Welcome back, Michael Morse
Then came tonight. Pretty good deadline story in the SF Chronicle by Henry Schulman --
Michael Morse had to laugh at the ridiculousness and the improbability of what he did in the eighth inning at AT&T Park on Wednesday night.
“We could have all gone to Vegas ...,” Morse said, not having to finish the sentence inside a Giants clubhouse that finally had something to celebrate, a 4-3 victory against the Dodgers that ended on Hunter Pence’s no-out, bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the 10th inning.
In the midst of a horrible 2017 start, 2014 broke out.
Morse, the once and brand-new Giant who began his comeback after more than a year out of major-league baseball, pinch-hit with one out in the eighth and homered off Pedro Baez to tie the game 3-3.
That was the same score, in the same inning, that Morse created with his pinch homer off St. Louis’ Pat Neshek in Game 5 of the 2014 National League Championship Series, which the Giants won on Travis Ishikawa’s three-run homer in the ninth.
Ishikawa was not around Wednesday, so the Giants had to rely on Pence, who won the game on the 10th pitch of his plate appearance against Ross Stripling. Pence had the dugout howling over how many two-strike fastballs over his head he fouled off before lifting a ball deep enough to left to score Gorkys Hernandez, whose single started the rally.
Starter Johnny Cueto laughed and said it seemed Pence was swinging at pitchouts. Manager Bruce Bochy said Pence took a “thou-shalt-not walk” mentality to the plate.
Pence perfectly summarized the improbability and importance of the homer his bromance partner hit to tie a game the Giants had trailed 3-0 — Morse’s first big-league hit since 2015.
“That was quite an energy jolt right there,” Pence said, “just the emotion and history and excitement of having him back. And to do that, it’s one of those special moments that can change a season.
“Morsey being Morsey, the stadium, just him walking up, the fans getting rowdy. It was one of the coolest moments of the season so far.”
Speaking of cool moments, Christian Arroyo — remember him? — brought the Giants out of an athletic coma when he followed a Buster Posey single in the seventh inning with his first big-league homer. Arroyo sent a Sergio Romo slider into the left-field seats to trim the Dodgers’ lead to 3-2.
Arroyo’s homer, in his 11th big-league at-bat, breathed oxygen into the dugout after Alex Wood did not allow a hit until the sixth, a Drew Stubbs single.
“It just brought life to the bench,” Bochy said. “We were down three. Now we’re down one. We just were not doing anything off Wood.”
After Steven Okert and Hunter Strickland combined for two of what would be four shutout innings from the bullpen, Bochy sent Morse to the plate in an obvious spot, with one out and nobody on against Baez. It was clear from the first two fruitless swings that Morse had one thing in mind, just as in 2014: Tie the game.
Morse got another fastball at 97 mph and blasted it into the bleachers in left-center.
He extended his arm exultantly after he dropped his bat, pumped his fist around first base and smiled the rest of the way around the diamond. When he crossed the plate, he screamed and pounded his hands together.
The hero’s welcome he got in the dugout looked a lot like 2014, too.
“To see the kid hit his first home run, and me coming up to pinch-hit and doing that, it almost felt like the magic we had in ’14,” Morse said. “It shows the team that we can win, no matter how.”