SAN FRANCISCO — Matt Duffy’s first career walk-off came last season on Mother’s Day, and to celebrate he sent the custom bat to his mom. Duffy’s second career walk-off came Saturday, a day before players around the league will swing pink bats and wear pink spikes. Will this bat also be sent away as a keepsake?
When he was asked, Duffy looked down at his current bat, a lightly-shaded Model I13L Max Bat with his name stamped on it.
“That’s the first swing I took with that bat …” he said, smiling. “And I felt really good so I don’t want to give it to anybody.”
Saturday’s fresh piece of lumber smoked the game-winning double into left field in the 13th inning and gave the Giants a 2-1 win they felt very, very good about. On a day when the Rockies rode a young right-hander -- Jon Gray -- with a 96 mph fastball and hard slider, the Giants did a lot of things right to get in the win column.
It started with Johnny Cueto, who threw 8 1/3 innings to save a bullpen that would be needed the rest of the long afternoon. It ended with Duffy capping a 13th-inning rally, and in between Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford came up with huge hits. And then there was Joe Panik, in his second game back from a groin injury, making a defensive play that takes a prominent spot on an already-long highlight reel.
The Rockies had a runner on first and two outs when Gerardo Parra smacked a grounder up the middle in the top of the 13th. Panik stopped it with a dive, sliding into the outfield on the wet grass.
“With the position he was in when he was lying on the ground, I didn’t think he’d even be able to get a throw off,” Duffy said.
Panik knew he had no shot at the speedy Parra at first.
“The only shot was to try to get rid of it and do a Kareem hook shot,” he said.
Panik flipped the ball to Crawford, who stretched all the way out. Arenado was called safe, but the Giants immediately challenged the play. Panik hadn’t even seen the conclusion live because he was in such an awkward position on the ground, and as he watched the replay for the first time the call was overturned.
Scouts have long felt that Panik will win a Gold Glove one day, and it’s hard to argue with the resume. His flip to Crawford in the World Series will forever be at the top of the list, and he also made an incredible sliding play during a rehab assignment last season. Panik said that Saturday’s play had the greatest degree of difficulty.
“Obviously the situation in the World Series was a lot bigger, but (this one) was more difficult because of the distance I had to throw the ball,” Panik said.
In the dugout, Panik’s teammates roared and headed for the steps to congratulate the second baseman.
“It pumped some life back into us and into the stadium,” Duffy said. “Nobody really has the momentum at that point, but it shifted it to our dugout.”
Conor Gillaspie drew a pinch-walk a few minutes later and Denard Span followed with one of his own. Duffy then ended the game, four hours and 20 minutes after the first pitch. More than anything, Bochy reacted with a sigh of relief. The last man standing in the bullpen was Albert Suarez, a long reliever who has never pitched in the big leagues.
“We were down to our last pitcher,” Bochy said. “It’s hard to get a bigger hit than what Duffy got.”
--- Cueto has pitched 20 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings at AT&T Park. In the middle of Saturday’s run he was involved in a bizarre play at first, when Rockies catcher Tony Wolters tried to slide under him on the way to first.
“I really don’t know what he was trying to do,” Cueto said through interpreter Erwin Higueros. “I know I fielded the ball. I think he was trying to get me out of my game.”
It didn’t work. Cueto pitched into the ninth for the second time in three starts. He also showed Wolters the proper way to handle that play.
--- Duffy would win a Gold Glove if the other third baseman in today’s game didn’t exist. He’s gotten that good over there, and he’s getting better every day. Duffy made a running basket catch of a pop-up in the 11th on a play he came up short on earlier in the series.
“The other night I felt I was under it but I wasn’t, so today I kept running,” Duffy said.
He hasn’t even been a third baseman for a full year yet. The more those nuances are figured out, the better he’ll get.
--- Derek Law got his first career win and probably got a beer shower. This, from his father (a former big leaguer), was my favorite reaction to it.