Offense just enough for stellar Johnson
Sandoval shakes off slump in revamped lineup
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants scored four runs in three weekend games against the Arizona Diamondbacks yet captured the series, two games to one.That vividly reflected everything that's right with the Giants and all that's wrong with them. What's right, of course, is the pitching. Starters Jonathan Sanchez, Tim Lincecum and Randy Johnson, who worked six no-hit innings in Sunday's 2-0 triumph, combined to blank Arizona for 21 2/3 innings while surrendering eight hits, walking six and striking out 24. Closer Brian Wilson converted his first save opportunities of the season in San Francisco's victories. Meanwhile, the offense has lacked consistency since Opening Day's 10-run, three-homer outburst against Milwaukee. On Sunday, San Francisco's 4-5-6 hitters, Bengie Molina, Aaron Rowand and Pablo Sandoval, went 6-for-10. The rest of the lineup went 1-for-19. No wonder the Giants twice loaded the bases with nobody out and scored just once each time. Remarking on the Giants' ability to win a series while scoring so few runs, utility man Rich Aurilia said, "I think we're lucky in that sense. We need to bear down more on offense." Manager Bruce Bochy tried to generate run production by juggling the lineup, just as he did last week. His latest round of changes pushed the 22-year-old Sandoval out of the heart of the order while installing veterans in those spots.
"It's more to get [Sandoval] out of the line of fire and let him get settled in," Bochy said.Fred Lewis, whose days as a leadoff hitter were supposedly over, returned to the top of the order after batting third and fifth through the first 11 games. Sandoval dropped to sixth, Rowand rose from seventh to fifth and Randy Winn returned to the No. 3 spot, which he often occupied in previous years. The changes didn't yield instant results overall, as the Giants' 2-for-12 hitting with runners in scoring position demonstrated. One encouraging exception was Sandoval, who went 3-for-4 to raise his average from .195 to .244, though he struck out with the bases loaded and nobody out in the fourth. Nevertheless, Bochy said, "I think a game like that does a lot for Pablo." "I just want to be in the lineup every day and get my job done on offense and defense, no matter what position in the lineup," Sandoval said, reiterating that he doesn't care where he bats or plays. First baseman Travis Ishikawa went 0-for-2 as his average dropped from .172 to .161, but he flied out to deep center field with two aboard and one out in the second inning before hoisting a fourth-inning sacrifice fly that produced the game's lone run until the eighth. Aurilia delivered that final run but didn't receive credit for a run batted in, since he grounded into a double play with the bases loaded.
"That was the best double play I've hit into," Aurilia said half-jokingly. "I was trying to do something to get a run in."Citing the Giants' 50-34 record in 2008 when they scored four or more runs, Aurilia said, "I think our benchmark will be trying to get to that and hopefully our pitchers can hold them down." Wilson, who pitched a perfect ninth one day after yielding Chris Young's two-run, ninth-inning double that lifted the D-backs to victory, showed off his vocabulary while supporting San Francisco's offense. "Right now the bullpen and the starters are doing what we can do," he said. "And along the road the hitters are going to come back and score 10 for us when we need it. So it's going to be a symbiotic relationship."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.