In words and deeds, Pence inspires Giants to victory
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CINNATI -- Here's the thing about Hunter Pence: The more he does to help his team win, the less he wants to talk about it.
It's not that he doesn't want to discuss wins. He's more than willing to offer insight about, and heap praise upon, any of his teammates. He just doesn't want to talk about himself, or how his contributions may have changed the tone of a game, even if it was for the better.
So, we'll do it for him. Before Game 3 of the National League Division Series between the Giants and Reds even started, Pence had his teammates pretty fired up with a football-like huddle and rallying speech in the dugout.
Was it a Knute Rockne-type address, with a "Win One for the Gipper" (or maybe, skipper) overtone?
"We were just getting ready for the game," Pence said, asked about the nature of the huddle.
We heard it was emotional. Was it?
"We were just getting ready for the game," he repeated.
Pence did offer this: "It's about each other. That's what we're playing for."
Third-base coach Tim Flannery apparently was taking notes, and, quoting Pence, posted this on his band's Facebook page:
"Get in here, everyone get in here ... look into each other's eyes ... now! Look into each other's eyes, I want one more day with you, it's the most fun, the best team I have ever been on," said the Reverend Hunter Pence. "And no matter what happens, we must not give in, we owe it to each other, play for each other, I need one more day with you guys, I need to see what Theriot will wear tomorrow, I want to play defense behind Vogelsong because he's never been to the playoffs ... play for each other, not yourself, win each moment, win each inning, it's all we have left."
So it was a high-energy speech, it was an impassioned speech, and it may have done some good, considering the Giants ended up winning 2-1 in 10 innings to stay alive in the best-of-five series.
Not just anyone can gather the players without warning, receive 100-percent participation, and get high marks after. It has to be someone they respect to begin with. Clearly Pence, acquired in a Trade Deadline deal from the Phillies, has become highly-regarded in the short time he's been with the Giants.
Angel Pagan hinted that the speech focused on working as a team, while keeping the energy level at a maximum.
"Trying to encourage everybody to be, even if you're not playing, try to be energetic," Pagan said. "You might miss a situation that you want to get it done. Somebody will pick you up. That's the right attitude, the right energy we need in the dugout and that's what we did. Everybody was so fired up, even being down 2-0 in the series."
Pence also was part of two potential game-changers, one from his position in right field and one at the plate. While tracking a Ryan Hanigan fly ball in the second inning, Pence went airborne, crashed into the wall, and still managed to hold on while lying on his back, in foul territory.
In the 10th, Pence followed Buster Posey's leadoff single with a base hit through the hole at short. Pence, who has been nursing a gimpy left calf since his last at-bat in San Francisco on Sunday, ran somewhat gingerly to first base, but insisted on staying in the game. The Giants eventually scored the winning run on a Scott Rolen bobble of a Joaquin Arias ground ball.
Both instances, plus the pregame speech, were lauded by Pence's teammates. Even if Pence wouldn't laud himself.
"He brings a lot of energy to this team," starting pitcher Ryan Vogelsong said. "He brings a lot of energy to every game. That play in the second inning got me going. It was strictly a hustle play and he put his body out there. It made me focus a little bit better. At some point, when guys are making plays like that, you need to get your job done, too."
Jeremy Affeldt wasn't surprised to see that effort, or Pence's gutty 10th-inning at-bat.
"That's what this is all about," Affeldt said. "Guys have to give this everything they've got, because there's no other choice. That's why the playoffs are so fun. It's exciting for fans, it's exciting for teams, because everybody's giving it everything they've got and they're just going to grind it out and they're going to do what they've got to do."
Apparently, for Pence, that list of must-do's also included a timely and effective pregame speech.
"We need people like this," Pagan said. "Hunter is a very positive teammate. It doesn't matter if the game is 20-0. He believes we can win it. That's the right attitude in this game."