Giants

Span clinches win for Giants and Gearrin, who had walk-off dreams of his own

Span clinches win for Giants and Gearrin, who had walk-off dreams of his own

SAN FRANCISCO — With the winning run on second and a bat in his hands, Cory Gearrin allowed himself to dream. He was a second baseman at Mercer University years ago and he entered the night with a 1.000 batting average in the big leagues. Why couldn’t this be his night on the mound and at the plate?

Gearrin stopped on the way to the plate and told Buster Posey that he was going to walk it off. He dug in against right-hander Chad Qualls and waited for the first sinker. He swung over the top of it, but he felt it was a quality hack. And then he missed the next sinker, and then the next. 

“I felt good going into that at-bat,” Gearrin said. “It was fun getting that opportunity. I’ve never faced a sinker like that. I felt like I missed it … by a lot.”

Gearrin can take solace in two facts. First, using his own sinker, he pitched three shutout innings, more than earning his keep, and he was a well-deserved winning pitcher in a 4-3 win over the Rockies that became official one minute after midnight.

Second, perhaps he gave the next hitter, Denard Span, a better view of an opposing pitcher’s repertoire. 

“Yeah ... he gave me a lot of information during that at-bat,” Span said as he laughed. 

Okay, so maybe Gearrin’s contributions were limited to the mound, but oh what a job he did against one of the best lineups in the National League. Span didn’t glean anything from Gearrin’s brief battle, but he didn’t need to. He spat on a changeup and then ripped a sinker into right, allowing Gorkys Hernandez to race home for a 14th-inning victory. 

Span, who is open about his distrust of birds, had spent nearly two hours standing under a circling flock of seagulls. Between pitches, he often dropped his hands onto his knees, looking more eager than anyone for the night to end. 

“Those birds were dropping stuff all around me,” he said. “I was like, you know what man, I don’t got time for this.”

The single gave the Giants back-to-back wins for the first time since May 27-28. It validated so much good work, from the five relievers who got the ball to Gearrin, to the Brandons who turned a snazzy double play in the 11th, to Buster Posey, who twice threw out runners at second in extra innings. Gearrin shouted out the defense in his post game media session. 

“It’s not news to us that we’ve got gold glovers all over the field,” he said. 

The Giants trailed by a pair after Matt Cain hung a curveball to Mark Reynolds, but they chipped away. The Rockies were the jumpier team in extra innings, but every rally was cut down by stellar defense and quality pitches. Gearrin threw 34 of them. 

The veteran right-hander had never before recorded more than six outs in a big league game. He got nine outs Tuesday, giving Bochy one extension after another as he battled to make it through a game shorthanded. With Conor Gillaspie headed to the DL, the Giants had just three position players on the bench. That meant Ty Blach was used as a pinch-runner. Jeff Samardzija pinch-hit in the 11th. Bochy thought of using Matt Moore in the 14th when the pitcher’s spot came up. Hunter Strickland was warming up to pitch the 15th, but …

“I could have hit Moore — I probably should have,” Bochy said, smiling. “But Cory is a pretty good athlete and had a pretty good average going into that at-bat. The numbers swayed me.”

Gearrin got his first career at-bat last season and singled. He has not even taken batting practice since that day, but he was fired up when given the opportunity. He was still so fired up after the Giants chased Span into the outfield that he didn’t mind the fact that his shiny 1.000 batting average has been cut in half. 

“I got to use that line for a year,” he said. “But I’ll gladly sacrifice the 1.000 average for a walk-off win.”

Joe Panik's walk-off aided by slow Giants alertly stealing two bases

Joe Panik's walk-off aided by slow Giants alertly stealing two bases

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants have the slowest roster in the big leagues, but they won a game Tuesday night with some speed. Or rather, by mixing some smarts with some speed. 

Braves closer Luke Jackson showed zero interest in checking on runners in the ninth and Kevin Pillar and Mac Williamson took advantage, twice stealing second before Joe Panik’s single brought them both home in a 4-3 win. The late rally came in drips, but it led to a thrilling win on a night when the Giants were absolutely flat for eight innings. 

Jackson seemed to be having issues with the signs, repeatedly asking catcher Brian McCann to run through them again. He was deliberate, and Pillar took advantage first, a few moments after his RBI single with two outs brought Brandon Crawford screaming home and cut the deficit to one. Jackson never checked on Pillar with Pablo Sandoval at the plate and he took off, sliding in just ahead of McCann's throw. 

Sandoval ended up with his 10th pinch-hit of the year, but with Pillar at first, Josh Donaldson's diving stop at third would have led to a game-ending force. Instead, Pillar eased into third as Sandoval raced to first with no throw, reaching on an infield single. Sandoval was replaced by Williamson, who also received no interest from Jackson. On an 0-2 pitch to Panik, he stole second without a throw. 

"That was huge," manager Bruce Bochy said. "Kevin, he's a basestealer and that was a huge base. Once Mac got it, now you realize it just takes a hit to win the game. That's a big base."

Panik's eyes got wide once Williamson touched second. 

"I don't have to hit a double to win the game," Panik said. "I can stay within myself, stay in the middle of the field, and you can win the game with a single."

Panik did, ending a great at-bat by pulling a curveball into right, a few feet past a diving Ozzie Albies. The only speed Panik needed was to get away from a rush of teammates waiting with kidney punches and turkey taps. But before that, he took advantage of tendencies, too. 

Panik has been as locked-in as an Giants hitter the last three weeks, and he fouled off three pitches while getting to 2-2. When Jackson threw a fastball that never threatened the plate, Panik thought back to the scouting report. 

"I thought it was a setup pitch for his breaking ball," he said.

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It was. Jackson went to his curve on 3-2 and the game was over a few seconds later. 

"That's a great comeback," Bochy said. "We looked pretty flat. We just couldn't get going offensively. Their guy (starter Julio Teheran) did a great job on us. That's a huge win.

Joe Panik gives Giants 4-3 win with two-run walk-off single vs. Braves

Joe Panik gives Giants 4-3 win with two-run walk-off single vs. Braves

The San Francisco Giants were on the verge of their 27th loss of the season.

But second baseman Joe Panik had other ideas Tuesday night.

With runners on second and third base and two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, Panik roped a single to right field. Kevin Pillar scored from third, and pinch-runner Mac Williamson beat the throw from Braves right fielder Nick Markakis, giving the Giants a dramatic 4-3 win.

What little crowd remained at Oracle Park on a damp evening went crazy.

It was Panik's third career walk-off hit.

The Giants now are 21-26 on the season.