SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants signed Austin Jackson as a free agent on Jan. 22. But he truly became part of the ballclub Saturday night, when his bases-loaded double in the fifth inning leapfrogged the Giants ahead in the score and propelled them to an 8-3 triumph over the archrival
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants signed Austin Jackson as a free agent on Jan. 22. But he truly became part of the ballclub Saturday night, when his bases-loaded double in the fifth inning leapfrogged the Giants ahead in the score and propelled them to an 8-3 triumph over the archrival Dodgers to secure a split of a day-night doubleheader.
After losing the twin-bill opener, 15-6, the Giants trailed Los Angeles, 2-0, in the nightcap when singles by Brandon Belt, Kelby Tomlinson and Brandon Crawford loaded the bases in the fifth inning against Dodgers starter Alex Wood. Up came Jackson, who rapped a 2-1 changeup into the left-field corner as all three runners scored.
The Giants acquired Jackson, 31, largely because they valued his ability to hit left-handed pitching. He batted a gaudy .352 off southpaws last year for the Indians, helping them reach the postseason.
Until Saturday, however, this year had been a struggle for Jackson. He floundered against lefties, batting .208 (10-for-48) against them entering the game while owning a .197 average overall.
Jackson was 1-for-9 lifetime against Wood, including a third-inning strikeout, when they confronted each other again in the fifth inning. Instead of dwelling on the difficulties of his task, . Jackson focused on the simplicities: "See the ball."
After all, Jackson said, "If you can't see it good, everything's kind of out of whack." The result was his first extra-base hit off a left-hander this season. With that smash alone, Jackson equaled his RBI total for his first 18 games.
The Giants kept charging. Belt singled to drive in his team-high 12th run in the sixth. Jackson singled again to lead off a four-run seventh that featured Evan Longoria's two-run double and Tomlinson's two-run single.
After scoring one or zero runs in five of their first six games against the Dodgers, San Francisco has tallied 20 runs in its last four games against the reigning National League champions.
Saturday's batch of offense helped make a winner out of Johnny Cueto, who surrendered two runs and three hits -- all in the span of the first three batters -- while working six innings.
"Sometimes you try to be very aggressive in the first inning," Cueto said, indicating that he erred by approaching the Dodgers in this manner.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy noticed a significant difference: "After the first inning, he was right on -- hitting spots and changing speeds."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Giants right-hander Sam Dyson proved without a doubt that he has regained his top pitching form. Summoned in the seventh inning to protect a 4-2 lead, Dyson defused a bases-loaded, none-out jam in the seventh by coaxing pinch-hitter Austin Barnes' double-play grounder and striking out Chris Taylor. Dyson, who posted a 7.11 ERA in his first six games of the season, has not allowed a run in his last six appearances, spanning 6 1/3 innings.
"His stuff is back and his confidence is back," Bochy said.,
Though Cueto's ERA soared dangerously close to the 1.00 level, he remained in good company with his 0.84 ERA. It's the second-lowest ERA for a Giants starting pitcher through his first five outings of the season since the franchise moved to San Francisco in 1958. The top five are Juan Marichal, 0.60, 1966; Cueto; Marichal, 0.86, 1965; Doyle Alexander, 1.07, 1981; and Mike McCormick, 1.13, 1961.
The Giants will finish their unusual 10-game, opening-month set with the Dodgers on Sunday at AT&T Park. Having inched ahead in the series, 5-4, San Francisco will try to stay ahead with a win in the series finale. They'll start Ty Blach, who owns a 3-2 record and a 1.90 ERA in nine games against the Dodgers, compared to 7-13, 5.14 in 35 games against all other clubs. The Dodgers will counter with right-hander Kenta Maeda.
Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.