Sandoval saves Giants from Pirates sweep

AT&T PARK — The Giants needed a little help to end their six-game home losing streak on Wednesday.

But considering the historic ramifications at stake, they’ll certainly take it.

A passed ball in the seventh by Pittsburgh catcher Chris Stewart allowed Joe Panik to score from third, giving the Giants a 6-5 lead after San Francisco squandered leads in the third and fourth innings.

The Giants would go on to win 7-5 after a Pablo Sandoval RBI single off reliever Justin Wilson (L, 3-2, 4.73 ERA) extended the lead in the eighth inning.

Photos by Scot Tucker/SFBay

Sandoval’s hit salvaged a win in the homestand and erased the possibility of losing seven consecutive games at home, something that hasn’t happened since the Giants moved to San Francisco in 1958.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy has had the thankless task of trying to explain the Giants woes throughout the losing streak. He talked about the importance of Wednesday’s win:

“It’s been a tough run. I mean this was a huge game. We came out and scored runs early and then gave up the lead and that can be disheartening. Huge game, no question about it. We all can eat solid food here now for a while.”

Gregor Blanco had two RBIs including a key single in the sixth that tied the game at 5-5.

Panik’s run may have put the Giants ahead, but the most important — and strangest — play happened in the sixth inning when a Jean Machi (W, 6-0, 1.55 ERA) walk to load the bases somehow turned into an inning-ending double play.

Machi walked Stewart with men already standing at second and third with one out.

Travis Snider was standing at second, and must have thought the bases were loaded before the walk, as he inexplicably began walking toward third.

Machi threw the ball to Crawford who ran down Snider, tagging him for the second out. Crawford then threw the ball to Posey, who tagged out a confused Ike Davis, who began running towards home plate during the rundown.

The play was a turning point in the game, as San Francisco took back the lead in the seventh with the Pirates losing their foothold in the final two innings.

Bochy said Machi recognized and reacted the confusion immediately:

“That was Machi. You don’t see that very often. We got a break there…..bases loaded one out and you get a double play. Probably saved us, no getting around that. I haven’t seen that. (Snider) must’ve thought the bases were loaded and he was going to third. Big double play, kept us out of a big inning, kept us close.”

The bullpen came up big after Tim Lincecum struggled mightily for San Francisco, lasting only 3.1 innings and pitching out of the stretch in all of them. It marked his shortest start since he also threw 3.1 innings on July 8, 2012 also against Pittsburgh.

Much-maligned Sergio Romo came through big in a setup situation. Romo retired the heart of the order, including a strikeout to Andrew McCutchen on a 3-2 pitch in the eighth inning.

Santiago Casilla recorded his eighth save in 11 opportunities this season, ending the game by striking out Josh Harrison.

Bochy raved about the bullpen’s performance on a day when Lincecum did not have it:

“The bullpen, I mean this whole series they’ve been throwing well. Timmy was off today. … We picked him up. The bullpen picked us up and they found a way to get it done today.”

What exactly was wrong with Lincecum?

“Everything really. I thought his command was off. He left some pitches up that they took advantage of. Home runs are usually mistakes and both of those were pitches up. That’s why I went and got him early. I could tell he wasn’t quite on top of his game. “

Lincecum’s biggest mistake came in the fourth inning, when he left a pitch up to Jordy Mercer who responded with a two-run bomb that put the visitors back on top 5-4.

The home run was a blow to San Francisco who had regained the lead in the previous inning, after rookie catcher Andrew Susac put the Giants up 4-3 on a single for his first major league hit and RBI.

As cold as the San Francisco Giants have been, the Pirates Josh Harrison couldn’t be hotter.

After a lead-off blast Tuesday night, Harrison took Lincecum deep in the third inning for his fourth home run in four games. More importantly, Harrison’s shot to left-center tied the game at 3-3, canceling a three run first inning for the Giants, their biggest of the home stand.

That first inning looked like it might be enough to get San Francisco off the schneid, especially since the Giants hadn’t scored more than three runs in a game during the streak.

Four singles and two walks from a struggling Charlie Morton helped the Giants get out to an early lead in the opening frame, something that has become foreign for the Orange and Black in recent times.

Morton was far from lights-out for Pittsburgh, but survived a two-on, no-out jam in the fourth inning, and got a big strikeout to Tyler Colvin in the fifth with Blanco at third.

The Giants will travel to New York tomorrow on their day off for a four-game series with the New York Mets that begins Friday at 4:10 ET.

Following Wednesday’s game, the Giants sit 2.5 games behind the Dodgers in the NL West division race and are tied for the first Wild Card spot with the Atlanta Braves.

Notes

Gregor Blanco matched his season-high with three hits today. … The bullpen threw 5.2 scoreless innings and has allowed just seven earned runs in 47.0 innings since the All-Star Break (1.34 ERA) … The Pirates have hit nine home runs in their last five contests … Neil Walker has reached base safely in 26 of his last 27 games.


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