After Giants catcher Andrew Susac singled off of Marlins closer Steve Cishek with one out in the ninth inning Sunday, Matt Duffy did the math to gauge whether his lineup spot could still come up in the inning. With the Giants down 2-1, he determined his only chance would be with two outs and the bases loaded in a tied game.
"I was like, all right, I hope we get it done beforehand," Duffy said.
Instead, the ninth proceeded just as Duffy had foreseen. Nori Aoki’s bases-loaded walk forced in the tying run and brought Duffy to the plate in a 2-2 game. Duffy then lined the second pitch he saw from Cishek into left field for his first career walk-off hit, giving the Giants a 3-2 win and a 7-3 finish to their homestand.
It also gave Duffy a nice memento to present to his mom for Mother’s Day. With players around the league using pink gear to promote breast cancer awareness, Duffy used a bat with a pink version of his "Duffman" decal on the knob. After recording his first walk-off with the bat, Duffy said he’d "probably retired it. The one I got the hit on, I’ll probably give to Mom."
Up until the ninth, the bat hadn’t done much for Duffy. Starting at shortstop on an off-day for Brandon Crawford, Duffy went hitless in his first four at-bats, though he did have a productive at-bat in the sixth inning, moving Aoki to third base on a ground ball with no outs. Aoki later scored the Giants’ first run on a Brandon Belt single.
That was all the Giants mounted offensively until the ninth. Facing Cishek, the Marlins’ closer with a funky elbow-flying delivery, Susac lined an 0-2 pitch into right field for a one-out single and Gregor Blanco followed by doubling off the right-field wall. Joaquin Arias, pinch-running for Susac, might have had a chance to score -- except he got faked out (along with the entire AT&T Park crowd) by Miami right fielder Ichiro Suzuki, who pretended to be setting up under the ball as it carried over his head.
Pinch-hitter Buster Posey was intentionally walked, loading the bases, and Angel Pagan struck out in a pinch-hit appearance for the second out. That brought up Aoki, who drew a full count and watched a low outside slider for ball four, tying the game and setting the stage for Duffy.
Susac said he was watching the inning unfold with right-hander Jake Peavy, who turned to him as Duffy came up. "He goes, ‘Duffy don’t have it in him.’" Susac said. ‘"He does not have an 0-for-5 in him. It’s not in his blood.’ That just shows you the confidence that a guy like Peavy has for him."
Duffy took a pitch, then jumped on the second. Manager Bruce Bochy said he liked that Duffy didn’t wait around. "He was aggressive," Bochy said. "First pitch was a ball, then he got a good pitch to hit and he let it go." The line drive to left brought Blanco home and the Giants streaming out of their dugout.
"He’s a scrapper," starter Ryan Vogelsong said of Duffy. "That’s what we love about him -- he works his butt off, and you know when he goes up there, he’s going to give you a good at-bat. Plays the game right, does the little things right, moves guys over … For a young guy that hasn’t been here long, he definitely is a nice little shot in the arm for us."
Duffy’s role has been that of a "super-utility" player -- this homestand alone he played at shortstop, second base and a few games at third base while Bochy sat a struggling Casey McGehee. Bochy indicated Sunday that will remain Duffy’s role for now.
"When he’s not playing it’s a nice weapon to have on the bench," Bochy said. "He can pinch-run, he can pinch-hit. We saw what he did last year coming off the bench, and we can really use him in a critical situation because he’s such a tough-nosed ballplayer. He wants to be up there with the game on the line."
As he came up in that situation Sunday, Duffy, who had never faced Cishek before, said he was looking for "something up. His pitches move pretty good, so anytime a pitch is up it’s not going to move as much as when it’s down." Duffy put less thought into trying to evade the rush of teammates that met him between first and second base.
"Joe (Panik) was like, ‘Hey man, I’m sorry, I was the one punching you in the ribs,’" Duffy said. "And I was like, ‘Honestly, I didn’t feel a thing.’"