Giant heroics snatch victory from Nationals

AT&T PARK — The Giants once again came from behind to win it in dramatic fashion.

Pablo Sandoval’s prodigious two-run blast to the center field bleachers sent the fans home ecstatic as the Giants defeated the Washington Nationals 4-2 in ten innings.

Sandoval admitted that this Giants team thrives in big pressure situations:

Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval

Audio: Jen Cosgriff/SFBay

“We love pressure. It’s our favorite part, playing with a lot of pressure on. We come from behind and win those games. We play better in the bottom of the ninth, one run behind. So, I think it’s special for us.”

What promised to be a pitching duel did not disappoint. Coming in, Stephen Strasburg and Matt Cain were almost identical in their final pitching lines.

The Nationals got on the board early against Cain. Denard Span led the game off with a single and advanced to second base on a bunt by Bryce Harper. Ryan Zimmerman doubled him home, and later in the inning, Ian Demond also doubled to plate Zimmerman.

Cain struck out Danny Espinosa to end the inning, but Washington had a quick 2-0 lead.

The Giants clawed their way back into the game one run at a time. They got a run back in the bottom of the second when Gregor Blanco singled to lead off the inning. Cain sacrificed him to second, and Angel Pagan drove him in to get the Giants on the board.

Cain’s performance wasn’t perfect, but he gutted it out. With the bases loaded in the top of the fourth, he got Kurt Suzuki to hit a weak comebacker, which he threw to Buster Posey for the out at home. He then got Strasburg to strike out swinging to keep the Giants down by just one run.

After a one-out walk to Harper in the top of the fifth, Cain got Zimmerman to ground into a double play beautifully started by Brandon Belt, excellently turned by Brandon Crawford and finished by Cain covering first base.

Despite a tough first inning, Cain recovered to give the Giants their first quality start in the last eight games. He left the game after seven innings and 112 pitches, giving up just the two runs and striking out seven.

Cain was good, but on this cold night in The City, Strasburg was slightly better. The young right-hander also went seven innings, throwing 108 pitches and allowing just one run while also striking out seven.

Javier Lopez, Jean Machi, and Sergio Romo combined to shut out the Nationals in the eighth and ninth to keep their team in the game and allow the Giants offense to finally re-surface in the bottom of the ninth.

Posey led off the inning with a single that pitcher Rafael Soriano couldn’t quite get to. Andres Torres came off the bench to pinch-run for Posey, but he was stuck at first after both Hunter Pence and Belt flied out.

But with two outs, down to his last strike, Blanco got his third hit of the night, a deep triple over the head of Harper to bring in Torres and the tying run.

Cain said he is thankful to have Blanco on his team:

Giants pitcher Matt Cain

Video: CSN Bay Area

“That’s the thing that we love about Blanco is that he’s kind of that guy who’s quietly doing a lot of things for us…he does a lot of things to keep rallies going or to keep at-bats going. He might not get hits every time, but he’s usually working counts into messing with the pitcher. … You enjoy watching him play all the time.”

Jeremy Affeldt pitched a perfect 1-2-3 tenth for San Francisco, setting the table for another walk-off win.

With one out in the bottom of the tenth, Marco Scutaro singled up the middle, his second hit of the night. Scutaro now leads the majors with a 19-game hitting streak and has multiple hits in 14 of his last 16 games.

His hit brought Sandoval to the plate, who launched a 1-0 pitch from Yunesky Maya deep to right-center field, leaving no doubt that the Giants had just completed their sixth walk-off win of the season.

Manager Bruce Bochy said it best perhaps, when he talked about his team’s ability to stay in tight ballgames.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy

Video: CSN Bay Area

“You keep it close, anything can happen.”

Notes

Tonight’s victory marked the Giants 13th come-from-behind win this year. … Cain’s two runs over seven innings is his sixth quality start of the year, tied with Madison Bumgarner for the team lead. … Sandoval’s 10th inning home run was his second career-walk-off homer. The first also came against the Nationals May 12, 2009. …  Ian Desmond for the Nationals went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI. The extra base hit marked his 22nd of the season, which ranks as the third-most in the NL.