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Aoki sparks Giants at top of the order

PHILADELPHIA -- Disappointment mingled with satisfaction for Nori Aoki after his scintillating performance Saturday in the Giants' 7-5 triumph over the Philadelphia Phillies.

Executing his responsibilities as San Francisco's leadoff batter to the fullest, Aoki reached base safely in all five of his plate appearances. He went 3-for-3, scored a run and drove in another besdies drawing a walk and being hit by a pitch. His on-base percentage rose from .385 to .398. Entering Saturday, only Miami's Dee Gordon had reached base more than Aoki among Major League leadoff men.

The circumstances surrounding Aoki's effort made his contributions even more impressive. He sat out Friday's game with the flu, marking only the third game he missed this season. And, as Aoki said through his interpreter, Kosuke Inaji, "You don't get better from the flu in one day."

For Aoki, the lingering effect of the illness may have been more emotional than physical. Being unable to play nagged him worse than any virus.

"I kind of let the team down yesterday," Aoki said. When a reporter mentioned that it's OK to get sick once in a while, Aoki acknowledged that, but added that his job demands his being available for the team. Thus, he concluded, "I wasn't able to do that up to my standards."

Nevertheless, many players would struggle to improve upon Aoki's productivity, on Saturday and overall this season. Giants second baseman Joe Panik, who usually bats behind Aoki, notices the anxiety the left fielder awakens among opposing pitchers when he reaches base.

"Because of his speed, he plays with the pitcher's mind a little bit," said Panik, who frequently sees pitchers miss their spots when Aoki gets aboard. "It makes such a difference."

Chris Haft is a reporter for Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.
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