The decision gave the Giants their first two-game winning streak of the season and sealed a series victory over San Diego, which defeated them in 14 of 18 games last year and thrashed them, 8-4, on Monday.
"It's good to show some resiliency when you lose that first game, the home opener, and you bounce back and play well the next two games," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
The Giants (3-6) have recorded each of their victories by one run while scoring a total of six runs. Wednesday's paid crowd of 30,310 was the lowest ever at AT&T Park since it opened in 2000. But try feeding those dismissive facts to the euphoric group that surrounded Ortmeier between second and third base after his big hit drove home Rajai Davis.
"We're nine games in? Three-and-six. It's probably too early to tell," right-hander Tyler Walker said as he considered the state of the Giants. "But it definitely feels nice in the meantime."
Bengie Molina, who won Tuesday night's game with an 11th-inning home run, opened the Giants' winning rally by singling into the right-field corner off Heath Bell (0-1). Davis, running for Molina, stole second base, but froze as Bell retired Fred Lewis on a comebacker and Jose Castillo on a line drive to second base. Bochy and numerous Giants praised Davis for remaining close enough to the bag to return safely, since many baserunnners would have broken for third on Castillo's scorcher.
Up came Ortmeier against Bell, who limited right-handers to a .157 batting average last year and had allowed them to hit just .214 (3-for-14) so far this year. Ortmeier launched a 1-0 slider that carried beyond rangy Padres center fielder Jim Edmonds and bounced against the wall, giving the Giants their first back-to-back walk-off victories since May 27-28, 2004.
"Anytime you see a guy like Jim Edmonds going back on a ball like that, you don't feel good," Ortmeier said, referring to the eight-time Gold Glove Award winner's penchant for corralling fly balls. "I didn't really feel any relief until I saw the ball hit the ground."
Until recently, Ortmeier would have hit left-handed against Bell. But he, Bochy and hitting coach Carney Lansford agreed earlier this week that he should hit exclusively right-handed, which is his natural stroke. Ortmeier actually hit .310 left-handed last season as a Giant, compared to .257 right-handed. But he homered four times in 70 at-bats right-handed, contrasting with two homers in 87 at-bats as a lefty.
Nevertheless, Ortmeier admitted before the game that he needed to adjust to seeing breaking pitches from right-handers. Thus, asked before the game which side of the plate he'd step into against a right-handed pitcher, Ortmeier said, "I don't know."
But Ortmeier received confidence by seeing a stream of curveballs and sliders from Bochy, of all people, during extra batting practice. "I decided it was something I felt very comfortable with," Ortmeier said.
Ortmeier's change happened with so little fanfare, and the ninth inning unfolded so fast, that at least two Giants didn't grasp what he had done.
"Wow," Davis said. "I didn't realize that. He gave up [batting] left-handed? My bad."
"Really? He did a heck of a job up there," left fielder Fred Lewis said. "That's cool."
Other Giants coolly executed Bochy's pitching-and-defense plan for success. Left-hander Jonathan Sanchez delivered the most impressive effort by a Giants starter this season, striking out a career-high 10 while allowing three hits in six-plus innings. Sanchez was especially impressive in the fifth inning, when he escaped a second-and-third, nobody-out jam by striking out Josh Bard and Justin Germano and coaxing Brian Giles' fly ball.
Such poise, said Bochy, was "one of the things [Sanchez] needed to work on."
Making only his 10th Major League start, Sanchez struck out two batters in every inning but the third and the seventh, when he was relieved after yielding singles to Edmonds and Khalil Greene.
Merkin Valdez relieved Sanchez and, after Scott Hairston's sacrifice bunt, benefited from outstanding defense. Bard lifted a fly to left field, which Lewis caught above his shoetops with a backhanded reach near the bullpen mounds. Lewis' strong one-hop throw home beat Edmonds, who reached for the plate with his right hand but already had been tagged by Bengie Molina.
"He saved us," Bochy said of Lewis. "Defense wins games for you."