Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants 6, Phillies 5 (10)


Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants 6, Phillies 5 (10)

SAN FRANCISCO If at first you dont succeed, squeeze, squeeze again.

Gregor Blanco apparently missed a suicide squeeze sign in the eighth inning that hung out Buster Posey to dry in a tie game. But Blanco got all square in the 10th.

With runners at the corners, he laid down a perfect bunt down the first base line. Either it was a safety squeeze or Blanco made the decision on his own as the 3-1 pitch from Jonathan Papelbon screamed to the plate. Either way, Melky Cabrera scored without a play, and the Giants held on behind Santiago Casilla to take a 6-5 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

Blancos small-ball exploits were the end chapters in a game otherwise ruled by home runs. Matt Cain and Cole Hamels hit solo shots in the third inning, becoming the first starting pitchers to go deep off each other since Kevin Millwood and Denny Stark in 2002. No major league pitchers had homered off each other in the same inning since Kevin Gross and Fernando Valenzuela in 1990.

And it was the first time in Giants franchise history (since 1919, at least) that a Giants starting pitcher and opposing starter both homered in the same game. (The last time two pitchers went deep in a game involving the Giants, Mike Krukow homered off Eric Show at San Diego in 1988 and Padres reliever Mark Davis hit one out off Don Robinson in the eighth.)

Posey tagged a two-run shot in the third inning as part of a huge, four-hit night. But Cains 4-2 lead disappeared in the sixth when he served up a three-run shot to Ryan Howard.

Poseys fourth hit helped set up the rally in the 10th as the Giants clinched a winning road trip and won for the seventh time in eight games following the All-Star break. Theyre 12 over .500 for the first time this season.

Starting pitching report
Giants starting pitchers were 6-1 with a 1.30 ERA in seven games since the All-Star break. Cain couldnt continue that run of excellence while allowing five runs, although he only paid for three mistakes while throwing an economical 97 pitches over eight innings.

Chase Utley homered off him in the first inning and Hamels shot in the third was his first career homer in 420 at-bats. But Howards shot in the sixth was most damaging of all.

Cain issued a leadoff walk to Jimmy Rollins and gave up a hit to Shane Victorino the 1000th of the Flyin Hawaiians career before Howard mashed a 1-2 fastball. It was just Howards third hit in 19 career at-bats against Cain all of them home runs.

It was the first three-homer game against Cain since Oct. 1, 2010 against San Diego, when he took the mound in a failed bid to clinch the NL West.

Bullpen report
The Giants bullpen never seems to get hit against the Phillies. Javier Lopez retired Howard in the ninth and Sergio Romo lowered his bingo-number ERA to 0.64 after retiring Carlos Ruiz and Hunter Pence.

Casilla, who had blown five of his last eight save chances, pitched around a one-out walk to Placido Polanco to nail it down.

At the plate
Hamels took the mound perhaps a few days away from signing a contract that could be worth more than 130 million. So his agent couldnt have been happy that Phillies manager Charlie Manuel let him throw 128 pitches.

Hamels had to battle, all right. He mostly pitched through traffic while flashing his tremendous changeup, but Cain pelted his second home run of the season in the third inning. It was the sixth homer in the third inning and Posey added a two-run shot.

Posey added yet another two-out, RBI hit on this road trip a single in the fifth after Ryan Theriot walked and stole his way into scoring position.

Posey improved to 4 for 6 against Hamels with a home run, two doubles and five RBIs.

Melky Cabrera hit a tying, solo homer in the eighth but the Giants missed an opportunity to take the lead. Posey doubled and took third on a ground out. Posey ran with the 1-1 pitch to Gregor Blanco, who presumably missed a squeeze sign as he took it for a ball. Posey, hung out to dry, couldnt beat the throw back to third base.

Brandon Belt continued his abysmal month by popping up to strand the bases loaded in the eighth. Belt also popped up with one out and the bases loaded in the 10th to complete an 0-for-5 night.
In field
The Giants were all lined up for a big inning in the fifth when Nate Schierholtz hit a leadoff
double and Theriot walked. But Phillies second baseman Chase Utley made a diving catch of Cabreras line drive and then reached with his glove to tag second base to double off Schierholtz.

The Phillies announced 45,809 paid surprisingly, the largest regular-season crowd in Citizens Bank Park history.

Up next
The Giants try to make it a banner, 5-1 trip and go for a three-game sweep in Sundays series finale. Left-hander Barry Zito (8-6, 3.75) hopes to finish the trip the way he started it in Atlanta. Hell oppose right-hander Joe Blanton (8-8, 4.79), his former As teammate. The Giants haven't had a three-game sweep in Philadelphia since 2004 -- a series that included J.T. Snow's memorable three-homer game.

If Cubs get to World Series, injured slugger could make surprise return


If Cubs get to World Series, injured slugger could make surprise return

As if the possibility of clinching their first National League pennant in 71 years didn’t create enough drama and excitement in Wrigleyville, the Cubs have sent Kyle Schwarber to the Arizona Fall League, hoping he can add another chapter to his October legend.
Schwarber earned this chance after beating every expectation in his recovery from major surgery on his left knee in April. The Cubs haven’t ruled anything in or out – and still need to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers one more time this weekend – but they want to see how he responds on Saturday with the Mesa Solar Sox and ultimately decide if he would be a viable designated-hitter option for the World Series.
Schwarber gained clearance on Monday from Dr. Daniel Cooper, the head team physician for the Dallas Cowboys who reconstructed his ACL and repaired his LCL after a devastating outfield collision during the first week of the regular season. Schwarber immediately phoned president of baseball operations Theo Epstein after the six-month checkup.   
“I wasn’t expecting the call,” Epstein said. “We got news that was beyond better than we could have expected by any reasonable standard. 
“He asked for a chance to do this. And with as hard as Kyle has worked and as much as this means to him – and potentially to us – we wanted to give him that opportunity.”


Kershaw stands between Cubs and first World Series since 1945

Kershaw stands between Cubs and first World Series since 1945

Clayton Kershaw stands between the Cubs and the World Series, a possibility that left veteran catcher David Ross thinking about Ric Flair inside Dodger Stadium’s visiting clubhouse late Thursday night: To be The Man, you got to beat The Man. 

“Woo!” That’s how the Cubs like to punctuate their postgame celebration routine, channeling the professional wrestling legend in a ritual with so much sensory overload that the fog machine set off fire alarms throughout the underground Wrigley Field lair…after a win in the middle of August. “Woo!” 
The Cubs left Los Angeles one win away from their first National League pennant since 1945, and with two chances to pull it off this weekend at Wrigley Field, beginning on Saturday night in Game 6. So imagine how this crew would trash the Party Room if they beat Kershaw, a three-time Cy Young Award winner and 2014 NL MVP. 

“The guy competes,” manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s pretty much like mechanics be damned, it’s just about me beating you somehow. 

“He’s got a good fastball that he locates. He doesn’t walk people. He’s got a dynamic curve and slider. And he’s got deception. He’s a little bit funky, and that’s got to be hard to pick up. The ball gets on you pretty quickly, and then he commands it. 

“So there’s nothing you could possibly ask for that he doesn’t already have.”

Now we’ll see if something clicked while the Cubs turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 NLCS lead – handling rookie starters Julio Urias and Kenta Maeda and the softer parts of the Los Angeles bullpen – or if those 18 runs combined in Games 4 and 5 were a mirage.

In 16-plus innings so far, the Cubs still haven’t scored a run off Kershaw, if-necessary Game 7 lefty starter Rich Hill or dominating closer Kenley Jansen, who got this review from Maddon: “He’s like a 100-pound heavier version of Mariano Rivera. He’s the bigger man with the same kind of stuff.”