© 2007 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
SAN FRANCISCO -- Homering twice in one inning was such an accomplishment for Bengie Molina that even he didn't comprehend his feat until it was pointed out to him.
Upon returning to the Giants dugout following his second homer, bullpen catcher Billy Hayes approached Molina. As Molina related, "He came up to me and said, 'Did you know it's the same inning?' It surprised me when he said that."
Molina can be excused for feeling stunned. It's an understandable reaction, since the last Giant to hit two home runs in one inning was Hall of Famer Willie McCovey, who did so on June 27, 1977, at Cincinnati. The Giants had played 4,696 games since that evening and Monday night, when Molina's big fifth inning propelled them to a 9-4 victory over the New York Mets.
Abetted by Rich Aurilia's three-run homer, the Giants scored all of their runs in the fifth, marking the first time since the fourth inning in Atlanta on April 28, 2004, that they amassed that many. The Mets committed a pair of two-out errors in that inning, making all but two of the runs unearned. But as Aurilia said, referring to AT&T Park's reputation as a pitchers' haven, "In this ballpark, you have to take every run you can get."
Scoring hasn't been an issue for the Giants (17-14), who have generated at least five runs in eight consecutive games for the first time since May 1-9, 2000. A primary offensive source has been Molina, who hiked his average to .333 and matched a career high with five RBIs.
When the Giants signed Molina to a three-year, $16 million contract last offseason, outsiders seemed to overlook that the two-time Gold Glove winner owned a .275 career average and had hit 34 homers in 2005-06.
"Whoever knows me knows that I'm a catcher first," Molina said.
But the Giants appreciated Molina's breadth of skills.
"When we signed him, we knew what he could do defensively. I think that was a given," said left-hander Barry Zito (3-3), who surrendered three runs in six innings. "As far as offensive production, I've always felt Bengie was a great hitter from facing him in Anaheim all those years."
Said Aurilia, whose homer was the first by a Giants first baseman this season: "To me, Bengie is underrated offensively. He's a tough out and he puts the ball in play a lot."
Molina's show opened after New York starter Oliver Perez (3-3), who owned a one-hitter and a 1-0 lead entering the fifth, started the inning by walking Ray Durham. Molina then launched Perez's first pitch to deep left field.
Although the ball caromed back into the outfield, third-base umpire Mark Wegner ran toward the wall and immediately signaled that it was a home run.
Mets manager Willie Randolph protested the call mildly, and television replays indicated that the ball might have ricocheted off the back of the wall after darting between a fan's outstretched hands. But crew chief Bruce Froemming, after consulting Randolph and the other umpires, reaffirmed the home run call.
"You keep making good contact, they're bound to fall."
-- Barry Zito, on his base hit Monday
"The fan interference calls are murder in some of these parks," Froemming said. "What [Wegner] saw and what we agreed with was the ball was above the fence when it hit the fan with his hands or whatever it did, and that without the fan touching it, the ball's out."
Two outs later, Zito collected his first National League hit, a single to left field that interrupted his career-long 1-for-43 spell and prompted a standing ovation. Zito's knock proved to be more than just a conversation piece, since it prolonged the inning for what happened next.
Randy Winn reached safely when second baseman Damion Easley mishandled his ground ball up the middle for an error. Right fielder Shawn Green then played Omar Vizquel's slicing but catchable line drive off the heel of his glove for another error, scoring Zito to hike the Giants' lead to 3-1.
"He was the igniter," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said appreciatively of Zito. "There was some talk today during batting practice that he wouldn't get a hit this year. But he has a pretty good swing."
Said Zito: "You keep making good contact, they're bound to fall."
Aurilia rocketed Perez's 1-2 pitch into the left-field seats for his first home run as a Giant since Sept. 26, 2003, widening the difference to 6-1.
After Barry Bonds and Durham walked, Molina greeted reliever Lino Urdaneta by homering to left-center field on a 1-0 pitch.
Molina doubted that either of his drives would clear the wall. But on an 80-degree evening, the elements may have favored power hitting instead of inhibiting it. That's why the Mets remained a threat to trim their deficit, as they put nine runners on base in the final four innings.
"One through eight, it's the toughest lineup I've seen this year," Zito said of the Mets (19-12), whose .284 team average entering the game was the highest in the Majors.
But the Giants remained comfortably ahead, enabling Zito to defeat the team that courted him in free agency before San Francisco signed him.
"That's just the business side of it," Zito said. "I don't hold any grudges or vendettas."