Morse homers like it’s 2014, Giants beat LA in extras

Michael Morse took the batter’s box at AT&T Park for the first time in a Giants uniform since 2014, down one run, “Take On Me” blaring — it felt all too familiar.

Two strikes against him, Morse crushed a fastball off Pedro Baez and raised his arms immediately. It landed 419 feet in the left field bleachers and gave the San Francisco Giants — who were being no hit just two innings earlier — a fresh board, 3-3. It was Game 5 of the NLCS all over again, said Buster Posey:

“Even the exit out of the box was very similar.”

It was just the kind of moment, a perfect storm of chance and fresh energy, that the Giants (8-14) had been waiting for — and they actually took advantage. San Francisco got its first walk-off win of the season Wednesday, loading the bases in the bottom of the 10th and taking the 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on a relentless Hunter Pence sacrifice fly.

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

For the first time all season, it looked like the Giants were having a good time, sincerely, even before the exuberant walk-off celebration.

The team laughed in the dugout, despite the game being very much on the line, as Pence hacked at high fastball after high fastball looking for one to get enough on in that 10th inning, said manager Bruce Bochy:

“If he had walked it would have been one of the greatest walks of all time.”

Johnny Cueto laughed, saying through team translator and Spanish language broadcaster Erwin Higueros:

“It looked like kind of a pitch out, but he was swinging.”

Tension released, pressure situations lightened. It was the kind of atmosphere Morse envisioned hours before the game, dressed in a silk-screen shirt depicting Madison Bumgarner downing a handful of beers:

“I always believe if you have fun, good things are going to happen no matter what. … I’m here to bring the fun. I’m here to bring the excitement. Let’s bring that Giants feeling back.”

That ‘Giants feeling’ didn’t feel present, or even nearby, through the first six innings. Alex Wood (ND, 1-0, 2.29 ERA) had kept the Giants hitless until Drew Stubbs knocked his first hit in the black and orange, a single to left field.

The wind must have changed when Christian Arroyo took the box against former friend and current foe Sergio Romo — who’d just given up a hit to longtime battery mate, Posey, the at-bat before.

Arroyo blasted a 2-0 sloppy slider toward the left field bleachers, befuddled by the ball’s carry and umpire’s twirling wrist as it landed:

“Off the bat I thought it was a double. … I’ve never been a home run guy, so once I saw the umpire I started to slow down and take it all in.”

He sat stunned in the dugout. His family cheered in the stands, careful not to spill any nachos. The 21-year-old had just ticked off the comeback, Pence said:

“That’s a good way to hit your first home run. It changes the game and gets us back in it…It’s been an energy jolt having him up here.”

Morse added:

“Cueto busted his butt off and we couldn’t get it together. … To see this kid get his first home run and put us back in it, it’s like the magic of 2014.”

Johnny Cueto (ND, 3-1, 5.10 ERA) ultimately made this possible, working five efficient shutout innings and striking out top call-up Cody Bellinger three times, adding to his total five on the night.

He ran into a whole lot of trouble in the sixth when Corey Seager launched a 3-2 fastball 462 feet into ‘Bonds territory’ just to the left of straight-away center field for a solo homer (4). The Dodgers loaded the bases and tacked another run on with a Chase Utley bloop base hit.

Cueto nearly escaped the inning on a Yasmani Grandal double play ball that he beat out to put his team up 3-0 — no hitter, at that time, still intact, said Bochy:

“We almost left that inning down two, almost made that double play.”

But, this time, the lead wouldn’t be insurmountable.

Arroyo’s home run turned disaster to a feel-good night, Morse’s game-tier might have grander implications said Pence:

“It’s one of those special moments that can change a season … Morsey being Morsey.”

Arroyo might be new to the bigs, but he got a good feel for what Morse is about given that hit:

“He was down two strikes and there was no giving in. … Him being here is going to help change the energy.”

Morse knew that’s what he’d come here to do:

“That’s what I told (general manager) Bobby (Evans) … I’m gonna help this team right the ship.”

Still, the game was losable. Until the Giants mounted a tenth-inning rally against Ross Stripling (L, 0-2, 4.50 ERA), who could muster just one out, Pence’s sac fly, after pitching the ninth. Gorkys Hernandez singled, extending his hit streak to four games, Conor Gillaspie drew a walk and Nick Hundley reached on a bunt to load the bases with no outs in the 10th.

Pence finally found his fastball. Then, Tony Bennett took over.

Notes

Morse hadn’t hit a home run since 2015, so he feared the excitement might have caught up to him:

“I was like, I hope I didn’t strike out and I’m just running around the bases.”

Arroyo got his home run ball back and only had to give the fan who caught it a signed ball in return. …

Denard Span was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a sternoclavicular joint sprain. He was initially supposed to be out only four days, but his rehabbing took a turn. This further prompted Michael Morse’s call-up from Sacramento. Morse brings more than power off the bench — a special kind of energy this team really needed. … Matt Cain pitched a bullpen session today and is expected to make his next start barring any new hiccups. … Brandon Crawford was placed on bereaverment list and Kelby Tomlinson was brought up. Jarrett Parker was placed on 60-day DL to make room for Morse on the 40-man.


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.