Neal cycles in San Jose rout

Caps feat with ninth-inning double as Giants pound out 24 hits

Thomas Neal's cycle was the San Jose Giants' first since the 2005 season. (Bill Mitchell/Four Seam Images)

By John Torenli / Special to | April 28, 2009 10:23 PM ET

San Jose's Thomas Neal knew he was a double shy of the cycle as he stepped to the plate in the top of the ninth inning at Clear Channel Stadium on Tuesday night.

"I was talking to Darren Ford, our center fielder," Neal explained. "I told him that if I hit a single, I'm just going to keep going. Hopefully, our manager Andy Skeels wouldn't get too mad."

Neal didn't have to worry about catching any flack from his skipper as he drilled a two-base hit to center field, capping a 4-for-5 night that was one of several big offensive performances by the Giants during their 17-7 rout of the Lancaster JetHawks.

"The feeling was amazing," said Neal, who could have tried to leg out his second triple of the game if not for the lopsided score and his chance at making history.

"It's something you can't really describe. You always dream about it. I was really looking to just drive the ball, find something I could hit hard."

Neal didn't have any trouble making solid contact on this night, and neither did the rest of the San Jose lineup as it racked up 24 hits en route to its highest run total of the season.

The Giants' 37th-round pick in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft began his big performance with a leadoff homer, his fourth of the year, in the second. He walked and scored in the third, ripped his first triple of the season in the fourth, flied out in the sixth and singled in the seventh before coming through with his fifth double to spark a three-run ninth.

"[Hitting for the cycle] gives me a lot of confidence," said Neal, who is batting .364 with 15 RBIs and 14 runs scored in his first 20 games in the hitter-friendly California League.

"These past few games, I've been seeing the ball a lot better. I'm relaxed at the plate and not trying to do too much."

Though his teammates were well aware of Neal's accomplishment, they didn't budge in the dugout after the 21-year-old California native came in to score on Conor Gillaspie's two-out single in the ninth.

"They all walked to the other side of the dugout, but then they came over and congratulated me," Neal said after completing San Jose's first cycle since 2005.

Ford finished 4-for-7 with a double and five RBIs and Gillaspie added four hits and drove in four runs for San Jose, which trailed, 3-2, before plating five runs in the third.

Neal hit .276 with 15 homers and 81 RBIs in 117 games at Class A Augusta last year, but admits that playing every day in the Cal League has been quite an eye-opener.

"There's definitely been a few games where balls are going out of the park," he said. "Last year at Augusta, they were routine fly balls. But the pitching is definitely better [at this level]."

It didn't appear that way for Lancaster starter David Duncan or Giants hurler Madison Bumgarner, who entered the contest with an 0.56 ERA after his first three Cal League starts.

Duncan was reached for seven runs -- only two earned -- on seven hits and three walks with one strikeout over 2 2/3 innings en route to his fourth loss in as many starts.

Bumgarner, who was spared his first loss of the year, surrendered six runs -- two earned -- on six hits and a walk with five strikeouts over 3 1/3 frames.

"I wouldn't be too worried about him at all," Neal said of's reigning Class A Starting Pitcher of the Year. "[Bumgarner's] the ultimate competitor. I know he'll bounce back next outing and go right back to Madison Bumgarner form."

John Torenli is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

View More