Marcos Breton

Eric Risberg / Associated Press

Eric Risberg Associated Press Pablo Sandoval hammered two home runs Thursday – one from each side of the plate, a first for the Giants third baseman.

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Marcos Breton: Players on the rebound power Giants to victory

Published: Friday, Sep. 21, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Thursday, Apr. 18, 2013 - 7:45 pm

SAN FRANCISCO – I've been killing Pablo Sandoval on Twitter for his lack of fitness, dormant bat and propensity to lob relay throws in the dirt at inopportune times.

But there is nothing like hitting two home runs in a game – which Sandoval did Thursday, one from each side of the plate – to silence naysayers and send everyone home happy.

Sandoval had not homered from both sides in one game – until Thursday's 9-2 win over Colorado.

And let's not forget Barry Zito, for so long a piñata for Giants fans and media, who won again Thursday.

The theme of the day was cemented when Aubrey Huff – playing out the string after a season of emotional turmoil and physical erosion – lashed a pinch-hit double in the sixth inning.

Are you catching this?

Some teams exorcise their ghosts on their way to a pennant; the Giants are exorcising their goats.

In a run that has buried the rival Dodgers, the Giants have won eight of nine games – and 16 of 22 – by riding the performances of men coming through in money games after past failures or personal setbacks.

Sandoval had, until recently, been a swelling symbol of underachievement. He's simply too heavy, a relapse of immaturity from two years ago the Giants had hoped was a bad habit of the past.

Sandoval's nadir came during a Sept. 10 game in Denver, when the Giants lost 6-5 to the same Rockies they crushed this week. Sandoval seemed unable to bend over to field an easy grounder, a gaffe that led to two unearned Rockies runs.

He also went 0 for 5 in the game and had not hit a home run since July 8.

Reporters began asking Giants manager Bruce Bochy if he would bench "The Panda," as he had in 2010 as the Giants marched to a World Series title.

In several snarky tweets at the time, I wondered how an athlete with such ability could allow himself to be so overweight? Sandoval is listed at 5-foot-11 and 240 pounds, but he clearly weighs more.

It's a touchy area, and it's no joke.

But if I can lose 55 pounds in 16 months, why can't Sandoval stay leaner with the help of an entire Major League organization?

Bochy has remained diplomatic.

"It's an ongoing issue, obviously, and something he's been battling," Bochy told reporters Sept. 2. "He showed last year he's a different hitter when his weight is down."

After the Sept. 10 game, Bochy gave Sandoval two days off. On Wednesday, Sandoval hit his first home run in 161 at-bats. Then came Thursday.

"Once he hit the one (Wednesday) night, it seemed to relax him," Bochy said.

Try to engage Sandoval in anything serious and he won't go there. When asked how he hit home runs from both sides for the first time, that big goofy grin gave way to a guileless answer: "I don't know."

Sandoval began the game with a first-inning shot from the right side and then hit one while batting left-handed in the fourth.

It was a welcome sight.

With Sandoval providing power, Buster Posey – the Giants' MVP candidate – becomes even more dangerous.

Posey went 2 for 4 Thursday, including his 23rd home run in the fourth inning right after Sandoval hit his 11th.

Zito won his 13th game, his most ever with the Giants, and the Giants have won in his last nine outings – another Zito first as a Giants starter.

Marco Scutaro, the Rockies' cast-off who few were excited about when he joined the Giants in July, had two RBIs Thursday and proved again to be an essential player when no one expected him to be.

Tim Lincecum, the once-fallen ace, is winning again. Brandon Crawford, so shaky early in the year, is turning heads at shortstop. Posey has been the best hitter in baseball after fears that he suffered a career-ending injury last season.

Even Huff is providing hits off the bench.

In each case, Bochy and the Giants' brain trust showed faith in players who were being written off in some form or fashion.

At the beginning of the season, Bochy risked upsetting veteran pitchers by demoting Eli Whiteside and promoting Hector Sanchez to be Posey's backup at catcher. Sanchez went 3 for 4 Thursday and is hitting .419 over his past eight starts.

The Giants' great story continues, played out Thursday before another sellout crowd on another gorgeous day. When faith is rewarded, the sun seems to shine brighter.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Marcos Breton

Marcos Breton, news columnist

Marcos Breton

Hello, my name is Marcos Breton and I'm the news columnist with The Sacramento Bee. What's a columnist supposed to do? I'm supposed to make you think, make you laugh, make you mad or make you see an issue in a different way. I'm supposed to connect the dots on issues, people and relationships that cause things to happen or prevent them from happening in our region. I also write a weekly baseball column during the baseball season. I am a voter in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Yes, I have voted for Barry Bonds - twice. I am a native of Northern California. I am the son of Mexican immigrants. I've been at The Bee for more than 20 years, and I love Sacramento.

Phone: 916-321-1096
Twitter: @MarcosBreton

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