Maxwell comes up big off bench for Giants
Replacing injured Aoki, outfielder clubs go-ahead homer vs. Dodgers
LOS ANGELES -- Everything, past as well as present, seemed to conspire against Justin Maxwell in Saturday's fifth inning.
But Maxwell ignored the evidence screaming that he shouldn't hit the ball out of the infield, much less out of the park. He drilled a two-run, tiebreaking homer that propelled the Giants to their 6-2 triumph over the Los Angeles Dodgers. The outcome improved the Giants' season record against Los Angeles to a remarkable 9-2, lengthened their winning streak against their chief rival to five games and trimmed their deficit in the National League West to a half-game behind the first-place Dodgers.
Statistics suggested Maxwell had no business connecting off Dodgers starter Carlos Frias with two outs, Tim Hudson on first base and the score deadlocked at 2. As Maxwell stepped into the batter's box, he owned a .167 lifetime batting average (10-for-60) against the Dodgers. That included a .179 average (5-for-28) this year against Los Angeles, not to mention a .115 (3-for-26) career figure at Dodger Stadium. Moreover, shadows had begun to creep across the field, which typically gives pitchers an optical advantage.
Besides, Maxwell should have been on the bench. He filled a vacancy in right field in the first inning after Nori Aoki was bruised above the right ankle by Frias' second pitch of the game.
Frias forged ahead on the count against Maxwell, 0-2. But Maxwell remained unperturbed as he lofted a changeup into the left-field seats.
Asked to describe his two-strike hitting approach, Maxwell said, "I tried to choke up [on the bat] a little bit, see the ball as early as I could and just put the ball in play."
Aware that this mantra has been recited by tens of thousands of hitters since baseball was invented, Maxwell said, "I'll give you cliches the whole year. If you keep it that simple, you'll be fine."
It was Maxwell's sixth homer of the year and third in 11 games. Forget about his .225 batting average, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
"He's a threat. That's why he's good to have in the lineup," Bochy said.
Players of Maxwell's ilk, Bochy added, "are probably not going to hit for a high average. You just hope they can run into one. He has 'plus-plus' power and he gives you good defense. You'd like to have Aoki. But [Maxwell's] a good guy to bring in."