Pence falls feet shy of securing history for Petit
Giants right fielder didn't expect Chavez to pull the ball in ninth inning
SAN FRANCISCO -- It was an instance where a foot or two could have made a big difference.
Giants right fielder Hunter Pence acknowledged Friday that he had edged a few steps toward the right-center-field gap to position himself against Eric Chavez, whose pinch-hit single spoiled Yusmeiro Petit's bid for a perfect game with two outs in the ninth inning in San Francisco's 3-0 triumph over the D-backs.
Pence nearly caught Chavez's sinking liner. After all, Pence made a sprawling grab of Alexi Amarista's drive to end the eighth inning to save Tim Lincecum's no-hitter on July 13 at San Diego. But Chavez's batted ball took the shortest of short hops before skipping into Pence's glove.
"I was actually playing him in the gap because he hardly ever pulls the ball against us," Pence said.
In fact, Chavez beat the Giants with a ninth-inning, run-scoring single to left-center field last Saturday in Phoenix.
Moreover, in Pence's estimation, Chavez drove an outside fastball that shouldn't have been driven.
"That was a good piece of hitting," Pence said. "Usually when you pull that ball, you're going to roll it over."
Chavez returned Pence's compliment.
"He made it a close play, for sure," Chavez said.
Pence had long been ready to make such a play. He said that when he's playing behind a pitcher who takes a no-hitter past the fourth inning, he redoubles his already extreme intensity.
"From them on, you're in lockdown focus mode and you're laying out for anything in the general vicinity," Pence said.
Pence can rest peacefully knowing that he went all-out for the ball, as usual. But he might wonder for a long time about that extra ground he had to cover by stationing himself in the gap.
"I said this to a couple of teammates: I felt like when it was hit, it was like one of those dreams where you just can't run fast enough," Pence said. "It was a little too far. I gave it my best effort and it was just a little bit shy."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.