Giants feeling Pence's presence in timely moments
Persistent outfielder finds ways to contribute, provide lift in all facets of game
DETROIT -- As far as table-setters go, Hunter Pence is far from the prototype.
Perhaps it's his hunched back or his impatient front leg, which refuses to cease its incessant twitching each time he awaits a pitch. Maybe it's his scraggly beard or the few unhinged buttons that allow the upper portion of his uniform to hang loose.
Or, it could be that he rarely walks and has struggled to reach base throughout the postseason.
No matter the circumstance, Pence played a part in the Giants' 2-0 win over the Tigers in Game 3 of the World Series on Saturday night at Comerica Park, as his efforts helped push San Francisco to the cusp of a championship.
"He's been a huge part of our team," said Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford. "When he got here, he wasn't hitting a whole lot for average, but he was driving in runs. He just finds any way to get runs in, it seems like. He's been huge for us."
Pence entered Saturday's contest batting .182 (10-for-55) in the postseason with just one walk, for a .196 on-base percentage.
He approached the batter's box to commence the second inning toting an attribute he isn't usually known for: patience. After Giants hurler Ryan Vogelsong needed 22 pitches and a timely double play to dodge harm in the bottom of the first, Pence wanted to disrupt any rhythm Tigers righty Anibal Sanchez built up in the previous frame.
So, he waited for his pitch. It never came.
Sanchez missed the strike zone on four consecutive tosses, and Pence drew a walk, as he quelled the itch to step up to the plate and hack away.
"I at least wanted to try to have a good at-bat," Pence said. "I had only one pitch in mind that I was going to be swinging at, and it wasn't it."
Once he reached base, he became a thorn in Sanchez's side. Pence stole second, advanced to third on a wild pitch and ultimately scored the game's first run on Gregor Blanco's triple.
"Sanchez is a good pitcher," said Crawford, who later plated Blanco with a two-out single. "We put him in the stretch, and that's always a good thing. Fortunately we got Pence around, and Blanco got him in."
Pence attempted to incite another rally in the fourth with a leadoff single, but Sanchez stifled the subsequent three hitters. The right fielder logged another base knock with two outs in the sixth but was stranded at first.
Typically inserted into the No. 5 hole on manager Bruce Bochy's lineup card, Pence is often the one digging in with runners on base. After all, the two-time All-Star tallied 45 RBIs in 59 contests after San Francisco acquired him from Philadelphia in a July 31 swap. When considering that Pence batted just .219 with a .287 on-base percentage after joining the Giants, the runs he produced seem to indicate he has a knack for timely hitting. Pence hit 41 points better this season with runners on base.
"The goal is to be as prepared as you can and give everything you have and play for each other," said Pence, who has quickly ascended to a leadership role, given his frequent pregame pep talks throughout the postseason. "Timely hitting is what's the most important, but you don't ever go up there and say, 'Oh, this isn't a good time, I'm not going to hit.' You want to get a hit every time, and you want to have a good at-bat. That's the key. You can't control getting a hit every time."
Pence's approach appears to have rubbed off on his teammates. Crawford was hitting just .175 (7-for-40) in the playoffs before he delivered a clutch RBI swat in the second inning.
That's about the extent of the mimicking that Pence's teammates will carry out, however. When it comes to the right fielder's batting stance, even the Giants are left wondering how his bat ever manages to locate the baseball.
"We've thought about it, but we've watched him enough," Crawford said. "He's a good hitter. It doesn't matter what his stance is."
As for Pence, the unorthodox posture at the plate has been prevalent for as long as he can remember. Somehow, he said, it feels natural and comfortable.
"It's just who I am and how I hit," Pence said. "I don't even totally know everything that's going on."
Pence knows one thing: His contributions, whether they come as the table-setter, run producer or as a supportive teammate, have helped the Giants move to within one victory of a title.
"There was a little while that I was kind of just competing with what I had, and it wasn't the best," Pence said. "But I've found ways to get it done when I need to, and if I haven't, other people have."