Rueter beat the Pittsburgh Pirates as much with his bat as with his arm, driving in four runs with three hits to back his two-run pitching as the Giants cruised to a 10-2 victory Thursday.
The last time the Giants entered September with the NL West lead, a 4 1/2-game edge over Atlanta in 1993, they wound up second by a game despite winning 103 games.
"I don't think anybody is going to change their approach now that it's September," Rueter said. "This is a team that stays on an even keel. We know we have 30 left and we know we play eight of the last 11 against Arizona. We just want to stay where we are."
"Now don't have to answer any questions about whether he's going to stay in the rotation," manager Dusty Baker said. "He wasn't coming out, but this still was a big game for him. This is usually his time of the year and, hopefully, he can reel off four or five in a row."
Rueter is 17-6 in September and October despite going 2-3 last season.
"I like pitching in September," Rueter said. "I've been on some good teams in Montreal and San Francisco where the games mean something in September."
The Pirates haven't hav many meaningful games since April. Their eighth loss in 10 games finished a miserable August (8-21) for the team with the majors' worst record (53-79).
With manager Gene Lamont almost certain to be fired when the season ends, the Pirates fell a remarkable 52 games under .500 over the last two calendar years. They lost 25 of their final 30 in 1998 and were 78-84 last season.
"Just when you think it's as bad as it can get ...," said John Vander Wal, who hit his 16th career pinch-hit homer. "Kirk's a heck of a pitcher, but when he drives in runs, too ... it can't get any lower."
The Giants didn't need long to get to Jose Silva (8-9), who allowed eight runs on 10 hits in 3 2-3 innings while failing to last five innings for the fifth time in six starts.
Rueter, a .170 hitter with only one RBI in 47 at-bats this season entering the game, followed center fielder Adrian Brown's run-scoring throwing error in the second with a two-run double that made it 3-0. Marvin Benard and Mueller then singled in runs.
Kent led off the third with his 29th homer, giving him 107 RBIs. In the fourth, Rueter singled for his second hit and scored on Mueller's eighth homer. Rueter added another two-run double, off Bronson Arroyo in the fifth.
Rueter (9-9) lost his shutout on Emil Brown's run-scoring single in the sixth. He pitched seven innings, giving up seven hits and two runs while walking one and striking out none.
Giants right fielder Armando Rios left the game after running into a bullpen gate making a backhanded catch of Abraham Nunez's foul fly ball in the sixth. He lay on the warning track for several minutes, but said later he had only a sore left arm and left knee.
Vander Wal tied Jerry Lynch for sixth place with 116 career pinch-hits by homering in the seventh, his third pinch-hit homer this season.
No matter, the Pirates still can't see daylight. They are 3-15 in afternoon home day games, losing 11 in a row, and were outscored 30-7 in three day games during a just-completed 1-6 homestad.
"It seems that right now whenever we make a bad pitch or have a bad at-bat, it costs us," Jason Kendall said. "We've got a month left in the season and we've got to make something positive of it."
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