Giants keep postseason hopes alive
Bats back up Penny to topple NL West-leading LA
SAN FRANCISCO -- Bruce Bochy's postgame remarks reflected the impact of the Giants' 7-2 victory on Sunday over the Los Angeles Dodgers.Bochy refreshingly avoided the each-game-is-important genre of cliches and defined the outcome for what it was. "There's no getting around it. This was a 'must' win for us," the Giants manager said. The Giants' 77th triumph, their highest total since they last finished above .500 in 2004 (91-71), did more than end a four-game losing streak. It trimmed their deficit in the National League Wild Card race to 4 1/2 games behind Colorado, which begins a three-game series on Monday at AT&T Park. After losing the first two games of the Dodgers series by a combined score of 19-4, the Giants needed a performance that would restore their confidence. They received it, as Brad Penny pitched seven solid innings and a revamped lineup amassed 15 hits, led by three apiece from Juan Uribe and Travis Ishikawa. "The way the first two games had gone, we got beat up pretty good," Bochy said. "We knew what was at stake for us today." With Colorado awaiting the Giants, the timing of this win was essential.
"I think we were pressing too hard," Ishikawa said. "We were more relaxed today, and we played the way we can play. It will help us if we come out tomorrow with the same attitude."Attitude is what the Giants' two most prominent performers bring each day. Penny, the emotional right-hander, harnessed his intensity to blank Los Angeles on three hits for the first six innings. Uribe, the utility infielder who walks with an All-Star's swagger and swings like a cleanup hitter, opened the scoring with a two-run homer in the second inning and singled and scored in a four-run sixth inning. An hour and a half before the first pitch, when it looked all but official that Tim Lincecum would rejoin the starting rotation on Monday, the right-hander was asked if he thought he could spark the Giants to a renewed postseason push. Lincecum bypassed himself and accelerated the timetable 24 hours. "I think Penny can bring that spark today," Lincecum said. "He's that guy. He wants to rile people up in the dugout. He's big on rah-rah and spirit. He wants to get everybody awake." Lincecum proved prophetic. Penny, who has won all three of his starts while recording a 1.64 ERA since the Giants signed him Aug. 31, permitted just two runners to reach scoring position until Russell Martin hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning. Penny insisted that he derived no extra satisfaction from defeating the Dodgers, whom he left on unfriendly terms last season. "Not really," Penny repeated when asked if this victory was special. Pressed on the issue, Penny finally said, "I guess a little bit. But," he added, switching the focus to the team, "we can't lose too many games now." "You never know what you'll get with him," Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier said of Penny. "He can go out there and feel good and have that stuff and be really confident, and sometimes he's not and he's laboring, like with players in general. You can see a different swagger and feel. He definitely had good stuff today." Penny was most effective with his fastball, such as when he struck out Casey Blake with a 97-mph heater with two on and one out in the fourth inning. Yet Penny remained diversified.
"I didn't have great offspeed stuff, but 'Whitey' [catcher Eli Whiteside] had me throwing it, and I was keeping them off balance a little bit," Penny said.Uribe has tried to provide balance on the field and off it. A nine-year veteran who won a World Series ring with the Chicago White Sox in 2005, Uribe has supplied much-needed power by homering in eight of his last 24 games, which is one reason why Bochy has elevated him to everyday status. In the clubhouse, there's rarely a dull moment when Uribe's around, whether he's playfully agitating a teammate or participating in the daily game of dominoes with Edgar Renteria, Brian Wilson and others. "He plays the game the way you'd want guys to play. Loose and with freedom," Bochy said. Now's a good time for others to adopt that approach.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.