Giants try to avoid sweep ... and second place


Giants try to avoid sweep ... and second place

August 3, 2011

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

Coverage begins at 12:00 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The Arizona Diamondbacks traded for Jason Marquis over the weekend in hopes of bolstering their starting rotation.

His impressive career numbers against the San Francisco Giants surely played a part in their decision to acquire him.

Marquis makes his Diamondbacks debut as visiting Arizona tries to take sole possession of the NL West lead with a three-game sweep of the Giants on Wednesday.

The Diamondbacks (61-49), who haven't been alone atop the division this late in the season since Sept. 5, 2008, are in position to accomplish that feat after winning 6-1 on Tuesday.

URBAN: Giants know Arizona is for real

Arizona entered this series two games behind San Francisco (61-49), but after Ian Kennedy defeated Matt Cain in Monday's 5-2 victory, Daniel Hudson outdueled Tim Lincecum to forge a first-place tie.

"It's a lot of fun but at the same time there's a long way to go," Hudson said. "The division goes through San Francisco and we have a lot of games left with the Giants."

Justin Upton, batting .436 with 21 RBIs over a 14-game hitting streak, hit his MLB-best seventh homer since July 21 while Paul Goldschmidt went deep in just his second game since getting recalled from Double-A Mobile on Monday.

"To come up here in this environment and do what he's done is a huge lift for us," manager Kirk Gibson said of the 23-year-old first baseman, who had 30 homers and 94 RBIs in 103 games in the minors.

"He's become part of our team. You have to be awed by it. He's shown great character by the way he's controlled his emotions."

Marquis (8-5, 3.95 ERA), meanwhile, suddenly finds himself in the midst of the NL West race after he was acquired from Washington on Saturday.

The right-hander's success against the Giants could give the Diamondbacks an advantage as they try for their first sweep at San Francisco since July 25-27, 2008. Marquis, 5-3 with a 2.31 ERA over 11 career starts against the Giants, is 4-2 with a 2.61 ERA lifetime at AT&T Park.

"I've always liked pitching in that ballpark, for one," Marquis told "Ultimately it comes down to executing pitches, I've come up with pretty good game plans with some of my pitching coaches and catchers in the past. Maybe my style of pitching suits me against their lineup. I'm looking forward to Wednesday and getting off to a good fresh start, and we'll see what happens."

"Anytime you pitch a big game, that's what you live for, that's why we play this game."

Marquis, 2-1 with a 2.67 ERA over his last five road outings, has made things difficult on both Aaron Rowand and Carlos Beltran. Rowand is 4 for 24 lifetime against Marquis while Beltran has gone 3 for 20.

San Francisco is 4 for 35 (.114) with runners in scoring position and has been outscored 31-8 during its season worst-tying five-game skid.

"These two clubs see each other two more times," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We're going stagnant with these bats and we need to get them going."

As their offense continues to falter, the Giants hope to regroup behind Ryan Vogelsong (8-1, 2.23), who's been somewhat rocky on the road of late but continues to shine at home. The right-hander allowed three runs over the first two innings Friday at Cincinnati before retiring 16 of the final 19 batters he faced during the 4-3, 13-inning loss.

Vogelsong, however, is 5-1 over 10 games - nine starts - at AT&T Park, compiling an MLB-leading 1.28 home ERA.

He gave up two runs and six hits in six innings but didn't factor in the decision of a 3-2 loss at Arizona on June 16.

Giants notes: Melancon gets injection; Kontos gets an at-bat

Giants notes: Melancon gets injection; Kontos gets an at-bat

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants were annoyed by Monday’s “rubbing teammates the wrong way” report for a number of reasons, but near the top of the list was the fact that the target, Mark Melancon, has been pitching hurt to try and help a last-place team. That’s no longer the case. 

Melancon went on the DL on Wednesday morning and later had a PRP (platelet rich plasma) injection in his right arm to try and ease some of the discomfort in his pronator. He is expected to be out the rest of the first half. Melancon would be eligible to return with two games left until the break, but there’s no point in rushing him. He missed 12 games the first time this came up and he now has more than two weeks to rest before the second half kicks off. 

In the meantime, Sam Dyson is the closer, but he was unavailable Wednesday because of a heavy workload. So Bruce Bochy got creative to close out a 5-3 win over the Rockies. George Kontos came on for a sharp Ty Blach in the seventh and carried the lead to the eighth. Steven Okert got through the 26th out and Hunter Strickland came in to get Ian Desmond to fly out for his first save of the year. 

Because Bochy wanted Kontos to face Pat Valaika in the eighth, he got an at-bat 15 hours after Cory Gearrin got to take his hacks. It at first looked like Kontos had “don’t swing” orders, but he fouled a ball off. 

“The second fastball I got, if it was near the plate, I was going to swing,” he said. 

Kontos said he doesn’t have bragging rights over Gearrin because he fouled a ball off, noting that Gearrin is 1 for 2 in his career and he is 0 for 8. It turns out that they used the same bat, too. Yes, there is a Cory Gearrin model.

“It’s just been hanging out since last year,” Gearrin said, looking down at his equipment bag. “Just in case.”

--- Dan Slania woke up a 4:30, drove to Philadelphia, and boarded a flight that was went down through Nashville to fuel up. He arrived in San Francisco in time for the second inning. And then he watched, met with old teammates, showered … and prepared to fly all the way back to Pennsylvania. 

“I’m going to pass out as soon as I get on the plane,” Slania said. 

He wasn’t complaining at all. The Giants needed a potential innings-eater with Melancon on the DL, and if Slania is sent back down before Friday’s game, he’ll at least be back near Double-A Richmond and the flight back will have been taken on a chartered jet with a bunch of former teammates. Plus he gets a couple of service days. 

“I can tell you it’s well worth it,” Bochy said. 

--- The main story today is about Jae-gyun Hwang, who brought some more life to a team that got its first sweep of the year. The standings are what they are, but the Giants are playing much better, and some players started talking Wednesday about how they’re looking forward to being a spoiler for teams like the Rockies and Diamondbacks. 

More than anything, the players are just happy that they got to listen to the victory soundtrack again and walk out of this park with smiles. 

“We did a really good job of coming into this series and decided what the intent should be,” Nick Hundley said. “We weren’t going to worry about what’s been going on. You control what you can control. It’s nice when the results match up.”

There was a players-only meeting on Monday and Hundley said “everybody got on the same page again.”

Now the tricky part: Keeping it going on the road. 

--- Nolan Arenado is a freak and the Giants should give him a blank check, a ton of Facebook stock, and the rights to the Salesforce building when he’s a free agent in two and a half seasons. 

--- Ryder Jones is hitless in 16 at-bats but he was keeping his head up. He was an inch or two from a double down the line Wednesday and the Giants feel he’s having good at-bats. More than anything, he's not taking those results into the field and he talked about that at length when we sat down for a podcast the other day. If you subscribe on iTunes here, you’ll have it in the morning. 

Rockets GM: Chris Paul trade 'gives us a real shot' vs NBA juggernauts

Rockets GM: Chris Paul trade 'gives us a real shot' vs NBA juggernauts

The NBA took a massive power shift Wednesday with the Clippers trading point guard Chris Paul to the Rockets for seven players, a 2018 first-round pick (protected Nos. 1-3) and $661,000. 

Houston GM Daryl Morey is going all in on a mission to compete with the Warriors and he believes the Rockets are now there with the pairing of Paul and MVP runner-up James Harden. 

"You know, it's a guards-based league. It's a weapons race in the NBA and you're either in the weapons race or on the sidelines," Morey said at the team's press conference, as captured by Mark Berman of Houston's FOX 26. "With James Harden in his prime and Chris Paul in his prime, this gives us a real shot to chase the juggernaut teams in this league." 

Paul, who turned 32 in May, is a nine-time All-Star. He spent his last six seasons with the Clippers and averaged 18.1 points, 9.2 assists and 5.0 rebounds per game during the 2016-17 season in 61 games played. 

This past season, Harden became a primary point guard for the first time under Mike D'Antoni's fast-paced offense and the bearded lefty excelled in his new position. Harden led the NBA with 11.2 assists per game while putting up 29.1 points per game. 

Houston received guards Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams, forwards Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell, plus the non-guaranteed deals of DeAndre Liggins, Darrun Hilliard and Kyle Wiltjer from Los Angeles. 

The Rockets went 55-27 last season, four games ahead of the Clippers, but were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs to the Spurs.