There were no shortage of heroes in Tuesday night's 6-5 win over the Diamondbacks.
Cody Ross scored twice and drove in two runs, the bullpen got seven outs without allowing a hit in relief of a shaky Matt Cain and Nate Schierholtz got a big double to give the team an insurance run that wound up being much more. Despite all of that, it felt like the night belonged to one man above all others -- and that man was the Panda.
When Pablo Sandoval fractured his wrist, the Giants went from being a mediocre offensive team to something worse. When Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez joined him in the medical suite, the team dropped all the way to dead-ball era production. Posey's not coming back and Sanchez's future is a question mark, which means there's a heckuva lot of pressure on Sandoval to provide a threat in the middle of a lineup short on other ones.
So far, so good.
It took Sandoval exactly one at-bat to make a difference to the Giants offense. His first-inning single scored Andres Torres and helped make Arizona starter Josh Collmenter work hard just to make it to a second inning. His fifth inning walk touched off a three-run rally that wound up making all the difference in the world when Cain spit the bit. He saw 11 pitches in that at-bat, a significant amount against a rookie that's shown a tendency to tire around the fifth in his previous starts.
Panda's individual offensive ability speaks for itself, but that walk and all those pitches speak to the other benefit he brings to the table for the Giants. Sandoval's presence in the lineup is going to make pitchers work harder and throw more pitches on a daily basis which should make life easier for the hitters that follow him in the order.
That certainly seemed to be the case on Tuesday night as the three hitters behind Panda went 4-for-12 with three walks and three RBIs. It will obviously take time to make sure we aren't confusing correlation and causation based on one game, but there was a striking difference from a team that scored 24 runs in its previous 10 games.
Maybe Panda isn't accountable for that difference, but we're guessing Bruce Bochy wouldn't argue too much if you suggested that he was.