Bay Area Baseball

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May 5, 2013
Quiroz the improbable hero in another Giants walk-off win

SAN FRANCISCO -- After more than four hours, 10 pitching changes, 18 runs on 29 hits in regulation, two blown five-run leads by the Giants and a two-run lead coughed up by the Dodgers, how else was this game going to end? Guillermo Quiroz -- the journeyman backup catcher who hadn't had an at-bat since April 24 and hadn't hit a home run in a major-league game since 2008 -- stepped up against Dodgers reliever Brandon League and hit the third pitch into the left-field seats to rescue the Giants from a serious collapse and give the AT&T Park crowd its second walk-off home run in as many nights.

"I don't think any of us expected him to hit a home run," manager Bruce Bochy said.

Consider:

* Today marked 10 days since Quiroz's last at-bat, and he waited through the entirety of the four-hour, 11-minute time of game before coming to the plate in the 10th.

* Quiroz had two previous career homers in the majors, both in 2008, when he played in 56 games for the Orioles.

* League allowed one home run all season last year in 74 appearances, though he had already given up one this year as well, to the Mets' Ike Davis.

* The last Giant to hit a pinch-hit walk-off home run was Armando Rios, who did it July 18, 2000, against the Texas Rangers.

* Quiroz later said he had never hit a walk-off homer at any level in his life.

So, of course, Quiroz jumped on League's 0-2 pitch and hit a no-doubter to left for what he acknowledged was probably the biggest hit of his life. Quiroz said he knew right away where the ball was headed.

"I hit it pretty good," Quiroz said. "He threw a split-finger fastball. The one before was pretty nasty, just down. I knew League pretty well -- I played with him in Toronto and Seattle -- so I kind of knew what pitch he was trying to get me out with."

Quiroz said while the first splitter League threw him, on 0-1, was "probably one of his best -- just went down," the second "started up in the strike zone and finished middle."

"I was just trying to hit something hard, give us a chance to win the ballgame," Quiroz said. "Situations late in the game like that, I learned not too long ago that you've got to take a shot, swing hard and see what happens."

Quiroz is making the most of his shot with the Giants. He's 4-for-6 in pinch-hit situations this year. It's not like he has never shown any power -- he hit 15 homers in 89 games last year at Triple-A Tacoma. But there he was playing regularly and not a final option off the bench, as he was Saturday night.

"That's awesome to see," said Ryan Vogelsong. "I'm so happy for him. I actually played winter ball with Q back in 2004 (in Venezuela), so I've known him for a while. And it's good to see things starting to happen for him."

* Vogelsong described his outing Saturday as "crazy, just like the whole game."

He said there were positives to take from the first four innings, when he allowed five hits but only one run on A.J. Ellis' homer in the fourth. Things snowballed in the fifth, when he retired two of the eight hitters he faced. It was still a two-run inning when Vogelsong got Andre Ethier to fly out for the second out, but he walked Ellis and gave up singles to Skip Schumaker and Juan Uribe, the latter his final hitter.

"Things just kind of started steamrolling and I couldn't stop it," Vogelsong said. "Terrible feeling, but you've got to look at the positives and I thought I threw the ball not really good, but a lot better than previous games the first four innings. So just need to try to build off of that."

Bochy said he considered leaving Vogelsong in but thought "fatigue was setting in" with the right-hander already at 89 pitches. The 4 2/3 innings was Vogelsong's shortest outing of the season. His ERA is now 7.20.

Vogelsong said he feels "fine physically."

"It's just a battle," he said. "Every pitch is like I'm battling myself. It just doesn't seem smooth. But there were times tonight -- like I said, the first four innings felt much better."

Vogelsong didn't seem overly frustrated or puzzled after the game. He said there have been times in the past two seasons where he has felt the same way.

"It's just been at the end," he said. "So hopefully I'm getting them all out of the way."

* In positive post-game news for the Giants, Bochy said Angel Pagan's right hamstring strain is "mild" and that Pagan is "questionable" for Sunday's series finale. That there's even a chance Pagan could play with something as tricky as a hamstring seems to suggest it isn't going to be a long-term issue.

It wasn't immediately clear how Pagan injured himself and he wasn't at his locker after the game. He batted in the fifth but was replaced by Francisco Peguero in the leadoff spot in the sixth, with Peguero entering in left field and Andres Torres sliding over to center.

Peguero, just called up from Triple-A, made a quick impact, leading off the seventh inning with a double and scoring on Pablo Sandoval's sacrifice fly to tie the game 9-9.

* If Barry Zito's outing on Friday night was Exhibit 1A of why the Giants might carry 13 pitchers when Jose Mijares returns from the bereavement list Monday, this was certainly Exhibit 1B. The Giants used five relievers, including Santiago Casilla for two innings. It was Casilla's 18th appearance already in the Giants' first 30 games. Sergio Romo was off limits, Bochy said, and Chad Gaudin would have been the next man up.

Bochy said before the game the decision of whether or not to keep 13 pitchers would rest largely on whether the rotation starts going deeper into games, and Saturday was another notch on the side of needing bullpen depth.

For Sunday's series finale, Bochy said the Giants have enough rested arms to be covered. Gaudin should be fresh, and Bochy also mentioned George Kontos, who needed three pitches to get two outs Saturday, and Jeremy Affeldt, who threw the eighth inning on 10 pitches.

* About 24 hours after recording his first career walk-off hit, Posey had a chance to be the hero for the second night in a row, batting with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth. He grounded into an inning-ending double play.

On a night that had already seen the Giants blow a big lead, Bochy was asked whether that sucked the wind out of the dugout. His response summed up the Giants' comeback ways so far this season.

"It's going to happen," Bochy said. "You move on. Sure, you'd like to end the game there. But it didn't, and the only thing you can do, as I've said so many times, you have no choice. You go out there and keep grinding."

* Per the final game notes, the Dodgers had won their last 80 games against the Giants when scoring at least nine runs. So time to reset that counter, and for both teams to reset before Matt Cain takes the mound for tomorrow's 5:05 p.m. first pitch.

-- Matt Kawahara

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About Bay Area Baseball

Matt KawaharaMatt Kawahara was born in Sacramento and attended McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley, where he wrote for the independent student paper The Daily Californian. He graduated from Cal in 2010 and started at The Sacramento Bee as a summer intern. He joined The Bee’s sports staff in fall 2011.
Email: mkawahara@sacbee.com.
Phone: (916) 321-1015.
On Twitter: @matthewkawahara.

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