video thumbnail

SF@NYM: Sanchez singles home the go-ahead run in 10th

NEW YORK -- Life without Brian Wilson is bound to have its moments -- memorable and forgettable, painful and painless, good, bad, indifferent and, on an April Friday night in the City of Insomniacs, all of the above. So it was on this baseball evening in the Big Citi that another day without the peculiar bearded one that the Giants produced a not particularly becoming victory that exhausted the normal supply of baseball adjectives.

At 10:52 p.m. ET, when Gregor Blanco put the squeeze on the game's final out in center field, the Giants put a 4-3, 10-inning victory over the Mets out of its misery. It could have been easier, neater and shorter. It might have been a blueprint type of victory, the sort Giants general manager Brian Sabean sees on a January evening when he's working on the personnel puzzle. Had Wilson been available to blunt the Mets' resistance in the ninth inning, Sabean might have found this enjoyable, without qualification.

Instead, it was just good enough to push the Giants' winning percentage higher than .500 for the first time and, perhaps, to provide some insight into what the summer may bring -- angst and Advil. The ninth inning proved to be too much for the mostly clean-shaven 'pen, and the 10th nearly did. Two of the first three relievers cast in Wilson's role -- Santiago Casilla and Javier Lopez -- allowed the Mets to tie the score in the ninth. And after the Giants had regained the lead in the 10th, Sergio Romo allowed unwanted drama to develop.

Not until Clay Hensley struck out Jason Bay and retired Lucas Duda on a hold-your-breath fly ball with runners on second and third, did the late guys do what Wilson does as a matter of routine, close out the opponent. Hensley's save, the team's second in three opportunities since Wilson was betrayed by his elbow, made the two-out single Hector Sanchez had contributed in the top of the 10th the game-winner, and Romo (1-0) the winning pitcher.

And in the world of the half-full glass in which most managers reside, it afforded Bruce Bochy the chance to salute his team's mettle. The last two innings were a mettle detector, for sure.

"When you win in extra innings on the road," Bochy said, "it's very satisfying. That'd been a tough one to lose. But I'd rather have won 3-2."

Sanchez's hit against losing pitcher Frank Francisco followed a leadoff walk to Melky Cabrera, a strikeout, a wild pitch, a flyout and an intentional walk. But Romo, who had closed out the ninth after the damage, allowed hits by Daniel Murphy and David Wright before he was removed in favor of Hensley. A broken bat groundout by Ike Davis advanced the runners to second and third before Hensley earned his first save.

One day after Wilson underwent elbow surgery, his understudies allowed a leadoff infield single to Bay (by Casilla), a one-out wild pitch, a walk to Kirk Nieuwenhuis and a run-scoring single by Josh Thole (all against by Lopez). Romo retired the next two batters without incident, creating the need for a second straight extra-inning game for the Giants. Hensley won the first.

No matter, Casilla is the closest thing to a closer. If this is bullpen by committee, a Whitey Herzog creation, Casilla is the committee chairman. He was removed in favor of Lopez, who is a lefty, because the three pending batters were left-handed. Lopez was better suited for the circumstances, at least in the abstract. Bochy called Lopez's flawed appearance a hiccup and expressed no next-time misgivings.

But at the same time, he and Jeremy Affeldt (two perfect innings) noted the bullpen is a work in progress with variations aplenty. A hiccup can be followed by another hiccup.

The need for six relievers developed because starter Barry Zito ran his pitch count to 100 in merely five innings. Though his work was mostly stingy, Zito did surrender solo home runs to Bay and Nieuwenhuis, the rookie who already has been dubbed "Captain" by the Citi folk. Zito also allowed two singles and three walks. He struck out two. He was making his third start, having allowed three runs in 16 innings in his first two.

The Giants were in position to make Zito the winning pitcher thanks to a home run by Angel Pagan, a run-scoring double by Buster Posey and a wild pitch by starter Jon Niese, all in the third inning.

Zito had pushed his earned run average down to 0.95 before the Mets scored in the fourth. Bay hit his third home run in six games after Zito had retired the first two batters. The home run, well-struck and to left-center, was the Mets' first hit and merely the 11th hit Zito had allowed in 19 innings.

The 12th came in short order. Nieuwenhuis, a left-handed hitter, put his second big league home run over the left field wall leading off the fifth. He became the first left-handed-hitting Met to hit an opposite field home run over the fence in the three-plus season history of Citi Field. Playing for the Mets in 2009, Pagan hit an inside-the-park home run to left, batting left-handed. Three visiting players preceded Nieuwenhuis.

Minutia is a wonderful thing.

MLB.com Comments