Sergio Romo recorded only one out Tuesday and needed some big help from Pablo Sandoval to do so. But it was a crucial one – and it came as Romo faced his first batter since giving up Kolten Wong’s game-winning home run in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series two days before.
Romo entered a 4-4 game Tuesday in the top of the 10th with a runner on first base to face St. Louis Cardinals slugger Matt Holliday. He fell behind Holliday 3-1 but threw a slider over the inside corner for strike two and came back with another slider that Holliday pulled on the ground down the third-base line.
Sandoval went into a slide to backhand the ball and fired a throw across the diamond to retire Holliday, who threw his helmet to the ground. It ended the inning, making Romo the winning pitcher when the Giants scored in the bottom of the 10th on Randy Choate’s throwing error.
“These are the guys that brought us to this dance,” manager Bruce Bochy said of bringing Romo into a crucial situation, “and we’re going to use them.”
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Had Holliday reached base, it would have brought up Matt Adams – the left-hander who homered off Hunter Strickland in the eighth inning of Game 2 – with nobody warming in the Giants’ bullpen. Romo said Sandoval’s play was huge.
“We work so hard to give ourselves the best opportunity to be ready for those chances,” Romo said. “And Panda was ready.”
Romo had said moments after surrendering Wong’s home run Sunday that any frustration over the pitch was “already past.” But he acknowledged he was eager to pitch again.
“So, I’m glad I got a chance,” Romo said.
Et ceterea – After waiting 16 seasons for his first NLCS start, Tim Hudson was staked to a four-run lead after an inning. In his career, the right-hander is 167-6 when receiving four or more runs of support.
But a shot at bettering that record slipped away in the seventh Tuesday. Hudson, sent out to face the first two batters of the inning, gave up a game-tying homer to Randal Grichuk and exited a tied game.
“It was probably the worst cutter I’ve thrown all day,” Hudson said in his postgame press conference. “Just backed up on me and went right into his swing.
“To have it tied up right there was tough. But the guys really battled and picked me up, just like they have all year.”
Hudson got a no-decision in his first NLCS start after logging 3,003 career regular-season innings. The only pitchers who threw more innings before their first start in this round of the playoffs were Chuck Finley (3,1971/3) and Juan Marichal (3,0712/3).
“This is why you play the game,” Hudson said. “This is why I’ve wanted to come here to San Francisco and continue to play.”
While he didn’t get the win, Hudson did snap an 0-for-42 streak at the plate with a fourth-inning single off John Lackey. Sitting by Hudson in the interview room, Travis Ishikawa joked it was “probably the biggest hit of his career.”
“My only one,” Hudson replied, “for the last four months.”
▪ The Giants scored an off-the-field victory before the game when Hall of Famer Willie McCovey arrived at AT&T Park in the morning. McCovey, who had been in the hospital because of complications from an infection, released this statement through the Giants:
“It feels great (to) be back at AT&T Park for today’s NLCS game. I have been following every pitch of this postseason and am excited to be here with the fans to welcome the team back from St. Louis. I also want (to) thank everyone for the outpouring of well wishes and support during my recovery. Your notes, cards and messages have been the best medicine anyone could ask for.”
▪ Sandoval singled in the first inning and has reached base safely in 21 consecutive postseason games, tying the Giants franchise record set by Barry Bonds from 2002-03.