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04/29/07 2:05 AM ET
Giants' ninth-inning rally falls short
Cain denied victory despite allowing one hit in six innings
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- Sometimes a game can turn on one at-bat, and it did so for the Giants on Saturday night at Chase Field. With the game on the line in the ninth inning and the tying run on second, Ray Durham hit two scorching drives off Diamondbacks reliever Jose Valverde that led to nowhere except a frustrating 5-4 loss, leaving the Giants reeling and manager Bruce Bochy fuming over the loss. "That wasn't a wasted at-bat by any means," said Durham, the second baseman who was taken out of the starting lineup Saturday night to rest a sore lower back. "I did everything I could up there. Everything right. I'll take my chances on that anytime." It was a game in which Barry Bonds hit his 742nd career homer, Matt Cain pitched six innings of one-hit ball before leaving in lieu of the usual bevy of relievers, and the Giants couldn't capitalize on an early 4-0 lead. And after Scott Hairston's three-run, pinch-hit homer in the seventh inning gave the Diamondbacks the lead on a flat, first-pitch fastball from Vinnie Chulk, who had just come out of the bullpen, the Giants could have rolled over for the night. It didn't happen. Pedro Feliz, whose leadoff homer in the fourth inning was his fourth of the season, opened the ninth against Valverde with a single to right. Feliz was forced at second on a potential double-play grounder by Randy Winn, who beat the relay throw to first and subsequently waltzed to second on a wild pitch with Durham at the plate. Valverde, who recorded his National League-leading 10th save, is one of those closing thrill-seekers in the Armando Benitez mold, and he didn't disappoint. His eight-pitch confrontation with Durham had all the elements of fine Japanese Kabuki theater. In and out, up and down, Durham lining pitch No. 6 on a drive down the right-field line that somehow missed the chalk by a few inches. "They said it was just foul," said Durham, when asked his perspective on the play. And after the count went full, Durham smoked a Valverde fastball toward the deepest part of left-center, just to the left of the 413-foot mark. Chris Young, playing center field fairly shallow with an eye toward cutting down Winn at the plate, raced toward the gap and grabbed the drive, effectively ending the Giants' night. "I couldn't hit a ball any better," said Durham, who has now personally stranded nine baserunners in the first two games of the series, both of them Giants losses. "Like I couldn't have pulled the ball a little more. I'll take my chances hitting that way instead taking some screwed-up swing." Bonds' two-run drive to right-center, his eighth of the season, came with two out in the first inning off Edgar Gonzalez and on the only occasion when Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin has pitched to him with first base open and a runner on second. In two games, Bonds, who is 13 homers behind Hank Aaron's Major League-record 755, has been on base eight times in nine chances. That's two hits, five walks (four intentional) and a hit-by-pitch, raising Bonds' on-base percentage to .519 and his slugging percentage to .828, both tops in the National League. Oh, and his batting average is .362. Bochy seemed baffled when asked why Bonds had scored only one run in the series, and that on his own home run. "How does Cain give up one hit and not get the win?" Bochy said. Cain threw those six innings of one-hit ball for the Giants and left for Jack Taschner after tossing 99 pitches. The young right-handed starter walked four and struck out two, allowing his only hit to Diamondbacks first baseman Tony Clark, who singled to right in the fifth inning. Bochy thought it was the better part of valor to pull Cain, who had thrown 113 pitches last Sunday in a complete-game victory over the D-backs in San Francisco. "It's April," Bochy said. "And we had the whole thing set up." Then Chulk coughed it up and Durham was luckless. The fulcrum of another baseball game turning on a couple of pitches.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.