Panda, Pence come to Lincecum's defense
Pair of defensive gems preserve Giants starter's no-hitter
SAN DIEGO -- As Alexi Amarista's eighth-inning liner sped toward the earth Saturday, Hunter Pence knew that he had to do the same.
"At that point, you've got to have all your chips in," said Pence, San Francisco's right fielder. "Any ball that you can remotely get close to, I was going to lay out for. You're definitely on your toes."
Pence wasn't on his toes for long. He left his feet and made a lunging catch of Amarista's drive. Pence's remarkable play ended the eighth inning and preserved Tim Lincecum's no-hit bid, which the right-hander completed with a perfect ninth inning.
Afterward, Pence received almost as much praise for his grab as Lincecum did for his no-hitter. The Giants appreciated the role that defense played for Lincecum in their 9-0 triumph over the Padres.
"That was really special," Lincecum said of Pence's play. "To be honest with you, I thought that was a hit off the bat. Hunter comes flying out of nowhere and makes a Superman catch. It was hard not to feed off of that."
The low trajectory of Amarista's liner made the prospect of a catch seem impossible.
"I didn't think he had a chance," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "I thought it was a base hit."
That wasn't the only challenging play the Giants converted. Third baseman Pablo Sandoval concluded the seventh inning by backhanding pinch-hitter Jesus Guzman's sharp grounder behind the bag, then straightening quickly and making a searing throw to first base.
"I have to catch the ball no matter what," said Sandoval, who made another backhanded stop on Carlos Quentin's fourth-inning grounder, then ranging a few steps to his left for Logan Forsythe's eighth-inning chopper.
A reporter remarked that Sandoval made the plays look easy. "It's not easy," he insisted, pointing out that he works daily on his defense with Giants coaches.
Sandoval's presence on the field represented a personal triumph of sorts. Last June 13, when Matt Cain threw his perfect game against Houston, Sandoval was replaced by Joaquin Arias, who moved from shortstop to third base in the seventh inning for defensive purposes. In fact, Arias fielded Jason Castro's grounder for the final out.
Thus, Sandoval took a little extra pride in his seventh-inning contribution.
"For me, it was special to make that play," Sandoval said.
But he refused to get carried away by the excitement of the moment.
"No," Sandoval said. "I was calm."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.