Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants 5, Rangers 2

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Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants 5, Rangers 2

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO The Giants have Pablo Sandoval back in the fold. Now theyre missing Melky Cabrera, who has a tender hamstring.

Once again, theyre finding a way to pick up the slack.

Sandoval showed some spirit in his first game off the disabled list Saturday, coming back from nearly getting hit on the hand to line an RBI single in the seventh inning. And Nate Schierholtz, who replaced Cabrera in the lineup for the second consecutive day, rediscovered his extra-base swing.

Ryan Vogelsong showed the most fight of anyone, holding baseballs most potent lineup to three hits while taking a shutout into the eighth inning as the Giants beat the Texas Rangers 5-2 at AT&T Park.

Schierholtz hit a 400-foot triple and a ground-rule double to help pad a lead that the Giants created with small ball and smarts.

The Giants must play the small game effectively at AT&T Park, since the home runs still arent coming.

They played their 15th consecutive home game without a home run, matching the longest streak in franchise history (Sept. 4 to Oct. 3, 1980). They have gone 477 at-bats and 127 innings at home without going deep.

They have just one home run in their last 20 home games, too.

Starting pitching report
Only Vogelsong could hold baseballs best offensive team to one run on three hits in 7 23 innings and still look absolutely ticked to exit the game with a four-run lead.

Vogelsong (5-2) scowled as he walked off the mound to a thunderous ovation after another of his typically brilliant starts. He completed seven innings for the seventh time in his last outings; he still hasnt pitched fewer than six innings in a start this season.

Vogelsong needed to pitch out of two early jams. He got grounders to third base from Michael Young in the first inning and Ian Kinsler in the second to strand two runners each time.

Then he settled into a groove and the Giants defense kept making plays behind him. Vogelsong didnt allow another runner into scoring position until Mitch Moreland hit a booming, pinch-hit homer into McCovey Cove leading off the eighth inning.

He retired the next two hitters before reluctantly handing over the baseball. Vogelsong lowered his ERA to 2.26 fourth best among all major league starters.

Vogelsong has won five consecutive decisions; he hasnt lost since May 4.

Bullpen report
Javier Lopez surrendered a double to Josh Hamilton in the eighth, but Sergio Romo got Adrian Beltre to ground out to end the inning.

Clay Hensley served up a solo homer in the ninth to Mike Napoli in the ninth, setting up a save situation for Santiago Casilla. He converted it for his 16th in 17 opportunities.

At the plate
The top of the lineup keeps creating opportunities, but it was Vogelsongs first hit of the season that started a scoring rally in the third inning.

Vogelsong was 0 for 20 with 18 strikeouts and had taken plenty of ribbing for it before he lined a single up the middle with one out. (Vogelsongs early-season back issues probably had something to do with his swing. Hes a former college shortstop whos proud of his hitting.)

Vogelsong advanced on a balk and the Giants had runners at the corners after Gregor Blanco singled. When Theriot hit a potential double-play grounder to second baseman Ian Kinsler, Blanco noted that shortstop Elvis Andrus wasnt rushing to cover the bag and so he stopped dead in his tracks rather than run into a tag. Kinsler, clearly flummoxed, overthrew first base. Vogelsong scored and the Rangers didnt record an out.

The Giants scored another run in the fifth after left fielder Hamilton let Brandon Crawfords pop fly tick off his glove for a two-base error. Right-hander Scott Feldman struck out the next two hitters, but Theriot remained reliable with two outs. He rifled a single to right field and Crawford scored without a play to make it 2-0.

Schierholtz tripled home Angel Pagan in the sixth inning his first extra-base hit since April 23 at New York. It was a 400-foot shot off the bricks and it came off tough left-hander Robbie Ross, who had allowed just one other extra-base hit in 44 at-bats to left-handed hitters this season.

Sandoval, one pitch after he was nearly hit on the hand by an inside offering from Koji Uehara, lined an RBI single and Pagan hit an RBI double as the Giants padded their lead in the seventh.

In field
Blanco didnt only show his smarts on the basepaths. He nearly created an out in the second inning when he sprinted from left field to sneak behind Napoli and cover third base on a sacrifice bunt. Theriot threw across the diamond and the Giants nearly caught Napoli napping.

There were plenty of other defensive gems. Pagan is getting as comfortable with center field at AT&T Park as he is at the plate here. He made a sprinting, tumbling, dust-cloud forming catch on Beltre in the third inning.

Brandon Belt speared a line drive at first base in the fourth and Schierholtz, despite plenty of time in the bench in recent weeks, showed no lack of familiarity with right field while making two running catches in the fifth.

Crawford had a quietly solid game at shortstop, charging one tough grounder and making a deft stop on Beltres one-hop smash to end the eighth.

Sandoval looked perfectly adequate at third base as well, even turning the pivot well on a forceout at second base in the first inning when the infielders were shifted against Hamilton.

Attendance
The Giants announced 41,704 paid, including a smattering of Texas Rangers fans.

Up next
The Giants and Rangers finish their three-game series with a Sunday afternoon game at AT&T Park. Tim Lincecum (2-6, 5.83) will try to pitch the Giants to a victory for the first time since April 28. Hell face right-hander Alexi Ogando (1-0, 2.27), who replaces lefty Derek Holland in the Texas rotation. Lincecum has never faced the Rangers in the regular season; he was 2-0 against them in the 2010 World Series.

Evans: Giants want to give Parker, Williamson chance to play, but...

Evans: Giants want to give Parker, Williamson chance to play, but...

While the Giants aggressively pursue a new closer, they haven't been aggressive for a new left fielder.

Angel Pagan is a free agent and isn't likely to come back. That leaves talented, but unproven youngsters Mac Williams and Jarrett Parker.

And for GM Bobby Evans, who is always looking for ways to improve the roster, it appears he is content going into the 2017 with Williamson and Parker filling the void in left field.

"Our mindset has been to keep an open mind in any way we can improve the club offensively. But that said, I feel like we've got a starting lineup today that we don't have to adjust or improve upon. I'd always like to find ways to improve it. I think there are some big market options, but we've got two young guys that we want to get a good evaluation on, and you can't really do that until they get major league at-bats. That's Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker and both of them are really in-waiting for an opportunity to get everyday playing time and show what they can do," Evans told ESPN's Buster Olney on Friday.

But Evans is keeping an open mind regarding acquiring a left fielder.

"That said, I also have to make sure that if we have an opportunity to improve or solidify our lineup in some way, I want to take advantage of it. But I can't lose sight of the benefit of developing our own guys and giving them a chance and not locking ourselves into keeping them from playing time in the next two to three years" Evans said.

Evans: Giants still in 'search mode' for closer, but 'it's progressing'

Evans: Giants still in 'search mode' for closer, but 'it's progressing'

As the Winter Meetings get set to begin in Washington, D.C. on Monday, the Giants still haven't crossed off the top item on their offseason wish list.

The closer role remains vacant.

Names like Mark Melancon and Greg Holland have been linked to the Giants over the last few weeks, but nothing has materialized.

On Friday, GM Bobby Evans provided an update while speaking with ESPN's Buster Olney.

"There's been a lot of signings and a number of trades. In many ways, more done prior to the winter meetings than in the last couple of years. We still are in process, relative to trade options, relative to free agent options, to be clear who's pitching the ninth inning for us. So we feel we have the makings of a good bullpen, we just need to be clear who's pitching the ninth. And we'd like to solidify that through the trade market or free agent market. It's progressing. We're a month into this process, so we have a lot more information. But ultimately, until we have a closer, we're still in the search mode.

There's a nice balance between both. It's just that, they both have costs. Relative to a trade, sometimes you're giving up, in some cases, one or more of your top prospects and other prospects below that. In the way of free agency, it's obviously an expenditure for a certain number of years that is elavated more on the supply and demand side. That said, there are some middle tier late inning options as well that may not be as demanding as some of the bigger names. Again, it's a balance of options trying to measure all three."