SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants have found a way to win all season, posting the fourth-highest winning percentage in the National League despite scoring the fewest runs in the Majors. Saturday, however, it seemed like a way to win found the Giants.
With 63 of their 77 games having been decided by three runs or fewer and a Major League-high 17 one-run wins at home, The Giants are perfectly comfortable playing close games, knowing every at-bat could be a potential difference-maker. And they have won a few games in truly bizarre fashion. But even by their standards, Saturday's 1-0 win over Cleveland was a little odd.
They scored their lone run during a seventh inning in which Nate Schierholtz tripped on a sure standup triple, two errors were committed by Indians second baseman Cord Phelps and a run came home on a balk. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time the only run of a game was scored on a balk was May 10, 2006, when the then-Devil Rays beat the Mariners, 1-0, on a balk by Jamie Moyer.
With Matt Cain dealing on the mound and another strong outing by the bullpen, that unusual run was good enough to secure the Giants' victory over the Indians before a sold-out crowd of 42,130 fans in AT&T Park.
"It was definitely an interesting inning, but that's just kind of the way it goes sometimes," said Cain (7-4), who at one point retired 14 straight batters. "Those are the ones that are tough when you lose, and they're great when you win. You're just trying to keep the momentum going, keep the game going so we can find a way to scratch one across or whatever, and that's what ended up happening."
A rare scoring opportunity seemed to pass by the Giants when Schierholtz bombed a ball from Tribe starter Justin Masterson to left-center field, only to trip on his way to third and get tagged out in a rundown by Cleveland first baseman Jack Hannahan. But much like Carlos Santana's errors at first on Friday gave San Francisco a chance to overcome its lack of offense, a pair of fielding errors by Phelps kept the Giants alive Saturday.
After Schierholtz's miscue, Miguel Tejada chopped an easy out to Phelps, but the throw went just wide enough to draw Hannahan off the bag and allow Tejada to slide safely into first. After Chris Stewart flied out, Cain knocked a ball that went in and out of Phelps' glove, putting two runners on for Andres Torres. The hero of Friday night's 4-3 win, Torres drew a walk off lefty Tony Sipp, who relieved Masterson, to extend the rally.
Sipp flinched with the bases loaded and Emmanuel Burriss in the batter's box, leading home-plate umpire Bob Davidson to call a balk that scored Tejada, putting the Giants ahead, 1-0.
The balk was so quick and such a minuscule movement that San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy admitted he didn't even see it, because he had his head down. But Sipp said after the game that Davidson did get the call right.
"I didn't move much, but I felt it," Sipp said. "I guess they're all good at their job. I felt it. I knew I balked."
"We'll certainly take it," Bochy added. "In a game like that, sometimes it takes a break to win."
Things got dicey for the Giants in the eighth, when Cain walked pinch-hitter Travis Hafner to lead off the inning, prompting the Indians to send in pinch-runner Adam Everett. Javier Lopez came on in relief, giving up a single to Michael Brantley and a sac bunt by Phelps that put two runners in scoring position with only one out.
Pablo Sandoval then fielded Asdrubal Cabrera's chopper, making the throw to Stewart at home in time for the catcher to run down Everett. But Lopez wasn't done pitching his way out of trouble, as a passed ball bounced by Stewart with Santana at the plate and once again put runners on second and third.
Lopez, who has been lights-out against lefties all year, induced an inning-ending groundout from Grady Sizemore.
"That's a momentum shift, when the other team's got a scorer in position and one out, then we get that play -- that pitch, groundball, Sandoval -- to get the guy out," said closer Brian Wilson, who sealed the win and earned his 23rd save in a 1-2-3 ninth inning. "Momentum goes in our favor, and we keep rolling as a bullpen."
While that bizarre stretch wound up deciding the game, it was Cain who shut down the Indians most of the way. The right-hander gave up consecutive singles to lead off the first inning, but that was about as bad as it got for him all afternoon.
Cain allowed only six baserunners and at one point retired 14 straight batters, finishing after seven-plus innings with six strikeouts, four hits and a walk. And given how little run support Cain has received throughout his career, winning by one run -- even if it came on two errors, a walk and a balk -- was good enough.
"That's the way it goes sometimes. You've really just got to find ways to get guys across and do whatever you can," Cain said. "As a staff, we're just trying to pick those guys up and keep the lead on our side when we get that chance."
Adam Berry is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.