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Zito and Posey help Giants sweep Padres

The SportsXchange

SAN FRANCISCO -- Buster Posey says catching a shutout almost always trumps hitting a home run.

Almost always.

Posey was unusually thrilled with his home run Sunday, a two-run blast that was his first of the season and supported Barry Zito's third brilliantly pitched game in four starts in the San Francisco Giants' 5-0 victory over the visiting San Diego Padres.

In helping the Giants quickly erase the sting of having been swept at Milwaukee earlier in the week with a sweep of their own against the Padres, Posey connected off losing left-hander Eric Stults (2-2) with Pablo Sandoval aboard and two outs in the fifth inning, adding two runs to what already was a 3-0 lead.

"The longer you go, the more you think about it," Posey said of his first home run since taking the Los Angeles Dodgers' Chris Capuano deep last Oct. 2. "I'm glad to get it out of the way."

The two extra runs were hardly needed with Zito (3-1) having reverted to the form that saw him begin the season with 14 consecutive scoreless innings against St. Louis and Colorado. He gave up five hits in his third seven-inning masterpiece of the season before turning the game over to Chad Gaudin, who completed the Giants' second combined shutout of the weekend with two innings of one-hit relief.

"You didn't think this was coming after our at-bats in Los Angeles," Padres manager Bud Black said of his team's 22-run eruption in a three-game sweep of the Dodgers at the start of the week. The Padres scored just two runs in the three games in San Francisco.

"(Madison) Bumgarner got it going," Black said of Friday's 3-2 Giants win that preceded 2-0 and 5-0 shutouts. "He gave momentum to Lincecum. Then Zito today. Three well-pitched games."

Coming off a nine-run disaster at Milwaukee on Tuesday, Zito stranded runners in scoring position in each of the first two innings and used all of AT&T spacious outfield, getting nine of his 21 outs on fly balls. He struck out four and walked one.

"You've got to have a short memory," he said of not surviving the third inning against the Brewers. "As a team, we definitely put that (the Milwaukee sweep) behind us. The Padres always play us tough. To come back with a series like this was very important."

All three of Zito's wins have come at AT&T Park, which he assures isn't a coincidence.

"We have a real confidence in what the defense can do," he said. "It's very important to trust your defense in this park."

Nick Hundley had two of the Padres' hits off Zito, both singles.

Sandoval had two of the Giants' eight hits off two Padres pitchers, including a run-scoring single that capped a three-run third. Angel Pagan provided the big blow of that inning, a two-RBI double that opened the scoring and set the stage for Sandoval's run-producing hit.

In fact, Pagan's one-out hit probably rated as the game's most critical, as it not only broke a scoreless tie but also came on a 3-0 pitch with first base open and struggling Marco Scutaro on-deck.

"I'm not surprised," Black said of seeing Pagan, the Giants' leadoff hitter, swinging on what often is considered a must-take count. "They have an aggressive team over there. You know you're going to get a fastball."

Andres Torres, getting the start in left field in place of Gregor Blanco, also had two hits for the Giants, including a double that opened the three-run third.

Posey's home run was a no-doubter and came one pitch after Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera couldn't handle Sandoval's hard grounder in the hole for what could have been the third out of the inning against the plodding slugger.

The homer, which landed 10 rows deep in the left-field bleachers, made it 5-0 and came in Posey's 64th plate appearance of the season. He began the day having had just five extra-base hits and six RBI while playing in 16 of the Giants' first 18 games.

Posey caught all three games of the series, including back-to-back starts by two pitchers -- Lincecum and Zito -- who often work with Hector Sanchez.

Make no mistake about it: He enjoys catching shutouts.

"I gotta go with the shutout," Posey responded when asked, in general, if he gets more joy out of catching a shutout or hitting a home run. "That's the goal -- to win games."

NOTES: Posey nearly had his first homer of the season two at-bats earlier when he crushed a Stults offering into the second deck on the foul side of the left-field pole. ... Pagan's go-ahead RBI was his eighth of the season, tying him for the National League lead. ... Sandoval has 17 RBIs and is now hitting .550 (11 for 20) with runners in scoring position. Fourteen of Sandoval's 17 RBIs have come in those situations. ... Padres left fielder Kyle Blanks had to be removed from the game in the bottom of the sixth after crashing into the padded left-field wall sunglasses-first, one step after catching Joaquin Arias' bid for extra bases. Blanks took four souchers in his left eyelid after the game but isn't expected to miss any playing time. ... Giants starting pitchers had allowed 31 earned runs in 40 1/3 innings over seven games before seeing the Padres and giving up just two runs in 19 2/3 innings. ... The Padres and Giants will square off again next weekend in San Diego, with Sunday's starters -- Stults and Zito -- tentatively scheduled to face off again Saturday in the middle game of the three-game series. ... One of the biggest outs Zito recorded early in the game, coincidentally, came with Stults at the plate. With two on and two outs in the second, Stults, who belted a three-run homer in his previous start, made solid contact and flied to medium-deep right field. Stults smacked 23 home runs as a center fielder at Bethel College in Indiana. He singled to right off Zito in his second at-bat.
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