SAN FRANCISCO -- Hunter Pence has needed more than a little bit of perseverance in his life. Otherwise, he would not have endured playing virtually every game from his promotion to the Major Leagues in 2007 through the end of the 2014 season. Nor would he have weathered the multitude of injuries that have threatened to erode his skills since 2015.
Thus, when Pence faced Padres closer Brad Hand in Sunday's 11th inning with the bases loaded, one out and San Diego leading, 2-1, Pence embraced the confrontation. After all, this was a challenge he wanted to face.
"It's like a kid on a Christmas morning for me," said Pence, who hit a roller past first base and into right field that lifted the Giants to a 3-2 triumph. "It's a lot of responsibility, but that's what you dream of every day."
Skeptics might have believed that the dream has become a nightmare for Pence, who owned a .191 batting average when he stroked Hand's slider up the line to score Andrew McCutchen and Buster Posey and erase the 2-1 lead San Diego forged in its half of the 11th. The Giants (40-39) won three of the series' four games to climb above .500 .
Pence, who started in left field and went hitless in his first three at-bats, did one of the things he does best: He avoided all negative thoughts.
"You know, I don't really [dwell] on that," Pence said, referring to his batting average. "I go out each day to play to win the game. … I feel good about the preparation. I just want to be as prepared as I can and come out to play to win. And at the end of the year, the numbers will be what they're going to be."
Pence's stint against Hand appeared numbered when the left-hander forged ahead on the count 0-2. But Pence managed to get enough of Hand's 85 mph slider to poke it into right field.
"I just wanted to put a good swing on whatever he threw up there, try to lay off the high fastball," Pence said. "He's got a nasty slider. It's just competing. You've got to trust your hands and battle the best you can, and fortunately I found a hole."
The result was Pence's 11th career game-ending hit. His last one occurred on May 23, 2016, against San Diego -- with Hand on the mound.
As the Giants learned along ago, Pence's mere presence can be an asset to the team.
"Just having him around, he brings the same enthusiasm and energy whether he's playing or not," second baseman Joe Panik said.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy said that he felt "ecstatic" for Pence, who missed 40 games earlier this season with a sprained right thumb.
"It's been a tough road for him," Bochy said. " …. He finds a way, though, at times, and he did today. He comes up with the game on the line and he put it in play. Good things happen when you do that. The thing we had to stay away from was a strikeout. He battled his tail off and he put it in play, he put it in a good spot. For him, this was probably his biggest hit, just with what's been going on this year for him, so we're all happy for him."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Dereck Rodriguez pitched a career-high seven innings and lapsed only once -- when San Diego's Manuel Margot homered to open the game.
"It was big, real big," Bochy said. "That kid, what a great job."
Rodriguez insisted that he did not consider this outing an audition, though the Giants will be compelled to reshape their starting rotation with Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto due to leave the disabled list soon.
Rodriguez and the other Giants starters -- Andrew Suarez, Madison Bumgarner and Chris Stratton -- combined to record a 1.35 ERA (4 ER in 26 2/3 innings) in this four-game series.
Monday's scheduled off-day will break the Giants' streak of 17 consecutive games, which matched a season high. They'll begin a three-game home series Tuesday against National League West rival Colorado. San Francisco will open the series behind left-hander Derek Holland at 7:15 p.m. PT. The Giants have won seven of his last 11 starts. Colorado will counter with right-hander Chad Bettis.