SAN FRANCISCO -- The difference in the Giants' performance with runners in scoring position was dramatic. And welcome.Having struggled with runners in scoring position all season, the Giants suddenly thrived in those situations during Friday night's Interleague series opener against the Oakland A's. This sudden efficiency helped San Francisco surge to a commanding early lead and hold on for an 8-6 victory, its fifth in seven games. Angel Pagan doubled, walked three times and matched a personal best with three runs to lead the Giants, who established a single-game season high for most runs scored at home for the second straight day. Brandon Belt drove in runs in his first three plate appearances with a single, a walk and a sacrifice fly, one of three the Giants hit as they grabbed an 8-1 lead through four innings. The Giants (20-19) lengthened their winning streak against the A's at AT&T Park to 10 games, dating back to 2009. Entering the game with the Major Leagues' third-lowest batting average with runners in scoring position (.208), the Giants were perfect in their first six plate appearances under these circumstances against Oakland. They collected two hits, two walks and two sacrifice flies. Even starting pitcher Barry Zito drew a bases-loaded walk in San Francisco's four-run third inning to drive in his eighth career run. "It feels great to go out there and do that, and I think it's part of being selective," said Belt, citing the improved patience among Giants hitters overall. They drew nine walks for the second straight game, marking the first time that has happened since July 16-17, 1995. Tuesday, they coaxed 10 walks from Colorado pitchers. Giants manager Bruce Bochy has noticed a more diligent approach. "Guys have really made a conscious effort, grinding out every at-bat as much as they can throughout the lineup," he said. "We're doing a much better job., Walks help. They keep things moving. If you don't get a pitch to hit, just let the next guy do it." San Francisco's primary victim was A's starter Jarrod Parker (1-2), who began the game with a 2.10 ERA but was charged with six runs while lasting five batters into the Giants' four-run third inning. "I fought myself today, and obviously the results weren't what I wanted, so you just move on and forget about it," Parker said. "It was one of those snowball effects. Obviously they worked me a bit and the pitch count was up, and a couple hits here and there. I just couldn't get things turned around quick enough."
The Giants needed all the offense they could muster to withstand Oakland's comeback, which was paced by Josh Donaldson. Batting .082 before the game, Donaldson looked more like an .882 hitter as he amassed five RBIs with a third-inning homer, a fifth-inning RBI double and a sixth-inning, three-run double.Zito (3-1), who yielded one hit in his first 4 1/3 innings, didn't survive Oakland's rally but earned the decision to improve to 2-4 against his former team. Removed with a runner on first, a run in and one out in the sixth inning, Zito was plainly upset upon leaving the game, though he had thrown 105 pitches. The A's proceeded to jump on reliever Steve Edlefsen for three consecutive two-out hits: singles by Kurt Suzuki and Daric Barton, which loaded the bases, and Donaldson's second double, which cleared them. Bochy didn't mind Zito's rebellious reaction.
"I don't want those guys wanting to come out," Bochy said. "Looking back, I should have left him out there. It didn't go too well."Zito remained diplomatic.
"I was more upset with myself for not slamming the door that inning and letting things get out of control," he said.Fortunately for the Giants, their bullpen maintained control. Clay Hensley relieved Edlefsen and struck out Collin Cowgill to conclude the sixth. Jeremy Affeldt and Sergio Romo worked perfect seventh and eighth innings, respectively, striking out two A's apiece. Then came Santiago Casilla, who weathered second baseman Emmanuel Burriss' fielding error and Seth Smith's single to record his 10th save in 11 chances. Affeldt credited Hensley, who made the briefest appearance, with doing the most to stem Oakland's momentum. "You have to try to keep that inning from unraveling," Affeldt said, "and he did it."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.