SAN DIEGO — Backup catcher Hector Sanchez of the San Diego Padres found out during batting practice Saturday that he would start in place of Austin Hedges, who took a foul ball off his mask the night before.
Several hours later, after going 0 for 3 against Madison Bumgarner, Sanchez hit a no-doubt, two-run homer off Steven Okert with one out in the ninth inning to lift the Padres to a 5-3 victory against the San Francisco Giants.
Four of the switch-hitting Sanchez’s seven hits this year are homers — three as a pinch-hitter and then Saturday night’s walk-off.
“It’s fun seeing him succeed,” manager Andy Green said. “He’s been such a good teammate and he’s had such limited opportunity to play. He’s been big for us. He’s been worth like probably three wins.
“You look at this stat line, you wouldn’t come away thinking, ‘How is that guy winning baseball games for you?’ He’s done it over and over,” Green said.
Sanchez came in hitting .154 in 39 at-bats in just 29 games.
“It’s not an easy job, but I know my job. I have to be ready every single day,” Sanchez said. “If something happens, I have to be ready.”
Jabari Blash started the winning rally when he singled leading off the ninth against Cory Gearrin (3-3) and advanced on Erick Aybar’s sacrifice bunt against Okert.
Sanchez said he was looking to hit a line drive to bring in Blash. Instead, he drove a fastball an estimated 407 feet off the Western Metal Supply Co. Building in the left-field corner for the win.
“It’s great,” Sanchez said. “To get the victory for my teammates and my team, that’s more important for me. That’s all that matters.”
Padres starter Jhoulys Chacin was happy for Sanchez.
“He wasn’t expecting to play and he got the huge hit,” Chacin said. “I know how much he wants to play but sometimes you have to be ready when the opportunities come, and he was.”
Bumgarner pitched seven innings in his first start since being injured in a dirt bike accident three months ago. He left with the score tied at 3 after allowing four hits, including home runs by Matt Szczur and Blash, while striking out five and walking two.
“I felt pretty good the whole time and we kind of gradually built up to it,” said Bumgarner, who threw 102 pitches. “I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get much over 100, or they wouldn’t have let me anyway. So yeah, if you can get out there for seven, I’ll take that any time.”
Bumgarner was making his first start since April 19 at Kansas City.
The next day, he wiped out while riding a dirt bike on a day off in Denver, spraining the AC joint in his left shoulder and suffering bruised ribs.
The lefty retired the first seven batters before Szczur homered to left, his third. Bumgarner walked Carlos Asuaje leading off the fourth and retired the next two batters before Blash drove a two-run shot an estimated 424 feet to straightaway center field for a 3-2 lead. It was his second.
“Obviously I’d like to be able to have a redo on a couple pitches, but they weren’t bad pitches,” Bumgarner said. “Obviously now looking back they were probably the wrong pitches, but I mean I felt pretty good for the most part for especially the first time back in three months or whatever.”