Giants, D'Backs to battle for first in NL West

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Giants, D'Backs to battle for first in NL West

August 1, 2011

ARIZONA (59-49) vs.
GIANTS (61-47)

Coverage begins at 6:30 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Seeing the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants atop the NL West shouldn't come as much of a shock.

After back-to-back last-place finishes, the Arizona Diamondbacks' opportunity to move into first place this late in the season is, in contrast, quite surprising.

With the top spot in the West ultimately up for grabs, the visiting Diamondbacks and Giants open a heavily-anticipated three-game set Monday night.

San Francisco (61-47) has led the division since overtaking Arizona on June 25, but now finds itself just two games ahead of the Diamondbacks following a three-game sweep at the hands of Cincinnati over the weekend. The Giants scored a combined five runs over the first two games before they were held to a season worst-tying three hits during Sunday's 9-0 defeat.

KILLION: A Giant wake-up call

"This club is resilient," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We've been through this before. It's not easy. There are always going to be bumps in the road, and this was a big one. It's up to us. We've got to go out there and play our best ball. We've got the talent. We've just got to do it."

San Francisco could have trouble snapping out of its funk with red-hot Arizona (59-49) coming to town. The Diamondbacks have outscored opponents 49-27 en route to taking six of eight - including Sunday's 6-3 road win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

While Arizona has dropped seven of nine meetings with the Giants this season, manager Kirk Gibson's club will look for its recent momentum to carry over into this series.

"I think we're a different team now and we've developed a lot of character," Gibson said. "This is what it's all about, and guys love it. It'll probably be pretty exhaustive. But it's not do-or-die, and I don't want guys to put pressure on themselves - just continue to grit and grind.

"We just have to keep an even keel, and however we come out of that series, we'll move on to the next one."

Much of the team's recent success at the plate can be attributed to Justin Upton, who's 22 for 46 (.478) with six homers and 19 RBIs during a 12-game hitting streak. Upton's also hurt the Giants of late, going 22 for 55 (.400) with two homers over his last 13 games in the series.

Matt Cain (9-6, 2.91 ERA) is saddled with the tough task of slowing Upton down.

The right-hander has been very sharp of late, going 2-1 with a 1.44 ERA over his last four starts. He held Philadelphia to one unearned run and four hits over seven innings of Wednesday's 2-1 road win.

That same night, San Francisco acquired Carlos Beltran from the New York Mets in an attempt to boost its offense.

Beltran, however, is 2 for 17 (.118) in four games with his new club. He can't be happy about facing Ian Kennedy (12-3, 3.22), who's held him hitless in five career at-bats.

Kennedy is in the midst of a career-best four-start winning streak, during which he's compiled a 2.42 ERA. The right-hander gave up two runs, four hits, and fanned nine in six innings of Wednesday's 4-3 victory at San Diego.

"Fastball command wasn't as good as I wanted it to be but my changeup was probably the best it's been in a while," said Kennedy, 1-2 despite a 1.81 ERA lifetime against the Giants.

Cain, too, has experienced plenty of success in this series, especially at home, where he's 3-0 with a 1.57 ERA in his last six starts against Arizona - including a one-hitter on May 28, 2010.

Upton is 9 for 27 with seven strikeouts against Cain.

Hoesen leads the ways as Earthquakes take down Real Salt Lake

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USATSI

Hoesen leads the ways as Earthquakes take down Real Salt Lake

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE — Danny Hoesen scored his second goal of the season and assisted on Marco Urena's second goal, lifting the San Jose Earthquakes to a 2-1 victory over Real Salt Lake on Saturday night.

Hoesen opened the scoring in the 13th minute, off a long cross from Nick Lima. After touching the ball down, Hoesen gathered it off a defender's foot, stepped inside and unleashed a left footer into the top corner from just off the penalty spot.

Hoesen's long through ball down the right side sent Urena free and from a tight angle he rolled the ball past Nick Rimando in the 68th minute.

San Jose (6-6-5), which has battled injuries and call-ups to score just 16 goals in 16 games, won for just the second time in its last seven games.

Lima picked up two yellow cards in the second half and the Quakes played a man down from the 71st minute.

David Bingham made only one save in each half but was denied his seventh shutout when Jose Hernandez scored his second goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time for Salt Lake (5-11-2).

Latest round of bullpen auditions go poorly in Giants' 50th loss

Latest round of bullpen auditions go poorly in Giants' 50th loss

SAN FRANCISCO -- Practically speaking, the 50th loss is no different than the one before or the one after, but this sport is built on milestones, and this one came quickly.

The Giants lost their 50th game on August 12 last year. This season, it was clinched when Ryder Jones grounded out in his fourth career at-bat, handing the Mets a 5-2 win on June 24. 

Bruce Bochy called losing 50 of your first 77 games "hard to believe" and "embarrassing." Johnny Cueto, who went seven strong, said the reality was "hard and sad." Brandon Belt, who got Cueto off the hook for a loss, agreed with his manager.

"That's a pretty good word to use -- it is embarrassing to come out and lose every day, especially with the group of guys we have," Belt said. "When you're losing as much as this, it is embarrassing. We're trying to do whatever we can to turn this thing around."

Lately, that has meant changes to the roster. It is officially audition season, and in that respect, it was not a particularly inspiring day for the bullpen. The Giants felt they would have a better mix this year, but it hasn't played out. Instead, they're once again trying to find pieces for the next successful Giants bullpen.

With Hunter Strickland suspended and Derek Law in the minors, two young relievers, a middle-innings stalwart, and a newcomer pitched the final two frames. They gave up four runs.

Sam Dyson was the first on the mound in the eighth. Belt had homered a few minutes earlier, tying a good starter's duel. Dyson gave up a leadoff triple to Curtis Granderson and walked Asdrubal Cabrera before throwing two good sliders past Yoenis Cespedes for the strikeout. With two lefties coming up and the go-ahead run still on third, Bochy turned to Steven Okert. He immediately gave up a seeing-eye RBI single to Jay Bruce. Wilmer Flores doubled off George Kontos later in the frame to make it 3-1. 

In the ninth, Kyle Crick showed some of the wildness that kept him in the minors for seven years. He, too, gave up a leadoff triple, a sin you always pay for. A walk helped put another run into scoring position and a wild pitch extended the Mets’ lead to four. 

Before the game, Bochy talked of getting an extended look at Jones. He was 0-for-4 in his first big league game but he’ll be back out there tomorrow. It’s time to fight for a job, and the same holds true of some relievers who didn’t fare well Saturday. It is a group with a closer locked into a longterm deal and little else decided. 

Are Strickland or Law eighth-inning guys? Will Dyson be a worthwhile reclamation project? Will Kontos be back, and will he carve out a different role? Are Okert and Josh Osich capable of giving Bochy lefties he trusts? Is Crick’s improvement in Triple-A a sign of things to come? There are many questions to be answered over the next three months. 

“This is a good time for them, this is what players get up here for, to show what they can do,” Bochy said. “Because of our situation, we’re going to take a look at these guys and we know there are going to be growing pains.”