Giants keep rolling on road
Bullpen holds off D-backs to preserve win for Zito
PHOENIX -- One by one, the Giants have slain the demons that haunted them much of this season. Wednesday night's 6-4 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks toppled their flaws, at least for now.Barry Zito, who lost six of his first seven decisions, won his second start in a row, which has happened only four previous times since he joined the Giants in 2007. Bengie Molina, who consistently has made solid contact at the plate with little to show for it, ended a 96-at-bat stretch without a home run. San Francisco's stumbling offense remained in stride against the D-backs, following Tuesday's season-high 17-hit performance with another healthy effort. Most of all, the team that looked helpless on the road in April no longer squirms in its gray uniforms. Since finishing 0-6 on their initial trip, the Giants have recovered to post a 13-12 mark, including 6-3 on this three-city journey that ends with Thursday's matinee against the D-backs. Two of San Francisco's opponents on this trip, Washington and Arizona, occupy last place, and Florida's next to last in the National League East. But that doesn't matter to the Giants. "The way we're playing is exciting," said Molina, who delivered a two-run homer in the third inning to break a 1-1 tie and added an RBI single in the ninth. "It's what I've been looking for since I got here -- playing winning baseball." The Giants have won often enough to nudge their way into postseason consideration. It's too early in the season to use the word "contention." At 31-27, they suddenly stand only a half-game behind the 31-26 New York Mets, who lead the NL Wild Card standings. "That's something that can encourage us," Zito said. "We can't lose any fire." Again, it's early. But manager Bruce Bochy observed that the time's always right for a ballclub to assert itself. "You don't want to get too [far] back," Bochy said. "We'll see what happens when we get deep in the season. We just want to do what we're doing right now and play good baseball." "Good" encompassed many facets. The Giants' relievers sealed the triumph as Merkin Valdez, Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt and Brian Wilson combined for four hitless innings. Each struck out at least one batter, including Wilson, who struck out the side in the ninth to convert his seventh save opportunity in a row. San Francisco's bullpen has been unscored upon in six of eight games on this trip, excepting Matt Cain's rain-shortened complete game at Washington. Molina's third-inning homer broke a 1-1 tie and ignited a four-run outburst against Arizona starter Doug Davis (3-7). The rally continued as Pablo Sandoval walked and Kevin Frandsen singled. Both raced home on Andres Torres' drive to the base of the center-field wall, a ball that Arizona's Chris Young approached but couldn't handle. Though Giants unanimously considered the play a hit, Young was charged with a three-base error. At least Molina received some satisfaction after weeks of hitting line drives at defenders and warning-track fly balls.
"I hit the ball four times on the nose; I got two hits out of it. I'll take that any day," said Molina, who hadn't homered since May 12.San Francisco's big third gave Zito a lead he almost but not quite relinquished. He surrendered five one-out hits in a row as Arizona scored three runs in the fifth, then walked Chris Snyder with two outs to load the bases. Just as he appeared destined for disaster, Zito retired pinch-hitter Miguel Montero on a fly ball to end the inning. It wasn't an ordinary fly, either. Right fielder Randy Winn grabbed it with a small leap against the wall bordering the grandstand far down the line in foul territory. "The key was there weren't any fans reaching over [the wall]," Winn said. "He should have a Gold Glove," Bochy said of Winn. Zito (3-6) knew he was fortunate that Bochy left him in the game long enough to face Montero.
"He could have pulled me at any point, especially after the walk to Snyder," Zito said. "He stuck with me and I have to thank Boch for doing that."Said Bochy, "He was testing me. There's no getting around it." And there's no getting around the sense that this could be an intriguing season for the Giants.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.