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STL@SF: Rowand drills a walk-off single in the 12th

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants didn't just celebrate last year's success Friday. They perpetuated it.

Renowned for surviving taut, tense games throughout their World Series-winning season, the Giants treated a sellout crowd at their home opener to yet another thriller. Aaron Rowand's tiebreaking RBI single with two outs in the 12th inning enabled San Francisco to outlast the St. Louis Cardinals, 5-4.

"It's obvious we're not retiring 'torture,'" manager Bruce Bochy said after his Giants won their third consecutive home opener, including their second in a row delivered by Rowand.

The Giants entered the eighth inning with a 3-1 lead before Ryan Theriot took over. He singled and scored in the eighth inning before victimizing Giants closer Brian Wilson with a two-run single to left field in the ninth to put St. Louis ahead.

"My ERA went to a billion but I don't really care," said Wilson, whose ERA is actually 33.75. "We won and ultimately that's what matters."

The Giants roused themselves in their half of the ninth exactly as the Cardinals did, forcing extra innings after having two outs with nobody on base. Rowand started that uprising off St. Louis closer Ryan Franklin with a single up the middle and ultimately scored on Pablo Sandoval's third single of the game.

"This shows we still have that battle mentality," said Giants left-hander Dan Runzler (1-1), who earned the decision by pitching a perfect 12th. "We never stop playing every out, every pitch."

That became clear as the Giants maintained constant pressure. Andres Torres doubled to open the 11th and advanced to third base on a wild pitch. That prompted Cardinals manager Tony La Russa to employ a five-man infield, with left fielder Allen Craig stationed at third base and the rest of the existing infielders stationed within a couple of steps of each other. The ploy worked. After Freddy Sanchez struck out, Rowand smashed a grounder that Craig smothered with a backhanded attempt, leading to a rundown that erased Torres. With Rowand on second, St. Louis intentionally walked Buster Posey and Sandoval. That loaded the bases but also set up a force at any base, which proved moot as pinch-hitter Mark DeRosa struck out looking.

Then came the 12th. St. Louis barely missed turning an inning-ending double play when Nate Schierholtz hustled up the first-base line to beat Theriot's relay. Torres topped a roller halfway toward first base. Cardinals left-hander Brian Tallet (0-1) fielded the ball and threw to first base in time to retire Torres, but the toss grazed Albert Pujols' glove instead of lodging in it. Schierholtz reached third and Torres was safe at first on the error.

"That ball sank," Pujols said, "but that's a ball that you make that throw 100 times and I'm going to catch the ball probably about 99 or 98 times. The runner coming behind, I don't want to [make] an excuse. It hit the tip of my glove. That's it. I should have caught it."

St. Louis again filled the bases to set up a force play everywhere, this time by intentionally walking Sanchez. Rowand ricocheted a 1-0 pitch off the base of the left-center-field wall with Craig and center fielder Colby Rasmus in desperate pursuit.

Asked if he thought he had homered, Rowand replied, "No. I know this place. I've given up on thinking that balls I hit good in this ballpark are going to leave."

Rather, Rowand was staring at Rasmus, who he thought had a better chance than Craig at reaching the ball.

"It was a matter of whether [Rasmus] was going to catch it or not," Rowand said. "Hopefully they don't catch it and you're happy."

Pure happiness has eluded Rowand, who lost his starting job in the middle of last season and remains a reserve. But his .600 batting average (6-for-10) has commanded attention.

"He's doing all he can to force the issue," Bochy said. "He's swung the bat well when he's been in there. I thought we had the right guy up there."

Rowand happened to beat out an infield single in the 13th inning of last year's home opener to drive in Juan Uribe and beat Atlanta, also by a 5-4 score. That didn't enter his mind in this game.

"You've got to live in the moment, man," Rowand said.

The afternoon included stirring moments during a 40-minute pregame ceremony, which culminated with the World Series banner being hoisted in the right-center-field flag court. That made the Giants' day an emotional one under any circumstance. The festivities, combined with the excruciating, exhilarating game, left the Giants needing a break -- particularly with Saturday's World Series ring ceremony scheduled.

"I think everybody's thankful that tomorrow's a night game and we can rest a little bit," left-hander Javier Lopez said.

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