Programming note: Giants-Padres coverage starts Friday at 6:30 p.m. with Giants Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
PHOENIX – Matt Duffy considered the pink cowgirl hat in his locker, the pink six-shooter holster, the $9.99 chaps complete with fringe -- and the fact his own clothes had disappeared.
“I feel so good right now, they can dress me in whatever they want,” he said.
Hey, you might not want to advertise that, kid. The veterans who organize rookie dress-up day are notoriously devious. Even the manager’s son, Brett Bochy, had to wear a blue wig, frilly tutu and Tinkerbell wings.
INSTANT REPLAY: Duffy delivers, Giants gain ground on Dodgers]
The Giants were able to enjoy a happy, gender-bending flight because of Duffy, whose tiebreaking, two-run pinch single in the ninth inning lifted them to a 4-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks and tightened their NL West deficit to two games.
What a way to ride into the sunset.
“He’s got discipline at the plate and he has the kind of composure you like as a pinch hitter,” Bochy said of Duffy, a veteran of 27 major league games who skipped Triple-A and yet is 4 for 10 off the bench for a team in two heated playoff races.
“So I like him up there in that situation. He’s got a simple swing, a short swing. We’re just hoping he makes contact with two strikes. He did more than that.”
Said Duffy: “It definitely adds to it, knowing I’m not the only one who has confidence in myself."
Duffy flung his bat into the stands when he swung and missed at a slider from Arizona closer Addison Reed. After that, he said he tried to stay back a little longer on the pitch. And he went on a hunt.
“I knew he could throw both pitches for a strike,” Duffy said. “I had to honor that.”
He laid off a pitch down to run the count full, then looped his bases-loaded single into center field on another slider.
Brandon Crawford, whose career high-tying fourth hit contributed to the rally in the ninth, watched Duffy’s at-bat unfold as he led off second base. Not long ago, Crawford was the rookie infielder jumping levels and making his big league debut.
“He laid off some tough pitches,” said Crawford, who hit an RBI double, singled three times and scored twice. “Facing a guy like that for the first time, a tough right-hander like Reed, that’s very impressive.
“The game can speed up on you when you’re called up from a lower level,” Crawford continued. “The pitches are faster and seem to have more movement. You just have to keep it simple.”
That is the approach Crawford is taking, too, while batting .452 in September. He has 15 RBIs in his last 15 starts, and his average is up to .246 – nothing that will win him a Silver Slugger, certainly, but it’ll be a victory of sorts if he can lift it above the .248 mark he hit in each of the two previous seasons.
“I decided when I got down to .220, I wouldn’t worry about average this year,” Crawford said. “I’d just try to drive in runs and help us win.”
Madison Bumgarner also shrugged off personal stats, even though with a no-decision after six high-traffic innings, he might have lost his shot at being the Giants’ first 20-game winner in 21 years.
Bumgarner has 18 wins and two starts left, but he’d be scratched for the regular-season finale if the Giants’ playoff destiny is set before that 162nd game.
“I don’t worry about that,” said Bumgarner, who benefited from a lucky carom off the backstop for an out at the plate while holding Arizona to two runs on seven hits and two walks in six innings. “We’re trying to win a division. That’s all I care about.”
Bochy pinch-hit for Bumgarner in the seventh but the Giants couldn’t push ahead to put their ace in line for a decision. But after Jean Machi and Sergio Romo preserved the tie, the Giants loaded the bases in the ninth. Pablo Sandoval walked, Crawford singled and Brandon Belt, who hadn’t seen a live pitch since Aug. 6, came off the bench to work a pinch walk.
“I might have been a little late on the first swing,” said Belt.
More than fashionably so.
“It probably looked 120 mph,” Bochy said. “But to his credit, he stayed in there. And when he’s ready, we’ll get him out there.”
Belt is staying back in Arizona Thursday to face pitching in instructional league. If Bochy receives good reports, it’s possible Belt could be in the lineup at first base soon.
“Well, it’s not like I don’t need it,” said Belt, asked the strangeness about working a tense plate appearance in a pennant race one day and facing prospects on a back field the next. “It’s different, yeah, but it’s necessary. It’ll get me closer to game shape.”
Just a few weeks ago, Duffy was trying to help the Double-A Richmond Flying Squirrels make the Eastern League playoffs. He thought he’d been traded July 31 when he was told to take his equipment bags off the bus in Altoona. He was shocked to learn he’d been called up. And he said he’s feeding off every big moment when Bochy calls for him to grab a bat.
And those bats, by the way, have custom-made decals depicting “Duffman,” the fictional beer mascot from “The Simpsons.” It’s been Duffy’s nickname since high school. The fan who retrieved his bat in the stands appeared to light up when he saw what was on the knob.
If only the Giants veterans had the prescience to find a "Duffman" costume. If only.
"At least I don't have any wigs or a tutu," Duffy said. "So that's good."
(Photo courtesy of Andrew Baggarly - @CSNBaggs)
And now, because this is a tradition that draws intense interest every year, here’s a roll call of Giants rookies and their getups:
Matt Duffy: Cowgirl
Hunter Strickland: Native American chief
Chris Heston: Pocahontas
Joe Panik: Sexy nurse
Andrew Susac: Pink cupcake, with fishnet stockings
Chris Dominguez: Meter maid, with fishnet stockings
(The costume store pretty much sold out of fishnet stockings, I think.)
Brett Bochy: Tinkerbell, with wings and a blue wig
Gary Brown: Tinkerbell II, with wings and a pink wig
Adam Duvall: Hell’s Angel
Erik Cordier: Link from Legend of Zelda
Video coordinator Chad Chopp: Penguin
Trainer Eric Ortega: Baby with sombrero
Conditioning coach Geoff Head: Troll.
They all get to wear major league uniforms again Friday in San Diego. That makes it all worth it.