The Giants traveled somewhere they haven't been since May 6th of this year. In September, they haven't been there since 2003. That place is first place.
In front of an electrified crowd of 38,434 at AT&T Park, the Giants, after the game, moved the flags out in the outfield that denote where the Giants are in standings. In recent years, the Giants saw their flag plunge to the bottom, but on Thursday night, the Giants' flag sat atop the others. With the Padres losing 4-0 earlier to the Cardinals, the Giants are now 1/2 game ahead of them in the National League West.
As it has been throughout the season for the Giants, there were many heroes in this 10-2 route against the rival Los Angeles Dodgers. Jonathan Sanchez (11-8) was one of them. His line looked like this: 7IP, 4 hits, 2 runs, 1 earned run, 0 walks, and a career high 12 strikeouts.
It did not look good for Jonathan Sanchez and the Giants in the beginning. Rafael Furcal led of the game with a double down the third base line. The next batter, Ryan Theroit, then laid down a sacrifice bunt to third, but reach on a throwing error by Juan Uribe, giving the Dodgers an early 1-0 lead. Jonathan Sanchez would, however, bear down and strike out the next 2. The third out in the inning came on a hard ground ball to second by James Loney that Freddy Sanchez dove for in the hole and saved a run.
The Giants quickly responded back the next half-inning. With 2 outs and nobody on, Aubrey Huff hit a long triple to right-center field. Up stepped Buster Posey, who doubled to deep right and capitalized on a bad read on the ball by Reed Johnson. The Dodgers' right fielder initially broke in, but could not catch up to it, as he raced back trying to make up the ground. This tied the game at 1.
The Giants would go ahead in the bottom of the third inning off Dodgers starter Ted Lilly. With 1 out, Edgar Renteria laid down a bunt single that 3rd baseman Casey Blake had no play on. He would go 4 for 5 on the night, making a strong bid for more playing time in the stretch run. Freddy Sanchez then promptly doubled over the head of Johnson in right. This set up Aubrey Huff's 3-run bolt to right field that gave the Giants a 4-1 lead that they would not give back. If that wasn't enough, Buster Posey laced a long home run, his 14th of the season, more than half-way up the bleachers in left to give the Giants a 5-1 lead.
The Giants would tack on insurance runs in later innings. In the fourth, Freddy Sanchez walked with the bases loaded to extend the Giants' lead to 6-1. Jose Guillen would add to that with a 2-run homer in the fifth inning, making the score 8-2. Guillen went 3 for 3 on the night. The Giants would cap their scoring in the eighth on a 2 RBI double by Freddy Sanchez, pushing the Giants' lead to 10-2.
The highlight of the night for the Dodgers was Russell Mitchell's first career home run, that barely hit the foul poul in left field, off Jonathan Sanchez in the 5th inning. Other than that, the Dodgers' offense continued to struggle. In their 60 games since the All-Star Break, they have scored 2 runs or less in 30 of them.
The Giants' bullpen once again was solid, pitching 2 innings of perfect baseball. Jonathan Sanchez earned his 11th win. Ted Lilly suffered the loss and fell to 8-11.
It was good to see the Giants finally take a season series against the Dodgers. It seemed like in recent years, the Giants were always overmatched in both pitching and hitting. Not this year. Some of the best games of the year came against their arch-rival Dodgers, a sign that they are ready for post-season baseball. Juan Uribe's 9th inning home run at Dodger Stadium and Andres Torres' game-winning hit after Bochy's technicality are some of the memorable wins they probably don't get in years past. If you could win in the playoff-like atmosphere of a Dodgers/Giants series, then you are probably ready for the real thing.
Edgar Renteria has got to be out there tomorrow as the lead-off hitter, especially against the lefty Randy Wolf. Tonight, he had 3 singles and a triple in 5 at-bats, and surely deserves a second-look. After all, their alternatives (Rowand, Velez, Ross), have done nothing to show that they are ready for the position. Unfortunately for the Panda, Bochy has to go with the hot hand here and sit the cold Pablo Sandoval, who is a loss at the plate. Same goes for Aaron Rowand (now hitting .226), as he was booed by Giants fans each time he came up. Bochy himself said Renteria is leading off tomorrow, and I would expect to see Cody Ross hitting eighth for the Giants. One thing I like about Bochy this year is his short leash on those who don't perform. His philosophy is simple. If you don't hit, you don't play.
The Giants took the season series from the Dodgers 10-8 this season. This is the first time they have done this in 5 years. Bruce Bochy says Buster Posey will play every day the rest of the way. Pablo Sandoval, who will not play tomorrow either against Randy Wolf, is currently in an 0 for 15 slump. A very thick fog hovered over AT&T Park for most of the game. Jonathan Sanchez became the fourth player in Giants history since 1920 to strike out at least 12 without issuing a walk. His 74.4% strike percentage (of all pitches) was his highest in his career while starting. The Giants hit back-to-back homers for the 7th time this season. Tomorrow, the Giants welcome the Brewers. A couple of lefties will be squaring off. Madison Bumgarner (5-5) will take on Randy Wolf (11-11).