San Francisco Giants

Brown, Strickland have career firsts in Giants’ 3-1 win over Padres

SAN FRANCISCO -- With Giants manager Bruce Bochy resting many of his regulars in Saturday’s 3-1 win over the San Diego Padres, it provided the opportunity for a couple of career firsts. Outfielder Gary Brown picked up his first major-league hit on a bunt single in the third inning. And reliever Hunter Strickland recorded his first big-league win with a perfect eighth inning.

Brown had played in five games before Saturday but only had two plate appearances. He came to bat in the third and took a glance at Padres third baseman Yangervis Solarte.

"I saw he was back a little bit, so I said screw it, I’ll give it a chance," Brown said with a grin. "And it worked out."

It may seem like this was a long time coming for the 25-year-old Brown, the Giants’ first pick in the 2010 draft, who shot through the lower levels of the minors but spent the last two seasons toiling in Fresno. Brown admitted he felt that way up until he beat Solarte’s throw to first by a hair.

"I feel like I can breathe," Brown said. "I feel like I was walking around a little wound up and to get that (first hit), that was awesome. It was one of the best feelings."

The scoreboard flashed that it was Brown’s first hit in the majors, drawing a loud ovation from the AT&T Park Crowd, and Brown said he "was pumped about that, too." He went on to have a strong game, beating another infield single in the eighth and making a tough catch near the center-field wall battling the sun in the ninth.

Whether Brown fits into the Giants’ postseason plans as a backup outfielder and speedy pinch-running option remains to be seen. Brown said he’s open to any role in October -- "If that means running, if that’s even an option, I’m there. Today was awesome because it just felt good to contribute, to feel like you contributed. That’s all I’m trying to do."

It’s becoming increasingly evident, meanwhile, that Strickland will have a bullpen role in the postseason. Bochy used the right-hander in another high-leverage situation Saturday, the eighth inning of a tied game, and afterward said that Strickland has "really kind of filled a need here for us in that sixth, seventh, eighth inning."

Strickland has not allowed a run in seven big-league innings and for the season (most of it spent at Double-A Richmond) has a 57-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

* The Giants announced a bit of surprising news: Matt Cain had surgery this morning on his right ankle to remove a bone spur. The surgery was performed by Dr. Ken Akizuki and Dr. Larry Oloff in San Francisco.

Cain is already coming off surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow, and Bochy said after the game the ankle surgery would not prolong Cain’s original recovery time.

"We expect him to be ready for spring training," Bochy said. "He had to get this taken care of. It’s been bothering him a little bit, so we knew once he needed elbow surgery that we would do the ankle too, and get that taken care of."

According to Bochy, head trainer Dave Groeschner "said it all went well."

* Tomorrow’s print story gets into Hunter Pence’s consecutive starts streak coming to an end at 331. With the Giants gearing up for another potential playoff run and home-field advantage in the wild-card game no longer up for grabs, it made sense to rest Pence and some of the other starters Saturday.

Pence did pinch-hit in the seventh, keeping his streak of consecutive games played alive at 382. That’s the third-longest such streak in Giants franchise history, and it dates back to the first game Pence played for San Francisco after arriving via trade from the Phillies in 2012.

Pence’s consecutive starts streak goes down as the fifth-longest in franchise history. Bill Terry owns the Giants record for both consecutive starts and consecutive games played with 468, set from 1930-33. Bochy said after the game his decision to pinch-hit Pence in the seventh didn’t have anything to do with keeping the games streak going.

Bochy added: "I think sometimes you get caught up in these streaks, and you do run that possibility of just running a guy into the ground. I’ll be conscious of that next year."

* Santiago Casilla pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his 19th save in 23 opportunities this year. If Casilla does not pitch tomorrow, he’ll end the season with a 1.70 ERA in 54 appearances including 31 games that he finished for the Giants.

Casilla’s understated performance helped make the removal of Sergio Romo from the closer role much less of a bombshell than it could have been. In Casilla, Bochy knew he was turning to a pitcher who has experience closing for the Giants in the past, and in his five seasons with San Francisco will have posted a sub-2.00 ERA three times.

"Casilla really has taken the bull by the horns," Bochy said Saturday, "and gone out there and gotten the job done."

* Bee columnist Ailene Voisin will have a piece tomorrow on right-hander Jake Peavy, who took a no-decision throwing five innings Saturday in his final regular-season start. Peavy, who has been under the weather lately, allowed one run and came out after five having thrown 92 pitches. He finished the season by going 9-1 with a 1.35 ERA in his last nine starts, and posted a 2.17 ERA overall in 12 starts for the Giants.

"I hate to think where we would be without him," Bochy said. "We’re getting a shot here because of what he’s done for us."

Peavy figures to be one of the Giants’ front-line starters next weekend in Washington if the Giants make it to the N.L. Division Series. He said he "(wants) to pitch this weekend as bad as you could ever imagine," and that he’ll prepare in the coming days as though a start is guaranteed.

Saturday also held a first for Peavy -- after coming up with the Padres and making 212 career starts in a San Diego uniform, this was the first time Peavy has faced his former team. But he said it "wasn’t anything other than an opponent for me," largely because almost no players on the Padres are holdovers from his time there.

Peavy did gesture toward the visiting dugout when he took the mound in the first. His explanation: "I just said hello to (manager) Buddy Black, the coaching staff there, just because I have the utmost respect for that coaching staff. I always do that when I know the other manager or respect the other side, just wish them well and good health."

* Brandon Crawford had what turned out to be the game-winning hit Saturday, with his bases-loaded, broken-bat flare to right field in the eighth. Crawford joked that he "really crushed it," but there was nothing wrong with the result.

It gave Crawford 69 RBIs on the season -- third-most among N.L. shortstops and fourth-most on the Giants. He has driven in 16 runs in September, in which Crawford is batting .371 after hitting below .200 in both July and August.

"Midway through August, when my average was pretty low, my goal was just to drive in runs and kind of help us out however I could," Crawford said. "Not to say I gave up on getting hits. But I was more focused on trying to get guys in."

Now, it seems, he’s doing both. Bochy said he might not be inclined to move Crawford in the order because he has a good feel for hitting eighth, where pitchers may approach him differently with the pitcher up next. But Bochy said Crawford is "swinging the bat as well as anyone" right now.

* Pence wasn’t the only regular getting a day off Saturday, and while Bochy used Pence and Pablo Sandoval as pinch-hitters, he stayed away from Buster Posey. Posey has rested the past two days with back tightness, but Bochy said Posey will catch in the series finale Sunday afternoon.

* The Giants could find out in just hours that they’re going to Pittsburgh for the wild-card game. Or they could be left waiting another day to learn their destination. If the Cardinals beat the Diamondbacks tonight, St. Louis clinches the N.L. Central and knocks Pittsburgh into the wild-card game, where it would host the Giants.

The Cardinals and Diamondbacks are currently tied 2-2 in the fourth. Crawford said he’d probably check on the result this evening, but wouldn’t be glued to the TV. "Either way," he said, "we’ll get a pretty tough pitcher (Wednesday)."

Chris Heston will try to fit that description in his first major-league start for the Giants in Sunday’s regular-season finale. He’ll oppose Padres left-hander Robbie Erlin (4-4, 4.53). First pitch at 1:05 p.m.