SAN FRANCISCO -- What was Mike Leake's first impression of Kelby Tomlinson?
"Where did he come from?" Leake said, smiling.
The answer, technically, is Chickasha, Oklahoma. But for the Giants, Tomlinson has come from the same place as so many other Giants youngsters who have turned out to be saviors. Chris Heston saved them early when Matt Cain went down and Matt Duffy became a middle-of-the-order force in the summer months. Now it's Tomlinson's turn, and he's quickly building his resume.
A day after hitting a grand slam in a win over the Cubs, Tomlinson smoked a single up the middle to give the Giants a 5-4 walk-off win over the St. Louis Cardinals. With Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik missing from the middle of the infield, the Giants keep chugging along thanks to a rookie who is making a name for himself and forcing his way into more playing time.
What will Bochy do when he has his full squad?
"It's hard to answer that right now until those guys come back," he said. "When a guy is playing the way he is, you try to find him all the playing time you can. He's earned it. We'll mix it up. It's going to help our bench, I'll say that."
Crawford is due back Monday and Panik could start a rehab assignment Tuesday, but neither will be playing at 100 percent the rest of the season and Tomlinson should allow Bochy to rest his All-Stars as needed. Matt Duffy is playing on a sprained ankle and continues to play well, but that could be another spot where Tomlinson finds a spot start or two. That's an issue for September, and thanks to Tomlinson and others, the Giants will be right in the race next month.
Marlon Byrd added a grand slam of his own Friday and Mike Leake gave Bochy innings on a night when Wacha was a couple errors away from taking a shutout into the late innings. Leake was the star early, retiring the first nine Cardinals he saw, and Byrd, another former Red, took over. Byrd knows the Cardinals well and he said he knows that their aces like to bury their curveballs in the dirt. He waited for Wacha to leave one up.
"Gosh, I've had a tough time against Wacha," said Byrd, who was 0-for-17 against him going into that at-bat. "He's tough. I got one pitch to do something with. Just be aggressive, be aggressive ... They're taught over there to throw the breaking ball short so you've got to get the one that's up."
With the way Leake was pitching, Byrd's homer looked like the decisive blow. But the Cardinals have the league's best record for a reason and they fought back. The Giants didn't panic.
"I've been on teams where you get a four-run lead and then give up a run or two and it's tied up and the air comes out," Byrd said. "This team is built to win."
Tomlinson did the honors with the bases loaded and five defenders in the infield. He said the strange look didn't bother him.
"It doesn't really change what I'm trying to do there and that's hit the ball to the outfield," he said. "The fact that they put in another infielder doesn't change your approach."
He kept it simple and won the game. And then he flipped his bat. Later, Tomlinson watched the replay on a reporter's phone.
"I was like, man, I don't usually do that," he said, smiling. "Now it's embarrassing. Yeah, jeez ... I usually don't like to do anything like that. Yeah, jeez, man ... I didn't know it was going to look like that."
The moment, Tomlinson said, was as special as the standing ovation he got after his grand slam. He's averaging about one ovation a night, and earlier got one when he jumped to snag a liner and then threw to first for a double play. The fans aren't the only ones showing support. Tomlinson said he spent much of Thursday night answering texts from friends and family members. He was in for another long session on Friday night.
"You can't script this," he said. "It's been a blast."
--- This was the fifth walk-off of the season for the Giants but their first since May 10. The eight grand slams are a franchise record and the most in the Majors this season. The last time they recorded grand slams in back-to-back games: 2003 (Pedro Feliz and Rich Aurilia). Of course, Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey did it in the same game last season.
--- Wacha probably hates this place. His last two appearances at AT&T Park have ended with walk-off wins by the Giants.
--- The Giants announced that Ed Creech, a senior advisor for scouting, was inducted into the Professional Scouting Hall of Fame. Creech is in his seventh season with the Giants, and the press release included this line: “He’s had a hand in drafting Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Matt Duffy, Joe Panik, and Buster Posey, all key contributors on the Giants Championship teams.” Yep. Put that man in the Scouting Hall of Fame.