NEW YORK — Christian Arroyo was a 19-year-old playing for Class-A San Jose the last time the Giants overcame a deficit after eight innings and won. Half an hour after his game-breaking hit Wednesday, Arroyo, now 21, couldn’t hide the look of shock on his face when a reporter relayed that it had been 133 straight losses when trailing after eight.
“I did not know that,” he said after a second. “No. That’s news to me.”
Sometimes it’s better not to know how bad it’s going, but there was no hiding it as the Giants came to the park Wednesday. They had lost five straight -- to a rebuilding Reds team and a Mets squad in turmoil -- and whispers of a rebuild started to seep into the clubhouse.
The players tried to stay positive, finding laughter and smiles where they could. Several relievers shaved their beards into awkward mustaches. A few minutes after the lineup was posted Wednesday, a member of the training staff tore it off the wall and then went into a back room, reading the names off dramatically as players doubled over.
Still, there’s only so much to be done before and after games. At some point the Giants needed to turn the tide between the lines, and they did so in an unlikely way.
Trailing 3-2 with one out in the ninth, the Giants watched Joe Panik nearly yank one out. He settled for a walk, and Eduardo Nuñez reached when Wilmer Flores bobbled a potential double-play grounder. For once, the gift didn’t go to waste. Hunter Pence’s single tied it. Buster Posey, who earlier had homered in a third straight game, drew a walk to load them up for Arroyo.
The rookie has seen some rough days since a red-hot start, but the coaching staff has watched Arroyo make adjustments on a daily basis. After seeing some hellacious pitches earlier in the game, Arroyo walked up against Jeurys Familia, who is one of the best closers in the game but was showing wildness.
“Stay off the ground,” he told himself. “It was as simple as that.”
Arroyo got a 95 mph fastball and elevated it. As the ball soared into the gap in left-center, Posey, who had just minutes earlier fouled a ball off his foot, broke into his high gear.
“It was 20-something jockeys in the dugout whipping the horse and yelling at Buster to get moving,” Panik said, smiling.
Perhaps the Giants, after all this trouble, knew that even that run was important. When Posey crossed the plate, they had a 6-3 lead. Arroyo cruised into second, hopped off the bag and threw a vicious right-handed fist pump.
“It was a lot of frustration from the past week coming out,” he said. “For myself, getting away from my approach and scuffling a bit, and the team had lost five in a row. It’s a lot of frustration and a lot of pent-up aggression. It finally went our way.”
First, however, came another test. Holding a lead without Mark Melancon for the first time, Bochy turned to Derek Law. The Mets put two on and Flores nearly redeemed himself with a blast to the deepest part of the yard. Justin Ruggiano went up at the wall and just missed it. The ball was equally close to leaving the yard.
“I thought it was going out,” Posey said. “And then he almost made a great play. And then I’m thinking maybe he knocked it over the wall.”
Flores settled for a two-run double. Law would retire the next batter, giving the Giants their first win since leaving Dodger Stadium on Wednesday. Bochy sunk into his seat in the visitor’s clubhouse at Citi Field and smiled as he talked about how difficult even this one was.
“I think they’re just having fun with me,” he said of the ninth.
Bochy said he hopes this game has a carryover effect. The standings are what they are, and even this win, as thrilling as it was, won’t make much of a dent. But it guaranteed a happy flight on the longest trip of the year, and there were positives Bochy pulled out. He credited his team for continuing to fight, and said he gave a game ball to Johnny Cueto — who didn’t play — for “chirping” for the final four innings as he tried to fire up the team.
Arroyo’s hit got the job done, and as players grabbed their Shake Shack and headed for the airport, they were grateful to have a different focus for the day. Two losing streaks were over, the one over the past week and the remarkable one that dated back to May 10, 2015, when another young third baseman, Matt Duffy, clinched a comeback.
“It can definitely help us out,” Matt Cain said two years later. “Especially since we’re going back home, it’s something we needed to do. We needed to get a little momentum … We haven’t had that (moment). We’ve been looking for that, whether it’s a shutdown inning or big hit. We’ve needed that energy and we just haven’t had the opportunity to express it, so that was fun.”