Three Giants homers back Sanchez's gem
Lefty matches career high with 11 K's in eight innings
SAN FRANCISCO -- This is what winning teams do. They stop losing streaks before they start, often in definitive fashion.Just a little more than a half-day after enduring a galling one-run loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Giants regained their wizardry with a 6-0 triumph Wednesday that may have been their most dominant performance of the young season. "It was a good win to come back [with] after yesterday," Giants center fielder Aaron Rowand said. Aubrey Huff delivered a rarity with his first career inside-the-park home run. Eli Whiteside added a three-run homer and Rowand contributed a two-run clout. That neatly complemented the three-hitter Jonathan Sanchez maintained for eight innings, a performance that mirrored his no-hitter last July 10 against San Diego. Sanchez struck out 11, matching the career high he established in his no-hitter. "It's hard to put together a better game than we did today, with the pitching and the offense," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. It also would be difficult to maintain a better start than the Giants (7-2) have recorded. They've won their first three series of the season for the first time since 2003, when they built a 17-4 mark by capturing their first seven series. Success in baseball usually starts with the man on the mound, which explains the Giants' burgeoning confidence. They believe that they can subdue any opponent with any of their five starters. That conviction grew as Sanchez stopped the Pirates, who moved one runner as far as third base against him. Sanchez's lapses can be easily summarized and quickly dismissed. He walked Andrew McCutchen and surrendered Lastings Milledge's single with one out in the first inning, but escaped trouble by retiring Garrett Jones on a line drive to center and striking out Ryan Doumit on a breaking pitch. The Pirates collected their remaining pair of hits while loading the bases with two outs in the sixth inning. Sanchez responded by retiring Doumit on a fly to center. In Sanchez's other six innings, he faced no more than the minimum three batters. He notched at least one strikeout in each inning -- highlighted by the fourth, when he struck out the side. "When he has stuff like that, you know you have a really good chance to win the ballgame," Rowand said of Sanchez (1-0), who became the first Giants pitcher this season to last eight innings. Whiteside favorably compared Sanchez's effort against the Pirates to his no-hitter. "It was very similar," Whiteside said. "His body language was similar. He was confident in what he had going." Said Jones, "His slider was sharp. He kept the ball down for the most part, threw strikes and got ahead in the count. That's exactly what you want as a pitcher. He was tough." Sanchez attributed his effectiveness to remaining mechanically precise with his delivery. "I slowed down my body," he said. "I wasn't going fast at all. I was able to stay on top of the ball." Consistency still eludes Sanchez, who worked only 4 1/3 innings in his previous start. But his progress is evident, as exemplified by the development of a split-finger fastball he has added to his repertoire. "Since the spring, his split's been a lot better," Whiteside said. "He's getting more confidence in it and he's been able to throw it to left-handers as well." San Francisco's season-high three homers, all off Pirates starter Charlie Morton (0-2), enabled the offense to match Sanchez's excellence. Huff's oddity, the fourth inside-the-park round-tripper in AT&T Park's regular-season history, opened the scoring in the second inning. His drive struck the inner portion of the middle archway among the three in the right-center-field wall and caromed away from Jones, Pittsburgh's right fielder. "When I hit it, I thought it was gone anyway," Huff said. "In most parks it is. I saw it bounce off the wall and as soon as I rounded first I saw it took an amazing hop and I thought, 'Oh boy, here we go.' "
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.