Hit in head in 5th, infielder stays in game, delivers tiebreaking homer in 9th
By Sam Blum
ST. PETERSBURG -- Waiting for his turn in the dugout and eventually the on-deck circle, Joe Panik watched Alex Colome pitch. Panik had never faced the Rays' closer before, but he tried to get a feel for his pitches. A fastball, he saw, and a cutter as an out-pitch.
Panik had already been hit in the head during the fifth inning of Saturday's 6-4 Giants win at Tropicana Field. He collapsed to the ground, but stayed in the game after a drama-filled RBI hit-by-pitch.
"It caught me pretty good," Panik said of the Matt Moore pitch that hit him in the helmet. "I was just watching the replay and it wasn't one of those glancing blows."
Watching Colome, Panik was hoping his at-bat in the ninth would be even more dramatic.
Colome hadn't allowed a run since May 1. He'd been mowing down lineups that had faced him previously and ones that hadn't with equal precision for the past six weeks. But Panik knew what to look for, fouling off the first cutter he saw before unleashing a game-winning, three-run homer well into the right-field stands. It broke a 3-3 tie and the Giants held on for their seventh straight win.
"I was waiting for his slider," Panik said. "That's his out pitch, that's his go-to pitch. ... I was waiting for it in that at-bat. I put a good swing on it."
The Rays could only muster four solo homers, not enough to keep the Giants from going a season-high 17 games above .500.
"I missed a pitch. My cutter, every time, goes down," Colome said. "This one went flat. It didn't do any rotation. … No break. It's only one bad pitch. I don't have an excuse.
"It's only a bad day. We're human."
San Francisco's offense looked very human before rallying late. The Giants didn't get any more runs out of the bases-loaded, no-out situation after Panik was hit by the pitch in the fifth. Denard Span was doubled off first on a Brandon Belt lineout. Then Buster Posey was robbed of an RBI single on a sliding catch from left fielder Corey Dickerson.
After going 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position, the Giants tied the game in the eighth on Brandon Crawford's two-out RBI single to the right-center gap. Then in the ninth, the Giants got runners at the corners with one out. Span couldn't drive in the run. San Francisco just needed something to try to get home at least one run with two outs against the Rays' premier closer.
And Panik's was more than enough.
"Terrific job to come back. They got the second out, first and third," manager Bruce Bochy said nonchalantly after the win. "The job gets a little tougher. But good with the three-run homer. Good comeback."
Sam Blum is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Petersburg. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.