Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants 4, Dodgers 3

Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants 4, Dodgers 3
October 3, 2012, 5:40 am
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LOS ANGELES An earful of boos served as Barry Zito's soundtrack so many times over the past six seasons. They probably never sounded so good as Tuesday night.Zito, derided so often during his Giants career, pitched with a killer instinct at Dodger Stadium and and it meant the death of the Giants archrivals. The left-hander walked off the mound with a three-run lead in the seventh inning and the Giants clung to the last essence of it in a 4-3 victory at Chavez Ravine.It was the Giants' 11th consecutive win on Zitos day to pitch the longest streak by a Giant since Bill Swift in 1992.Because the St. Louis Cardinals lost earlier in the evening, the Giants were afforded the opportunity to eliminate the Dodgers from playoff contention on the field. They did it with pleasure along with solo home runs by Buster Posey and Joaquin Arias and a crushing, two-run double from the irrepressible Marco Scutaro.It was a 4-1 score when Zito walked off the mound to boos in the seventh inning after hitting Andre Ethier with a pitch. Guillermo Mota served up a two-run home run to A.J. Ellis, but five relievers held it from there to silence a raucous, hopeful crowd.Sergio Romo, whose friends and family wore Dodgers gear when they came to watch him as a rookie four years ago, retired Mark Ellis on a fly out to center field to strand the tying runner at second base.Starting pitching reportThe Giants finished with a 21-11 record in Zitos starts. They only won as often on Matt Cains day to pitch (also 21-11).The formula was simple: They scored runs for Zito (15-8) and he made them hold up. For the 18th time in his 32 starts, the Giants supported Zito with at least four runs. He went 13-1 in those starts.He is 125-7 in his career with at least four runs of support, including 40-3 as a Giant.To put that into perspective, Zito received at least four runs in just 37 starts over the previous five seasons.But there is something more. Zito is competing with a fearless edge that should grow his case to play a front-and-center role in the postseason. In a start with playoff implications, he only issued one walk and that was intentional.He ended the season with a 4.15 ERA. That matches his ERA from 2010, when he was left off all three postseason rosters. That wont happen to him again this time.The Dodgers managed a run against Zito in the second inning, when Hanley Ramirez hit a pinball-machine triple into the right field corner that beguiled Hunter Pence and Luis Cruz followed with an RBI ground out.Other than that, Zito pitched inside effectively with his cutter and two-seamer and used a brilliant curveball to keep hitters on their front foot. He even struck out Matt Kemp twice; the Dodgers dangerous center fielder entered with a .462 average in 52 career at-bats against Zito.Zito found a way to pick up his teammates, too. Scutaro strangely dropped his second routine throw of the road trip when Zito had Ramirez picked off in the fourth inning. But Ramirez advanced no further than second base, as Zito got Cruz to fly out and then struck out Andre Ethier to end the fourth inning.Zitos most emotional moment came in the fifth. The Dodgers had runners at second and third after center fielder Angel Pagan allowed Shane Victorinos blooper to scoot past him for a double. (The ball did appear to take a snake bounce off the turf.)Kemp stood in and hit a comebacker up the middle. Zito made like a hockey goalie covering up the 5-hole, snapping his legs together as the ball deflected off his shin. He scooped it up, fired to first base for the out and roared as he slapped catcher Hector Sanchez on his way to the dugout.The reception was just as vigorous when, after six years, he finally arrived.Bullpen reportGuillermo Mota and George Kontos might have traded spots on the postseason roster pecking order.Mota gave up extra-base hits to three of the four batters he faced in the seventh inning, starting with A.J. Ellis two-run home run. Mark Ellis followed with a double that Angel Pagan couldnt cut off in left-center, but the Giants caught a break as the runner tried to stretch a triple. Shortstop Brandon Crawfords relay throw was on target and easily beat Mark Ellis as Pablo Sandoval applied the tag.It was a costly gamble, as Shane Victorino followed with a triple into the right field corner. But Kontos entered, and after falling behind 2-0 to Kemp, he came back with two challenge fastballs one looking, one swinging then threw a slider away that Kemp couldnt lay off. Kemp spiked his bat in disgust as Kontos strode off the mound.Javier Lopez and Santiago Casilla navigated the eighth, and after Jeremy Affeldt allowed a single to start the ninth, Romo got a strikeout and two tense fly outs to record the most stressful of his 14 saves in 15 opportunities.At the plateBack in 1982, a diminutive second baseman by the name of Joe Morgan cranked a three-run home run at Candlestick Park that brought sweet elimination to the Dodgers -- an indelible moment in franchise lore.Three decades later, Scutaro might have lacked the dramatic shot. But his two-run double in the fifth inning was nearly as potent.Scutaro already had extended his hitting streak to 19 games with a single in the third inning. He was hitting .438 over the streak and .361 in 56 games as a Giant. But Dodgers manager Don Mattingly decided to walk Angel Pagan intentionally with first base open and two outs. Scutaro responded to the challenge by serving a hard grounder down the first base line to give the Giants a 4-1 lead.If this sounds familiar, it should. On Sept. 7, Mattingly intentionally walked Pagan and Scutaro followed with a two-run single.Scutaros hit opened up a 2-1 game after the Giants built a scant lead on home runs by Buster Posey in the second inning and Joaquin Arias in the third.Poseys shot was his 24th of the season and gave him 102 RBIs. He continued to show his upper back twinge was no debilitating injury when he singled in the fourth. He went 2 for 4 and added a point to his average, which stands at .337 comfortably ahead of the Pirates Andrew McCutchen, who was 0 for 4 to drop two points to .327.Posey would win the first batting title by an NL catcher since 1942, when Ernie Lombardi hit .330 for the Boston Braves. Thats because Melky Cabrera and his .346 average will be considered unqualified on Wednesday. (Hell finish one plate appearance short of the minimum, and the league, at his request, suspended a rule that would allow him to add a hitless at-bat.)In fieldThe Giants have seen some spectacular catches in left field this season. Who knew Xavier Nady could add one to the pantheon? He raced back and jumped at the wall, holding on despite the impact, to take an extra-base hit away from Adrian Gonzalez in the second inning.AttendanceThe Dodgers announced 42,473 paid, and the crowd was loud and raucous right up to the moment that Romo pumped his fist and pointed to the sky.Up nextThe Giants complete the 2012 regular season with a 4:15 p.m. game Wednesday at Dodger Stadium. Ryan Vogelsong (14-9, 3.46) takes the mound against left-hander Clayton Kershaw (13-9, 2.58), although the Dodgers might make a switch in light of their demise. With a victory, the Giants would finish with an 11-0-1 road series record following the All-Star break.

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