SAN FRANCISCO – On the ice or the grass, it was one heck of a good night to be a Shark.
A Panda, too.
Gregor “White Shark” Blanco lit the lamp at the last possible moment for the Giants. His two-out, two-strike triple in the ninth inning erased the Washington Nationals’ one-run lead.
Then Pablo Sandoval turned extra innings into his personal home run derby, crushing a tape-measure, two-run shot deep into the chilly night as the Giants exploded for a 4-2, 10-inning victory Tuesday night.
Sandoval’s home run was his eighth of the season – and the second walkoff homer of his career, with the other also coming against the Nationals in 2009. This one capped off the Giants’ 13th comeback win of the season.
It was also the Giants’ third walkoff homer of the season, joining Buster Posey and Guillermo Quiroz; they didn’t have one all of last year.
The Giants improved to 15-1 when holding their opponent to two runs or fewer this season.
Starting pitching report
It’s a common piece of advice scrawled on so many scouting reports describing so many great starting pitchers over the years:
Get to them early, or you might never get to them at all.
That’s exactly how it played out for Matt Cain and Stephen Strasburg. Cain left some mistakes at the belt in the first inning, and the Nationals hit enough of them while scoring a pair of runs on two doubles and a single.
Strasburg had trouble finding his bearings as well, issuing two walks and loading the bases. But when your changeup is 88-90 mph, the scouting reports only help so much.
Aside from that jumpy first inning, Cain continues to round into form. Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond each hit run-scoring doubles in the first inning, but Cain settled into a good groove after that. He faced the minimum in five of his final six innings while striking out seven.
It was the first time the Giants received a start of at least seven innings and no more than two earned runs since May 12. And it was Cain’s third quality start out of his last four.
He kept the Nats off the board in the fourth inning after a walk, a single and a sacrifice put two runners in scoring position with one out. After hitting Roger Bernadina with a pitch, Cain scooped up a dribbler from Kurt Suzuki and made like an option quarterback with a sidelong pass to the plate for a forceout. Then Cain struck out Strasburg to end the threat.
Javier Lopez gave up a leadoff double in the eighth, but he got a key strikeout and Jean Machi stranded two inherited runners. Sergio Romo followed with a scoreless ninth. It was just Romo’s third appearance in 13 days.
Jeremy Affeldt worked a perfect 10th inning – his ninth consecutive scoreless appearance – to earn the victory.
At the plate
Strasburg had trouble locating in the first inning, which is not anything new for him. He entered the game having allowed nine of his 26 runs in the first inning; opponents were batting .308 against him in the first and .198 the rest of the way.
Angel Pagan walked and was wiped out on Marco Scutaro’s double play, but the Giants still managed to load the bases when Sandoval and Posey singled and Hunter Pence looked at ball four. Brandon Belt took a golf swing through an 88 mph changeup to end the inning, though.
The Giants managed a run in the second inning when Blanco singled, advanced on a sacrifice and scored on Pagan’s two-out hit.
Then Strasburg tightened up. The Giants managed just one more hit against him and he retired the 10 hitters he faced. His changeup bordered on unfair; a 89-mph pitch struck out Posey in the third inning. Then a 90-mph changeup – yes, those exist – overpowered the reigning NL MVP for another strikeout in the sixth.
Strasburg had thrown a high and tight fastball earlier in that at-bat that put Posey in the dirt.
The Giants got the tying run into scoring position in each of the last two innings, as the crowd buzzed in anticipation of another comeback.
They weren’t appeased in the eighth, after Marco Scutaro hit a two-out double to the wall in left field off Tyler Clippard to extend his hitting streak to 19 games – one short of matching the 20-game streak that Scutaro rattled off to end last season. Pablo Sandoval fouled back a pitch down the middle before grounding out.
But down to their last strike, the Giants did it again. Posey led off with an infield single and pinch runner Andres Torres stayed stuck to first base on two fly outs.
Then Blanco hit closer Rafael Soriano’s two-strike slider to deep right field. Bryce Harper, who needed 11 stitches after face-planting into the Dodger Stadium wall last Monday, appeared a bit tentative as he raced back. The ball one-hopped against the wall for a triple that scored Torres.
It was the first earned run Soriano allowed since April 9.
Scutaro whistled a single up the middle to precede Sandoval’s homer in the 10th – making it 12 multiple-hit games out of 13 for the No. 2 hitter, who ended the day with a .337 average.
Sandoval connected on Yunesky Maya’s 1-0 pitch. And just like that, the Giants positioned themselves to try for a sweep against the vaunted Nats – a team that beat them soundly in five of six meetings last season.
Cain’s shovel pass was the defensive play of the night, and came straight out of Derek Jeter’s playbook. Because he’ll be moved up to pitch Sunday, Cain won’t face the A’s next week.
The Giants managed to win on a night that plate umpire Bruce Dreckman's strikeout did more floating than the raft in "Life of Pi."
The Giants announced 41,642 paid on Until There’s A Cure Night.
The Giants and Nationals complete their three-game series Wednesday afternoon. Madison Bumgarner (4-2, 3.09 ERA) is scheduled to start against Washington left-hander Gio Gonzalez (3-2, 4.01). First pitch is scheduled for 12:45 p.m. PDT.