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Molina delivers in a pinch for Giants in 10th

Molina delivers in a pinch for Giants in 10th
SAN FRANCISCO Bengie Molina had caught every inning of the Giants' first 13 games before getting a well-deserved break Wednesday.

But the Giants had to work overtime for the run they needed. So Molina punched the clock and knocked out the San Diego Padres , hitting a pinch ground-rule double to the left-field wall that scored Andres Torres as the Giants walked off with a 1-0 victory in 10 innings.

Barry Zito wowed a skeptical crowd in his home debut by pitching seven shutout innings, Jeremy Affeldt stranded a runner at third base when he dropped in majestic curveballs to strike out Brian Giles and Adrian Gonzalez in the eighth, and Brian Wilson (1-0) pitched the ninth and 10th as the Giants completed a 4-1 homestand.

Their rotation had a 0.52 ERA over the five games against the Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks; included were three shutout victories in which they combined to score five runs.

"Pitching is what we're built on," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "We can't say enough about what they did on this homestand, and we needed it because we're not yet clicking offensively."

Molina touched second base and lifted his arms wearily like a heavyweight champ as his teammates streamed toward him. Torres had hit a one-out single and stole second base to set up a two-out intentional walk to Fred Lewis.

Emmanuel Burriss was due to face right-hander Edwin Moreno, but Bochy called back the young switch hitter. In previous seasons, the Giants usually had Barry Bonds on the bench for these afternoon delights.

Now Bochy has his Bengie Bullet.

"I asked Bengie before the game if he was ready to win this one for us," Bochy said. "As soon as they walked Freddie, I was going for it at that point. He's our best RBI guy, so it was a no-brainer."

Molina hadn't taken batting practice early Wednesday, saying he was too fatigued. But he loosened up with a few swings in the cage. His double was just the fourth hit of the game and only extra-base hit for a club still seeking an offensive identity.

"It's always great no matter who gets the hit," Molina said. "In this case it was me, but I tell you what, I wish it would've been any of those guys. Just winning the game is all I care about."

Zito, the highly scrutinized weak link in the rotation last season, didn't break the chain. The announced crowd of 26,593 the smallest in 10 seasons at AT&T Park, and by a margin of more than 3,400 reacted with glee when Zito struck out Giles, Gonzalez and Kevin Kouzmanoff in the fourth inning.

Zito did not walk a batter the second time that's happened in 32 home starts as a Giant and enlisted catcher Pablo Sandoval's help catching a wind-blown foul pop to escape the sixth.

It was a redemptive start for a pitcher who was 0-8 in his first nine home starts last year. The team didn't win a game that Zito started at AT&T Park until July 5.

"It's about competition," Zito said. "It's always been about competition. My focus strayed a little in the past, but more than anything it's about fighting the guy on the other side."

Zito hit 89 mph and pitched in the 86-88 range consistently, a major improvement over the low-80s stuff that hitters tagged last season.

"You can see it in the way he snaps his wrist," said Wilson, who was Zito's workout partner over the winter. "The changeup at eye level becomes a totally different pitch."

Is it mechanics? The workout regimen? Confidence? Playing catch across a canyon?

"It's probably a mixture of everything: being more fluid, going with the lower arm slot," Zito said. "I'm still healthy and I've got the same stuff, so why not?"

Contact Andrew Baggarly at 1, Padres 0next game: Friday, at Diamondbacks, 6:40 p.m.It's a startBarry Zito's scoreless outings as a Giant:Date IP Opp4/23/09 7 SD8/18/08 7 Atl8/2/08 8 SD8/17/07 7 Fla*8/5/07 1 SD5/30/07 7 NYM4/21/07 7 Ari4/16/07 6 Col* left with injury

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: April 23, 2009

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