SAN FRANCISCO (AP)—Eliezer Alfonzo has had quite a first week in the big leagues.
First, he hit a two-run homer against the Mets in his debut Saturday at Shea Stadium. He caught ace Jason Schmidt’s 16-strikeout game Tuesday night—then found himself in the middle of the action again two days later in his fourth career start.
“He’s a good player—a good hitter and a decent catcher,” manager Felipe Alou said. “I liked what I saw in spring training.”
Alfonzo, a rookie catcher recently called up from Double-A Connecticut, blooped a single to left to start the inning. Pinch-hitter Steve Finley sacrificed him to second, then Randy Winn reached when second baseman Jose Castillo dropped a catch in shallow right for an error that moved Alfonzo to third.
“I can run. I want to steal bases, too,” Alfonzo said, noting he didn’t have the green light to go. “No chance. He gave me the yellow light.”
Ray Durham’s blooper to left with two outs in the eighth tied the game, just the second hit with runners in scoring position in the first 21 chances by both teams. Roberto Hernandez blew his first save in three chances.
Armando Benitez (4-0) pitched the ninth for the win.
When Durham was asked afterward to describe the game, he laughed and snorted.
“It’s a weird game, I will say that,” he said.
Sean Casey had an RBI double among his four hits, but the Pirates missed too many opportunities. Pinch-hitter Craig Wilson doubled following Paulino’s two-out walk in the ninth, but Jose Bautista flied out to center. Pittsburgh stranded 15 baserunners, one fewer than its season high, and lost for only the second time in its last seven games in San Francisco.
“It obviously boils down to this: When you leave as many baserunners on as we left, you’re setting yourself up to get beat,” Pirates manager Jim Tracy said.
The Giants had the tying run on third in the eighth after Niekro’s leadoff double and a wild pitch that moved him up. Then Durham blooped a single to shallow left.
San Francisco left eight baserunners.
“It kills a team,” Durham said. “If we lose the ballgame, you look back at the missed opportunities we had. If you want to get to where you want, you can’t have that happen.”
Alou homered in the fourth for the Giants with a shot to center, his eighth homer and first drive since April 29 after being activated from the disabled list before Tuesday’s game with Florida.
In the sixth, with runners on second and third and no outs, Alou tossed his ankle shield in the dirt in disgust following a called third strike. Plate umpire Ted Barrett pointed to the equipment, signaling a fine.
Duke allowed three runs and six hits in six innings. He struck out three and walked three.
Giants starter Matt Cain watched his pitch count climb in a hurry. The rookie right-hander had already thrown 74 pitches through three innings, and was done after four. He allowed seven hits and three runs, struck out two and walked four.
Cain needed 37 pitches to get through the first, while Duke retired the side in order on six pitches in the bottom half.
“The pitcher was struggling but we didn’t get that big hit,” Pittsburgh’s Jack Wilson said.
Barry Bonds’ sore left side forced the slugger to sit out for the second straight game, though he was hopeful to be back in the lineup soon after letting the injury calm down.
“It’s a little better, but not much,” Bonds said after removing a wrap of ice from his side. “I don’t know yet. I’m still working on it.”
Bonds’ side began bothering him during a series against the New York Mets last weekend at Shea Stadium, then it became worse Tuesday night and he was examined by two team doctors.
Bonds, who turns 42 on July 24, said he has not dealt with this kind of injury before. The seven-time NL MVP hit his 715th homer May 28 against Colorado to pass Babe Ruth and move into sole possession of second place on the career list behind Aaron, then homered again Monday night against the Florida Marlins.
Pirates OF Jason Bay reached base in his first three plate appearances to give him nine straight plate appearances reaching safely. … Casey’s RBI double in the second gave Pittsburgh an extra-base hit in 30 straight games. Casey has a career batting average of .447 (38-for-85) in San Francisco’s waterfront ballpark. … Cain matched his shortest outing of the year at four innings. “It was just a tough night, off,” he said.