© 2006 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
09/03/06 7:54 PM ET
Not acting his age: Vizquel lifts Giants
Shortstop drives in three on two triples; Bonds belts No. 729
By Rich Draper / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Some may call Giants infielder Omar Vizquel a freak of nature; a man who mocks time itself, still has the energy of a rabbit even in September and seems to have an endless supply of hits and defensive tricks up his glove. The 39-year-old Vizquel keeps his body trim by quickly scooting by fast food restaurants and greasy foods, and doesn't do anything to excess, except perhaps play the game better than any shortstop in history. That's what's freaky, how his watch always is fully wound, how he punches a single off Father Time in every at-bat and stays perennially upbeat and playful nearing 18 seasons in the Majors. Vizquel showed all his skills Sunday in San Francisco's 7-4 victory over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, going 3-for-5 with two triples and three RBIs, spurring the club to its fifth victory in the past eight games, and keeping the Giants viable in the expected down-to-the-wire Wild Card chase. Oddly enough, manager Felipe Alou thought briefly of giving Omar a day's rest Sunday, just to keep him fresh, then changed his mind. "He's indispensable," said Alou of the venerable shortstop, who's batting .309 overall with four homers, 50 RBIs and a team-high 24 stolen bases. "He woke up the team today with that [fifth-inning] triple to tie the game." The first of Vizquel's two three-baggers came moments after Cubs pitcher Angel Guzman (0-5) was pulled from the game, having put two runners on then cramping in his right forearm. Vizquel then ripped the ball to the right-field corner off reliever Michael Wuertz for two runs, and outfielder Shea Hillenbrand followed with his seventh homer of the season. Barry Bonds later hit his 21st homer of the year and 729th lifetime, and Vizquel added a third RBI with his second triple in the ninth. The shortstop's heroics gave Giants starter Jason Schmidt (11-8) a cushion to work with after the right-hander struggled through the first four innings then settled down to last seven frames. "Incredible," said Schmidt of Vizquel. "I've heard over the years how good he is, and then you get him on your team. Last year he was pretty good ... this year [the same] -- it's amazing. He gets better every year.
"He's had a career-year hitting," said Schmidt. "How many guys do that at age 39?"
Vizquel, who rarely has a strong September -- he has a career .212 mark that month -- admits he has often struggled in the stretch, his body wearing down.
"It's just because I play a lot of games," he said. "I treat my body real hard during the season, and when September comes I get a little tired. I think it's normal. There's not too many players who feel better in September than they do in April.
"I just had a good day," he said of Sunday's potent offense and spectacular defense, which including a great ninth-inning grab-and-throw of speedy Juan Pierre's infield grounder. "Hopefully I can maintain my swing and everything I've been doing all season."
Hillenbrand's seventh homer was also key to the victory as he snapped out of an 0-for-9 slide and boosted the Giants to a lead they wouldn't relinquish. The first baseman boasts four homers and 12 RBIs in his last 10 contests.
"It was a huge win for us, and it was good for Schmitty to bounce back after his last start," said Hillenbrand. "He battled his [rear end] off and gave us a chance to put some runs on the board.
"But the biggest hit of the game was Omar's [first triple]," he said. "After they changed pitchers, he kept his focus, and those runs tied the ballgame. It put us in the position to do something."
Bonds' blast in the eighth off Chicago reliever Les Walrond -- Barry now has hit homers off 431 different pitchers -- continued his power-laden road trip. He's hit four homers with five RBIs and batted .538 heading into Monday's start of a three-game series at Cincinnati.
Bonds has struggled at times this year due to knee pain, back problems, a sore elbow and just plain tiredness at age 42, yet it appears his swing is back. He's sharper at the plate, more selective.
"He could have a promising September with his swing," said Alou. "He's the key. There are good things coming from him, and that keeps him in the lineup. He feels better about himself, his swings and his workouts."
|"He's indispensable. He woke up the team today with that [fifth-inning] triple to tie the game."|
|-- Felipe Alou, on Omar Vizquel|
Rich Draper is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.