San Francisco Giants

Giants’ Petit continues key contributions in long relief

SAN FRANCISCO -- Game 2 of the National League Division Series: Yusmeiro Petit enters in the 12th inning with the score tied 2-2. When the next Giants pitcher takes the mound, it’s the 18th inning and the Giants lead the Nationals, 3-2.

Game 4 of the NLCS: Petit enters in the fourth inning with the Giants trailing St. Louis, 4-3. When Jeremy Affeldt replaces Petit in the seventh, the Giants lead, 6-4.

Game 4 of the World Series on Saturday night: Petit comes in to start the fourth inning with the Giants trailing the Royals, 4-1. When Affeldt again takes over for the seventh, the Giants are ahead, 7-4.

Petit, the 29-year-old journeyman, set a major-league record during the regular season when he retired 46 batters in a row. But in the eyes of his catcher, at least, what he has done in his last three times taking the mound has been even more impressive.

"He’s pitching on the biggest stage, asked to do a really hard job, not knowing when you’re going to pitch, and then asked to come in and kind of flip the momentum," said Buster Posey. "And he’s done it for us three times this postseason.

"He’s been incredible."

Three outings, 12 innings, no runs, four hits, 13 strikeouts. That is the line that Petit has compiled for the Giants this postseason in three of the more pivotal games they have played. Saturday night at AT&T Park, Petit stabilized a game that appeared early on like it -- and perhaps the Giants’ season -- was slipping away, as the Royals knocked starter Ryan Vogelsong out in the third inning with a 4-1 lead.

Instead, Petit led a shutdown effort by the Giants’ bullpen, their lineup exploded for 10 unanswered runs and they evened the World Series at 2-2 with ace Madison Bumgarner taking the mound in Game 5 on Sunday. Vogelsong afterward said he felt it was a game the Giants had to win -- and that Petit’s entrance marked the turning point.

Several of Petit’s teammates said the same thing, marveling at the cool the right-hander has shown the past few weeks pitching in the biggest situations of his big-league career. Seemingly most impressive to his fellow pitchers most is how effective he has been on such sporadic work. Ten days passed between his NLDS and NLCS appearances. Nine more elapsed between his NLCS outing and facing the Royals on Saturday night.

"I was the long man for two years in Pittsburgh and not very good at it," Vogelsong said. "It’s extremely hard to go a week or 10 days without seeing game action, and then come in there and be as crisp as he has all year. It is extremely difficult, and I’m truly amazed at how well he does it."

Petit said he tries to combat the layoffs by throwing bullpen sessions every two or three days to stay sharp. "I’m working every day for the command, for when I’m needed there, so I can throw strikes," he said. Command is Petit’s hallmark. He walked just 22 batters in 117 innings during the regular season. He walked none of the 10 hitters that he faced Saturday night, throwing 23 of his 33 pitches for strikes.

In the clubhouse afterward, starter Jake Peavy addressed a group of reporters about what has made Petit so effective. It certainly isn’t that he overpowers hitters. The first question Petit was asked in the interview room Saturday night was the fastest he has ever thrown a pitch. His response: "Like 90 (mph), 88."

"I mean, Hunter Strickland’s throwing harder than anybody on our team, and not had the success that Petey has," Peavy said. "Location is everything in this game. When you get to this point in the season, these teams didn’t get here by missing mistakes.

"So for me, location is everything. I don’t care how hard you throw it, you’d better be throwing it in the location you need to throw it, or things aren’t going to go well.

"That’s why he’s successful. He throws the ball down. He throws the ball to Buster’s glove. And when he misses, watch where he misses. He doesn’t miss over the plate."

Petit did allow a pair of hits Saturday, both leading off innings. But both times, the runner didn’t advance another 90 feet. Eric Hosmer was stranded at second after his fifth-inning double, and Jarrod Dyson’s sixth-inning single was erased on a 3-6-3 double play, turned deftly by Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford.

The Giants had just tied the game, 4-4, in the bottom of the fifth, and Belt said the double play was "a huge spot in the game."

"I had the easy part right there," Belt said. "Petit’s the one that got the groundout … Just to have him come in and get a ground ball in a spot that we really needed it was huge for us. That really, I think, carried over for the rest of the game."

The Giants scored three times in the bottom of the inning and pulled away in the seventh. By that time, Petit’s night was over, but his impact was still being felt. For the third time in three outings this postseason, Petit earned a win, meaning he was the pitcher of record when the Giants turned a deficit or tie into a lead.

He even picked up his first postseason hit Saturday -- a fourth-inning single to center. But that likely wasn’t what right fielder Hunter Pence was referencing when, sitting near Petit in the interview room after Game 4, Pence lauded the right-hander with a measure of the highest appreciation.

"Yusmeiro Petit, to me, is the most unsung hero of our team this whole season, especially in the postseason," Pence said. "What he’s done is nothing short of amazing. I think that’s what gives me chills right now, just to be a part of that."

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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