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06/25/08 12:03 AM ET
Vizquel's bunt the difference for Giants
Sanchez stellar in subduing Indians; Castillo 'the real hero'
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- The Giants won, 3-2, Tuesday night, largely because Omar Vizquel delivered a live version of the Cleveland Indians' videotaped pregame tribute in the ninth inning. Honored in his return to Cleveland for the first time since starring for the Indians from 1994-2004, the 41-year-old shortstop turned the final inning into his personal showcase. After his suicide-squeeze bunt delivered a key run, his deft play on pinch-hitter David Dellucci's grounder into the hole suppressed an Indians rally.
But the Giants needed much more than Vizquel to restore their equilibrium after Sunday's 11-10 loss at Kansas City sent them reeling into this Interleague series opener.
Jonathan Sanchez (7-4) strengthened his case to become the staff's co-ace along with Tim Lincecum, allowing one run and five hits in 7 2/3 innings. The Giants are 12-4 when Sanchez starts, 11-5 when Lincecum pitches.
Third baseman Jose Castillo had the type of all-around game that would have left LeBron James, the lord of Cleveland sports, envious. Castillo recorded two defensive gems and collected a pair of hits, each helping generate a run.
In his first appearance since June 16 and first save opportunity since June 12, Brian Wilson survived an adventurous ninth to earn his National League-high 20th save in 22 chances.
All this didn't quite match the impact of the Giants' last game in this city -- a World Series-clinching Game 4 triumph on Oct. 2, 1954. But it gave the Giants plenty to savor.
They reveled in Vizquel, who stirred the paid crowd of 29,024 with his mere presence. The five-minute pregame highlight reel, featuring Vizquel's defensive wizardry, awed even players.
"Nothing surprised me on that board," said Wilson, who stopped along the right-field line to observe the video with other Giants relievers en route to the bullpen. "That's the same stuff I've been watching for 2 1/2 years."
But the present-day Vizquel entered the game hitless in his previous 18 at-bats, dropping his batting average to .171. He continued to struggle as he grounded out to end the second inning with two runners aboard and flied out to leave the bases loaded in the seventh.
The Giants broke a 1-1 tie in the eighth. With one out, Ray Durham walked on a 3-2 pitch from Rafael Betancourt (2-4) and reached third on Randy Winn's single. Bengie Molina struck out before Winn broke for second base on an 0-1 pitch to Aaron Rowand. Catcher Kelly Shoppach's throw one-hopped Jamey Carroll and bounced off the second baseman's torso into center field for a throwing error, enabling Durham to score.
That set up the ninth inning for Vizquel. Rich Aurilia's leadoff walk and Castillo's broken-bat, hit-and-run single put runners on the corners against Masa Kobayashi. As Vizquel came to bat one out later, Sanchez turned to sidelined reliever Merkin Valdez in the Giants' dugout and said, "Vizquel's going to do something crazy here."
Ignoring the challenge of bunting while behind on the count, Vizquel pushed an 0-1 pitch toward third baseman Casey Blake as Aurilia charged home. Blake bobbled the ball for an error, but Aurilia would have scored regardless.
Vizquel's bunt didn't entirely surprise the Indians, whose corner infielders had creeped in. But, said Cleveland manager Eric Wedge, "there's not too many guys who can get it down like that it and give it some direction, too."
"I needed to do something good today," said Vizquel, who's now hitting .167. "When I saw the squeeze sign I said, 'Oh, yeah! Thank you.'"
Wilson's turn to thank Vizquel came after Ben Francisco and Jhonny Peralta singled to open Cleveland's ninth. After Ryan Garko struck out, Vizquel ranged to his right to snare Dellucci's grounder, then spun and threw in midair to force Peralta at second as Francisco scored.
Vizquel didn't consider his assist a difficult one.
"I think you've seen that play a few times," he said nonchalantly. But Wilson said, "That was an automatic hit. I knew it as soon as he hit it."
Wilson heightened the tension and put the potential tying run in scoring position by walking Shin-Soo Choo before fanning Shoppach on a 3-2 fastball that registered 96 mph.
A blown save would have wasted the excellence of Sanchez, who steadied himself after a 27-pitch first inning in which he struck out the side but allowed a run.
"This kid has maintained his poise so well," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Sanchez, who has won five of his last six starts. "He's always had the stuff, but he'd cave in or lose his concentration out there. He's figured that out. That's why he's a different pitcher."
Sanchez received considerable support from Castillo. He risked injury to race to the barrier bridging Cleveland's dugout and the backstop to snare Choo's second-inning foul popup, then started a double play by diving to his left for Peralta's sixth-inning grounder. His first hit, a two-out RBI single, tied the score in the second inning.
"Castillo's the real hero today," Vizquel said.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.