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SF@CHC: Pence blasts a game-tying homer in the ninth

CHICAGO -- Hunter Pence made his point as solidly as he made contact in Sunday's ninth inning.

One strike away from defeat, the Giants outlasted the Chicago Cubs in 10 innings, 10-7, after Pence delivered a two-out, two-strike homer to forge a tie and send the game to extras. San Francisco sustained that momentum to score three runs in the 10th, aided by a balk and run-scoring hits by Buster Posey and Marco Scutaro.

Skeptics might be tempted to disregard the Giants' three victories in four games during this series, given Chicago's struggles. Cubs pitchers Edwin Jackson and Michael Bowden combined to set a Major League record by throwing five wild pitches in the sixth inning, which helped San Francisco score four runs and erase a 4-1 deficit. Cubs hitters went 4-for-33 with runners in scoring position in this series, which can be attributed to their mediocrity, as well as San Francisco's superior pitching.

But Pence stated that the quality of the Giants' opposition matters less than the degree of their intensity. That remains at a healthy level, as proven by San Francisco's success in a series that featured three one-run decisions and an extra-inning affair.

"There's definitely room for improvement," Pence said. "By no means have we perfected it. But I think you also have to feel good about our competitiveness. We're competing as a team, we play hard and that makes it fun. Every day, every inning, every pitch."

As has been the case in most of their victories during their 9-4 start, the Giants received contributions from multiple sources.

Gregor Blanco doubled twice and drove in a pair of runs. Relievers Santiago Casilla, George Kontos (1-1) and Sergio Romo (seventh save) combined to limit Chicago to one hit in the final 2 2/3 innings.

Nick Noonan continued to belie his rookie status by stroking a two-run, pinch-hit single in the Giants' big sixth. Noonan looked a little anxious as he fell behind in the count against Bowden, 1-2, but managed to find the left-center field gap for his first two Major League RBIs.

"He's got a calmness about him," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Noonan, who's batting .500 (6-for-12). "What a great job for a kid to regroup."

Said Noonan as he slipped the ball he hit into his pocket for a souvenir: "Coming off the bench and contributing to a win helps me fit in a little bit better, I think. I get respect from some of the guys and show them that I belong here."

And, of course, Pence saved the Giants from a 7-6 defeat by clobbering Shawn Camp's 2-2 pitch over the left-center field wall with the game on the line.

Asked if he was going for a home run, Pence said, "Until two strikes, I kind of was. Then with two strikes, I was just trying to see the ball and hit it as hard as I could. I know [Camp has] the sneaky, backdoor sinker that you have to protect [against]. And he's got the really good slider. So I just tried to get low and be ready to hit early."

Camp expressed disgust.

"I've faced [Pence] probably 10 times and I've made that pitch a thousand times in my career," he said. "It was just a hanging breaking ball and he hits hanging breaking balls. In that situation, it just can't happen. It's unacceptable and it cost us the game."

The Giants made sure that the Cubs would regret Camp's lapse. With one out in the 10th, Hector Sanchez and Brandon Crawford singled to put runners on the corners. Camp then was charged with a balk, scoring Sanchez and moving Crawford to second base. Posey, installed at first base as part of a double-switch in the ninth inning, ended an 0-for-10 skid by singling home Crawford. One out later, Scutaro ripped an RBI double to chase Camp.

This excess of activity, which lengthened the game's duration to four hours, almost made Tim Lincecum's performance an afterthought. For the second start in a row, Lincecum endured a single dreadful inning -- this time a four-run first, in which Starlin Castro and Nate Schierholtz each hit two-run homers -- but otherwise pitched effectively. The right-hander blanked Chicago through his final four innings.

"I didn't have a good rhythm," Lincecum said. "Everything seemed a little off, especially with the offspeed pitch. After that I kind of settled down and everything started working again."

The Giants don't have to work until Tuesday, when they open a three-game series at Milwaukee.

"I think we all need a day off after that [Cubs] series," Bochy said.

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