SAN FRANCISCO — Bruce Bochy didn’t even know he was on the cusp of 800 wins with the Giants until a reporter pointed it out before Saturday’s game. A day later, Bochy laughed as he noted that the milestone victory came in an appropriate fashion.
This one, like so many of them, was a nail-biter, with the Giants giving up the lead three times before Conor Gillaspie smoked a ball into the corner in the ninth, sending Ramiro Pena racing for home. The moment set off a celebration at AT&T Park and gave Bochy a perfect ending to No. 800. A man who has found so many different ways to beat opponents edged the Phillies 8-7 when two journeymen infielders came through in a big spot. Afterward, Pena, a Giant for all of nine games, perfectly summed up the Bochy Era.
“They trust everybody,” he said. “Bochy says we trust all the young guys and the guys in Triple-A who get called up to the big leagues. They trust everybody here.”
That trust carries over into games, and Pena is the latest in a long line of players who have turned in their best baseball for a manager headed to the Hall of Fame. The winning pitcher Sunday was Cory Gearrin, who came to San Francisco after his elbow blew out. Gearrin asked friends around the game to suggest a manager who would take care of him and put him in the right spot. The clear choice was Bochy.
The winning hit came from Gillaspie, who left and then came back, as so many of Bochy’s players have. Bochy stuck with him through an early slump and has thrust him into a big role since Matt Duffy’s injury. Gillaspie delivered his second career walk-off.
“It’s that way every game over here,” Gillaspie said. “It seems it’s someone different who always contributes and steps up.”
The Giants needed the late heroics on a day that looked like a breeze early. Johnny Cueto was given a four-run lead. He had not allowed more than two earned since May 2, but the fighting Phillies — who impressed the Giants all weekend — turned the tide after Cueto hit a batter.
Young Phillies starter Aaron Nola had hit three Giants and when Cueto plunked Maikel Franco in the next inning, both benches were warned. Cueto had given up one hit up to that point, but he said the warning changed his game, forcing him to abandon inside pitches for fear of getting ejected. He felt the unraveling happened when home plate umpire Doug Eddings then stopped giving him the outside corner.
“The umpire changed my rhythm that I had going,” Cueto said through interpreter Erwin Higueros. “(Those pitches) were strikes. He gave me those pitches earlier in the game. After I hit Franco, the strike zone changed dramatically.”
Cueto said there was no intent. The Giants didn’t think Nola was throwing at hitters, either. He was simply a 23-year-old who lost command. Regardless, Cueto lost his touch. He glared at Eddings after the end of one inning and humped it up to 95 the next time he faced Franco, walking him. The Phillies scored four straight to tie the game.
“He was cruising and then we got the warnings and it seemed that threw him out of sync,” Bochy said.
The Phillies kept coming, tying the game again in the seventh and then once more in the eighth. Brandon Crawford, who had a quietly brilliant game, had given the Giants their second lead. Angel Pagan, who had four hits, put them up a third time.
The fourth lead would be the winning one. Pena came up with one out in the ninth and hit a sky-scraping fly to right that dropped in the corner, fair by a few feet. Gillaspie stepped up and told himself to stay calm.
“I’m guilty of sometimes trying to be more aggressive and forcing things,” he said.
This time he didn’t. The walk-off was the seventh of the season for the Giants, who now lead the National League with 49 wins.
“It was appropriate having this type of game, a tortuous game,” for No. 800, Bochy said.
Bochy needs 23 wins to catch Bill Terry, and at this rate he’ll get there within a month. He needs 40 to catch Dusty Baker, and that also looks like a lock for 2017. John McGraw, the franchise leader, is a bit further away. He won 2,583 games as a Giant. Bochy smiled as he noted that record.
“I don’t think John McGraw has anything to worry about,” he said.