AT&T PARK — Coming into Monday, despite a team .262 batting average — third in the majors — and a .410 slugging percentage — 13th — the San Francisco Giants were 20th in runs scored. That was largely due to the fact that San Francisco had hit just .238 with runners in scoring position.
So, when the Giants loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the fourth, tied 2-2 with the Arizona Diamondbacks, manager Bruce Bochy gambled. He took out starter Derek Holland, and put in pinch hitter Alen Hanson, who has 48 pinch-hit appearances in his young career, but only three this season.
Hanson got down 0-2 against Arizona starter Zack Godley, who had shut the Giants out over seven innings on April 9, allowing just four hits. Hanson fouled off three straight knuckle curves before lining a fastball just inside the third base bag for a two-run double, giving San Francisco the lead and sparking a seven-run fourth that led to a 10-3 win, the Giants’ fifth in a row.
“It was good to break out against a guy who’s been very, very tough on us,” said Bochy, whose club scored just 14 total runs in six prior games against the Diamondbacks. “Hanny came through. What a great at-bat he had. He spoiled some really nice pitches, and he found a way to get a big hit there for us. That got the ball rolling.”
The Giants matched a season high with four home runs Monday night, and including Hanson’s double, and went 3-for-7 with runners in scoring position. San Francisco is now hitting .368 (14-for-38) with men in scoring position during the five-game winning streak, and .320 with men in scoring position over the last nine.
“I keep saying this team is loaded with veterans and experienced guys that know how to hit with runners in scoring position,” Bochy said. “They do have a nose for an RBI, and that’s going to get better. We’ve run into a nice streak here, and that’s why we’re winning ballgames, getting those timely hits, those big hits when we need them.”
Holland struck out the first four men he faced, and needed 49 pitches to get through three, but was on track for a solid outing. Then came a 33-pitch fourth.
Holland allowed walk and a pair of doubles, including a two-out boomer by Ketel Marte off the left field wall to plate two runs. Andrew McCutchen led off the bottom of the frame with a 365-foot laser over the left field fence, and Brandon Crawford followed with a 402-foot poke to tie things up.
A single and two walks later, Bochy told Holland that he needed to hit above .200 before he’d consider leaving him in to hit with the bases loaded. Holland agreed.
“Buster [Posey] and I had a good game plan going into it,” Holland said. “I thought we executed very well Unfortunately, I didn’t get to go the distance. I kind of put myself in a bit of a hole, but the big thing is you’ve got to give a lot of credit to Boch. That’s a tough decision to make.”
Hanson poked his double inside the third base bag, bringing home Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence. Godley then hit Joe Panik with the fifth pitch of his at-bat, ending the night for the Arizona starter and loading the bases again.
Reliever Fernando Salas promptly uncorked a wild pitch to Posey, plating another run, and then Posey cleaned up the rest with a two-run double to right center. Sandoval –who went 3-for-4 — added to the tally with a solo shot to lead off the fifth, and an RBI single in the seventh to cash in a Crawford double.
Backup catcher Nick Hundley added his second career pinch-hit home run (last one: Sept. 3, 2010 against Colorado) to lead off the eighth for the Giants’ 10th and final run.
The Giants had done enough to hover around .500 during two months that saw three of their projected five starters on the disabled list, along with their starting second baseman and closer. They’d been good enough, but certainly not good, especially given the fact that the National League West as a whole is a collective four games under .500.
Just as ace Madison Bumgarner (broken finger) readies to make his season debut on Tuesday, though, his offense has averaged 5.1 runs per game over its last nine — more than a run above their season average in the first 51 games — and San Francisco has gotten back to .500, at 30-30.
“It’s exciting that we’re taking advantage of opportunities with men in scoring position,” said Sandoval. “It’s exciting to see your ace on the mound tomorrow, coming back from that surgery. It’s exciting to see him back and throwing the ball the way he does.”Andrew McCutchenArizona DiamondbacksBrandon CrawfordBuster PoseyJoe PanikMLBnick hundleyPablo SandovalSan Francisco Giants