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May 4, 2013
Posey waits out Belisario for first walk-off homer; Ramirez hurt

SAN FRANCISCO -- One thing about games like Friday night's 2-1 Giants win over the Dodgers, which ended in abrupt and dramatic fashion with Buster Posey's first career walk-off home run as a Giant -- as manager Bruce Bochy pointed out, you look back over the previous 8 ½ innings and everything that kept the Giants in the game is magnified.

BUSTER.jpegBarry Zito putting the leadoff runner on in all six innings he started but only allowing one to score. Brandon Belt making a snap decision to come home with a throw on a ground ball in the second inning, cutting off a run. Hunter Pence throwing out Hanley Ramirez trying to go from first to third with nobody out on a single in the sixth, a play on which Ramirez came up grabbing his left hamstring and left the game.

All developments that seemed like they might go for naught as Clayton Kershaw was no-hitting the Giants through five innings, exhibiting his usual dominance at AT&T Park, where his ERA in 61 2/3 innings is now 0.73. And all suddenly crucial plays when the Giants broke through for a run against Kershaw in the sixth on Marco Scutaro's triple to break up the no-hit bid and Posey's double, which one-hopped the wall in right-center.

With Kershaw out after seven innings and 104 pitches, it suddenly became a bullpen game for both teams. Five Giants relievers combined to throw four scoreless innings, including Sergio Romo pitching around a one-out Matt Kemp single in the ninth. That brought Posey to the plate leading off the bottom of the inning, the game still tied.

Stepping in, Posey was 0-for-6 lifetime against Ronald Belisario -- with five strikeouts. Belisario threw two pitches to the backstop in the at-bat, not something that makes a hitter comfortable. With the count full, he threw a fastball up that Posey crushed into the left-field seats for his first career walk-off home run.

POSEY.jpg"He's the guy you want up there," Bochy said. "It was a good at-bat. Ran a deep count there, a full count. He got a pitch he could handle and got the head out. It doesn't come at a better time than when he hit it, and that's another great comeback for us.

"Zito and the 'pen did such a great job tonight to keep it close. That's the only way you win a game like that. Hunter with a great throw at third there -- there were some good things that happened. But Buster certainly came through at the right time."

* Posey said his last game-winning homer came in the minors. Not only was this his first such home run as a Giant, it was his first career walk-off hit, somewhat hard to believe for the cleanup hitter on a team that has made late-game comebacks a hobby.

"He's got a ton of movement on his fastball and he's had a lot of success against me," Posey said of Belisario. "Really just looking for something up and try to be short to it and get the barrel on it."

Posey pumped his fist as he rounded first base and the Giants gathered at home plate to meet him. Rounding third, he said he was: "Just enjoying the moment. Taking in all the excitement."

"It's a good feeling," he said. "It was already a long game, just for a 1-1 game into the ninth. So it's a good win."

Bochy said in that situation the Giants were just hoping for a baserunner. Gregor Blanco would have pinch-run had Posey reached. He wasn't needed.

"Belisario, he's nasty," said Zito. "Obviously he's got a lot of sink on his ball. Pose just pulled his hands in there and hit a good pitch."

* Zito allowed 10 of the 22 hitters he faced to reach base -- on six hits and four walks -- and only one of them scored: Kershaw, who doubled to lead off the fifth, moved up on a bunt and scored when Nick Punto chopped a single into left.

"Tonight was tough for me," Zito said. "I didn't have my command at all."

He was, however, able to get the Dodgers to hit the ball on the ground when he needed them to. The Dodgers hit into double plays in the third, fourth and fifth innings, and Belt made a sharp throw to Posey charging Skip Schumaker's grounder in the second inning to cut down A.J. Ellis at the plate.

"He had a tough time with the leadoff hitter, but he made some great pitches when he had to and the guys did a great job with the double plays," Bochy said. "That saved us."

Zito saw his streak of scoreless innings at home to start the season end at 25. The four walks were a season-high, as he estimated he was throwing the ball where he wanted to "probably half, two-thirds of the time.

"He gave us what we needed," Bochy said.

* With Bochy wanting to get Brandon Crawford a day off -- Crawford's first this season -- Joaquin Arias started at shortstop and was involved in all three double plays. Arias also nearly made a highlight-reel play on Carl Crawford's infield single in the eighth inning, ranging far to his left and wheeling to make a throw that Crawford just beat out.

That he stopped the ball from going into the outfield was key, as it kept Andre Ethier at third base with two outs. Santiago Casilla got Jerry Hairston Jr. to pop out to end the inning. It seemed Arias may also have had a shot at knocking down Punto's RBI single in the fifth, but the ball skipped past his glove as he attempted a sliding backhand.

Bochy said despite Arias' sporadic playing time -- he has appeared in 20 games, usually as a late-game insertion -- he knows Arias will "give you good effort."

"He's gifted defensively," Bochy said. "And the fact that he can play anywhere in the infield, that's a nice luxury."

* One thing Arias didn't do Friday was reverse his career numbers against Kershaw. He went hitless in three at-bats against the left-hander and is now 1-for-16 against Kershaw in his career. For the most part, he wasn't alone. The sixth inning, when Scutaro, Posey and Pence collected hits, was the only inning in which Kershaw allowed a hit. Before the inning, Angel Pagan and Pablo Sandoval had the Giants' only four hits against Kershaw this season in 46 at-bats.

The Giants put runners on first and third after a pair of walks in the fourth, but Hunter Pence struck out swinging at a fastball at his eyes to end the inning. When Pence singled in the sixth, it was his second hit against Kershaw in 29 career at-bats. Brandon Belt, 3-for-27 lifetime, crushed a ball into Triples Alley in the fifth but it hung up long enough for Ethier to run it down on the warning track in front of the 421-foot marker.

"I don't know who has his number, he's that good," Bochy said of Kershaw, who has a 1.28 career ERA against the Giants. "You don't expect to score a lot of runs, so you're hoping your pitcher goes up there and matches what he's doing."

* Jeremy Affeldt allowed a hit and a walk in 2/3 of an inning in his first game back from the disabled list but contributed to the four scoreless innings by the bullpen. Chad Gaudin gave way after 1 1/3 innings in relief of Zito to George Kontos, who retired Justin Sellers and A.J. Ellis with runners on first and second in the seventh.

Affeldt and Casilla combined for a scoreless eighth and Romo pitched the ninth to record his second win of the season.

* The Dodgers might not want Hanley Ramirez to set foot on AT&T Park soil ever again. Ramirez missed the first 25 games of the season after injuring a ligament in his right thumb during the finals of the World Baseball Classic in San Francisco. In his fourth game back Friday, he was thrown out by Pence trying for third on a single and came up grabbing at his left hamstring.

The Dodgers announced only that Ramirez left the game with a left hamstring injury, but a Los Angeles Times reporter tweeted post-game that Dodgers manager Don Mattingly compared Ramirez's injury to Matt Kemp's hamstring strain last season, which caused Kemp to miss 51 games. Not good news for a Dodgers team that's already dealing with injuries to their starting rotation and waiting to determine if they'll have to put second baseman Mark Ellis (right quad) on the disabled list. The Dodgers also scratched Adrian Gonzalez from Friday night's game with neck pain.

* One last note: Friday night was "Metallica night" at AT&T Park, meaning members of the band performed the national anthem and threw out the first pitch. Before the game, a 2012 World Series banner was in the Giants' clubhouse with a note that said: "Please sign for Metallica tonight." The Giants also marked the occasion by altering their pictures on the scoreboard.

Asked afterward if he's a fan of the band, Zito said: "Most definitely."

PHOTOS: (Top left) Buster Posey passes umpire Joe West at the end of his round trip following a game-winning home run Friday night as the Giants beat the Los Angeles 2-1 at AT&T Park. Associated Press/Ben Marggot

(Above left) Buster Posey is surrounded by celebrating teammates after his game-winning home run. Associated Press/Ben Margot

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About Bay Area Baseball

Matt KawaharaMatt Kawahara was born in Sacramento and attended McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley, where he wrote for the independent student paper The Daily Californian. He graduated from Cal in 2010 and started at The Sacramento Bee as a summer intern. He joined The Bee’s sports staff in fall 2011.
Email: mkawahara@sacbee.com.
Phone: (916) 321-1015.
On Twitter: @matthewkawahara.

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