"It's good to beat anybody, but with what they did to us up there in San Francisco, it's good to have a statement game and hopefully we can build a little bit of momentum in this series," Giants center fielder Dave Roberts said.
Roberts helped punctuate that statement with an exclamation point. He belted a fifth-inning home run, his first in 389 at-bats since last May 26, but it was his first-inning single that truly resonated. Roberts proceeded to steal second base in a direct challenge to Dodgers catcher Russell Martin, who threw out a pair of Giants in the April 6 series opener. Not only did Roberts pilfer second, but he also went to third on Martin's accompanying throwing error and scored the game's first run on Rich Aurilia's groundout.
"I did that purposefully," Roberts said of his sixth steal in as many attempts. "I try to set the tone for this ballclub. To get on base, be proactive and get a run early was a lift for our offense. That was kind of methodically planned out."
Pitching has been essential to the Giants' plan. They own a 1.42 ERA during their winning streak, a trend that continued against the Dodgers behind starter Matt Morris. Teasing the Dodgers with his curveball, the right-hander worked 3 1/3 no-hit innings and surrendered one run and three hits through seven innings before faltering in Los Angeles' two-run eighth.
Among the starters, Barry Zito is the staff's charismatic leader and Matt Cain is the budding ace; Noah Lowry's the stylish left-hander and Russ Ortiz is the inspirational veteran. Morris? He's the reliable pro who happens to lead the Giants with a 3-0 record.
Asked whether he tried to pitch "lights out" in the wake of Zito and Cain, Morris replied, "Those two are dominating. I'm just trying to get outs. I don't think I can reach the light switch anymore. Just to keep our string going is what it's about. We feed off each other. I'm not going saying we're going to win the rest of them, but it's nice for me to give the ball to Noah and say, 'Go get 'em.' I think that lights a little fire when we're all competing like this."
The Giants (10-8) primarily competed against the Dodgers, with the desired effect. After Roberts manufactured that first-inning run, San Francisco added another in the second inning with the help of Bengie Molina's hit-and-run single. Those small-ball runs "turned out to be the difference in the game," manager Bruce Bochy said.
Morris and his successors preserved the difference, although the Giants endured an anxious finish. Trailing 5-1 in the eighth, the Dodgers scored once and drove Morris from the mound on consecutive one-out singles by Rafael Furcal, Juan Pierre and Nomar Garciaparra, who's 9-for-14 with runners in scoring position. In came Brad Hennessey, who yielded Los Angeles' fourth hit in a row, Jeff Kent's RBI single.
But Jack Taschner, who has surrendered one hit in 15 at-bats (.066), coaxed Luis Gonzalez's double-play grounder to end the inning.
The Dodgers (13-7) threatened again in the ninth as Armando Benitez yielded a pair of singles, the second being an infield squibber by pinch-hitter Marlon Anderson with two outs. Benitez, who earned his fifth save in five chances, admitted that such hits can be demoralizing: "It takes a little while to get it out of your head."
With that accomplished, Benitez induced a grounder to first base from the fleet Rafael Furcal. As Benitez rushed to cover first -- "I said, 'Whoa, man, I have to hurry up,' Benitez said -- it was impossible not to recall April 26, 2005, when he shredded his right hamstring while covering the bag. That injury cast a pall over Benitez's Giants tenure, but such nightmares evaporated when he took Ryan Klesko's feed cleanly and beat Furcal to the bag for the last out.
"Before, yeah, I was afraid to do it," Benitez said, admitting that he overcame his phobia of covering first this year in Spring Training. "Now I feel comfortable, and everything's better, better and better."
Lately, that describes the Giants, too.