SAN FRANCISCO (CBS/AP) — Hector Sanchez singled in Pablo Sandoval in the bottom of the 12th inning, giving the San Francisco Giants a 3-2 win over the Houston Astros on Saturday night.
Sanchez, whose throwing error in the top of the ninth helped Houston score the tying run and force extra innings, hit a sharp grounder off Houston closer Brett Myers that bounced off the glove of Astros second baseman Jose Altuve and went into right field. Sandoval, who opened the inning with an infield single, easily beat the throw home from Matt Downs.
Jeremy Affeldt (1-1) got the last out in the top of the 12th.
Sanchez finished with a career-high four hits while Melky Cabrera had two to add to his majors-leading total for the Giants, who moved into first place in the NL West, a half-game ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Houston scored twice off Giants closer Santiago Casilla with two outs in the ninth.
That prevented Tim Lincecum from earning the win after his most impressive outing of the season. The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner, who went into the game with the highest ERA in the majors among qualifying pitchers, scattered five hits over eight innings and had a career-high 11 strikeouts.
Sanchez, making a rare start behind the plate in place of Buster Posey, was on the hook to be the scapegoat before his second walkoff hit of the season lifted the Giants to their second straight win over the Astros.
Houston dropped its second straight on its 10-game road trip and fell to 1-9 in July.
Casilla struck out J.D. Martinez to open the ninth then walked Scott Moore. After another strikeout, Justin Maxwell doubled in Moore and later scored from second base on a wild pitch by Casilla and throwing error by catcher Hector Sanchez.
Casilla had struck out Chris Snyder but the ball bounced away from Sanchez, who quickly retrieved it before throwing wide of first base.
It stayed tied until Sandoval singled leading off the 12th against Myers (0-4). Angel Pagan then walked before Sanchez delivered the game-winner.
Before forcing extra innings, the Astros didn’t get much going Lincecum.
There had been talk before the game that San Francisco might have its struggling ace skip a start, but that probably won’t happen now after Lincecum’s sharpest outing of the season.
It’s only the second time this season that Lincecum has gone eight innings. His ERA fell to 5.93, still the highest of his career, and he was on tap to get his second win in his last four outings until Houston rallied to tie the game against Casilla.
Astros starter Lucas Harrell worked out of a pair of jams early before walking Lincecum and Gregor Blanco leading off the fifth. Harrell got Ryan Theriot to hit into a double play but Cabrera followed with single to right that drove in Lincecum.
Pagan and Sanchez greeted Houston reliever Fernando Abad with back-to-back doubles in the sixth to make it 2-0.
It was a tough evening all the way around for the Astros.
Houston fell to 9-34 on the road and lost shortstop Jed Lowrie to a sprained right ankle.
Lowrie was knocked out of the game in the third after apparently getting spiked in the right ankle. Lowrie was injured while trying to take a short throw from second baseman Jose Altuve. The throw glanced off Lowrie’s glove, and as the shortstop turned his body to look for the ball, Blanco slid into the bag and appeared to spike Lowrie’s ankle.
Lowrie, who leads Houston with 14 home runs, immediately dropped his glove and hopped around on one foot before falling to the infield dirt as manager Brad Mills and a team trainer rushed from the dugout. Lowrie was eventually helped off the field and replaced by Brian Bixler.
NOTES: Cabrera has 40 multi-hit games this season, tops in the majors. … Houston catcher Jason Castro has been bothered by pain in his right knee but Mills is hopeful of starting Castro in Sunday’s series finale. Houston is being cautious because it’s the same knee on which Castro had season-ending surgery in March 2011. … Sanchez started at catcher for San Francisco, his fifth straight when Lincecum is on the mound. Sanchez has also caught all 17 starts by LHP Barry Zito, but Giants manager Bruce Bochy said All-Star catcher Buster Posey will be behind the plate for Zito’s next start Tuesday in Atlanta. Posey started at first base against the Astros. … RHP Matt Cain pitches the finale for the Giants, the first time he’s faced the Astros since pitching a perfect game against them on June 13. .. The start time for San Francisco’s July 28 home game against the Dodgers has been changed from 6:05 p.m. to 1 p.m. PDT to accommodate television.