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NYM@SF: Schierholtz drives in Sandoval with a single

SAN FRANCISCO -- Sunday's most poignant moment occurred when Buster Posey, whose bobbleheaded figurine was distributed to paying customers at AT&T Park, was shown on the scoreboard's video screen as he sat in the dugout between halves of the fifth inning. Posey, the injured catcher who's sidelined for the season, smiled and waved as the crowd gave him a standing ovation.

That reminded people of what could have been had Posey remained healthy. But what actually is happening for the Giants isn't so bad. In fact, it's promising.

Nate Schierholtz's 4-for-4 performance complemented Matt Cain's resolute pitching as the Giants completed the season's theoretical first half with a 4-2 triumph over the New York Mets.

Despite losing Posey and second baseman Freddy Sanchez to the disabled list while weathering injuries to numerous other key performers, the Giants own a 52-40 record and a three-game lead over second-place Arizona in the National League West. By comparison, they occupied fourth place, four games behind San Diego, with a 47-41 mark at last year's break.

Tales of the Giants' offensive struggles are well-worn. What's important is that they've recorded a 3.19 ERA that offsets their skimpy scoring. Moreover, San Francisco's maligned offense has shown potential for a better second half, with Schierholtz imitating Stan Musial recently and Pablo Sandoval sustaining a 21-game hitting streak.

Skeptics who deride the Giants' five-man All-Star contingent as a product of manager Bruce Bochy's favoritism should examine the details of this game.

Cain (8-5), headed for his second All-Star Game, worked six shutout innings and stranded eight baserunners, including six in scoring position.

Sandoval, added to the All-Star team Sunday, extended his hitting streak with a third-inning RBI double that opened the scoring off Mets starter Mike Pelfrey (5-8). San Francisco improved to 34-16 when scoring first.

"You can't allow those guys to get the lead on you, as we saw today," Mets manager Terry Collins said.

Three-time All-Star closer Brian Wilson, who blew two saves and absorbed a loss in his previous five outings, allowed a ninth-inning run on doubles by Willie Harris and Justin Turner but struck out the side to notch his 26th save. Bochy said that he was "very encouraged" by Wilson's performance.

According to the consensus in the Giants clubhouse, the All-Star break was well-received. The relievers haven't been overworked but can use a rest, if Wilson's struggles are any indication. Since winning a season-high seven consecutive games from June 22-28, the Giants have played .500 ball (6-6). That hardly suggested that the Giants are bound for disaster, but it did indicate that they'd welcome a breather.

"I think the All-Star break is coming at a good time," Giants general manager Brian Sabean said. "I know we haven't overtaxed anybody, but then again, you don't know the cumulative effect of last year's long season. It's been a grind for all of us."

Lately, it's been a breeze for Schierholtz. He's batting .458 (11-for-24) during a six-game hitting streak and .431 (22-for-51) with 11 RBIs in his last 14 games.

"We all need a rest, but I wouldn't mind playing tomorrow," Schierholtz said wryly.

Bochy pointed out the signficance of Schierholtz's contributions.

"He's not just getting base hits. He's doing damage," Bochy said. "That's what you want from a corner outfielder."

Right now, it doesn't matter whom Schierholtz is facing. Facing the right-handed Pelfrey in the third inning, he followed Sandoval's hit with an RBI single. With the Giants leading 2-0 in the seventh, Collins summoned left-hander Jon Niese and later explained that he wanted to turn around the switch-hitting Sandoval and neutralize the left-handed-batting Schierholtz. That strategy partially worked as Sandoval fouled out. But Schierholtz, who has attributed his hot streak to closing his batting stance, lined a double to left-center field that advanced Mike Fontenot (3-for-5) to third base.

Miguel Tejada and Aaron Rowand followed with RBI singles off D.J. Carrasco, which proved essential as the Mets scored in each of the final two innings.

"It shows what kind of team we have," Cain said. "We're not always looking for one guy to pick everybody up."

Corny as it sounds, the Giants continue to be sustained by last year's World Series triumph. Tempered by their hard-earned success down the stretch and in the postseason, they can capably handle whatever challenges the regular season throws at them.

"They're relentless and resilient," Bochy said of his players. "They fight every day. And that's what it's going to take in the second half." Comments