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Pill launches his first Major League home run

SAN DIEGO -- Call the Giants' 6-4 triumph Tuesday night over San Diego anything you want. Just don't call it conventional.

San Francisco's blueprint for victory included plenty of scribbling on the margins. For one thing, nobody from Opening Night's starting lineup started this game.

The 30-something journeyman batting leadoff wasn't Andres Torres, but Justin Christian.

The first baseman providing much-needed power wasn't veteran Aubrey Huff, but rookie Brett Pill.

The decision went to Eric Surkamp, who spent the bulk of this season at Double-A.

None of these three players were in Major League camp this year. Yet each contributed to the outcome that enabled the Giants to trim Arizona's National League West lead to six games.

Christian, whose contract was purchased earlier Tuesday from Triple-A Fresno, doubled in the fifth inning and scored the run that broke a 3-3 tie. It remained the standup run until San Diego scored in the ninth inning.

Pill belted a two-run homer in his first Major League at-bat, becoming the first Giants player to earn that distinction since Will Clark on April 8, 1986.

Surkamp earned his first big league win despite lasting only five innings. He didn't dazzle the Padres, but since he performed under a semblance of pennant-race pressure, his effort sufficed.

"This is everything you dream of, especially when you're trying to catch Arizona," Surkamp said. "It's awesome to think that they believe in you."

Perhaps this game will deepen the Giants' faith in themselves. They've scored at least six runs in back-to-back games, something they hadn't done since they captured the first two games following the All-Star break here July 14-15. San Francisco also clinched its first series victory since taking two out of three Aug. 12-14 at Florida. Since then, the Giants have dropped five series, split one and lost four games in the standings.

Arizona and San Francisco each has 20 games remaining. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only four teams in Major League history trailed by six or more games with 20 or fewer left and reached the postseason: The 1951 Giants, 1964 Cardinals, 1995 Mariners and 2007 Phillies.

Those Phillies overcame a New York Mets team led by Carlos Beltran. Now Beltran wears Giants colors, and he's doing his best to avenge '07 and add the Giants to that short list of resurgent teams. Beltran returned to the lineup after sitting out Monday's game with an upset stomach and went 3-for-4 with three RBIs. He has amassed at least three hits in three of the four games he has played in this month and is batting .733 (11-for-15) in September.

The Giants revived some 2010-style "torture" after taking a 6-3 lead into the Padres' half of the ninth inning. Javier Lopez walked pinch-hitter Orlando Hudson leading off. Santiago Casilla, who converted his previous two save opportunities while replacing the injured Brian Wilson as San Francisco's closer, relieved Lopez and retired the next two batters before pinch-hitter Anthony Rizzo scored Hudson with a double off the right-field wall.

Casilla fell behind 3-0 on Cameron Maybin, rallied back to 3-2, then hit the Padres' leadoff batter with a pitch. Casilla flung his next pitch near Jason Bartlett's head and hit him with the second delivery, loading the bases.

"He just lost his release point," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He was throwing great. It looked like he got unraveled a little bit. I don't know why."

Bochy entrusted the game and San Francisco's ebbing postseason hopes to Ramon Ramirez, who had compiled a 6.00 ERA in his previous 13 appearances. But Ramirez responded by fanning Jesus Guzman, the former Giants farmhand who's batting .327.

"We had the right guy," San Diego manager Bud Black said. "Guzie's been doing it all year for us. He's done it a lot."

Somehow, the Giants survived with guys who haven't done it much. Comments