SAN FRANCISCO – Bruce Bochy said before Thursday’s series finale against the Oakland A’s that his Giants were not ‘doing a very good impersonation of who we are.’
With the threat of a sweep at the hands of their cross-bay rivals, the Giants rediscovered themselves, getting a quality start from Barry Zito, clutch hitting late and a lock-down job by a group of relievers.
The Giants beat the A’s 5-2 on getaway day to snap a three-game skid and ensure a happy plane ride to St. Louis.
Starting pitching report
Barry Zito was one walk short of tying his career-high of seven free passes, but still managed to give the Giants six innings on one-run ball. That’s no small feat considering the difficulty his rotation mates have faced working deep into games lately. The Giants had just two quality starts in their last 15 games and none in their last six heading into Thursday’s series finale.
Zito threw 117 pitches, only 63 for strikes, but he got the big outs when he needed them.
Coco Crisp led off the game with a double and Jed Lowrie followed by working the first of six walks Zito would issue on the afternoon. But the veteran left-hander bounced back against the A’s best hitters as Yoenis Cespedes flew out to center and Josh Donaldson struck out on an 84 MPH fastball in the zone. Zito made it back to the dugout without allowing a run by getting Nate Freiman to pop out to Brandon Belt in foul territory.
The A’s scored their only run against Zito in the second, when he went flyout, walk, flyout, walk to open the frame. Crisp picked up the two-out RBI with a single to left that Andres Torres misplayed, allowing catcher Derek Norris to score from second.
Zito opened the third frame by walking Cespedes, but picked him off to erase the mistake. Another walk to Donaldson was erased on a 5-4-3 double play off the bat of Freiman.
Zito struck out the side in the fourth and worked around Crisp’s third hit to lead off the fifth. Bruce Bochy sent Zito back out for the sixth after throwing 101 pitches and Zito turned in a 1-2-3 inning before turning the ball over to the bullpen in the seventh.
Zito’s final line: 6 IP, 3 H, ER, 6 BB, 5 K (W, 4-3)
Bruce Bochy used three relievers to get through the seventh inning. Ramon Ramirez opened the frame by walking John Jaso and was pulled after giving up a one-out single to Jed Lowrie. George Kontos came in to face Cespedes, who blooped a single down the right-field line to score Jaso. After Kontos got Donaldson to fly out to shallow center, keeping Lowrie at third, A’s manager Bob Melvin pinch-hit Brandon Moss for Nate Freiman, prompting Bochy to turn to left-hander Jeremy Affeldt, who snuffed out the rally with a strikeout.
Affeldt worked a scoreless eighth inning before Sergio Romo entered to ‘El Mechon.’ The Giants’ closer, who went unused since Saturday, showed no rust in working a 1-2-3 ninth for his 14th save.
At the plate
A.J. Griffin used a Zito-esque curveball that kept the Giants off balance early. He struck out Gregor Blanco with a filthy hammer to start a 1-2-3 first inning and made Buster Posey look uncharacteristically uncoordinated on another curve for a swinging strikeout in the second inning.
Griffin struck out Hunter Pence looking to end a minor threat in the fourth inning after Pablo Sandoval hit a one-out single and took advantage of a wild pitch, advancing with a thunderous slide into second.
The Giants’ bats were quiet against Griffin until the sixth inning, when Brett Pill, pinch-hitting for Zito, went the opposite way for a single that nicked off 6’8” first baseman Nate Freiman’s glove. After Blanco struck out on another Griffin curveball, Brandon Crawford hit a double into the right-field corner to put two runners in scoring position for Sandoval, who entered the game with just three hits in his last 26 at-bats. Sandoval snapped his slump and put Zito in line for the win with a single up the middle to score Pill and Crawford. After Posey flew out to center, Pence followed with a single to knock Griffin from the game.
A’s manager Bob Melvin turned to left-hander Hideki Okajima to face Brandon Belt, who sent a 3-1 splitter into the left-center gap for a double and a 4-1 Giants lead.
Two miscues by A’s shortstop Adam Rosales in the seventh allowed the Giants to add an insurance run.
In the field
After letting a base hit to left in the ninth get by him in Wednesday’s loss, Andres Torres played one clean inning Thursday before making another mistake. Torres charged Coco Crisp’s single hoping to throw out catcher Derek Norris trying to score from second. Instead, the ball clanked off his glove and Norris scored easily for the game’s first run. Torres wasn’t charged with an error, but it didn’t take long before the Giants were charged with their first of the game and 26th of the month.
Pablo Sandoval was the culprit in the fourth inning, when he bounced a throw across the diamond that Brandon Belt couldn’t pick cleanly after a routine ground ball to third.
The Giants announced a crowd of 41,250 for their 195th straight sellout. No word on whether Jon Heyman was in attendance.
The Giants hit the road to start a three-game series in St. Louis with the first-place Cardinals Friday. The Giants have Matt Cain set to start the opener, Madison Bumgarner scheduled to toe the rubber on Saturday, and ‘TBA’ officially listed for Sunday with Chad Gaudin expected to get the nod.