Belt blasts Giants to 18th-inning win

The Giants needed nearly nine full innings — and a questionable managerial decision — to get their first run against the Washington Nationals Saturday.

It took another nine innings — and a towering Brandon Belt solo home run in the 18th — to escape Game 2 with a 2-1 win and return to San Francisco with an intimidating 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series.

Belt had been 0-for-6 with a pair of strikeouts going into the game-winning at-bat:

“I knew I wasn’t having great at-bats all game and I wasn’t sticking with the game plan I had in the previous five or six games… I just wanted to have a good at-bat and whatever happens, happens.”

In a game that stretched 485 total pitches over a postseason record six hours and 23 minutes, rookie second baseman Joe Panik sparked a ninth-inning rally when Nationals manager Matt Williams pulled starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann after a two-out walk.

Pablo Sandoval tied the game 1-1 on a line-drive double to left field that scored Panik and forced Buster Posey into a close out at home plate to end the inning.

Williams felt the need to give Zimmermann the hook after Panik smashed an upper deck foul ball 10 feet from home-run territory before drawing a walk.

It’s hard to imagine a better performance for Zimmermann than the one he supplied on Sept. 28 with a no-hitter against the Miami Marlins. To three-hit a team like the Giants in the postseason for 8-2/3 innings with six strikeouts on 100 pitches is in the conversation.

Tim Hudson delivered a gutty performance of his own with 7-1/3 solid innings . He surrendered just one earned run to go with eight strike outs on 97 pitches.

Anthony Rendon drew first blood for the Nationals with an RBI single in the third to make it 1-0. That seemed to be enough for Zimmermann, who hadn’t allowed a hit since the third.

Then frustration ran high for the Nationals in extras.

Asdrubal Cabrera was ejected after he was called out on strikes to start the 10th. After the ejection, first-year manager Williams lost his composure and was tossed by home plate umpire Vic Carapazza as well.

Williams was asked about how the sequence transpired and sharply responded:

“What I said was between me and the umpire.”

Jeremy Affeldt induced a critical double play from Denard Span after he ceded a single to Ryan Zimmerman to get the Giants out of the inning.

Game 2 saw two of the National League’s premiere bullpens, but the moment might have proved too pressurized for rookie reliever Aaron Barrett.

Barrett came in to start the 12th against Hunter Pence. His first three pitches weren’t close to the strike zone. Then he grooved a 3-1 pitch to Pence who drilled it over the head of Span for a leadoff double.

Jerry Blevins relieved Barrett the next batter and got three straight outs without Pence crossing home plate.

The Giants ‘pen answered with Yusmeiro Petit (W, 1-0, 0.00 ERA), who struggled the entire inning with location.

Petit saw five batters and escaped the inning unscathed. He settled down after that, hurling scoreless 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th innings.

Manager Bruce Bochy acknowledged to heroic performance Petit and the Giants relief corps put on:

“[Petit] was fresh… We knew he was good for around 80 pitches and he got us there. What a great job he did… I can’t say enough about what this bullpen did for us and, really, Petit’s job. You know, they say, “play hard for nine innings,” but we had to do it for 18 innings and those guys never quit.”

Nationals relievers Craig Stammen and Rafael Soriano matched Petit for five innings.

Tanner Roark (L, 0-1, 4.50) pitched a scoreless 17th, but Brandon Belt cracked a 3-2 fastball to deep right field to give the Giants a 2-1 lead in the 18th.

Hunter Strickland pitched a scoreless 18th to seal the win.

The Giants will return to AT&T Park for Game 3 Monday.

Madison Bumgarner (1-0, 0.00 ERA) will face Doug Fister (16-6, 2.41 ERA) in the 2012 World Series Game 2 rematch. Game time will be 12:07 p.m. unless the Kansas City Royals sweep the Los Angeles Angels Saturday. Then Game 3 will be at 2 p.m. It will be televised on MLB Network.

Notes

Saturday’s marathon was the longest postseason game in baseball history. The second longest was Game 4 of the 2005 NLDS between the Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros. The Braves starting pitcher that day was also Tim Hudson. … Petit is the seventh pitcher to throw six or more shutout innings of relief in a postseason game. The last was Darren Oliver in 2006 for the New York Mets. … The longest baseball game in NCAA history took place May 30, 2009 between University of Texas and Boston College and lasted 25 innings. The DH for Texas that night: Brandon Belt.


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