SAN DIEGO — The Giants left several injured players at home when they flew here Sunday, knowing that the visitors clubhouse at Petco Park couldn’t hold a full September roster. But Hunter Pence made the trip, eager to keep working toward what at first seemed like an unlikely return.
The Giants hope to get Pence back when they return to AT&T Park next week, and Pence is doing his best to keep another brand of hope alive in the clubhouse. What was the Reverend’s latest message to a team that looked dead in the water?
“Miracles can happen,” Trevor Brown said, relaying a message Pence gave a couple days back. “You never know. Keep playing hard.”
The Giants remain six back with 12 to play, but they’re in a much better position than they were in over the weekend. They have picked up ground on the Dodgers on three consecutive days and continue to hold out hope that they can chip another game or two off the deficit before a four-game series at AT&T Park that begins Monday.
“Until there’s an ‘E’ by our name (in the standings), 100 percent it’s doable,” reliever George Kontos said.
Kontos played a huge part in Tuesday’s festivities, stranding the bases loaded in the fifth by getting Matt Kemp and Justin Upton to pop out and fly out, respectively. First came Kemp, and Kontos briefly flashed back to past encounters. Kontos struck Kemp out in a huge spot near the end of the 2012 season, helping the Giants beat the Dodgers in Los Angeles.
“That always kind of sneaks back into the back of my mind,” he said.
Next came Upton, who entered 0 for 10 in his career against Kontos. On a 3-2 pitch, he skied a fastball deep to left-center.
“With his body language, it seemed like he hit it better than he did,” Kontos said. “Once it went up and I saw the trajectory, I knew it wasn’t going to go out.”
Angel Pagan and Alejandro De Aza inserted some drama into the moment by nearly colliding, but the ball was caught and Pagan took much of the drama out of the rest of the night with a two-run homer to right. At the same time, the Dodgers gave away another game started by a pitcher not named Kershaw or Greinke. The two will start six more times down the stretch, making the math a bit more impossible for the Giants, but on Tuesday night, this task seemed just a tad less daunting.
“You pick up a game and it makes it a little more doable,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “We have to go out there and win, that’s what it comes down to. It’s been a tough go trying to pick up a game on them, they’ve been playing so well. (This win) should give them hope.”
Bochy’s cockroaches are back within six games for the first time since Sept. 1. On this night, that was enough to bring smiles to faces.
“I talk about this so many times,” Bochy said. “You never know …”
--- Chris Heston said this was about as good as his stuff has been all year. He struck out six in the first three innings.
“I’m on the right track,” he said. “I’m going in the right direction.”
This definitely was an encouraging outing for Heston. He’ll learn to put some guys away a little quicker, but the stuff is plenty good enough to plant him in a big league rotation. He had issues in recent weeks getting out of the first inning, but he cruised early on tonight.
“I was able to get back in the strike zone there early,” he said. “Stuff-wise, I’m happy with where I’m at. I need to focus on being aggressive in the strike zone and getting deeper into games.”
--- Brown took a shot off the throat early and was dizzy as he walked out to see Heston, who called for the trainers. He ended up being just fine, and he picked up his first career hit and RBI on a hard double to center. He also continued to show that he’s a pretty solid defender behind the plate and the arm is a strong one.
“Crazy day, crazy day,” he said. “But it was a blast.”