Zito's fine effort erased by Dodgers homer

Zito's fine effort erased by Dodgers homer

LOS ANGELES -- Manny Ramirez's eighth-inning home run ruined Sunday for the Giants. But it hardly spoiled their season, or even this series.

Ramirez's two-run pinch-homer, which erased the Giants' one-run edge and gave Los Angeles a 2-1 triumph, handed the series to the Dodgers, two games to one.

But the Giants tried not to dwell on this double setback as they left Chavez Ravine. They still lead the National League West. They didn't get swept, as they did here last April. If anything, they could tell themselves that they outplayed Los Angeles for much of the series.

The Giants rallied in Friday's 10-8 loss after trailing 7-0 through two innings. They outclassed Los Angeles on Saturday behind Tim Lincecum. Sunday, they seemed bound for a taut victory until Ramirez belted Sergio Romo's hanging 1-2 slider into the left-field pavilion with one out in the eighth and pinch-runner Blake DeWitt on first base.

"This group right here has a great heart," Giants catcher Bengie Molina said. "They showed it the first night when we were getting killed. We have to [leave] with our heads up and our chin up, knowing that we can and will compete for the whole thing."

Said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, "If we play this kind of ball, we're going to be fine."

Barry Zito embodied the Giants' effort. Hoping to improve his record to 3-0 for the first time in his 10-year career, Zito yielded four hits in seven innings and didn't allow a Dodger to reach scoring position. He subdued the Dodgers despite being struck on the left hip by Rafael Furcal's line drive to open the first inning.

Zito retired Reed Johnson to begin the eighth before walking pinch-hitter Garret Anderson on a 3-2 pitch. That happened to be the only free pass Zito issued.

"I'm upset with myself on that at-bat," Zito said. "I threw two curveballs that I tried to do too much on and left them out of the zone."

As Ramirez, who had three career homers off Zito, loomed in the on-deck circle, Bochy replaced the left-hander with Romo. The move made complete sense. Ramirez had hit three homers against Zito, who had thrown 105 pitches. Romo was unscored upon in five appearances this season and had surrendered one hit to right-handed hitters in 12 at-bats.

Moreover, Romo hadn't allowed a run to the Dodgers in nine previous career outings. During his 11 1/3 innings against Los Angeles, he had walked none and struck out 13.

Romo's luck changed when he threw Ramirez the fateful pitch, which lacked sufficient movement. Instead of darting away from Ramirez, who hadn't played since leaving Friday's game after three innings with a tight right calf, the ball simply hovered in the strike zone, waiting for Ramirez to clobber it. He did, hiking his lifetime home run total to 548.

"As long as those power hitters reach, they don't have a chance of hitting it out," Molina said. "But he didn't have to reach on that one."

Romo (0-1) refused to second-guess himself, though anybody who has seen him pitch knew that he would throw a slider in that instance. His selection wasn't at all poor; his execution was.

"I have to go with my strength there," Romo said. "... Yeah, you've got to respect him, but I'm not going to pitch outside my game. My game is to throw strikes."

An inning earlier, Juan Uribe broke a scoreless tie by driving a 3-2 pitch from Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw into the same general area where Ramirez's homer landed. The Giants launched another scoring bid in the eighth when Kershaw walked Eugenio Velez leading off, but the rally was muted when Edgar Renteria was thrown out at first base as he tried to bunt for a hit. Television replays indicated that Jamey Carroll, who was covering first base, may have pulled his foot off the bag as he took Ronnie Belliard's low throw. But umpire Mark Wegner didn't see it that way.

Bochy left the dugout to discuss the call briefly with Wegner, but didn't raise much of a fuss. Nor did he do so after the game.

"There's no question this was a tough one, with the pitching effort we got," Bochy said. "Just one mistake beat us. You

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