Giants offense quiet again in 5-2 loss to Nats


Giants offense quiet again in 5-2 loss to Nats

WASHINGTON (AP) Ivan Rodriguez hit a two-run single in the eighth to seal the Washington Nationals' 5-2 win against the San Francisco Giants on Sunday. He was even more proud of the play he made a half-inning earlier.Rodriguez threw out pinch-runner Darren Ford trying to steal after reliever Tyler Clippard issued a walk to open the eighth with the Nationals leading 3-2. After the play, the next two Giants went down in order and Rodriguez gave his team two insurance runs in the bottom of the inning."That's like if I hit 4 for 4, to be honest with you," Rodriguez said of his defensive play. "Throwing a guy out late in the game like that, that's a game-saving play right there."To cut the rally right there is good for us. That's why I always take a lot of pride in my defense."Before Rodriguez's clutch contributions, Washington's offense had trouble capitalizing on its chances. The Nationals scratched out a lead despite going 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position over the first seven innings, and they stranded a runner on third base four straight times between the second and fifth.Jordan Zimmermann (2-4) made the runs Washington did get hold up. Zimmermann allowed two runs and six hits over six innings, walked two and struck out four to end his three-game losing streak. He threw 107 pitches, the most since he returned from his August 2009 Tommy John surgery late last season."I try to get stronger as the game goes on, and I felt fine the whole game," Zimmermann said. "I still felt strong at the end."Drew Storen pitched the ninth for his fifth save in five chances to give the Nationals their third win in four games.Alex Cora had a double, a single and an RBI for Washington, his first multihit game of the season."It was pitching and defense," Cora said. "Zimmermann did a great job, Pudge came up big and we did enough offensively to get the W."The Giants' only runs came in the second inning. Miguel Tejada reached on an infield single and advanced to third on Mike Fontenot's double off the right-field wall. Nate Schierholtz hit a blooper that landed on the left-field line between left fielder Laynce Nix and shortstop Ian Desmond and scooted toward the stands, giving Schierholtz a two-run double.Matt Cain (2-2) allowed three runs and six hits in six innings, struck out five and walked three. He also threw one costly wild pitch with the bases loaded in the third inning, allowing Rick Ankiel to score and tie the game 2-all.Despite their troubles with runners in scoring position, the Nationals scored a single run in the second, third and fourth innings, starting with Cora's RBI double to the right-field corner.Washington took the lead in the fourth. With runners on second and third, Jerry Hairston hit an RBI groundout.In the fifth, the Nationals squandered a chance to add to the lead. Jayson Werth led off with a single that went through Schierholtz's legs when he attempted to field it on the hop, and Werth went to third on the error. He was stranded there as Cain struck out Nix and got the next two batters to pop out to first.Rodriguez gave Washington a pair of insurance runs in the eighth. Danny Espinosa walked to lead off the inning, and after Desmond singled they advanced on a double steal and scored on Rodriguez's single to center.Still, Rodriguez's throw earned the most accolades"That was a great game Pudge played today," Washington manager Jim Riggleman said. "That was unbelievable. That guy Ford is about as fast as it gets in the league, and it was a changeup he threw him out on."In his 21st major league season, Rodriguez is splitting time behind the plate with rookie Wilson Ramos but he still has the skills to impress his teammates."It's fun to watch him play when he comes to life," said Werth, who was 3 for 4. "It reminds me of the young Pudge Rodriguez, when I used to watch him play back in the day. He's still got a lot to offer. He's an icon of the game, and it's a privilege to play with him."Rodriguez laughed when told of Werth's comment."I'm still the same guy," Rodriguez said. "Pudge, that's me."NOTES: It was the 500th home game for the Nationals since moving to Washington in 2005. The team has a 238-262 home record during that span. ... Espinosa was rested, though he pinch-hit for Nix in the eighth and finished the game at second base. Espinosa and Ankiel are the only Nationals to appear in every game this season. ... San Francisco placed 3B Pablo Sandoval (broken bone in his right wrist) on the 15-day disabled list and called up 3B Ryan Rohlinger from Triple-A Fresno before the game.

A's spring training Day 39: Melvin applauds team's hitting approach

A's spring training Day 39: Melvin applauds team's hitting approach

MESA, Ariz. — Gaudy run totals in spring training usually don’t mean a whole lot once the regular season hits.

For A’s manager Bob Melvin, it’s the manner in which the A’s are going about things offensively that’s encouraging to him.

Oakland jumped on another opponent early, scoring five runs in the first Friday and rolling to an 8-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox. Granted, Chicago scratched starter Carlos Rodon in the morning and had to piece the game together with its bullpen.

But that only takes so much luster off the way the A’s are going about their business right now. They’ve won four in a row, and over their past five games they’ve racked up 71 hits and are averaging more than eight runs per contest in that span.

“The good thing is it’s contagious throughout the lineup,” Melvin said. “In the first inning alone we had four situational at-bats and four situational plusses. That’s something Bushy (hitting coach Darren Bush) really has been stressing all spring. We’ve had a lot of games where we just pass it on to the next guy, and if we’re gonna be successful this year, that’s what we’re gonna have to do is get contributions throughout the lineup.”

It’s interesting to watch how Melvin utilizes Matt Joyce. Early on he said he prefers the right fielder batting third when he’s in the lineup. But Joyce also is drawing starts at leadoff, as he did Friday, and the No. 2 spot. Increasing on-base percentage is a big need for the A’s, and Joyce entered Friday tied for the Cactus league lead with 10 walks.

He singled to spark a five-run first that included RBI singles from Trevor Plouffe, Yonder Alonso, Mark Canha and Chris Parmelee.

ELITE COMPANY: Melvin threw out some big-time names when asked who young third baseman Matt Chapman reminds him of.

One was Melvin’s former Giants teammate, Matt Williams, a five-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glover.

“The defense, Matty was as good as anybody I've seen over at third base,” Melvin said. “The power, there are a lot of similarities. That’s probably the best comp I could think of.”

Melvin also mentioned current Rockies star third baseman Nolan Arenado, who has won four consecutive Gold Gloves and posted back-to-back 40-homer seasons.

Not a bad couple of guys to be compared to.

“That’s exciting,” Chapman said. “It’s always nice to have people speak well of you. Those are two guys that I’m aware of how good they are.”

NOTEWORTHY: It was another start Friday where Kendall Graveman seemed to be on auto pilot, retiring hitters with ease and holding the White Sox to one run over seven innings. All the more impressive was that A’s hitters put together some very long half-innings, where Graveman had to make sure he stayed loose.

He simply took it as a good challenge to prepare for all those cold night games at the Coliseum. Named the A’s Opening Night starter just a day earlier, Graveman also used this start to focus on his cutter, being that his sinker has been locked in.

“It was good to have some innings where you have to sit for a while and go back out there,” Graveman said.

His ERA is 2.29 through five starts. He has one more tune-up before the April 3 opener against the Los Angeles Angels.

HEALTH UPDATES: Outfielder Jaff Decker continues to progress from his oblique injury. Now the key is whether he can return to games in time to make a final push for the 25-man roster. Alejandro De Aza appears to be his biggest competition to be the fifth outfielder, if the A’s end up carrying five.

“It just depends on when he gets in a game,” Melvin said of Decker. “I mean, he’s done enough obviously to make a big impression on us. But whether or not he’s even healthy enough at the end, we’ll see.”

ODDS AND ENDS: Ryon Healy swatted his fifth homer of the spring, a two-run shot, in the second inning. Entering Friday evening, Healy was tied for the major league lead in RBI (16) with Boston’s Pablo Sandoval. … Plouffe is on a recent tear and has lifted his average to .395. … Parmelee, a non-roster outfielder, is impressing in under-the-radar fashion. The left-handed hitter is batting .367. … Melvin is having a heck of a time getting switch hitter Jed Lowrie at-bats from the right side. He purposely switched things up to have Lowrie face the lefty Rodon on Friday, only to have Rodon get scratched. The A’s face lefties each of the next two days, and Melvin also mentioned sending Lowrie over to face minor league lefties if need be.

Giants spring training Day 40: Belt continues domination of Rockies' home park

Giants spring training Day 40: Belt continues domination of Rockies' home park

BELT RIVER FIELDS, Ariz. — Earlier this spring, Brandon Belt moved his schedule around so he could get additional at-bats. That led to some random trips across the desert, but there was never any doubt Belt would be in Friday’s road lineup.

Belt demolishes the ball at Salt River Fields, spring home of the Rockies and Diamondbacks. After coming out of Friday’s win, he shook his head in mock disgust when talking about the day’s stats.

“One for four, you’ve gotta be kidding me,” Belt said. “That’s terrible.”

That one happened to be a homer, a three-run shot off Jon Gray, the likely opening day starter for the Rockies. Belt thought he crushed the ball but it ended up pretty high, so it simply dropped onto the berm in right. 

“It squeaked out,” Belt said. “Good mojo, I guess.”

The mojo kept his remarkable run going at Salt River. His updated career stats here: 22 for 35, with eight homers, four doubles, one triple and 18 RBI. Belt said he’s not quite sure why he turns into the flames emoji every time he steps onto this field. 

“I don’t know what it is, but I like hitting here,” he said. “Maybe it’s the batter’s eye?”

Salt River has a dark green batter’s eye with no distractions on either side, and the Giants certainly saw the ball well Friday. They had seven straight hits in the third before Gray was pulled with a sore foot. Belt hit second, and manager Bruce Bochy said that wasn’t simply because Joe Panik had the day off. Bochy will look at several different lineup permutations over the next week, and a Span/Belt/Pence/Posey/Crawford one-through-five is one option. 

“I like (that spot) a lot,” Belt said. “I feel good getting started and knowing I’ll get to bat in the first inning. It’s a good spot. I don’t think my approach changes that much: Get a pitch to hit and try to hit it hard.”

GAME RECAP: Jeff Samardzija was sharp in four innings, allowing just two hits and striking out three. He threw about 45 pitches on the field and then went down to the bullpen for 45 more. Samardzija certainly benefited from having Buster Posey back in the lineup. He said Posey noticed during warmups that Samardzija’s delivery was a little flat and his arm was dragging too low. 

“That doesn’t happen often,” Samardzija said of having a guy like Posey back there. “You have a lot of catchers who are afraid to say something.”

The rest of this one was a laugher until the ninth, when the Rockies rallied and brought the winning run to the plate. It hasn’t been a great spring for the bullpen.

STOCK WATCH: Chris Marrero hit a deep homer, his seventh of the spring. He also made a nice pick at first, where he looks much more comfortable. At this point, it appears it’s either Marrero or Kelby Tomlinson for that final bench spot.

TRAINER’S ROOM: The news on Will Smith was as expected. He will have Tommy John surgery next week. 

There is good news for Trevor Brown: The catcher, who has a sore ankle, took some swings and he’s feeling much better. Brown did not, as first reported, get hurt hiking on an off day. It happened during a game. Brown won’t be ready in time to return to Cactus League action, so he’ll likely stay here during the Bay Bridge Series and then travel home with Triple-A Sacramento. 

ICYMI: Brandon Crawford, Buster Posey and Mark Melancon are back in camp. Here’s a story on Posey’s WBC experience, with the catcher saying he’d like to play again in four years. Here’s Crawford on his month, which ended with him giving an NL West rival a slump-busting bat. 

ROSTER UPDATE: The Giants released David Hernandez, at his request. They have started to tell others that they’re not making the opening day roster, so there should be a series of minor transactions this weekend. (You know where to go.)

QUOTABLE: "I swung at a heater and a slider went right into my bat. I was happy to be able to track (pitches), and happy that the next time the bunt didn't go off my beautiful face." -- Samardzija, when asked about his double off the wall.