Rewind: Giants at Cubs, Game 3

It comes with the territory. Big-league managers draw criticism from all directions -- the armchair quarterbacks watching on TV, the Internet junkies posting on message boards and the bleacher bums braving the cold nights at the ballpark.

There are times, however, when managers second-guess even themselves.

Giants skipper Felipe Alou ultimately thought well to insert Omar Vizquel into Sunday’s contest, one which saw the San Francisco shortstop go 3-for-5 with three RBI.

“There was a feeling here that he would get the day off,” Alou told the AP of his decision to keep Vizquel in the Giants lineup. “I resisted that feeling.”

Sometimes it’s better to go with your gut feeling.

As it turns out, Vizquel started and sparked San Francisco with all his brilliance, enthusiasm and foot speed, catapulting the Giants to a 7-4 victory over the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

“He's indispensable,” Alou told MLB.com of the gold glove shortstop. “He woke up the team (Sunday) with that (fifth-inning) triple to tie the game.”

Alou was alluding to the 2-2 tie in the fifth frame when Vizquel hit one of his two triples to knock in two runs. Shea Hillenbrand then extended the lead in the same inning after depositing a Michael Wuertz (1-1) pitch into the left field bleachers to cap a four-run inning.

The Giants tacked on two more runs in the later frames to provide starter Jason Schmidt with some much-needed run support. The right-hander cruised through seven strong innings, while allowing three runs on eight hits.

Schmidt (11-8) struck out five and walked two batters before departing with 112 pitches under his belt. The ace was asked after the game about Vizquel’s impact.

“Incredible,” he told the AP of the 39-year-old shortstop. “I've heard over the years how good he is, and then you get him on your team. Last year he was pretty good... this year (the same) -- it's amazing. He gets better every year.

“He's had a career-year hitting,” said Schmidt. “How many guys do that at age 39?”

Vizquel offered his take on how he’s managed to hit .309 overall for the season with four homers, 50 RBI and a team-high 24 stolen bases

“It's just because I play a lot of games,” he told MLB.com. “I treat my body real hard during the season, and when September comes I get a little tired. I think it's normal. There's not too many players who feel better in September than they do in April.”

One Giants player who might disagree is Barry Bonds, who is feeling better now than he ever has this season. The slugger hit his 729th career homerun – his second in as many days – slowly silencing critics that his bat speed has slowed and his career is done.

“He could have a promising September with his swing,” Alou told MLB.com. “He's the key. There are good things coming from him, and that keeps him in the lineup. He feels better about himself, his swings and his workouts.”

Any hope of the Giants taking this race into the final days of the season begins and ends with Bonds so it’s comforting to see the 7-time MVP discover a renaissance in his game.

Over his last 11 games, he is 16-for-32 with three doubles, five homers, nine RBIs and 10 walks. With 21 homers this season, he is tied with Ray Durham for the team lead.

“We all know the situation of what he's trying to do,” said Schmidt, who beat the Cubs for the seventh straight time since 2000. “Having him in the lineup, doing what he's doing now, he's starting to get hot again and be the Barry of old. He's really picked up our offense. It's done a 180.”

The Giants hope to do 180 on their season as they climb toward .500 and the top of the NL West.

San Francisco takes their show on the road again as they wind up in Cincinnati for a three-game set. The G-men will send righty Brad Hennessey (5-4, 3.70 ERA) against the Reds Aaron Harang (13-10, 3.75 ERA).

Quoteable: “Hopefully, I can maintain my swing and maintain everything I've done the whole season. This is the best month to play, but it gets tougher and tougher. I've got to fight and stay consistent.” – Omar Vizquel told the San Francisco Chronicle on Sunday.

Game Notes:
Moises Alou has some serious ownage against Reds Game 1 starter Aaron Harang. In 11 career at-bats, Alou has three homeruns with a 5 RBI and a .455 batting average. … Armando Benitez has been given lubricating injections along with anti-inflammatory drugs, but rest will benefit him the most. … Mike Stanton picked up his second save in as many games. … The Giants have won 14 of their last 20 games. …

SFDugout.com player of the game: The ageless Omar Vizquel, who continues to display passion for the game and an undistinguished fervor for picking up his teammates with his charming personality. Go Omar!



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 phildelacruz@aol.com to air out your frustrations or, more likely, songs of praise.

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