SAN FRANCISCO – The quality start statistic has a strict definition – six or more innings pitched, three or fewer runs allowed – meaning Chad Gaudin won't get credit for one Saturday. Then again, the way Gaudin kept the Giants in a game they eventually won 3-2 over the Baltimore Orioles was hard to define.
By the end of the third inning, Gaudin had thrown 63 pitches, allowed five runners to the fourth-highest scoring team in baseball, watched his first baseman commit a throwing error and gone to a 3-0 count with the bases loaded against the opposing pitcher, who had four previous major-league at-bats to his name.
And yet when Gaudin left after five innings, the Giants trailed 1-0 and the unearned run was the product of an Adam Jones sacrifice fly. An inning later, the Giants' offense awoke for three runs against Wei-Yin Chen – including a two-out, two-run double from Hunter Pence – that proved enough for the Giants to even this series.
Andres Torres, 1 for his previous 24, singled leading off the sixth to snap a run of 13 hitters retired by Chen. Two batters later, Marco Scutaro singled Torres home for his first RBI since July 14. After Brandon Belt hit a double to right-center that one-hopped the wall, Chen walked Buster Posey to load the bases for Pence.
Pence, who before Friday hadn't driven in a run since July 24, lined a double down the right-field line for a 3-1 lead. The two hits with runners in scoring position in the inning were nearly half as many as the Giants had in their previous five games, when they were 5 for 39 in those situations.
"We got the hit we've been looking for," manager Bruce Bochy said. "Pence, that's the type of hit that wins ballgames for you, and it's what we've been missing."
Pence is batting .358 since the All-Star break but had been searching for that timely hit. Saturday was just his second multi-RBI game since the beginning of July, one example of the spotty offense that has crippled the Giants. Though their starters have a 2.01 ERA in their last 15 games, the Giants are 6-9 in that stretch.
"It's a step in the right direction," Pence said. "You always want to believe that it's going to turn around and continue to hope this is what gets the ball rolling for you and gets everyone a little more relaxed, so to speak. Hitting is contagious."
The Orioles' Chris Davis, baseball's home run leader, launched his 42nd off Santiago Casilla in the eighth and came up in the ninth with the tying run on first base against Sergio Romo. But a day after Davis hit a winning, two-run double off Javier Lopez, Romo got him to ground out harmlessly to Scutaro, sealing his 28th save.
Romo said there was no hesitation over going after Davis, who rolled over a sinker, even after watching his impressive blast an inning before, which landed halfway up the seats to the right of straightaway center field.
"I mean, I trust my stuff," Romo said. "Everybody here believes in my ability to get hitters out. Although he's a very formidable opponent, I've got to believe in myself."
Guillermo Moscoso earned the win with two scoreless innings, but the Giants were still in striking distance in the sixth because of Gaudin, who threw 93 pitches over five innings but lowered his ERA to 2.60 in 11 starts since he joined the rotation in June.
Normally as economical a pitcher as the Giants have on staff, Gaudin loaded the bases in the second on a one-out single and two walks. He struck out Taylor Teagarden but threw three consecutive balls to Chen. Appearing to exhale deeply before each pitch, Gaudin came back with three strikes, the last getting Chen to ground out on a comebacker.
"(I was thinking) throw strikes, obviously," Gaudin said. "Can't try to be too perfect. I got myself into that, and the only way to get out of it was calm myself down and throw it down the middle."
Gaudin walked Nate McLouth to start the third, and it cost him when Belt fielded a Davis grounder and tried for the force at second. Belt's throw bounced into center and McLouth advanced to third, then scored on Jones' sacrifice fly.
Still, the Giants' pitchers allowed two or fewer runs for the seventh time in their last 11 games, in which they're 6-5. That stretch began July 31, the day of the trade deadline, which Romo said isn't a coincidence.
"Once the trade deadline went, it seemed to be more relaxed," he said. "You get better results when you're more relaxed, more free, and you're actually going out and enjoying it. And it seems like we're just enjoying playing baseball right now."