SAN DIEGO Right around the time rookie catcher Trevor Brown took a pitch to the throat in the third inning Sunday night, you might have posed this question: can the season safely end soon enough for these injury-ravaged San Francisco Giants?
Brown stayed in the game, broke a scoreless tie by making his first major league hit an RBI double, and the Giants' lifeline in the N.L. West became a bit stronger after a 4-2 victory over the San Diego Padres at Petco Park.
Combined with the Dodgers' loss to Arizona, the Giants are within six games with 12 to play including four against the N.L. West leader at AT&T Park, where the Giants are 6-0 against their archrivals this season.
In other words ... don't count out the defending World Series champions just yet.
The Giants are the closest they've been to first place since the day began Sept. 2.
They are hanging on the fringes of contention thanks to contributions by relative unknowns. Brown toughed out the shot to the neck, threw out a runner at second base, then came up with the icebreaker against Tyson Ross. Angel Pagan added a two-run home run and the Giants bullpen held onto the lead.
Brown managed to make a hard connection on a contact-averse night. Padres right-hander Tyson Ross struck out eight of the first 10 batters he faced and finished with 11 strikeouts; he was poised to become just the sixth pitcher in 25 years to strike out 11 or more Giants and take a loss, joining an exclusive list with David Price, Brandon Webb, Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling and John Smoltz.
It wasn't just Ross who proved tough. Hitters on both teams had their minds on the beach or their heads in a fog in the first three innings, when they combined to strike out 14 times.
Chris Heston had plenty of movement and was effectively wild while striking out six in the first three innings. His wildest throw was a pitch in the dirt that clipped Yangervis Solarte, then ricocheted up and caught Brown in the neck. The rookie catcher stayed in the game after a visit from trainer Dave Groeschner.
Heston found himself with a lead but not enough leash to protect it through the fifth. He loaded the bases with one out on a single and two walks, including one to Ross that started the inning.
Bochy did not allow Heston to face Matt Kemp, instead choosing to load up three more inherited runners on George Kontos' pallet. The right-hander got Kemp to hit a foul pop that Adrianza caught, then he survived some much louder contact from Upton. Pagan took charge of a ball in deep left-center that looked like a grand slam off the bat, stepping in front of Alejandro De Aza and narrowly avoiding a collision while making the catch as Upton clapped his head in disbelief.
The Giants added to their lead in the sixth when De Aza singled, stole second base and scored on Crawford's single. They scored two more in the seventh when Jarrett Parker drew a pinch walk and Pagan hit his third home run of the season. His shot barely missed Kemp's outstretched glove and bounced into the stands after striking the pad on top of the wall.
Buster Posey was scratched from Tuesday's original lineup because of hip and lower back soreness, but the Giants' cleanup hitter anticipated being available off the bench and back in the lineup Wednesday and, hopefully, giving Bryce Harper some stiff competition for the N.L. batting crown.
"Yeah, you take a peek," Posey said. "Last I looked, he had a pretty sizable lead. He's put together an impressive year."
Harper only led by a few percentage points a week ago, but he's on another hot streak and has stretched his advantage. He entered Tuesday hitting .343 to Posey's .327. Florida's Dee Gordon was at .332.
Posey jogged in the outfield before the game before the Giants replaced him in the lineup. Adrianza made his first major league appearance at first base, instead.
"Just want to get my legs under me and be as strong as possible," Posey said. "It's nothing new stuff I've dealt with, that everybody deals with. Nothing pressing."
Counting Posey, the Giants had just five available position players on their bench. Add outfielder Juan Perez to the list of players out for the season. An MRI exam that showed a torn oblique that probably will rule out winter ball something Perez was planning to skip anyway after playing six consecutive years for Aguilas in the Dominican.
The three Giants with concussions Nori Aoki, Gregor Blanco and Brandon Belt did not make the trip to Petco Park. Belt is traveling to Pittsburgh this week and will see concussion specialist Dr. Mickey Collins on Thursday.
Although right-hander Mike Leake dealt with some elbow stiffness in his last start, he checked out fine and will make his next assignment on Friday, Bochy said.
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