What a relief: Petit rescues Giants once again out of bullpen
SAN FRANCISCO — Time and again in these 2014 playoffs, Giants manager Bruce Bochy has called upon Yusmeiro Petit to save his team’s bacon, usually when facing a deficit or with innings to eat.
Every time, Petit has answered without fail. Three weeks ago on a surreal night in DC, Petit blanked the Washington Nationals for six innings, en route to an 18-inning win for San Francisco. Ten days ago, it was merely three shutout innings against St. Louis in Game 4 of the NLCS that earned Petit his second win of the postseason.
In Saturday night’s 11-4 Giants’ victory, after three more sensational innings of shutout ball, scattering only two hits and striking out two, Petit earned his third win of the postseason — tying Madison Bumgarner for the team lead — and gave the team enough time to claw back from an early three-run deficit to tie up the World Series two games apiece.
When Game 4 starter Ryan Vogelsong — a very good pitcher, historically speaking, in the playoffs — couldn’t make it out of the third inning, allowing four runs on seven hits, Bochy turned to reliever Jean Machi to end the inning. Then it was Petit’s turn to continue his shutout streak.
“It’s a pretty nice weapon to have in the bullpen,” Bochy said of Petit, who set the major-league record this past summer for most consecutive batters retired (46). “A long guy like Petit, who seems to calm things down the way he goes about his business and of course the way he pitches.
“He gave us exactly what we needed.”
And another commanding performance from the Giants’ ace middle reliever could not have come at a more opportune time. Down 4-1 early, in what most logically thinking baseball observers could deem a must-win game, Petit allowed the San Francisco bats time to awake from their cryogenic slumber.
By the end of the seventh, the Giants had smacked around 10 unanswered runs against Kansas City’s usually leak-proof bullpen, and a return trip to Kansas City for Game 6 on Tuesday was all but assured.
Sunday’s Game 5, which pits Bumgarner against Royals ace James Shields for the Series lead, would’ve been a potential Kansas City clincher without Petit’s performance, which served to both calm down the Giants’ emotions and invigorate more than 43,000 rabid fans at AT&T Park.
Instead of the Royals taking a commanding 3-1 Series lead, it’s all square with two aces going head to head on Sunday.
“I’m ready for anytime,” Petit said of his in-game preparation. “If Bochy gives me the chance, whatever he wants.”
Hunter Pence, who went 3 for 5 to raise his World Series average to a team-leading .467 among starters, was effusive in his praise of Petit after the victory.
“To me, (Petit) is the most unsung hero of our team this whole season, especially in the postseason,” he said. “What he’s done is nothing short of amazing. I think that’s what gives me chills right now, just to be a part of that.”
The Giants took the lead in the bottom of the sixth with a three-run rally, kick started by pinch-hitter Joaquin Arias’ single to lead off. (Arias was hitting in Petit’s No. 9 slot.) San Francisco would eventually bat eight in the frame, and the trifecta of Jeremy Affeldt, Sergio Romo and Hunter Strickland each went a scoreless inning in relief to seal the 11-4 win.
Petit was asked after the win whether the pressure of late-game playoff pitching gets to him.
That was all. Petit shut down the Royals, then shut down any questions that might make him second-guess his shutdown streak.
The next time Petit is fazed during these playoffs will also be the first. Whether it ever actually happens is the real question.