Burrell's big fly caps Giants' huge month

Burrell's big fly caps Giants' huge month

SAN FRANCISCO -- There couldn't have been a more fitting end to July for the Giants than what happened Saturday afternoon at AT&T Park.

After all of July's highlights -- late-inning road wins, Buster Posey's 21-game hitting streak, Andres Torres' continued breakout season and dominant pitching performances -- San Francisco ended the month with one that is sure to please Giants fans.

Winning a series against the Dodgers.

With two outs in the bottom of the eighth, Pat Burrell hit a 3-2 fastball from Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton into the left-field seats, giving the Giants a 2-1 win.

"That's why Pat's here," said Aubrey Huff of his college buddy, who signed with the Giants on May 29. "Professional at-bats, situations like that, playoff experience -- he doesn't panic up there and he brought that up there. ... He got the pitch he wanted and hit it hard."

The win was San Francisco's 20th of the month, the first time a Giants team has hit that mark since September 2000. It truly was a remarkable month, considering the transformation the Giants underwent in the past 31 days.

On July 1, the Giants were a fourth-place team with a record of 40-38, sitting 5 1/2 games behind San Diego in the National League West.

After Saturday's comeback win, the Giants, record-wise, were the second-best team in the National League at 60-45, 1 1/2 games behind San Diego in the division and two ahead of Cincinnati in the Wild Card race.

In between, the Giants went 20-8, winning 19 of their last 24 and 20 of their past 26.

Of course, amidst all of July's success, it's easy to forget the month started by losing three of four to Colorado, including a gut-wrenching 15-inning loss on July 4.

"After that game, it could've went either way. We could've folded," Huff said. "But we didn't."

Instead, the Giants swept the Brewers in a four-game series and stayed hot, even through the All-Star break. Now, they're one of the most dangerous teams in the league.

"We're playing really good ball right now and we just want to keep it rolling," Huff said. "You've got to ride the highs as long as you can. The lows, they come every now and then, so we've just go to keep going."

The Giants almost ended July on a low note, when both offenses were almost completely quieted by Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley and Giants starter Barry Zito, who combined to allow only five hits.

The only run before Burrell's homer came in the seventh, when Dodgers third baseman Casey Blake homered.

Dodgers left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo relieved Billingsley in the seventh and retired the first two batters in the eighth inning before hitting Buster Posey, who, earlier in the game, recorded his 43rd hit of the month, the most by a Giants rookie in one calendar month in team history.

Despite home-plate umpire Rob Drake issuing warnings to each team, neither Giants manager Bruce Bochy nor Posey thought Kuo hit the rookie intentionally. If, for some reason, Kuo did, the Giants got the last laugh, as Broxton (3-3) entered to face Burrell, who hit his sixth homer of the season.

"I was fine. I just fell behind and there's no room for a mistake right there and he got me," Broxton said. "I didn't see the video, but it was probably right down the middle. I couldn't take the chance of walking him. Any of these [blown saves] are terrible."

Guillermo Mota earned the win, pitching the final 1 2/3 innings with All-Star closer Brian Wilson unavailable for the second straight day with back spasms. Mota (1-3) struck out Russell Martin to end the game, sending the AT&T Park crowd into a frenzy.

Burrell, who prepped in San Jose, said the atmosphere Saturday was exactly what he remembered as a kid while watching the Giants and Dodgers at Candlestick Park.

"They're a good team, we're a real good team, and we're both fighting to catch another good team, so every game's important at this point," Burrell said. "Obviously the excitement level is a little high with the Dodgers, no doubt, so we won the series and we have a chance tomorrow to finish this thing out."

Cash Kruth is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.