NLCS Gm5: Zito scores Blanco with a bunt single

SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants pitchers lead the Majors in sacrifice bunts, which isn't too much of a surprise. Their starting pitchers are decent athletes, so they know how to handle a bat. And third-base coach Tim Flannery, the team's bunting guru, hones the pitchers' bunting skills virtually every day.

But the margin of the pitchers' lead in this category is stunning. The Giants began Monday with 13 sacrifices, compared to just seven for teams tied for second, Miami and St. Louis.

Barry Zito leads the pitchers with five sacrifice bunts, followed by Madison Bumgarner with three. Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain have two each, while Tim Lincecum has one.

"Playing in a park like this where you know you're not necessarily going to hit too many home runs, you have to manufacture runs," Lincecum said. "You notice that pitchers happen to be in the middle of those big innings sometimes just by getting down a bunt. We can be a difference-maker."

The pregame batting practice that pitchers take isn't solely for their amusement.

"It's not like we're just getting work in," Lincecum said. "We literally go in there like, 'Hey, I do not want to be the guy who looks like crap.' It's another area of the game where you have to focus and really care."

Ross brings 'warm feeling' back to San Francisco

ARI@COL: Ross raps RBI double off the outfield wall

SAN FRANCISCO -- One way or another, Cody Ross is going to be remembered.

"His smile," Giants right-hander Tim Lincecum said. "It was really infectious."

"How he went off," catcher Buster Posey said, referring to Ross' two home runs off Philadelphia ace Roy Halladay in the opener of the 2010 National League Championship Series.

Ross, who has migrated to the D-backs, said before Monday's series opener between Arizona and the Giants at AT&T Park that he encountered numerous well-wishers while strolling through downtown before the game.

"This city is dear to my heart," said Ross, who bonded quickly and deeply with fans despite spending only the last several weeks of the 2010 season and 2011 as a Giant. "I got a warm feeling when we flew in."

Ross said that he always will welcome his association with the 2010 club, which brought San Francisco its first World Series triumph.

"People will always remember that -- how excited everybody was, the atmosphere," he said. "It was nothing like any of us had ever experienced."

Ross likened San Francisco's 2010 club to the 2004 Boston Red Sox, who won that city's first Series in 86 years.

"I think they're sort of icons and remembered more than the 2007 team [which also captured the Series]," he said.

Giants becoming hard to strike out

SD@SF: Sandoval's RBI single increases lead to 3-0

SAN FRANCISCO -- Since last year, the Giants have morphed into a bunch of contact hitters.

They entered Monday night's series opener against Arizona with 117 batters' strikeouts, fewest in the National League. San Francisco's first three hitters in the order ranked among the league's top 10 in toughest to strike out: Pablo Sandoval, third (one strikeout per 12.7 plate appearances); Angel Pagan, fifth (11.4); and Marco Scutaro, eighth (10.3).

The Giants began developing their consciousness about avoiding strikeouts in midseason last year, particularly after Scutaro was acquired from Colorado on July 27. So effective was Scutaro, who batted .362 in 61 games as a Giant, that his new teammates tried to emulate his approach at the plate. San Francisco's hitters finished the season with the NL's second-fewest strikeouts.

One might expect to see Pagan or Scutaro in the toughest-to-fan list, but not Sandoval, whose free-swinging ways are legendary. But, as Giants manager Bruce Bochy pointed out, "He can expand the [strike] zone, but he can go get the ball outside of the zone."

Worth noting

• Not surprisingly, first baseman Brandon Belt was among the Giants who took extra batting practice Monday. Belt is striving to regain his stroke after being moved into a platoon with right-handed-batting Joaquin Arias. "He needs to get back to relaxing and letting the swing do the work," Bochy said of Belt.

• According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Zito is the second Giants pitcher in the modern era (since 1900) to record scoreless outings of at least seven innings in each of his first three home starts. Hall of Fame left-hander Carl Hubbell achieved this distinction at New York's Polo Grounds in 1933.

• Due to the telecast of the Golden State Warriors' playoff game at Denver, Tuesday's Giants-D-backs game will be aired on CSN Bay Area Plus.

• Shortstop Brandon Crawford and right fielder Hunter Pence are the lone Giants to have started all 20 games this year. Pagan has appeared in all 20 games, including one as a late-inning substitute.