Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants 4, Cardinals 2


Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants 4, Cardinals 2

ST. LOUIS Buster Posey is putting up video-game numbers. Barry Zito is putting up his best work when its least expected.And Jeremy Affeldt looks like the Giants new man in the ninth inning, in deed if not in name.Poseys three-run home run gave the Giants the lead in the first inning and Zito stayed aggressive, pitching into the seventh without walking a batter as the Giants defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 4-2 at Busch Stadium on Tuesday night.Starting pitching reportBack in April, Zitos season debut was a shutout at Coors Field -- proving that baseball is more unpredictable than the weather or the derivatives market.His odds were just as long Tuesday night. Zito entered with an 11.35 ERA in three career starts at Busch Stadium, he was coming off one of his worst outings of the season and the Cardinals talented, right-handed heavy lineup had just made patient, potent work of Matt Cain a night earlier.But Zito (9-8) worked into the seventh inning, he didnt walk a batter and the only runs he allowed came when Cal alum Allen Craig hit solo homers in the third and fifth. (Cal triumphs over USC in all athletic endeavors, right?)It was just the 15th time in Zitos 384 career starts that he completed at least 6 23 innings without walking a batter.The most important out that Zito recorded came in the first inning. Just like his previous start against the Mets, he got two quick outs before the Cardinals threatened on Matt Hollidays single and Carlos Beltrans double. But unlike last time, when the Mets tallied four runs, Zito escaped when David Freese grounded out to shortstop Brandon Crawford.Zito was past his toughest level, too. Entering the game, he had allowed 20 of his 64 runs in the first inning.Zito even brought the universe a little nearer to equilibrium with Skip Schumaker, who entered 7 for 12 off the left-hander. The Cardinals leadoff man went 0 for 4 and struck out on a pitch that hit him.Bullpen reportAffeldt might not be the Giants closer in name, but he is in deed.Clay Hensley got the final out in the seventh and Sergio Romo recorded two outs in the eighth before Yadier Molina hit a double. Affeldt did the rest, retiring Jon Jay and then plowing through the ninth inning to record his third save of the season.Affeldt started a double play when he fielded a comebacker, then struck out Daniel Descalso to end it.Strangely, Santiago Casilla had warmed up in the seventh inning (as did newest Giant Jose Mijares), but it was Brad Penny not Casilla who warmed up behind Affeldt in the ninth.Perhaps Casillas troublesome blister is an issue again.At the platePosey has his own video game app called Buster Bash, and as someone whos downloaded the free game, I can tell you it gets significantly harder to hit home runs after Level 1.In real life, and at the highest level, Posey must have all the pass codes. After his three-run home run off 13-game winner Lance Lynn, these were his video-game numbers since the break: .446 with eight home runs and 30 RBIs in 22 games.His 30 RBIs since the break are the most by any major leaguer. He has homered in five of his last six games. His hitting streak is up to 11 games, too.Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro singled ahead of Poseys shot off Lynn, which was one of those typical Buster blasts that just kept on carrying to center field.The Giants blew a chance to add to their lead in the second inning, after Nos. 7-8 hitters Brandon Crawford and Joaquin Arias opened it with a double and a single. Zito executed a sacrifice to move Arias into scoring position, too. But after Pagan walked, Scutaro grounded into a double play.They hit into some tough luck when center fielder Jon Jay made a running catch of Pagans deep drive to the warning track to strand two runners in the fourth. Right fielder Carlos Beltran reached near the top of the wall to catch Hunter Pences drive with a man aboard to end the fifth.But the Giants caught a break in the sixth when Brandon Belt, who was running with the pitch to Crawford, stutter-stepped around a tag to avoid a strike em out-throw em out double play. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny argued that Belt was out of the baseline, and it appeared he had veered onto the grass. But Belt was ruled safe and he scored when Arias followed with a double.In fieldThe Giants made outs on the basepaths on consecutive pitches in the seventh inning. Marco Scutaro was thrown out trying to steal second base, then Melky Cabrera doubled on the following delivery. He was thrown out trying to stretch a double, as Beltran recorded his second assist in as many games.AttendanceThe Cardinals announced 41,293 paid. It was the eighth sellout of the season at Busch Stadium. We long for the days when actual Clydesdales paraded around the field during the Seventh Inning Stretch.Up nextThe Giants play the third game of a four-game series at Busch Stadium on Wednesday. Ryan Vogelsong (9-5, 2.38) shoots for his second victory of the road trip. Hell oppose hard-throwing rookie right-hander Joe Kelly (2-4. 3.14), whose ERA suggests it should be easy as pi to hit him.

Reliable on the mound, Melancon seeks thrills off of it

Reliable on the mound, Melancon seeks thrills off of it

SAN FRANCISCO — At his introductory press conference Friday, new Giant Mark Melancon was asked about the fearlessness it takes to be a big league closer. He looked down at the first row of seats, where his wife Mary Catherine was sitting in a brand new No. 41 jersey, smiling. 

“You should probably ask my wife that,” Melancon joked.

When the Melancons got married, Mary Catherine had a calligrapher write up an actual bucket list of things the two could do together and presented it to Mark as a wedding gift. 

“It’s framed and it’s in our bathroom,” Mark said during an interview with CSN Bay Area on Friday. “It’s literally in our bathroom and we look at it all the time and try to plan out what we’re going to get done. Because it is on paper and it’s a goal and all that, we’ve checked off probably 40 or 50 percent of it in six years.”

The check marks include biking down the world’s “most dangerous road” in Bolivia and diving with great white sharks near New Zealand. The Melancons have visited Dubai and gone on a safari and stayed in countless cities off the beaten path. They have gone underwater with manta rays and high in the air in a blimp. Some of the items are simple ones, like attending a Nascar race. 

“There are a few items we’ll have to wait for until after baseball,” Melancon said. “We try to keep it safe of course, but it’s just a lot of fun. It’s a way to kind of bring creativity and allow ourselves to do things you could easily say no to.”

The standard MLB contract prohibits quite a few “dangerous” activities, and with a four-year, $62 million deal that is currently the second-biggest ever for a reliever, Melancon will hold off on certain trips, like skiing the Swiss Alps. “Attend the Kentucky Derby” is on the bucket list, but because the Derby is in May, that one is saved for retirement. In his first year with the Giants, Melancon hopes to put a check mark next to “sit backstage at a concert.”

Melancon said the thrill-seeking has slowed down a bit because the couple now has three young children, two daughters and a son. The Giants are hoping the more relaxed vibe carries over into their ninth innings. Team officials have been told by past Melancon employers that they signed a closer who is “boring” on the mound, in a good way. With a cutter-heavy approach, Melancon tends to get his ninth-inning work done quickly and without drama. That’s a welcome change of pace for an organization that has grown accustomed to “torture” late in games. 

“He was our target and we’ve gotten to know him, and the more we’ve gotten to know him the better we’ve felt about the fact that he was really meant to be a Giant,” team president and CEO Larry Baer said. 

The Giants had Melancon as their top offseason choice — and only big offseason expenditure — all along. Team officials feel even better about that approach after watching Melancon tour the ballpark Friday morning and meet with season-ticket holders and team employees. The fit was an easy one, with one member of the front office saying Melancon is “practically straight out of Giants central casting.”

Melancon’s new teammates feel the same way. He said eight to 10 of them have reached out since the deal was announced Monday. The group includes the types of players who are on any free agent’s bucket list of potential teammates. A ground ball pitcher, Melancon is looking forward to working with a Gold Glove infield. 

“That’s kind of an attractive thing to have a couple of Gold Glovers (up the middle) and then being able to throw to Buster is icing on the cake,” he said. “When you put things together on paper and go ‘who do you want to throw to and back you up,’ this team stands out.”

Dexter Fowler leaves Cubs, signs $82.5 million deal with Cardinals

Dexter Fowler leaves Cubs, signs $82.5 million deal with Cardinals

ST. LOUIS -- Dexter Fowler is headed from the World Series champions to their biggest rival.

After helping the Chicago Cubs end their long championship drought, he finalized an $82.5 million, five-year contract with the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday. Fowler fills the last big hole left in the Cardinals lineup after moves made earlier in the offseason to shore up the bullpen.

"It was an honor just to be considered to be in the Cardinals organization," said Fowler, who will wear No. 25 in honor of his mentor, Barry Bonds, because his usual 24 is retired by the Cardinals.

"You play against the Cardinals, I've been playing against them for eight years now," Fowler said, "and they always come out fighting. Always fighting. And then being with a rival, being the Cubs however many times we play them a year, you see them and - it's always good a winning team wants you."

Fowler was also a free agent a year ago, when he spurned a $33 million, three-year offer from Baltimore, who refused to offer an opt out after one year, and signed a $13 million, one-year deal with the Chicago Cubs. He hit .276 with 13 homers and a career-best .393 on-base percentage that landed him in his first All-Star Game, then had a pair of home runs in helping the Cubs win their first World Series title in 108 years.

"Playing over there, and playing against the Cardinals, you see them and you saw that they weren't far away," Fowler said. "Obviously they beat up on us, we beat up on them. It was almost even. It was one day or another. I can't put my finger on one thing or another, but we're definitely close."

His new deal calls for a $10 million signing bonus, payable in $1 million installments each July 1 and Oct. 1 for the next five years, and annual salaries of $14.5 million.

He gets a full no-trade provision, $50,000 bonuses for making the All-Star Game and winning a Gold Glove, a $25,000 bonus for a Silver Slugger, $100,000 for League Championship Series MVP and $150,000 for World Series MVP. He would get $250,000 for NL MVP, $150,000 for finishing second in voting and $100,000 for third through fifth. He would get $50,000 for Division Series MVP if the award is created.

One of the goals this offseason for St. Louis was to get more athletic, both defensively and on the base paths. Fowler was identified early in the process as someone who filled that role.

"He was always someone we were hoping to sign," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said, "but after this past week at winter meetings ... we certainly wanted to get this done. And we're excited we got this done."

The lanky 30-year-old from Atlanta is a .268 career hitter over nine seasons with Colorado, Houston and the Cubs. He's expected to slot into the Cardinals' leadoff spot, giving St. Louis a switch-hitter in front of lefty-hitting Matt Carpenter and righties Aledmys Diaz, Stephen Piscotty and Yadier Molina.

"You obviously have great presence at the top of the lineup," manager Mike Matheny said. "The athleticism, the excitement of bringing in a player that has all those physical attributes, I think it's been well-said, this is the guy we were hoping to be sitting up here with."

Fowler said negotiations with the Cardinals were easy with one notable exception.

"We were on a 2-hour time difference, and I guess he wanted to get in touch with me," Fowler said, "but I was in the dentist chair, so he couldn't get in touch."

So, Fowler sent his agent Casey Close a photo of him to pass along to Mozeliak - "That was a first for me, that kind of photo," the GM said - and everything proceeded smoothly after that.

The news of his signing started breaking while Fowler was on a plane to St. Louis, and that also created some problems: namely, with his sleep. People started coming up to him while he was trying to take a nap and asking him whether the news was true.

"I was like, 'Uh, you know, I don't know,'" Fowler said with a grin. "It was definitely funny."

Fowler is eager to help the Cardinals add their 12th World Series championship.

"This is a baseball city," said Fowler. "The fans, every time you come here, you see red everywhere. That's awesome to see. Even going through our parade (in Chicago), you saw Cardinals fans out there. They've won World Series (and) they're poised to be back in the World Series and win again. That was a big part of my decision."

The Cardinals were investigating the trade market for an outfielder during the winter meetings, but decided Fowler was their best option. Because Fowler did not accept Chicago's $17.2 million qualifying offer, St. Louis forfeits its top draft pick next June, No. 18 overall, and the Cubs get an extra selection after the first round as compensation

It was a sacrifice the Cardinals were willing to make to not only improve their lineup, but snag a piece away from their biggest rival in the NL Central.

"There's always the baseball angle in all decisions, but there's also the human element," Mozeliak said. "We think about him as a leader. He wants to have a voice in that clubhouse. When you think back to wanting to change the culture of what we have going on - we like what we have, but now it's even better."