SAN FRANCISCO – Gregsman Blanco picked one heck of a night to see his brother play a major league game for the first time.
Giants left fielder Gregor Blanco had two of the club’s five hits off Stephen Strasburg, he of the 90 mph changeup that might be illegal in some states. Then Blanco hit the two-out, two-strike triple in the ninth that rescued the Giants and sent the game to extra innings.
He did it all in a 4-2, 10-inning victory against the Washington Nationals – the team that didn’t call him up from Triple-A Syracuse when he played there in 2011.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Giants 4, Nationals 2]
“I know he’s proud,” Blanco said of his youngest brother, who is seven years his junior. “He watched my career since I was a little kid. It makes me happy to play like this today.”
Blanco entered the game quietly hitting 11 for 29 (.379) with runners in scoring position. With pinch runner Andres Torres at first base, it was almost the same thing.
When he got to two strikes against Washington closer Rafael Soriano, Blanco didn’t choke up. He knew it would take an extra-base hit to tie the game, and he didn’t lower his sights.
Nats right fielder Bryce Harper told Washington Times reporter Amanda Comak to pin the loss on him, that he should have caught Blanco’s deep drive over his head, and that yes, a collision with the wall did go through his mind after he took 11 stitches from his face plant at Dodger Stadium last Monday.
But Blanco didn’t think Harper should be so hard on himself.
“I knew I hit it hard and they’re playing no-doubles, playing deep,” Blanco said. “But this is a tough park to read the ball. I know I’ve played right field. (Bryce) Harper did a great job to try to catch it.”
Yes, Blanco knows right field here. Nobody appreciates that more than Matt Cain, he of the perfect game.
“That’s the thing about Blanco,” Cain said. “He does a lot of quiet things for us. He’s sneaky at the plate. He works counts, he’s messing with the pitcher. He’s a good guy to have on your side.”
Even against someone like Strasburg.
“I’ve been feeling better, man,” Blanco said. “I came in early because we knew we’d face a power pitcher. I tried to prepare myself to hit that fastball.
“They’ve got a great team – a better team than last year. All we want to is to play our game the same way and don’t worry about who we’re facing.”
It’s refreshing that a young superstar like Harper would be willing to lay down not just one sacrifice bunt in a game but two, while trying to help his team manufacture a run.
But Harper is also a tremendously dangerous hitter. If you’re the Giants, you had to be saying, “oh, yes, please and thank you” each time Harper squared to bunt. And if your opponent is thinking that way, don’t you have to reconsider your strategy?
Then again, maybe Harper is still banged up from that collision with the wall, and isn’t as confident in his ability to do damage at the plate right now.
Marco Scutaro’s average as a Giant last year: 362.
Scutaro’s average after another two-hit game Tuesday night: .337.
“It’s kind of laughable at times,” Cain said. “He seems to be getting hits out of nowhere.”
Last week in Toronto, Scutaro walked in the eighth inning still needing a hit to keep his streak alive. He ended up getting another at-bat in the ninth, and singled.
He entered the eighth without a hit Tuesday night – and still ended up with his 12th multi-hit game out of his last 13. Amazing.
Two outs that loomed huge in retrospect: Javier Lopez striking out Adam Laroche with a runner at third base in the eighth. And Jean Machi getting his only hitter to ground out to strand both of Lopez’s runners.
Cain’s refusal to let the Nats add to their lead in the fourth inning was pretty key, too – especially the shovel pass he made to get a forceout at the plate.
I asked him if he did any option quarterbacking in his younger days growing up in Tennessee.
“No, but I had to think back to high school and playing second base,” Cain said. “That’s how they taught us to turn double plays. I guess I naturally reacted and did that.”
All these comeback wins are starting to feel like a natural reaction, too.