DENVER — After prevailing at Coors Field, the Giants took a moment to have some fun in the clubhouse. The victory soundtrack was paused and a team official presented former Kansas City Royals outfielders Nori Aoki and Justin Maxwell with their American League champion rings.
“You could kind of tell they were poking fun at me,” Aoki said, smiling wide as translator Kosuke Inaji relayed his words. “Everyone was like, ‘Congrats, but our ring is made out of all gold.’”
Yes, this is a clubhouse where an AL champion ring looks like a toy, but even this group of World Series champions isn't beyond feeling some relief after a win in the third week of the season. It’s April 25 and there’s a long way to go, but both Bruce Bochy and Tim Hudson made a point of mentioning that this was a big win for the Giants.
“I thought we had to win this one,” Bochy said. “We had the lead there in the ninth and they tied it. This was a big game for us.”
A big game in April?
“These are the kinds of wins that get us going as a team,” Hudson explained. “The tough, grind them out, come in to play against a really good team (wins). We needed it … We didn’t want to go into tomorrow trying to salvage one game. We’re in position now to win the series.”
[Instant Replay: Giants rally, take down Rockies in extras]
They are thanks in large part to Aoki, their perfect leadoff hitter tonight. The left fielder had four walks, the final one coming in the 11th. With Aoki on third, Angel Pagan on first, and one out, Joe Panik came up to hit and showed some wisdom well beyond his 91 games in the big leagues. Panik had grounded out in a previous at-bat against Rockies right-hander Brooks Brown and knew he would see a steady diet of fastballs down in the zone and changeups. He also knew his swing wasn’t locked in after 10 innings spent on the bench. He also knew that he doesn’t lift the ball in general, calling himself “someone who can hit into a double play.”
So, Panik bunted toward first.
“That’d be the easiest way to do it,” he said of driving Aoki in.
The run scored, the Giants won, and then they capped it off with a mini ceremony.
“It was a very, very good 15 minutes,” Aoki said.
The first-year Giant admitted that he tried the Royals ring on as soon as he got it, but it doesn’t sound like he’ll be wearing it often.
“It was nice,” Aoki said, “But I’d like to win a championship.”
--- There were some learning moments in this one. Ron Wotus and Brandon Crawford spent a few minutes with Matt Duffy as reporters talked to Aoki and Panik. Duffy got caught in between on the game-tying grounder in the ninth. The Giants were at double-play depth but the ball wasn’t hit hard enough for Duffy to go home. Drew Stubbs is too fast to double up 4-6-3 there, so coaches preferred that Duffy immediately go for the tag on the runner headed for second and then try to throw Stubbs out at first. A moment of hesitation cost him, but hey, it didn’t cost the Giants, and you can bet Duffy won’t make that move again.
The second learning moment was one for the team. Justin Maxwell’s homer was not initially called a homer, and he said he only realized that when he was rounding third and went to high-five Roberto Kelly. “He said the ball is still in play,” said Maxwell, who was tagged out but later given a homer on review.
Bochy mentioned that it was a good lesson for guys; you have to run a play out if there’s any ambiguity. I would also imagine that Bochy will want Kelly to be a bit more forceful next time and make sure Maxwell stops at third if Kelly knows the ball is still in play.
--- Andrew Susac hit his first homer of the season and the fourth of his career. At some point the Giants will cut down to just two catchers. It seems to be a pretty easy decision given how Susac is playing.
--- Angel Pagan tied his career-high with four hits.
--- Maybe it’s just not meant to be with Hudson and Coors Field. He gave the Giants everything they could hope for in a Coors Field start, but had the win blown in the ninth. Hudson once lost a win here when Craig Kimbrel, of all people, blew a two-run lead.
“The main thing is we won the ball game,” Hudson said. “I haven’t had a chance to personally get a notch in the win column, but this game would have really stung if we had lost.”
Hudson got better as the game went on and said he’s felt that way in most his starts.
“I’m not sure what it is, maybe it’s these old bones,” he said. “They start getting lubricated up a bit.”