Giants 2, Athletics 1

Dallas Braden is ready to make this season memorable for more

than just one start.

The fiery lefty with the big breaking ball pitched 5 2-3

scoreless innings before the San Francisco Giants rallied in the

ninth to beat the Oakland Athletics 2-1 on Wednesday in the final

tuneup before opening day.

A year after pitching a perfect game and making headlines for

his infamous mound confrontation with Yankees slugger Alex

Rodriguez, Braden is out to prove his often stunning performances

were no fluke. He wants to be more consistent this season – and

injury free – with hopes of helping the A’s to an AL West title and

possibly more.

”I was ready to be done with spring training on day two of

spring training, so I’m definitely ready to get going now,” he

said.

Braden struck out five and allowed five hits and two walks

against the World Series champions, who played mostly reserves in

the finale of the annual preseason Bay Bridge Series. The Giants

swept the series.

San Francisco starter Madison Bumgarner also had a solid

performance, giving up one run in six innings. He stuck out six and

walked three.

The Giants begin their title defense Thursday at the rival Los

Angeles Dodgers. Oakland opens the regular season at home against

the Seattle Mariners on Friday night, and Braden believes the A’s

might surprise some people if they can stay healthy.

Braden will shore up the back end of a deep and talented

rotation at the fourth spot. Along with Trevor Cahill, Brett

Anderson and Gio Gonzalez, the A’s rotation – which led the AL in

ERA (3.56) and shutouts (17) last season – could be as good as any

in the majors.

”I’m riding around on their coattails,” Braden joked.

”They’re throwing around the ‘Fantastic Four’ name. I told them,

‘Big 3.5, and I’ll be the decimal.”’

The only run the A’s gave Braden came in the third inning when

Ryan Sweeney doubled and Mark Ellis drove him in two batters later.

The Giants had a two-out rally in the ninth, with Eli Whiteside and

Chris Stewart hitting RBI singles off Bobby Cramer.

While the Giants were more than pleased to close spring with a

sweep of their Bay Area rival, the real emotions came later in the

clubhouse. Promising prospect Brandon Belt made the 25-man roster,

crying tears of joy when he received the news from manager Bruce

Bochy, and teammates congratulated the rookie as he choked up

speaking to reporters.

”I’m not sure if I’m going to have a heart attack or cry,”

Belt said. ”This is pretty much the most exciting day of my

life.”

Bochy said Belt deserved to make the team because he was the

best player at his position. Belt will start at first base for the

Giants, moving veteran Aubrey Huff – who was among the first to

congratulate the rookie – to right field.

”I think Huff was crying more than Brandon,” Bochy joked.

On a picturesque day in San Francisco’s cozy waterfront

ballpark, Braden soaked up every moment against the team he rooted

for as a kid. He called AT&T Park ”the most hallowed ground in

baseball” and had never pitched in the ballpark across the Bay

from the Oakland Coliseum.

While Braden cherished the opportunity, he quickly moved past

his performance.

He was only 11-14 last season, had a 3.50 ERA but pitched five

complete games, including his Mother’s Day’s masterpiece against

the Tampa Bay Rays on May 9. But he went 0-5 in nine starts and

dealt with an elbow injury after his perfect game before finally

winning again, and he still has plenty to prove after an otherwise

forgettable spring.

Braden allowed more runs than innings pitched in his first four

outings this spring but did close strong. He allowed one run in

just six innings in his previous start before holding the Giants

scoreless.

Braden said he’s more than ready for the regular season and

relishes his role in the A’s rotation.

”At the back end of the rotation, you want to be a surprise,”

Braden said. ”You want them to look up on that Sunday day game and

be like, ”Dang, that just happened? I’m fully embracing the fourth

spot.”

NOTES: A’s closer Andrew Bailey (strained forearm) and RHP Rich

Harden (strained lat muscle below his shoulder) both had light

throwing sessions. … Giants outfielder Cody Ross (strained right

calf) said he will likely resume baseball activity over the

weekend. He will start the season on the DL and likely miss at

least another two weeks. … San Francisco allowed the A’s to use

the designated hitter for the final preseason game but the Giants

choose not to use the DH themselves.