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09/02/09 11:51 PM ET
Penny superb in winning Giants debut
Back-to-back homers support starter's eight shutout frames
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
PHILADELPHIA -- If Brad Penny can approach what he accomplished Wednesday night on an 11-day layoff when he pitches every fifth day, the Giants will be thrilled. Penny excelled in his Giants debut, dominating the National League's highest-scoring team for eight innings as San Francisco overpowered the Philadelphia Phillies, 4-0. With their Major League-high 18th shutout, the Giants remained one game behind Colorado, the NL Wild Card leaders who defeated the Mets, 5-2. The Giants squandered early scoring opportunities against Phillies starter J.A. Happ (10-4) but ultimately eroded the rookie left-hander. Andres Torres grounded a two-out RBI single in the fifth inning before Juan Uribe and Aaron Rowand homered consecutively in a three-run sixth. Uribe and Rowand combined to increase the Giants' home run count to 96, exceeding last year's Major League-low total of 94. Rowand insinuated that the Giants' superior starting pitching, now bolstered by Penny, will rarely wear down before an opposing hurler does. This, of course, explains the Giants' success this season and fosters their postseason dreams. "You know what he can do and he showed you tonight what he can do," Rowand said. "You add him to an already pretty good starting rotation. That's huge for us. You have five starters that every single day they go out there, you know you have an opportunity to win -- that's big for confidence. That's big for the offense and for the team as a whole, knowing you have a horse on the mound who's going to grind it out, every single time, one through five." The horse that emerged from the Giants' stable at Citizens Bank Park was a Clydesdale. The 6-foot-4 Penny plowed gracefully through the Phillies' lineup, allowing five hits, walking one and permitting just three runners to reach scoring position. Signed by the Giants on Monday after Boston released him and he cleared waivers, Penny looked nothing like the pitcher who went 7-8 with a 5.61 ERA for the Red Sox. Despite not having pitched since Aug. 21, when he surrendered eight runs and 10 hits in four innings to the Yankees, Penny looked just as strong in the eighth inning, when his fastball was recorded at 94 mph, as in the first, when his velocity touched 97 mph. Penny recorded his longest outing since he lasted eight innings on June 25, 2007, at Arizona. So much for manager Bruce Bochy's modest hopes for a five-inning performance. "We got more than we expected," Bochy said. "But I think the guy was on a mission tonight, and it showed." Penny looked like a winner before he threw his first pitch, striding confidently to the mound. Asked if he felt at all nervous, the two-time All-Star replied, "Not really. I was surprised." As the game progressed, catcher Eli Whiteside calmed Penny even further by collaborating smoothly with the right-hander. "There's not a guy who's called a better game for me in my career," said Penny, a 10-year veteran who improved to 9-4 lifetime against Philadelphia. "I'd grab a pitch that I'd want to throw and he'd throw [the sign for that pitch] down. We were on the same page. I didn't have to shake [him off] a whole lot. That's pretty impressive for never catching me." "That's pretty nice to hear from a guy who's been around awhile," said Whiteside, the eight-year Minor League journeyman who has caught five shutouts in his 24 starts. "I'm not out there throwing the ball. He had a little part in that." As lively as Penny's fastball was, his offspeed deliveries might have been more essential. Changeups, for example, generated both of his double-play grounders. "We thought we could try to mix in some offspeed stuff early in the count to try to keep those guys off-balance a little bit, and it worked," Whiteside said. Offensively, it was an evening of sweet redemption for Torres, who was caught stealing to dampen a Giants rally in Tuesday's ninth inning, and sustained production for Uribe, who has homered in five of his last 14 games. Uribe's contributions were anticipated by Rowand, who witnessed similar deeds when both played for the Chicago White Sox. "I knew he was going to be a big part of this team," Rowand said. "Obviously, as it turns out, he has."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.