WASHINGTON -- Joe Panik made perfect contact with a Doug Fister fastball and immediately burst out of the batter's box. As he approached first, Panik looked up and saw the ball sailing over center fielder Denard Span's head and then over the fence in straightaway center.
"Thankfully it wasn't AT&T Park," Panik said later, smiling as he thought about the unforgiving alleys of his home yard.
After a stirring 10-3 win Friday over the Washington Nationals, the Giants were thankful for Panik and a lucky break he received Sunday. Panik dislocated his left pinkie finger while sliding into second base in the final game of a homestand, but it at first appeared to be much worse. Manager Bruce Bochy feared Panik might be out for two to three weeks. Instead, the rookie has nine hits in 16 at-bats on this trip, helping the Giants take three of the first four games.
The biggest knock came in the fourth inning Friday and flipped the script in a game that looked hard to win. The Nationals had won 10 straight and lined up behind right-hander Fister, who had given up four total earned runs in his previous six starts. The Giants didn't arrive in the nation's capital until 5:30 a.m. after a lengthy series in Chicago.
"Our guys show up to play every day," starting pitcher Tim Hudson said. "It was a great win for us. We played well. You couldn't tell we had a short night."
Well, you could at first. The Giants went down quickly in the first three innings and gave up a first-inning run on a fielding error by Panik. The rookie redeemed himself with two outs and two on in the fourth.
Fister grooved a first-pitch fastball, and Panik showed the same controlled swing that has him hitting .316 through his first 40 big league games. This time, however, there was a bit more power behind the stroke. Panik has insisted the pop would come, but teammates nonetheless gave him grief over the goose egg in his home run column. The dugout exploded as the ball cleared the 402-sign in center, and Panik couldn't hide a smile as he crossed the plate.
"I try to be as even-keel as possible and not show emotion," he said. "In a big moment, though, you have to throw the raw emotion out there. That emotion truly came out after I hit the homer."
He was far from done. Panik had singled in the second inning and had another single in the sixth. He singled again in the eighth, giving him a career-high four hits, and he came around to score on Travis Ishikawa's two-run double.
The Nationals had given up 23 total runs while winning 10 straight. On the first night of a series between two of the National League's top teams, the Giants had 10 runs on 14 hits. Hudson battled through 5¿1/3, and the bullpen flummoxed a deep Nationals lineup.
"We beat a really good pitcher and a really good ballclub," Hudson said. "I think it says a little bit about our club."
"It does affect him," Bochy said. "You can tell with the way he swings the bat."
So, with 24-year-old catchers Andrew Susac and Hector Sanchez also on the 40-man roster, would the Giants move Posey to another position full-time?
"Right now, no," Bochy said. "Down the road, sure, that's something we will talk about. It could lighten the load on Buster. Whether at some point down the road he will get out from behind the plate, I can't answer that. Right now it's not discussed. But I will say it's nice to have options."
Bochy said that if Posey does eventually move, it would be to first base, not third. Posey caught Friday and had his second homer in two nights.