Astros make it hurt; Giants fall again in Houston

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Astros make it hurt; Giants fall again in Houston

Aug. 20, 2011BOX SCORE GIANTS VIDEOMLB PAGE MLB SCOREBOARD
HOUSTON (AP) -- Rookie Jose Altuve and J.D. Martinez are giving the Houston Astros a good look at their future.Altuve hit an inside-the-park drive for his first major league home run, a leadoff shot that sent the Astros over the San Francisco Giants 7-5 Saturday night.
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Altuve had three hits and Martinez homered, doubled and drove in four runs as the Astros matched a season high with their fourth straight win."It's nice to see everyone do well, not just us," Martinez said. "I feel that the guys are starting to jell together and see what everyone can do. What they bring to the table and what their role on the team is. It's nice to see us putting everything together and winning games."Rookie Jordan Lyles (2-7) gave up two runs, both of them unearned, in five innings. Mark Melancon got two outs for his 13th save."I can't say enough about them," Lyles said of his fellow rookies. "The night that Altuve and J.D. had. The monster shot that J.D. had. It's a little bit easier when they put up big innings like that."Astros manager Brad Mills said Lyles did a good job of pitching around the seven hits he allowed.Madison Bumgarner (7-12) was tagged for seven runs and 11 hits in 6 2-3 innings."I felt like it was a battle the whole night trying to get the ball where it's supposed to go," Bumgarner said. "I was trying to fight through it and make pitches. They did a good job tonight of hitting the ball."
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"Just one of those days," he said. "You don't really have anything working. Just have to find a way to get through it. It stinks that I gave up that many runs, especially with our offense scoring five runs."Aubrey Huff homered and Cody Ross and Pablo Sandoval each drove in two runs for the Giants, who have lost three in a row and 16 of 22.Altuve opened the bottom of the first with a drive off the wall in left-center field. Ross came over from center field to track down the ball and relayed to shortstop Mike Fontenot, whose throw to the plate was high and wide.Third base coach Dave Clark put up a stop sign, but Altuve ran through it and scored."As soon as I hit it, I knew it was in the gap," Altuve said. "I just kept running hard. I saw that the center fielder didn't know where the ball was. I just kept running. As I was close to third base, I tried to look up, but Sandoval was blocking me, so I couldn't see. When I realized there was a sign, it was too late."The home run was the first inside-the-parker for the Astros at Minute Maid Park since Adam Everett on Aug. 6, 2003. The last Houston player to hit an inside-the-park shot for his first career homer was pitcher Butch Henry on May 8, 1992, at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh.Tony Campana of the Cubs was the last player whose first big league home run was inside the park. He did it Aug. 5 against Cincinnati.The Astros scored four times in the third for a 5-0 lead. Martinez hit a double that drove in Lyles and Altuve, who had both singled. Later in the inning, an error by Bumgarner set up Jimmy Paredes' RBI single and Clint Barmes' sacrifice fly.Ross cut it to 5-2 with a two-out, two-run single in the fourth. Huff hit a solo homer in the seventh.Martinez extended the lead to 7-3 with his fifth homer, a two-run shot that chased Bumgarner.Melancon relieved in the ninth and gave up Sandoval's two-run double before getting two groundouts to end it.NOTES: Giants OF Carlos Beltran, on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to Aug. 8 with a strained right hand, took batting practice from the right side and hit from both sides in the batting cage before the game. ... Houston recalled LHP Wesley Wright from Triple-A Oklahoma City and optioned RHP Jeff Fulchino to Triple-A Oklahoma City. ... Houston wore jerseys with "Los Astros" across the front for the first time in team history. ... RHP Henry Sosa (0-2) gets the start in the series finale Sunday against the Giants. San Francisco announced LHP Dan Runzler (1-2) as its starter. It would be Runzler's first start of the season. Giants manager Bruce Bochy said LHP Jonathan Sanchez, who has a left ankle sprain, would not start after reporting soreness in his ankle after throwing off a flat surface Friday. ... Bill Doran was the last Astros player to lead off a game with an inside-the-park home run, doing it on April 22, 1987, against Atlanta in the Astrodome.

With Bumgarner sidelined, Blach 'taking full advantage' of opportunity

With Bumgarner sidelined, Blach 'taking full advantage' of opportunity

SAN FRANCISCO -- At some point over the next four days, Madison Bumgarner will pick up a baseball, stand a few feet across from a member of the training staff, and simply play catch. It'll be a huge step in Bumgarner's rehab, and should it go well, a boost to the psyche of a struggling team.

In the meantime, another lefty is making sure the Giants don't suffer too much without their ace, as improbable as that first seemed.

Ty Blach took a shutout into the eighth Saturday night and in true Bumgarner fashion, he added a pair of hits and an RBI. The Giants beat the Braves 6-3. They've won Blach's past three starts, and even with a 10-run outing in Cincinnati mixed in, he has a 3.71 ERA since taking the spot left open by a dirt bike accident.

"Because of what happened he's in the rotation," manager Bruce Bochy said, "And he's taking full advantage."

Blach has shown that long term, he might be a big part of this rotation. It's been years since the Giants locked a young, cost-controlled starter in, and Blach has backed up his big cameo last year. It's possible -- likely even -- that at some point the Giants will need to trade a veteran, perhaps Johnny Cueto, for young bats. Blach provides needed insurance. 

Short term, he's providing a huge boost to a team that doesn't have much going right. Blach has thrown at least seven innings in his past four starts. He has allowed just eight earned runs in four starts since the one in Cincinnati, throwing 28 2/3 innings. 

"I feel good," Blach said. "I've always been a starter, so it's been a pretty easy transition to make. I feel comfortable."

The Giants are comfortable behind him, as evidenced by a half-dozen strong defensive plays Saturday. 

"He's been consistent and he works quickly," first baseman Brandon Belt said. "He's just a great guy to play behind."

Blach even joined in at the plate. He had an RBI single in his first at-bat -- his first big league hit off Not Clayton Kershaw -- and later roped another single. Blach even showed off his wheels, busting it from first to third on Denard Span's ball to the corner before Phil Nevin held him up. 

"I worked into some good counts and I was able to get fastballs," Blach said of his night at the plate. "It's definitely a big confidence booster when your spot comes up and you're able to drive in runs."

The night was straight out of Bumgarner's playbook, and it was needed. The Giants had dropped five of six, but Blach was backed by homers from Nick Hundley and Brandon Belt. It got a little hairy late, but the bullpen held on, clinching Blach's third win of the season. He looks poised for many more, and Bochy is happy to keep running him out there.

"I'm not surprised by what he's doing," the manager said.

 

Instant Analysis: Blach does it all vs Braves, Giants snap skid

Instant Analysis: Blach does it all vs Braves, Giants snap skid

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SAN FRANCISCO — This spot in the rotation is the one reserved for the stopper, the pitcher who takes a game by the throat when his team really needs it. 

Ty Blach took the mound Saturday for a team that had lost five of six, and just as Madison Bumgarner often has, Blach ended the skid. The young lefty was dominant into the eighth and the bats finally provided enough support. The Giants won 6-3, tying this weekend series with the Braves.

Here are five things to know from a night we were reminded that Emilio Bonifacio is in the big leagues … 

--- Blach pitched 7 2/3 innings. He has thrown at least seven innings in his last four starts, and five of seven starts overall. Jeff Samardzija (6) is the only Giants starter who has gone that deep more often. Blach is tied with Johnny Cueto for second-most seven-inning starts on staff, and Cueto has made three additional starts. 

--- Blach’s RBI single in the fourth was -- at the time -- the fourth hit of his career, and the first against a pitcher not named Clayton Kershaw. The ball had an exit velocity of 101 mph. Blach tried to score from first on Denard Span’s double, but Phil Nevin held him. Still, the way he was moving, it makes you wonder if Samardzija really is Bruce Bochy’s best pitcher-pinch-running option. In the seventh, Blach picked up a second single. 

--- Blach’s only bad start has been the one he made in Cincinnati, where the Giants played like a Double-A team. If you take that one out, Blach has a 2.21 ERA since taking over Bumgarner’s rotation spot. 

--- Even though he gave up just two earned in 7 2/3, Blach’s home ERA actually went up. It’s 1.75, which ranks seventh in the National League. The sellout crowd gave Blach a standing ovation when he was pulled in the eighth. 

--- Blach had a season-high five strikeouts. When he got Nick Markakis to end the first, Blach ended a streak of 37 left-handers faced without a strikeout. He later struck out another lefty, Matt Adams. The new Braves first baseman came up as the tying run in the eighth but Derek Law got him to ground out to first. 

--- Bonus sixth “thing to know” ... on Blach of course: His first name is Tyson, not Tyler. It’s Tyson Michael Blach.