SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants reliever Javier Lopez said he has a couple of nicknames for Yusmeiro Petit. One is, "Icy." Another is, "The Cooler."
"I feel like he’s like the cooler at the casino," Lopez said. "When you’re running hot, he comes in and he cools you off. He’s got that stuff."
On Wednesday, Petit cooled off a Cardinals lineup that scored four runs off starter Ryan Vogelsong in the first three innings of Game 4, beginning a run of six scoreless innings by the Giants bullpen. It gave the lineup time to piece together another unconventional night of offense, and the resulting 6-4 win has the Giants one win away from going to the World Series.
Petit has played a key role in two of the pivotal games to get them to this point. There was his six scoreless innings in the Giants’ 18-inning win over Washington in Game 2 of the NLDS, when Petit allowed one hit. And he gave up only a Matt Holliday single in his three shutout innings Wednesday, stabilizing things from innings four through six while the Giants overcame an early 4-1 deficit.
"That was quite a comeback, and it all starts with Petit," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He gives you a chance to come back … and also allows you to still have your guys that you want to use late in the ballgame. So Petit saved us with his effort tonight."
This after the Giants had kept Petit on ice since his Game 2 outing 11 days earlier. It’s the role Petit occupied for much of the season, going long stretches without pitching and not knowing when or for how long he might be used, and Petit admitted again Wednesday night that it can be a "hard" task.
"I didn’t think about it like that," first baseman Brandon Belt said. "I was thinking he had plenty of rest.
"But when you’re off for a week like that it can be tough to come in and pitch good, and that’s exactly what he did."
Petit showed no signs of needing to shake off the rust, striking out the side in the fourth. He issued a one-out single to Holliday, but promptly got Matt Adams to ground into a double play. After issuing a two-out walk in the sixth, Petit struck out Randal Grichuk to end the inning and set up the Giants’ go-ahead rally.
In both the fourth and the sixth, Petit punctuated his inning-ending strikeout by walking off the mound pounding his glove with his bare hand. This is Petit’s first experience in the postseason, and he said he’s feeding off of the atmosphere. His line in two outings: Nine innings, two hits allowed, 11 strikeouts.
"It’s got more intensity," Petit said. "You have to work and be perfect, because if you miss with a pitch you have to pay."
That was more the case in Washington, when any mistake Petit made in extra innings could have ended the game. But the Giants felt his outing Wednesday was just as crucial. As Bochy said, it allowed Bochy not to use any of his matchup relievers until after the Giants had taken the lead in the sixth.
Bochy used three relievers in the seventh, including both of his left-handers. Jeremy Affeldt got the first two hitters but walked Jon Jay, leading Bochy to bring in Jean Machi to face Holliday. After Holliday singled, Bochy summoned Lopez to face the left-handed Adams. Lopez fell behind 3-0, but came back to get Adams on a groundout.
Lopez said the relievers in that inning were all trying to "play manager" and anticipate Bochy’s moves. "They give you as much of a heads-up as they can," Lopez said, "and the communication was there with everybody. If Jeremy had any trouble they were going to go with the righty matchup, and I knew I had Adams after that.
"If you have those weapons, you want to try to use them. And he did tonight."
He did, despite Vogelsong lasting three innings in the shortest outing by a Giants starter since Barry Zito in Game 4 of the 2012 NLDS. Thanks largely to Petit, Sergio Romo was still available to pitch a scoreless eighth inning, setting up Santiago Casilla securing the win in the ninth. Jay hit a two-out single, but Casilla froze Holliday for strike three to put the Giants one win away from their third trip to the World Series in five years.
It’s a stage on which Petit has never pitched. But if the Giants reach it, he’ll have played a leading part.
"We’ve seen that from Petey all year," Vogelsong said. "It might be a shock to the people that don’t get to see him all the time, but it’s not to us.
"He’s been doing it all year, been great all year. And it doesn’t surprise me whatsoever that he came in there and shut it down."