SAN FRANCISCO – There is no denying it now. This is the year of the bunt. And if it takes microscopic small ball to win this October, then the Giants are only too happy to increase the magnification.
The Giants have been outhomered 12-2 by the St. Louis Cardinals in this postseason and overpowered by a tally of five to none three games into this NL Championship Series. But they grabbed a 5-4 victory in the 10th inning Tuesday afternoon with one more of their signature rallies: a walk, a single, a sacrifice bunt and a very, very bad throw from left-hander Randy Choate.
After blowing the four-run lead they tallied in the first inning, and then going whisper silent the next three turns through the lineup, the Giants walked it off in the 10th inning and took a 2-to-1 lead in this best-of-7 series.
Brandon Crawford drew an eight-pitch walk, Juan Perez fouled off two bunt attempts before whistling a single, then Gregor Blanco fouled off another sacrifice. The next one made third base coach Tim Flannery proud, and when Choate flung it well wide of first base, Crawford ran home with the winner.
Starting pitching report
Tim Hudson could not have asked for a better beginning to his first career start beyond the best-of-5 Division Series.
He received a four-run lead in the first inning and he held it -- all the way until the final pitch he threw.
Working his curveball off his sinker, Hudson threaded his way through the Cardinals lineup the first time around, retiring eight of nine batters. Kolten Wong provided the exception with a two-out double.
Wong struck again in the fourth inning. Hudson gave up consecutive singles to Jon Jay and Matt Holliday to start the inning, but the right-hander saw daylight after Matt Adams flied out and Jhonny Peralta chased a disappearing, two-strike curveball. When Hudson tried an 0-1 curve to Wong, though, the rookie unleashed one of his high-kicking swings and sent a drive to right-center. The wind pushed it off the bricks and well beyond Hunter Pence’s reach for a two-run triple that cut the Giants’ lead in half.
In the fifth, Hudson missed on a two-strike pitch and grazed Lackey – the first time a pitcher had been hit by a pitch in postseason play since Tommy John hit Steve Carlton in 1977. But Hudson calmly fielded Matt Carpenter’s comebacker and started a 1-6-3 double play to get out of the inning.
The Cardinals got another run back in the sixth after Jay hit a leadoff single, advanced on two ground outs and scored when third baseman Pablo Sandoval couldn’t knock down Peralta’s hard single.
Bochy’s bullpen was active as far back as the fifth but he stuck with Hudson into the seventh. After A.J. Pierzynski lined out, Hudson started Randal Grichuk with a cutter that stayed on the plate and the rookie’s home run hit the foul pole.
Hudson struck out five, did not walk a batter and gave up seven hits. He was a winner until his 89th and final pitch.
Jeremy Affeldt got the final two outs of the seventh, and despite some loud contact, he retired all three batters he faced in the eighth.
Then Bochy went by the book, bringing in his closer in the ninth inning of a tie game at home. Santiago Casilla got Wong to line out and blew away Grichuk with a fastball in a 1-2-3 inning. Casilla hasn’t allowed a hit in seven consecutive postseason appearances dating to the 2012 NLCS.
In Casilla’s last 10 outings this year dating back to Sept. 11, opponents are 0 for 33 with a walk and a hit batter and seven strikeouts against him.
Bochy had his last chance to match up in the 10t, using Javier Lopez and then bringing in Sergio Romo after Jay hit his third single of the game. Romo fell behind 3-1 on Holliday but placed a slider for a strike, and then Sandoval made a sprawling, backhand stop of a hard grounder down the line to get the Giants out of the inning.
The Giants were out of lefty pitchers, and they barely kept Adams in the on-deck circle.
At the plate
Joe Panik said it after the Game 2 loss: “We’re doing the little things. It’s only a matter of time before you get the big HR or that double to drive in three."
That time arrived in the Giants’ next turn at bat. Panik blistered an out to center field that required an acrobatic catch from Jon Jay, and there were two outs, none aboard and no warning what was about to happen.
Buster Posey singled. Sandoval singled. Pence took an 0-2, chest-high fastball and flicked it into the right field corner for an RBI double. Brandon Belt drew an intentional walk. And Ishikawa, whom Bochy had elevated from eighth to seventh in the lineup, was in the right spot at the right time.
Ishikawa turned on a first-pitch fastball from Lackey and hit a high drive to right field that the gusting wind both knocked down and pushed from right towards center. It hit the base of the wall but at such a steep angle it’s hard to say Grichuk could’ve made a play on it. With the runners on the move, the Giants had three runs home almost before the ball finally struck the No. 7 archway.
Ishikawa had a double, the Giants had a 4-0 lead and those who could remember back a dozen years to the 2002 World Series enjoyed a bit of revenge against Lackey.
The former Angel rallied back like a gorilla, though. The Giants managed no runs and just one hit against him over the next five innings, and it was Hudson who collected the single.
The Giants fared no better against Marco Gonzalez, Pat Neshek or Seth Maness, going down in order against each of them in the seventh, eighth and ninth. Michael Morse came off the bench with a chance to win it in the ninth, but he hit a squibber to first base to send the game to extra innings.
They finally got a baserunner in the 10th – their first since Hudson’s single in the fourth -- when Crawford worked an eight-pitch walk against Choate.
Perez, who entered in a double switch in the seventh, fouled off two bunt attempts. But that left a matchup against a pitcher who struggled against right-handed hitters all season. Perez lined a single to left field, and Blanco followed by fouling off his own bunt attempt.
But Blanco deadened the next one, Choate threw it well wide of first base, and Crawford scrambled home to score without a play as the Giants spilled out of the dugout in celebration.
Pence and Grichuk had enough daylight left to go kiteboarding in McCovey Cove, if they were so inclined.
It wasn’t an easy day to play the outfield. Gregor Blanco made a diving catch of a sinking line drive in the eighth and Cards left fielder Matt Holliday nearly got fooled by a fly ball that the wind knocked down.
The Giants announced 42,716 paid. You could get a cheap ticket on the secondary market. Good luck with the hotel room, though.
The Giants and Cardinals meet in Game 4 of the NLCS on Wednesday at AT&T Park. Ryan Vogelsong (0-0, 1.59 ERA) is scheduled to oppose Cardinals right-hander Shelby Miller (0-0, 3.18). First pitch is scheduled for 5:07 p.m. PDT.