Giants continue hot stretch with win over Padres

Lost in the Giants’ stop-and-go offense, a constant stood strong.

Angel Pagan has been quietly putting together a .570 average with runners in scoring position.  On Monday night, Pagan’s two RBIs led the Giants to a 5-4 win over the Padres to open a three-game series.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Giants clubhouse at AT&T Park.

Pagan went 3-for-4 on the night, striking first against a shaky Drew Pomeranz with a two-out RBI single to score Brandon Belt, who had walked and advanced to third on a passed ball and wild pitch.

He added one more in the fourth, cracking a juicy curveball to left to score Belt again. Pagan isn’t surprised at his success with runners in scoring position:

“My career numbers show, I’m over a .310 hitter with runners in scoring position. That shows that my approach changes, I’m more patient at the plate…every time there’s someone there I know I can contribute.” 

Pagan’s been a toy in Bruce Bochy‘s experiments this season; he’s been pushed to left field and plopped into the nine hole, most nights.

To Bochy’s surprise, he’s adapted and progressed better than expected. Especially considering his offseason knee surgery. He’s clutch, said Bochy:

“I’ll say it’s a little bit more than I expected with the knee procedure he had in the offseason. He’s a guy that I thought I might have to baby. He ended up being the last guy to get a day off.”

Odd that one of the most productive hitters is hitting ninth in the order. For Bochy, it’s become an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ type of situation:

“It’s working right now where he’s at…we’ll see how this goes, but I’m very much aware of how much he’s doing offensively. If we have to tweak it, we will.”

It was just last September that Madison Bumgarner nearly no-hit the Padres.

Melvin Upton Jr. came off the bench with two outs in the eighth and singled to end that.

That memory flashed briefly as Bumgarner burned quickly through the lineup through two, and ended abruptly in the third inning when Jemile Weeks sent a double just far enough into the lights for right fielder Hunter Pence to lose it, allowing it to fall for a double.

That third inning marked one of very few Bumgarner trip-ups; Weeks eventually made it home on a Jon Jay RBI single. Bum escaped the inning fired up (or maybe angry?), after Denard Span robbed Matt Kemp of an extra-base hit at the wall and he got Upton looking.

Bumgarner had himself a night. He fanned nine batters through seven innings, and is now tied with Mets starter Noah Syndergaard at 38 strikeouts (second in the League).

A revival of power made all the difference in this one. Pence made up for his defensive blunder with a solo shot in the fourth, his second in consecutive games.

A ticked off Buster Posey, fueled by what he thought was a botched call strike, pulled a 3-2 hanger deep to his favorite part of the park to give the Giants what looked like a comfortable 5-2 lead.

But Bumgarner’s pitch count was mounting. He labored through the sixth inning, giving up a leadoff double to Kemp. Derek Norris doubled him home.

“After the sixth, (Bochy) could have taken me out. As far as pitch count goes it was borderline for some guys. I’m glad I was able to get back out there.”

Two outs and 114 pitches deep in the seventh, Bumgarner reluctantly surrendered his post to the bullpen after walking Jon Jay.

“Would have like to finish the inning for us, but wasn’t able to get in the zone there for Jay.”

And wouldn’t you know it, the Padres mounted a comeback. Kemp launched a leadoff double off Hunter Strickland and Upton singled and stole second to follow.

Alexei Ramirez worked a 3-2 count and an RBI single to cut the Giants’ lead to two.

Derek Law came in and gave up an RBI single to pinch hitter Brett Wallace to cut the lead to 5-4. The young bullpen has been hot and cold, thrust into the spotlight. Bochy said it’s best for these guys to get the experience in, even if it produces anxiety ridden games like these:

“Occasionally what happened tonight is going to happen. Strick has been really good, made a change there and it didn’t work out… I like the arms that we have there to get these match-ups.”

The bullpen squeaked by. Game on the line, Josh Osich finally came in and iced Jemile Weeks and Santiago Casilla ended the threat by striking out Jose Pirela.

Casilla came back into the ninth and struck out two to seal his 100th career save, becoming the sixth in club history to accomplish such a feat. Only Robb Nen, Rod Beck, Brian Wilson, Greg Minton and Gary Lavelle have successfully closed out games into triple digits.

Casilla is standing on relatively thin ice early on after blowing two of five save opportunities. Bumgarner assured that closers aren’t perfect. The moment is too valuable:

“He pitches in a spot where there naturally will be a lot of anxiety anyway, but we got all the confidence in the world for him. He’s nasty, he’s got command. Pretty much every time he comes through for us. There’s a hiccup here and there but you can say that about anybody, no one is going to be perfect.”

Did Casilla know he was going to get his 100th?

“Yes.”

He kept the ball, too.


Shayna Rubin is SFBay’s San Francisco Giants beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @ShaynaRubin on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Giants baseball.