The San Francisco Giants came behind to beat their division rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers, in extra innings Wednesday night, and it may have been just the shot in the arm they were looking for.
The Giants couldn’t get anything started against Dodger starter, Alex Wood, who carried a no hitter into the sixth inning. Buster Posey was the only Giant to get a ball out of the infield until Drew Stubbs smoked a ball through the 5-hole to lead off the sixth.
Johnny Cueto pitched well, but a Dodger rally in the top of the sixth put three runs up on the board, starting with a 465 foot home run to center field off the bat of Corey Seager. Cueto would finish the inning by pitching through traffic, but that would be all for the righty. All told, Cueto went 6 innings, allowed 3 runs on 7 hits in 6 innings, and struck out 5.
Likewise, Wood left the game after completing the sixth, and the Giants were glad to see him go. The lefty had thrown just over 70 pitches, but has been on a limited pitch count in his new starting role. It was no surprise when manager Dave Roberts replaced him with slider specialist, and ex Giant, Sergio Romo. But the move didn’t pan out. With one out, Romo gave up a base hit to Buster Posey (his old battery mate), and then faced rookie Christian Arroyo. Arroyo proceeded to launch his first career home run over the left field wall.
“[Arroyo] has brought some energy,” Posey said. “He doesn’t look overmatched at the plate… He looks comfortable. Obviously he had the big homer today — off of a guy that’s historically really tough on right handers.”
The Dodgers had the lead heading into the eighth, but Giants manager Bruce Bochy still had a few cards left to play. He pinch hit Michael Morse in the pitchers spot. Morse, a hugely popular figure in San Francisco given his postseason heroics in 2014, was called up earlier in the day to reinforce the Giants beleaguered outfield. After a massive ovation, Morse swung and missed mightily at a pair of fastballs. Then, he sent a third fastball sailing into the left field bleachers. Hair flying, fist pumping in the air, Morse celebrated his return to China Basin with a game tying home run, and the stadium lit up like a Roman candle. It was 2014 all over again.
“You kind of just shake your head a little bit because it was very similar to… the home run he hit in the playoffs against the Cardinals,” Posey said. “The exit out of the box was pretty similar.”
“Swing hard,” Morse said when asked about his approach at the plate. “Swing hard just in case you hit it. [Pedro Baez] throws hard, you’ve got to respect it… I told myself to stay short, and try to touch it. I was just trying to put it in play.”
Morse’s homer tied the game and ignited a crowd that had been quiet throughout most of the game, but the Giants and Dodgers were still knotted, 3-3. Baez managed to work his way out of the inning without further damage, and the game wore on. Neither team scored in the ninth, so on they went to the tenth.
The Dodgers were held scoreless once again by a resurgent Giants bullpen and some nifty defense from first baseman Brandon Belt, who scooped up a slow roller that nearly went foul to steal an out.
In their half of the tenth, the Giants loaded the bases with no outs against Ross Stripling, who was pitching in his second inning of relief. Hunter Pence came to the plate and proceeded to have one of the most entertaining at bats of the game. Stripling, a curveball specialist, went right after Pence with high fastballs — and I mean high fastballs. The MLB pitch tracker dotted some of the pitches well above Pence’s eyes. Pence, an aggressive hitter who was likely looking for a curveball (which would break down into the zone if left up), swung at these pitches, and repeatedly fouled them off.
“We were having some laughs in that at bat,” Bochy said. “He had that, ‘Thou shalt not walk,’ motto I guess in that at bat because he was hacking… If he would have walked, it would have gone down as one of the most amazing walks ever, with all the balls he swung at.”
Cueto, who watched the at bat from the clubhouse, noted that some of the pitches looked like pitch outs, but also that he was glad Pence fouled them off. Posey backed Pence up, saying that he’s seen his teammate hit pitches like that over the wall from time to time.
In the end, though, it wasn’t a home run that ended the game. Instead, Pence finally got a pitch in the zone and drove it to deep left field. The ball was caught, but Gorkys Hernandez was able to tag up from third and score the winning run.
Though the at bat would have been amazing had it ended with a walk, the sac fly was more exciting.