"What he's doing at the plate is not surprising,'' Kirk Rueter said of Snow. "J.T. has always been a good hitter. He doesn't hit 30 homers, but he works the count and has great at-bats.''
Rueter breezed through seven innings, unscathed, giving up only five hits without allowing a run. For his career, the Giants are 116-26 in games when Woody has allowed three runs or less in an outing.
"He's pitched well lately and that's what we need right now," Dustin Hermanson said of Rueter. "We're going down to the wire. We're clawing at every game possible."
The Giants (84-66) needed to claw their way back in this particular game after Rueter departed with a 2-0 lead in favor of Dave Burba, who was uncharacteristically wild. Ramon Vazquez drew a leadoff walk on four pitches. The next batter, Terrance Long, took a first pitch high, prompting Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti to come out for a chat with Burba.
After Righetti returned to the dugout, Long sat dead-red on a fastball and got one belt-high from Burba, launching it deep to right center-field, tying the score at 2-2.
"It went out, surprisingly,'' Long said. "I've hit some good balls here, and they don't go out."
Suddenly, the lazy Sunday afternoon just got interesting. The next batter, Jay Payton, bunted for a single by out-running Burba, who tried to cover first base, but stumbled on the bag and rolled over on his left side. He left the game immediately, clutching his left shoulder.
A trio of relievers, Jim Brower, Scott Eyre, and closer Dustin Hermanson got one out each to keep the Padres (80-70) at bay, giving the Giants a chance to recapture the lead in the bottom of the eighth inning.
With the score tied 2-2 in the Giants' half of the eighth inning, Dustin Mohr led off with a hard liner to left-field off former Giant Scott Linebrink (7-3), but Xavier Nady slipped on the outfield grass and then bobbled the ball, allowing a hustling Mohr to take the extra 90 feet.
Cody Ransom tried to sacrifice Mohr over to third, but failed miserably when he bunted the ball back to the pitcher, who threw quickly to third base to get Mohr. Ransom atoned for his fundamental blunder by stealing second base, and then advanced to third base on an errant throw by catcher Ramon Hernandez.
With one out and a runner on third base, Padres manager Bruce Bochy had Michael Tucker intentionally walked to set up a force play, then called on Akinori Otsuka to relieve Linebrink. Alou then countered with his secret weapon, Barry Bonds, to the delight of the hometown crowd. The move was in anticipation of the Padres four-fingering Bonds to set up a bases loaded, one out situation, for the hot-hitting Snow.
Snow made the Padres pay when he sent an 0-2 pitch from Otsuka deep to left-field for a ground-rule double, pushing the Giants ahead, 4-2. In the five years of the ballpark's existence, some fans still do not get the notion of leaving balls in play because some "idiot," as Mike Krukow referred to, reached over the fence in left-field to take away a run from the Giants. As a result, only two runners scored on double from Snow, forcing Jason Ellison, who pinch-ran for Bonds, to return to third base.
Hermanson (6-6) made sure the Giants did not need the extra run as he pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning to notch his sixth win of the season.
The Giants have won seven of their last eight games and maintained their half-game lead over the Chicago Cubs in the National League wild-card race. Baseball analysts around the league have wondered aloud as to when the pitching-rich Cubs will overtake the Giants.
"I think a lot of people downgraded us a lot of years, so that doesn't bother me," said Rueter. "You have to go out and play, and it's not won by what the media thinks or what other experts think. Ever since I've been here we weren't able to do this or that."
Ever since Woody has been in San Francisco, the Giants have been winners, and they have been able to consistently make the postseason, despite what so-called critics have been predicting. If the Giants continue to pitch well and play sensational defense, the No. 1 offense in the league should be able to carry them into the playoffs.
"Every one of these games is going to be a playoff-type game," said an enthused Hermanson, "and that's what we're looking forward to. It's fun."
Hopefully the fun can continue against the wild-card contending Houston Astros, who open a three-game set at 24 Willie Mays Plaza beginning on Tuesday. At least we know Barry Bonds will be well-rested in welcoming back an old friend, Jeff Kent.
Game notes: The Mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom, was in attendance on Sunday and was seen chatting and laughing it up with Giants Chief Operating Officer Larry Baer… Ray Durham fouled a pitch off his shin early in the game, and then had to leave the game in the bottom of the sixth when he pulled up short after rounding first base on a single… Jerome Williams will be on a flight to Arizona Sunday evening to throw approximately 85 pitches on Monday. If all goes well, the Giants hope he can be ready for a possible start on Saturday against the Dodgers.
SFDugout.com player of the game: J.T. Snow, for his continued success after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee earlier this season. Snow has been the Giants best RBI hitter (next to Bonds of course) and will need to produce since it looks as though he will primarily assume the all-important role of No. 5 hitter down the stretch. He also made a few outstanding defensive plays, one in which he had to reach across his body to snag a line drive, then raced to first base to double up a runner.
Phil Delacruz was a transplanted Giants fan, buried in the Southland. After four strenuous years in College, studying (read: partying), he's back in the beautiful "City by the Bay" – San Francisco. Do you think he should move back to LALA land? Or do you like him where he is now and appreciate the good reads? Either way, send him an e-mail at email@example.com to air out your frustrations or, more likely, songs of praise.
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