EXTRA BAGGS: A homestand gone awry, etc.

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EXTRA BAGGS: A homestand gone awry, etc.

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO Matt Cain served up a leadoff home run to aguy who hadnt gone deep in 629 at-bats.

Wednesday nights game got stranger from there.

The New York Mets had 18 baserunners, scored just two runs and won.

The Giants committed the greater sin by letting them off thehook. Well leave it to David Wright to provide the analysis:

We shouldve lost that game about nine times over.

No wonder relievers George Kontos and Clay Hensley sat intheir chairs with their arms wrapped in ice, staring into space. No wonder theclubhouse had a vibe like theyd just accidentally put a winning lotto ticketthrough the trash compactor.

Hunter Pence has been here just 24 hours. But hes playedbaseball all his life. He knows how a missed opportunity looks and feels.

There was a ton of excitement, it was loud, it was rowdy,and we had a crazy game, said Pence, who was 0 for 4 with two strikeouts inhis Giants debut. Unfortunately, I didnt do what they brought me here for.But its Game One.

For the Giants, its game No.104. And by the grace of God,its its another day in first place, since the Dodgers got swept at home bythe Diamondbacks.

Then again, that made the missed-opportunity feeling in theGiants clubhouse all the more hollow in the gut. Youd better believe they areaware that Arizona is just 2 games back.

This is a juncture in the schedule when the Giants needed to start climbing. Their current 10-game homestand matches their longest of the season. Now their best hope is to win behind Barry Zito on Thursday just to finish 4-6, and split a four-game series against a subpar opponent.

You never want to be forced to get well on the road, and after Thursday, the Giants will play 19 of their next 29 games away from AT&T Park.

Back to Pence for a moment: He came in with unimpressivenumbers against Mets lefty Jonathon Niese (3 for 20) and he only felt he hadone good at-bat Wednesday, when he fouled off four consecutive pitches one ofthem a long foul fly down the right field line before striking out.

I might have been trying to calm myself down too much,relax too much, Pence said. There was a lot of adrenaline. But Niese was on.Ill give him that.

Ill keep grinding. I wont be 0 for 4 every night.

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The Mets were abysmal with runners on base, but credit theGiants defense with making some huge plays to save runs.

And cue up another highlight for Gregor Blanco, who hauledin another full-extension catch that left 41,000 slack-jawed. While this onedidnt preserve a perfect game, it did keep the Mets from scoring a run in afourth inning that couldve turned from homely to hideous.

Matt Cain is now officially spoiled.

Blanco picked me up again, Cain said. Who knows whatcouldve happened after that? That was a momentum builder. We just couldntcapitalize on it after that.

How does Blanco rank that catch among his best?

Second, he said, without hesitation.

Just like that remarkable catch June 13, Blanco took acouple extra steps to his right because he was reading the pitch.

I knew he was going to throw away, so I was guessing if hehit it, hes going to put it in the gap, Blanco said.

Will Cain come to expect every ball to end up in Blancosglove?

Thats what I like, Blanco said. I say to him, Make themhit everything to center field. I can get it. That gives him trust so he canthrow his pitch and dont worry about anything, because we have a greatdefense.

Pence walked up to Blanco and told him it was the best catchhes seen all year.

You just got here, Blanco told him, smiling.

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So what the heck was wrong with Cain? He almost neverapproaches 100 pitches in five innings. Hes given up eight home runs in hislast six starts, too.

I did feel fine in the bullpen, but for some reason, I wentout there and it just changed, Cain said. I was battling myself the wholetime and couldnt throw early strikes. It was a constant struggle. It was along five innings for me, and definitely not what I want to do.

Cain didnt get the support to win and he did well to limitthe damage, but he blamed himself for letting the Mets dominate time ofpossession.

I just put our guys behind the 8-ball, Cain said. I didntget them in the dugout fast enough to get something going.

So Pence had plenty of time to bend blades of grass in rightfield. At least bird legs lady wasnt there to heckle him this time.

What they're saying: 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame class

What they're saying: 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame class

The National Baseball Hall of Fame inducted Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez Wednesday. Here's what they and their peers are saying.

https://twitter.com/baseballhall/status/821855144681897988


Still on outside, Bonds, Clemens have become invaluable to Hall

Still on outside, Bonds, Clemens have become invaluable to Hall

The Baseball Hall of Fame becomes yesterday’s news Friday, as it always does. Three months of buildup, one day to announce the names, one day to castigate the voters for their willfully negligent slights, and then nine months of hibernation.

So much for the concept of “joining the immortals.”

But at least Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez never have to go through this annual pageant of nonsense again.

Barry Bonds does, though, and so does Roger Clemens, and to a lesser extent, so does Curt Schilling. They are the new litmus strips for the Hall, and they will more than replace Raines (voter ignorance division) and Bagwell (presumption of guilt with evidence division) for self-involved debate.

And in that adjusted role from doomed outsiders to serious candidates, Bonds and Clemens – and to a lesser extent again, Schilling – have become invaluable to the Hall, and their eventual election and induction will reduce the Hall’s ability to inflame passions outside the seamhead community.

On a day when Bagwell and Raines finally cleared the 75 percent threshold and Bonds and Clemens moved from 45 percent to 53.8 and 54.1 percent, respectively, the Hall of Fame Debating And Chowder Society saw the end times for its power as a multi-month debate-churner.

The blatherers are dead, long live the blatherers.

An entire mini-industry of Hall watchers has been spawned, in part by the now-feted Ryan Thibodaux and his exit polling but also by the debates about what the Hall should be and who should get to decide it. It has made days like Wednesday event viewing when it hadn’t been for years. For that, the Hall owes Bonds and Clemens a debt that the powers inside Major League Baseball wishes it didn’t have to pay. But the day they are inducted is the day that PEDs die as a debating point. The answer will have been provided, and there will be no more need for discussion.

Worse yet, the BBWAA’S new voter transparency rules may unfortunately impact our pal Thibodaux, whose seminal work in this understudied area of social science undermined ballot secrecy. In short, if everyone has to fess up, the desperate need to know early returns may dry up.

Oh, there will always be the day of post mortem-ization, as those who didn’t clear the threshold are subject to a few rounds of the popular parlor game, “Who Got Snubbed, And The Tedious And Half-Informed Reasons Why.”

For instance, the big debating point from today’s results will not be about Raines and Guerrero getting in, but what happened to the Bonds and Clemens votes. People have already postulated that a lot of the jump in their respective votes can be directly linked to Bud Selig’s election from the Veterans Committee. Voters who had previously ridden the Hall-as-temple argument suddenly lost their raison d’etre and realized that the PED problem was an industry matter rather than a greedy players’ matter.

In short, they saw Selig getting in as tacit approval that the PED issue was no longer a moral one in baseball but a cynical one, a way to blame labor for management’s culpability. That is an irony whose existence Selig will almost surely deny, but it’s there anyway, and it represents one more non-glacial change in a system that has been nearly immovable for most of its existence.

The next change, of course, may be removing the vote from the BBWAA and turning it over to a more malleable panel of “experts” who may not skew as young and values-neutral as the BBWAA of the future seems to be heading. That course may be hastened if/when Bonds and Clemens are elected, because halls of fame in their more traditional role have been more about rewarding friends and punishing enemies, and a large and shifting electorate makes that harder to accomplish.

The argument against such a course, though, is that the current system of three months of fevered public debate about the same old stuff works for the Hall’s sense of its importance. I mean, MLB Network and its fetish for shrill argument only has so much reach.

By Friday, though, all of this will revert to its typically inert state. Bonds, Clemens (ATALE Schilling), PEDs, morality, practicality, secrecy, old voter/young voter – all of it will fade back into insignificance.

And in a year or two or maybe three, Bonds and Clemens will wipe it all out by being included in the one club that we once knew would never tolerate their presence, and the Hall Of Fame’s Golden Age Of Shrieking Argument will end.

In a weird and largely unpleasant way, it will be missed.