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04/24/08 3:53 AM ET
Giants find winning formula vs. Padres
Molina's homer, 13th-inning rally key in close victory
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
SAN DIEGO -- Faced with two of the same demons that plagued them last year -- playing in PETCO Park and engaging in close decisions -- the Giants stared them down Wednesday night. San Francisco emerged with a rousing 3-2 victory over the San Diego Padres, breaking a 1-1 tie in the 13th inning as Fred Lewis and Aaron Rowand stroked RBI singles, then holding on as Brian Wilson toughened just in time to collect his sixth save in seven opportunities. Striding off the field here as winners was a welcome change for the Giants, who finished 1-8 at PETCO Park in 2007. They also continued reversing their fortunes in one- and two-run games, improving to 5-5 in those categories after posting a 39-55 record in such games last season. Although those 10 games still don't represent much of a sample size, the Giants like the way they're responding to tight situations. Their younger roster makes a difference. Rookie Emmanuel Burriss led their energetic charge in the 13th by stroking a leadoff double to right field off Glendon Rusch (0-2), San Diego's fifth reliever. Lewis squared to bunt on Rusch's first pitch, which was a ball, but swung at the next one and blooped it into left-center field to score Burriss. Lewis moved to second base on the throw home. After Lewis advanced to third on a groundout, Rusch intentionally walked Bengie Molina before Rowand lined an RBI single. The Padres, whose previous home game resulted in a 22-inning, 2-1 loss to Colorado on April 17, might have been dragging somewhat. The Giants weren't. "That's one thing I'll say about young players: They just keep pushing," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who has a reputation for favoring veterans. "They don't have a tendency to start tiring at the end of the game." "It also helped that I came in in the eighth inning," a modest Burriss said. "Randy Winn came over to me and told me that in this situation, guys are going to be a little tired; try to take advantage." Rowand, the Giants' lone significant offseason acquisition, senses a refreshed spirit among his still-new teammates. "From what guys have said, we didn't fight to win those close games [last year]," Rowand said. "This team doesn't ever quit fighting." Rowand certainly brought a pugnacious spirit to the plate with him in the 13th. "You ask any hitter and he'll say the same thing -- you go up there with a little added incentive when somebody's intentionally walked ahead of you," Rowand said. No Giants hitter battled as much as Molina, who homered off all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman with one out in the ninth to forge the 1-1 tie. Molina fell behind on the count 0-2, fouled off three pitches and took a ball before planting a Hoffman changeup into the left-field seats an estimated 372 feet away. It was Hoffman's second blown save in six chances. "You don't see that happen a lot. Hoffman's the best and has been for a long time," Rowand said. "But even the best make a mistake with a pitch sometimes. Hats off to Bengie. You still have to hit it, no matter where it is." The bullpen also has upgraded the Giants' efforts in late innings and tight situations. Jack Taschner, Tyler Walker, Merkin Valdez and Keiichi Yabu (2-1) combined to blank San Diego for five innings before Wilson twice loaded the bases in the 13th but yielded just one run. "I like how we're stacking up these days," Walker said. "It's a matter of knowing when you're going to be pitching and knowing the situation. We're in it together. it's a collective unit right now that's pulling for each other." Every Giant pulls for Matt Cain, who emerged with no decision but at least was spared another luckless defeat by Molina's homer. This was the 17th game since the beginning of last season in which the Giants scored no more than one run for Cain while he was on the mound. As is often the case, Cain pitched well enough to win, surrendering one run and five hits in seven innings. Molina also denied Greg Maddux his 350th career victory. Maddux allowed four hits in seven innings while walking none and striking out five. He retired the final 11 batters he faced and 13 of the last 14. The Giants moved a runner into scoring position in each of the first four innings against Maddux, but went 0-for-7 at the plate in those instances. Maddux's 2.80 lifetime ERA against the Giants is the lowest among the eight pitchers who have made at least 50 starts against them since the franchise's inception in 1883. "It's like trying to hit off a Wiffle-ball machine," Cain said of Maddux. "He makes the ball move so much. I don't know if he's doing the same thing against other teams, but he's so tough for us." To the Giants, the challenge of solving Maddux can wait for another day. Wednesday's effort still gave them plenty to savor.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.