Four pitches turn tide in Giants' win over Padres

Dave Del Grande, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange


SAN FRANCISCO -- For six-plus innings Wednesday afternoon, a tight game between the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres was known for a pitch that wasn't anywhere near the strike zone.
That all changed six pitches later, however, when Padres reliever Luke Gregerson made the mistake of throwing the ball over the plate too often.
The Giants got hits on four consecutive Gregerson pitches in a three-run seventh inning in a 4-2 win that featured a benches-clearing incident and another home run by the target of the errant pitch, San Diego's Jesus Guzman.
In winning the three-game series after suffering a 13-inning loss Monday in the opener, the Giants scorched the Padres' usually reliable bullpen for the second consecutive day to overcome a late deficit and thrill the club's 200th consecutive home sellout.
After Guzman's second home run in two days had put the Padres ahead 2-1 in the top of the seventh, San Diego manager Bud Black chose to pull starter Eric Stults after he'd surrendered a one-out single to Tony Abreu and a first-pitch ball to pinch-hitter Hector Sanchez in the bottom of the inning.
Reliever Gregerson (4-3) added a ball and a strike to Sanchez's count with his first two offerings, then on consecutive pitches got tagged for a single to right by Sanchez, a two-run triple to center by pinch-hitter Gregor Blanco, an RBI single to center by Marco Scutaro and a single to right by Buster Posey.
"That's the first time I've seen Luke have an outing like that. And it might be the last," observed Stults, who stood to be the winning pitcher had the Padres' bullpen held the late 2-1 lead. "He's one of the best seventh-, eighth-inning guys in baseball."
Brandon Crawford, pinch-running after spraining two fingers on his right (throwing) hand on a steal attempt Tuesday night, scored one of the three runs. Giants manager Bruce Bochy announced before the game his star shortstop will be limited to pinch-running and bunting duties through at least Friday.
Gregerson left after throwing only six pitches, trailing 4-2. Tyson Ross recorded consecutive strikeouts to avoid further damage.
Ross went on to strike out all five batters he faced in the game.
"You feel bad," admitted Gregerson, who had held opponents hitless in 19 of his previous 33 appearances. "We battled and got the runs we needed. Eric is out there working his (butt) off. ... It kinda sucks it worked out that way."
Giants relievers Jake Dunning and Sergio Romo successfully protected the lead and the win for starter Madison Bumgarner (7-4), who overcame two solo home runs to hold the Padres otherwise scoreless over seven innings. The left-hander gave up a total of just three hits, striking out eight and walking four.
Romo pitched a scoreless ninth inning -- striking out Guzman to a loud ovation in the process -- for his 18th save.
Stults, who was coming off a complete-game, two-hitter against the Arizona Diamondbacks, had limited the Giants to one run on six hits before Abreu's single in the seventh. The left-hander struck out three, walked two and was charged with two runs.
Guzman's home run, a first-pitch blast well into the left-field bleachers, came at nearly an identical time and situation as Tuesday night, when his two-run, pinch-hit shot in the eighth inning reversed a one-run Giants lead and put the Padres on top 4-3.
Wednesday's follow-up act also produced a one-run lead, this time 2-1, in the top of the seventh. He celebrated the encore shot far less than the night before -- this time merely raising a clenched fist in the air before emphatically slapping the hand of first-base coach Dave Roberts -- no doubt as a result of a message received five innings earlier.
Bumgarner made it clear in the second inning that Guzman's sundial-timed journey around the bases following Tuesday's homer -- which began with a stroll one-third of the way to first base and a two-fists-down shout-out to the San Diego dugout -- was deemed excessive celebration by the Giants. The left-hander's first pitch to Guzman was belt-high and behind his back, prompting the first baseman to glare at Bumgarner and take a handful of non-threatening steps toward the mound.
"I'm surprised because I enjoyed the homer with my team," Guzman said of Bumgarner's purpose pitch. "It's OK. You know it's part of the game."
The Padres' Black didn't agree.
"I don't know what's in Bumgarner's head," he said. "If it was (on purpose), Bumgarner shouldn't have done that. I think Guzzie was showing emotion like so many guys do. He was emotional. That was a key point of the game in a key series."
Bumgarner refused to comment on the retaliation and the Giants' Bochy tried to convince the media the pitch had gotten away from his guy.
Purposeful or not, Blanco insisted it was no big deal.
"We don't get caught up in stuff like that," he said. "He (Guzman) did his job (with the seventh-inning homer). Our job was to get back in the game and win it."
The traditional baseball-style, no-contact players meeting in the middle of the diamond followed Bumgarner's one-hopper to the backstop, after which both managers were warned that no further shenanigans would be tolerated. There were no subsequent incidents in the game.
"I feel pretty good," Guzman assured afterward. "Maybe they feel really good because they won the game. But they know I swing a bat."
So does Blanco, who now has 25 RBI this season after having totaled 34 all of last season.
"It comes from batting sixth or seventh," Blanco, a leadoff man most of his career, said of his run-producing surge. "I said to myself, 'If I'm hitting sixth or seventh, I better drive in guys to the plate.'"
NOTES: Will Venable also homered for the Padres, who have a major-league-best 24 home runs in their last 15 games. ... The Giants, homerless in the series, out-hit San Diego 11-4 Wednesday. ... The Giants have beaten the Padres in six consecutive series at AT&T Park. ... The Padres began the day by putting SS Everth Cabrera on the disabled list with a strained hamstring. The move was made retroactive to Monday. OF Jaff Decker was recalled from Triple-A Tucson to fill the spot on the active roster. ... Before the game, the Giants announced injury-rehab assignments for Angel Pagan (hamstring) and Pablo Sandoval (foot), both of whom will be sent to Single-A San Jose. Pagan will play games Thursday and Friday in Stockton, with hopes of rejoining the parent club this weekend. Sandoval will head to San Jose for games Saturday and Sunday. He is eligible to be activated from the DL on Monday, when the Giants open a three-game road series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. ... Giants starting pitcher Ryan Vogelsong had five pins removed from his fractured right hand and pinkie Tuesday. He remains on schedule to return to action in late July or early August.