Hunter Pence gives Giants, and his season, a massive jolt

Hunter Pence was 24 when he broke into the big leagues on a full-time basis with the Houston Astros in 2007. He was the brightest young star on an Astros team that finished with 73 wins and had several players well past their prime.

Thirteen years later, Pence, in his second stint with the Giants, finds himself back in Houston, and is now one of those players whose best days are in the rear-view mirror. But on Tuesday night at least, Pence rediscovered some of that former magic.

Pence’s opposite field three-run home run in the seventh inning gave the Giants some life after they fell behind the Astros by four runs after six innings. He was then part of a ninth inning rally that tied the game, as he singled right before Darin Ruf’s base hit brought home Mike Yastrzemski.

Brandon Crawford’s RBI single in the 10th scored Wilmer Flores for the go-ahead run, as the Giants earned a 7-6 win at Minute Maid Park. Tyler Rogers retired all three batters he faced in the bottom of the 10th for his first career big league save, as the Giants improved to 3-6 on this 10-game homestand that ends Wednesday.

Pence, 37, entered Tuesday with two hits in 32 at-bats this season. He tripled against Texas on Aug. 2 and singled and scored a run against the Dodgers on Aug. 8, the last game he played before Tuesday.

With runners on first and second against the Astros, Pence pinch-hit for Alex Dickerson and on a 1-2 count, took Blake Taylor’s 89 mph slider over the right field wall.

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With Houston in 2007, Pence had 17 home runs and 69 RBI, good enough to finish third in National League Rookie of the Year voting behind Ryan Braun and Troy Tulowitzki. Pence hit 103 home runs and made two all-star teams over five seasons with the Astros before he was traded in July 2011 to the Phillies.

A year later, he was dealt to the Giants for their playoff push. He was a part of World Championship teams in 2012 and 2014 and was one of the most popular Giants of that era.

After a dismal start to this season, Pence might have welcomed a trip back in his home state of Texas for a while.

Pence came into Tuesday with 57 homers, 214 RBI and a .300 batting average in 1,374 career at-bats at Minute Maid Park. Last year with the Texas Rangers, Pence revitalized his career, hitting 18 homers in 83 games.

These days, though, he’s back on another struggling team. At 8-11, hope is fading that the Giants can be a part of this year’s expanded playoff format. But Tuesday’s game provided a rare feel-good moment.

Giants starter Tyler Anderson lasted five innings and got better as the game went on, retiring nine of the last 10 batters he faced. In the second and third innings, though, the Astros scored four runs, as Josh Reddick had two doubles and two RBI, and Alex Bregman hit a solo home run in the third inning.

Houston Astros’ Alex Bregman (2) runs the bases after hitting a home run off San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tyler Anderson during the third inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) 

Bregman’s blast marked the 15th straight game the Giants have allowed at least one home run, the longest such streak in franchise history.

The Giants were without Donovan Solano, who missed the game with abdominal soreness. Gabe Kapler said Solano was being held out for precautionary reasons and will be reevaluated before Wednesday’s game.

Solano went 2-for-4 on Monday in the Giants’ 6-4 loss to the Astros, and holds a .458 batting average, second-best in the NL behind Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon.

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