Giants ride big fourth inning to victory

Giants ride big fourth inning to victory

Giants ride big fourth inning to victory
PITTSBURGH -- After losing the lead and the game in each of their last two times out, the Giants decided to see what life is like on the other side Friday at PNC Park.

Faced with an early three-run deficit, San Francisco batted around in the fourth inning en route to scoring five runs. That bolstered a so-so start by Barry Zito, who was credited with a victory in the Giants' 6-5 win over the Pirates in the first of a three-game weekend series.

"The guys bounced back good. We got down. Zito was battling," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "They got an early lead, but the club did a great job of putting together a big inning.

"I give Z credit. He stayed out of the real big inning and kept the damage at a minimum and gave us a chance."

Zito gave up four runs in five innings. He didn't put his best foot forward to start the game, surrendering three straight singles to the top of Pittsburgh's lineup. A double play and a strikeout, however, let him limit the harm in the first inning to one run.

After breezing through the second inning, Zito (7-6) again ran into trouble against the top of the Pirates' order in the third. Leadoff hitter Josh Harrison drew a four-pitch walk, and two batters later, Andrew McCutchen tripled to the deepest part of the ballpark for his second RBI of the game. The Pirates' All-Star center fielder scored from third when Neil Walker doubled off the left-field wall.

"I was just missing off the plate a few times. They hit a couple decent pitches, especially in the first inning," Zito said. "They hit some 2-1 curveballs, pitches that normally don't get squared up. I had to make some adjustments, but the boys came out swinging."

Not to be outdone by McCutchen, All-Star starter Melky Cabrera loudly announced his presence in the fourth innng by tying the game with a two-run homer off Pirates starter Erik Bedard. The Giants put themselves on the scoreboard in the previous at-bat, when Ryan Theriot doubled in leadoff hitter Justin Christian, who walked to lead off the frame.

The Giants grabbed the lead later in the fourth after Hector Sanchez singled to left with men on the corners. They extended it when Joaquin Arias hit a sharp grounder that Harrison couldn't field properly at shortstop.

"They're not just cashing it in and sitting back, waiting for something to happen. They're making it happen," Zito said about his run support. "That home run Melky hit was a huge lift for the team, and everyone else added in their spots. It was just indicative of this team. We just fight it out [for] nine innings."

All in all, the Giants sent 10 batters to the box in the fourth inning. They plated five and knocked Bedard (4-10) out of the game. The Pirates' starter left after just 3 2/3 innings, having allowed five runs, four of which were earned.

"The fourth was bad all around," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "The breaking ball [to Cabrera] he probably wanted to get lower. Then the ball was elevated the rest of the inning. He threw 37 pitches, far too many to try to get through an inning. We'll look at some tape, try to help him figure some things out over the break."

Working with a two-run lead, Zito gave one back in the fifth inning. He presented a pitch up in the zone to Casey McGehee, who went the other way with it for a home run. San Francisco got the run back on a sacrifice fly by Theriot in the seventh, but the Bucs equalized it in the eighth with a 457-foot blast by Pedro Alvarez that came against reliever Javier Lopez with nobody on.

"Definitely wasn't a cheapie, that's for sure. It was very well hit," Lopez said. "I figure it's one run, as far as I'm concerned. Might as well give it up, and make it big. I'm happy it went 457."

Other relievers who saw action Friday included Brad Penny -- who pitched two scoreless innings -- and George Kontos and Sergio Romo, each of whom pitched a perfect frame. Romo came in to close the ninth and shut down Eric Fryer, Drew Sutton and McCutchen in order to pick up his fifth save.

"I had to go through two guys before I saw [McCutchen], and that was what I was focused on," Romo said. "Once he stepped in the box, yeah, it's me and him. That's how it is against everybody. ... I take pride in being able to get guys like that out."

McCutchen, who came into the series opener with a .00011 edge over Cabrera in the National League batting race, went 3-for-5 to push his average to .360. Cabrera, meanwhile, is now hitting .358 after going 2-for-4 Friday. Cabrera still leads the league in hits with 118, but McCutchen is close behind with 108.

"Great players, both of them," Bochy said. "You're seeing two talented guys doing what they have the ability to do, and that's hit the baseball. Their guy did. Our guy had a good night, too."

The Giants own a 3-1 record against the Pirates this season. On Friday, they became the first visiting team to record a five-run inning at PNC Park all year. Their win in the series opener snapped a three-game losing streak.

Mark Emery is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.