SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants caught a whiff of October on a cool April night. They experienced -- and embraced -- a semblance of postseason intensity in Monday's 5-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies and their ace, Roy Halladay. The Phillies maintained pressure, befitting their status as two-time defending National League champions. They put 12 men on base despite collecting only four hits off Jonathan Sanchez and three relievers. Halladay absorbed his first defeat of the season yet worked seven innings, flashing the skill that makes him one of the game's elite pitchers.
San Francisco met every challenge, hitting and pitching in the clutch with equal proficiency. The Phillies, who began the game averaging a league-high 5.8 runs per game, stranded all but one of their baserunners. The Giants offset the seven walks they issued with 11 strikeouts, enabling them to hold Philadelphia hitless in 11 at-bats with runners in scoring position. Mark DeRosa's two-run, first-inning single signaled a dramatic turnaround for the Giants, who had gone 5-for-54 with runners in scoring position in their previous seven games. Monday, they went 3-for-7 in those situations. Eli Whiteside's second-inning RBI double and seventh-inning leadoff homer helped the Giants fend off the Phillies, who lost for only the fifth time in 13 road games. Pablo Sandoval contributed two hits and scored twice, and Aubrey Huff added a sixth-inning RBI single. That amounted to a multitude of offense against Halladay, who entered the game 4-0 with a 0.82 ERA and an opponents' batting average of .087 (2-for-23) with runners in scoring position. "We had some good at-bats against one of the best pitchers in the game," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. None of the Giants' 10 hits was bigger than DeRosa's, which he delivered on a 3-2 pitch with two outs. Given the Giants' recent struggles with runners on base and Halladay's imposing presence, it was one of the season's most critical plate appearances by any Giant. "That seemed like it loosened guys up and sent some confidence throughout the lineup," Bochy said. "He grinded out that at-bat. That was one of our better at-bats of the season, with how hard he was fighting up there." Indeed, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel believed that the Giants looked nothing like a team that had been floundering offensively. "They came out aggressive," Manuel said. "I was hearing today that they've had trouble hitting. Don't ever believe that. They came out swinging. They were determined. They started playing us good last year. The last couple years they've kind of picked up steam on us." The first inning proved essential to the Giants' cause even before DeRosa stepped to the plate. With two Phillies aboard and one out in their half of the inning, Ryan Howard, baseball's latest zillionaire, hit a buckling drive to the center-field warning track that Andres Torres somehow caught after reversing his field. Explaining that he expected Howard's hit to tail toward left field -- as would normally happen with a left-handed batter -- Torres had to spin and head toward right-center when he realized that the wind had changed the ball's course. "It's a big park," Sanchez said dryly. "But I think [Howard] hit it well. The way [Torres] caught that ball was amazing. I thought it was going to be out." Torres' snag saved Sanchez (2-1) temporarily. The left-hander had to keep toiling to last the requisite five innings to claim the decision. Philadelphia loaded the bases in the third inning with one out, but Sanchez escaped by striking out Jayson Werth for the second time in a row and coaxing Ben Francisco's fly to shallow right field, where Nate Schierholtz made a nice running catch. The Phillies narrowed the difference to 3-1 in the third and had runners on the corners with two outs before Francisco flied out to left. Sanchez was done, having thrown 107 pitches in five innings. But the Phillies weren't finished, loading the bases again in the seventh before Jeremy Affeldt fanned Francisco on a 1-2 curveball. The Giants improved to 3-1 on a challenging nine-game homestand featuring three consecutive postseason qualifiers from 2009. Though the Phillies will throw formidable lefties Jamie Moyer and Cole Hamels at them in the next two games, followed by a weekend series against the feisty Colorado Rockies, besting Halladay gave the Giants something to savor. "That's a confidence booster for us, to set the tone early in the series," Whiteside said. "I think it's a big win for us, just showing that we can beat guys like that."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.