The problems remain — a worrisome lack of offense and some unnerving relief pitching, with the Los Angeles Dodgers showing no intent to fade. And yet games like the one Sunday, when the Giants win one they could have lost and probably should have lost, indicate that this season is destined to be as wild as any, if not as successful.
The 3-2 win over the Miami Marlins was an end to a series at home that might at the same time have been the beginning. We shall see.
They pulled out a walk-off win in the ninth, a comeback against a pitcher who never previously had allowed them a run, much less a victory. And gloom became elation.
So many things went wrong on this afternoon at AT&T Park. The Giants were stalled by Marlins starter Matt Latos, as usual, and after a wild pitch by Sergio Romo allowed Miami to go ahead 2-1 in the eighth, you figured the Giants were finished. They were anything but.
And when Matt Duffy singled to left with the bases loaded and two out in the ninth, Gregor Blanco came in from third with the winning run, which sent Duffy's teammates over the dugout railing to pound him gleefully.
“Joe Panik told me, 'Hey, man, sorry I punched you in the ribs,'” Duffy said. “I said, 'I didn't feel a thing.'”
Big? “Huge” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “It's always good to have a winning record at home. This game made it a pretty good homestand.”
A homestand in which, despite scoring only three runs or fewer in six games, they were 7-3. A homestand that finally put them at .500 (16-16). A homestand that indicated Duffy and Blanco might deserve to be in the lineup one way or another.
Yet a homestand that reminded these are the Giants of little hit and big agony.
When the pitching comes through — and Sunday, it was Ryan Vogelsong coming through for a second straight start, though he wasn't involved in the decision — the Giants keep the crowd (347 consecutive sellouts, if not full houses) wholly delighted. Otherwise, when even the great Madison Bumgarner didn't match expectations Saturday, it's a loss.
Reports out of Los Angeles have the Dodgers, already comfortably in front of the Giants by five games, searching for another pitcher, maybe the Philadelphia Phillies' Cole Hamels or the A's Scott Kazmir. The latter would work well with the Giants, certainly, but San Francisco needs bats more than arms.
Eventually they'll regain Hunter Pence, whose broken left arm finally has healed and rehab assignment finally has started at Sacramento. But they need more.
They need some oomph. When the other team goes in front on a wild pitch by Romo, as did Miami, you don't want to grind your teeth and think of Pablo Sandoval, who returns to the Bay Area tonight at O.co Coliseum with the Boston Red Sox. Or even Michael Morse, who doubled in the first run Sunday for the Marlins.
What Bochy was thinking of, and talking about, was how in a game in which he rested three starters — Angel Pagan, Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford, though all played briefly — the Giants showed they have a roster of talent, if not home runs.
This was how the late-act drama unfolded for the Giants. Trailing by that gigantic one run, they faced Steve Cishek, who hadn't given up a run in 13 career games against San Francisco and was seeking his ninth save against the Giants.
Justin Maxwell struck out. Andrew Susac, catching instead of Posey, doubled and was replaced by pinch-runner Joaquin Arias. Blanco, already with a single and double, lined a ball to the bricks in right. “I was yelling, 'Go, go' to Arias,” Bochy said. But Miami right fielder Ichiro Suzuki faked as if he would get the ball, so Arias held at third, with Blanco going to second.
Posey pinch-hit and was walked intentionally. Pagan, pinch-hitting, struck out. Over? Not quite. Nori Aoki walked, scoring Arias with the tying run. “A great at-bat for Aoki the way he worked the walk,” Bochy said. “We were playing with house money then.”
Meaning, at worst, the game would go into the 10th. But then Duffy, who grew up and went to school in Dodgers territory (Long Beach and Long Beach State), went to left with a liner. Game.
“It's always good to win the close ones,” Vogelsong said, “and to do it this way.” The victory went to the third San Francisco pitcher, Santiago Casilla. The victory went to the Giants. The victory went to Bochy, who on a poignant Mother's Day recalled his own mom.
“My dad was in the Army,” Bochy said. “My mom used to play ball with us, pitch to us. She loved baseball.”
Who wouldn't, especially after Sunday's game? Oh, mother!