"I got a little bit giddy," Kontos said of the moment he realized he had earned the decision.
Kontos' mood was quite the opposite when he replaced Barry Zito with one out in the third inning, Astros on first and second base and Houston trailing, 4-3. The right-hander had allowed 10 of his previous 19 inherited runners to score, an abysmal ratio. This time, he stranded both men.
"They [the Astros] had so much momentum going at that point and he stopped it," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "If that doesn't happen, then you're scrambling to get through the game."
Kontos launched a superb bullpen effort for the Giants, who remained 3 1/2 games in front of second-place Los Angeles in the National League West. Six relievers appeared -- each one but Sergio Romo -- and combined to limit Houston to one run and three hits in 6 2/3 innings. Though Jose Mijares initially appeared to falter by surrendering a sixth-inning RBI single, he recovered to strike out pinch-hitter Brian Bogusevic to leave the bases loaded.
Jeremy Affeldt, who returned from the birth of his third son in Spokane, Wash., to pitch a three-up, three-down seventh inning, praised Bochy's manipulation of the bullpen.
"It seemed like every matchup he had tonight worked," Affeldt said.
Javier Lopez functioned as the closer du jour, inducing a smash from pinch-hitter Jason Castro that first baseman Brandon Belt neatly short-hopped and converted into a game-ending, 3-6-3 double play.
Lopez presented that baseball to Kontos, who also received a lineup card and a congratulatory dousing of beer from fellow pitchers.
"They yelled at me to get in the [laundry] cart," said Kontos, who was led to the shower area to be drenched.
Hours earlier, Kontos couldn't have predicted that such an evening would unfold. When Zito's struggles deepened in the third inning and the bullpen phone rang, Kontos figured that Guillermo Mota, who typically occupied the long-relief role, would be summoned. But the call was for him.
"I got on the [bullpen] mound, threw five pitches and I was in the game. So I didn't really have time to think about anything," Kontos said.
Kontos served as an effective antidote for Zito, whose 2 1/3-inning effort equaled Tim Lincecum's April 11 outing at Colorado as the shortest by a Giants starter this year. Zito appeared to be fuming when Bochy removed him from the game, but the left-hander explained that his disgust was directed inward.
"These are must-win ballgames, and I didn't have it tonight," said Zito, who allowed three runs and seven hits. "My timing was off and that ended up in my command being off. I'm very upset with myself."
Zito lamented a pair of changeups he threw in the second inning that resulted in Chris Snyder's double and No. 8 hitter Brandon Barnes' RBI single. Zito indicated that he should have agreed with catcher Buster Posey on throwing different pitches.
"Posey had a great idea for hitters, but you can't always guess 100 percent of the time," said Zito, who typically works with Hector Sanchez behind the plate. "I'm upset I threw a couple of changeups, but it's my job to shake [off Posey]. ... It's just a matter of me throwing the pitch I want to throw."
Hunter Pence clobbered a pitch that Astros starter Dallas Keuchel (1-7) probably didn't want to throw for a three-run homer, which highlighted the Giants' four-run first inning. It was Pence's second homer as a Giant and his fourth in seven games against his former team.
The Giants received plenty of help from Houston in the sixth to score a pair of unearned runs, which proved essential. With two outs and a runner on first base, third baseman Scott Moore's throwing error put Pence on first base and moved Pablo Sandoval to third. Joaquin Arias hiked his August RBI total to 14 by tripling off the glove of left fielder Fernando Martinez, who barely missed making a sliding catch at the warning track. Arias is batting .426 this month, including .500 (12-for-24) during a seven-game hitting streak.