Molina leads Giants past Pirates
SAN FRANCISCO – Barry Zito is used to hearing a chorus of boos when he walks off the mound at AT&T Park. If he continues to pitch well, standing ovations may become the norm.
Zito pitched into the seventh inning to win his second consecutive start and the San Francisco Giants beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 9-3 on Monday night.
Bengie Molina went 4 for 4 with four RBIs for San Francisco, which is tied with Philadelphia for the best start in the majors at 6-1. Pablo Sandoval had three hits and scored twice.
Zito (2-0) allowed three runs and five hits in his 100th career start with the Giants. The left-hander has won his first two starts for the first time since 2003, when he finished 14-12.
Zito worked out of a two-out, two-on jam in the first, gave up a run in the second and another in the fifth, but kept the Pirates in check most of the night. He received a standing ovation when he departed after the first two batters reached in the seventh.
“That’s great,” Zito said of the warm reception. “When I was getting booed, I took that constructively as they want us to win and that’s all passion manifesting. I know they want me to do well and it’s just frustration if I don’t. I wouldn’t want it to be any other way.”
Akinori Iwamura and Andy LaRoche had two hits apiece for the Pirates, who have lost six straight at AT&T Park. Iwamura had two RBIs and LaRoche scored twice.
“We’ve just been playing catch-up the last couple of days,” Pittsburgh manager John Russell said. “We had opportunities … but when you’re playing catch-up it’s tough.”
The Giants finished with 12 hits and received plenty of help from Pittsburgh’s pitchers, who walked six and hit three batters, but it was Zito’s pitching that stood out the most.
“We got some runs early and that makes life easier for ‘Z,'” manager Bruce Bochy said. “(He) wasn’t quite as strong this time but he gave us six solid innings. That’s two good starts for him and hopefully he stays on a roll.”
Molina hit an RBI single in the first, doubled in a run in the third and singled to center in the fifth. He capped the scoring with a two-run homer off Brendan Donnelly in the eighth.
Aubrey Huff also went 2 for 2 and scored three times for the Giants, who have totaled 32 runs in their last five games.
Zito made sure the offense held up, and was rewarded with loud cheers when he departed. It was a stark contrast to how Zito was treated by Giants fans the previous three seasons, when he was booed unmercifully at times after signing a $126 million, seven-year contract.
“I had about two good innings where I felt pretty good,” Zito said. “The other four-plus were a battle but that’s just a personal thing. Usually in the second half (of the season) I feel pretty good. My goal is to bring that second-half guy into the first half.”
Sergio Romo, Dan Runzler and Guillermo Mota completed the seven-hitter for the Giants, who have won five of their last seven games against the Pirates after going 5-14 against Pittsburgh from 2006-08.
Fill-in starter Brian Burres (0-1) allowed six runs and eight hits in four innings for the Pirates.
Burres, who was called up after Ross Ohlendorf was scratched due to back spasms, was selected by San Francisco in the 31st round of the 2000 draft and spent six years in the Giants’ minor league system but never got higher than the Double-A level.
The left-hander was a non-roster invitee to spring training this year but pitched strictly in relief for the Pirates before being reassigned to the minor league camp in mid-March.
Burres’ first start since April 30, 2009, didn’t last long.
Aaron Rowand hit Burres’ fourth pitch into left field for a double and Edgar Renteria followed with a walk. After Sandoval fouled out, Burres hit Huff with a pitch to load the bases before Mark DeRosa’s broken-bat bloop single to left drove in two runs. Molina added an RBI single to make it 3-0.
Burres got into another jam in the third when he gave up a leadoff double to Sandoval and hit Huff for the second time. After DeRosa lined into a double play, Molina and Jose Uribe followed with consecutive RBI doubles.
Huff tripled in Sandoval in the fourth, giving the Giants a 6-0 lead and chasing Burres.
“I was just a little bit off on the command,” Burres said. “The ball started getting up and (my) breaking pitches were very inconsistent.”
NOTES: Pittsburgh RHP Joel Hanrahan, who had been out with a strained right elbow flexor, was recalled from the minors after completing a rehab stint and reinstated from the 15-day disabled list. The Pirates optioned RHP Daniel McCutchen to Triple-A Indianapolis to clear a spot on the roster. … RHP Hayden Penn was designated for assignment to make room for Burres. … Giants OF Fred Lewis, who is eligible to come off the DL, will remain in the minors to get at-bats after missing time in spring training with a strained oblique. … San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said the team still is targeting the end of April or early May for the return of 2B Freddy Sanchez. Sanchez is recovering from a late December surgery on his non-throwing left shoulder.
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