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Pence delivers Giants 11th-inning walk-off winner

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Giants rookie Dereck Rodríguez and Padres lefty Eric Lauer made one mistake apiece Sunday afternoon, each in the resulting in a solo homer. As such, neither hurler factored into the decision and the pitcher’s duel they sparked was carried on by their respective bullpens into extra innings.

Ultimately, the Giants (40-39) topped the Padres (35-45) 3-2 in 11 innings, despite blinking first. Down by one in the bottom of the 11th inning, a bases-loaded Hunter Pence double shepherded San Francisco into its first off-day in 17 days on a win .

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

Before handing the ball off, Rodríguez (ND, 2-1, 3.82 ERA) tossed his strongest start of the season. “D-Rod” shut San Diego down, inducing fly outs and weak contact, and allowing just four hits while maintaining an efficient pitch-count that allowed him to pitch a season-high seven innings on 99 pitches.

Manager Bruce Bochy was pleased with the outing by Rodríguez and the leeway his longevity allowed him with the bullpen:

“That kid, what a great job. [He] gives up a lead-off home run and then settles down and gives us seven solid innings, just a super job by him.”

Rodríguez labored through just one inning: the first, throwing 26 pitches and allowing a lead-off dinger (1) from Manuel Margot, his fifth career lead-off homer. But the Padres failed to score again, despite a Hunter Renfroe walk and a single from Christian Villanueva. Rodríguez ultimately notched three of his six strikeouts on the afternoon in that opening frame. It would be the only time the Padres would get a runner in scoring position against the San Francisco starter all afternoon.

Despite the early home run, the rookie pitcher felt Sunday was one of his best outings of the season, particularly with the efficacy of his curveball:

“It was a lot of fun, you know, the lead-off guy hit the homer and then I just shut ’em down for the rest of the game, so that was really cool.”

Rodríguez added:

“I kind of preferred it if I was gonna give it up to the first batter of the game and then just keep going keep doing what I was doing. It woulda been a lot worse if iI were to have gone six innings and then give up a home run or something.”

But the Giants also struggled to make solid contact off of Lauer (ND, 3-4, 5.05 ERA), and it looked like Rodríguez’s one mistake to Margot was going to cost them the game. Lauer kept San Francisco hitless through the first three innings, but after back-to-back one-out singles in the fourth inning from Andrew McCutchen and Buster Posey they seemed to break the seal and Lauer was at least no longer untouchable.

It took the Giants two more innings to actually get on the board, though, when Gorkys Hernández led off the sixth with a solo homer (9) over the Yahoo! Sports sign in left-center field.

The Giants nearly got more when Lauer then gave up a two-out double down the left field line to Posey to bring Brandon Crawford to the plate. Crawford walloped the first pitch he saw for a line drive that should’ve been good for an RBI, but Padres shortstop Freddy Galvis jumped up and speared it on an incredible play that doused the rally.

The short burst of offense in the sixth inning would be the last for either team for another five innings, so with the score knotted up at 1-1 it became a game for the bullpens.

With the benefit of longevity from Rodríguez, the Giants ‘pen kept the Pads at bay — until the 10th.

Mark Melancon, Will Smith and Sam Dyson each put up a full scoreless frame from the eighth through 10th innings. But Reyes Moronta struggled in the 11th inning, committing the sin of a leadoff walk that allowed Margot aboard and inevitably came back to haunt him.

With Hosmer at the plate, Moronta allowed Margot a big enough lead that when Hosmer grounded out, Margot was able to elude a double play, and then swipe another 90 feet on a wild pitch with Renfroe at the plate. Moronta got Renfroe to strike out, but Bochy decided to pull him anyway, so Cory Spangenberg came up to face Ty Blach (W, 5-5, 4.04 ERA) with the go-ahead run on third.

In his 17 innings of relief this season Blach had yet to allow an inherited runner to score, but Spangenberg got the better of him, knocking a grounder up the first base line that deflected off of Brandon Belt into right field and gave the Padres the lead. The Giants escaped the inning without further damage, but it was beginning to look like they were going to head into their first off-day in 17 days on a low note as they entered the eleventh inning against one of the best closers in the game, Brad Hand (L, 1-3, 2.37 ERA), down 2-1.

But with the heart of the order coming up, all was not lost. McCutchen lit a rally when he swatted a one-out double to left-center off Hand. The Friars then intentionally walked Posey to bring up Crawford, but Hand plunked him in the arm on the first pitch to load the bases for Pence.

Of the opportunity, the veteran outfielder said:

“Getting an opportunity with the bases loaded and one out, down a run is like a kid on Christmas morning for me. You know it’s tough, it’s a lot of responsibility, but it’s what you dream of every day.”

Pence, has struggled mightily in 2018, batting .196 with an OPS of .478, and just 9 RBI in 99 plate appearances. But he pulled a rabbit out of a hat Sunday, hacking a grounder into right field.

He was blissful after the extra-innings win, expressing gratitude for the opportunity to contribute to the team win:

“One of my favorite things about baseball is being a part of the team, so all of my focus and all of my effort and all the work that I put in is to just be ready for moments like that, and to be a part of big games and ultimately doing something bigger than yourself for The City, and the organization that you love. The fans have showed me so much love, and to have an opportunity to pay it back a little bit, even if it’s just a smile, man, it means a lot.”

Pence barely made it to second base before being overcome by his teammates, who nearly tore his jersey off when they reached him.

Up Next

The Giants have Monday off after playing 17 games in a row. It will be the team’s first off-day at home since April 26. Tuesday they open the final series of their 10-game homestand against the Rockies. Derek Holland (5-7, 4.48) will face Chad Bettis  (5-1, 5.23) in game one of three against Colorado; first pitch is set for 7:15 p.m.

Notes

Johnny Cueto (right elbow) pitched his first rehab game in Sacramento Saturday night throwing 48 pitches in 3-2/3 scoreless innings and striking out four. Cueto is expected to throw two more rehab games, but the Giants have not announced where his next rehab start will be. … Travis Jankowski was scratched from the Padres lineup shortly before game time for a sore left thigh.


Julie Parker is SFBay’s San Francisco Giants beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @insidethepark3r on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Giants baseball.

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