SAN FRANCISCO -- This could have been one of the coolest nights of Noah Lowry's pitching life, heading for the second shutout and third complete game of his career, blowing away the San Diego Padres with mechanical precision on Thursday night. That didn't happen. But even though the shutout evaporated and Lowry was forced to leave the ninth with one out, watching San Francisco take a 9-3 victory over the Friars at AT&T Park and rush to within 1 1/2 games of the National League West leaders was special nevertheless.
Hang the complete game. Who cares about the blanking? It hardly mattered on this electric night, when Barry Bonds blasted his 14th homer of the season -- and 722nd of his career -- while rookie first sacker Chad Santos hit his first Major League homer and Ray Durham and Pedro Feliz followed Bonds' blow in the eighth with solo homers of their own. The Giants have won three straight games for the seventh time this year, but they have yet to break through for four consecutive victories. That could change on Friday as there's been a palpable buoyant air, a new spirit, following a rare team meeting on Tuesday. There's a gusher of competitive juices flowing. "I felt pretty good going into the ninth," said Lowry. "I wanted to go out and finish it no matter what the score was. But it's a win, and that's all that mattered." Lowry said there's an upbeat attitude permeating the team now, a one-for-all, all-for-one mentality. He can feel it, touch it. "It's a new mentality here and everybody is believing in what we talked about," said Lowry. "Everybody's buying into what we talked about. It's a different feeling, to tell you the truth." And different pitching by Lowry, who fixed minor mechanical flaws in his delivery in the bullpen and pitched one of his best games of the year, scattering six hits and shutting down the Padres for his first eight innings. "The results were there today, and it was a big game for us," he said. "We had everything working tonight when we needed it, especially with runners on base." Shortstop Omar Vizquel, who continues to display zest at age 39, wowed the sellout crowd of 42,047 with a perfect suicide squeeze in the three-run fifth, with Randy Winn dashing home and Vizquel safe at first. "That's part of the things I've been talking about," said Vizquel. "Get something going on the bases, try to force a play. I think it's good that things are happening lately. It was certainly a special night for Santos, as wife Jessica and 15 family members were in the stands, visiting from his hometown of Kaneohe in Oahu, Hawaii. They waved huge signs, "Santos, #14" and "Aloha," and cheered everything the rookie did. And he did a lot. Along with his first Major League home run, the 24-year-old Santos also made two sparkling plays at first base. "All the family came in for this one game," said Jessica, who had never attended a Major League game and was thrilled with her husband's shot to center field. "It brought tears to my eyes. Everyone's so happy. I've been telling everyone to quiet down because it echoes in here. I've been trying to make them keep quiet, but they can't control themselves." Santos, called up on Sunday from Triple-A Fresno, ripped a line drive that same day for his first big-league hit and made his first start on Monday. In his second at-bat, his group and surroundings fans chanted, "Let's go Santos," then clapped when he drew a walk. The rookie's two-run homer off Padres starter Chan Ho Park (6-6) came in the second -- to the amazement of Santos himself, much less his cheering section. "All cousins, mostly, nephews and nieces -- they were loud," laughed Santos about his contingent. "It felt real good; I didn't expect it, but the ball went out. It was nice. I couldn't tell you my emotions -- I'm too excited right now." For Jessica, meantime, who has followed her husband on his long Minor League journey, this was a night to remember. "We couldn't believe it," she said. "I still can't believe he's here. It's still all settling in my head."
Rich Draper is a reporter for MLB.com. MLB.com associate reporter Coley Harvey contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.