SAN FRANCISCO -- How banged up are the Giants right now? When Matt Duffy rolled his ankle in the first inning Wednesday night, Giants manager Bruce Bochy was forced to entertain the idea of doing what dozens of armchair GMs have suggested in recent years -- at least for one night -- by using Buster Posey at third base.
It didn’t come to that. Duffy managed to play the entire game on a sprained right ankle, and the shorthanded Giants rode a determined outing from Jake Peavy and some timely hitting in the sixth inning to a 4-2 win over the Chicago Cubs, gaining a game in the wild card race and staying 2 ½ games behind the Dodgers despite a rash of injuries in their clubhouse that is nearing epidemic proportions.
Already without shortstop Brandon Crawford on Wednesday due to oblique tightness, the Giants had to scratch center fielder Gregor Blanco from the lineup before the game with a left hip strain. Then, as he was getting back into first base on a pickoff throw in the first inning, Duffy appeared to get tangled up with the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo, and hobbled for a few minutes while being checked by a trainer before staying in the game.
The very next play the Cubs picked over to first base, causing Duffy to dive back into the bag. Later in the at-bat, Duffy stole second.
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The Giants were equally resilient. After Chicago scored twice in the top of the first, aided by the Giants letting Kyle Schwarber’s infield pop-up fall for a 20-foot double, the Giants answered with two runs in the bottom of the inning, tying the game as Kelby Tomlinson beat out a potential inning-ending fielder’s choice at second with the bases loaded. They went ahead in the sixth, when Posey doubled to right-center to drive in Brandon Belt and Tomlinson lined a double to right to score Posey.
Peavy recovered from the rocky first inning to pitch into the seventh, departing only after Nori Aoki whiffed on a Tommy La Stella liner in left field that gave the Cubs men on second and third with one out. With the Giants nursing a two-run lead, Hunter Strickland entered to strike out Addison Russell on a 96 mph fastball, and Javier Lopez threw a third strike past Schwarber to end the inning.
"Those guys came through for us and saved the game there at that point," Bochy said. "I look at Jake’s job. What a terrific job … I think this might have been one of the guttiest efforts I’ve seen by a pitcher, with that good lineup and some things that happened in that game."
Peavy recorded a key strikeout of his own in the sixth. With runners on first and third and one out, he got Rizzo to swing at strike three, then coaxed an inning-ending flyout out of Kris Bryant, who’d hit a two-run single in the first. Peavy didn’t even watch the flight of the ball, instead stalking toward the dugout while pumping his fist and yelling.
"We needed this game," Peavy said afterward. "I mean, I don’t think it was a secret."
The question was how they would manage it with a depleted lineup and a bench made up of backup catcher Andrew Susac and backup outfielder Justin Maxwell. Bochy later said Blanco was available to pinch-hit, but not to play defense. Crawford was not an option. After Crawford left Tuesday’s game in the eighth inning, Bochy used Juan Perez as his emergency infielder -- but Perez was starting in center field Wednesday due to the injury to Blanco.
Yet as Bochy said after the game, the lack of options only meant he had fewer moves to consider. And when Peavy lasted into the seventh, it allowed him to deploy his bullpen as he wanted. After Strickland and Lopez got the Giants through the seventh, Sergio Romo pitched a scoreless eighth and Santiago Casilla a perfect ninth to secure the win.
"We’re banged up," Bochy said. "But they fought today. With all the injuries, getting down two runs in the first inning, it was just a gutty effort by everybody."
* The Giants appear to have caught a break with Duffy, who went for X-rays after the game that came back negative. Duffy was diagnosed with a sprained right ankle and is day-to-day.
"My guess is he’s going to be pretty sore tomorrow," Bochy said. "We’ll see where he’s at."
Duffy’s initial reaction looked like it could have been worse. But he showed considerable grit with the steal of second base and by tagging up for third on Posey’s fly ball to center. Duffy played the rest of the game after having the ankle wrapped.
* Blanco said he thinks he injured his hip Tuesday night, possibly in the late innings on a play where he scored from first base. He said he didn’t feel it until he got home that night and it acted up again Wednesday afternoon.
Blanco didn’t seem to think the strain is serious, but said he thought it best to be cautious. "I just didn’t want to push it," he said. "I don’t think we need another guy on the disabled list. We have plenty of guys on the disabled list. I don’t think I need to go there. So I just want to take a day or two and see where we’re at."
* One of those guys on the DL, outfielder Angel Pagan, went 1-for-4 with a run scored in eight innings with Triple-A Sacramento on Wednesday night and is expected to rejoin the Giants now to be evaluated. If all is well with Pagan’s knee, he could be activated soon.
* Posey’s RBI double in the sixth was just his fifth hit in 37 at-bats. But he also smoked a ball to right field for an out in the eighth and said after the game about his swing: "I don’t feel like I’m too far off. Hopefully I can keep progressing. I feel like I’m progressing in the right direction."
Before Tuesday’s game, Posey was on the field doing early work with hitting coach Bam Bam Meulens -- a rarity -- and said he was "just working on my (swing) path more than anything," making sure his bat barrel is taking "a good path through the (strike) zone." He said he likes to think that work carries over into games, but he’s not thinking about mechanics when he’s at the plate.
"Honestly, I’m just trying to see the ball and hit the ball hard," Posey said.
As for his near-brush with third base, Posey said he was thinking along with Bochy as Duffy was hobbling in the first inning and realized it was a possibility. He said he does not have a third-base glove and would not have felt comfortable playing third.
"I would have done it," Posey said, adding with a grin: "I’m glad (Duffy) was all right."
* Posey said that Peavy on Wednesday night was "probably as sharp as I’ve seen him this year." Bochy said the right-hander was "on top of his game." Peavy said he’s encouraged by how he feels going into September: "Body has come along and mechanics have started to figure themselves out to where I can make some adjustments."
Peavy said he’d been keeping an eye on the Dodgers’ win over the Reds in the clubhouse before his start and he was very motivated going into his outing, calling it "win day." The Giants did, and now send Madison Bumgarner to the mound Thursday with a chance to take two of three from the Cubs.
"It was a big win, no doubt about it," Posey said. "I think the biggest thing is we’ve got a chance to win the series tomorrow."
Bumgarner (15-6, 3.02) will oppose Cubs right-hander Dan Haren (8-8, 3.76). First pitch at 12:45 p.m.