SAN FRANCISCO -- Twenty-four hours after lamenting that he and his teammates were trying too hard to excel, Nate Schierholtz demonstrated how thriving in the clutch is properly done.Schierholtz delivered the Giants' ninth walk-off victory of the season by drilling a tiebreaking single with two outs in Friday night's ninth inning to lift San Francisco to a 3-2 triumph over the Cincinnati Reds. Even before the Giants improved to 4-1 this season when wearing their "Orange Friday" jerseys, they felt blue over the misfortune endured by second baseman Freddy Sanchez, who dislocated his right shoulder in the fifth inning as he dove to snare Brandon Phillips' ground ball up the middle. Though the extent of Sanchez's injury will be determined Saturday when he undergoes an MRI, he appears likely to go on the 15-day disabled list. "It's really not something we can afford right now," Schierholtz said, referring to injuries that have sidelined Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Brian Wilson and other key Giants. "He's been a playmaker, the one guy who we've counted on all year." Recently, the Giants have counted increasingly on Schierholtz. His pinch-hit, two-run homer against Oakland on May 22 tied the score in the eighth inning. He drove in the tying run in the ninth inning and the go-ahead run in the 11th at St. Louis on June 1. "Nate is a person who wants to be the clutch guy," said right-hander Sergio Romo, who contributed to San Francisco's strong finish by striking out the side in the eighth inning. But perfection under pressure is elusive. In Thursday's series opener, Schierholtz batted three times with runners in scoring position and went 0-for-4.
"Everyone's trying to get the big hit before the pitch is even thrown," Schierholtz said after the Giants' 3-0 loss.Schierholtz received another chance with Friday's score deadlocked, 2-2. Andres Torres began the Giants' ninth by coaxing a leadoff walk from reliever Jose Arredondo (0-1), who was unscored upon in his previous six appearances. Manny Burriss' sacrifice bunt advanced Torres to second base. That prompted an intentional walk to Miguel Tejada and two pitching changes. Left-hander Bill Bray struck out Brandon Crawford, but right-hander Logan Ondrusek walked Cody Ross to load the bases. "There's more pressure on the pitcher with the bases loaded," Giants manager Bruce Bochy observed. "He has to throw strikes."
Schierholtz shared this awareness.
"I wasn't going to let strikes go by in that situation tonight," he said.
Batting for Brian Wilson (5-1), who blanked Cincinnati in the top of the ninth, Schierholtz fouled off one pitch before lining his hit cleanly between shortstop and third base. Torres scored the run that hiked the Giants' National League West lead to two games over Arizona."I was trying to make him swing at my pitch instead of falling behind," Ondrusek said, "and I didn't do a very good job tonight throwing strikes and it ended up biting me in the butt there." The taut, tense decision was typical. Of the Giants' 29 home games, 18 have been decided by one run. Having fallen to last in the league in scoring, the Giants conducted a pregame meeting to discuss their offensive woes. Though they continued to struggle at the plate, stranding 12 runners and going 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position, they noticed some improvement.
"I think we had pretty good at-bats up and down the lineup," Schierholtz said.The most proficient Giant was Tejada, who doubled twice for the second night in a row and extended his season-high hitting streak to seven games. Each hit Friday figured in the Giants' first two runs. Tejada lined his first double with one out in the first inning and scored on Ross' two-out single. Tejada delivered his next hit with two outs in the fifth to score Chris Stewart, who recorded his first hit as a Giant with a leadoff bunt single. Otherwise, Reds starter Travis Wood, who entered the game with a 5.72 ERA, toughened when it counted. Having allowed a career-high eight runs against the Dodgers in his previous start, Wood stranded nine Giants in eight innings, including six in scoring position. Giants right-hander Ryan Vogelsong, who has pitched at an All-Star level recently, proved to be more vulnerable against the Reds, who ranked second in the league in scoring entering the game. Sporting a 0.69 ERA in his last six starts, Vogelsong surrendered two runs and eight hits but repeatedly worked out of jams. Like Wood, six of the nine baserunners Vogelsong marooned were in scoring position. "I'm not really happy with the way I threw, but the results turned out all right," Vogelsong said.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.