SAN FRANCISCO -- Melky Cabrera prefers to wear a poker face and maintain silence. But when he barely suppressed a tight-lipped smile Tuesday night at the mere mention of Willie Mays, it spoke volumes.Cabrera felt proud, and justifiably so, after his performance in the Giants' 3-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks. His three singles hiked his May hit total to 50, eclipsing the San Francisco-era record for the month that Mays established with 49 in 1958. "I'm really happy that I was able to equal a record of Willie Mays', and maybe one day be a Willie Mays myself," Cabrera said through an interpreter. Cabrera's hits didn't just pad his statistics. They bore genuine meaning as the Giants (27-23) climbed a season-high four games above .500. His first hit broke up Arizona left-hander Joe Saunders' no-hitter with one out in the fourth inning. His next hit, a roller that third baseman Josh Bell allowed to roll until it curled past the bag in fair territory, preceded Buster Posey's RBI double. And Cabrera's final hit, an eighth-inning single, accelerated the Giants' two-run uprising that snapped a 1-1 tie against D-backs reliever Bryan Shaw (1-3). Cabrera, who improved his May average to .435 (50-for-115), is one hit shy of the San Francisco record for any month, which Randy Winn set with 51 in September 2005. Wednesday's series finale represents Cabrera's lone chance to surpass that mark, since Thursday's a scheduled off-day. Regardless of whether Cabrera passes Winn, he already has prompted wonder. "I've never seen anything like it," said Giants second baseman Ryan Theriot, a teammate with Albert Pujols last year on the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals' roster. "He hits the ball hard, he's getting a hit; he doesn't hit the ball hard, he's getting a hit. It's awesome. It couldn't happen to a better guy. The work that he puts in on a daily basis is unmatched. I've been around some really good players, guys who have put a lot into the game and got a lot out of the game as well. Melky's getting everything that he puts into it. You guys don't see it, but he works and works and works. It's paying off. It's not a fluke." "Anytime you're in the same category as Willie Mays, there's something to be said about that," said Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong, who stranded nine baserunners in seven resolute innings. "... I'd like to see him get a couple more [hits] tomorrow and get up there by himself." Giants manager Bruce Bochy repeated his comparison of Cabrera to Tony Gwynn, the Hall of Famer and eight-time National League batting champion.
"He takes what they give him," Bochy said of Cabrera. "He doesn't try to do too much up there. He has confidence. There's no panic in him, even with two strikes. He's just a great hitter."Said Saunders, "All you can do is make a pitch, and when a guy is going like that, you just have to minimize the damage because otherwise you're going to walk him and you don't want to do that. I don't know the words to explain it. He's in a different dimension right now, so just keep making your pitches and hope he hits it at somebody." The big hit eluded the Giants for much of the game as Joaquin Arias struck out and grounded into a double play with the bases loaded in the fourth and sixth innings, respectively. Then Theriot coaxed a leadoff walk from Shaw to open the Giants' eighth. Cabrera's ground-ball single to right field advanced Theriot to third, from where he scored on Posey's sacrifice fly to deep right. "With Melky swinging the bat the way he is, and Buster, you feel like if you get on base, you're going to score," Theriot said. The rally continued as Angel Pagan singled and stole second base before Brandon Belt drew an intentional walk to load the bases. Arias forced out Belt with a grounder to second base but beat the relay to first, enabling Cabrera to score. Cabrera was complemented by Posey, who hiked his club-leading RBI total to 27, and Pagan, who has hit safely in 23 consecutive home games, as San Francisco's 3-4-5 hitters went a combined 7-for-11 and collected all of the team's hits. Clay Hensley (2-3) pitched a perfect eighth inning before Santiago Casilla pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to save his third game in a row. "I hate to use a pun here, but he has saved us," Bochy said of Casilla. "He's kind of the unsung hero with where we are right now." After all, everybody's singing Cabrera's praises these days.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.