Cards end first road trip with 7-4 loss to Giants

Monday, April 14, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO -- For at least two days, John Bowker has given Giants' fans reason to forget Barry Bonds.

Bowker became the first San Francisco player to homer in his first two games, connecting Sunday in a 7-4 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

Bowker had an RBI single in the second, then homered in the fourth after Bengie Molina reached on an infield single. The ball cleared the 25-foot wall in right field, landing in almost the same spot as his home run Saturday.

"It's crazy. This is definitely crazy," Bowker said. "I'm having a lot of fun with it. I'm trying to just get good pitches to hit. It hasn't really sunk in."

In two games since being called up, San Francisco's rookie outfielder has provided an offensive spark and added a much-needed power presence in the Giants lineup. He's already second on the team in home runs and RBIs (7) in the first season without Bonds since 1993.

Starter Tim Lincecum, who struck out 11 in six innings, was teammates with Bowker in the minors two years ago and isn't surprised.

"He was doing the same thing, so it's nice to see him up here in the limelight doing the same thing," Lincecum said. "It's kind of like he hasn't missed a beat."

Lincecum (2-0) needed 23 pitches to get out of the first inning, but settled in after that, allowing just one walk. The 23-year-old right-hander gave up six hits in six innings and retired 10 of the last 11 he faced.

It marked the third time in 26 career starts that Lincecum has reached double digits in strikeouts, although he wasn't entirely happy.

"You look back at it and it looks good, but I always figure there's a couple batters where I could have had a strikeout, or somewhere I got away with pitches," Lincecum said. "So it kind of balances itself out."

Fred Lewis and Molina added two hits apiece for the Giants, who snapped a two-game skid and spoiled the season debut of St. Louis starter Joel Pineiro.

Ryan Ludwick homered for the third straight game for the Cardinals and went 2-for-5 with two RBIs.

St. Louis trailed 7-2, but scored twice in the eighth and loaded the bases with two outs against reliever Merkin Valdez. Tyler Walker came in and got Skip Schumaker to ground out to first to end the threat.

Brian Wilson pitched the ninth to earn his third save in four chances for San Francisco despite giving up back-to-back singles to start the inning. The Giants closer struck out Ludwick and Chris Duncan, then got Rico Washington to fly out to center to end the game.

Pineiro, the Cardinals' right-hander who began the year on the disabled list due to soreness in his pitching shoulder, looked strong in a minor league start Tuesday, but wasn't nearly as sharp in his return to the St. Louis rotation.

Piniero left after giving up six runs and 10 hits in 3 2/3 innings.

"He was in the middle of the plate," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "The location wasn't good enough and they made him pay."

Bowker's two-run homer provided the big blow off Pineiro (0-1) in the fourth, but the Giants strung together five straight hits later in the inning, including an RBI-single by Lincecum and a two-run single from Eugenio Velez.

Bowker added a sacrifice fly in the seventh off St. Louis reliever Ron Villone.

"The kid's been a real shot in the arm for us," San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said. "He came through again today. It's great to have a kid come out here and do what he's doing. We needed some power, and he's provided that the last couple of days."


* Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, batting .390 this season, wasn't in the starting lineup but pinch-hit and walked in the eighth.

* St. Louis optioned pitcher Kelvin Jimenez to Class AAA Memphis to make room for Pineiro.

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