SAN DIEGO -- The high-fives, smiles, fist pumps and screams that punctuated Saturday night's thrilling 5-3 victory over the San Diego Padres all happened Friday, too. Before the series opener, the San Francisco Giants held a players-only meeting and encouraged each other to have more fun on the field.
"We tried it yesterday, but we didn't get runs across, so you didn't notice," shortstop Brandon Crawford said, smiling.
You couldn't miss the emotion Saturday night.
Michael Morse had both hands up as his game-tying home run left the park in the top of the ninth. In the bottom of the inning, Sergio Romo looked to the heavens and screamed after stranding the winning run at third. In the 10th, the dugout exploded en masse as Brandon Belt drove the go-ahead two-run homer to right field.
The win will go down as just one in a 162-game season, but for the Giants it held extra meaning. This wasn't just a victory. It was a release.
"You think you're not going to hit rock bottom, but that was possible today," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We were living on the edge, but we found a way to get it done. Good for these guys. They played their tails off."
For eight innings, the increased energy and effort weren't enough. Tim Hudson faced the minimum through five innings but gave up the game-tying run in the sixth. The Giants went ahead in the seventh, but Jean Machi coughed up the lead with two runs in the bottom of the inning.
A night after getting just four hits, the Giants had two in the first two innings -- including Gregor Blanco's first homer of the season -- but no more until the ninth.
Against Huston Street (23 for 23 in save opportunities), Morse changed the momentum with one swing. He jumped on a hanging slider, lining it out to left and celebrating all the way down the first base line. The homer was Morse's first since June 5.
"Morse saved us," Bochy said. "He saved our skin."
Crawford did the same. Romo came on in the bottom of the ninth and ran into trouble when a diving Morse turned a liner to left into a leadoff double. Yasmani Grandal hit a hard shot up the middle, but Crawford sprawled to keep it on the infield and threw to first for the out.
"Off the bat I got a pretty good jump, and I had to make the play there," Crawford said. "If it goes into center, (the winning run) is probably scoring."
Romo, removed from the closer's role a week ago, buckled down and got a pop-up and strikeout to end the ninth.
"It was huge what they both did," Belt said of Romo and Crawford. "Sergio, things haven't been going his way for a couple of weeks, but to have him battle his butt off--it was awesome to see.
Belt had battled through some timing issues in his first eight plate appearances since coming off the disabled list Friday. At one point Saturday, he swung and missed so hard that his helmet popped off. But late in the game, Belt went back in the cage and did a drill to keep his hands from "dragging" during his swing. After eight weeks on the D.L., Belt's first hit was a no-doubter to right.
"It was definitely an exciting moment," he said. "It's nice to do something out there. It sounded good. It felt good. It made me feel good."
More than anything, the homers by Morse and Belt let the Giants finally breathe for a night. Throughout a slump that has threatened to derail their season, the Giants have talked consistently of the importance of having fun. They sure looked to be enjoying themselves as Morse plowed through the dugout offering one hard high-five after another.
The left fielder claims to pay little attention to stats and accomplishments, but he admitted to sneaking a peak at the highlights of his 14th homer of the season, his biggest as a Giant.
"Yeah," Morse said, nodding his head and smiling. "It was awesome."
--Third baseman Pablo Sandoval was removed in the first inning after getting hit by a pitch that he swung at. Sandoval was listed as day-to-day with a left elbow contusion and isn't expected to start Sunday. Asked how he feels, Sandoval gave a one-word answer: "Sore."
--Second baseman Marco Scutaro (lower back strain) was scheduled to play five innings in an Arizona rookie league game. If his back feels fine Sunday morning, Scutaro will join Triple-A Fresno. The Giants are hopeful that Scutaro can soon return to the big leagues in a part-time role, with the ability to start at second base on days when he is feeling particularly spry.
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