McCutchen explodes for 6 hits, clobbers game-winner in 14th

It was anyone’s guess whether Friday’s rainout would wash away either the Dodgers road woes or the progress made by the Giants offense earlier this week.

But Saturday’s marathon, 7-5 win suggests it may take more than a San Francisco downpour to change the course for either team.

It took 14 innings to decide a winner Saturday, with a lot of scoreless ball in between, but by the time the dust settled, Andrew McCutchen rose from his slumberous 2018 start to cap a 6-for-7 performance with a towering walk-off blast to left field off Wilmer Font (L, 0-2, 8.44 ERA) to energize the remaining AT&T Park fans after 5 hours and 16 minutes of baseball.

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

The Giants and Dodgers went into off days Thursday on very different notes. San Francisco found itself finally clicking as an offense for the first time in 2018 after clobbering Seattle Mariners ace Félix Hernández and unleashing four home runs, including a splash hit from Pablo Sandoval. Meanwhile, Los Angeles closed out a three-game series with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday in which they were swept.

Asked ahead of Saturday’s game if he had any misgivings about the extra day off, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said:

“You hate to see the guys get two days off, especially the way we played the game before, but you gotta deal with Mother Nature.”

The off day had no effect on the groove the Giants offense found on Wednesday though, and they wasted no time making it clear that they were unfazed by Mother Nature’s game schedule pruning.

Joe Panik lobbed a 75-mph Rich Hill curveball into shallow left field for a single in the bottom of the first and McCutchen followed by launching the first of his personal record half-dozen hits — a double down the left field line — to bring Panik home.

McCutchen, who went into the game hitting 2-for-24 (.083) on the season, would, in addition to the RBI double in the first and the walk-off homer in the fourteenth, hit singles in the fourth, fifth, seventh and twelfth innings, ending the game with a new-and-improved .258 batting average.

After Cutch’s two-bagger, Buster Posey walked, and the inning looked promising. But Evan Longoria struck out swinging and Posey was thrown out as the trailing runner on a double-steal attempt on the same pitch.

The fourth inning allowed Posey to make up for being on the wrong end of the strike ‘em out-out ’throw ‘em out play. After McCutchen singled to center field, Posey rocketed a 90-mph fastball over the left-center wall for a two-run home run, his first dinger of the year, making it 3-1.

The top of the third offered McCutchen a chance to show off the work he’s been putting in learning the outfield at AT&T Park. Chase Utley smoked a 91-mph fastball off the right field wall, and McCutchen positioned himself perfectly to field the carom, limiting Utley to two bases.

Giants right-hander Chris Stratton (no decision) kept the Giants in the game through six innings, limiting the Dodgers to just one run. He was pulled for Josh Osich in the sixth after giving up a single to Cory Seager and walking Yasiel Puig. Osich coaxed a popup from Cody Bellinger but walked Logan Forsythe on four pitches.

Cory Gearrin came in to face Kiké Hernández and, while he ultimately grounded out to Brandon Crawford at short, a rare passed ball was called on Posey, and so between the ball that got away and the ground out, two runs scored, making it a 3-3 tie ballgame.

The Giants reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the sixth on a Brandon Belt line drive to right-center that bounced off the wall similarly to Utley’s in the third. Where McCutchen succeeded in correctly positioning himself for the carom, Puig failed, and the knock was good for two bases and an RBI, bringing Pence home from first.

When Sam Dyson came in to open the seventh inning he promptly gave the lead back though, allowing a home run to the first batter he saw, Utley. Dyson then gave up a single to Yasmani Grandal before getting Chris Taylor to ground out and being replaced by Tony Watson, who gave up a single to Corey Seager but escaped the inning otherwise unscathed.

Kenta Maeda, who was supposed to have started Friday’s game, pitched the seventh, allowing a double from Austin Jackson and a single from McCutchen, but the Giants were unable to cash in and it would be five innings before they would even threaten again.

Ross Stripling pitched a scoreless eighth and ninth for the Dodgers. Watson and Hunter Strickland combined to keep the Dodgers off the board for the eight and ninth innings. Rookie right-handed Giants reliever Pierce Johnson threw a 1-2-3 top half of the tenth, and Dodgers reliever JT Chargois kept the Giants bats quiet in the bottom half of that inning.

And it went on like that with a parade of bullpen arms keeping the score knotted up until the fourteenth inning when Giants reliever Roberto Gómez (W, 1-0, 22.50 ERA) gave up three back-to-back singles to Puig, Bellinger and Forsythe, the third of which scored Puig. Gomez got out of the inning without giving up any additional runs and it turned out that breaking the tie was enough to spur the Giants to victory.

Kelby Tomlinson, who had just come off the bench in the top of the 14th to play shortstop was the first to bat and he knocked a single to right field. Panik followed with another single to right, and despite Puig’s rocket of an arm,  Tomlinson made it to third base by virtue of his above-average speed.

It wouldn’t matter though. McCutchen came up next, and after milking 11 pitches from Dodgers reliever Font, he launched a 94.6-mph fastball walk-off three-run homer over the left field wall.

McCutchen said of the at bat:

“I like to look at it as controlled aggression. I’m not going up there trying to hit a home run. I’m just going up there trying to put a good swing on the pitch.”

Though McCutchen’s bomb did nothing when it came to a ‘W’ on his own record, Stratton showed deep admiration for his teammate. Stratton was seen postgame wearing a Cutch22 t-shirt, and when Stratton was asked if he had put it on after the game on purpose he replied:

“Oh yeah. It’s his day, today.”

The Giants skipper agreed:

“[McCutchen] is just a great hitter, a great at bat for him. He fought off some really tough pitches… He got a pitch he could handle there. You’re talking about a great hitter that was having a great night and he topped it off really well didn’t he?”

Up Next

Ty Blach will go against Clayton Kershaw Sunday in a rematch of Opening Day in which Blach went 5 innings giving up just three hits and shutting out the Dodgers.

Notes

The Dodgers (2-6), who were swept in three games by the Diamondbacks before coming to San Francisco have not opened a season with such a poor win-loss record since the 1976 Dodgers lost seven of their first eight games. … Jeff Samardzija threw his second bullpen session of the week Friday and is scheduled to throw in an extended spring training game in Arizona on Monday that reliever Will Smith (recovering from Tommy John surgery) is scheduled to start. If all goes according to plan Samardzija will be re-joining the rotation some time next week. Bochy said:

“He’s doing real well. I know he’s looking forward to this. He’ll probably make another [start] and we’ll be all set to go.”


Julie Parker is SFBay’s San Francisco Giants beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @JPWhatsername on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Giants baseball.