Giants hold off D-backs, gain more ground
Early lead stands up after Posey pads advantage with two-run homer
SAN FRANCISCO -- Though the Giants never trailed Saturday night in their 4-3 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks, they weathered considerable adversity before surviving.
The D-backs left 13 runners on base, including 10 in the fifth through eighth innings, and went 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
"That game was very teeter-totter like," said Giants closer Sergio Romo, who endured the evening's last rocky ride. Romo yielded a ninth-inning run, which ended his 29-game scoreless streak against Arizona, before striking out Cody Ross with Martin Prado on first base to seal his 23rd save in 26 chances.
The Giants sustained a physical toll which could have been worse. Left-hander Jeremy Affeldt strained his left groin while throwing a sixth-inning pitch and could face his second stint of the year on the disabled list. Fellow relievers Sandy Rosario and Romo risked injuries incurred by dangerous comebackers. Rosario, who tried to barehand an eighth-inning ground ball, even needed X-rays, which revealed no fracture.
Luck also sided with the Giants. With Arizona trailing, 4-2, Ross singled to christen the eighth inning and proceeded to second base when he realized nobody was covering the bag and the Giants were slow to return the ball to the infield. But the umpiring crew heeded a timeout request by the Giants and sent Ross back to first. He advanced only as far as third base before Javier Lopez coaxed Gerardo Parra's inning-ending groundout.
"They called time. The ball's in the outfield and they called time. I don't think I've ever seen it before and I think it was an incorrect call," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "The ball might've ticked the pitcher's hand and I think I saw out of the corner of my eye the umpire start to walk out there. The ball's got to come into the infield and they have to kill the play and call time. There's no imminent danger to anybody. It very well could've cost us a run. It's just a bad break. I don't think I'll see that call again."
With their second straight victory over the D-backs, the Giants trimmed the gap separating them from the National League West leaders to 4 1/2 games. San Francisco improved to 29-20 against division foes, including 8-3 against Arizona.
"Emotions were running on both sides. You can see how much they wanted to win as well," Romo said. "So it was good to come out on top."
Pablo Sandoval's first-inning RBI double and Buster Posey's two-run, fifth-inning homer bookended the Giants' offense. Both of those hits were delivered with two outs, demonstrating a possible renewal of San Francisco's resolve at the plate.
"I think we have a group of guys who understand the importance of those situations regardless," said Posey, who's batting .429 (12-for-28) during a seven-game hitting streak.
Posey's homer, his 14th of the year, extended the Giants' lead to 4-1 and provided the eventual winning run.
"He's one of the best players in the game," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "That's what great players do."
But the game's most encouraging development from the Giants' perspective was Matt Cain's resilient effort, highlighted by his one-hitter through four innings. Cain allowed a fifth-inning run that was abetted by shortstop Tony Abreu's throwing error and was charged with another run in the sixth, when he permitted two singles to begin the inning. He departed at that juncture but still received his first victory since June 13.
Cain entered the All-Star break with a pair of shocking performances, surrendering eight runs in 2 1/3 innings against the Dodgers on July 5 before allowing the Mets three runs in two-thirds of an inning July 10.
This time, Cain showed flashes of his three-time All-Star form, particularly when he struck out Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona's most formidable hitter, with a 93 mph fastball in the fourth inning.
Cain acknowledged that the nine-day hiatus furnished by the All-Star break gave him a boost. He hinted that the mental rest may have helped, too.
"When you can't make it through the inning, that's never very fun," said Cain (6-6). "But you kind of have to put it past you. ... You have to turn the page and let things go. You can't dwell on it; it's already been done."
Cain paved the way for more stout pitching. Seven relievers combined to blank Arizona for four innings, with Romo's three-pitch strikeout of Ross completing the effort.
"I went at him with my best stuff," said Romo, who finished off Ross with an 88 mph fastball. "I didn't try to hide anything."