Vizquel's blast powers Giants

Vizquel's blast powers Giants' 10,000th

LOS ANGELES -- The Giants' 10,000th victory came at the perfect time.

The formula was almost too predictable -- six strong innings by Jason Schmidt, a few nice defensive plays, clutch hitting in the late innings -- but the big blow was anything but conventional.

Omar Vizquel, he of the one home run in 318 prior at-bats this season, drove an 0-2 pitch from Dodgers reliever D.J. Houlton off the right-field foul pole for a tie-breaking, three-run homer in the seventh. The unlikely long ball gave the Giants a 4-3 win and made them the first professional sports team in North American history to total 10,000 wins.

It also gave San Francisco a feel-good win in its first game since the All-Star break. After a 50-loss first half, the Giants were excited to start the stretch run on the right foot.

"Coming in to the second half, this is huge, to get a win here," said Tyler Walker, who pitched a scoreless ninth for his 14th save. "We played good defense, we pitched well, so overall it was a great team game."

Schmidt (7-5), who allowed four hits and one run in six innings while striking out seven, broke a two-start losing streak and pulled the Giants within 1 1/2 games of the third-place Dodgers in the National League West standings, putting San Francisco nine games behind the division-leading Padres.

"It's a great way to start the second half for us and it's a huge lift for everyone," Schmidt said. "Look at what Houston's done this year and last year. ... We've always been a second-half team, historically."

The Giants are 227-139 (.620) after the All-Star break since 2000, the second-best mark in baseball. The injury-depleted 2005 squad is a different group than the powerhouses that preceded it, but it nonetheless found a way to get things done Thursday.

After Jason Ellison reached on first baseman Jeff Kent's second error of the game with one out in the seventh, rookie Adam Shabala came through with a pinch-hit single, setting the stage for Vizquel's big blow.

"The rookie, Shabala, did a heck of a job getting on base to keep it going," Schmidt said. "[Omar] hasn't been hitting home runs all season, but he's been getting big clutch hits all year."

Vizquel's homer came on a low, inside fastball and flew directly into the screen on the foul pole, tagging Houlton (4-3) with three unearned runs and the loss.

The Giants were fortunate that Houlton was in the game to surrender the blow. Dodgers starter Brad Penny allowed only one hit in three shutout innings, but was ejected by home plate umpire Rob Drake for arguing a call by first base umpire Alfonso Marquez.

After Jason Repko walked leading off the third, Penny attempted a sacrifice bunt but beat it out after Schmidt's throw to second base was too late to nab Ellison. Penny, though, veered slightly to the left after beating out the fielder's choice, and second baseman Ray Durham tagged Penny before he returned to the bag for the inning's first out.

Penny was initially speechless but soon engaged in an argument with Marquez. On his way to the dugout, he threw his helmet, and Drake ejected Penny -- after which the big right-hander chased after Drake and nearly bumped into him several times while being restrained.

"He said, 'Alfonso is [cheating] me' and he slammed his helmet," Drake said. "He was complaining the whole way back. We gave him a long leash, he ejected himself."

Penny has been the Dodgers' best starter this season, and the Giants were glad to see him knocked out of the game, regardless of how it came about.

"He was throwing pretty hard, today the fastball was jumping out of his hand," Vizquel said. "But obviously he had a pretty big impact on his team because they had to bring in a guy who was cold."

Houlton was given a 1-0 lead in the fourth when Antonio Perez singled, stole second, took third on a wild pitch and scored on a Jason Grabowski single. The Giants equalized the score in the sixth when J.T. Snow, Moises Alou and Durham singled consecutively with two outs. One inning later, Vizquel became the latest batter to connect when down in the count against Houlton. Four of the seven homers hit against the Rule 5 draftee have come with two strikes, including two on 0-2 counts.

"A lot of pitchers, they try to run a four-seamer inside for strike three," Alou said. "But I've seen [Vizquel] burn a lot of them."

Vizquel said he was only being defensive at the plate and trying to put the ball in play; the homer was a pleasant surprise, to say the least.

"Every time you look to hit a home run, you hit a weak ground ball," he said, "so every time I hit a home run, it's a mistake."

Vizquel's mistake seemed an especially beautiful one when the Dodgers scored two runs off Scott Munter in the bottom of the seventh to make it a one-run game. LaTroy Hawkins escaped the seventh after allowing one of two inherited runners to score and pitched a perfect eighth to set things up for Walker.

The Giants have a long second half in front of them, but they hope that when they look back at the end of the year, Thursday's win will be notable not only for being the 10,000th in franchise history, but also for being the first step toward a resurgent second half.

"Coming into the second half, this is huge," Walker said. "We played good defense, we pitched well, so overall it was a good team game."

Mark Thoma is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.