San Francisco Giants: Joc’s homecoming in all-time classic

Bleary-eyed and rudely disturbed by my morning alarm, I reached for my phone to put an end to the insufferable noise. As I looked at the notifications flooding my screen, I realised something magical was happening in San Francisco. The Giants were still playing the Mets on Tuesday night and I was in bed on Wednesday morning, overjoyed I could catch the final innings.

As I opened my MLB app to start watching, the insanity began to dawn on me. Before I could fully comprehend what I was watching, Joc Pederson stepped to the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning with two outs, two men on base, and the Giants trailing 11-8. He already had two home runs on the night…

Before we race to the epic finale of one of the wildest wins in Giants history (that our own Russell Eassom was witness to), let’s set the scene.

The Giants, mired by injuries and a five-game losing streak, were in desperate need of a victory. Clothed in their lucky City Connect uniforms, the home team had raced out to a commanding 8-2 lead over the visiting Mets. Thanks, in large part, to the local kid Pederson. I say kid, he’s actually 30-years-old, but with his shock of bleached blonde hair and unwavering energy, Pederson’s enthusiasm for the game is reminiscent of a little leaguer.

In the third inning with the score tied at 1-1 Pederson got himself going, jumping on a Chris Bassitt cutter for a two-run homer into the arms of the grateful fans atop the right field arcade. Bassitt’s pitch was inside but too high, up in Pederson’s happy place, and the Giants man pounced on the mistake.

Pederson was back for more in the bottom of the fifth inning, with the Giants now ahead 6-2. With Darin Ruf at first base and facing a 2-0 count, Pederson stung Bassitt once more. The Mets pitcher couldn’t get enough sink on his pitch and Joc unloaded, this time for 436 feet to dead centre. Mets centre fielder Brandon Nimmo could only look up and admire. Pederson’s second blast of the night put the Giants up 8-2.

Job done, right? Well, no actually.

The Mets conspired to humiliate the Giants, forcing a comeback for the ages. Francisco Lindor hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning. Then, in one of the most brutal eighth innings you’re ever likely to see, the Mets surged into an 11-8 lead, with seven runs on eight agonising singles, a triple and a sacrifice fly. Poor Tyler Rogers was charged with all seven runs in the inning, the first Giants reliever to perform such a feat.

I would not have blamed Giants fans for losing hope at this point. And yet, shades of that famous 2021 resilience still remain, and Gabe Kapler’s men kept battling. Despite two early outs, Mike Yastrzemski singled and Ruf walked. Enter Pederson, with an opportunity to make history.

Drew Smith, pitching in relief for the Mets and owner of a sparkly 1.45 ERA before this game, got the count to 1-1 when he challenged Pederson with a 97-mph fastball on the outside corner. Pederson swung and missed but this did not deter the Giants slugger in any way. Smith brought the heat again on his next effort, a 98-mph four seamer, but it was a big mistake, in the same exact location as Bassitt’s pitch for Pederson’s first homer.

Same location, same result.

Pederson took Smith deep into right field, way back, and out of the park for a three-run homer into the waters of McCovey Cove. It was the 94th Splash Hit in the ballpark’s history, graciously accepted by the ever-patient McCovey Cove Dave in his kayak.

The park erupted, with Giants fans falling over themselves in celebration, jubilant at seeing Pederson not only tie the game but become part of Giants’ history. He became the first Giant to hit three home runs in a regular-season game at Oracle Park (Pablo Sandoval memorably did it in the 2012 World Series), and the first to have three multi-run homers in a game since Willie Mays did it in his unforgettable four-homer game in 1961.

The game was now tied 11-11 and there was more excitement still to come. The pesky Mets, refusing to let this one go, took a 12-11 lead in the top of the ninth after a triple and sac-fly. No matter, the Giants had lost their lead before and had come back. They could do it again.

Bottom of the ninth, with two outs (again), Yaz singled and Ruf walked. Up steps Pederson. Surely he couldn’t homer for a fourth time? Alas, he didn’t put one over the wall on this occasion, but he did deposit a sharply hit single into centre field to allow Yaz plenty of time to scamper home for the tying run. Cue more celebrations for Joc, having now recorded a career-high 8 RBIs.

With Ruf now in scoring position, Brandon Crawford stepped to the plate to deliver in the clutch. The star shortstop smashed a single beyond the reach of Mets third baseman Eduardo Escobar and into left field. With every fan in orange and black screaming as loud as possible, Ruf was on the move. The big man had some serious wheels, and beat the throw and tag to score the winning run.

Players flooded the field to mob Crawford. Ruf and Pederson embraced as Oracle Park roared in celebration around them. Somehow, some way, the Giants walked it off 13-12 in what will be remembered as an all-time classic.

Pederson and the Giants sent the fans home with cherished memories, elated at what they had experienced, and helped kickstart this British fan’s Wednesday morning in magnificent style. Rarely do I walk to work midweek with such a shit-eating grin, proudly wearing my Giants cap.

What a night. How can you not be romantic about baseball?

Ash Day is the San Francisco Giants writer for Bat Flips and Nerds. Follow him on Twitter @AshDay29

Photo credit for featured image by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

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