Urban: Christian, Pill light up chase for Giants

Urban: Christian, Pill light up chase for Giants
September 7, 2011, 5:59 am
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Sept. 6, 2011

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Mychael Urban
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You'd heard of Eric Surkamp. In fact, you'd seen the 24-year-old lefty, and you'd loved what you'd seen.You'd heard of Brett Pill. You might not have seen the 27-year-old infielder, but you'd certainly heard about the big numbers he'd been putting up at Triple-A Fresno.RELATED: Giants Insider gallery -- Youth Beltran = Win
Justin Christian? Chances are you'd never heard of him, and you're excused for that.

He's not exactly a prospect; he's a 31-year-old outfielder who made his big-league debut with the 2008 Yankees, and he hadn't done much of anything since. Not even a cameo in the bigs, and he spent most of 2010 with New York's Double-A club before signing with the Giants as a minor-league free agent this February.Prior to Tuesday, he'd split the 2011 season between Double-A Richmond and Triple-A Fresno, putting up more impressive numbers at the higher level, but there were more than a handful of Grizzlies moving the needle more than this journeyman. And that journey essentially started right down the peninsula at Aragon High in San Mateo, continued at Skyline Junior College in San Bruno, stalled a bit at Auburn University, then picked up steam at Southeast Missouri State before he disappeared into the bush leagues for the better part of nine years.So when Giants fans talk about the club needing to commit to a youth movement, they're not including Christian. Surkamp, Pill, Brandon Belt, Gary Brown? Absolutely. Several others, too. Not Christian, though.That's why the Tuesday move to add him to the 40-man roster, call him to the big leagues, start him in center field, bat him leadoff and assign him No. 70, without his last name on the back of his road uniform, was greeted with a collective, "Huh? Who? What?"Christian is what the fans, some who don't quite (or want to) understand what an intense and massive jump it is to go from Single-A to a big-league pennant race, want Brown to be right now. Leadoff man, center fielder, spark plug.Well, guess what? That's exactly what Christian was Tuesday, providing a big fifth-inning double before scoring on Carlos Beltran's latest screaming line drive to snap a 3-3 tie that led to a 6-4 victory and a game shaved from the Diamondbacks' lead in the National League West.RECAP: Giants gain ground with 6-4 victory over Padres
Part of the youth movement? Not exactly. But Christian is local, he's a fresh face, and he plays with an infectious energy.He didn't quite steal the thunder of Pill, whose home run to left field on his first swing in the bigs was a classic moment, or Surkamp, who battled through five innings without his best stuff to pick up his first big-league win.But his double and dash represented just the type of lightning the Giants are going to need if they're going to have any shot at all to strike down the Snakes.