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Vargas impressive in picking up first win in majors

5/14/2003

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- When Claudio Vargas walked into the
training room to pick up an ice pack for his arm, the game ball
from his first big league victory was waiting for him.

Getting the win took longer than the right-hander would have
liked, but he wasn't complaining.

Vargas worked into the ninth inning and the Montreal Expos sent
the San Francisco Giants to their fifth straight loss, 6-3 on
Wednesday.

"It feels very nice," said Vargas, who plans to keep the ball
in a special place back home in the Dominican Republic. "This is
my first win in the major leagues. The other three games I pitched
well. I never thought I'd go for a shutout."

Ron Calloway and Jeff Liefer homered, and Vladimir Guerrero hit
a two-run single in a five-run seventh for the Expos (25-15), who
moved 10 games over .500 for the first time since finishing the
1996 season at 88-74.

Montreal swept a series in San Francisco for the first time
since 1995 and has won six of eight at Pacific Bell Park. The
Giants are on their longest skid since dropping eight straight in
May 2000.

"To beat a team like San Francisco is really a confidence boost
for me, and for my team," Calloway said.

The 23-year-old Vargas (1-1) outpitched fellow rookie Jesse
Foppert (2-3), who had won his previous two outings.

Vargas had been impressive in his previous three starts but
couldn't get a win. He allowed two runs and five hits in eight-plus
innings against the NL champion Giants.

"Vargas was just tremendous," manager Frank Robinson said.
"He's pitched very well and if he continues to pitch well he'll
continue to get his wins."

Vargas left after allowing a leadoff homer to Rich Aurilia and a
single to Barry Bonds in the ninth. Vargas was greeted with many
high-fives from his teammates as he walked into the dugout.

Rocky Biddle came in and loaded the bases with no outs before
ending the game with three straight groundouts, including two that
scored runs.

Vargas' only strikeout came in the sixth inning when he caught
Bonds looking at a full-count pitch with Aurilia on first. Bonds,
who argued the first strike, remained at home plate for about a
minute talking to umpire Laz Diaz. Manager Felipe Alou came out to
calm down Bonds, who took three strikes in the at-bat.

Vargas believes he may have surprised the Giants because, he
said, fellow Dominican Neifi Perez is the only San Francisco player
who knows him. They'll remember him now, all right. Vargas planned
to call some friends to discuss his day.

Foppert, 22, pitched 6 2/3 innings in his fifth major league
start, allowing four runs and six hits, striking out six and
walking four.

After giving up Calloway's solo homer on the first pitch in the
fifth, Foppert loaded the bases in seventh. He should have been out
of the inning with no damage, but Perez failed to cover second base
on Henry Mateo's infield single to Aurilia at shortstop. That would
have been the third out.

"I have to make better pitches," Foppert said. "I made some
mistakes in the seventh and it cost us the game."

Perez has been playing at second in place of injured regular Ray
Durham, on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained right ankle.
Perez defended the way he handled the play. Orlando Cabrera was the
runner going to second.

"He's a speed guy," Perez said. "Even if I go to the bag he
beats me. The pitch was a changeup, so he might pull the ball. I
was playing him to pull. I was trying to cover as much ground as I
could."

Joe Nathan then relieved and gave up a Guererro's two-run single
and a three-run homer to Liefer that went over the outstretched
glove of Marquis Grissom in center. Guerrero broke out of an
0-for-13 slump by going 3-for-4 Tuesday.

Nathan has allowed his last nine inherited runners to score,
including giving up a three-run double in Monday's 4-3 loss. Alou
has considered resting him for a couple of days, though Nathan said
that's not necessary and that his arm is fine.

"In a situation with the bases loaded, my location wasn't
good," he said. "I feel good. I'm just in a tough stretch and I
have to find a way to get out of this."

Game notes
Giants OF Marvin Benard underwent a 27-minute arthroscopic
surgery on his right knee. Benard was placed on the disabled list
Friday, retroactive to May 5, with a swollen knee. He had played
two games of a rehabilitation assignment at Triple-A Fresno. He
will miss three-to-six weeks. ... The Expos have scored in the
seventh inning in eight straight games, and in seven of those they
have put up at least two runs. ... The Giants hit into two more
double plays after hitting into five Tuesday.

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