San Francisco, CA – The first month of the season can often be a struggle for many teams. The Giants however, surpassed that theory by opening up the month of April as one of their worst starts in almost twenty years. But that’s now behind them, pinch-hitter Joe Panik delivered his second walk-off hit this season. San Francisco’s 3-2 victory over the Angels was the fresh start they needed to begin their ten-game homestead.
“He’s a great weapon to have off the bench,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. “With Joe, it’s a simple swing, short, and he smoked it. It’s a good thing he ended the game because I used all my set-up guys trying to end it.”
Heading into the bottom of the ninth the score was tied 2-2. Buster Posey led off the frame with a infield single. Pinch-runner Gregor Blanco advanced to second on Justin Maxwell’s sacrifice bunt. Angels reliever Joe Smith’s wild pitch moved Blanco to third and walked Andrew Susac. He struck out Brandon Belt but intentionally issued a free pass to Brandon Crawford.
That set up Panik’s single to center field giving San Francisco their third walk-off win of the season. The last time the Giants had walk-off wins over three straight home games was August 19 – Aug 21, 2003. Panik recorded his first career walk-off hit and second career walk-off RBI. Giants starter Chris Heston got off to a good start in the first retiring the first two batters he faced.
But Mike Trout knocked a double to center field. Kole Calhoun followed with a free pass from Heston before David Freese grounded into a force out to end the inning without any damage. Heston faced another hiccup in the third when Crawford’s error allowed a runner on base. But shortly after he returned to form retiring the next twelve batters he faced.
“He’s been really clutch for us,” Bochy said. “You lose [Matt] Cain, you lose [Jake] Peavy, you hope someone steps up, and he’s done more than that. I thought he threw the ball great tonight. It’s a shame he couldn’t come away with the win tonight, but he did his job.”
By the seventh things began to unravel for San Francisco. Kole Calhoun led off the inning with a single and Freese followed by grounding to third baseman Casey McGehee who mishandled the ball. Crawford recovered but was to late in tagging Calhoun at second. After the play was challenged, the umpires ruled it a fielder’s choice and Calhoun was out at second. Cron singled on the next play, putting two runners on.
Matt Joyce tied the game 1-1 with a single up the middle that knocked Heston out of the game. Jean Machi replaced Heston, striking out the next batter and forcing C.J. Wilson to fly out to center field leaving two stranded to end the inning. He tossing seven innings, gave up five hits, one run and struck out six.
The Giants clapped back in the seventh when Angel Pagan singled to led off bottom of the seventh. He advanced to second on a pass ball and Andrew Susac drove him in with a single to center field to make it a 2-1 game. The Angels tied the game again in the eighth. Reliever Sergio Romo gave up to back-to-back singles, the first resulting in a error at second. He struck out Trout and was replaced by Jeremy Affeldt who hit the next batter.
Affeldt was replaced by Santiago Casilla who gave up a sacrifice fly to Freese who tied the game 2-2. A pass ball moved Johnny Giavotella to third and Freese stole second. But C.J. Cron popped out to first to end the threat. Wilson takes full blame for this loss. His last visit to AT&T park was back in 2010 when he pitched for the Texas Rangers in game two of the World Series. Wilson yielded two runs (one earned), four hits over seven frames.
“I could’ve won the game for us, and I’m frustrated about that,” Wilson said. “Even thought I’m just a pitcher in the American League, I feel like I’m coming up there with a competitive at-bat, and I got a good pitch to hit and it just popped up.”
Nori Aoki sparked the offense in the first when he led off with a double. He advanced to second on Matt Duffy’s ground out to first baseman C.J. Cron. Pagan’s sacrifice fly drove in Aoki making it a 1-0 game. In his fourth quality start, Heston gave the San Francisco a chance to win. Pagan went 2-for-3 with a run scored and RBI. His 10 multi-hit game this season leads the club.
“We didn’t have a great month in April,” Bochy said. “So we’d like to turn things around here in May, play winning baseball, and it starts with this homestand.”