Giants & A’s

Matt Kawahara, Bay Area baseball beat writer

Sanchez’s fourth career walk-off hit gives Giants 3-2, 12-inning win

04/16/2014 1:48 AM

04/16/2014 1:49 AM

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants and Dodgers started playing on Jackie Robinson Day and finished on April 16, when Hector Sanchez shot a single off the glove of a diving Justin Turner into center field to score Brandon Crawford from third base and give the Giants a 3-2 win in 12 innings.

"I was hungry," Sanchez said.

In seriousness, though, Sanchez’s walk-off hit allowed the Giants to come away smiling from a game in which they left 16 runners on base and went 2-for-13 with men in scoring position. They left the bases loaded in three different innings, going hitless in five at-bats in those situations.

Credit the Giants’ bullpen with keeping them in it -- seven combined innings, one earned run allowed -- and Brandon Belt with the first of the Giants’ fleeting and much-needed clutch hits. Belt doubled off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen with one out in the ninth and the Giants trailing 2-1, scoring Angel Pagan from first to send the game to extras.

Total game time: Four hours, 54 minutes. Giants manager Bruce Bochy was still 58 years old when the game started. By the time it ended, he was technically 59 (good way to ring in a birthday).

"You have a couple really nice chances, don’t come through, that can be frustrating," said Bochy. "But you’ve just got to keep fighting, and that’s what they did."

For Sanchez, it was his fourth career walk-off hit, his last being a bases-loaded single in an 11-inning win last June 22 against Miami. Sanchez had also batted earlier in this game with runners on second and third and one out in the 10th, and drew a walk to set up one of the bases-loaded scenarios. But Jamey Wright got Angel Pagan to pop out to shortstop and Brandon Belt to fly out to extend the game.

"He’s such a confident kid," Bochy said of Sanchez’s penchant for walk-offs. "He’s a little cocky, but humble. He wants to be up there in a tight situation, and the kid’s not afraid. He wants to play, he wants to be up there with men on base, and he usually gets off some good swings there."

Sanchez got the count to 1-1 before lining what he said was a sinker from Wright past the dive of Turner. Asked why he seems to thrive in those situations, Sanchez demurred.

"I don’t know," he said. ‘Every day for me is different, just try to come to the field and keep working. Before, I was doing probably too much in every at-bat. But now I just try to be the same guy, work every day, learning and get better every day."

It has meant Sanchez has been on the receiving end of plenty of friendly punishment from teammates, who mobbed him coming around first base this time. "These guys kill you when you get walk-offs," Sanchez said. "But it’s a great moment to enjoy. Probably those are the only punches that don’t hurt you."

Sanchez entered in the ninth inning as part of a double switch, replacing Buster Posey. So as Bochy pointed out, Posey caught the equivalent of a regular game and will be available to catch Wednesday night as well.

"Couldn’t have worked out better, really," Bochy said.

* What was Tuesday’s starter Tim Lincecum doing all this time, after coming out of the game in the top of the sixth?

"I came up here (into the clubhouse) and rallied the troops," Lincecum said. "Just holding up a lot of fists, hoping that we’d score some runs."

Lincecum again turned in a short start, throwing 93 pitches in five innings, but allowed one run on a Juan Uribe homer in the second and pitched himself out of the only potential big innings the Dodgers had. Los Angeles loaded the bases on three singles in the fourth, but Lincecum struck out Uribe and Tim Federowicz to escape.

"Just stayed aggressive in the zone, especially against Uribe," Lincecum said about that inning. "He’s good at elevated pitches and hurt me earlier in the game, so just trying to think keep the ball down."

While Lincecum’s ERA is still 7.20 and he’s still searching for his first win, one positive stat is his strikeout-to-walk ratio: 17-to-1. Lincecum has averaged 3.5 walks per nine IP for his career and that number peaked in 2012, when he walked 90 batters in 186 innings. He said he’s consciously trying to attack the zone more this season.

"Guys are being aggressive off me, so just got to work around that a little bit more, but I don’t think I should get in situations where I walk a lot of guys unless the situation calls for it," he said. "That’s what I’m trying to get to now is not giving away hitters."

Bochy said he thought Lincecum "did a real nice job," and that pitch count was the main factor in taking Lincecum out after five innings. The Giants also had a fresh bullpen after Monday’s off-day -- which turned out to be a good thing, as Bochy used all his relievers.

"That’s a big win," Lincecum said. "Especially when you’re winning in the morning."

* Among the individual performances by the Giants’ bullpen, probably none was bigger than the 2 1/3 innings turned in by Juan Gutierrez, who entered with two on and two outs in the seventh, got Hanley Ramirez to ground out, then pitched two more scoreless with three strikeouts. It matched the longest relief outing of Gutierrez’s career.

Gutierrez might have been a dark horse candidate making the team out of spring training, but he has a 2.00 ERA in nine innings with 10 strikeouts and one walk (an intentional one at that). With Jeremy Affeldt expected to come off the DL on Wednesday, there’s a good chance it won’t be a reliever who’s sent down with the corresponding move.

* No guarantee, but this was the kind of game the Giants found themselves on the losing end of far too often last summer when things were going downhill -- handfuls of chances to score, nobody getting the clutch hit. Belt contributed it Tuesday night just in time with his double that just snuck inside the third-base line off a 97 mph fastball from Jansen.

"Just trying to get a strike and put the bat on it and see what happened," Belt said. "And fortunately I was able to keep it within the line. Right there it was more just simplify it as much as possible and do what you can to put the ball in play."

Bochy has already said a couple times this season that, if early results are any indication, "It looks like we’ll be playing a lot of tight games, one-run, two-run games.

"You’ve got to execute, hopefully come through, and get that pitching," he said. "Today the pitching did it. … But these type games are the games that help you get to where you want to go, and that’s having a good year."

* Lost in the final here was Bochy winning a challenge in the 10th inning that looked for a moment like it might directly affect the outcome of the game. Gregor Blanco led off with a comebacker off Wright and was called out diving headfirst into first on a close play. Bochy challenged, and after a 1:25 review, the umpires overturned the call. The challenge went for naught, though, as Blanco was stranded on third.

* One of the few relievers not to get into the game: Brian Wilson, who nonetheless drew a loud chorus of boos both times he went down to the Dodgers’ bullpen to warm up.

* The pitching matchup in Game 2 of the series: Ryan Vogelsong (0-0, 8.00) against left-hander Paul Maholm (0-1, 8.10). First pitch at 7:15 p.m.

About This Blog

Matt Kawahara has covered baseball for The Sacramento Bee for three years. Kawahara, a McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley graduate, joined The Bee in 2010. Before joining Sports, he was a general assignment news reporter. Reach Kawahara at mkawahara@sacbee.com. Twitter: @matthewkawahara.

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