Giants take advantage of Arizona errors to defeat Unit
By Tony Kuttner / Special to MLB.com
Jerome Williams settled down to allow three runs on three hits in six innings. (Dino Vournas/AP)
SAN FRANCISCO -- For a week or so, so many people in and around the Giants clubhouse have been talking about the team needing a break. Specifically, they were referring to the All-Star break coming up at the end of this current four-game series with Arizona, but San Francisco caught a different kind of break Friday night that led to an 8-3 win over Randy Johnson and the Diamondbacks.
As a result, the Giants slipped past the Padres into second place in the National League West, just a half-game behind the Dodgers. That news, coupled with just the second win in the last eight games, was enough to get manager Felipe Alou joking about how tired his team is heading into the All-Star hiatus.
"In some instances, it looked like guys forgot we had another week to play before the break," he said.
On Friday, the Giants' luck changed with two out and runners on first and second with the score 3-3 in the bottom of the fifth. Diamondbacks manager Al Pedrique ordered Johnson (10-7) to deliver four wide ones to Barry Bonds to load the bases.
With that free pass, Bonds, who earlier in the week passed Rickey Henderson for first on the career walks list, tied the single-season intentional walk mark of 68 he established in 2002.
The next batter, Edgardo Alfonzo, lofted a deep fly ball to left that Luis Gonzalez reached before the warning track. But the ball bounced out of Gonzalez's glove to allow two runs to score, and Bonds came home when center fielder Steve Finley's throw back to the infield went awry for a second error on the play.
How Bonds was pitched Giants vs. D-Backs, July 9
Hit into play:
2 (single, lineout)
"That ball was hit good enough to go out, or at least get in the gap, but the wind knocked it down," Alou said.
Gonzalez wasn't making any excuses, saying the ball just hit off the heel of his glove.
That's more than he had to say about the action that heated up immediately after Johnson struck out Marquis Grissom to end inning.
Johnson walked angrily into the visitors' dugout and evidently said something inflammatory to Gonzalez.
As Johnson stormed down the steps leading to the clubhouse, Gonzalez followed him, and within seconds, most of the Arizona bench went streaming down the steps as if they were in a hurry to break up a fight.
Nobody in the Arizona clubhouse went much beyond a "no comment" on the incident.
"Everything is over," Gonzelez said. "It's fine."
"Young players have to realize everybody is competitive, everybody wants to win," Pedrique said. "Sometimes it's good for that to happen. It depends on how you handle it."
If there were any benefits for the Diamondbacks, they haven't been made evident yet.
The Giants, who had lost four straight meetings with Arizona, were able to snap that slide even against Johnson and even with their own starting pitcher, Jerome Williams, turning in a less than stellar performance.
"Jerome didn't bring much to begin with," Alou said. "But then all of a sudden, he put it together."
Jerome Williams / P
Weight: 180 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
In the first, Williams (8-6) loaded the bases with a couple of singles and a walk but escaped without giving up a run.
He wasn't so lucky in the second, despite being handed a 2-0 lead thanks to RBIs from Pedro Feliz and Bonds.
Williams again loaded the bases on two walks and a single, this time with nobody out, and hit Shea Hillenbrand -- or at least Hillenbrand's loose-fitting jersey -- to bring in one run, then allowed another on a sacrifice fly.
After breezing through the third, Williams gave up the go-ahead run in the fifth and had Alou signaling the bullpen.
"He was many times one pitch, one batter from being removed," Alou said.
"[Getting pulled early] is always in the back of my mind," said Williams, who finished with just three hits allowed but walked five and plunked Hillenbrand twice. "In the fourth inning when I saw somebody getting up I was thinking, 'You're going to pull me now?'"
As it turned out, leaving Williams in paid off for Alou and the Giants. On the mound, the young right-hander escaped further damage beyond giving up the third run in the fifth and at the plate ignited San Francisco's go-ahead rally.
With one out in the sixth, Williams drew a walk and moved to third on Ray Durham's single.
Neifi Perez / SS
Weight: 175 lbs
Bats: S / Throws: R
Neifi Perez then singled to left to drive in Williams with the tying run, and after Feliz whiffed, Johnson issued that intentional walk to Bonds.
It's hard to draw a firm conclusion second-guessing that move, as Bonds came up with an RBI single in the second when the Diamondbacks did pitch to him and got burned again in the fifth when they walked him.
"I like seeing [Bonds] swing the bat, but the second-best thing is when they walk him," Alou said. "Edgardo Alfonzo is a second-half hitter [he had 48 of his 81 RBIs after the All-Star break last year], so if they continue to walk Barry, he's going to do what he did last season.
"We'll take the walks."
Perhaps Johnson should also have walked Perez, who went 2-for-3 against the Big Unit (and 3-for-5 on the night) with two runs scored and an RBI. He's now hitting .371 (13-for-35) for his career against Johnson.
"It was just my lucky day," said Perez, who seems to find the rabbit's foot every time Johnson pitches. "A lot of times there are pitchers you hit good, but you still don't want to face them."
Perez said Johnson falls into that category because he keeps pounding that mid-90s fastball inside, but the box scores say that's not a problem for Perez.
"I don't know what to tell you," Perez said. "I just see the ball, and I hit it."
Tony Kuttner is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
The following are trademarks or service marks of Major League Baseball entities and may be used only with permission of Major League Baseball Properties, Inc. or the relevant Major League Baseball entity: Major League, Major League Baseball, MLB, the silhouetted batter logo, World Series, National League, American League, Division Series, League Championship Series, All-Star Game, and the names, nicknames, logos, uniform designs, color combinations, and slogans designating the Major League Baseball clubs and entities, and their respective mascots, events and exhibitions.