Schmidt still throws much the same stuff he had during parts of six seasons with the Pirates, but there are many differences: the defense and hitting of an improved supporting cast, a solid bullpen and improved health.
But according to those who know the Giants’ ace best, it all comes down to Schmidt’s mental approach.
“The thing that’s different now is he’s got confidence in his stuff, confidence he didn’t have in the past,” said Giants reliever Jason Christiansen, Schmidt’s teammate in Pittsburgh for five seasons. “He’s a guy that you look at, and he just exudes confidence now. He’s got everything it takes to be a dominant pitcher.”
Schmidt (12-4) made quick work of his former teammates, retiring 16 of the first 18 hitters he faced while improving to 7-1 with a 1.80 ERA since June 19. He struck out three and didn’t walk a batter.
After throwing 60 of his 80 pitches for strikes, he felt stiff after pitching the seventh and asked to come out.
“It’s just the time of year when you want to be careful and make sure (the stiffness) I had doesn’t re-occur,” Schmidt said. “I was trying to do what I’ve done all year: stay out of jams and keep the ball over the plate.”
Schmidt has won three of his four starts against the Pirates since they traded him two years ago.
“He’s the same guy,” Pittsburgh manager Lloyd McClendon said. “Before he was traded, he had won six starts. He wasn’t a great discovery. He’s the same, and he’s been on a roll ever since he was traded.”
J.T. Snow had an RBI single, and newcomer Cody Ransom scored two runs as San Francisco won for the 13th time in its last 14 games at Pacific Bell Park. The Giants are 38-16 this season at their bayside home.
Pittsburgh’s Kip Wells (5-5), who had won three straight decisions, allowed six hits and three walks over seven innings. But his performance wasn’t as sharp as his previous start in San Francisco last season, when he allowed Barry Bonds’ 600th homer but still got a 4-3 victory.
“After they got that first run (in the third inning), I knew I had to put zeros up there,” Wells said. “But they got two more. Schmidt’s a guy that will be more aggressive when he has the lead like that.”
Cruz, making a rare appearance in the leadoff spot, snapped a 3-for-40 slump with a line drive single in the fourth, scoring Benito Santiago and Ransom.
“It’s felt kind of weird,” Cruz said. “The last three or four days, I’ve swung the bat pretty good and had zero luck to show for it. It’s out of your hands after you hit the ball hard.”
The Giants actually added to their healthy cushion atop the NL West last week despite going 2-4 on their road trip. Their division lead is the biggest in the majors, but they aren’t coasting: Sidney Ponson, the 14-game winner acquired from Baltimore last week, will make his San Francisco debut on Wednesday night.
Ransom, recalled from the minors on Monday, started at shortstop for San Francisco in place of Rich Aurilia, who’s out for three weeks following an emergency appendectomy.
The Giants trail Atlanta by three games for the majors’ best record. … Bonds walked twice, reaching base for the 30th straight game. Ten years after he left Pittsburgh as a free agent, Bonds is still fourth on the Pirates’ career homers list (176). … Before the game, Pittsburgh recalled RHP Ryan Vogelsong from Triple-A Nashville and optioned OF Adam Hyzdu back to Nashville. Vogelsong is a former Giants prospect traded to the Pirates in the deal for Schmidt. … San Francisco got its eighth shutout, while Pittsburgh was shutout for the seventh time this season.