HOUSTON -- After eight innings of missed opportunities, the National League's most potent road offense finally showed up.
The Giants scored two runs in the top of the ninth inning at Minute Maid Park to come from behind for a 3-2 victory over the Houston Astros on Tuesday. The Giants had been 2-50 when trailing after eight innings and were 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position before Hector Sanchez's go-ahead single.
After all that, the only number that mattered was 3ï»¿1/2. That's the Giants' lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West, their biggest cushion of the season.
"This was great for us, especially to start a road trip," starting pitcher Matt Cain said. "That's what you want to be able to do with three outs left. I think this is going to build a lot of momentum for us this week."
Cain got the six-game trip off to a solid start, throwing seven strong innings before running into trouble in the eighth. But the Giants were never able to give him a big lead to work with.
The Giants got a fifth-inning homer from Angel Pagan but wasted several good chances to get more against right-hander Bud Norris. Marco Scutaro reached second base with one out in the first inning but never advanced. Pagan and Hunter Pence hit one-out doubles in the third and fourth innings, respectively, but didn't score. Buster Posey hit a leadoff double in the sixth and was stranded.
In the eighth, Cain walked JimmyParedes and gave up a single to Brett Wallace. Both runners advanced on a sacrifice bunt before Paredes scored on a wild pitch, ending Cain's night. Cain threw 118 pitches, his highest total since he threw a perfect game against the Astros on June 13, and he was on the hook for the loss until the ninth-inning rally.
Brandon Belt opened the inning with a single and scored the tying run on Joaquin Arias' double.
"That's one of our biggest hits of the season," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He saved us there."
Sanchez followed two batters later with a broken-bat flare up the middle that got Arias home easily.
"I hit it in a good spot," Sanchez said, smiling. "I'll take it."
The Giants will take wins any way they can, but they've had few like Tuesday's. They entered the night with a .177 batting average in pinch-hit situations, the lowest average in the league. Both Arias and Sanchez were pinch hitters.
"It's a gutty effort by the club," Bochy said. "That's why you go hard for 27 outs."
After the Giants rallied off the Astros' closer committee in the top of the ninth, Sergio Romo made quick work of the bottom of the inning. He needed just seven pitches to set the Astros down in order for his seventh save.
"That bullpen was pretty excited," he said of the ninth inning runs. "We had a big top of the ninth inning, and I wanted to just end the game right there."
- Pablo Sandoval and Brandon Crawford teamed up in the first inning to make one of the most impressive plays of a Giants season full of defensive highlights.
With a runner on second base, Jason Castro hit a high pop-up down the left-field line, sending three Giants -- Sandoval, Crawford and Gregor Blanco -- racing to the same spot. Sandoval misjudged the ball and nearly dropped it before recovering to flip the ball high in the air. Crawford sprung into action, diving for the ball and catching it a couple inches above the ground for the third out.
"We don't practice that," Sandoval said. "I was lucky Brandon was there. I couldn't believe he was there."
Romo just shook his head when asked about Crawford's instincts. "Homeboy comes down diving," he said. "Baseball is pretty amazing."
Cain got defensive help on several occasions. Crawford made a running basket catch to get another out, and Pagan's diving catch in center ended the fourth inning and saved a run.
"For me, as a pitcher, that motivates you," Cain said. "You've got guys out there putting their bodies on the line."
- Bochy said Aubrey Huff likely would be activated after Sept. 1, when rosters expand. Huff has been on the disabled list since Aug. 1 because of a right knee sprain. When Huff returns, Bochy anticipates using him as an extra hitter off the bench.