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06/06/06 2:52 AM ET
No jet lag for Giants in romp
Niekro drives in four runs; Lowry gets win with five solid frames
By Rich Draper / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- There are signs -- seemingly glowing in neon -- that the Giants are starting to shake off the struggles of April and May, gaining momentum for a midseason surge back into contention in the National League West. After taking two of three games from NL East division leader New York over a rainy, wearying weekend at Shea Stadium and flying six hours back to California, the Giants throttled Florida, 14-2, on Monday at AT&T Park with an 18-hit barrage and gold-plated pitching. They should have been exhausted. They should have been sleepy and wondering what time zone their bodies were in. But starting pitcher Noah Lowry (2-3), looking for his first victory since May 8 and forced -- just in case -- to warm up twice in Sunday's 12-inning win in the Big Apple, ended his four-game winless streak by holding the Marlins to five hits over five innings before being pulled. Lowry was predictably pooped, but the versatile Brad Hennessey, who threw a scoreless frame Sunday, nevertheless pitched the final four innings against Florida to earn his first professional save. The Giants ripped Marlins starter Brian Moehler (3-5) for 10 hits and eight runs over only four-plus innings, with Lance Niekro driving in a career-high four runs on a three-run triple and RBI single, Barry Bonds slamming a two-run homer in the six-run fifth -- his 716th lifetime blast -- and Randy Winn driving in three runs. An offensive bonanza. But it all started with the 25-year-old Lowry, who was beaten his last time out in Florida on a three-run homer by Miguel Cabrera, but he dominated the Fish this night. "We were considering seriously starting the game with Hennessey, but Lowry said he felt good enough to start it and we started him," said manager Felipe Alou, who says his club is playing well now with confidence and enthusiasm. "There is a feeling of there's some stuff behind us. What's in front of us is we need to win games. We've been in last place most of the time. We have to start making some kind of move before it gets too late. "And the guys responded -- they were very excited." Lowry also senses a decided positive shift in momentum. "I felt good, was a little tired at the end, but happy to get five innings in," said the left-hander, agreeing with Alou that Sunday's dramatic, hard-fought win over New York has buoyed the club. "A big win like that -- not that we're not a close team already -- brings guys together and brings a whole new energy level to the table. Hopefully we can get some momentum going here and stay consistent." With the victory, the Giants have won four of their last five games and came whisker-close to sweeping the Mets. The bats are hot and the bullpen has been extraordinarily sound. "We've been playing good baseball," added Lowry. "We've got a good team. It's just a matter of everybody stepping up and doing what they're capable of doing." Niekro has come on strong following a stint on the disabled list with right shoulder bursitis, driving in 15 runs in his last 11 contests, five being multi-RBI games. "You're tired after a trip like that, but once you start playing, it all goes away and your adrenaline takes over," he said. "Yesterday was a big win for us, playing a team like the Mets and winning two out of three. It shows what kind of team we can be when we're playing like we can." Hennessey admittedly has felt in limbo since being reassigned to the bullpen, making his first-ever relief appearance May 10, but the right-hander has allowed only two earned runs in his last 11 innings. He's the emergency guy. The spot starter. The long reliever. But the main thing is he's pitching. "It may not have been a true save situation, but I'll take the ball," he said. "I threw the day before and that was my biggest concern, how I'd react on back-to-back days out of the 'pen -- that was a first. "Everyone is stepping up right now. You can't explain it -- a six-hour flight home and everyone comes out swinging and throwing strikes. We'll take it." After the game, the Giants optioned rookie second baseman Kevin Frandsen to Triple-A Fresno and activated outfielder Moises Alou from the 15-day disabled list.
Rich Draper is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.