SAN FRANCISCO - Wednesday was a throwback for the Giants, the type of 2-1 win they've become so accustomed to at AT&T Park in past years. Solid starting pitching, a good bullpen, an opportunistic lineup, and sparkling defense. That's the recipe, only on Wednesday there was a twist.
The highlights usually come from the Brandons or Gold Glovers Joe Panik and Buster Posey. Wednesday's defensive star was the pitcher. Jeff Samardzija's barehanded grab-and-throw in the second inning killed a Pirates rally and kept Samardzija in line for a deep start. He was rewarded with his fifth win.
The big play came with the bases loaded and one out in the second. Opposing pitcher Trevor Williams bounced one toward third and Samardzija sprung off the mound, cutting in front of Conor Gillaspie. He caught the ball with his bare hand as it came down from the first hop and made a perfect off-balance strike to Buster Posey for the force at the plate.
"Your back is up against the wall there," Samardzija said. "That's a lack of other options and I had to make a play. It was the only option I had. I didn't think I had a chance at first."
Even with the pitcher running, Samardzija probably didn't. After getting the tough out at the plate, he induced an inning-ending pop-up. Samardzija would get through the seventh and a mistake in left opened the door for the Giants' game-winning run. Afterward, Bruce Bochy pointed to that second-inning play as a unique turning point.
"It looked like he was receiving a football, didn't it?" Bochy said, smiling. "He's so quick off the mound. He's a good athlete. For a pitcher, that's one of the better plays I've seen. You have to be a good athlete to jump off the mound that quick and have the instincts to know where to go with the ball."
Samardzija, a former college football star, said that athleticism has hurt him at times. He explained that it can lead to some mechanical laziness on the mound, as better athletes tend to rely on that to get the ball to the plate. He did some work in a recent bullpen session to try and hone in those mechanics, and it showed against a charging Pirates club.
If there were any scouts waiting for one last glimpse of Good Samardzija, this was it. But the right-hander said he doesn't expect to be traded by Monday's deadline.
"I haven't heard anything," he said. "I don't read the news."
He hears enough, though, to know that his name has been thrown around. Samardzija said he thinks that's just other teams looking for leverage in trade discussions. He made his preference clear.
"I love being here," he said.