Losing almost became a reality for the Giants after the A's scored four runs to wipe out most of the 9-4 lead San Francisco confidently took into the ninth.
It might be only half-joking to suggest that Sunday's series finale should be canceled, since the antagonists drained each other so much in this one.
The Giants heaved 193 pitches; the A's flung 192. San Francisco needed four relievers who combined to throw 56 pitches to get through the eventful ninth.
Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford insisted that he and his teammates remained calm as the A's sustained their rally.
"There wasn't really a whole lot of panic," Crawford said. "Our bullpen's good. I knew they were going to do their job."
Until the ninth, the afternoon belonged to Brandon Belt, who extended his career-high hitting streak to 11 games with a second-inning RBI single. Belt also contributed a two-run homer to fuel San Francisco's four-run uprising in the sixth inning that erased Oakland's 4-2 edge. He's batting .441 (15-for-34) with three doubles, four homers and 12 RBIs during his hitting streak.
Buster Posey's two-run homer helped the Giants add three runs in the seventh. As it turned out, they needed each and every one of them.
San Francisco appeared in control as reliever Shane Loux retired two of the first three hitters he faced in the ninth. Then Jonny Gomes walked and Brandon Inge smacked an RBI single, finishing Loux and forcing Bochy to summon closer Santiago Casilla.
But Casilla had trouble commanding anything but his fastball as Oakland's rally continued. Derek Norris blooped a run-scoring single and Brandon Moss, whose three errors in the sixth inning tied a Major League record, walked to load the bases. Up came Brandon Hicks, Oakland's No. 9 hitter, who drove a ground-rule double to left field. Inge and Norris scored while Moss, who would have crossed the plate had the ball remained in play, had to hold at third. The ball took a lively bounce off the warning track; otherwise, the score would have been tied.
With left-handed-batting Seth Smith due up, Bochy removed Casilla, the closer who had converted 20 saves, and brought in lefty specialist Javier Lopez. Lopez forged ahead on the count, 0-2, before Smith coaxed a walk to reload the bases.
"I really thought, at that point, we would win that game," A's manager Bob Melvin said.
Bochy wanted a right-hander to present a different look to the switch-hitting Weeks, who confronted left-hander Madison Bumgarner (9-4) in his previous four plate appearances. So in came Hensley, who was striving to escape a slump. He had allowed seven earned runs and walked seven batters in his last six innings, spanning six appearances.
"The last couple of weeks I've kind of gotten away from being aggressive over the middle of the plate down," Hensley said.
Hensley welcomed being thrust into a challenging situation.
"For me, personally, it's almost better because I have less time to think about things, when you just have to go out there and throw the ball over the plate," he said.
The count went to 2-2 on Weeks before Hensley tried a sinking fastball. Weeks didn't make authoritative contact, but connected solidly enough to send the ball toward the outfield. Center fielder Gregor Blanco and right fielder Nate Schierholtz joined Crawford and Theriot in converging on the ball. But Theriot had the best angle. He kept pace with the ball, extended his left arm, made the grab and didn't let go.
Blanco initially feared the worst: "I said, 'Oh my God, it's going to fall.'"
Crawford believed that he could have made the catch if Theriot didn't.
"With a dive, I could have been there," Crawford said. "I was running as fast as I think I have all season."
"I thought we'd get to it," Bochy said. "I didn't know it would be that tough a play, to be honest. Theriot went a long way."
Actually, both teams did. The game's four-hour, 15-minute duration matched the second-longest in Oakland history for a nine-inning game. It approached the Giants' San Francisco-era record of 4:27, established on Oct. 5, 2001, against the Dodgers.