Horwitz's first homer highlights romp

Horwitz's first homer highlights romp

SAN FRANCISCO -- This was a rare sort of victory for the Giants, one they could bask in like a hot tub.

Monday night's 10-2 decision lacked the scrambling and drama typical of most Giants conquests. They scored six first-inning runs off Mets starter Oliver Perez, whose one-third inning outing was the shortest of his career. Instead of lapsing into the inconsistency he displayed earlier in the season, Jonathan Sanchez pitched determinedly for seven innings, limiting the Mets to 2-for-9 hitting with runners in scoring position.

The Giants' triumph also featured personal achievements, making it easier for them to savor the afterglow.

Rookie left fielder Brian Horwitz, appearing in his third game and starting his second, concluded the big opening inning with his first Major League home run.

Having called his promotion to the Major Leagues "surreal" last week, Horwitz groped for synonyms after batting .500 (4-for-8) thus far.

"Unbelievable, extraordinary ... it's an out-of-body experience and I'm really enjoying it," said Horwitz, who obtained his home run ball from the fan who caught it by giving him an autographed bat.

Horwitz allowed himself a sense of satisfaction in implicit defiance of the "people who critique me" -- referring to the talent evaluators who branded him bereft of power for hitting 14 home runs in five Minor League seasons.

"When I get it, I get it, though," he said, referring to his no-doubt-about-it drive off Perez.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy acknowledged Horwitz's reputed inability to hit the long ball, but added, "What he does do is go up there and give you quality at-bats. Since he's been up here, he's done that for us." Nevertheless, Horwitz is expected to return to the bench Tuesday night as left-handed-batting Fred Lewis returns to the lineup against Mets right-hander Pedro Martinez.

Another Giant who could celebrate not only the win but also himself after defying the experts was catcher Bengie Molina, who collected career hit No. 1,000 with a second-inning single. Molina went 3-for-4, including a first-inning RBI single and a seventh-inning single in a two-run uprising that ended San Francisco's scoring.

"It means a lot to me," Molina said of his milestone. "It's like most of the guys hitting 3,000. I know and I understand I'm not a superstar. I understand I'm not a Hall of Famer. But to get a thousand hits -- for a guy who wasn't supposed to sign [professionally], then I signed for $1,000 [bonus], $750 after taxes, for a guy who wasn't supposed to make it in the Minor Leagues, for being the slowest guy in the world -- it's really an honor for me."

For the Giants as a whole, simply winning was enough. They secured a second consecutive victory at home, where they own a 13-17 record, for only the fourth time this season.

"We've had our struggles at home, so it's good to win two in a row, I'll say that," Bochy said.

Sanchez (4-3) also has won two in a row, which isn't an aberration. Since working five innings or fewer in five of his first eight starts and allowing seven runs in two of them, he's 2-1 with a 2.77 ERA in his last four outings. The Giants are 9-3 when Sanchez pitches, matching Tim Lincecum for tops on the staff (San Francisco is 8-3 in Lincecum's starts and won the April 2 game in which he relieved for four innings).

Sanchez loaded the bases with two outs in the first inning but ended the threat by slipping a called third strike past Fernando Tatis, one of eight strikeouts the left-hander amassed. But what has distinguished Sanchez lately is his knack for escaping such jams without needing to fan hitters.

Adding a sinker -- and maturity -- has helped Sanchez progress.

"When he's pitching in traffic, he's keeping his composure and making his pitches," Bochy said. "He is much, much improved in that area. That's the difference. He would start overthrowing a little bit, but he has gotten out of that. He's pitching."

Sanchez summarized matters simply: "I'm throwing my sinker and fastball and focusing on throwing strikes," he said.

Sanchez also contributed offensively by driving a two-run double off the base of the right-field wall in the sixth. But the Giants' fortunes essentially revolved around the first inning, which equaled their largest scoring inning of the season.

It began with Winn's homer, the first by a Giants leadoff batter this year and the 14th such homer of his career. One out later, Aaron Rowand doubled before Molina stroked his first hit. Rich Aurilia, who played his second game in a row with that pesky kidney stone still lodged in his bladder, walked. That set up Ray Durham's two-run double to left-center field.

Up came Horwitz, who belted Perez's 3-1 pitch over the left-center-field barrier.

Any big inning comes as a mild surprise for the Giants, who entered the game ranked 14th in the National League in scoring. But their windfall might have seemed especially atypical against Perez (4-4), who had limited opponents to a .200 average (17-for-85) in his first time through the lineup.

Then again, Perez now is 0-5 with a 7.07 ERA in nine career starts against San Francisco, including 0-3, 7.71 in five games at AT&T Park. Any way you crunched the numbers, the bottom line favored the Giants.

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