SAN FRANCISCO -- Joe Panik, the ultimate team player, was anticipating a rare opportunity to be properly selfish.
An eighth-inning offensive uprising by the San Francisco Giants left Panik two batters away from making his fifth plate appearance in their 4-0 victory Wednesday afternoon over the Colorado Rockies. After tripling in the first inning, doubling in the third and singling in the seventh, Panik needed a home run to complete the cycle. He didn't get his chance, as Kelby Tomlinson lined into an inning-ending double play.
Too bad. Panik was mentally ready for the attempt to become the first Giant to record a cycle since Pablo Sandoval accomplished the feat on Sept. 15, 2011, at Colorado.
"If I would have gotten that last at-bat, normally I don't do this, but I would have swung for it," Panik said. "If the opportunity presents itself, might as well go for it. ... It would be pretty cool to get a cycle."
Nevertheless, the fact that Panik was within one swing of a cycle reflected the torrid hitting he has maintained for weeks. He leads the National League with a .435 average in September, having generated momentum with a record-tying 12 hits in a three-game series Sept. 4-6 at Colorado.
Panik's surge bolsters the Giants' hopes of improving their offense next season, which would help them escape another last-place finish. His overall .291 batting average is completely within bounds for him, given the .280 average he took into this season.
Said Giants manager Bruce Bochy: "He's seeing the ball well. He's using the whole field. He's driving the ball, too. And when he's not hitting it well, he's hitting them where they aren't. When you get on one of those runs, it's fun. Joe's one of those contact-type hitters who can do this."
No Giants opponent knows this more than the Rockies. Panik, the NL's reigning Gold Glove Award winner at second base, finished the 19-game season series against Colorado with a .436 (34-for-78) batting average. According to Stats LLC, those 34 hits set a single-season record for a Rockies opponent, eclipsing the 32 amassed by Arizona's Jean Segura in 17 games last season and San Francisco's Jeff Kent in 18 games in 2002.
"He's been a Rockie killer for sure," Colorado manager Bud Black said. "We just can't seem to solve him. We're trying all different things. We just can't seem to get him out. When we do make a good pitch, we seem to get him out. But the mistakes that we've made -- he's not missing. He's taken advantage of [those]."
Panik nestled himself alongside some of the franchise's greatest names with his output against the Rockies. The only Giants to collect higher hit totals in a season against an opponent are: Willie Mays, who had 43 hits in 22 games against the Dodgers in 1958; Orlando Cepeda, with 40 in 20 games against the Phillies in 1961; Jim Davenport, who had 39 hits in 22 games against the Dodgers in 1958; and Orlando Cepeda, who accumulated 34 hits in 18 games against the Phillies in 1962.