HOUSTON -- If this three-game visit wasn't nirvana for the Giants, it came close. Their renowned starting pitching thrived. The bullpen remained mostly airtight. And the hitting went from timely to prodigious in Wednesday's series finale against the Astros, which the Giants captured 10-4 to conclude a season-opening sweep. Don't try suggesting to the Giants that this was an aberration. They know they won't ceaselessly dominate opponents. They simply believe that they rank among the National League's elite.
"From the first day of Spring Training, we've had a different attitude," said shortstop Edgar Renteria, whose fourth career 5-for-5 effort led a 19-hit outburst. "We know we can compete." "Every series we go into, we should win," said right-hander Matt Cain, who didn't receive the decision but still pitched 6 2/3 strong innings. "Now we just have to keep doing it." "I think it went the way we expected it to go," center fielder Aaron Rowand said of San Francisco's first three-game sweep at Minute Maid Park since May 15-17, 2006. "We feel like we have a pretty good squad here and we're capable of doing certain things." Sustaining offense is one of them. It's far too early to declare the Giants are cured of the malaise that engulfed them last year, when they ranked 13th in the NL in scoring. But after relying on three-run binges in each of the first two games, they hit Astros pitching relentlessly on Wednesday. Rowand lined four hits, including one in each of the final three innings. After going 0-for-10 in the series' first two games, Rowand talked himself into relaxing at the plate.
"I realized I was trying to go get the ball instead of letting it come to me," Rowand said.Renteria, probably the most maligned Giants player in 2009, improved to .727 (8-for-11) so far. San Francisco would be thrilled even if he hits 450 points lower. "Just for him to be himself," manager Bruce Bochy said when asked what he expects from Renteria this season. "He has a tremendous track record. We don't want him to do anything different than he has his whole career." Promising right fielder John Bowker opened the scoring with a two-run, second-inning homer. Even Travis Ishikawa, who struggles to hit on the road and appears destined to spend the season as Aubrey Huff's late-inning replacement at first base, delivered a pinch-hit homer in a four-run ninth that made the game a rout. Trailing, 4-1, Houston pulled even in the seventh inning. Pinch-hitter Cory Sullivan drove a two-run triple off Cain to center field, where Rowand barely missed making a remarkable catch. Michael Bourn's dribbler off Jeremy Affeldt went for an infield single that scored Sullivan with the tying run. But Juan Uribe's leadoff double, a wild throw accompanying Eli Whiteside's sacrifice-bunt try and Rowand's RBI single gave the Giants two runs and a 6-4 edge. There's example No. 1 this season of the resilience every half-decent club must possess. "What's important is after [Houston] tied it, we came back," Bochy said. "We know we got a break on the bunt, but we took advantage of it." As usual, the Giants took advantage of their peerless pitching. Cain extended the starters' season-opening streak of scoreless innings to 16 before Houston notched a fourth-inning unearned run. "It puts a competitive pressure on you," said Cain, who watched Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito paint zeros in the series' first two games. "You don't want to be the guy in the rotation who has a bad start. You try to lock it in early and get some quick outs." Grounding into double plays was probably the Giants' biggest flaw in this series. They hit into seven, including two on Wednesday. Yet Bochy regarded this as a positive sign. "You'll take the double plays," Bochy said, "as long as you get the [scoring] opportunities."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.