PHOENIX – What a game at Chase Field. What a month for the Giants.
What a night for Pablo Sandoval.
The Panda connected for his most important home run since his three-gun salute off Justin Verlander in the World Series. He crushed a no-doubt, two-run shot in the ninth inning that screamed over the pool in right field, and flipped his bat with panache.
The majestic shot carried the Giants to a 2-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks and capped off a wild April in which the club finished with a 15-12 record – including eight comeback victories.
Angel Pagan hit a leadoff single in the ninth to end Trevor Cahill’s bid for a complete game, then stole second base. Arizona closer J.J. Putz managed a rare swinging strikeout from Marco Scutaro.
But Sandoval, who left Monday night’s game in the sixth inning with right elbow discomfort, brought his own brand of painkiller. He fouled off a slider before reaching out to barrel up an 85 mph splitter on the outer half.
The shot erased Arizona’s 1-0 lead, which journeyman Josh Wilson provided with a solo shot off Santiago Casilla in the eighth. The Diamondbacks couldn’t touch Madison Bumgarner, who held them to three singles and a walk in seven shutout innings yet didn’t get a decision.
Sandoval earlier had singled and flied out to the warning track. He’s got 11 hits in his last 17 at-bats, his 22 RBI trail only the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera among major league third basemen.
His 35 hits are tied with Pittsburgh’s Starling Marte for the most in the National League, too.
Starting pitching report
Bumgarner is like the gold coin in a purse full of subway tokens.
In a month of ruts and potholes for the starting staff, the young left-hander finished April with a 3-0 record, a 1.55 ERA and an extraordinary 0.86 WHHIP (walks, hits and hit batters per inning).
Bumgarner gave up a few hard-hit balls but they were at defenders – notably Alfredo Marte’s lineout to right fielder Hunter Pence with runners at the corners in the fourth inning.
That was the only time the Diamondbacks had a runner reach third base against Bumgarner, who is winless in his last two starts – both against the Diamondbacks – despite holding Arizona’s lineup to a grand total of just one run in 14 1/3 innings.
They don’t sell Josh Wilson jerseys in the ballpark gift shop. He is 32 years old. He is a packed suitcase with feet. His six-year major league career reads like an itinerary spit out by a travel web site with some serious coding issues.
Florida, Washington, Tampa Bay, Arizona, San Diego, Seattle, Arizona (again), Milwaukee, and aw, what the hell, back to Arizona for a third stint.
He had nine home runs in 1,040 plate appearances, and none in nearly two years.
But Wilson stepped into his moment in the eighth inning. He fouled off three two-strike pitches from Casilla before hitting a 92 mph fastball over the left field fence.
Casilla issued a two-out walk and yielded to right-hander Sandy Rosario, who made it a successful Giants debut when he got Martin Prado to ground out to short.
It turned out to be even better for Rosario, who walked into his first major league victory while making his 69th appearance over four seasons.
The winning pitchers in this series are Jean Machi and Rosario – which means the clubhouse attendants will have to restock the beer supply after the Giants doused their relievers with celebratory suds in the shower for the second consecutive night.
At the plate
The Giants had trouble with Cahill’s sinker all game and made lightning quick outs.
After Pagan’s leadoff single in the first inning, they didn’t hit another fair ball out of the infield until Scutaro and Sandoval hit consecutive singles to start the fourth.
It was their best rally against Cahill, but the Diamondbacks snuffed it out with a terrific defensive play. After Buster Posey flied out, Pence followed by smoking a hard two hopper to the left side. Arizona shortstop Cliff Pennington not only made a diving stop to keep it on the infield and save a run. He also got to his feet quickly and threw for a forceout at second base.
Gregor Blanco struck out looking to end the inning, and the Giants did not pose a threat the rest of the night. Cahill only allowed one baserunner over the final five innings, a walk to Posey in the seventh, and then promptly erased him by getting Blanco to ground into a double play.
The Giants made it a tense and thrilling end, though.
Pennington’s play stood to be the difference maker. But he couldn’t exactly put on his floaties and go after Sandoval’s home run now, could he?
The Diamondbacks announced 20,319 paid to see Brandon Belt’s first hitless game in Arizona since the Gadsden Purchase.
The Giants finish their six-game road trip and their three-game series at Arizona’s Chase Field on Wednesday. Tim Lincecum (2-1, 3.64) tries to pitch the Giants to a sweep while he gets to spar once again with his nemesis, Paul Goldschmidt. Right-hander Brandon McCarthy (0-3. 7.48) takes the mound for Arizona. First pitch is scheduled for 6:40 p.m. PDT.