Nuñez double puts Giants in win column over Nationals

The picture looked all too familiar: the Giants, down three runs, had the bases loaded with one out.

Newly acquired Eduardo Nuñez stepped into the batter’s box, unaware that the fans that surrounded him had seen this situation end poorly time again during this second-half rough patch (granted, Nuñez did see the triple play). Brandon Crawford noted:

“Maybe it’s a good thing that he didn’t know.”

Nuñez cracked a double to right field, Brandon Belt scored, Joe Panik scored. Reality hit: A Giant got a hit with runners in scoring position. It would be the spark that sent the Giants to a 5-3 win over the Washington Nationals Saturday afternoon, a fresh start.

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

For Nuñez, endless slumps are nothing to fret over. The Minnesota Twins, he noted, have been in one all year–he’s thrived in slumps. He found out about the Giants’ second-half woes only last night. Probably after the triple play.

Nuñez didn’t have any second-half ghosts following him, just unspent talent, said Buster Posey:

“He’s very dynamic.”

Nuñez was able to show off all his talents Saturday, filling in seamlessly for a sore Brandon Crawford at short and a sore Denard Span atop the lineup. He hit a leadoff single to kick the game off and promptly stole his 28th base, answering his bases-loaded pop out in the second with his RISP heroics in his next at bat. Bruce Bochy was pleased:

“It lifts the ball club when someone comes through like that.”

That lift might have been lighter with the team’s Energizer bunny back in the lineup, Buster Posey said:

“It’s no secret that he’s our emotional, spiritual, whatever-you-wanna-go-with.”

Hunter Pence took his place in right field for the first time in 48 games to a warm ovation and took the batter’s box to an even warmer one, he waved back:

“It was pretty special. I’m really grateful and love everything about playing for the Giants.”

He got another ovation after cracking a double that almost cleared the left field wall. The double, of course, went un-cashed. Despite Nuñez’s moment, the Giants only went 2-for-13 with RISP Saturday. They’re hitting a whopping .190 with RISP this home stand.

The unsung heroes turned out to be the bullpen, who worked through a tough Nats lineup for five scoreless innings. Hunter Strickland tossed 1-2/3 innings of hitless ball.

Bochy went into what Jake Peavy called “postseason managing,” prioritizing offense to  Peavy’s uneven start.

While his offense was starting to break out of the everything-gone-wrong mode, Peavy sunk deeper into it. A 3-2 pitch to Bryce Harper in the third inning set the table for Anthony Rendon‘s two-run bomb. He made a bad pitch to Rendon, but Harper’s looked like a strike, he said:

“I thought that was a good pitch.”

Peavy gave up five hits and three runs in four innings of work. He was plucked from the game once Bochy reassessed the team’s priorities:

“I told Jake it doesn’t matter how well he’s throwing, we need runs and he understood.”

Peavy did understand, but:

“It’s not the way I drew up the start.”

The move paid off. Pinch hitter Mac Williamson worked a key walk to load the bases for Nuñez in that fateful fourth inning and scored the game-tying run on Angel Pagan‘s ground ball. Pagan’s had a flurry of sub-bar at-bats, but at least this one was productive.

The Giants scraped together a lead with some positively Giants-like offense.

Joe Panik cracked a bases-loaded sacrifice fly and Trevor Brown walked in a run to give the Giants a 5-3 lead in the seventh.

Buster Posey caught two runners stealing: Ben Revere in the fifth and Bryce Harper in the eighth. The Giants, for the first time in a while, were playing good baseball, said Peavy:

“It was an outstanding team win on all fronts.”

Added Bochy:

“That’s a huge win for what’s been happening.”

The win helps the Giants cling on to their first-place spot atop the NL West. The Los Angeles Dodgers are 1.5 games back.


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.