Pitch bruises Aoki's lower leg, forces exit
Giants outfielder runs bases with injury, scores run before leaving in first
LOS ANGELES -- Nori Aoki struck the first chord in the Giants' 6-2 victory Saturday over the Los Angeles Dodgers. But as this happened, Giants manager Bruce Bochy decided that Aoki must leave San Francisco's ensemble prematurely.
Aoki sustained a bruise above his right ankle when he was hit there on the second pitch of the game by Dodgers starter Carlos Frias. X-rays taken of Aoki's leg revealed no fracture. Bochy rated Aoki's playing status as day to day. As long as he's idle, the Giants must function with the bare minimum of three outfielders -- Gregor Blanco, Angel Pagan and Justin Maxwell.
Frias' fastball smashed a nerve on Aoki's leg, causing numbness as well as pain. Though Aoki briefly remained in the game, his game yet gimpy trip to third base on Joe Panik's subsequent double convinced Bochy that the left fielder must leave the game. The fleet Aoki, who usually would have scored on Panik's hit, came home on Pagan's sacrifice fly before being removed from the game.
"I tried to play as long as I could," Aoki said through his interpreter, Kosuke Inaji. "Once I came back [to the dugout], the trainers took a look at it and said I ought to come out of the game."
To Aoki's peers, he had left his mark on what would become the Giants' fifth victory in a row over the Dodgers.
"He's a team player," said Giants right-hander Tim Hudson, who worked 6 1/3 innings and earned the decision. "Guys on the ballclub understand that they have to sacrifice some health to help you win."
Aoki has helped the Giants considerably. San Francisco's leadoff batter is hitting .317, including .343 (23-for-67) in his previous 16 games. He entered Saturday ranked among the National League's top 10 in hits, batting average, stolen bases and on-base percentage. He has appeared in all but three of San Francisco's 70 games.
Blanco, initially slated to start in right field, took Aoki's spot in left in the bottom of the first inning while Maxwell entered the game in right. Even Aoki's absence indirectly proved beneficial to the Giants, as Maxwell hit a two-run, tiebreaking homer in the fifth to give them a 4-2 lead.