SAN FRANCISCO -- Hunter Pence didn't have a lot to say about Padres center fielder Will Venable's game-saving catch in the 12th inning Monday night, but what he did say summed it up pretty well.
"We couldn't believe he caught it," Pence said.
Venable went full extension on the backhanded, over-the-shoulder catch, landing on the warning track, to rob Juan Perez of a hit that would have easily scored Brandon Belt from second base for a walk-off hit. Instead the game went to the 13th, where the Padres scored twice in the top of the inning to win the opener of this series 5-3.
"It's one of the best catches I've seen," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "It's a hard-fought game, and those plays win games for you. It won the game for them tonight."
Perez said off the bat he thought the ball had a good chance of getting over Venable's head since Venable was playing shallow with the winning run on second. "The guy made an unbelievable catch," Perez said. "You've got to tip your cap."
It may have been the most memorable, but it was hardly the only chance the Giants had to win this game. They took a 3-1 lead into the sixth behind Barry Zito, but gave one run back on a wild pitch by Jean Machi a batter after Zito departed. The Padres tied it in the seventh with three consecutive singles off Machi.
The Giants ran out a makeshift lineup due to injuries and Buster Posey and Andres Torres getting a night off, but scored three runs in the fourth on a walk and four singles. Gregor Blanco singled leading off the next inning but was doubled off first when Tony Abreu hit a sharp line drive right at first baseman Jesus Guzman. The Giants fell victim to a nearly identical play in the 10th, this time with Blanco hitting the line drive right at reliever Dale Thayer, who threw to first to double off Guillermo Quiroz and end the inning.
The Padres, meanwhile, capitalized on back-to-back singles leading off the 13th against Jose Mijares, whom Bochy said "just wasn't on" Monday night. Manager Bud Black brought in Tuesday's proejcted starting pitcher Andrew Cashner to bat, and Cashner put down a perfect bunt between Joaquin Arias and Brandon Crawford to score the first run. The Padres added a second on Yasmani Grandal's bases-loaded single with two out.
"We did (have chances)," Blanco said. "But I guess it's like they say, the baseball gods, they didn't want us to win today. We did everything we could to win, but they made nice plays and they had luck a couple times."
Blanco said it made a tough end to a day that began with the Giants flying cross-country overnight from Atlanta, landing back in the Bay Area around 4 a.m.
"For sure, we were exhausted," Blanco said. "But at the end we knew we could've taken the win. And we tried the best we could."
* Venable took away a chance for Perez to be the all-around hero. In the ninth, Perez had thrown out Logan Forsythe trying to go from first to third on a one-out single by Chase Headley off Sergio Romo with a laser from center field to Joaquin Arias. Perez pumped his fist emphatically after his third outfield assist in four games.
"He's a good defender," Bochy said. "Good arm, good release. He's up here because he's been doing a good job in Fresno, and he's done a pretty nice job in the few starts he's had."
Perez said he's used to having at least 10 to 12 assists a season in the minors. He said he was a little surprised to see Forsythe trying for third on the play, since the ball was nearly straight up the middle and Perez appeared to field it just as Forsythe was leaving second.
"I was playing deep a little bit," Perez said. "Just made sure to get tot the ball as quick as I could and put a good throw on the bag."
Perez also showed his speed in the third inning, beating out a ground ball to shortstop for an infield hit, and went into a headfirst dive trying to do the same in the 10th, though he was thrown out on that one. Having seen the first play, what fans were left at AT&T Park in the 10th on a cold night started to ooh even as Perez ran up the line on the second. He's 7-for-16 in six games, and he certainly appears to bring an element of excitement.
* The home-road discrepancy for Zito held true Monday night, as he struck out a season-high eight and left after 5 2/3 innings with a 3-1 lead. He had a chance to finish the sixth with two strikes on No. 8 hitter Pedro Ciriaco and a runner on first, but left a pitch up that Ciriaco lined to center for a single, sending Grandal to third.
That ended Zito's night at 103 pitches, and Bochy brought in Machi, whose second pitch bounced past catcher Hector Sanchez to allow Grandal to score.
"I was just more frustrated with myself coming out of the game," Zito said. "I felt good, could've kept going. But definitely stand by the manager's decision."
The strikeouts -- and three walks -- definitely helped drive up Zito's pitch count. The last time he had had eight or more strikeouts was on Aug. 6, 2010, against the Braves, when he struck out 10.
"I was just burying the off-speed, keeping them honest with the fastball," Zito said. "And the curveball was working pretty good tonight."
* Between Machi and Mijares, four relievers combined to pitch four scoreless innings. A product of the outcome is that Javier Lopez's appearance will likely be forgotten, though it shouldn't be. Lopez came on with one out in the 12th and runners on first and third, and struck out Venable and Ciriaco to preserve the tie.
Sandy Rosario also danced out of trouble in the 11th after allowing a leadoff single to Ciriaco and a one-out walk to Denorfia. Rosario struck out Forsythe and Chase Headley despite falling behind 2-0 to both hitters.
* Now, about maybe the oddest thing that happened Monday night -- the double-switch in the top of the 13th. With the bases loaded and one out, Bochy brought in Jake Dunning to pitch and Buster Posey to replace Brandon Belt at first base. After a minute, Belt came back onto the field and Posey jogged off -- only to return a few moments later to stay.
It seemed odd because Posey was inserted into the seventh spot in the order, which was due up eighth in the bottom of the inning, nearly ensuring Posey wouldn't have a chance to hit. Bochy later admitted he "totally brain-cramped."
Here's what apparently happened: Bochy had just come out to argue the call that Kyle Blanks' single down the right-field line, which appeared to bounce off Hunter Pence as Pence slid from fair to foul ground going after the ball, was fair. He then went to make the double-switch wanting to insert Posey into the ninth spot in the order, where Posey would have led off the bottom of the 13th inning in what was then a one-run game.
That would have required Bochy to send Posey in at catcher for Quiroz, who had been inserted into the ninth spot earlier in the game. Instead, Bochy told the umpire he was bringing Posey in to play first base.
"Once I said it wrong I was done, I knew that," Bochy said. "I said first and probably should've stepped back and thought a little bit. I was looking for the right spot and a couple times he was going to double-switch at first base if he had to, but the pitcher got out of it.
"Once I told it wrong I can't take it back. And like I said, you get distracted out there, get upset a little bit. That shouldn't happen, but it did. And it didn't really change the game anyway, but still we would have had him in the right spot."
As it turned out, even if Posey had come in to catch, batting in the ninth spot, he would have come up in the bottom of the inning representing a meaningless run, with the Padres having scored twice in the top of the inning. Still, it was a bizarre sight to see Bochy, whose managing acumen is well-noted and who has the rings to prove it, have that kind of self-described "brain cramp."
* Then again, it was an odd scene at AT&T Park by that time, nearing the end of the longest game of the year (4 hours, 35 minutes). Much of the sellout crowd of 41,981 had gone home by that point. Fog was rolling in and the seagulls were circling in center field. Crawford actually appeared to call timeout twice while batting in the bottom of the inning after a flock of gulls took off from the center-field bleachers, right in his line of vision behind closer Huston Street.
A game that began in bizarre fashion -- Crawford batting third for the first time in his career; Abreu and Perez in the lineup for the shorthanded and road-weary Giants -- ended just as oddly.
"Tough travel day, I thought they played hard, they played well," Bochy said. "We had a lead. Wild pitch let in a run, that's a cheap run that hurt us there. But Zito did a nice job, bullpen did a great job up until the end. And this is baseball. You have to deal with these tough losses."
* One note from before the game -- the Giants brought in second-round draft pick Ryder Jones for a visit Monday. Jones was shown around the clubhouse and field, and met and chatted with Hunter Pence, Brandon Crawford and Willie McCovey. The Giants drafted Jones out of Watauga High School in North Carolina, but Jones said he has family in the Bay Area and Ukiah and he followed the Giants growing up because his grandfather was a fan.
Jones played shortstop in high school, where he hit .480 with 11 home runs his senior season, but the Giants plan to move him to third base. Jones said most teams who talked to him before the draft had talked about moving him to third.
"Being a shortstop, it's going to take some getting used to," he said. "But I'm open to it. Anything to get on the field. ... It's definitely going to take some extra ground balls, some extra drill work, but I'll get used to it pretty quick."
Jones said though he has visited his family in the Bay Area often, and both his parents are from California, Monday was his first time being inside AT&T Park, which he described as "pretty amazing." He turned down Stanford to sign with the Giants.
"It was a tough decision," Jones said. "At the end of the day, I just thought that right now I wanted to start my professional career as quick as I could. (I was drafted) by a great organization, so I chose the professional route."
* On the bright side, games ending after midnight mean less time to dwell. It's Matt Cain vs. Andrew Cashner on Tuesday at 7:05. And yes, that's Cain of the fourth-place Giants facing Cashner of the third-place Padres, who are now a game behind the Diamondbacks for first place in the West. The Giants? They trail Arizona by a game and a half. What a mess so far.
-- Matt Kawahara