Giants head home on a high note

Giants head home on a high note

SAN DIEGO -- Heading home, feeling good.

Those were the Giants' thoughts as they flew to San Francisco following Thursday's 8-4 victory over the Padres at PETCO Park, giving them a four-game series sweep and a jetliner-load of confidence preparing for a crucial three-game set against the Dodgers.

What a turnaround for the Felipe Alou's club.

The Giants started the important 10-game junket at 1-5, and they had fallen deeper into the National League West basement, 7 1/2 games out of first. Yet suddenly -- as veteran Mark Sweeney likes to put it -- the club is the "hottest team in the division" and "only" six games back of the leading Dodgers.

It was two rookies who were the difference-makers in the finale, with second baseman Kevin Frandsen having his biggest day as a Giant and pitcher Matt Cain throwing a no-hitter through 5 1/3 innings despite an oddball combination of eight strikeouts and six walks.

"Coming in here and getting a four-game road sweep is huge," said Frandsen, who cracked his first Major League homer, rapped two doubles and scored three times, and now feels an integral part of the team after his fourth callup this year on Monday.

The 23-year-old played sparingly previously and batted only .210 in 29 games, yet he's a different infielder now, a bit heavier and tons smarter after learning how to be selective during his stint at Triple-A Fresno.

Just don't call him "slugger," despite that ninth-inning pop off San Diego reliever Scott Williamson.

"I definitely don't hit too many -- I'm a doubles guy," said Frandsen, admitting he never hit a homer until his senior year of high school -- not even in Little League -- and had only 10 Minor League blasts from 2004-06. "I basically remember every homer I've hit, and for someone who doesn't hit that many, I'm just excited."

Frandsen was hitting .340 with the Grizzlies during 13 August games, and he credits hitting coach Jim Bowie and manager Shane Turner with solid advice on offensive mentality and getting into a good hitting position.

"I owe a lot to them. They kept with me, and I just feel a lot better," said Frandsen. "I've been driving balls more in batting practice and stayed with the plan. Today, it was just fun being out there and against the Padres in a race in the West. I was happy to ignite something to get a sweep."

Alou noticed a difference in the rookie when he joined the club in San Diego earlier in the week, and the manager likes what he sees.

"The kid looked stronger, more mature," Alou said. "He's loaded with confidence now because he's been here before and he's feels he's a part of the team."

Frandsen, who replaced departed utilityman Jose Vizcaino on the roster and can play third and short, says that feeling of belonging in the Majors seems palpable -- finally.

"I do belong here," Frandsen said. "I've got to. The last couple of times I was a little uneasy, not knowing when I would play. I'm not an established Major Leaguer, but I do feel like I belong here."

"I do belong here. I've got to. The last couple of times I was a little uneasy, not knowing when I would play. I'm not an established Major Leaguer, but I do feel like I belong here."
-- Kevin Frandsen

For the 21-year-old Cain, it was a bizarre if ultimately satisfying game, as he walked the bases loaded in the first inning but fanned Ben Johnson to end the threat and didn't give up a hit until one out in the sixth, when Josh Bard lofted a lazy ball to right.

Cain, who evened his record at 9-9 and was taken out after Bard's hit, threw 104 pitches and shook his head in dismay at the odd outing.

"My fault for throwing pitches all over the zone, out of the zone," said the right-hander. "That's obviously not what you want to do when your team goes 13 innings last night and pulls out the win. You just try to tough it out as long as you can."

Stuff-wise, Cain had great stuff, and the youngster felt strong throughout his effort.

"We had some stuff working, but just never got to it," he said. "But I credit [catcher Eliezer] Alfonzo for keeping me in the game and trying to keep my head [straight], not worrying about striking guys out."

That's been Cain's downfall at times -- getting too excited with pitching and not staying focused -- admitting he's seeing the "whole picture" rather than just the glove on the catcher's hand.

"It seems like the ball feels real good, but sometimes I don't know where it's going," said Cain.

Long reliever Kevin Correia rescued Cain in the sixth and pitched scoreless ball until the ninth, when the Padres rallied to cut the margin in half. Correia loaded the bases, and pinch-hitter Josh Barfield belted a grand slam off Jack Taschner.

"I love coming here -- it's my home," said Correia. "I didn't feel like I was losing anything [in the ninth], but I still felt pretty good and strong."

Pedro Feliz drove in three runs with a solo homer and a two-run single, while Shea Hillenbrand also had a pair of RBIs.

Barry Bonds, meantime, said his inflamed left elbow is feeling better and the swelling has gone down. He was pulled from Wednesday's game with the ailment after slugging his 16th homer of the season.

Bonds is expected to play Friday night against the Dodgers at AT&T Park.

Rich Draper is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.