San Francisco Giants

Atonement comes quickly for Perez in 10th inning of Giants’ Game 3 win

SAN FRANCISCO -- Gregor Blanco said his first attempt at bunting against Cardinals left-hander Randy Choate on Tuesday told him how difficult the task would be.

"That ball was running hard down," Blanco said. "I felt like I put a nice bunt, and all of a sudden the ball just went straight down. I was like, ‘Wow.’"

Buster Posey said he noticed the same thing watching video of Choate.

"The ball sinks so much," Posey said, "and you don’t want to pop it up."

It shed a little broader light on Juan Perez’s inability to get a sacrifice bunt down on two attempts against Choate in the 10th inning Tuesday. But Perez made no excuses after the game -- which the Giants won 5-4 in the 10th thanks in part to Perez moving the runner, Brandon Crawford, up anyway.

The Giants took the bunt sign off and Perez lined Choate’s 1-2 pitch back up the middle for a single, giving them runners on first and second with nobody out. That set up Blanco’s bunt, which Choate threw away to let Crawford score the game-winning run.

"If you fail doing your job, getting the bunt down, you’ve got to make sure you at least hit the ball hard somewhere," Perez said. "I was really concentrated on hitting a line drive somewhere."

It was a quick turn for Perez from failure to redemption. Perez said that on Choate’s first pitch after the two bunt attempts, "I saw it pretty good and said, I’ve got a chance to get a base hit here." Perez fouled that pitch off and spoiled another before singling on the sixth pitch of the at-bat.

Manager Bruce Bochy said the Giants might have been "playing with house money" by getting a hit out of a failed sacrifice attempt. But several teammates said afterward they were happy for Perez, the utility outfielder who shuttled back and forth several times this season between Triple-A Fresno and the Giants.

"He’s probably been up and down as much as anybody since I’ve been here," Posey said. "And I’ve never heard him complain once."

* Third-base coach Tim Flannery had a brief conversation with Blanco before the latter’s 10th-inning at-bat, and said afterward he was reminding Blanco about a bunt defense that the Cardinals often use with a runner on second base to try to get the out at third.

The Cardinals, though, did not employ that wheel defense. And Flannery said Blanco put down a "perfect bunt" to the third-base side of the mound, forcing the left-handed Choate to come off the mound, field the ball, spin and make a longer throw to first base.

"He’s really good at it, doesn’t get rattled," Flannery said of Blanco’s bunting ability. "It started with the World Series against Detroit, if you remember that bunt."

In the seventh inning of Game 2 of the 2012 Series, Blanco put down a bunt that hugged the third-base line and stopped inches fair, loading the bases for the Giants in a 0-0 game. They took the lead moments later and went on to win, 2-0.

"That breeds confidence," Flannery said, "when you’ve done it in that type of moment."

* It was a windy afternoon at AT&T Park, and several players said it had a serious effect on fly balls. Perhaps the most glaring was Travis Ishikawa’s bases-clearing double in the first inning. Right fielder Randal Grichuk decided to play it off the wall, but the ball hit at the very base of one of the archways in right-center, and Cardinals pitcher John Lackey reacted with frustration as though he thought the ball should have been caught.

Ishikawa, though, said he was fooled as well.

"I hit that ball as well as I can hit a ball," Ishikawa said. "Just the way it came off the bat, I thought it had a really good chance of going out.

"As soon as I saw Grichuk turn around to play the carom I thought, ‘There’s no way this ball’s going to stay in play, is it?’ And sure enough, it did. Actually I saw the replay and saw it hit the bottom of the fence. Now I’m just happy that it fell for a hit."

Even Gregor Blanco, who plays half his games at AT&T Park, admitted he was surprised by the right-to-left carry on Kolten Wong’s double in the second inning, which seemed at first to be headed for the right-center field gap.

"That ball was, like, really far from me," Blanco said. "Then all of a sudden I end up like, maybe if I dive, I could’ve made the play. That ball was moving a lot."

* Posey credited Crawford with a "really, really big" at-bat in the 10th, working an eight-pitch walk against Choate. The left-handed sinkerballer had held left-handed hitters to a .093 average in the regular season, and Crawford went to a 2-2 count before fouling off two pitches to stay alive before the walk.

Crawford’s improvement against left-handers this season -- he batted .320 -- was well-documented and the shortstop has theorized he kept a more consistent approach during the season against lefties than right-handers, against whom he sometimes swung more freely. Still, he said Choate was not a comfortable at-bat.

"He’s real tough on lefties with that sink that he has," Crawford said. "It’s almost like he’s coming from behind you with that arm angle. But fortunately I was able to battle some tough pitches and foul them off."

* A few things from the post-game notes: Ishikawa’s three-run double was the first three-RBI double in the postseason in Giants franchise history. Hunter Pence also hit a double that scored three runs in Game 7 of the 2012 NLCS, but he was only credited with two RBIs after the third run was ruled to have scored on an error.

Pablo Sandoval singled in the first inning and has now reached base safely in 21 straight playoff games, tying Barry Bonds for the Giants franchise record. Pence is also riding a streak of reaching base safely in 11 consecutive postseason games.

The Giants’ walk-off win was their fifth in franchise history and first since Juan Uribe’s game-winning sacrifice fly in Game for the 2010 NLCS.

And this: Tuesday was the sixth time in postseason history that a team won a game on a walk-off error. The first five times, that winning team went on to win the World Series.

* The game story sums up another unorthodox win for the Giants. The notes lead with the Giants’ bullpen, and in particular Sergio Romo, rebounding from a rough Game 2 to combine for 3 2/3 scoreless innings Tuesday to keep the Giants in position for their walk-off win despite not having a hit from a position player between the first and final innings.

"I’m a little delirious I guess," Bochy joked after the latest round of late-game dramatics. "Man, these are hard-fought games. We don’t do anything easy."

Ailene Voisin is writing more on Blanco for tomorrow’s paper, and Marcos Breton will get into Bochy’s handling of Game 3. The Giants send Ryan Vogelsong to the mound in Game 4 against Cardinals right-hander Shelby Miller. First pitch at 5:07 p.m.

Call The Bee’s Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015. See his baseball coverage at sacbee.com/mlb. Follow him on Twitter at @matthewkawahara.

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