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09/24/10 12:48 AM ET
Nine-run second returns Giants to first place
Uribe rouses offense with two homers, six RBIs in frame
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- If the Giants aren't one of baseball's most dangerous teams, they rank among the weirdest. Only the Giants, it seems, can remain offensively challenged for several games at a time, then interrupt that stretch with a vigorous hitting performance that's as confounding as it is welcome. On Thursday night, San Francisco again channeled the 1927 Yankees, with Juan Uribe portraying Babe Ruth. Uribe tucked two home runs, including a grand slam, and six RBIs into a nine-run second inning that awakened the Giants' sleepy offense and propelled them to a 13-0 pasting of the Chicago Cubs. The Giants' rout left them with the same record (86-67) as National League Wild Card leader Atlanta and allowed them to leapfrog the Padres, who fell, 3-1, to the Dodgers, for first place in the West standings. San Francisco leads San Diego by a half-game. "We came out with the right approach today," said catcher Buster Posey, who was among the Giants heeding the exhortations manager Bruce Bochy delivered during a pregame hitters meeting. "There was a little bit more fire in everybody. Hopefully, that's something we can continue for the next nine games. If we give this [pitching] staff some run support, we're going to be pretty tough." The Giants captured the series, two games to one. That gave them ample momentum entering Friday night's opener of a critical three-game series at Colorado, which began Thursday trailing San Diego by three games. After their Coors Field visit, the Giants will return home to face Arizona and San Diego during the season's climactic final week. San Francisco's sudden rush of offense threatened to obscure its 16th shutout of the season. But every Giants pitching achievement is significant, because it's also likely to be historic. Madison Bumgarner (6-6) struck out nine in seven innings as the Giants extended their streak of allowing three runs or fewer to 17 games, most in the live-ball era (since 1920). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no team has sustained that long of a stretch in a single season since the 1917 Chicago White Sox held opponents to three runs or fewer in 20 consecutive games. "It's a credit to the [pitching] staff," Bochy said. "We've had some frustrating losses in those games, but they've done all they can to help us win." Bochy also did what he could by lecturing the hitters. They were batting .215 in September, had scored one run or fewer four times in five games, endured four shutouts in 10 games and had mustered two runs or fewer nine times in 13 games. San Francisco responded by matching its most lopsided victory of the season and tying a season high with 19 hits. Bochy divulged the meeting's basic agenda. "The gist of it was, 'We're better than this and it's going to take everybody being focused. Trust the guy behind you,'" he said. That's precisely how the game developed for the Giants. They scored only once in the first inning despite loading the bases with nobody out -- "That can get you down a little bit," Bochy said -- but they executed capably. Mike Fontenot singled to open the game and sped to third on Freddy Sanchez's hit-and-run single before scoring. "He kind of set the tone," Posey said of Fontenot, who replaced slumping Pablo Sandoval at third base and went 2-for-6. Then came the big second inning against Chicago's Ryan Dempster (14-11), who pitched 14 scoreless innings while winning each of his previous two appearances. Dempster hit Jose Guillen with a pitch to open the inning. "He didn't look comfortable to me from the get-go," Cubs manager Mike Quade said of Dempster. Uribe then belted an 0-2 pitch onto Waveland Avenue. Uribe insisted that he was swinging defensively. "I had two strikes on me. I was just looking for contact," he said. After the Giants widened the difference to 6-0 on RBI singles by Sanchez and Posey and a wild pitch, Uribe batted again with two outs. Facing reliever Thomas Diamond, Uribe drove a 2-1 delivery into the left-field seats for his fifth career grand slam and ninth multi-homer game. Uribe remained understated, even in the wake of his grand slam. "I wasn't thinking about trying to do too much," he said. It was San Francisco's highest-scoring inning since a 10-run uprising against Pittsburgh in the fourth on Sept. 7, 2008. The last Giants player to homer twice in one inning was Bengie Molina, who victimized the Mets in the fifth on May 7, 2007, at AT&T Park. Those facts unleashed a torrent of trivia: Uribe became the first Giants player to drive in six runs in an inning since Jim Ray Hart also had six in the fifth inning at Atlanta on July 8, 1970. The last Giants player to homer twice in an inning, with one being a grand slam, was Willie McCovey, who did so on June 27, 1977, in the sixth inning at Cincinnati. Nobody had amassed six RBIs in an inning at Wrigley Field since Andre Dawson accomplished the feat on Sept. 24, 1985, as a member of the Montreal Expos. The last Major Leaguer to collect as many RBIs in an inning was the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez, who piled up seven in the sixth inning at Tampa Bay last Oct. 4. Some of those names are legendary. All are memorable. Then again, most Giants believe that Uribe, who ranks second on the team with 22 home runs and 83 RBIs, is also quite special. "I love watching him hit," Fontenot said. "I feel like every time he swings, you don't know how far the ball's going to go."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.