Giants can count magic number on one hand


Giants can count magic number on one hand

BOX SCORESAN FRANCISCO Bruce Bochy has leafed through his share of leadershipbooks. He is always looking for new ways to connect with and motivate hisplayers.

He picked up a new one Wednesday night: When Pablo Sandovalis in a power drought, just have the starting pitchers start ribbing him inbatting practice.

We were actually talking to him earlier today that hehadnt hit a home run since, like, three years ago, right-hander Matt Cainsaid. (Madison) Bumgarner was giving him some grief.

Sandoval gave it right back to Colorado Rockies right-handerTyler Chatwood. On a pitch that only the Panda could keep fair, he got his batout in front of a 1-2 slider at the ankles and clanked it off the pole abovethe right field arcade.

Sandovals three-run homer in the first inning was all Cainneeded. He improved to 14-0 when receiving at least three runs of support, andthe Giants reduced their magic number to five with a 7-1 victory at AT&TPark.

Now they can count down an NL West title on one hand. AndSandoval no longer has to count back to July 8 to find his last home run.

Ive been on the DL so many times, said Sandoval, who hasmissed time with a fractured hand and a strained hamstring. Im just trying toget my rhythm and timing at home plate.

It was a backfoot slider. I dont know how I hit it.

It was the first of three hits for Sandoval, who celebratedhis homer with a nose-to-beard, jump-around dance with injured closer BrianWilson in the dugout. Then Sandoval made sure to seek out Bumgarner.

Yeah, I said something to him, a beaming Sandoval said. Ifinally got one.

Bumgarner has hit two homers this season, including one earlier this month, and never cheats himself on a swing. Sandoval had taken some overly aggressive cuts in recent weeks, too.

Sometimes its important to get out of the way and itcame at a good time, Bochy said.

It was the 23rd home run for the Giants in 74games AT&T Park this season and just the third with at least two menaboard. Buster Posey and Hunter Pence own the other three-run shots. The Giantsdont have a grand slam at home yet this season.

Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro continued to createopportunities and the Giants offense continues to get all manner of timelycontributions. Even Gregor Blanco appeared to be fresh and healthy whilecollecting three hits.

Its all coming together for the Giants, who suddenly hold anine-game advantage over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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Could they hope to play any better?

Youd always like to think theres another level for anyteam, Cain said. It depends on how much you want to put into it. Well keepthat in mind and not just settle.

Cain is not settling for a career-best 15thvictory. Hes expected to get two more starts, and without any adjustments,hed be lined up to pitch Game 1 of the NLDS with one extra day of rest.

It feels good to finally get past that 14th,Cain said. But you know what? Weve got games left and I dont want to stopnow.

Cain put a stop to one thing Wednesday night. By completingeight innings (for just the first time by a Giants starter since Barry Zito didit Aug. 23 vs. Atlanta), Cain kept Bochy from wearing a hiking trail betweenthe dugout and the mound.

Bochy made just one pitching change. Jose Mijares pitchedthe ninth and George Kontos got loose on the mound. Thats a welcome changefrom the seven- and eight-reliever parades that have led to long games andtaxed arms in the late innings.

Bochy said he was not going to use a couple of his shortrelievers, which made Cains contribution even more vital.

And hey, a game under three hours? That aint too shabby,either.

Ill have to get on the treadmill tonight to get my workoutin, Bochy said.

Cain never shies away from a full workload. He exceeded 200innings for the sixth consecutive season.

Only Juan Marichal (11) and Gaylord Perry (7) have more200-inning seasons in the Giants San Francisco era. And both of those guys arein the Hall of Fame.

I dont want to go into whos the ace or whatever, but hesa horse, Bochy said. He can handle the innings. He always has. Werefortunate to have a rotation thats been healthy all year and making theirstarts. Thats so important.

Soon Bochy will have to choose a Game 1 starter from amongthem. Cain would appear the obvious choice.

Heres one more reason: He has a 2.17 ERA in 14 starts atAT&T Park -- the third best home ERA among NL starters. And since the Giantsare likely to open as the No. 3 seed, they would play their first two games athome.

They could follow Cain with Bumgarner and hold Tim Lincecumin Game 3 on the road, where he has won five consecutive starts.

But thats not a subject Bochy is willing to touch yet. Theycould clinch the division as soon as Saturday. All the motivation they need isright in front of them.

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.

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.