AT&T PARK — Buster Posey offered a single name when asked if he’d ever seen anything like what Ty Blach did on Saturday afternoon.
Not half an hour earlier — with the entire crowd roaring and on its feet — Sergio Romo had punched out Corey Seager to nail down the final out in the San Francisco Giants’ 3-0 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Romo was the only reliever Bruce Bochy had to call in Game 161 because Blach — who was making his second big league start and his first ever at AT&T Park — had taken care of the first 24 outs.
“Bumgarner,” Posey said, chuckling as he thought back on the gem Blach had just delivered.
“There’s not much more that excites me than a young player in a big moment who kind of seizes…”
Then Posey stopped to correct himself.
“Not kind of — who definitely seizes the opportunity,” Posey continued. “I mean, that’s what it’s about right there. That’s why you play the game — to be a part of stuff like that.”
Bochy hadn’t even told Blach that he would be part of Saturday’s game — at least as the starter — until late Friday night after the Giants had jumped Brandon McCarthy in the sixth inning of their 9-3 rout.
“I thought it was an awesome opportunity,” Blach said of drawing the start opposite Clayton Kershaw.
“Anytime you get the chance to go out there in a playoff race and give your team a chance, it’s a lot of fun,” Blach added. “So, I really appreciated the opportunity.”
Just minutes after Blach took the mound in the top of the first, the New York Mets clinched the top wild-card spot.
The Mets’ 5-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies means that the best-case scenario for the Giants will be a trip to Citi Field on Wednesday when Madison Bumgarner would face Noah Syndergaard.
Blach’s eight scoreless innings — which featured just three hits and 18 outs on the ground — mean that the worst-case scenario would be a trip to Busch Stadium on Monday for a play-in game with the St. Louis Cardinals.
“Well, I was thinking it’s one of the best pitching performances I’ve seen,” Bochy marveled. “With this kid having a month in the major leagues, what stage he was on, what was at stake, who he was going against, he just had great focus and great command.”
Blach’s outing far exceeded the expectations his boss had set out. On Saturday morning, as Bochy conducted his pregame press conference, the manager insisted that he would have plenty of backups ready to go in the pen.
That backup included right-handers Jeff Samardzija — the likely starter for a potential play-in game — and Johnny Cueto. Blach wouldn’t need either.
All the 25-year-old needed was a clean ninth from Romo and a home run from Angel Pagan that not even the left fielder thought would leave the park.
“Honestly, I thought it was going to be a double until I saw [umpire] Joe West go, ’Home run,’” Pagan said of his fifth-inning homer, which barely cleared the wall in left.
Before Pagan took Kershaw deep, the three-time Cy Young Award winner was all but untouchable. Kershaw needed just 35 pitches to cruise through the first four innings, the only hit a two-out single from Posey in the fourth.
The Giants would tack on a pair of insurance runs a two innings later thanks to a pinch of Even Year magic.
Pagan, who walked to begin the inning was the Giant who scored the first run. Brandon Crawford lined a comebacker off Kershaw that ricocheted to Justin Turner, who then promptly threw the ball into the visitor’s bullpen, as Pagan coasted home.
The second came courtesy of Gordon Beckham, who skied a sacrifice fly to center in just his second start as a Giant.
The back-to-back wins over Rich Hill and Kershaw mean that with one game to go the Giants are in complete control of their destiny.
It’s a reality that’s difficult to fathom when considering just how miserable the second half — especially September — has been for the orange and black. This month, the team has lost five times when carrying a lead into the ninth.
“They really responded well with what’s happened here the second half,” Bochy said. “We had a couple of really nice games against [the] Colorado [Rockies this week and] responded well here [against the Dodgers] with what’s at stake and the pressure and all that.”
With a win in Game 162, the Giants don’t even have to worry about a trip to St. Louis. They can turn their attention directly to New York. Bochy’s just glad that the matinee with the Dodgers won’t be it.