Belt: 'We just don't give up'
Brandon Belt's three-run homer in the eighth led the Giants to a 9-6 win and a sweep of the Diamondbacks. (AP)
PHOENIX – The Giants were the comeback kings of April. This you knew already.
They began May in the same high fashion, with yet another pivotal home run in the late innings and yet another come-from-behind victory.
The Arizona Diamondbacks bullpen is giving out more gift baskets than Pepperidge Farm, and their relievers were generous again to Brandon Belt and Co. as the Giants powered their way to a 9-6 win and a three-game sweep at Chase Field.
Belt hit a three-run home run in the eighth inning to turn around a 6-4 deficit and the Giants had eight of their 10 hits go for extra bases while grabbing their ninth comeback win out of 16 happy handshake lines this season.
Belt walloped an 0-2 fastball from David Hernandez that was supposed to be at the eyes to induce a swing but instead stayed true to the buckle. It was his third homer of the season, and all of them have come in six games against the Diamondbacks.
The Cactus League’s leading home run hitter must be closing his eyes and envisioning himself at Salt River Fields. He’s 7 for 17 with eight RBI against Arizona pitching.
Belt isn’t the only one. The Giants have hit five home runs (and 17 runs total) in the eighth inning or later in their six games against Arizona.
And Belt’s shot was the Giants’ sixth of the season that tied the game or put them ahead in the eighth inning or later.
It also took Tim Lincecum off the hook for a loss after he gave up five runs on a career high-tying 10 hits in five innings.
Pablo Sandoval added a ringing RBI double in a two-run ninth inning. It was their eighth extra-base hit -- more than they managed in a game all last year. (They had nine on Sept. 18, 2011, at Coors Field.)
The Giants scored five runs on just two hits in the last two innings, courtesy of the Diamondbacks’ generous bullpen. Toss in a couple summer sausages and a cheese log and you’ve got a great gift for any occasion.
The extra runs in the ninth made life easier on Sergio Romo, who pitched around one baserunner and a jammed hand while recording his major league high tying 11th save.
Starting pitching report
There are some adjectives that pitchers never want to hear. “Hittable” is up there near the top of the list.
Lincecum was very, very hittable Wednesday night.
He matched his career high with 10 hits allowed in five innings – more hits than he allowed in any start last season – and departed after giving up five runs in five innings.
He did not walk a batter, though, for the first time in 60 starts. And can you guess what happened the last time he went walk-free? It was June 1, 2011, at St. Louis – and he gave up five runs on 10 hits.
Lincecum’s night started out with a small victory. Following a pair of singles, he induced a double-play grounder from Paul Goldschmidt – the hitter who entered 8 for 14 with five home runs against him.
But the matchup page didn’t count for much on this night. The Diamondbacks found a new foil in Cliff Pennington; the former A’s shortstop entered just 1 for 14 with five strikeouts against Lincecum, but he connected for a three-run home run in the second inning.
A.J. Pollock had reached on a line single, then advanced on Lincecum’s errant pickoff throw and took third on Eric Chavez’s single. With an 0-1 count, Pennington didn’t miss a 91 mph fastball down the middle.
Lincecum was dominant while striking out two in the third inning, but Pollock started the fourth with an infield single and scored on Eric Chavez’s double that sliced away from a diving Angel Pagan in center field.
The Diamondbacks added a fifth run against Lincecum in the fifth inning after Martin Prado hit a two-out double. Goldschmidt, who had struck out looking in addition to his double-play grounder, finally sank his teeth into Lincecum. He barely broke the skin with a bloop single, but it scored Prado without a throw.
Lincecum’s final line: Five innings, 10 hits, five runs (all earned), no walks and six strikeouts.
Javier Lopez had a tough night. He faced three batters in the sixth and retired just one of them, first giving up a single to Eric Chavez, and then, allowed to face a right-handed hitter, an RBI double to Pennington as Arizona made it a 6-4 lead.
George Kontos did well to strand the inherited runner in scoring position, then used a double-play grounder from Pollock to finish a quick seventh inning.
Jean Machi, now apparently a prime right-handed setup man, needed help to escape the eighth. He left runners at the corners after a leadoff walk and a two-out, seeing-eye single.
The Giants already used Lopez, their lone lefty in this series, and so Bruce Bochy summoned Santiago Casilla to face Parra, a tough left-handed hitter. Casilla showed his versatility while mixing fastball, curve and slider – the last of which made it through Parra’s swing to end the inning.
Romo made it 11 for 12 while holding the Diamondbacks scoreless for a 27th consecutive game. Romo hasn’t allowed a run to Arizona over 20 innings dating to Sept. 6, 2010 – before he owned either of his two World Series rings.
Romo did have a scary moment when he grabbed his left wrist after trying to cover first base on a potential double play. But he virtually ran away when head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner tried to take a look at him, and remained in the game.
At the plate
The Giants flashed plenty of power with three home runs, and Belt’s shot wasn’t the most prodigious.
Hunter Pence obliterated Brandon McCarthy’s first-pitch fastball like it was a batting practice pitch in the sixth inning, driving it high and just to the right of center field, near the camera stage. The solo shot was estimated at 460 feet, which if accurate, would rank as the longest homer of his career. (He hit a shot estimated at 449 feet in 2010 at St. Louis.)
Angel Pagan also homered to start the game – his sixth career leadoff homer, not counting his shot at Cincinnati in the NL Division Series last October.
The Giants had extra-base power, too, while carving away some of Arizona’s lead in the fifth. Gregor Blanco doubled, Pagan doubled into the left field corner and then Brandon Crawford tripled when right fielder Gerardo Parra came up short on a diving attempt to make it 4-3.
Sandoval lifted a fly out to center field, though, and slapped the bat with his hand – one of several signs of frustration by Giants hitters against Brandon McCarthy, who left plenty of unredeemed mistakes at the belt.
But the Giants still trailed entering the eighth, and Arizona’s bullpen broke down once more. Pence and Blanco drew walks from David Hernandez, and the hard-throwing right-hander had Belt down 0-2.
Arizona catcher Miguel Montero practically stood up as he set the target for a high fastball, but Hernandez didn’t elevate it enough and Belt swatted it into the right field stands.
Crawford made one tremendous relay throw and one that wasn’t so tremendous. On Chavez’s double in the fourth, Pagan got to his feet after his missed diving attempt and made a quick, hair whirling relay throw. Crawford received it and threw to a perfect spot as Chavez slid into Sandoval’s tag. (Chavez appeared to spike Sandoval in the process, though it didn’t appear to be intentional.)
Crawford had another chance to gun down a runner in the sixth, after Blanco collected Pennington’s double in the left field corner. Crawford had enough time to throw out Chavez at the plate, but his throw was high and Buster Posey had to jump just to prevent it from sailing to the backstop.
The Diamondbacks announced 21,177 paid, and if this keeps up, they’ll start to leave along with their starting pitcher, thank you very much.
The Giants take a day off Thursday before beginning their homestand and a three-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday. Barry Zito (3-1, 3.29) is scheduled to face Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw (3-2, 1.73), who will rejoin the team from the bereavement list following the death of his father. Ryan Vogelsong (1-2, 6.23) will take the mound Saturday against left-hander Ted Lilly (0-1, 5.63), who remains questionable with a back issue. Matt Cain (0-2, 6.49) gets the ball in Sunday’s series finale against left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu (3-1, 3.35).