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August 10, 2013
Giants get the hit they've searched for in 3-2 win over Orioles

SAN FRANCISCO -- Sergio Romo made an interesting observation after saving the Giants' 3-2 win over the Orioles on Saturday. The win gave the Giants a 6-5 record in their last 11 games, a stretch that began on July 31 -- the date of the trade deadline -- and Romo said that shouldn't be taken as a coincidence.

"Once the trade deadline went it seemed to be more relaxed," Romo said. "You get better results when you're more relaxed, more free, and you're actually going out and enjoying it. And it seemed like we're just enjoying playing baseball."

It's almost certainly too late for that relaxed atmosphere to buoy the Giants into a second-half run that could make them into a factor in September. But as Javier Lopez pointed out Friday night -- and Romo echoed Saturday -- the Giants are playing a style of baseball in the past two weeks that more resembles "the Giants way."

It starts with the pitching. In the 11-game stretch, the Giants have allowed two or fewer runs in six games, including Saturday despite Chad Gaudin not being his usual strike-throwing self. They've won games in that time by scores of 2-1, 4-1 and 3-2. They've also lost by scores of 2-1, 3-1 and 4-3, but they're not getting "crushed," as Lopez said.

That may be little consolation for a team that's still 12 games under .500 and started play Saturday a full 14 games behind the first-place Dodgers -- their largest deficit in the West since the end of the 2007 season. But games like Saturday seem to show the Giants still feel they have something to play for.

Gaudin didn't have his usual command, but gutted through five innings on 93 pitches and allowed just one unearned run. He threw 63 pitches in the first three innings, allowed five baserunners and went to a 3-0 count against opposing pitcher Wei-Yin Chen with the bases loaded in the second. But he departed after five innings with the Giants down 1-0.

After doing absolutely nothing against Chen for the first five innings, the offense broke through in the sixth. Andres Torres, in a 1-for-23 stretch, singled leading off the inning. Marco Scutaro drove him in with an RBI single for his first RBI since July 14. After the Orioles opted to walk Buster Posey to load the bases with two outs, Hunter Pence went the other way on an outside pitch for a two-run double.

Like Scutaro, Pence had been searching for that kind of timely hit. Before Friday night, he hadn't had an RBI since July 24. Saturday marked his second multi-RBI game since July 1.

"It's human nature sometimes to press a little bit," Bochy said. "But those guys have been around. They're pros, and they came through today for us."

Pence said he didn't feel like he had been pressing for that kind of hit, but that he does hope it can help ignite the lineup a little going forward. He admitted it has "absolutely" been frustrating at times to squander good pitching performances with little scoring.

"It's a step in the right direction," Pence said of his double. "You always want to believe that it's going to turn around and continue to hope this is what gets the ball rolling for you and gets everyone a little more relaxed, so to speak.

"Hitting is contagious. It's one of those things that one guy gets a big hit and all of a sudden it just starts to avalanche and keep going and you get rolling. That's obviously what we're looking to make happen."

Romo allowed a leadoff single in the ninth and wound up facing Chris Davis with two outs, a day after Davis, baseball's home run leader, had beaten Javier Lopez and the Giants with a two-run, 10th-inning double and one inning after Davis launched a home run to straightaway center field off Santiago Casilla to make it a 3-2 game.

Romo, though, said there was no discussion about possibly pitching around Davis to get to right-hander Adam Jones.

"I trust my stuff," Romo said. "Everybody here believes in my ability to get hitters out. Although he's a very formidable opponent, I've got to believe in myself.

"You give him the respect that he deserves and I just went out with my best stuff. ... Sometimes you've got to get the best out to win ballgames."

Romo threw a sinker that Davis rolled over to Scutaro for the final out. It was the kind of deep-breath ending that has become commonplace the past few seasons at AT&T Park.

"These are the types of games that we play," Romo said. "It feels good to be on the winning side."

* Tomorrow's game story gets more into Gaudin's performance, which certainly wasn't his best but kept the Giants in a game that could easily have gotten out of hand. Gaudin has now allowed two or fewer runs in nine of his 11 starts since joining the rotation. He said he was able to pinpoint a mechanical flaw that was causing his wildness in the first three innings Saturday and correct it, buying a couple more innings.

Gaudin has a 2.60 ERA as a starter for the Giants and was asked after the game if he's at all thinking about his potential role with the team next season. Recall that he was a non-roster invitee to spring training, and made the club as a long reliever, really the last addition to a bullpen that was coming back mostly intact from last year.

"I can't control that. The only thing I can control is today, tomorrow, the next start," Gaudin said. "Hopefully if I take care of everything I need to out there, the rest will take care of itself."

* Davis' home run off Casilla in the eighth left the park so quickly that Torres took about two steps in center before watching it sail nearly halfway up the bleachers.

"That's as quick as I've seen a ball leave the park in that area," Bochy said.

It snapped a streak of 15 consecutive scoreless innings by Casilla, which was the fourth-longest active scoreless streak in the National League. Credit him, though, with pitching himself out of an ensuing jam. After allowing back-to-back singles with one out, Casilla struck out Ryan Flaherty and pinch hitter Matt Wieters to get the game to Romo with a lead.

* Brandon Belt apparently likes hitting at the top of the order -- and in August. Belt had two more hits Saturday, including a ground-rule double in the sixth that might have been a triple had it not one-hopped the wall, and is now batting .464 (13-for-28) this month. In his career, he's a .321 hitter in August, his highest average of any month.

Bochy made it clear before the game that Belt is his best option for the No. 3 spot in the order right now -- both verbally and by batting Belt third against the left-hander Chen. It's all the more impressive considering Belt was given most of the series in Philadelphia off at the end of July while working on mechanical tweaks to his swing.

Asked Saturday if it's really as simple as those changes taking effect, Belt answered: "It seems to be.

"A lot of hitting is just having that feeling when you go up there," Belt said. "Whether it's the adjustments made, I just kind of have that feeling back that I've been searching for."

* Guillermo Moscoso got the win with two scoreless innings in relief of Gaudin. That's an encouraging sign for the Giants, who optioned Jean Machi back to Fresno feeling like Moscoso can be their right-hander for the fifth and sixth innings.

* One pretty remarkable thing that got past me yesterday in the Orioles' game notes -- Baltimore is on pace for the best defensive season since baseball went to a 162-game season. The record for fewest errors in a 162-game season is 65, by Seattle in 2003. The Orioles have made 34 errors, putting them on pace for 48 over a full season.

Look at the third inning of today's game -- Torres hits a fly ball to right-center that Nick Markakis runs down in the gap for an over-the-shoulder catch. Scutaro hits a chopper down the third-base line that Manny Machado backhands coming in and then throws back across his body, with Davis digging the ball out of the dirt at first.

Those aren't easy plays, but the Orioles made them look routine. Aside from making the team fielding percentage look good, that can foster a lot of confidence in a pitcher -- not feeling like he has to be too fine.

* The Giants wrap up their seven-game homestand tomorrow with a chance to finish 4-3 behind Matt Cain (7-7, 4.47). The Orioles counter with Bud Norris (8-9, 3.78). First pitch at 1:05 p.m.

-- Matt Kawahara

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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.
Phone: (916) 321-1015.
On Twitter: @matthewkawahara.

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