Aoki, Maxwell team up to lead Giants before getting KC rings
By Owen Perkins
Special to MLB.com |
DENVER -- Saturday's first win in five tries against the Rockies was especially sweet for Nori Aoki and Justin Maxwell.
Both contributed significantly to the Giants' 5-4 win, with Maxwell bouncing a two-run homer off the out-of-town scoreboard to claim a two-run lead in the sixth inning, and -- after the Rockies tied it in the bottom of the ninth -- Aoki sprinted home with the deciding run on a safety-squeeze bunt by Joe Panik in the 11th.
To top off the evening, the two ex-Royals were presented with their American League championship rings by the Giants in the clubhouse moments after the victory.
"It was a very, very good 15 minutes," Aoki said of the dizzying sequence of events, through translator Kosuke Inaji. "I guess probably winning the game [was better]. The ring's nice, but that's in the past right now."
Aoki was 0-for-2 in the first three innings, then walked four times over the next eight innings. The Giants opened the ninth, 10th, and 11th with leadoff walks -- two from Aoki -- and it was only a matter of time before they capitalized on the free passes.
"Aoki got us going there with the walk, and they executed well at the end," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We had a hard time getting a hit there with runners in scoring position. Joe got him in, and good job on his part."
Panik decided to bunt on his own, pushing the ball toward first, where Justin Morneau charged and threw home, but not in time to catch the speedy Aoki.
"I know I can bunt pretty well," Panik said of his decision. "Especially coming into the game cold in the 11th inning [as a defensive substitution] like that. That'd be the easiest way to do it, get the job done.
"Nori's fast. That's pretty much the reason I did it. I know Nori can get in there."
Maxwell's sixth-inning homer had its own intrigue. He saw the ball bounce off the top of the scoreboard and trotted around the bases, but as he passed third, third-base coach Roberto Kelly told him the ball was still in play. Rockies reliever Scott Oberg had retrieved the bounced-back ball by then, and he tagged Maxwell out between third and home.
After a crew chief review, Maxwell's hit was deemed a homer, and Maxwell was able to laugh at the situation.
"It was kind of a weird deal, because they didn't motion home run," Bochy said of the umpires. "That's a lesson learned by us. Until they call it, you've got to run the bases."
As glad as the Giants were to have production from Aoki and Maxwell to win the game, they couldn't resist the opportunity to poke a little fun at their foes from the 2014 Fall Classic.
"Everyone was like, 'Oh, congratulations, but our ring is made of all gold,'" Aoki said, laughing. "It was nice, but I'd like to win a championship this year."
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.