Zito's solid outing preserved for win

Zito's solid outing preserved for win

LOS ANGELES -- The Giants didn't need Barry Bonds to generate the drama that their games against the Los Angeles Dodgers typically feature.

After Bonds left the game in the seventh inning stuck on 754 career home runs, one behind all-time leader Hank Aaron, the Giants still faced compelling issues as Los Angeles threatened their three-run lead. But the bullpen that floundered Wednesday flourished on Thursday, as Steve Kline turned savior to help San Francisco win, 4-2, and secure a two-out-of-three-games series triumph against its archrival.

"We should have swept these guys," Kline said, referring to Wednesday's 6-4 loss in which the Dodgers scored four eighth-inning runs.

Working more feverishly than an air-traffic controller, Giants manager Bruce Bochy used four relievers to fend off the Dodgers in the final two innings. The Giants led at that juncture, 4-1, helped by Pedro Feliz's pair of RBI singles, Barry Zito's capable 5 2/3 innings and Kevin Correia's 1 1/3 innings of shutout relief.

Closer Brad Hennessey, making a rare eighth-inning appearance, inherited and escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the eighth by striking out pinch-hitter Olmedo Saenz and coaxing Ramon Martinez's groundout. But Andre Ethier singled and Rafael Furcal walked to open the Dodgers' ninth.

Hennessey snared Juan Pierre's floating bloop and had Ethier trapped off second base, but threw the ball past shortstop Omar Vizquel into left-center field. The runners held, but Hennessey reignited trouble by walking Russell Martin to load the bases. In came the left-handed Kline with left-handed-batting Luis Gonzalez due up.

It was an intriguing confrontation of veterans, with Gonzalez having collected four hits in 16 at-bats off Kline.

"We know each other pretty well," Kline said. "He knows what pitches I'm going to throw him. If I get the ball up, he'll hurt me, so I really kept it down. I think he was pressing up there to get a big hit. He's not up there to walk, so I know he's going to be free-swinging a little bit."

Gonzalez hit a roller to first base for the second out as Ethier scored. Playing percentages yet courting trouble, Bochy ordered Nomar Garciaparra intentionally walked to have Kline face left-handed-batting James Loney.

"I've played against him since the days of the Trenton Thunder. I know what he can do," Kline said, recalling his Eastern League matchups against Garciaparra in 1995.

Under the circumstances, Bochy wasn't all that concerned about putting the potential winning run on base.

"It's never easy to do that," Bochy said, "but I have a left-hander out there who's tough on lefties."

Kline upheld that reputation, recorded his second save of the season and sealed the Giants' sixth victory in eight games by coaxing another grounder to first base from Loney on a 2-1 pitch.

Kline thus preserved a satisfying evening for the Giants. Zito (8-10), who had allowed 13 runs in 9 1/3 innings spanning his previous two starts, reversed his fortunes and pitched like the top-of-the-rotation starter the Giants expect him to be. All night, Zito's assortment of offspeed pitches made his 85-mph fastball seem like searing heat by comparison.

"That's the type of pitcher he is," Bochy said of Zito. "When he's on top of his game, he's tough."

After allowing only one Dodger to reach second base in the first four innings, Zito surrendered a fifth-inning run but left the bases loaded by retiring Gonzalez on a groundout. That pattern continued all night for the Dodgers, who went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and stranded 13 runners.

Denied offense from the Dodgers, the third consecutive sellout crowd of 56,000 didn't get much of it from Bonds, either. The left fielder ended an 0-for-19 skid against the Dodgers with a solid second-inning single but finished 1-for-2 with two walks to send his quest for history to the Giants' next series in San Diego.

Bonds contributed marginally as the Giants scored three runs in the first against Los Angeles starter Brett Tomko (2-9), who needed 43 pitches to complete the inning.

Vizquel's one-out single began the uprising. He scored on Randy Winn's double, dodging catcher Martin's tag and touching home plate with his left hand as he slid. After Bonds walked, Feliz singled home Winn. Tomko hit Mark Sweeney with a pitch to load the bases before Kevin Frandsen's sacrifice fly scored Bonds.

Feliz, who has 19 RBIs in 20 games, added another run-scoring single in the seventh inning off reliever Scott Proctor.

"He's been outstanding, offensively and defensively," Zito said of Feliz. I don't think he gets the credit he deserves sometimes, on both sides."

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.