For the first time in three months, the San Francisco Giants were the leaders of the pack. They ran laps around the San Diego Padres over the first three games of the series, but ran out of gas, failing to complete the four-game sweep.
The Padres (51-47) needed 12 innings to beat the Giants, 6-5, Sunday afternoon at 24 Willie Mays Plaza. With the win, San Diego reclaimed the NL West, albeit with a loose grip a half game lead over the G-Men.
“I've been around the block a few years,” the 71-year-old manager Felipe Alou told reporters after the game. “You have a winning streak and play a good team you're about to sweep, and anything can happen.”
The Giants (51-48) were on the verge of a sweep, making something happen in an eighth-inning rally against setup man extraordinaire Scott Linebrink.
The San Diego reliever allowed consecutive hits to the newly-acquired Shea Hillenbrand, Ray Durham, Steve Finley, and finally Pedro Feliz, who drove home the tying and go-ahead runs.
However, San Francisco failed to tack on another insurance run on the play Finley got caught in a rundown between third base and home plate but settled for a slim 5-4 margin.
“When I slipped, they pretty much caught me in no-man's land,” Finley told MLB.com. “I was trying to stop and go back [to third]. When I saw the ball go over the catcher, I didn't think there would be anybody there to get it, but the pitcher scooped it straight up. I tried to stop, but my feet just went out from under me.
“In retrospect, I really should've kept going. It really would've been a tough play to make without a glove on.”
To his credit, Finley used his own gold glove to make several nice plays in center field, but no play could have been sweeter than collecting his 2,500th hit in the eighth inning.
“It's really just another hit,” the 17-year veteran said. “But yeah, it was a nice milestone. Unfortunately, it was in a loss. We have nothing to hold our heads about in this game. We had our chances, they had their chances. We just didn't get it done.”
The Pads, meanwhile, managed to get it done against reliever Brian Wilson. The rookie right-hander served up a 12th inning leadoff triple to Mike Cameron, who then scored the eventual winning run on a sacrifice fly by former Giant Eric Young.
“We needed it bad,” Cameron told the Associated Press. “Stopping the losing streak was the most important thing. ... I finally was able to get the ball by Finley. Leading off the inning gave us a couple of opportunities.”
San Francisco squandered their own opportunities in the extra frames, but would not have had to extend the game had stopper Armando Benitez closed the game in regulation.
The Giants reliever served up a game-tying homer to outfielder Terrmel Sledge, who was the second player to test positive for steroids back in 2003 (Brewers closer Derrick Turnbow was the first).
“One mistake,” said Benitez, who was 7-for-7 in save opportunities this month. “It costs the game. I don't have an excuse. He beat me. So, we'll see next time. I'm upset with myself.
“I made a mistake, because we got this guy (Sledge, who) keeps fouling off fastballs, sinkers, fastballs ... and I decided to throw the split. He got me. Hey, I tip him my hat.”
The G-Men can do nothing but tip their hats to the Padres as they pack their road uniforms and head to the East Coast for a six-game trip.
San Francisco will open a three-game set at the nation’s capital when they visit the Nationals Tuesday. The Giants will send Matt Morris (8-7, 4.42 ERA) against Nats right-hander Ramon Ortiz (6-9, 4.73 ERA).
Game Notes: Starter Jamey Wright failed to reach the sixth frame, giving up four runs in 5 1/3 innings. … Reliever Vinnie Chulk made his Giants debut and quickly paid dividends by inducing an inning-ending double play in the eighth. He was in line to pick up the victory before Benitez blew his fifth save of the season… Shea Hillenbrand made a nice diving stop in the tenth, getting fully extended and lunging parallel to the ground. … Pedro Feliz made a fantastic play from his bottom as he threw out the speedy Dave Roberts while sitting from across the diamond. … San Francisco fell short of their first four-game sweep since June 21-24, 2004 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. … Prior to the game, the Giants held their 13th annual “Until There’s a Cure Day.” Since its inception in 1994, the G-Men have raised $1.1 million toward HIV/AIDS education, care and research.
Quoteable: “The support (in Toronto) was good given the circumstances, but we only averaged about 15,000 to 20,000 people a night. And to come here to (San Francisco), a packed crowd last night, and hit behind the best player to play the game, it's a great feeling. It's unbelievable.” Shea Hillenbrand told MLB.com on Sunday.
SFDugout.com player of the game: We give the nod to the ageless Steve Finley, who is still spry enough to collect his 2,500th base hit. Finley becomes the 82nd player in the game to accomplish the feat.
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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