Sandoval rescues Giants in ninth
Third baseman belts walk-off homer for series victory
SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval picked the perfect time to hit the first walk-off home run of his career.
With two outs, Sandoval crushed a three-run blast to left off Joe Beimel, lifting the Giants to an improbable 9-7 victory over the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night at AT&T Park.
"The guy, he has no fear," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's one of the guys you want up there with the game on the line."
The aggressive Sandoval has been known to swing at any pitch within AT&T Park's ZIP code. But with Emmanuel Burriss on second and Edgar Renteria on first, he took Beimel's first four pitches and faced a 2-2 count.
Sandoval said he figured Beimel wouldn't want to go deeper in the count and risk walking him, not with cleanup hitter Bengie Molina on deck. He got the fastball he was expecting and hammered it over the left-field wall.
"I just wanted to get my pitch and drive the ball," said Sandoval, who went 3-for-5, raising his average to .303. "I don't want to tie the game. I want to end it."
That's exactly what he did. But before he went into a serious home run trot, Sandoval paused briefly to soak in the scene.
"My first of my career," Sandoval said. "I want to celebrate the moment."
It's a minor baseball miracle that Sandoval even got to the plate with a chance to win it for the Giants.
They had squandered a 5-1 lead and trailed 7-6 entering the bottom of the ninth. Then pinch-hitters Juan Uribe and Rich Aurilia went quickly, and the Giants were down to their final out.
Down but not out. Burriss singled to center off Beimel. Then he went to second when Beimel threw wildly on a pickoff attempt.
"I'm just trying to get on base, keep the game going," Burriss said. "That's the kind of baseball we're trying to play, ever since Spring Training," Burriss said. "Every out until the last inning."
After Renteria walked, Sandoval came to the plate and hit his third home run of the season.
"When he hit it, I was like, 'No way,' running around, praying for it to go out," Burriss said. "When I saw it go out, I was like a little kid."
Reliever Brandon Medders watched in amazement.
"They call Timmy [Lincecum] the Freak," Medders said. "I think he's also the Freak. He can take a ball that most people can't put wood on and put it out of the ballpark."
On this home run, Sandoval actually showed discipline and didn't need his freakish ability to make solid contact.
What made Sandoval's blast even more dramatic was that the fact it came two innings after he took a nose-dive after rounding second base and trying to stretch a two-out double into a triple. He went down hard and awkwardly, slightly twisting an ankle.
Sandoval stayed down momentarily, before getting up and getting tagged out.
"When he went down, it was, 'Oh no, he hurt himself,'" Bochy said. "He got up. That was good news. It was good news that he got to hit again."
Sandoval said he was more embarrassed than hurt. When he returned to the dugout, no one razzed him about his flop.
"Everybody got scared," Sandoval said, smiling. "Nobody said nothing."
Bochy said he had no doubt that Sandoval would put that embarrassing moment behind him.
"The kid's tough," Bochy said. "Starting the season, he got off to a rough start, but you would have never known. If there's something negative, he puts it behind him. That's why he's such a good player. He wasn't thinking about that."
Giants starter Matt Cain held the Nationals to one run through six innings. But in the seventh, first baseman Nick Johnson slugged a low, outside fastball for a three-run homer to left-center, cutting the Giants' lead to 5-4.
"There wasn't a whole lot more I could have done with it," Cain said. "He beat me."
Reliever Bob Howry took over for Cain in the eighth but couldn't hold the lead. After striking out Austin Kearns, Howry walked Willie Harris. He got pinch-hitter Josh Willingham to fly to left. But Wil Nieves singled to left and pinch-hitter Ronnie Belliard hit a broken-bat single to center, driving home Harris. That was it for Howry, who left to a chorus of boos.
Left-hander Jeremy Affeldt took over and gave up an infield single to Cristian Guzman, loading the bases. Then Johnson hit a sharp grounder in the hole between first and second. First baseman Travis Ishikawa made a diving try, but the ball hit off his glove and continued into right field, scoring two runs and putting the Nationals ahead, 7-5.
Molina hit a solo shot in the eighth, cutting the lead to 7-6. That set the state for Sandoval's heroics and the Giants' amazing comeback.
"To have two outs and nobody on and mount that comeback, that's impressive," Bochy said. "They fought. That's why you fight for nine innings."
Eric Gilmore is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.