Montreal starter John Patterson kept the Giants off the board in the bottom of the first and then helped out his own cause with a run-scoring single in the second, extending the Expos' lead to three runs.
After cruising through the first three innings with ease, Patterson faltered in the fourth. Pedro Feliz opened the inning with a seeing-eye ground ball that found its way into center field for a single. Patterson came back to strike out Barry Bonds, but surrendered a ground-rule double to A.J. Pierzynski that, without the interference of an oblivious fan down the left field line, would likely have scored Feliz from first.
The interference, however, was quickly forgotten due to a two-run double off the bat of Marquis Grissom that put the Giants within striking distance of Montreal's lead. The Giants capitalized, rallying with two outs to draw back-to-back walks. With the bases loaded, Ray Durham battled Patterson for seven pitches before taking a 3-2 pitch for ball four, tying the game at three apiece.
J.T. Snow became the ninth hitter of the inning and, with the bases still loaded, took Patterson's 2-2 offering off the back foot to force in the go-ahead run for the Giants. With that pitch, Montreal manager Frank Robinson had seen enough, and young righty Francis Beltran came on in relief to retire Feliz for the final out of the inning.
Rueter couldn't hold the lead, allowing an RBI single to Gonzalez in the top of the fifth to even the score at four. However, the bottom of the fifth saw the wheels fall off in the field for Montreal as the hometown nine regained a one-run advantage against Beltran. A hit, a walk, a wild pitch, a steal, and two Expo errors contributed to the Giants' fifth run of the game.
After putting runners at first and second with one out in the top of the sixth, Rueter was lifted in favor of righty Tyler Walker, who got Einar Diaz to hit a comebacker, forcing an out at second, before handing the ball over to lefty Scott Eyre. Diaz stole second to give Montreal two runners in scoring position, but Endy Chavez went down swinging at a nasty 2-2 breaking ball, sending his bat flying as Eyre pumped his fists for a dramatic end to a tense sixth inning.
Rebounding bullpenner Matt Herges escaped trouble in the top of the seventh inning, stranding runners at the corners to keep the Giants in front. Jim Brower, making his career-high 65th appearance on the year, was not so lucky in the eighth. Following a leadoff single, National League Player of the Week Nick Johnson, dumped a single in front of Michael Tucker in right field to set up a bunt for Diaz.
Diaz came through, and left-handed reliever Jason Christiansen came in. With runners at second and third and only one out, Chavez found himself staring an RBI in the face and executed, getting a two-strike pitch airborne for a game-tying sacrifice fly. Still with a runner in scoring position, the Expos had a chance to take the lead.
A walk to pinch-hitter Jamey Carroll brought Brad Wilkerson to the plate. Christiansen's first pitch to Wilkerson was smoked toward first base, ticketed for the right field corner, but six-time Gold Glover Snow was there. He drew the loudest cheers of the night with a leaping catch of the ball, keeping the game tied.
Three batters later, the Giants untied it. Ricky Ledee delivered an RBI single, and Feliz contributed a sacrifice fly to extend the lead to two. Pierzynski added another insurance run with a two-out single to give newly anointed closer Dustin Hermanson breathing room in the ninth.
Three runs proved more than adequate for Hermanson, who converted his fourth save in as many chances with a quick, remarkably easy 1-2-3 inning. With the victory, their fifth in a row, the Giants took the lead in the National League Wild Card race. They now stand at a half game in front of the Chicago Cubs and are one game up on divisional rival San Diego.
SFDugout's Players of the Game: The Giants' win was truly a team effort. However, among many heroes, J.T. Snow and the contributing members of the relief staff should be acknowledged. The bullpen, one of the worst in the National League this year, performed very effectively for the third consecutive night. After Rueter was pulled in the sixth inning, Felipe Alou called on six different relievers to close out the game, and they kept the Giants in the game, allowing just a run. Snow, 1-4 with an RBI at the plate, saved the game in the field with a spectacular game-saving catch to end the eighth inning, and extended his hitting streak to ten games.
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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