Each starter was on his game, throwing up zeroes in the early innings. Rueter allowed a trio of hits and a walk through the first three but stranded all four runners, two in scoring position. Perez, meanwhile, mowed down the Giants' lineup without allowing a baserunner until Deivi Cruz's one-out single in the fourth. The hit was quickly erased on a 6-4-3 double play off the bat of Marquis Grissom, sending Barry Bonds, a spectator from the on-deck circle, back to the dugout.
The Dodgers broke through for a run in the top of the fifth. Free swinger Jose Hernandez walked to lead off the inning, setting up a bunt situation for Perez. Perez bunted the ball too hard back to Rueter, who quickly threw to Cruz to force Hernandez at second. With one out and Perez at first, Cesar Izturis singled to right field, where Dustan Mohr picked up the ball and lobbed it back into the infield to keep Perez at second base. However, a two-out single from Milton Bradley scored Perez, giving the Dodgers a 1-0 lead.
The Giants struck back in the bottom of the fifth with a leadoff double from Bonds and a run-scoring single off the bat of the suddenly red-hot Edgardo Alfonzo, tying the game at one apiece. After Rueter kept the Dodgers at bay in the top of the sixth, the Giants untied it with another run off Perez in their half of the inning. Ray Durham hit a ground-rule double to right field, and after Cruz bunted him over to third, Grissom brought him home with a bizarre fielder's choice that left the bases empty and the Giants in front.
With two out and one on in the seventh, Rueter was relieved by Jim Brower, who came in and retired Bradley on a comebacker, keeping Rueter in line for the win. After Neifi Perez pinch-hit for Brower in the bottom of the seventh, Scott Eyre was called into the game to face Shawn Green. Eyre did what he was brought in to do, retiring Green on a swing-through strike three, and was replaced by flame-thrower Felix Rodriguez. It was at that moment that home plate umpire Tim Welke reduced the strike zone to the size of a standard compact disc, and Paul Lo Duca drew a walk. After Rodriguez recorded the second out of the inning, closer Matt Herges became the third reliever of the inning to pitch out of Felipe Alou's oft-used bullpen. As the "Beat LA" chant resonated through the stadium, Herges closed the door on the Dodgers' eighth inning, finishing off Juan Encarnacion with a called third strike.
The Giants got a runner as far as third base in the bottom of the eighth but couldn't bring home the insurance run, leaving Herges no margin for error in the top of the ninth. Unfortunately, a one-out single by Jason Grabowski put the tying run on base for the top of the Dodgers' order. Herges' first wild pitch of 2004 put pinch-runner Dave Roberts in scoring position and took away the opportunity to turn a game-ending double play. Roberts went to third on a groundout, and with two away, Jayson Werth was the last hope for Los Angeles. Much to the dismay of the 41,000+ fans in attendance, he came through, grounding a single just past the outstretched gloves of Alfonzo and Ransom to tie the game at two. The outcome of the game grew more precarious still, as a walk to Milton Bradley, courtesy of Welke's creative strike zone, put the go-ahead run in scoring position for left-handed slugger Shawn Green. However, Herges struck out Green to send the game into the home half of the ninth.
Dodger manager Jim Tracy went with Guillermo Mota for the bottom of the inning and looked like a genius two quick outs later. However, Mohr smoked a ball off the glove of Adrian Beltre at third for a single, extending the inning for pinch-hitter Damon Minor. Mota lost the strike zone, walking Minor and then throwing four consecutive pitches outside the strike zone to Ray Durham. That loaded the bases for light-hitting shortstop Cody Ransom. To the utter disbelief of the majority of the spectators, Ransom wasted no time making himself the hero of the game, grounding the first pitch of the at-bat back up the middle and through into center field for a game-winning RBI single. The final was Giants 3, Dodgers 2, and the victory left the Giants within striking distance of the National League West lead.
Players of the Game: Kirk Rueter and Cody Ransom. Rueter pitched a dazzling game, limiting the Dodgers to a run in 6 2/3 innings. While the win will elude his record, he gave the Giants a huge boost and a legitimate chance to win, showing signs of the effectiveness he's lacked during the first three months of the season. Ransom came out of nowhere to give the Giants a huge victory, sending the San Francisco fans home happy with a game-winning single in his only at-bat.
Stephanie Moy is a diehard Giants fan, born and raised in the city by the bay. She welcomes comments, questions, criticism and praise at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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