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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, May 8, 2010

MLB: Giants fall to Mets as 'Panda' remains in deep hibernation


By Andrew Baggarly
San Jose Mercury News

NEW YORK There are some things you don't expect to see at a major league ballpark. Like Pablo Sandoval swinging through five consecutive fastballs.

You also don't expect to see a team receive four home runs from the Nos. 7-8 hitters in their lineup, but that's the power the New York Mets tapped for a 6-4 victory over the Giants on Friday night.

Catcher Rod Barajas ended the game with his second homer, a two-run shot in the ninth off inconsistent right-hander Sergio Romo, as the Mets won for the 10th time in their past 11 games at Citi Field.

Jonathan Sanchez gave up Barajas' first homer and a pair to rookie Ike Davis but allowed just one other run in seven innings and pitched well enough to win.

The Giants didn't need unexpected power from the bottom of their lineup. They just needed their best hitter to come through. Unfortunately for them, their Panda seems to have forgotten his Kung Fu grip.

Sandoval is getting tied in knots by inside fastballs and is in perhaps the deepest slump of his young career. For the season, Sandoval is 0-for-13 when batting with two outs and a runner in scoring position. For the month, he's hitting .071 (2 for 28).

Sandoval struck out on three consecutive pitches all swing-and-miss inside fastballs from Mike Pelfrey to strand Aaron Rowand at third base in the fifth.

Sandoval came to the plate in the ninth with the tiebreaking run at second base but fouled out when Davis flipped over the dugout rail while making a spectacular catch.

"He's pressing. He's really fighting it," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "You know, he's our guy. He helps make it go. We're trying to get it done until he gets going again. Pablo is going to have his little streaks, too.

"The guy can hit. He'll come out of it."

Sandoval, 23, was found to have a slight astigmatism in an offseason eye exam; he has alternated between sports glasses, contact lenses and nothing at all. The tinkering is part of the natural compulsion that all slumping hitters feel, Bochy said.

Sandoval insisted he is seeing the ball fine. He had a lengthy pregame session with hitting coach Hensley Meulens and said he'd look at video to break down each of his at-bats Friday.

His swing might not be the same. But his high-energy spirit seems to be.

"Nah, I'm fine," he said. "It's part of the game. I feel great, and I've been working hard. "& Everybody passes through these moments. To get out (of them), you have to be 100 percent positive."

The Giants had their happy moment in the ninth, when John Bowker's tying solo shot off closer Francisco Rodriguez the first pinch home run of Bowker's career forced the Mets to bat in the bottom of the inning.

But Romo keeps altering hero and goat masks from one night to the next, and he paid for another mistake.

"Hanging breaking ball, pure and simple," said Romo, who received another vote of confidence from Bochy. "In the big leagues, everybody is dangerous."

Barajas was the Mets' fallback choice on the free-agent market after Bengie Molina took less money to return to the Giants. Barajas ended up being a cheaper option. And he's got nine home runs.

Sanchez wasn't pleased after giving up back-to-back shots to Davis and Barajas in the second inning, saying the catcher "closed his eyes and swung at it."

But Sanchez buckled down and made pitches. He acknowledged that "two years ago, I'd have to come out of that inning."

Sanchez also showed some moxie while facing Davis for a third time and striking him out. He gave a little fist pump. "I want to show him he got lucky on those pitches," Sanchez said.

Right now, one lucky swing even with eyelids pressed shut would be a welcome treat for the Panda.