Last night, Barry Zito and the Giants' bullpen combined for a one-hitter, but still lost the game as a result of lack of offense (0 runs to be exact). On Wednesday night, however, the Giants manufactured just enough offense to reward Matt Cain his 12th victory with a 2-1 win over the Dodgers.
In just his second career win against the Dodgers, his first coming earlier this season, Cain was superb. In his 7 innings of scoreless baseball, he gave up only 3 hits and walked none, while striking out 5. His counterpart, Chad Billingsley (11-10), gave a valiant effort, but this time it was a Dodger's pitcher who suffered a tough luck loss. In his 7 innings of one-run ball, he gave up 6 hits, while walking 2 and striking out 7.
The one run Billingsley gave up came in the bottom of the 7th. With 1 out, Cain was lifted for a pinch hitter, Travis Ishikawa. Ishikawa promptly lined a double into right-center field. Emmanuel Burriss pinch ran for Ishikawa and was later advanced to third on a wild pitch with Eugenio Velez at the plate.Velez, however, hit a comebacker to the pitcher, and Burriss had to hold at third. This set things up for Mike Fontenot's clutch 2-out single that cracked the scoreless tie and gave the Giants a 1-0 lead.
The Giants tacked on an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth, which proved to be the winning run. With runners at second and third with 1 out, Pablo Sandoval hit a ground ball to first. Aubrey Huff, the runner at 3rd, was able to leg it out and score just ahead of Barajas' tag, giving the Giants what proved to be an important 2-0 lead.
Now, it was up to Brian Wilson in the ninth, looking for his 43rd save. The first batter, Rafael Furcal, flew out to Eugenio Velez in left field. He got the next batter, Ryan Theriot, on a strikeout. The run the Giants scored in the eighth proved huge because Andre Ethier came up next and cranked a solo home run to deep left-center, but Wilson retired the next batter, Jay Gibbons, on a strikeout and earned the save. The Giants and the 34,685 at AT&T Park could breathe easy after a rather impressive 2-1 victory over their arch-rival Dodgers. With both the Braves and Padres losing on Wednesday, the Giants are just 1/2 game back in both the Wild Card and NL West standings.
It is great to see that the pitching is back for the Giants. It really worried me (and I'm sure most Giants fans) in August when the rotation as a whole could not get it done. If this is what Giants fans can expect the rest of the way, I think the Giants will definitely get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2003. Their offense is better than they have shown these last few games, and I have no doubt it will come around. It is much better than the Padres', that's for sure, and they sit just a half game behind them with their loss to Colorado earlier.
As for the offense, the absence of Andres Torres continues to hurt the Giants. Bruce Bochy tried to instill some life with Eugenio Velez at the top of the order, but it didn't work. He looked awful in most of his plate appearances last night, going 0 for 3, but did walk once. Most notably was that at-bat in the bottom of the 7th with a runner at third and one-out. The score was still tied a 0, but all Velez could do was hit a comebacker to the pitcher. Luckily, Mike Fontenot rescued the Giants and picked up Velez with a big 2-out single. Even though Velez is hitless since coming up from AAA, it's hard to completely blame him. He has sat on the bench most of his stint up in the big leagues, and every baseball player knows that it's hard to get your timing down if you don't see big-league pitching consistently. Still, it is not the time to try and get your timing down. It's time to step-up, be ready to hit big-league pitching, and win some big ballgames. Edgar Renteria will try lead-off tonight against Ted Lilly, as Bochy tries to plug a hole that just keeps leaking.
I also want to comment on the job Brian Sabean has done this year. For the first time since perhaps Kenny Lofton, Sabean's offensive acquisitions are finally starting to pan out. Pat Burrell has brought much needed power to the Giants and is a patient hitter who gets on base. The same could be said for Aubrey Huff, but someone more under-the-radar has contributed offensively as well. Mike Fontenot was a solid pick-up and a clutch performer with runners in scoring position and 2-out. Last night, he had a great at-bat, blooping a single to center for the Giants' first run. Another notable 2-out clutch hit was against Ubaldo Jimenez a couple weeks ago at AT&T Park. In all, Fontenot was hitting .368 with 2 outs and runners in scoring position this season just after he was acquired.
As it turned out, the last team to lose two one-hitters in one season was the Kansas City Royals of 1971. The Giants have a 1.55 team ERA this month. Jose Guillen, who has been out the last two games with a bulging disk in his neck, will be back in the lineup tonight. The season series between the Giants and Dodgers is now 9-8 Giants. On Thursday night's finale, the Giants will send out Jonathan Sanchez (10-8, 3.29 ERA) against the Dodgers' Ted Lilly (8-10, 3.58 ERA).