SAN FRANCISCO -- Jeff Salazar approached Bob Melvin during batting practice Monday and apologetically told the D-backs manager that he would need to be removed from the starting lineup. "You know I can give you an at-bat today, but I'm having trouble getting out there in the outfield," the outfielder told Melvin. That one at-bat proved to be just what the D-backs needed as Salazar hit a pinch-hit, three-run homer in the ninth inning to lead Arizona past the Giants, 5-3, Monday night at AT&T Park.
"I didn't want to tell him at all," said Salazar, who tweaked his left ankle Saturday when he ran into the right-field wall trying to catch an Albert Pujols drive. "He put me in the lineup and he was depending on me, and I feel like I let him down." As it turned out, Salazar helped lift the D-backs' winning streak to six games and increased their lead in the National League West to 3 1/2 games over the idle second-place Padres. It was another in a series of improbable wins that the D-backs have managed to pull out this season. In their recent three-game sweep of the Cardinals, they trailed in each contest before rallying. Monday's storyline was the same as Giants rookie pitcher Tim Lincecum held the Arizona offense in check while his team built a 3-0 lead on the strength of a pair of homers by Bengie Molina and an RBI single from Kevin Frandsen. The only runs Arizona could generate off Lincecum came on RBI singles from rookie second baseman Emilio Bonifacio, who Melvin had given the start to on a hunch. Stephen Drew led off the ninth with a double off closer Brad Hennessey, who settled down to retire the next two batters. Rookie Justin Upton came through with a huge at-bat as he worked a six-pitch walk that finished with him laying off two sliders to keep the inning alive. "I just told myself to stay calm and see the ball," Upton said. "Those are the little things that get lost in the shuffle," Melvin said. "There will be talk about Salazar's at-bat, but we don't get there unless Justin draws a walk up there." Melvin then elected to send Salazar to the plate and Hennessey quickly fell behind 2-0. "I was just looking for a good pitch the whole time," Salazar said. "He missed up with a couple of fastballs and then he got into a situation where there were a couple of guys on -- he had to challenge me at some point -- so he threw a fastball. Maybe he thought I was taking, but in that situation, I'm not going to take too often. Luckily, it caught the barrel, and as hard as it is to hit home runs here, I'm still really surprised. I can't believe it got out." And the Giants are still trying to figure out how they lost to a team that started three guys that were called up from Double-A during the season, a pinch-hitter that was claimed on waivers during Spring Training and a club that's been outscored by a total of 27 runs over the course of the year. "They weren't even in the game until that last inning," Giants veteran infielder Rich Aurilia said. "To their credit, they didn't back down and give up. I look at that team and give them a lot of credit for where they are right now. You look at their numbers and stuff like that, you wonder how they are where they are. But they get hits like they got there in the ninth inning. When you're going good and you're on a roll, stuff like that happens." It was the second big league homer of Salazar's career and both have come in pinch-hits against the Giants. The first was last September when he was a member of the Rockies. Six different players contributed hits while four relievers combined to work three scoreless innings in relief of Livan Hernandez, with Jailen Peguero, yet another rookie on the roster, picking up his first big league win. "That's the way we have to win," Melvin said. "We talked about it all year: We need contributions from everyone."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.