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SF@ARI: Mota hurls 4 1/3 frames of strong relief

PHOENIX -- It was Bruce Bochy's 56th birthday Saturday and the bullpen gave him a Giant present: 7 1/3 innings of one-run, three-hit ball and a 5-3 win over the D-backs at Chase Field.

"That's a good win any time you can get it," the Giants manager said afterward. "To lose your starter in the second inning, you're scrambling a little bit."

The Giants lost starter Barry Zito midway through the bottom of the second, but that didn't cost them the game.

Zito sprained his right mid-foot diving to catch a Joe Saunders bunt. He was replaced by reliever Guillermo Mota, who pitched 4 1/3 innings of one-run, three-hit relief to keep the D-backs at bay. It was the longest outing of Mota's 13-year career and his first win of the season.

Jeremy Affeldt, Sergio Romo and Brian Wilson followed with zeros, Wilson recording his fourth save after tossing a perfect ninth. Freddy Sanchez drilled a two-out, two-run single in the seventh to break a 3-3 tie and secure the win.

The victory was the fourth in a row for the defending World Series champions and seventh in their last nine games after opening 1-4. With the 11-3 Rockies losing at home to the Cubs, the Giants pulled to within three games of first place in the National League West. It may be mid-April, but it's never too early to keep track.

Zito left the ballpark hobbling on crutches, and with swelling in the ankle, his 12-season, 356-game regular-season streak of never missing a start because of injury is in serious jeopardy.

Zito, more than anybody, knew the predicament his club was in when he was forced to leave the game. Zito had X-rays on the foot, which were negative, and will undergo an MRI on Sunday to determine the extent of the damage.

"Mota, he just picked us up. He was incredible," Zito said, "The bullpen saved that game right there. The fact that we got a win on top of it is just a bonus."

Giants catcher Buster Posey staked Zito and the Giants to a 2-0 lead with a two-run, two-out homer off Saunders, the D-backs' starter and loser, in the top of the first, Posey's second homer of the season.

In the second inning prior to the injury, Zito had already allowed a walk and a pair of doubles, the second of which was struck by D-backs catcher Miguel Montero and drove in two runs to tie the score.

Melvin Mora gave the D-backs a 3-2 lead with his fourth-inning double off Mota, and the Giants tied it again in the sixth on another double from Sanchez.

D-backs first baseman Xavier Nady, whose single was one of the three hits off Mota, said the veteran right-hander was the Giants' main cog.

"He came in and did a great job, limited us to very few runners and we never really got anything going after Zito came out," Nady said. "You've got to tip your cap to what the bullpen did for them."

After Posey's homer, Saunders was able to keep the Giants in check. They grounded into five double plays in consecutive innings from the second to the sixth. Those five tied a D-backs defensive record for one game and was the fourth time it had been accomplished. The Giants' record for hitting into DPs in one game is seven.

Mota, who had made 671 appearances and never thrown as many innings in one game as he did Saturday evening, said his arm felt great and he could've gone farther if Bochy had needed him. Any thought of that dissolved when Brandon Belt pinch-hit for Mota in the climactic seventh inning.

Because the left-handed Zito started, D-backs manager Kirk Gibson opted to play six right-handed hitters in the lineup, leading the right-handed Mota to believe he was in for a big night.

"I told [Miguel] Tejada, 'Oh my God, I might throw five or six innings,'" Mota said. "I threw three innings the other day in San Diego so I'm kind of used to throwing more than one inning now. For my entire career I've been a one-inning guy. I was fine. I could have thrown another inning or so."

In the end, Bochy didn't need Mota to do anything else. His birthday gift had already been neatly wrapped. Comments