Batting with the bases loaded in the third inning of a tied game Wednesday afternoon, Giants rookie catcher Andrew Susac hit a sharp line drive into left field for a clean single, his first major-league hit and RBI.
The ball, fielded by Pirates left fielder Travis Snider, found its way back to Giants hitting coach Hensley Meulens, who held it up toward Susac and clapped as the Roseville native and Jesuit High graduate returned to first base, grinning broadly.
“I just wanted to get it off my chest,” said Susac, who had been hitless in his first four at-bats since being called up Saturday.
“They said it doesn’t linger, but it did. I was telling someone, a couple more 0-fer’s and my family probably wouldn’t be cheering for me anymore.”
After losing six consecutive games, there was finally reason for the Giants to smile as they beat the Pirates 7-5 and avoid the ignominy of a winless homestand. After totaling six runs in their previous six games, the Giants eclipsed that total Wednesday to overcome Tim Lincecum’s shortest start of the season – albeit with some help from their opponent.
After Gregor Blanco tied the score at 5-5 in the seventh with a single – one of three hits for Blanco – the Giants scored the go-ahead run on a passed ball by Pittsburgh catcher Chris Stewart. Stewart retrieved the ball with a shot at throwing out Joe Panik, who was sprinting in from third, but his throw to reliever Justin Wilson was off-line as Panik crossed the plate.
The Pirates also ran themselves out of a potential rally in the sixth. With runners on second and third, Giants relief pitcher Jean Machi walked Stewart to load the bases with one out. But Machi saw Snider straying off second base and threw behind him to Brandon Crawford, starting a bizarre play in which both Snider and Gaby Sanchez, the runner on third, were tagged out in rundowns.
“I haven’t seen that,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of the heads-up throw from Machi, who said Crawford helped alert him to Snider’s mistake. “We’re in a tough spot there, bases loaded and one out, and to get a double play probably saved us. ... We got a break there.”
The same perhaps could have been said of the first inning, when the Giants scored three runs off Pirates starter Charlie Morton with a rally that included two infield singles, two walks – one with the bases loaded – and a soft RBI single from Blanco that just carried over the glove of shortstop Jordy Mercer. Pablo Sandoval also singled home a run in the eighth following an error by Pirates second baseman Neil Walker that left two runners on.
“We put the ball in play today,” Bochy said. “A lot of the balls weren’t hit hard, but as you’ve heard me say, good things can happen.”
The Giants’ 12 hits were their most in a home game since June 15 against Colorado, and they won for just the seventh time in their past 28 games at AT&T Park. The Giants also avoided what could have been a dubious first since moving to San Francisco in 1958 – losing every game of a homestand of six or more games.
“I think we can all eat solid food now here for a while,” Bochy said.
Five Giants relievers combined for 52/3 scoreless innings after Bochy – able to exhaust his bullpen with an off-day today – relieved Lincecum with one out in the fourth inning as the right-hander clearly struggled with his command.
Lincecum allowed two home runs – a solo shot by Josh Harrison in the third inning and a two-run homer by Mercer in the fourth – and walked Stewart after Mercer’s at-bat to end his shortest start since July 8, 2012. Lincecum has allowed 11 runs in his past two starts but said his problem Wednesday was a mechanical one isolated to this outing.
“I tried to make a difference and stay back on my back leg, and it kind of worked against me,” Lincecum said. “Instead of driving through my front leg, I was kind of peeling off, and I couldn’t right the wrong at that point. It was a frustrating thing.”
His early exit made for an eventful afternoon for Susac, who caught six different pitchers, many of them for the first time in a game.
Bochy said Susac has “done a nice job behind the plate” and that it was good to see him record his first hit, especially when the Giants “needed a hit” with the bases loaded.
Susac’s teammates appeared to try the traditional ball-switch trick, tossing a different ball into the stands, but Susac said he hadn’t noticed and that he was expecting to receive the ball from clubhouse manager Mike Murphy as soon as it was authenticated.
“I think my dad earned it,” Susac said of his father, Nick. “He stuck around for a couple of 0-fers.”