© 2008 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
SAN FRANCISCO -- Attaching too much significance or symbolism to the season's 100th game can be a stretch. Still, the Giants hit the century mark in fitting fashion.
This club in transition received ample contributions from veterans who could be approaching their final days as Giants and younger performers whose careers remain a blank page. As everybody who follows the Giants knows, both both groups have thrived and struggled at various times this year.
Give Wednesday night's final nod to the veterans, who generated most of a three-run uprising in the eighth inning that lifted San Francisco to a 6-4 victory over the Washington Nationals. Rich Aurilia's two-run double erased Washington's 4-3 lead before Omar Vizquel added an RBI double to conclude the scoring. Rookie relievers Alex Hinshaw, Osiris Matos and Geno Espineli blanked Washington for 2 1/3 innings before Brian Wilson notched his 27th save in 29 chances.
This was no ordinary conquest for the Giants, and not just because of its comeback nature. They've secured their first back-to-back triumphs at home since June 1-2, when they defeated San Diego and New York. They also clinched their first series win at home since May 9-11, when they took two out of three games against Philadelphia. Since then at AT&T Park, the Giants have lost eight series and split a four-gamer with Chicago on their way to posting the Major Leagues' worst home record (19-31).
The outcome allowed catcher Bengie Molina, who followed Tuesday's two-homer outburst with a 3-for-4 effort featuring two RBI doubles, to dream big dreams. Yes, the Giants are 16 games below .500, but they trail division-leading Arizona, which visits AT&T Park this weekend, by a surmountable 7 1/2 games.
"I know we're not supposed to win anything, but anything can happen, I'm telling you," Molina said. "I've seen it before."
Anything apparently includes a resurgence from Vizquel, who was told Tuesday that his playing time would diminish. The 41-year-old shortstop must not have listened. After hitting an RBI double Tuesday, Vizquel went 3-for-4 Wednesday.
Manager Bruce Bochy stopped short of insuring that Vizquel would remain the No. 1 shortstop. But Bochy allowed, "We did tell him we were going to give him time to find his swing. He is finding it and swinging the bat well."
Said Vizquel, who's gone 8-for-17 (.471) in his last six games to raise his batting average from .150 to .183, "I've been feeling better at the plate the last week or so. No doubt I feel more confidence with my swing."
Aurilia always exudes confidence, although he fell behind 0-2 against Washington right-hander Luis Ayala (1-6) with two on and one out in the eighth. Aurilia worked the count to 2-2 and fouled off three pitches before punching a line drive to the left-center-field gap. Emmanuel Burriss scored easily from second base, and John Bowker raced all the way from first and slid home, beating shortstop Cristian Guzman's relay. Vizquel's subsequent double scored Aurilia.
"He was getting fastball after fastball," said Vizquel, who watched Aurilia's at-bat from the on-deck circle. "I can't believe he didn't get any other pitch."
Actually, Aurilia didn't connect with a fastball for his go-ahead hit.
"It was something offspeed that really didn't do anything," he said.
It turned out to be a changeup, which Nationals manager Manny Acta called Ayala's "fourth-best pitch."
Observers consumed with the drama of the July 31 Trade
Deadline could speculate whether Aurilia, whose versatility and experience could help a contender down the stretch, enhanced his market value. Aurilia, who's in his 13th season, doesn't really care.
"This is probably the third of the last four years I've had to deal with [trade] rumors," he said. "I came to realize there's nothing you can do about it unless you're a 10-and-5 guy [who can veto a trade], so why worry about what's going to happen, where you might end up, if you're going to stay. All you can control is what you do in the field and what you do at the plate."
Aurilia's hit rewarded Espineli with his first Major League victory. The left-hander stranded a pair of Nationals in the eighth inning by retiring pinch-hitter Ronnie Belliard on a groundout and Willie Harris on a fly ball. Once the victory was sealed, Espineli's teammates saluted him with a beer shower, a recent Giants tradition for a job well done.
"I was expecting the old-fashioned, corny cream pie in the face," Espineli said. "But I got a good 20-beer drenching instead."