Pablo Sandoval delivers the offense as Giants break out of slump

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SAN FRANCISCO — “What I do?” Pablo Sandoval asked reporters waiting to interview him in the Giants’ clubhouse. Big grin on his face. Like he didn’t know what he did.

He knew, all right. He went 3 for 5 with a home run and five RBIs during the Giants’ 13-8 win against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Sandoval had one hit in his previous 19 plate appearances when he stepped into the batter’s box in the top of the top of the fifth inning and hit a home run. He was in a major slump, and so were the Giants. They had lost five of their previous six games while scoring only 10 runs during that stretch. Sunday’s game was important. They needed a win to avoid falling to .500, the definition of mediocre. They needed offense.

They got it from the Panda.

The home run came after Sandoval had sprained his left thumb making a diving catch at third base. He refused to leave the game.

When Sandoval came to the plate, Brandon Crawford was on first base, Brandon Belt was on second and no one was out. The pitcher was Cardinals reliever John Brebbia, who took the loss. Madison Bumgarner, the Giants starter, got the win.

The count to Sandoval was 1-2. At the time, the Giants were losing 4-3. “(Brebbia) threw me a first-pitch slider,” Sandoval said. “Second pitch, he threw me the high fastball. I was thinking he was going to try do it again.”

Brebbia did it again. The pitch was a 96-mph fastball high and tight. Sandoval is a high-ball hitter. “He left it there right in the happy zone,” Sandoval said happily, “and I hit it.”

Into McCovey Cove, a three-run homer. The Giants led 6-4.

That was the score in bottom of the sixth when Sandoval came to the plate again. The bases were loaded with two outs. The pitcher was reliever Greg Holland. Again, Sandoval was behind in the count 1-2.

“He threw me a breaking ball, then a fastball that I put a good swing on,” Sandoval said of a foul ball. “And I put in my mind, if I get to two strikes, he probably is going to throw his pitch. It’s a slider.”

It sure was. The pitch was an 89-mph slider.

“It was a good pitch for him,” Sandoval said. “I just swung.”

The pitch was low and away. Sandoval is a low-ball hitter in addition to being a high-ball hitter. They throw it, he hits it. The pitch would have hit the dirt, but it hit the barrel of Sandoval’s bat and the ball landed in left field and two runners scored. The Giants led 8-4.

“That’s Pablo,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “He has got a knack of putting the ball in play.”

Most of the Giants hitters did Sunday. Six players recorded at least two hits. In total, the Giants recorded 17 base knocks.

“It got contagious,” Bochy said. “We found a way to get those hits with runners in scoring position. Trust me, they’re trying. When you get in the rut we have been in, sometimes they start pressing.”

To jump start the offense, the Giants shook up the roster before Sunday’s game. They traded center fielder Austin Jackson and reliever Cory Gearrin to the Texas Rangers for a player to be named or cash, then called up reliever Ray Black and center fielder Steven Duggar.

“Duggar was close to making the club out of spring training,” Bochy said before the game. “We felt it’s time to give him a chance to show what he can do up here.”

Duggar went two for six with a double. That’s what he can do.

In the top of the third, the Giants were leading 3-1 against Cardinals starting pitcher Jack Flaherty, who lasted only 21/3 innings. Three runs seemed like more than enough for Bumgarner. His career record when the Giants score at least three runs is 91-8.

But, three runs weren’t enough. Bumgarner kept missing the target with his pitches, missing by a wider margin than usual. And when he missed, he talked to himself.

“Just don’t let it get out of hand,” he scolded himself on the mound.

In the top of the fourth, he gave up the lead when Yairo Muñoz hit two-run single to left-center field. Then, in the top of the fifth, Bumgarner gave up the go-ahead run when Marcell Ozuna hit a one-run single to right. The Cardinals took a 4-3 lead. But, the game wasn’t out of hand.

Afterward, a reporter asked Bumgarner what worked for him on Sunday. “Nothing,” he said, and laughed. “Our offense. That’s about it.”

Bumgarner threw 94 pitches in five innings. Every at-bat seemed like a struggle for him. But, when he left the game with one out in the top of the sixth inning, the Giants were winning 11-4. They didn’t need the full Bumgarner. Partial Bumgarner did enough.

“It was good to get him some runs,” Bochy said. “It was good we picked him up.”

It was good they had Sandoval, the low-ball-high-ball hitter.


Giants outfielder Gorkys Hernandez left the game after the bottom of the sixth inning with a strained calf. “He thought he could stay in the game,” Bochy said. “We took him out. He’s probably going to miss Monday’s game, but my guess is he will be fine to go the next day. We will reevaluate it Monday.”

Hernandez was 2 for 4 with a double and two RBIs before leaving.

Reliever Ray Black made his major-league debut in the top of the eighth. He walked the first two batters he faced and gave up a three-run home run to pinch hitter Matt Carpenter. Black left with an ERA of 81.00.

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