Giants rally to force Game 5 vs. Reds

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Giants rally to force Game 5 vs. Reds

From Comcast SportsNetCINCINNATI (AP) -- Angel Pagan connects on the second pitch of the game. A Giants team that finished last in homers goes on to hit three. Tim Lincecum pitches like a two-time Cy Young winner -- this time, out of the bullpen.So many unusual things moved San Francisco to the verge of an unprecedented comeback.Pagan hit the first leadoff homer in Giants postseason history, and Gregor Blanco and Pablo Sandoval connected later for an 8-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday that evened their NL division series at 2-all.No team has recovered from a 2-0 deficit in a best-of-five series by winning three on the road, according to STATS LLC. This one can do it with a victory on Thursday at Great American Ball Park."Thanks to the win today, there will be a tomorrow," Pagan said. "And we are ready for that."Matt Cain, who lost the series opener and has yet to beat the Reds in three tries this season, will start Game 5 against Mat Latos.Facing elimination, the Giants' slumping hitters came out swinging and extended Cincinnati's playoff misery. The Reds haven't won a postseason game at home in 17 years.One thing in the Reds' favor -- they haven't dropped three straight at home all season."I'd like to think that we still have the advantage," Reds outfielder Jay Bruce said. "We're at home. I expect Mat to come up with a big game. I'm looking forward to it."So are the Giants, who were down after losing the first two games at home while getting outscored 14-2. They were barely able to get a hit, let alone a win.The pressure pulled them closer. Hunter Pence gathered them for inspirational speeches before the two games in Cincinnati, challenging them to play like champions."We feel good," NL batting champion Buster Posey said. "When you're down 0-2 you see what you're made of. We're not done."It wasn't all about the offense. San Francisco's overlooked Cy Young winner played a starring role, too.Lincecum was relegated to the bullpen for the playoff series because of his dreary season -- 15 losses, 17 wild pitches. He entered in the fourth inning, pitched out of a threat that kept the Giants up 3-2, and kept going. The right-hander struck out six while allowing just one run in 4 1-3 innings."I knew he would play a huge role in this," manager Bruce Bochy said. "And I know of other situations where starters have been in the pen and really done a great job to help their team win. We knew Timmy would play a critical role in the series like he did tonight."The Reds were hoping to start ace Johnny Cueto, but had to drop him off the roster a few hours before Wednesday's first pitch because he was still bothered by a strained muscle in his right side. He won't be available if Cincinnati wins Game 5 and reaches the NL championship series.The way the Giants have started hitting, that's now in doubt.San Francisco managed only four runs in the first three games of the series. The Giants avoided the sweep by pulling out a 2-1 win in 10 innings on Tuesday night with the help of a passed ball and an error by third baseman Scott Rolen.They broke out against Mike Leake, who replaced Cueto and had a rough time. Leake threw his first career complete game in San Francisco on June 29 and was 3-0 career against the Giants.Pagan homered to start it off for the Giants. Blanco hit a two-run shot in the second. The Giants had another breakthrough in the fifth, when back-to-back doubles by Joaquin Arias and Pagan ended an 0-for-14 slump with runners in scoring position during the series.Sandoval's two-run shot in the seventh made it 8-3, matched the Giants' season high for homers and drew loud boos from the crowd of 44,375 -- the third-largest at Great American Ball Park. Fans quietly settled into their seats and used their white rally towels as lap warmers against the evening chill.The Giants normally don't hit many homers -- only 103 during the season, fewest in the majors. They're only the seventh team since 1900 to reach the playoffs after finishing last in the majors in homers.While the offense went to work, Lincecum bailed out the bullpen.Bochy didn't hesitate to put the guys he wanted on the mound, using four pitchers in the first four innings. Lincecum settled things down, giving up only two hits in his second relief appearance of the series.He threw 42 strikes out of 55 pitches and even batted twice -- just like a starter."The last two games, it's been about scratching and leaving it on the field," Lincecum said.Bochy decided to go with left-hander Barry Zito over Lincecum for Game 4 because he was better down the stretch. Zito was left off the postseason roster when San Francisco won the World Series in 2010, but finished the regular season with seven straight wins.The left-hander lasted only 2 2-3 innings, his shortest career outing in the postseason. On came Lincecum to save the day.The Reds finished with the second-best record in the majors at 97-65, one game behind Washington. The rotation was the foundation of their championship season, with all five starters making it through healthy -- a franchise first.Things changed dramatically when Cueto had to leave the first inning of the playoff series opener on Saturday with the injury. The Reds made it through that game with Latos filling in for a 5-2 victory, but couldn't win without him on Wednesday.NOTES:The Reds honored RHP Homer Bailey on the field before the game for his no-hitter in Pittsburgh on Sept. 28, presenting him and C Ryan Hanigan with framed photo montages. ... It was Zito's shortest outing since he lasted 2 1-3 innings on Aug. 29 at Houston. The Giants won it 6-4. ... San Francisco has won each of Zito's last 12 starts. ... Leake lasted 4 1-3 innings, giving up six hits and five runs. ... The Giants hit three homers in a game eight times during the regular season.

A's spring training update Day 6: Davis savors winter in Oakland

A's spring training update Day 6: Davis savors winter in Oakland

MESA, Ariz. — Khris Davis enjoyed quite an offseason travel itinerary, checking out Toronto, taking in the beaches of Hawaii and dining on lobster in Belize.

However, it was the time spent in his adopted hometown of Oakland that most struck a chord with the A’s left fielder. After finishing his first season with the A’s, Davis followed through on his plan to make his offseason home in Oakland, and he was glad he did.

“I got to just feel the heart of the city,” he said upon arriving at camp Sunday. “That was basically the purpose of why I was there. … I wanted to feel Oakland. I love it, honestly. I love the city.”

He trained at Dogtown Athletic, a gym in West Oakland. He took part in the A’s holiday party for kids at the Oakland Zoo, joined by A’s Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, who grew up in the city.

“Just to feel these kids’ happiness,” Davis said. “They didn’t look at me as a baseball player. They just looked at me as a role model kind of.”

It should be music to the ears of A’s fans that the team’s most dangerous hitter has a love affair with the city he plays in. If the A’s ever entertained the idea of trying to sign Davis to a multi-year extension, and that’s purely hypothetical here, it would help that Davis feels comfortable in his surroundings.

Even when he described Oakland in edgy terms, such as when he said it “has its dark side,” he seemed to find it endearing.

In return, Davis felt the love from the fan base in 2016, hitting a career-high 42 homers with a team-best 102 RBI. That was despite the awful start he got off to, hitting .143 and mustering just one RBI over his first 12 games.

Obviously, any chances the A’s have of improving last year’s American League-worst offense rely on the 29-year-old Davis having another big year. But over-analysis is one thing he tries to avoid.

“I don’t want to get caught up in last year — the slow start and the strong finish, whatever,” he said. “However it was, I’m just ready to do this year.”

Davis decided to back out of his plan to play for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic, saying his main priority was preparing for his A’s season.

“My main focus is to perform for the organization,” he said. “I feel like I want to get off on the right foot this year.”

NOTEWORTHY: Heavy showers continued to pelt Mesa on Sunday, spoiling the A’s first full-squad workout. The hitters were relegated to swinging in the cages and playing catch, while pitchers were scheduled for a day off from throwing on the mound anyway.

“If ever there was a day, at least for the pitchers, that you don’t need to (work out), it’s today,” manager Bob Melvin said. “But when you have everybody there on the first day, you wanna get out on the field and do everything. Hopefully we can incorporate everything tomorrow.”

The A’s have a whopping 70 players in camp, more than in any other spring Melvin can remember as a big league manager. He addressed the full team in a meeting Sunday morning.

His message?

“We’re gonna have to outwork, out-hustle everybody like we have in the past,” he said, “and get back to playing the game with the same tenacity that we did a couple years ago.”

FAMILIAR FACE: Longtime A’s second baseman Mark Ellis is back for the second year in a row as a spring infield instructor. The plan is for Ellis to spend a week with the team now, then another week later in camp.

“I’ll take Mark Ellis as many days as I can have him,” Melvin said.

LIGHTER SIDE: Nursing his broken right foot, starting pitcher Daniel Mengden has been making his way through the clubhouse on a knee scooter in order to keep pressure off his foot.

Apparently, it looks more fun than it really is.

“I contribute to society Friday, when I can start walking again,” Mengden quipped.

Giants spring training Day 7: Rule change should help Bochy

Giants spring training Day 7: Rule change should help Bochy

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — On one of the many nights last season when his bullpen imploded, Bruce Bochy nearly put a catcher on the mound. Trevor Brown ended up playing an inning of third base on June 28 as the Giants gave up eight runs over the final two innings in a brutal loss to the A’s, and he said this week that he was told he was the next man up on the mound. 

That night was an odd one, as a tired bullpen was waiting for Sergio Romo to get activated off a rehab assignment and trying to get by without long reliever Chris Stratton, who had thrown 57 pitches out of the ‘pen the night before. The bench was also short because Joe Panik was about to be put on the concussion DL.

Bochy hopes he doesn’t have to deal with such a situation this season, and not just because the bullpen should be much improved. The disabled list lasts 10 days now, not 15, and Bochy is thrilled with the new rule.

“The DL thing, I really like it,” he said. “You get caught in that gray area so often.” 

Bochy met with league officials on Saturday to go over some of the rule changes. DL stints can now be made retroactive just three days, but it’s still a vast improvement overall. 

“With (position) players and pitchers it’s going to make it easier to DL guys,” Bochy said. “If you’re looking at (starting) pitchers, they could miss just one start.”

The Giants have often played a man or more short, trying to get by day-by-day to give a position player or starter time to heal. Around camp, this could be called the Angel Pagan Rule, as the former Giants outfielder often missed a week or so before officially going on the DL. At times, Bochy has been patient with players like Buster Posey and Hunter Pence, knowing that even if they missed a week, keeping them off the DL could still earn the Giants seven or eight games with a big bat back in the lineup. If a future diagnosis is that a player will miss a week, it’ll be much easier to swallow putting him on the 10-day DL than it was for the 15-day. Likewise, the Giants will take advantage of the change if a pitcher will have to miss a start. 

Bochy has said often that he would like every reliever to go on the DL during the season to freshen up. That’ll make more sense now, and it should keep the Giants from having to play as many games where the bullpen is gassed and a backup catcher is preparing to pitch. For guys like Stratton — a versatile pitcher on the 40-man roster — it should also lead to increased trips up to the big leagues to fill gaps. 

INJURY UPDATE: Pence (side muscle) took 25 swings during a live BP session in the cage and Bochy said he’s doing much better. That was about the only significant activity Sunday. Once again, the workout was rained out. Bochy said the Giants have enough time to get guys ready for the Cactus League opener on Feb. 24, but they’ll likely hold some big-name pitchers out of the early games. Brandon Crawford and Posey will get plenty of early starts to prepare for the WBC. 

PROSPECT WATCH: If the early games are turned over to prospects, Dan Slania will be an interesting guy to watch. Slania is listed at 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, so he always had the look of an imposing reliever. But his greatest success last season came after a surprise move to the rotation. 

Slania, a 2013 fifth-round pick out of Notre Dame, got a call on his 24th birthday telling him to prepare to start because of an injury in Richmond’s rotation. He had not started a game since high school, but his four-pitch mix worked. He had a 5.32 ERA out of the bullpen but it dropped to 1.48 in 10 starts for the Flying Squirrels. In two Triple-A starts, he struck out 14 over 13 innings while allowing just eight hits and two runs. The Giants put him on their 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. 

“He had a great year last year,” Bochy said. “He’s in camp for a reason. He’s got great stuff and a good makeup.”

RULE CHANGE: One more thing that came out of that rules meeting: Managers who are out of challenges now have to wait until the eighth inning to ask an umpire to look at a play.

QUOTABLE: “We know he’s better off taking some days. We talked about it (with him). He agrees that it’ll help him.” Bochy on Pence’s workload. The right fielder is coming off two injury-marred seasons, and the Giants have no intention of even trying to get him back to his Iron Man days.