San Francisco, CA - It was a generous gesture for the Giants organization to honor one of Major Leagues best players in his final year. Atlanta Braves shortstop Chipper Jones was honored before tonight's game with a video tribute in remembering his unforgettable career in the baseball.
After the receiving a standing ovation from the sellout crowd, Jones gracefully acknowledged the tribute by coming out of the dugout to remove his cap. Then it was back to business. It was a bitter-sweet victory for San Francisco after they defeated the Braves 5-2.
Barry Zito had another great outing marking his sixth time in his eight career starts that he tossed at least 7.0 frames against Atlanta. He allowed just two runs, five hits, three walks and five strikeouts. Zito tossed eight shutout innings before departing after allowing two singles to start the ninth.
"It feels good to help the team," Barry said. "We had a great road trip and a difficult homestead last time, so it's great momentum to go out there and help the team get back on track."
Thanks to great defense, the Giants kept the Braves scoreless through eight frames. With runners at third and first, pitcher Tommy Hanson hit a line drive to Zito who threw to third baseman Pablo Sandoval for the out after the runner stepped off base in the second.
That was Atlanta's only opportunity to score before Michael Bourn hit a fly ball to right fielder Hunter Pence to end the inning. In the fourth, Barry walked Dan Uggla after striking out Freddie Freeman to leadoff the inning. The next batter flew out to center field for the out and with their only runner on base, Uggla got picked off and caught stealing second base to end the inning.
"I don't feel like I went out there and got lit up," said Hanson. "I don't feel like I went out there and they were hitting lasers all over the place. That was just a tough one. I don't really know what to say."
The leadoff man, Angel Pagan was leading by example. In the third, he walked, stole second and scored the first run for the Giants on Sandoval's RBI single. He went 1-for-3 with two walks, a single and two runs scored, which extended his hitting streak to seven games.
"I feel comfortable in the leadoff position," Pagan said. "I'm seeing the ball really well, I'm getting very good at bats and drawing my walks. The energy starts with me, that's what I'm there for, you always want to score first and hope to continue in the leadoff spot."
San Francisco's offense soared in the third, Hunter laid down a perfect bunt and scored Pagan on the infield play. Two back-to-back RBI singles from both Brandon Belt and Hector Sanchez. With a 5-0 lead the Giants continued to stay focused despite adversity the team has faced this season and last week.
"The ball club is playing really well coming into this homestead," said Pence. "It's going to be a good series. We're going to play some good ball and find some ways to win. It absolutely matters with our position because we have to be ahead of them [Dodgers] to make it into the playoffs, every game is crucial. Today is the biggest day for us, we can control the way this series goes."
The loss of two of their best players to drug test and the injuries that have sideline several players has taken a toll. But the team has found ways to their success and maintain their first place position in the National League West and hope to make sure their road to the playoffs is uninterrupted.
"I've been very impressed and proud of these guys," manager Bruce said. "Especially with what they went through last week (losing Melky Cabrera to a 50-game suspension) and bounce back form the road trip. To keep their focus on winning games, we got a bad break losing quality players but this club knows the choice we have is to move forward without comment or concern."
San Francisco got challenged in the ninth after Zito's exit. The Braves got back into the game, after Freeman's two-run double ended an almost perfect shutout night and cut the lead 5-2 with no outs. It took the Giants bullpen to shut down Atlanta's offense to seal their victory.
"We didn't have very good approach against him early on in the game," said manager Freddy Gonzales. "But the good thing is we came back and they used what four guys in the ninth to try to get that win. We didn't play very good, Tommy got himself in some trouble but he didn't pitch that bad, some balls got through there."