Giants rally to reward Big Unit with win 301
Johnson allows two runs in seven innings vs. A's
SAN FRANCISCO -- When the Giants score first, they've dominated this season. On Saturday in front of another less-than-sellout, but still boisterous crowd at China Basin, they also scored last on their way to a 5-2 win against the Oakland Athletics.
Randy Johnson left the game with a 2-2 lead before a three-run seventh inning authored by the offense resulted in the team's 100th all-time Interleague victory and pushed its season record (33-28) five games above .500 for the first time since 2004. Not that any fans (or even those in the clubhouse) are scoreboard-watching already, but the Giants also moved into a first-place tie in the National League Wild Card standings.
In his first home start since winning his 300th game and on his second try at No. 301, Johnson (6-5) received the run support with open arms. Facing a starting lineup sans pregame scratch Jason Giambi, he struck out the game's first batter and pitched seven innings for just the third time this season. Johnson allowed four hits and one walk, striking out three.
The hurler's victory -- which moved him to sole possession of 22nd on the all-time wins list, ahead of Lefty Grove and Early Wynn -- also continued a run of strong starting performances by the Giants rotation, as the team has won eight of its last 11 games.
"It starts with the starting pitcher, and that was a great effort," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's on a mission, and it's fun to watch him."
Johnson got some seventh-inning aid from his defense -- highlighted by a diving catch from Emmanuel Burriss and an in-the-air tag on a runner by Pablo Sandoval -- and, of course, the timely hitting.
The Giants chased A's starter Josh Outman (4-1) and gave Jack Cust a workout in right field when they did their damage in the game-altering frame. After a Bengie Molina leadoff double, Sandoval popped up to right field, but Cust and first baseman Bobby Crosby collided trying to make the play. The next batter, Juan Uribe, singled home Molina's pinch-runner, Fred Lewis, for a 3-2 lead. A Burriss sacrifice fly extended the lead to 4-2.
But the rally did come at a cost. Uribe strained his hamstring when scoring on Nate Schierholtz's single that made it 5-2. Uribe will be re-evaluated Sunday, and Bochy said his starting third baseman should be considered day-to-day. Bochy was already planning to rest Uribe on Sunday when the Giants finish their first 2009 installment of the Bay Bridge Series.
To his credit, Cust made two sliding catches in the seventh and eighth innings, but the A's offense couldn't muster a anything beyond its two-run output, which included a fourth-inning solo home run from Kurt Suzuki. The A's catcher smacked a 2-2 slider, the one pitch Johnson said wasn't as sharp as usual. The 45-year-old pitcher added he relied more on his two-seam fastball and splitter to retire the A's batters.
"You call them mistakes because you give up runs, but maybe it's just that I'm getting a little bit older now," he said. "My slider wasn't sharp."
The Giants' Sergio Romo pitched a 1-2-3 eighth and closer Brian Wilson retired the pinch-hitting Giambi to end the game, earning his 17th save on the season.
Johnson got an early cushion in the first inning when Molina, not fooled by Outman's 2-0 changeup, hit a two-run homer just beyond the left-field wall. The two-hit performances from Molina, who leads NL catchers with home runs (10), and Sandoval, who is in the midst of a 13-for-26 stretch at the plate, gave A's pitchers fits Saturday. They are proving to be a potent pair in the middle of the Giants lineup, and it's a welcome sight for the pitcher on the mound because, no matter how old you get, runs are always nice.
Said Johnson: "He and Pablo, all year long, have allowed some of the other players to start warming up and, sure enough, everyone has."
Andrew Pentis is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.