PHOENIX -- Pablo Sandoval didn’t walk around the clubhouse on Sunday morning. He bounced.
Sandoval went from one group of teammates to the next, his voice booming through the room as he cracked jokes. At one point he joined a group of relievers watching a long drive contest on a clubhouse TV. “Swing harder, bro!” he yelled at the golfer on the screen.
Then he found a group of reporters. One asked why he blew a kiss to the camera after his homer on Saturday night. Sandoval said it was his son’s birthday, and he knew he was watching. Sandoval went and grabbed his phone and came back with a video of his family watching his pinch-hit blast.
“I always have a good game on his birthday,” he said.
It was pointed out that Sandoval also hit a homer on Mother’s Day.
“I always have a good game on Mother’s Day,” he quickly replied.
Right now, Sandoval seems to have a good game every day.
He came off the bench for another pinch-hit homer, this one a 10th-inning blast that gave the Giants a thrilling 3-2 win over the Diamondbacks. With two pinch-hit homers in less than 24 hours, Sandoval doubled his previous career total.
“You expect good things to happen, that’s how good he has been,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “And it happened again today.”
Sandoval has been a breath of fresh air, a constant source of life and production. And at this point, it’s worth asking if he has been more. Has he been an All-Star?
The Giants, even in a season like this, must have one, and so far Sandoval has been as good a choice as any. He has easily been the team’s best hitter, posting a 1.001 OPS for a lineup that has just one other player (Brandon Belt, .848) above .800. Sandoval and Belt are tied for the team lead in homers with seven, and Sandoval entered the day leading the Giants with 1.1 Wins Above Replacement.
The most likely choice at this point is closer Will Smith, who picked up his 12th save in as many opportunities. But Sandoval is making a run for it, largely on the strength of his pinch-hit work, which may be an issue for some, but really shouldn’t hurt a player who does so much damage in the National League.
He is 9-for-24 as a pinch-hitter with two homers, six runs scored and four RBI. Sandoval leads the Majors in pinch-hits, and Sunday’s was yet another with two strikes. He got a fastball on the outer half from Yoshihisa Hirano and spun it out to left.
“I was getting ready for one moment,” Sandoval said. “You have to be ready for everything. Bochy gave me an opportunity in the 10th and I got a great swing and a good pitch to hit.
“I calmed myself down, used my hands a little bit more. Don’t jump at the ball. That’s what I’ve been doing this season. Try to get a good pitch to hit — it can be low, it can be high. If I put the barrel on the ball with a good swing, there’s going to be damage.”
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Sandoval got his chance because of another substitute. Brandon Crawford came off the bench and robbed Adam Jones of a walk-off single in the ninth, diving to stop a hard shot with a runner on third.
“That was the key to the game,” Sandoval said. “It wasn’t my bat. It was that play. That’s why that guy wins a Gold Glove every time he has an opportunity. He made that play to save the game.”