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07/01/09 12:55 AM ET
Bats come alive to weather Cards' Pujols
Giants post four in fifth to survive slugger's two-homer night
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- On a Giants team replete with pitching luminaries -- superstars, All-Stars and should-be All-Stars -- the hitters have begun to make their presence felt. The Giants continued their recent offensive surge on Tuesday night by roughing up St. Louis Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter in a 6-3 triumph, their third in a row and eighth in 11 games. The ballclub that has endured four consecutive losing seasons is enjoying an unmistakable ascent. After finishing 10-10 in April and 15-14 in May, the Giants posted a 17-10 record in June, marking the first time since Aug.-Sept. 2004 that they've enjoyed back-to-back winning months. Randy Johnson, who survived a pair of Albert Pujols home runs to notch his 303rd career victory, called San Francisco's rise "unbelievable." After struggling to hit and score through much of the season, the Giants have hit .305 (67-for-220) and averaged six runs in their last six games. "We have enough guys in our lineup who do the little things right, like advance runners," Johnson said. "And we seem to be getting the key hits. That's one thing we complained we weren't getting early in the year, and now we are." San Francisco continued this trend against an unlikely foe. Carpenter (5-3) entered the game with a 1.78 ERA, sweetened by having allowed one earned run in 21 innings at Busch Stadium. The Giants ignored those statistics by amassing all of their runs and 11 hits off Carpenter in five innings. The right-hander hadn't allowed that many runs and hits since Sept. 26, 2006, against San Diego. Edgar Renteria contributed a pair of two-out RBI singles in the first and fifth innings. Travis Ishikawa followed Renteria's second big hit with a run-scoring double, capping a four-run uprising that began with Aaron Rowand's bloop single to right field. "Some of those hits were placed in the right spot, but that's part of it," manager Bruce Bochy said, offering no apologies for the Giants' luck. "After all, as Branch Rickey said, luck is the residue of design." "I think our club is very aggressive, and against a guy who throws that many strikes, we're probably going to have better luck," said Giants catcher Bengie Molina, who went 2-for-4 with two RBIs. "Because we don't walk. We swing the bats. I think that probably played into our hands a little against a guy who's so nasty and hard to hit." That's a suitable description of Johnson, at least through the majority of his career. Blessed with the background of his dominant past, the Hall of Fame-bound left-hander, who lined a second-inning single off Carpenter, astutely recognized what was unfolding and thoroughly appreciated it. "It's a nice luxury to have that many runs where you can make a mistake and still feel fairly comfortable," said Johnson (8-5), who won his third consecutive decision. "Hats off to the offense, because the opposing pitcher, Carpenter, hadn't done that in a while. Much like when I was younger, when I have an off-night, the opposing pitcher needs to take advantage of that." Johnson did exactly that to collect his first victory over St. Louis since June 11, 2005, though he needed considerable help from the bullpen. After blanking St. Louis on one hit through three innings, Johnson yielded Pujols' first homer with one out in the fourth on an 0-2 fastball. Plenty of people saw the ball travel past the second deck in left field but determining where it landed was more difficult.
"I think the ball will probably be landing sometime shortly," Johnson joked.With one out in the sixth inning, Johnson committed the mistake he lamented most afterward, walking Chris Duncan. Up came Pujols, who lined a 1-1 pitch into the left-field seats to complete his wondrous June (14 homers, 35 RBIs). "You have to have your double 'A' game to get that guy out," Molina said of Pujols, whom Johnson struck out on a high split-finger fastball in the first inning. Pujols reciprocated by praising Johnson. "When you face guys like him, [Johan] Santana, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte -- great pitching -- one thing that they do is they don't make a lot of mistakes," Pujols said. "And if they do make those mistakes, you've got to be ready to do some damage. Because if you miss it, I'm pretty sure that you're not going to see that pitch again." The Cardinals continued their sixth-inning rally as Ryan Ludwick tripled and Yadier Molina walked, finishing Johnson. Jeremy Affeldt relieved Johnson and, after walking Rick Ankiel to load the bases, coaxed Tyler Greene's inning-ending double-play grounder. Affeldt induced another double-play grounder in the seventh inning. Rebounding from squandering a 6-4 lead in last Saturday's ninth inning at Milwaukee, Brian Wilson stranded runners on second and third in the eighth inning and cruised to his 21st save. It was his sixth of the season of more than three outs.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.