Huff hits inside-the-park homer in Giants’ blanking of Pirates
SAN FRANCISCO – Aubrey Huff saw teammate Mark DeRosa spread out on the ground signaling him to slide into home, so he obliged. At last, Huff had the inside-the-park home run he’s long coveted.
“I was already gassed, so I really didn’t need that,” Huff said.
“He could have come in standing up,” teammate Eli Whiteside said with a grin.
Huff – who hardly considers himself a speedster – made his first homer with the Giants an exciting one and Jonathan Sanchez struck out 11, leading San Francisco past the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-0 on Wednesday.
Whiteside hit a three-run shot later in the second inning and Aaron Rowand hit a two-run shot a few innings after them.
“When I hit it, I thought it was gone anyway. In most parks it is,” Huff said. “I saw it bounce off the wall and as soon as I rounded first I saw it took an amazing hop right. I’m like: ‘Oh boy, here we go. If I am going to hit one out I’m going to try to get a cheapie.”‘
Sanchez (1-0) matched his career best with 11 Ks in eight scoreless innings. The Giants improved to 7-2, their best start since beginning 8-1 in 2003 – their last playoff season.
Huff led off the second with a drive that hit the arch on the facade in right-center, known in the pitcher-friendly park as Triples Alley. The ball ricocheted into right field and gave Huff ample time to round the bases.
Huff slid into home, gratuitously, for his first homer of the year as San Francisco’s new cleanup hitter. He received plenty of warnings about how hard it is to clear the fences in AT&T Park.
Huff’s sixth-inning double clanked off the wall just right of the first spot and caromed back toward center. He also hit a deep fly to center in the third that looked as if it might go out. Manager Bruce Bochy wasn’t sure Huff could have made it around a second time if he had to.
“I’ve never had a three-home-run game. I’m going to go ahead and chalk that up as a three-home-run game in my mind,” Huff said. “I don’t know if I can hit a ball any better. I hit one to center for an out and the one to right-center was just ridiculous. If that don’t go out, I don’t know what you can do. Everybody in spring told me, ‘You’ll see, you’ll see.’ I’m like, ‘Come on, if you get it it’s going to go.’ ‘Nah. …’
“I get it now. I get it,” Huff said.
The Giants’ Nate Schierholtz hit the last inside-the-park homer here last June 14 against Oakland. Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki had one during the 2007 All-Star Game at AT&T Park.
It was the fourth inside-the-park homer in regular-season history at the ballpark, which opened in 2000.
“Usually that ball’s supposed to kick toward center like the next one did,” Pirates manager John Russell said. “There’s no fault whatsoever. It hit the archway and kicked the other way.”
Sanchez, who pitched a no-hitter against San Diego last July 10, held the Pirates to three hits. He allowed a single to Lastings Milledge in the first and not another hit until Ronny Cedeno’s double to start the sixth.
Sanchez escaped a bases-loaded jam in the sixth on the way to his first career win over Pittsburgh in five appearances. It was his fourth career outing with 10 or more strikeouts. The left-hander received a rousing standing ovation when he walked off the mound after the eighth.
“I feel more confident out there,” Sanchez said. “I can trust myself now.”
Bochy turned to closer Brian Wilson for the ninth because he needed work and Sanchez, who walked three, had thrown 109 pitches.
Sanchez also had an infield single in the second for his first hit of 2010 and 10th of his career. San Francisco slugger Pablo Sandoval ended his 12-game hitting streak dating to last season.
Charlie Morton (0-2) endured another rough day in his second start of the year.
With a 21.60 ERA coming in, the right-hander was tagged for six runs and eight hits in six innings.
NOTES: First-year Giants hitting coach Hensley Meulens was away from the team to be with wife, Gyselle, for the birth of their son, Elijah, on Wednesday morning. … Pirates RHP Ross Ohlendorf will likely be scratched for his scheduled start Saturday vs. the Reds because of back spasms that began Friday. He had been set to throw a bullpen session Wednesday morning but only played catch instead. “He felt good, but it’s pretty unlikely he’ll pitch Saturday,” manager John Russell said. Ohlendorf could be headed for the DL instead. … Whiteside started at C as starter Bengie Molina got the day off before Thursday’s off day. … As the Giants hit the road to face the Los Angeles Dodgers starting Friday, Eugenio Velez now has a correctly spelled gray jersey. His uniform his read “San Francicso” during the season-opening series at Houston last week. Longtime equipment manager Mike Murphy confirmed the new uniform had arrived.
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