SAN FRANCISCO (AP)—The Giants are beginning to show some signs of progress at the end of the first month of the post-Barry Bonds era in San Francisco.
Jose Castillo ended a 450 at-bat homerless drought with a tiebreaking shot to lead off the seventh inning and Fred Lewis preserved the lead with a diving catch in the eighth that sent the Giants to a 3-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday.
After starting the season 1-6, the Giants went 12-10 the rest of April and are in third place in the NL West. That’s a much better start than the 100-loss season some expected following the team’s decision not to bring Bonds back for another season
“It’s the media that expects us to finish last not the people in this clubhouse. Everybody in this clubhouse expects us to make the playoffs. That’s what we come in here every day to do,” said outfielder Aaron Rowand, who also homered. “Being as young as we are, I think this month was a good month in the fact that the guys are finding themselves, finding their strides, coming together as a team.”
Castillo was looking for a sinker from Ryan Speier (0-1) after striking out with the bases loaded against the right-hander on Monday. Castillo got what he was looking for and drove the first pitch over the left-field wall for his first homer since Aug. 14, 2006, for Pittsburgh against Milwaukee.
“He picked a good time to hit his first one,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He certainly picked a fine time. He got a ball up there that he could handle.”
Castillo’s homer gave the Giants a 3-2 lead they struggled to hold onto. With a runner on second base and two outs in the eighth inning, Willy Taveras hit a sinking line drive off Tyler Walker to left field.
“Right off the crack of the bat I thought it was a base hit,” Walker said. “He usually hits those line drives that kind of sink and get over there because he’ll throw his bat at the breaking ball and find a way to hit it soft enough. He might have hit that one too hard.”
Lewis, who moved in a few steps when Taveras had two strikes, charged and made a headlong dive to make the catch, popping up and pumping his fist after the play. Walker was also excited with an exaggerated fist pump on the mound and pointing out at Lewis in appreciation.
“The main thing I wanted to make him do was beat me over my head because he was hitting a lot of flares today,” Lewis said.
“That’s a lot,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “Unfortunately it’s been in the month of April that it’s continued to be a thorn for us. April’s over. Turn our eyes on May. There’s nothing we can do about April. We have to focus on May. We have to get things going in a much better fashion.”
Colorado has played 16 straight days, going 6-10, and could be without star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki for a while. Tulowitzki returned to Denver on Wednesday to have an MRI on his left leg. He injured himself fielding a ball in the first inning Tuesday and could be headed to the disabled list.
Jimenez allowed two runs and three hits in 5 1-3 innings after giving up six runs in 2 1-3 innings in his previous start against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“We saw marked improvement in a lot of different areas,” Hurdle said. “He was going to have a short leash no matter what today and I thought he gave us an excellent opportunity to win. He did some things very well today.”
Giants starter Jonathan Sanchez allowed two runs, five hits and five walks in 5 2-3 innings.
Taveras matched his career high with three stolen bases. He also did it last season at Florida. … Atkins went 0-for-4 and had his 14-game hitting streak snapped. … Wilson’s nine saves are the most for any Giants pitcher before May 1 since Robb Nen also had nine in 1999. Rod Beck had 11 in 1997.