hit three home runs in 303 plate appearances, dating to May 21.
One more stat: The Giants hadn’t hit three home runs with runners on base all season until Wednesday. In fact, they did it just once last year – June 13, 2012, when Belt, Gregor Blanco and Melky Cabrera each hit two-run shots.
Joaquin Arias turned two double plays and looked good in the process. He’s going to get more time at second base as Marco Scutaro rests his chronically sore back.
Only the Cincinnati Reds have turned fewer double plays than the Giants’ 105 this season. Given the many, many baserunners the Giants have allowed this season, that tells you a lot.
The Padres announced 15,762 paid. That’s the smallest paid crowd for a Giants game this season – by more than 3,000, too.
By the way, how many Brads are there in the Padres bullpen?
The Giants return home for seven games with the Diamondbacks and Rockies. Ryan Vogelsong (3-4, 5.49 ERA) is scheduled to open the series with Arizona on Thursday, opposing right-hander Trevor Cahill (5-10, 4.39). It’ll be Yusmeiro Petit (2-0, 3.12) against left-hander Patrick Corbin (13-5, 2.96) on Friday, Matt Cain (8-8, 4.43) against right-hander Brandon McCarthy (3-9, 4.94) on Saturday and Madison Bumgarner (11-9, 2.91) against left-hander Wade Miley (9-10, 3.78) on Sunday.