SAN FRANCISCO — Minutes after Eduardo Nunez walked into the Giants clubhouse for the first time, manager Bruce Bochy called a team meeting. It was then that Nunez found out just how poorly his new team had been playing since the All-Star break.
The newest Giant smiled as he was told that it’s been a rough couple of weeks around here. His old teammates, the Twins, are 20 games worse than his new ones.
“All year long (the results) have been terrible in Minneapolis,” he said. “I didn’t even know the Giants were struggling.”
Perspective was provided by Nunez on Friday and a day later by Hunter Pence. The right fielder was thrilled that he came back to first-place team, even if that lead was hanging by a thread. He immediately set about contributing on the field (smashing a double in his first at-bat) and off. Pence brings a special blend of optimism, and he can help keep a team grounded in good times and bad.
Even with Saturday’s 5-3 win over the Nationals, the Giants have just three second-half victories. Pence urged teammates to look past the results and focus instead on being better. His solid return included a play where he got doubled off second base on a liner to left, and Pence pointed out that the mistake forced him to step up his focus.
“If we’re harping on (wins and losses) we’re probably not going to get the results we want,” Pence said. “It’s a good day and we need to continue to grow from it.”
The Giants generally do a good job of heeding that advice, and for most of this run they have held a solid approach. But in recent days, the mood in the clubhouse noticeably changed. It’s not too difficult to move on when you’ve played a bad game or series. When the skid hits two weeks, you become a bit desperate.
“It’s been feeling like that for a while,” catcher Buster Posey said. “It’s a great win. A great team win.”
Having lost 11 of 13 since the break, Bochy managed a bit differently. With his team trailing by three in the fourth, Bochy called Peavy back from the on-deck circle. There were two on and one out, and Mac Williamson hit for Peavy, who had thrown just 74 pitches.
“Bochy managed like it was a playoff game,” Peavy said. “That’s 100 percent the right call. We’re down three with the offense needing every opportunity to kick the door down.”
Said Bochy: “It was one of those games where I felt we had to throw everything at them.”
Williamson didn’t kick the door all the way down, but he put a dent in it with a walk off rookie Reynaldo Lopez. Nunez followed with a liner to the gap, scoring two.
“It just lifts the ballclub when somebody comes through like that,” Bochy said.
Williamson then charged home on Angel Pagan’s grounder to first. The Giants later added a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded. The bullpen pitched five shutout innings. The little things added up.
“That’s what wins games for you,” Bochy said.
Nunez had the hit that’s been missing most of the last two weeks, and it came in his third Giants at-bat. In Minnesota, he had just seven at-bats all season with the bases loaded. The Giants seemingly spent most of Saturday batting with the bags juiced, and while they didn’t take full advantage, they finally did enough for a win.
Nunez, who hasn’t played in a postseason game in four years, was all smiles afterward. He said this is why he was happy to come here even though the trade was a shock. The Giants are thrilled to have him, and the first day with Nunez in the starting lineup went pretty well.
“That’s a huge win, obviously, with what’s been happening here,” Bochy said. “Good for the guys. I know it’s a lift for them.”