SAN FRANCISCO -- Several Giants this season have shared the status of being The Man, the performer whom teammates look to for a key hit in a critical moment. Aubrey Huff, Buster Posey and Juan Uribe have shouldered that responsibility most often for San Francisco. Now it's Pat Burrell's turn. Burrell continued to rescue the Giants, driving in three runs and breaking an eighth-inning tie Wednesday night with a home run that propelled San Francisco to a 5-4 victory over the Chicago Cubs.
The Giants have won only three of their last eight games. Burrell has been directly responsible for each of those triumphs. He launched sacrifice flies to drive in the winning runs last Friday at Atlanta and in Monday's series opener against the Cubs. Include the 2-1 decision on July 31 over Los Angeles that Burrell settled with a two-run homer, and he has accounted for the game-winning RBIs in four of the Giants' last six victories. It barely needs to be repeated that each win is essential under the current circumstances. The Giants remained 2 1/2 games behind first-place San Diego in the National League West and regained the top spot in the Wild Card competition, a game ahead of Cincinnati and Philadelphia. Burrell is fully relishing the moment. After being cast aside by Tampa Bay in mid-May, he cherishes returning to the National League, joining the team he rooted for while growing up in the South Bay and participating in a postseason bid, which he grew accustomed to when he played for Philadelphia from 2000-08. "Getting an opportunity to come here, I'm very thankful for it," said Burrell, who also lashed a two-run single in the first inning. "Then to be able to contribute and get back into a pennant race, I couldn't ask for anything more than that. I'm more than excited to be here. Hopefully we can continue to roll." These aren't just words that sound good. Burrell means everything he says. Television cameras caught his exuberant reaction to Aaron Rowand's sixth-inning home run, which gave the Giants a brief 4-3 lead. "He has that young fire in a veteran type of mentality. It's a great mix," said Giants left-hander Barry Zito, who allowed all of Chicago's runs in 6 1/3 innings and received no decision. "He wants it really bad. That's what we need right now, some guys stepping up and having that hunger to get to October." Burrell's intensity manifested itself as he led off the eighth inning against Cubs rookie right-hander Justin Berg (0-1). With the score deadlocked, 4-4, Burrell drove Berg's 1-2 pitch over the left-field wall for his 10th homer of the season and eighth since joining the Giants in early June. Burrell is batting .356 (16-for-45) in his last 15 games. Ten of those hits have gone for extra bases. Demonstrating the discipline that relatively few of his teammates share, Burrell entered the game averaging 4.19 pitches per plate appearance as a Giant. "All he does is have professional at-bats every at-bat," Giants closer Brian Wilson said. "He seems to always come up in the situation where it calls for a big hit and he comes through. There in the eighth inning, that's why we picked him up." Burrell also excelled in left field. With two outs in the second inning and Blake DeWitt on first base, Burrell pounced on Welington Castro's double and flung an accurate relay to Uribe, whose strong throw from short left field beat DeWitt home. Buster Posey stood his ground with DeWitt bearing down on him and withstood the collision that left the Cub with a bloody lip. Before Burrell's big hit, Rowand's long ball off Cubs starter Tom Gorzelanny loomed large. Six of his 10 homers have tied the score or put the Giants ahead. "I threw him a changeup that he was way out in front of and I should've thrown it again," Gorzelanny said. "I probably should've thrown two more to try to strike him out. We tried to go in to get him off the plate a little bit and I left it over the middle and that's what happens. It happens to everybody. You second-guess yourself. You try to execute the pitch the best way you can and sometimes guys are on them." San Francisco's relievers avoided such lapses. Sergio Romo (5-3) struck out two in 1 2/3 innings before Wilson recorded his 33rd save, matching San Diego's Heath Bell for the Major League lead. "I'm not leading anything," Wilson said. "This team is leading the league in outscoring the other team. I have nothing. I'm doing my best to come in the dugout with a win. Your main goal should be to win the game, no matter if it's by 10 or by one. Saves come later." Lately, Burrell has proven capable of saving the Giants, too.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.