NEW YORK -- So unlikely to pull them from the depths of a suffocating team-wide slump was the ball that sent the Giants to a 2-1, 13-inning win over the Mets late Monday at Citi Field that when Brandon Crawford hit it, manager Bruce Bochy turned away. Derek Holland cursed in frustration. Derek Law's head sank.
Of the few that held out hope was Andrew McCutchen, who peeked back as he jogged down the third-base line. From that over-the-shoulder view, he witnessed the bizarre: Crawford's pop to shallow left plopped out of Amed Rosario's glove, caromed off Dominic Smith's mitt and tumbled safety to the outfield grass. By then, McCutchen only needed two steps to cross home plate, after which he "laughed all the way to the dugout."
"Everybody's eyes were about as big as the big-eyed emoji on your phone," McCutchen said, of when he returned to the Giants' ecstatic bench. "It was pretty crazy. Everybody was pretty stunned."
Adding to their elation was the fact that the dropped popup -- officially an error for Smith, who collided with Rosario to pry the ball loose -- allowed the to Giants' salvage a 4-hour, 20-minute series opener in Queens in the bizarrest of ways despite their offensive plight, which had reached a dire point.
Just one National League team has scored fewer runs since the All-Star break. The Giants have not homered in 44 innings. They remain 3-for-their-last 35 with runners in scoring position. The only reason they were alive in the 13th was because Alen Hanson tied the game six innings before with one of their softest hits of the year. Balls like Crawford's, off losing pitcher Tyler Bashlor, fall for hits just two percent of the time.
But on this night, it did. And San Francisco is back in the win column because of it.
"I turned around, to be honest. I did. I turned around. I'll be honest, I missed it, because I was assuming it was going to get caught," Bochy said. "It's good to get a break because we really had our struggles there."
It wasn't the only break the Giants received. Two innings earlier, Jose Reyes nearly sent San Francisco to its fifth straight loss when he shot a 94-mph line drive -- a hit nearly 80 percent of the time -- off reliever Reyes Moronta that appeared primed to score the winning run from second. But it sailed right into Crawford's glove, keeping the Giants alive on night they squandered rallies in the fifth, seventh and 11th.
All the while, their bullpen continuously provided more chances. Law's two scoreless frames capped a six-reliever, eight-scoreless-inning effort by the Giants' relief corps. Of the notables: Sam Dyson induced a double play to wiggle out of a two-on, one-out jam in the sixth, Tony Watson used another twin-killing to escape the seventh and Law worked around two walks in the 12th. They combined with Holland (five-plus innings, one run) to outlast a strong start from Zack Wheeler.
Afterward, the dominant emotion in the Giants' clubhouse was relief.
"More times than not, that ball's going to get caught. But crazy game of baseball, anything's possible and could happen," McCutchen said about the game-winning play. "We had plenty of opportunities, and we didn't come through a lot of times. Let games get away from you like that, more times than not, you lose the game. So for us to be able to get he win like we did, with the opportunities that we had, we avoided a big one there for us."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Summoned from Triple-A Sacramento on Monday to help a bullpen taxed by a demanding weekend sweep in Cincinnati, Law found himself in "exactly the type of situation I want to be in." By that, he meant a high-leverage one, as he was tasked with preserving a 1-1 game in the 12th. Citing "excitement," Law then walked two to push the winning run into scoring position with two outs. He stranded both runners there by getting Austin Jackson to pop out on a 2-1 slider following a conference with pitching coach Curt Young.
"He was saying, 'Slow it down,"' Law said. "I can get excited, especially late in games. If we're up or tied, I get really excited. He said, 'Pitch to your strengths and make your pitch.' And I kind of harnessed that."
When the Giants finally cracked Wheeler for a run in the seventh, they broke through on a Hansen bloop double that left the bat at 66.5 mph -- their softest hit in more than three weeks and their third-softest extra-base hit of the season. The RBI double landed between three fielders down the left-field line. It left the bat with a hit probability, per Statcast™, of just nine percent.
FLASH THE LEATHER
Though they committed two errors, the Giants also turned a trio of impressive defensive plays. Two came in the fourth, one that went as designed and another other that, well, worked out anyway. The textbook play actually came second, when McCutchen raced 75 feet to intercept a Wilmer Flores line drive headed for the right-center field gap. That ended the inning.
Two batters before, Evan Longoria appeared prime for an error when he could not glove a Rosario chopper. But his misplay did not result in misfortune -- the ball bounced straight up off his glove and back to him, allowing him to recover and make an aesthetically pleasing play.
Much later, in the bottom of the ninth, Joe Panik ranged to the right of second base to glove a sharp grounder from Devin Mesoraco. Panik's athletic play sent the game to extras.
HE SAID IT
"I feel horrible, but you can't do anything about it anymore. All I can do is come back tomorrow and just keep working my butt off and that's pretty much it. It sucks, especially the way this year has been going, but there's nothing I can do about it now but just turn the page and continue to work and just get better." -- Smith, a natural first baseman who recently converted to left field
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Giants appeared primed to threaten in the top of the 10th, when Gorkys Hernandez beat out a grounder to short to begin the frame. But the Mets challenged first-base umpire Chad Whitson's call, and umpires reversed it after a 1-minute, 6-second review. Mets reliever Jerry Blevins retired the next two batters in order to end the frame.
After a two-start stint at Triple-A where Ryan Vogelsong helped him pinpoint a mechanical flaw, right-hander Chris Stratton (8-7, 5.52 ERA) will re-enter the Giants' rotation when this series continues from Citi Field on Tuesday. Looking for his first win since June 17, Stratton will oppose Steven Matz (5-10, 4.60). First pitch is set for 4:10 p.m. PT.