SAN FRANCISCO – When it was done, and he'd opened a can of something cool and refreshing, and a dead moose's head stared down on him from a wall in his office, Bruce Bochy considered this guy Yusmeiro Petit and said flatly, "Saved us again."
Spend a good 24 hours debating the merits of this starter or that, fret over an offense that had the look of disappearing again, wind and rain coming, the Kansas City Royals feeling the moment, get eight outs from the starter you chose, and some round guy with an upside-down head – bald on top, beard on the bottom – pops three scoreless innings and changes everything.
He'd saved the San Francisco Giants again.
When it was done, and he'd sweated out a good portion of whatever had ailed him, and a bag or two of saline had run through his arm and settled into his cells, Pablo Sandoval grinned and said, "Work. Keep working. Have fun."
And that's it, too.
Spend three days wondering whatever happened to some of the central figures of your lineup, fret over the back end of the other bullpen that just never, ever blinks, drag Carlos Santana in for some of that national anthem Supernatural mojo, and Sandoval gets two hits batting right-handed, and everybody else hits too, and you're down three runs in the third inning, only to score the next 10.
Then, hell, just go out and play, see what happens, put a few balls on a line and run 'til they tell you to stop.
When it was done, the Giants had leaned again on the most underrated – maybe less underrated than overlooked – man of the postseason, that being Petit. And they'd roused themselves in the batter's box. And at the moment it appeared they'd played themselves out of this World Series they stormed back into it, tied it at two games apiece, Madison Bumgarner in Game 5, an 11-4 win echoing Saturday night across China Basin.
It went like this: Petit walked into a two-run deficit and walked out of a three-run lead, in three scoreless innings. He dabbled with an average fastball that apparently nobody can see and a ferocious curveball that nobody wants to see, slipped across 10 Royals, pumped his fists and shouted, "Let's go!", and had his postseason earned-run average remain as invisible as his fastball. He's made three October appearances, pitched 12 innings, allowed four hits and no runs, and been the winning pitcher three times.
In the regular season, back when most counted the Giants as dead in the NL West and non-factors in October, Petit retired 46 consecutive batters over eight appearances, a record very few heard about and fewer still cared about. Two months later, he's still hitting Buster Posey's mitt with uncanny regularity, still missing (on the rare occasions he misses) in smart spots, and still asking the Giants to climb aboard when it was time for the dirty work of middle and/or long relief.
The 29-year-old Venezuelan threw his final regular-season game – a start – on Sept. 25. Nine days later, he threw six innings – the 12th through 17th innings, in Game 2 of the NLDS. Eleven days after that, he threw three innings – the fourth through the sixth – in Game 4 of the NLCS. Ten days passed, Game 4 of the World Series comes along, Ryan Vogelsong was bounced in the third, and in a world of relievers who need to know their roles and feel appreciated, Petit went three innings, long enough for the Giants to send seven to the plate in the fifth, eight to the plate in the sixth and nine to the plate in the seventh.
"So," Petit said of his sporadic yet heavy workload, "I tried to work like how I'm working during the season because you never know when Bochy will need you. So I'm ready for that, especially in the World Series. I'm working every day for the command for when I'm need there, so I can throw strikes."
So, the pressure of it all?
"No," he said.
No, he said. Take a week-and-a-half off, get the ball, try to be perfect until somebody comes gets the ball. Over and over.
"He has a really hard job," Posey said. "He's been incredible."
[Related: Royals need James Shields to shine in Game 5]
Before that, the Giants are having one of those times again. One of those times when they're really not very good. When their offense amounts to exactly what it looks like it should amount to.
Then they had 16 hits and scored all those runs. Then it was the Royals' bullpen that looked ratty. And this is the series now, all wildly and beautifully unpredictable, as along came Petit at around the time the Giants started wearing out the previously impenetrable Royals bullpen, and they'll stop this thing as soon as it starts making sense.
"Momentum," Jake Peavy observed, "is only as good as your last out."
Hours before Game 4, which would decide whether the World Series would remain a series or become a slow walk toward Royals coronation, Sandoval had tapped the barrel of his bat with his forefinger. Hunter Pence looked at him as if this was somewhat strange, which is saying something.
"Bringing the long ball back tonight," Sandoval said to Pence.
Pence nodded like he got it and kept walking.
"Bringin' it back," Sandoval said to nobody.
Now, Sandoval hadn't homered since Sept. 5. And he wouldn't Saturday either. But, he did get two hits batting right-handed, which almost never happens, and he did grab a boom mic after he was done talking to his bat and sang into that.
And why not, because for all he knew, the runs were coming, and so was another victory from the middle of the bullpen, and the Giants don't stop, just like the Royals don't stop, and maybe it's just starting to get interesting.
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