AT&T PARK — The Giants turned the National League Championship Series back around Tuesday afternoon with a walk-off win of their own, riding a 10th-inning Cardinals throwing error to a tight 5-4 win and 2-1 series lead.
It unfolded in typical Giants fashion: An errant throw to first by relief pitcher Randy Choate off a Gregor Blanco bunt allowed Brandon Crawford, who had walked and reached second off a single from Juan Perez, to glide home.
The Giants’ postseason offense is a silent killer. The lineup will drag a pitcher to the late innings, showing no signs of hitting a stride, before punching in just enough runs to seal the deal. Or, they push in a few unearned, nitty-gritty runs that have opposing fan bases claiming voodoo trickery.
Today, the The Giants’ offense fell into that familiar yet effective pattern, but not without some surprises.
They unexpectedly rallied early to give Tim Hudson quick run support in his first career LCS appearance. The same offense that had tallied just four first-inning hits all postseason scored four runs in the first inning off John Lackey.
The bad throw to score Crawford for the win in the 10th inning wasn’t so surprising to Hudson:
“Anybody can score on base hits, you know. This is just how we do it.”
The Giants’ scoring methods, though unconventional, are a means of resilience. No win is unattainable, and the club has found success by accepting other avenues of production. Ishikawa agrees that unconventional offense is just conventional for them:
“Somebody asked me earlier if there was any other way we can score a run other than a non-conventional way, and I said, if there is, we’re going to find a way.”
San Francisco drew first blood with two outs in the first. Buster Posey singled, Sandoval singled, and Hunter Pence doubled to bring Posey home. After walking Brandon Belt, Lackey laid one in the zone for Travis Ishikawa, who doubled to clear the bases.
Ishikawa’s double was a monster into right and, any other day, would have been out of the park. Instead, the ball hung in the air for ages before hitting the bricks.
The Cardinals’ Kolten Wong suffered a similar frustration in the fourth.
With runners on first and second, he smashed a towering ball into right that looked on its way out. It too bounced off the bricks, clearing the bases to cut the Giants’ lead in half at 4-2 and giving Wong a measly triple.
San Francisco looked comfortable with just the four runs, but the Redbirds scored again in the sixth to cut the Giants’ lead to one before tying it in the seventh with a solo shot from Randal Grichuk. That juicy cutter was the last pitch Hudson threw, and he took it hard:
“It was probably the worst cutter I’ve thrown all day. Just backed up on me and went right into his swing. I was hoping it hooked just a little bit more foul and missed that pole, but it didn’t. Obviously it was a tough one for me to swallow. It was tough.”
The Giants couldn’t add any run support for Hudson after the first, as Lackey, a postseason veteran, got stronger as the game wore on. He allowed one hit — to Hudson — after the first inning and struck out two in his last inning. Manager Bruce Bochy was impressed with the other pitcher:
“Lackey settled down and we couldn’t do anything off him. We couldn’t get guys on base. He really go locked in and was hitting his spots and mixing it up on us.”
The bullpen and defense held back a Cardinals offense ripping at the seams trying to get on base. Gregor Blanco and Joe Panik made big catches off sharp line drives to save potential extra-base hits. In the 10th, Pablo Sandoval snagged Matt Holliday‘s sharp grounder that looked destined for extra bases.
San Francisco will face the Cardinals twice more at home. Wednesday Ryan Vogelsong and Shelby Miller will face off, and Thursday the Giants could seal their third trip to the World Series in the last five seasons. If not, they will return to St. Louis for a possible Game 6 and 7 on Saturday and Sunday.