Hunter Pence has 'pretty, pretty special' day vs. Giants in Scottsdale

Hunter Pence has 'pretty, pretty special' day vs. Giants in Scottsdale

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Hunter Pence never was at a loss for words when it came to speaking to Giants fans. But the veteran outfielder paused for a moment Sunday afternoon when asked about receiving a standing ovation after he hit a homer against the Giants.

"Pretty, pretty special," he said, smiling. 

The home crowd showered Pence with love throughout Sunday's spring-training game against the Rangers, Pence's second visit to Scottsdale Stadium since parting ways with the Giants. There were plenty of opportunities to do it, too.

Pence had three hits -- something he did just twice last season for the Giants -- including a homer off Jeff Samardzija. The right-hander laughed and said he used to flood Pence with sliders when they faced off before becoming teammates.

Samardzija threw a cutter in the third inning, and Pence blasted it halfway up the berm in left field. The crowd erupted, and many Giants fans stood as Pence rounded the bases. 

"It kind of takes the edge off a little bit when the home fans are cheering for the road guy," Samardzija said. "But what a great guy, and obviously we owe a lot to that guy. We wish him the best, and it's just good to see him out there playing hard. He looks healthy, too."

Pence hasn't been able to play the field because of a minor shoulder injury, but he's scheduled to do so Monday, taking another step in what has been a big spring for the 35-year-old. Trying to make the Rangers as a non-roster invitee, Pence has 10 hits in 27 at-bats (.370), with four doubles, two homers and four stolen bases in four attempts. 

Those are the kinds of numbers the Giants grew accustomed to back in Pence's early years with the organization. His game tailed off the last two years, but Pence spent an offseason overhauling his swing, and he's happy with the results. 

He also was happy to be back in a familiar place, and he soaked it all in Sunday. After hitting two singles, he chatted it up with Giants first baseman Brandon Belt, whom he said is "like a brother to me." Pence joked with reporters that he has gotten revenge on Giants left-hander Derek Holland, who jokingly complained after Pence's first visit that he wasn't returning texts. 

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Before any of this, Pence took 21 minutes to sign autographs along the third base line. At one point, he found himself taking photos with two young fans wearing No. 8 Giants jerseys. 

"It's extremely humbling, and it really is an honor," Pence said. "It's an honor to have been a part of such a great team. My whole goal is just to be able to give everything I can. I love the game of baseball, I was grateful to be a part of that organization, that city, that fan base that is just incredible. It's just an honor."

Watch Giants end skid on perfect relay throw home to beat Pirates

Watch Giants end skid on perfect relay throw home to beat Pirates

What looked like a possible nightmare turned into triumph for the Giants on Sunday. 

With two outs and the Giants leading the Pirates 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth inning, former San Francisco top draft prospect Bryan Reynolds stepped to the plate for Pittsburgh and looked to stay hot against his former franchise.

Reynolds rocketed a line drive down the right-field line off closer Will Smith. The rest was perfection for the Giants and pure ugliness for the Pirates.

Steven Duggar hit second baseman Joe Panik with a perfect relay throw as the Pirates' Jung Ho Kang raced around the bases. It's safe to say Kang should have stayed at third. Instead, he was out by a mile while trying to tie up the score, as Panik's throw to catch Buster Posey easily beat him to the plate.

[RELATED: Watch Posey end homer drought with three-run dinger]

The win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Giants, who are 2-4 on their current road trip. They head to Toronto for two more games away from San Francisco.

Watch Buster Posey end homer drought with three-run dinger vs. Pirates

Watch Buster Posey end homer drought with three-run dinger vs. Pirates

Welcome back to the Home Run Club, Buster Posey.

Posey hit his first home run of the 2019 season Sunday in Pittsburgh. The deep fly to dead-center field was a three-run shot that gave the Giants a 3-2 lead over the Pirates in the fifth inning.

According to Statcast, the three-run homer came 107.1 mph off Posey's bat with a 24-degree launch angle, and traveled 409 feet. 

Not only was it the Giants catcher's first homer of 2019, it was his first in 237 at-bats. He last went deep on June 19, 2018, with a solo shot off Dan Straily in a 6-3 win over the Marlins. 

Clearly, Posey was relieved.

With the drought over, Posey has completed a piece of history. The Pirates were the last team he hadn't homered off since entering the league in 2009.

Posey is just the seventh Giant -- including pitcher Madison Bumgarner -- to homer this season.