SAN FRANCISCO -- It was perhaps fitting that, on Heroes and Comics Night at AT&T Park, the game ended with Michael Morse ripping his jersey open, Superman-style, as his Giants teammates mobbed him near first base following one of their more improbable and -- in the words of several players -- satisfying wins of the season.
Morse’s first walk-off hit as a Giant capped a ninth-inning comeback that started with a strikeout and ended with the Giants scoring twice off Mets closer Jenrry Mejia to win 5-4 and improve to 20 games over .500 a week into June.
Angel Pagan led off the ninth by striking out but reached safely as Mejia’s pitch got away from catcher Anthony Recker, who threw offline to first base. Hunter Pence then doubled down the left-field line to score Pagan and tie the game. After Pence tagged up on Buster Posey’s flyout and the Mets walked Pablo Sandoval intentionally, Morse drove a ball into the right-center field gap to touch off the celebration.
"Somebody ripped my jersey," Morse said later of his exuberant display. "I just ripped the rest of it. I don’t know, man, it’s awesome, that kind of feeling.
"This just tells you what kind of team we have. We find a way. We’ve been doing it all year."
Saturday night, the Giants found a way to win a game they seemed to have no business being in entering the ninth. Tim Hudson had his roughest outing of the season, allowing nine hits and three walks in five innings -- but he held the Mets to three runs. The Giants stranded 11 runners on base and went 3-for-12 with men in scoring position -- but they stayed close enough for the last of those three hits to win the game.
"That’s how you make a winning team, just capitalize on the mistakes of the opponent," Pagan said. "We showed that tonight. It’s fun to win, but it’s more fun when you pull out a victory like that."
* Pagan reached base in all five of his plate appearances, three times on singles, including a bases-loaded, two-out hit in the sixth that pulled the Giants within one run and knocked Mets starter Bartolo Colon out of the game. But the play that loomed largest was Pagan’s reaction after swinging and missing badly at a pitch in the dirt from Mejia for strike three in the ninth.
Pagan saw the ball get away from Recker, quickly broke for first and just beat a lunging tag by first baseman Lucas Duda after Recker’s errant throw.
"It’s how you play the game -- you play it right, good things happen," Bochy said. "And hustling down the line -- you can’t take for granted that throw’s going to be right there. I think he did a great job of that."
Morse acknowledged that for many players, himself included, their first reaction in that situation might not be to look for the ball. "I strike out like that, I’m upset with myself," Morse said. "But he hustled right out of the box and got on base, which was a big turning point in the game."
Said Pagan: "You have to take advantage of those kind of mistakes. Sometimes you don’t need a hit to win."
The Giants don’t get much recognition for their speed atop the order, but it certainly was a factor in the ninth. After Pagan reached, he was able to score from first base on Pence’s double into the left-field corner, despite a clean relay home by the Mets. Pence then took third on Posey’s fly ball to fairly deep left field, putting himself in position to score on a potential sacrifice fly or wild pitch and upping the pressure on the Mets.
"Pence got a good read on that ball -- when Buster hit it I thought it had a chance to get off the wall," Bochy said. "He’s not just a fast baserunner, he’s a very smart baserunner."
* Hudson failed to complete six innings for the first time as a Giant (not including the May 22 game in Colorado suspended after three innings), and allowed season-highs in hits and walks. Bochy said that, "Every inning it seemed like they had men on base" -- and that’s because the Mets did in every inning Hudson pitched, getting their leadoff man on in four of them.
Bochy said it looked like Hudson was rushing his delivery early on before settling down some in the fourth. Hudson said that was probably true and credited the Mets with having an aggressive game plan and getting him into the stretch early and often.
"They definitely didn’t make it easy on me," Hudson said. "But honestly, only giving up three runs in five innings, with how I felt out there and the kind of at-bats they were having, I feel pretty good about only giving up three."
Bochy too credited Hudson with "battling his tail off" despite clearly not having his best stuff. He caught a break in the third when Anthony Recker hit a ball off the wall in right with the bases loaded and kept running, forcing Ruben Tejada off second base and, with third occupied, into an easy tag for the second out of the inning.
Hudson then struck out Colon to end what could have been a disastrous inning. In fact, of Hudson’s five strikeouts Saturday, three came with Colon hitting and multiple runners on base -- a big reason why Hudson was able to limit the damage against him. By doing so, Hudson also became the first Giants pitcher in the San Francisco era to have a sub-2.00 ERA through his first 12 starts with the team (he squeaked under at 1.97).
Still, Hudson said afterward he was "as proud of this game as I have been any of them."
"Even though it was probably my worst game from a pitching standpoint," Hudson said. "These kinds of games are very satisfying, because these are the games that most of the time your team loses, when your starting pitcher goes out there and doesn’t really have his stuff. But we were able to battle and win. That’s the mark of a championship club."
* It was mentioned before but bears repeating -- the Giants are 20 games above .500 now at 41-21 and hold a 9 ½-game lead over the Dodgers in the N.L. West. Not that anyone in the clubhouse would confess to paying attention.
"We’re not celebrating anything because we’re playing the way we’re playing," Pagan said. "We’re just going out there and playing like a good team, and that’s fun to be."
It certainly looked like the Giants were having fun as they teemed around Morse on the AT&T Park infield late Saturday night. This game had the makings of a quick one with Colon and Hudson, two typically fast workers, on the mound. It turned into anything but that -- and arguably a signature win in the first half the Giants’ season. The Giants have now won eight games in which they’ve trailed after six innings and five in which they’ve trailed after seven. Both totals lead the National League.
"You have to play to the last out, play hard and see what happens," Pagan said. "That’s the way this team is. We’ll be trailing and we’ll never give up."
The Giants can now go for a sweep in Sunday’s finale. It’s Tim Lincecum (4-4, 5.01) for the Giants and former Giants prospect Zack Wheeler (2-5, 3.89) for the Mets. First pitch at 1:05 p.m.