Emmanuel Burriss singled to left for the Giants' first hit off Pirates starter Jeff Karstens. Nate Schierholtz singled twice. Pablo Sandoval collected four of his career-high five RBIs during the inning with a three-run double and a sacrifice fly. Scott McClain chipped in a single, Travis Ishikawa stroked an RBI double and Eugenio Velez hit a sacrifice fly and wound up on second base when right fielder Steve Pearce misplayed the ball for an error.
Manager Bruce Bochy started the same six rookies in Colorado last Wednesday, when they accounted for every run, each RBI and all but one of the team's 14 hits in a 9-2 triumph. Burriss downplayed the youthful influence, although club management has committed itself to relying on fresher talent.
"As long as we're winning, I really don't think it matters whether it's young guys or old guys taking care of business," Burriss said.
Attending to business is an ongoing process for Burriss and the Giants' other rookies. Coaches conduct extra pregame hitting and defensive tutorials for them almost daily. The team continues to take infield practice before each series.
Burriss, in particular, avoids taking anything for granted, despite the fact that general manager Brian Sabean has named him as the Giants' likely starting shortstop for 2009.
"There's a lot of times when I think I have a great game and I hear about four different coaches telling me why I didn't," said Burriss, who's batting .358 (24-for-67) in his last 21 games. "That's good, though. ... They want to make sure they know that I can handle everything out there."
Sandoval, who hiked his average to .364 with a 2-for-3 afternoon, appears capable of handling everything.
"From Game 1, he has played well, and you can just see the confidence in this kid," Bochy said.
The 22-year-old admitted feeling uneasy after his key double, a line drive that short-hopped a diving Nate McLouth in left-center field. The ball struck McLouth's head and caromed into left field, causing a laceration above his left eyebrow that required stitches.
"I felt bad for him," Sandoval said.
The Giants' sympathy didn't last long. They scored six runs before Pittsburgh recorded an out and sent 14 batters to the plate in compiling their first double-digit inning in AT&T Park's nine-year existence. It's worth noting that Karstens' throwing error after he fielded Randy Winn's ground ball opened the inning and furthered the Giants' cause.
However, Giants left-hander Jonathan Sanchez couldn't last long enough to benefit from the offensive windfall. He worked three innings, his second-shortest start of the season. Bochy removed the laboring Sanchez after he threw 78 pitches and allowed three runs (two earned) and five hits.
Since it was only Sanchez's second start since being activated from the disabled list, Bochy opted for caution with the 25-year-old's shoulder.
"We didn't want to risk anything with him, with that amount of pitches in three innings. But he was fine to go back out," Bochy said.
"He did the right thing by taking me out. He was saving my arm," Sanchez said.
Before departing, Sanchez hit the first of four Pirates the Giants plunked with pitches. Reliever Billy Sadler hit two batters, including Brian Bixler in the head during the fifth inning. Although none of this appeared to be intentional -- "It was just bad pitching," a Giants official said -- retaliation was inevitable, which explained why Pittsburgh right-hander Craig Hansen flung a pitch behind Schierholtz's head and then hit him with two outs in the eighth inning, prompting warnings to both benches from umpire Angel Campos.
"It's pretty much self-explanatory," a calm Schierholtz said.
The Pirates also could have been upset over their 82nd loss, dooming them to their 16th consecutive losing season. That tied a professional sports record for futility set by the 1933-48 Philadelphia Phillies.
At 62-80, the Giants aren't much better. But they're likely to remain motivated through the season's final weeks, particularly since they play Arizona and Los Angeles, the National League West's top contenders, in 13 of their last 20 games.
"We want to end the season with a bang," Burriss said. "Even if we don't make it to the playoffs or come close to making it to the playoffs, we want to prove to ourselves that we're not what everybody thought we would be."