SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants knew there would be impersonators around the league after they won two out of three titles with a unique style. They also knew it would be hard for most teams to match their wealth of starting pitching, deep bullpen and relentless lineup.
And Buster Poseys don’t exactly grow on trees.
The Arizona Diamondbacks don’t have a hitter the caliber of Posey, their starting staff is talented but unproven, and their bullpen remains a work in progress.
But they have found a shortcut in their quest to go toe-to-toe with the defending World Series champions.
“They keep going until the final out,” Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford said. “They’re similar to us.”
The two sides showed just how similar they are during a three-game series this week, capped by Arizona’s 3-2, 10-inning victory on Wednesday.
The Diamondbacks tied the game in the eighth and took the lead in the ninth, only to see Crawford hit a game-tying homer in the bottom of that inning. But in the 10th, the never-say-die Giants had no rebuttal for the resilient Diamondbacks, who scored the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly and held on for the series victory.
The Giants had won eight straight against National League West opponents before the Diamondbacks came to AT&T Park. They stretched that streak to nine with a come-from-behind win on Monday, but the Diamondbacks won in extras on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“It was a hard-fought series,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “There was such a small margin of error. You give them credit. They fought back, too, and they kept coming at us.”
Madison Bumgarner and Ian Kennedy went at it early Wednesday, matching zeros through the sixth inning. The Giants broke through in the seventh when a red-hot Crawford doubled home Gregor Blanco. Bumgarner, who struck out seven and allowed just six base runners, couldn’t make the lead hold up.
Pinch-hitter Eric Hinske hit a rope down the left-field line that was ruled an automatic double when Santiago Casilla, warming up in the bullpen, picked up the bouncing ball as it headed for the corner. A.J. Pollock followed with an RBI single.
The Diamondbacks took the lead in the top of the ninth inning when Didi Gregorius took an extra bag on a Giants outfielder for the second straight game. Angel Pagan got a late jump on the shortstop’s flare to center, and Gregorius slid safely into second when Pagan hesitated while getting the ball back to the infield. On Tuesday night, Gregorius took second when Andres Torres lost a liner in the lights, but Pagan said he had no trouble seeing the ball.
“He hustled,” Pagan said. “That’s what you’re supposed to do.”
The Giants have hustled their way to several close wins already this season, but Crawford took a much faster course in the ninth, crushing a 1-2 curveball from David Hernandez into the right-field seats to tie the game.
Again, however, the Diamondbacks struck right back. Paul Goldschmidt drew a one-out walk in the 10th, went to third on a double by Cody Ross and scored on pinch hitter Will Nieves’ sacrifice fly. This time, the Giants didn’t have a comeback to offer.
“We couldn’t finish it off,” Bochy said. “Those little things came back to get us.”
The Diamondbacks, who won the 2011 division crown in between a pair of Giants titles, left AT&T Park a half-game behind the second-place Giants.
Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson called the Giants “a great test,” and after three wild games that were decided by four total runs, the Giants expect the challenge to keep coming long into September and possibly beyond.
Crawford said the Diamondbacks remind him of the St. Louis Cardinals club the Giants vanquished en route to the World Series.
“You definitely can’t count them out,” he said. “This series shows how both of us are.”
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