Baggs' Instant Replay: Nationals 9, Giants 3

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Baggs' Instant Replay: Nationals 9, Giants 3

BOX SCORE
WASHINGTON It started well enough. Tim Lincecums scoreless innings streak reached 13 when he impressively carved through three dangerous hitters from the stretch Tuesday night.But there was no luck for Lincecum after that. Just plenty of mistakes, a career-worst eight runs allowed and enough explosive meetings of bat and ball in the nations capital to make you believe Independence Day arrived 24 hours ahead of time.The Giants and Nationals entered Tuesday night tied for the most victories in the National League. The Nats made easy work of Lincecum to take charge of the Senior Circuit in a rain-delayed, 9-3 victory at Nationals Park.Was it the mid-90s heat and humidity? Thats been the old standby for Lincecum in the past. But the longer his struggles go this season, the more it seems the familiar explanations just dont go deep enough.Lincecum gave up two runs in the second inning, got pounded in the third and retired just one batter in the fourth. He left them loaded for George Kontos, and after all were redeemed at the bettors window, Lincecum ended up matching his career worst with seven earned runs and establishing a new one with eight allowed in all.Lincecum watched the rest of the fourth inning, a forlorn figure leaning against the dugout rail. He was coming off seven scoreless innings against the Dodgers, which snapped his winless streak at 10 starts. Now he is bereft of momentum again, and hes got one more start before the All-Star break the first-half finale Sunday at Pittsburgh to figure out how to reinvent himself in the second half.Starting pitching reportLincecum (3-9) had made 171 starts in his major league career. He had never given up eight runs in a start. Heck, he probably didnt have one of those at the University of Washington, either.It all started with such promise. After Steve Lombardozzis leadoff single put Lincecum in the stretch, where he has struggled to make pitches, he executed very good sequences to get ahead of wunderkind Bryce Harper in a confrontation that ended with a fly out. After pitching backwards to Harper with early-count offspeed stuff, Lincecum ran his fastball in and out to strike out Ryan Zimmerman. Then he threw a changeup to strike out Michael Morse.But he began to show loose threads in the second inning, and the Nationals tugged at them. Danny Espinosa rocked Lincecum for an RBI double that hit near the top of the wall in dead center. Lincecum and catcher Hector Sanchez might have gotten too tricksy-cutesy with a first-pitch curveball to Jordan Zimmermann, a hanging blob that the opposing pitcher shot into right field for a double that scored Espinosa.Meanwhile, with the Giants making quick outs, Lincecum had little rest between innings. That might have contributed to a series of location mistakes in the third, although one small decision by the Nationals made a very big difference.Lincecum induced what would have been a double-play grounder from Morse, but Zimmerman was running with the 2-2 pitch. Shortstop Brandon Crawford had no choice but to throw to first base.That third out proved elusive, as Adam LaRoche doubled over center fielder Angel Pagans head on a high and outside fastball. Lincecum followed with a hanging, 0-1 curve that Ian Desmond attacked and sent into the left field seats for a two-run home run.Just like that, Lincecum and the Giants trailed 5-0.Perhaps Giants manager Bruce Bochy wanted Lincecum to get one more inning to save the bullpen, given the 11:05 a.m. game that awaits both teams on Wednesday. Or perhaps Bochy wanted to give Lincecum a chance to work on his delivery.Either way, the decision to send a stringy-haired, sweaty Lincecum out for the fourth inning turned out to be very bad, indeed. After retiring Zimmermann, Lincecum wrapped two walks around Harpers double and Bochy came to collect the ball with the bases loaded.Lincecum ended the day with a 6.08 ERA. He ranks 89th out of 90 major league pitchers that have made at least 15 starts. If not for Atlantas Mike Minor, Lincecum would rank as the worst pitcher in the major leagues by the stat that is most often used to define their performance.Bullpen reportKontos did Lincecum no favors. Neither did Gregor Blanco, who went to center field on the double-switch with Pagan getting an early exit.Kontos threw a fat 0-2 pitch while allowing a two-run single to Morse and Blanco made a terrible throw to the plate, allow Zimmerman to take third base. LaRoche followed with a sacrifice fly to give the Nats an 8-0 lead.At least Kontos struck out Ian Desmond, ensuring that Lincecums final run would be unearned. A small consolation.Clay Hensley, Brad Penny and others pitched and played baseball and such after that. Their deeds will not be chronicled here, but check the box score if you must.At the plateThe Giants will miss both of Washingtons All-Star starting pitchers in Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, but Zimmermann (5-6) reminded why he has a lower ERA than either of them.He gave up hits to the leadoff batter in three of his first four innings, including doubles to Pablo Sandoval and Melky Cabrera. But he did what Lincecum could not, executing pitches to keep the Giants off the board.A yippy throw from third baseman Ryan Zimmerman opened the door for a two-run rally in the fifth inning. After Hector Sanchez reached on the error, the Giants received consecutive singles from Crawford and Nate Schierholtz (who entered with Kontos on a double switch). Blanco followed with a broken-bat hit that scored a pair.With no outs, the Giants had thoughts of a comeback. But Ryan Theriot, Melky Cabrera and Buster Posey went down in order.Give Crawford his due, though. He turned in his second three-hit game in a span of six starts.In fieldLets focus on off-the-field stuff. Such as how Giants manager Bruce Bochy pulled most of his starters off the field.Hey, at least the Giants will be a tad better rested for Wednesdays 11:05 a.m. first pitch, which is more appropriate for a college football game. Pablo Sandoval and Cabrera were gone in the fifth inning. Posey, the first baseman, was out in the sixth.By the end, the Giants 3-4-5 hitters were Justin Christian, Joaquin Arias and Emmanuel Burriss.Poor Hector Sanchez had to catch the whole way.AttendanceThe Nationals announced 36,985 paid. For once, the actual attendance seemed even larger. Theyre getting behind this team of theirs here. The lower sections remained well populated even after an 85-minute rain delay in the seventh inning. (The sweet, sulfurous lure of postgame fireworks might have had something to do with that.)Up nextThe Giants will be quaffing many caffeinated beverages as they continue their series in the District with an 11:05 a.m. first pitch on Wednesday. (Thats 8:05 a.m. back in the Bay Area.) Left-hander Madison Bumgarner (10-4, 2.85) gets the Independence Day start against right-hander Edwin Jackson (4-4. 3.57).

Three more Giants likely to join Posey in World Baseball Classic

Three more Giants likely to join Posey in World Baseball Classic

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Four years ago, Giants coaches made no secret of the fact that they felt some veterans were affected by playing in the World Baseball Classic. The Giants were coming off a long postseason run, but eight of their big leaguers chose to participate in the 2013 event. 

Four years later, the list is down to just four, and the Giants won’t stand in their way. Buster Posey has already been announced as a catcher for Team USA and Brandon Crawford is expected to play as well. Johnny Cueto has told the Giants that he intends on pitching for the Dominican Republic and Albert Suarez plans to pitch for his native Venezuela. 

In past years, clubs have primarily been concerned about pitchers. In an odd way, hitters are almost better off playing in the WBC instead of facing amped up prospects in Cactus League games. The Giants learned that lesson the hard way in 2015 when Hunter Pence was drilled by a prospect with a lack of command, causing him to miss the start of the season. For pitchers, the run-up to Opening Day is a tedious one, but Giants officials said they’re not concerned about their co-ace, Cueto, participating. 

“Major League Baseball is doing everything it can to help us protect them in terms of the quantity of players on the roster and pitch counts and innings,” general manager Bobby Evans said. “We feel MLB is working carefully to help all of us manage guys while they’re away from camp. We feel as confident as ever that they’ll be protected. Lessons have been learned, and everyone involved will try to find ways to avoid issues.”

If Crawford commits to playing, he could find himself in a fun spot. Nolan Arenado has already said he will play for the United States and the two National League West stars could form one hell of a defensive duo on the left side of the infield. Posey will start for a team that already has Max Scherzer and Chris Archer as part of the starting staff. Evans said the teams will carry three catchers, and Posey isn’t expected to be overworked. His manager said he’s not worried about the decision. Posey will simply have to start his preparation process a bit sooner.

“I’m fine with it,” Bruce Bochy said of Posey playing. “Buster wants to do it and I’m good with it.”

This will be the fourth edition of the WBC. In 2013, the Giants were represented by Ryan Vogelsong, Jeremy Affeldt, Sergio Romo, Angel Pagan, Santiago Casilla, Marco Scutaro, Pablo Sandoval and Jose Mijares. 

Bochy: Game 4 loss to Cubs toughest I've ever had to bounce back from

Bochy: Game 4 loss to Cubs toughest I've ever had to bounce back from

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Bruce Bochy had grown accustomed to being in the October spotlight during even years, so he had a hard time getting on board as a spectator during one of the most exciting postseasons in recent memory. 

Bochy’s Giants blew a three-run lead in their final game of the season, a loss so devastating that several players headed home the next day without even packing up their lockers. Two months later, Bochy is all smiles. He likes his team, and on Monday he got the closer he needed back in Game 4 of the NLDS. 

Bochy sat down with CSN Bay Area on Tuesday for a one-on-one interview about Mark Melancon, left field, that postseason loss, his new coaches and much more. It will air tonight on SportsTalk Live at 5 p.m. and we’ll run the whole thing back as a podcast. But for now, here are Bochy’s thoughts on the loss that ended his even-year run: 

“I had a hard time, I’m not going to lie. In all my years, that’s the toughest game I’ve ever had to bounce back off of,” he said. “It took a while. It was hard to watch that first postseason game but gradually it got a little better. Just the way we went out, that’s a tough way to go. Our bullpen has been such a big reason for our success so to go out that way, it really wasn’t just that game — it was the second half — we just had a hard time trying to get it figured out. 

“You know, you’ve got to put it behind you, but I’m not going to lie, that was a pretty big blow to the chin. It took a while to get over it.” 

The Giants led the Cubs 5-2 when Bochy made the decision to pull Matt Moore after eight brilliant innings and 120 pitches. That night, Moore and Bochy and everyone else involved said that there was a consensus that Moore had reached the end of the line. Two months later, Bochy doesn’t regret the move. Moore’s 120 pitches went down as the postseason high. 

“I think you can always look back, but these cards have backs on them,” Bochy said. “I felt good about protecting Moore. If he goes back out there he’s probably looking at 135 or maybe more pitches or you’ve got to bring a reliever in with men on base. I felt with the three-run lead that the guys I had could get three outs.” 

Derek Law was the first man out of the bullpen and he gave up a single that was inches from Brandon Crawford’s glove. Javier Lopez walked Anthony Rizzo. Sergio Romo entered and gave up a double to Ben Zobrist. Will Smith gave up a single to pinch-hitter Willson Contreras. After an error, Hunter Strickland gave up a single to Javier Baez. The Cubs won 6-5 and went on to win the World Series. 

“We knew we could get the matchups that we wanted,” Bochy said on Tuesday. “It started out with Law and he got the ground ball right in the shift. The walk hurt. We got behind Rizzo and ended up walking him and Romo ended up getting behind Zobrist and that hurt, the double. And then we had Smitty. I was comfortable and sure they put in the right-handed bat, but the tying run was on second and I didn’t want a left-handed bat up there to pull the ball. He hits a ball that Smitty doesn’t quite get to, a seeing-eye base hit, and unlike us, we made a costly error. There was another, I felt, like a cheap hit there.

“But these are moments you relive. The good ones, but the bad ones stay with you too sometimes.”