Pagan's homer caps big Giants comeback
Sanchez, Morse add RBIs in decisive eighth; Belt, Hicks slug homers
PHOENIX -- Sifting through the pile of evidence from the Giants' season-opening success here, which concluded Thursday with an 8-5 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks, it was best to start at the top.
Angel Pagan played numerous roles in this series besides leadoff-batting catalyst for the Giants, who captured three of four games in this series. In this finale, he portrayed a slugger, pounding a three-run homer off D-backs reliever Will Harris that topped off a five-run, eighth-inning rally.
Gone was Arizona's 5-3 lead, replaced by the inevitability of another Giants triumph. Their surge marked the first time since Aug. 12, 2012, against Colorado that they scored five runs or more after the seventh inning.
"It takes those comebacks to have a winning season," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said, invoking the memory of San Francisco's six-run surge in the final three innings of Monday's season opener.
Winning also requires dynamic performances such as the one Pagan sustained throughout this series. Besides batting .421 (8-for-19), Pagan drove in a team-high six runs and scored three. He also played defense in center field that ranged from solid to spectacular.
The Giants missed Pagan's multiple talents while his injured left hamstring limited him to 71 games last year. But last year has been virtually forgotten, and as Pagan said with a touch of wonder, "My left leg feels better than the right. ... [It's] 100 percent. I'm seeing the ball better than I have in previous years. I'm confident because I worked hard for it."
The Giants worked hard to generate their 14th win in their last 19 games at Chase Field. They trailed 4-2 through six innings despite a capable start by Tim Lincecum, whose rare lapses resulted in two-run homers by Paul Goldschmidt in the first inning and Mark Trumbo in the sixth.
"Unless I throw underhanded to him, I got to figure out something," Lincecum said of Goldschmidt, who owns a career .522 batting average (12-for-23) with six homers and 13 RBIs off him.
The Giants also received their share of slugging. First baseman Brandon Belt delivered his third homer in four games in the first inning. He became the fourth Giant since the franchise moved to San Francisco in 1958 to hit at least three homers in the team's first four games, joining Barry Bonds (five in 2002), Willie Mays (three in 1962; four in 1964 and in 1971) and Kevin Mitchell (three in 1991).
"It's a rhythm thing," Belt said, citing his balance and weight transfer involved in his swing. "I hope I can keep it going for a while."
Utility man Brandon Hicks pumped a pinch-hit, seventh-inning homer off Josh Collmenter into the second deck to narrow the difference to 4-3. Working a deep count helped Hicks, who connected with a 3-2 pitch.
"The adrenaline's going, so I tried to slow everything down," he said.
The Giants ultimately benefited from turning their lineup inside out, in essence. Playing a day game following a night game, they had Buster Posey and Michael Morse to summon from the bench. Both appeared as pinch-hitters in the big eighth. Posey walked before Morse grounded an RBI single up the middle that tied the score. Pagan homered one pitch later.
Four different reserves scored runs, which according to the Elias Sports Bureau was the first time this happened to the Giants since June 15, 2009. The names that day included Eli Whiteside, Andres Torres, Travis Ishikawa and Fred Lewis.
Another difference: The Giants lost that game, 9-7. This time, their contributions were more timely, from starters, reserves and one-day substitutes alike.
"We had the right guys up there at the right time," said Bochy, whose club batted a pedestrian .246 overall in this series but went .355 (11-for-31) with runners in scoring position.
"My teammates, including me, are trying to be patient, not panicking when we're behind," Pagan said. "I think everybody feels good about what we have right now."