San Francisco Giants: Jonathan Sanchez Unlikely Hero, Silences Padres, Critics

Dave DalbyContributor IOctober 4, 2010

Jonathan Sanchez
Jonathan SanchezJustin Sullivan/Getty Images

October 3rd--a great day to be a Giant!  In 1951 Bobby Thomson hit his famous homerun to win the NL pennant.  In 1962 the Giants rallied in the 9th inning to defeat the Dodgers in the third and deciding game of a playoff series.  In 2010 Jonathan Sanchez refused to buckle under the pressure of the NL West race and held the Padres scoreless over 5 plus innings.  He also had a key hit in the game that allowed the Giants to score the first run of the game for the first time during the three game series. The often maligned lefty came through during the biggest game he has experienced so far in his career.

As the July31st trade deadline approached many Giant fans suggested that Sanchez be traded for a big bat.  The Giants made several strategic moves at the deadline, but failed to move Sanchez.  Over the course of the last week Giant management has stated that they did not move Sanchez because they could not fill his spot in the rotation by means of a call up or trade.  It turns out that it was the best trade they did not make.

Faced with the need for one more victory during the last three games against the Friars the Giants threw Matt Cain and Barry Zito for the first two games.  While the thought was that Cain would shut down the Padres on Friday night, it just did not happen.  Cain looked quite nervous and could not locate his pitches.  The homerun ball was his demise.  On Saturday it was hoped that Barry Zito's playoff experience would allow him to stymie the Padres for the needed victory.  Zito could not find the plate at critical times and gave up two early runs that seemed to turn the crowd and the Giants off. By the end of the game that Giant fans had a sinking feeling that the tide was turning the wrong way on their season.

Sunday was the last day of the season and the last chance to win the West without a side trip to San Diego.  The possibility even existed of having to made a second road trip to Atlanta if the Wild Card came into play.  All that stood between the Giants and these grim possibilities was Jonathan Sanchez.  The Giants were forced to take there chances with the one pitcher Giant fans had hoped to trade just a couple of months before.

At no time during his 5 plus innings of work did Sanchez look nervous or rattled.  While he had his usual bout with walks, he was able to get by one jam after another.  His triple to Triples' Alley turned out to be one of the key plays of the game and lead to the Giants scoring the first two runs of the game.  This was the first time during the series that the Giants scored first a fact that was critical to their victory.  After the game the GM and President both mentioned that they had in fact thought of trading Sanchez but could not come up with a suitable replacement in the rotation.  As is sometimes the case, the trade you don't make turns out to be the best trade of all.