Extra Baggs: A cool debut for Dunning, a rough flight home, etc.

Can Zito cool down surging Padres?

Extra Baggs: A cool debut for Dunning, a rough flight home, etc.
June 16, 2013, 10:15 pm
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It’s gonna be a long night. We’ve got to strap it on and be ready.
Bruce Bochy

ATLANTA – Jake Dunning operated around a double and a wild pitch while firing a scoreless eighth inning in his major league debut Sunday night.

When reporters asked how nervous he was, he answered a question with a question.

“Calm the whole time,” he said. “How you guys doing?”

Uh, fine, thank you. Any particular reason you were able to stay so calm while pitching in a big league game for the first time, especially with your entire family in attendance, having driven the five hours up I-75 from Jacksonville?

“Well, it’s still the same game,” he said. “It’s just a little more fierce. They’re all competitors here.”

Dunning threw 14 of 18 pitches for strikes while hitting 93 mph. He was advertised as a strike thrower, and his reputation was well deserved. Still, even control artists can let their pitches fly too high on the wings of butterflies.

“I didn’t look up at all,” he said. “Or, I didn’t remember looking up at all. I just saw what Buster (Posey) was putting down and tried to throw strikes. I hope everybody wants to pound the zone and throw strikes.”

It’s always neat to see a player make his major league debut, and we got to see two of them on this road trip with Juan Perez and Dunning. In Perez’s case, he made a catch in his first defensive inning that got splashed across every highlight show for the better part of two days. And he had to tell his mother, on the other end of the phone from the Bronx, to calm down and stop crying.

Dunning’s family got to see him in person. And no, a five-hour drive didn’t bother them. His father was an Army drill sergeant and they lived in Georgia, Kentucky, Pittsburgh, North Carolina, Florida and Korea. That’s where his parents met.

They settled in Jacksonville when Jake was 8 years old. But he picked up his first baseball before that, when they lived in Pittsburgh. So it was kind of a neat, full-circle thing when he flew to meet the Giants at PNC Park when he got called up for the first time.

Jake’s oldest sister, Nikki, is 26 and followed her father into a military career. She served nine months in Afghanistan and returned in February. His youngest brother, Dane, was drafted by the Blue Jays in the 34th round but is going to accept a scholarship to play at the University of Florida.

By the way, Dane Dunning does not expect to see Christian Arroyo, the Giants’ No. 1 draft pick, on campus in Gainesville. He expected that Arroyo and the Giants had an understanding about what it would take to sign him before they agreed to draft him.

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Here is a simple goal for Tim Lincecum: Don’t walk another leadoff batter the rest of the season.

When he walks the leadoff batter, bad things happen. He did it in each of the first three innings, and effectively, two of them ended up scoring. (Jason Heyward was erased on Justin Upton’s fielder’s choice in the third, but Upton scored. So you get the point.)

Lincecum said he felt the same from the windup as he did from the stretch. So there’s no reason he should let the leadoff guy get on base for free. I think it’s less nibbling and more a simple function of not being able to locate.

But even if he has to throw cookies, he’ll have a better chance if he just grooves them down the middle to the leadoff batter. At least he sets a tone and the batter on deck knows to be ready to hit.

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It isn’t a trip to Atlanta without @bravesorganist playing “Puff the Magic Dragon” for Lincecum’s walk-up music. He was going to punctuate it with “Shave and a Haircut, Two Bits” but ran out of time.

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As I wrote elsewhere on the site, Andres Torres has committed five errors – the most among major leaguers in left field.

As Alex Pavlovic pointed out after the game, Torres committed one error all season in 2010, when he was such a force in helping that team win the NL West.

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With all the talk about Torres’ play in left field, it kind of gets lost. But … damn, did Gregor Blanco ever have a fantastic night in center field. The whole road trip, the play in center field from Blanco and Juan Perez was just tremendous.

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There’s a reason you haven’t heard that “Heyward’s Better” chant from Braves fans since, oh, 2010.

Buster Posey was 2 for 4 Sunday and now owns a 14-game hitting streak against the team he grew up watching on TV. He’s hitting .418 over the streak with two home runs and 16 RBIs.

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Nice gesture by the Braves on Father’s Day to have Justin and B.J.’s dad throw out the first pitch.

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There isn’t much time left in the All-Star balloting and two Giants still lead at their respective positions. Buster Posey is the NL’s leading vote getter with 2,606,434, but the guy with the second most votes at any position is another catcher. And Yadier Molina is right behind him, with 2,543,588.

Pablo Sandoval (2,180,147) still leads at third base over David Wright, but the gap has narrowed to 126,403 votes.

Both middle infielders rank second at their positions. Second baseman Marco Scutaro is 303,402 votes behind Brandon Phillips. And although Brandon Crawford has barely half of Troy Tulowitzki’s total, the Rockies’ star shortstop will be out six weeks with a fractured rib.

They don’t just take the next guy in the fan balloting, though, if an injured player is elected to start. Last year, outfielder Matt Kemp was elected in the outfield and Chipper Jones, a third baseman, was named as his replacement. And Ryan Braun, because he was the next highest name on the player ballot in the outfield, was named the starter in Kemp’s place.

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A thunderstorm rolled through Turner Field an hour after Sunday’s game ended. I couldn’t tell you if it affected the Giants’ ability to take off right away or not.

But whenever they landed, it would be a late night. The itinerary called for the team bus to roll into AT&T Park around 4:30 a.m. – about seven hours later than the original schedule, before ESPN picked up the game for “Sunday Night Baseball.”

The Padres arrive for a series that begins Monday night, and they’re hot after sweeping the Diamondbacks. They’re also a game over .500 for the first time all year, after starting the season 5-15.

“It’s gonna be a long night,” Bochy said. “We’ve got to strap it on and be ready.”

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Life’s small discoveries: Nothing sustains you better on Day 10 of a three-city trip than a bowl of grits from Highland Bakery. Best I’ve had, and highly recommended.

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