Zito digs in to prevent Bay Bridge sweep

AT&T PARK — You might have thought the Bay Bridge Series couldn’t have gotten any more dramatic than it did Wednesday night.

The Giants got timely hitting and clutch pitching to close out their four-game set against the A’s Thursday afternoon, ending with a 5-2 victory for the Orange and Black.

Six strong innings from Barry Zito and a four-run sixth-inning rally — highlighted by a two-run single by Pablo Sandoval and a two-run double by Brandon Belt — catapulted San Francisco over Oakland.

It’s a win manager Bruce Bochy knew was important for his ball club:

Giants manager Bruce Bochy

Video: CSN Bay Area

“I thought that today was really critical, and important that we find a way to win this game. And there was some pride involved too, the last thing you want to do is get swept here in this Bay series. And we haven’t played very well, and we needed something to get us going, and get the confidence going. And get some swagger in there too.”

Zito (4-3) entered the series finale with a 3-0 home record and a 1.38 ERA. Despite a season-high six walks, he grinded through six innings, giving up only one run on three hits and striking out five to pick up the win:

Giants pitcher Barry Zito

Video: CSN Bay Area

“Versus Oakland, obviously it’s a big series. They’ve got a great squad over there … good lineup, good staff. They’re doing a lot of things right over there. It was nice for us to go out there and take one out of the four game series.”

Losing pitcher A.J. Griffin (5-4) went 5-2/3 innings giving up five hits and four runs.

A’s manager Bob Melvin says it was nice to take the series but he wanted to win all four games:

“That’s what I expect from this group all the time. There isn’t a team we’re intimidated by, there isn’t a team we think we can’t beat. Granted this is a very good club, they play very well at home but we feel like every time we take the field we have a chance to win.”

The loss ended Oakland’s six-game win streak. The Athletics have still won 11 of their last 13 games.

Zito gave up a leadoff double to Coco Crisp and walked Jed Lowrie putting runners on first and second yet escaped the first inning without giving up any runs. It’s a feat that had his skipper in awe, calling the starter a “Houdini”:

“I don’t know how he did it. Sheer determination … That first inning I think was the critical inning. … He did it without giving up a run, just made pitches when he had to. … It’s just a credit to Z keeping his poise and making pitches when he had to.”

Zito appeared to have control of the strike zone in the first inning, but gave up walks to Derek Norris and pitcher A.J Griffin in the second. Crisp got things started for the Athletics with two outs, knocking a single into shallow left bringing home Norris and putting Oakland ahead 1-0. It was the only run the Athletics would score off Zito.

Brett Pill entered in the sixth to hit in the No. 9 spot and started the home team’s rally with a lead off single. Brandon Crawford smacked a one-out double to right. Sandoval’s RBI single up over second base into center field brought Pill and Crawford home, giving San Francisco a 2-1 lead.

The Giants offense continued to find holes in the A’s defense as Hunter Pence’s two-out single to center put runners on first and second, and knocked Griffin out of the game.

Griffin says he was cruising until the sixth:

“Disappointing and frustrating mostly to be doing so well like that and then let them put together consecutive hits. It’s pretty frustrating but I was just trying to go out there and throw strikes and they capitalized on their opportunities and that’s how it goes sometimes.”

But San Francisco wasn’t done yet. Reliever Hideki Okajima’s wild pitch advanced runners to second and third during Belt’s plate appearance, which he followed up with an RBI double to left center increasing the lead to 4-1.

Bochy said of the sixth inning rally:

“We’d been waiting on an inning like that. Griffin was throwing great and he was hitting his spots, and we were having a tough time. But we finally got the rally going, and had some key base hits there. Belt helped finish it off, but Pill, great job on his part leading off the inning to get us going. Really ignite the club, because we were sputtering offensively. . . And it got contagious.”

Yoenis Cespedes closed the gap in the top of the seventh with an RBI single into right field to make the score 4-2.

But the Giants answered back in their half of the inning when Nick Noonan put down a perfect bunt and beat the throw to first base.

Gregor Blanco hit a pop-up that shortstop Adam Rosales lost in the sun and dropped in for a hit, putting men on first and second. A throwing error by Rosales on a fielder’s choice put Crawford on second and scores Noonan, giving the Giants a 5-2 lead.

Sergio Romo closed it out with a 1-2-3 ninth for his first save since May 16 against the Colorado Rockies.

The Giants hit the road to face a very tough St. Louis Cardinals squad. They will return home June 4 for a rematch against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The A’s welcome the White Sox for a three-game set. Bartolo Colon (5-2, 3.82) gets the ball opposed by Chicago’s Dylan Axelrod (3-3, 4.21). First pitch from the Coliseum at 7:05 p.m, Friday night.

Notes

The Giants are now 7-0 at home this season when Zito starts and have won his last 13 starting assignments dating back to last year including Game 1 of the World Series. … Sandoval recorded his 19th multi-hit game, going 2-for-4 with two RBIs and one run scored. … Crawford has hit safely in 19-of-his-last-22 games. … Belt is now batting .350 with 14 RBIs with runners in scoring position and two outs. … Cespedes extended his hitting streak to a career best 12-games. … The A’s were 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position and left ten men on base.