Having received superlative starting pitching in the three-game sweep of Oakland, a letdown should have been expected sooner or later. As good as the Giants' pitching staff might be, it couldn't suppress the Angels, who led the American League in hitting and homered nine times in three games while sweeping San Diego last weekend. The Angels added four homers in this one among their 16 hits.
But the Giants weren't so easy to write off -- or, for the Angels, defeat. San Francisco scored all of its runs in the final four innings, as Pablo Sandoval recorded his first career two-homer game and Andres Torres became the first player this season to hit a ball in McCovey Cove. After Sandoval hit a two-out, three-run homer in the ninth, the Giants even forced the Angels to summon closer Brian Fuentes, who coaxed a fly ball from Rich Aurilia to end matters.
"I like how the team battled," Giants left-hander Barry Zito said. "It just shows this team is a lot different than it's ever been. They didn't roll over at all."
Like the rest of the game, Zito's effort defied simple description. He surrendered seven runs and 10 hits in 3 2/3 innings, his shortest outing of the season. Zito even prompted audible booing when he left the game, a noise he had silenced with his overall resurgence this year.
Yet, anybody watching Zito (3-7) could tell that he was working aggressively. He threw 54 strikes in 70 pitches, avoiding the ineffectual attempts to find the edges of the strike zone that characterized his poorer games. By his count, he threw 17 first-pitch strikes to the 20 hitters he faced, a remarkable ratio.
"You want to say 'I did this or that and these are the things I would change' -- something a little more tangible," Zito said. "But this one, you just kind of flush it down the toilet and keep going. Because this is the way I usually feel when I have great games."
That said, Zito did identify specific lapses, all of which occurred in Los Angeles' seven-run fourth inning. He cited changeups that he dangled to Juan Rivera, who doubled after homering in his first at-bat, and Erick Aybar, the last batter Zito faced who hit a two-run homer. Zito also lamented 0-2 pitches that Robb Quinlan smacked for a two-run double and Mike Napoli sliced for an RBI double.
The Giants' recently airtight bullpen leaked slightly. Justin Miller allowed a home run to Bobby Abreu immediately after Zito departed and Brandon Medders yielded Sean Rodriguez's eighth-inning homer, which offset San Francisco's comeback.
Sandoval led the charge by going 3-for-5 and extending his hitting streak to nine games. He's batting .500 (17-for-34) in this stretch, lifting his average from .301 to .332. On a rare night when AT&T Park seemed to play like a bandbox, Sandoval drove both of his homers the opposite way to left field.
"I don't try to put it in McCovey Cove. I just try to put the ball in play," Sandoval said, repeating his plea that he's not a home run hitter.
Torres managed to reach McCovey Cove by driving a first-pitch fastball from Angels starter John Lackey (2-2) into the drink for a two-run homer. Torres became the 11th different Giant to record a "Splash Hit," a feat which has been accomplished 48 times -- 35 by Barry Bonds.
"I wasn't trying to hit it out," Torres said, echoing Sandoval. "I was just trying to hit a line drive and put a good swing on it."