SAN FRANCISCO – Giants manager Bruce Bochy didn’t always play Brandon Belt against left-handed pitchers. He sure as heck didn’t bat him third in the lineup.
On Saturday, Bochy did both. It was an obvious decision, since Belt was the only guy in the lineup making loud contact.
It seems like forever since the Giants have gotten more than one hitter in a hot streak at a time. So even when Belt stayed sizzling with a ground-rule double in the sixth inning, the club needed someone else to step up and complete the rally.
Hunter Pence did, slapping a tiebreaking, two-run double into the right field corner. The bullpen, one pitch to Chris Davis aside, was outstanding in four relief innings of Chad Gaudin, and Sergio Romo retired the major leagues’ leading home run hitter for the final out to save a 3-2 victory Saturday at AT&T Park.
Marco Scutaro hit a tying single in the sixth and Belt, who is 13 for 28 in August, followed with his double that set up the winning rally.
Starting pitching report
Gaudin held the Orioles to an unearned run over five innings, lowering his ERA to 2.60 in his 11 starts. Gaudin also has a 1.69 ERA in 17 games (six starts) at AT&T Park.
He struck out six and had plenty of run and cut on his fastball, which also made his pitches hard to control at times. But the National League can be kind at times; Gaudin followed a single and two walks by striking out backup catcher Taylor Teagarden, then getting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen to ground back to the mound to escape the second inning.
A leadoff walk lto Nate McLouth led to an unearned run in the third, though, when Belt followed a tremendous play with an aggressive mistake. He made a diving stop of Chris Davis’ hard grounder, then tried for the force at second base. His throw hit McLouth in the back for an error that put runners at second and third with one out. Adam Jones followed with a sacrifice fly that gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead.
Gaudin retired eight of the final nine batters he faced and threw 93 pitches in his five innings. With his spot due up second in the sixth, Bochy took him out as part of a double switch.
Guillermo Moscoso threw two vitally important scoreless innings, working out of one jam that included an apparent blown call by second base umpire Todd Tichenor.
Then Santiago Casilla entered after the Giants took the lead and promptly got blasted by Chris Davis. The left-handed slugger hit his major league leading 42nd home run, and it was one of the longest in recent years at AT&T Park. The drive landed at least a dozen rows deep in the center field bleachers and cut the Giants’ lead to 3-2.
Nick Markakis hit a one-out single and J.J. Hardy followed with an infield hit that shortstop Joaquin Arias gloved deep to his right. Markakis barely beat Arias’ throw to second base.
But Casilla flipped a 2-2 curveball that struck out a protesting Ryan Flaherty, then pinch hitter Matt Wieters struck out to end the threat.
Romo allowed a leadoff single to pinch hitter Henry Urutia to start the ninth, but retired the next three hitters – including Davis on a ground out to second base – to record his 28th save in 32 chances.
At the plate
The Giants slept through the first five innings. They only had one baserunner – a Belt single in the first – and made outs with almost embarrassing speed against Chen.
Jeff Francoeur saw two pitches in two at-bats before he was replaced after five innings. Pablo Sandoval saw six pitches in his first three at-bats.
But Andres Torres singled to begin the sixth and Gregor Blanco, who entered in left field to start the inning, executed a sacrifice bunt. Then leadoff man Scutaro came through with a tying single to left field – his first RBI since the All-Star break.
Scutaro’s RBI single was the kick to the air conditioner the Giants needed. Belt kept the inning going with his two-out drive that bounced off the track and into the stands for a ground-rule double – a bad break, since Scutaro would’ve scored easily from first base. But the Giants didn’t rue the bad break. They made their own luck, as Pence followed an intentional walk to Buster Posey by slapping a tiebreaking, two-run double into the right field corner.
Prior to that swing, Pence had just one RBI in his previous 14 games.
The infield shift didn’t work for the Giants against Davis, and not just on the home run. A foul pop turned into an adventure in the fifth because Pablo Sandoval was playing almost over second base and catcher Buster Posey, apparently forgetting that fact, took his eye off the ball. Davis ended up hitting a fly out to center field, though.
The Giants announced 41,315 paid, and fans received a 2-for-1 coupon on Virgin America, which flies nonstop from San Francisco to Chicago. That’s roughly where Davis’ home run landed.
The Giants and Orioles conclude their three-game interleague series on Sunday at AT&T Park. Matt Cain (7-7, 4.47 ERA) is scheduled to oppose right-hander and Bay Area native Bud Norris (8-9, 3.78). First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. PDT.