SAN FRANCISCO – The Giants welcomed back Marco Scutaro with a splint on his pinky. They promptly lost Brandon Crawford to two sprained fingers.
Then came more pain in the eighth inning. That’s when Jeremy Affeldt sustained a self-inflicted stab wound in the form of Jesus Guzman’s two-run pinch homer, which turned a one-run lead into a one-run deficit.
But no matter which way their fingers bend or how much they bleed, these Giants haven’t lost their firm grip on these late-inning comebacks at AT&T Park.
Brandon Belt hit a tying double high off the bricks in right field and Juan Perez slashed a single through the right side, as the Giants rallied for a two-run eighth inning to grasp a 5-4 victory over the San Diego Padres.
Perez starred in every way. The center fielder also threw out a runner at the plate in the seventh inning – his team-leading fourth assist in just his seventh major league game.
The Giants’ 18th comeback win of the season stopped the Padres’ seven-game winning streak. It also prevented the Giants from falling to .500 for the first time since the season’s opening week.
Starting pitching report
The home run came back to bite Matt Cain, but he flashed sharp canines and incisors in his seven innings, too.
He struck out 10 for the 11th time in his career and the first time since June 13, 2012 – a date that should seem oddly familiar to you. (It was the night he pitched a perfect game against the Houston Astros.)
Cain didn’t take long to get in a groove. After Logan Forsythe singled and stole a base to start the game, the right-hander retired the next 15 batters in order. He had snap on his two-seamer and appeared to have extra movement on his changeup and slider.
But he hit turbulence in the sixth, when he doubled up on 0-2 sliders to Nick Hundley and then, two batters later, Forsythe jumped on a hanging curveball. Both pitches ended up in the left field bleachers, snapping Cain’s streak of five consecutive starts without allowing a home run.
Cain has given up 15 home runs this season; only Washington’s Dan Haren (18) has allowed more.
The two homers allowed the Padres to tie, and they threatened to take the lead after Will Venable hit a one-out double that appeared catchable but glanced off Gregor Blanco’s glove in deep left field. Cain recovered to strike out Chase Headley, last year’s NL RBI leader, on an especially nasty slider. Then Kyle Blanks flied out to deep center to end the inning.
Cain needed more help to preserve the tie in the seventh after Mark Kotsay hit a leadoff double. Chris Denorfia followed with a ground single that found a seam between a lunging Cain and a diving Scutaro. But Perez charged it and came up throwing. The low throw was on line and the bounces skipped true to catcher Buster Posey, who made his own acrobatic play to brush Kotsay as he tried to slide around the tag.
Affeldt entered with a 1.37 ERA since May 1 and he hadn’t been scored upon in 10 of his last 11 appearances.
Make it 10 of 12. And the two exceptions have come at Cain’s expense.
First there was the three-run homer Affeldt allowed to Paul Goldschmidt at Arizona on June 7. Then came Tuesday night, when Affeldt entered with a 4-3 lead and lost it in a three-batter span. Forsythe walked and Guzman hit a 3-1 fastball that disappeared over the center field fence.
Affeldt bent at the waist and contemplated his misdeed. It was only the third home run he’s allowed over his last two seasons; two of them have come against the Padres.
Jean Machi got just one out, but it was an important one. He induced a ground ball to strand both of Affeldt’s runners and ended up getting credit for the victory.
Sergio Romo, appearing for the first time since he blew a save Saturday at Atlanta, pitched around a two-out single and struck out Forsythe to record his 17th save in 20 chances.
At the plate
The Giants put runners in motion all game long against right-hander Andrew Cashner, who is known to throw pitches in the dirt. Gregor Blanco stole second base in the first inning and scored without a play when Buster Posey muscled a single into right field.
They made it 2-0 in the fourth inning when Belt singled and raced to third on Nick Noonan’s single. Joaquin Arias followed with a double-play grounder that plated the run.
They put Cain in position for a win when Arias scored the tiebreaking run in the seventh. He had advanced on Perez’s sacrifice bunt and scored when Gregor Blanco whacked a first-pitch fastball for a single up the middle.
The Giants needed one more rally, though. Posey hit a leadoff single in the eighth off Dale Thayer and Belt crushed a 2-0 pitch off the arcade. Pinch runner Andres Torres read it right and scored without a play to tie it. Then Perez got enough wood on a 3-2 pitch that was probably below the strike zone.
It was a moment of elation in the ballpark, although there was concern for Crawford. The Giants’ shortstop sprained the middle and index fingers on his right hand and departed after three innings. He sustained the injury while sliding headfirst into second base on a failed stolen-base attempt in the second inning.
Perez’s assist was his fourth in just his 42nd defensive inning. The rest of the Giants outfielders have combined for 5 assists in a combined 1,828 innings.
The Giants announced 41,884 paid on a chilly night on the shores of McCovey Cove.
The Giants and Padres complete their three-game series Wednesday at AT&T Park with the rubber match. Madison Bumgarner (6-4, 3.30 ERA) takes the mound against left-hander Eric Stults (6-5, 3.28), who is coming off a two-hit complete game against Arizona. First pitch is scheduled for 12:45 p.m. PDT.