Giants 9, Astros 1
SAN FRANCISCO (AP)—When Bengie Molina signed with San Francisco last winter, he told himself he might have a slim chance to triple if he found exactly the right spot in the Giants’ pitcher-friendly park.
He accomplished that and more Wednesday night.
Molina hit a two-run triple to the deep corner in right-center and singled in two runs to help Barry Zito bounce back from an awful outing against his old team last week at Oakland, and the Giants won their fourth straight with a 9-1 victory over the Houston Astros to complete a three-game sweep.
Molina keeps producing clutch hits, even though he insists he’s still trying to adjust to all the new pitchers in the National League.
“He’s been huge, big hit after big hit,” said Ray Durham, who batted right before the catcher. “When I don’t get the job done, I have total confidence. He comes in and I can count on him to pick me up.”
Molina, who already has a five-RBI game in his first season with the Giants, hit his fourth career triple and first since Aug. 17 last year against Tampa Bay while with Toronto. Molina was surprised to hear manager Bruce Bochy, a former catcher, only hit two triples in his nine-year career.
“Really? That’s very nice to hear,” Molina said. “Something I was thinking about once I signed here was if I hit it in that corner, it might be my only chance.”
Barry Bonds got a break to rest. The 42-year-old slugger is set to resume his chase of Hank Aaron’s home run record Friday night against the Colorado Rockies following the team’s off day Thursday, still needing 10 to match Aaron’s career mark of 755.
“It’s nice to hit a ball squarely,” Ensberg said. “My first at-bat against him, the curveball, I flat out missed it.”
Zito (4-5) allowed one run and four hits over seven innings in his first career start against the Astros, who lost their fourth straight and sixth in seven—a stretch that started with a loss to the Giants at Minute Maid Park on May 17.
Zito got through the first on 11 pitches and the second on 14, efficiently working ahead in the count from the start of his seven-inning outing. He struck out two and walked two, lowering his ERA from 5.13 to 4.70.
The $126 million left-hander bounced back from the debacle of a return he made to Oakland on Friday night, when he allowed seven runs and six hits in four innings for his shortest outing of the year—a 15-3 loss to his former team.
Molina met with Zito for 20 about minutes in the dugout during Sunday’s game at the Coliseum, and talked to the pitcher about being more aggressive.
“You have to learn your lessons, what was the reason what happened happened, and take that into your next outing,” Zito said. “You have to have a short-term memory. … I had to be more aggressive in the strike zone and let them beat me instead of beating myself.”
Zito also hit an opposite-field single to left with two outs in the second after working the count full against Albers (1-4), who dug himself a quick hole.
The right-hander issued back-to-back walks to Winn and Fred Lewis in the first, then Molina lined a two-run single to left two outs later.
Bochy is having a hard time taking Klesko out of the lineup, so he played in Bonds’ place. Klesko singled in the third and again with two outs in the seventh — and probably will play again Friday. He had three hits Tuesday after homering for the first time this year Monday and has gone 19-for-54 (.352) over his past 19 games with 13 starts.
Klesko, playing left field for the first time since Oct. 2, 2005, had a close call on defense in the fourth when he nearly mistimed Carlos Lee’s line drive to the warning track but stumbled and recovered to make a diving catch— and Zito let out a visible sigh of relief moments later.
Then in the bottom of the fourth, Houston center fielder Hunter Pence made a great catch to steal a hit from Rich Aurilia. Pence ran backward, turned at the last second and crashed hard into the wall with his right shoulder to make the play.
Astros manager Phil Garner hopes his team will break out soon.
“We’re close,” he said. “We’re trying to stay upbeat about it. We’re doing everything we can to keep a good approach and take good at-bats.”
Astros RHP Brad Lidge flew back to Houston to have his right knee examined after experiencing irritation. … Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, sporting a black Giants jacket, attended the game as a guest of the team and sat in the owner’s box with Peter Magowan next to the San Francisco dugout. She received a warm greeting from Hall of Famer Willie Mays before the top of the sixth and he signed some balls for her. She was booed and cheered when making her exit after the seventh. … Russ Ortiz, who began the year as the Giants’ No. 5 starter, pitched a scoreless ninth in his first outing since coming off the DL on Monday with an irritated nerve in his elbow.
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