SAN FRANCISCO — Hector Sanchez never had a game-ending hit in his professional career. He'd never faced a five-man infield, either.
What a way for both trends to end.
The pinch-hitting Sanchez lined a one-out single over the crowded infield with the bases loaded in the 11th inning, lifting the San Francisco Giants to a 4-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday to take the three-game series. The hit came after Milwaukee rallied from its last strike in the ninth.
"There's no getting around it. That would've been a tough one to lose," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "It was vital, I thought, that we win that one before we hit the road."
The final rally didn't take long.
Buster Poster singled off sidearm submariner Tim Dillard (0-1) leading off the final inning and pinch-runner Emmanuel Burriss moved to second on Angel Pagan's sacrifice bunt.
Dillard walked Brandon Belt intentionally and Ryan Theriot drew a walk to load the bases. Left fielder Ryan Braun moved into the infield before Sanchez sent a full-count pitch off Dillard down the left-field line where nobody would've reached it under a traditional configuration anyway.
"I was just trying to get the ball over the infield," said Sanchez, San Francisco's backup catcher. "I feel happy for the whole team. We needed that."
Travis Ishikawa's RBI double handed San Francisco's Santiago Casilla his first blown save in the ninth. The Giants had lost three straight by one run and dropped the opener to the Brewers 6-4 before winning both on the weekend.
Lefty specialist Javier Lopez (3-0) recorded one out for the win. Clay Hensley also pitched 1 2-3 scoreless innings after Milwaukee chased Casilla.
"It's not easy, but this game's not supposed to be easy. Life isn't easy," said Braun, who was 1 for 4 with a walk. "We have no choice but to continue to move forward."
San Francisco's banged-up bullpen finally caved before its bats — for a change — brought the club back.
Corey Hart reached on a fielding error by third baseman Ryan Theriot to lead off the ninth. Then Casilla rallied to strike out Jonathan Lucroy and popped up Taylor Green.
With Milwaukee down to its last strike, former Giants pinch-hit specialist Ishikawa doubled on the ninth pitch against Casilla to score Hart and force extra innings. The comeback handed Casilla his first blown save in six chances this season in place of injured closer Brian Wilson.
Defense extended the game even further.
Nyjer Morgan made a leaping grab on the warning track to rob Melky Cabrera of extra bases to end the 10th inning. Morgan, born in San Francisco, pointed back at fans in the bleachers and taunted the crowd running back to the dugout.
Cabrera caught Lucroy's liner in the web of his glove in left and easily doubled up Hart at first base in the 11th inning, setting the stage for Sanchez's walkoff. Giants players scurried out of the dugout and mobbed Sanchez as he rounded first, and the water-cannons in right popped off in what has become a familiar scene in San Francisco the last few years.
About the only damper on the ending for the Giants was it ruined another gem for Matt Cain.
Cain struck out 10 and scattered six hits in seven innings. Aramis Ramirez's bloop single in the first and sacrifice fly in the sixth were the only runs Milwaukee managed off Cain.
Conor Gillaspie lined an RBI double and Pagan beat out a double play at first to drive in another run for the Giants in the first inning off Shaun Marcum. Pagan also doubled leading off the fourth to roll his hitting streak to 20 — the longest active in the majors — and scored on Theriot's one-out single that put San Francisco ahead 3-1.
Marcum allowed three runs on five hits in six innings for a no decision. He hasn't won since his first start April 9 at the Chicago Cubs.
Cain, long San Francisco's hard-luck loser because of a lack of run support, again protected the cushion — large by his usual standards — after getting into a jam in the seventh. With runners on first and second and one out, Cain struck out George Kottaras swinging and fooled Morgan with a curveball that frustrated the eccentric center fielder so much he immediately flipped his bat.
San Francisco ended its homestand 4-5 and plays at the rival Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday night.
"It was a little bit of a bitter taste in our mouths after Friday's loss," Cain said. "We needed these last two to get back on track."
NOTES: The Brewers officially placed OF Carlos Gomez (strained left hamstring) and SS Alex Gonzalez (right knee) on the 15-day disabled list, calling up INFs Taylor Green and Edwin Maysonet from Triple-A Nashville. Gonzalez is scheduled to have an MRI on Monday in Milwaukee. ... Fans serenaded Hall of Famer Willie Mays with "Happy Birthday" in the middle of the second inning. Mays, who turned 81 years old, blew out numbered candles on a cake and waved his cap to the crowd from a stadium suite.
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