Bad breaks or breakdowns? Both put Giants in 2-0 hole

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Bad breaks or breakdowns? Both put Giants in 2-0 hole

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO Marco Scutaro slowly packed for a flightwith no guaranteed return, still wearing a jersey streaked orange-brown withdisappointment and misfortune.

Sometimes, infield dirt is more than infield dirt.

Inches, said Scutaro, asked how close he came to getting aglove on Ryan Hanigans ground ball, which bled through for a two-run singleSunday night.

All the ground balls hit to me it seemed like I was thisclose to catching it.

The same was not true for Scutaro, or the rest of his Giantsteammates, when they stood in the batters box during this NL Division Seriesagainst the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds are getting the luck and the breaks, forsure.

But dirt stains come out easily enough. The Giants, to comecorrect, were nearer to buried alive Sunday night. The Reds outhit them 13-2and outscored them 9-0 to stun a hand-sitting sellout crowd and grab a 2-0 leadin this series.

Scutaro entered the postseason with a 20-game hitting streak inwhich he was hitting .436.

Hes 0 for 8 in two playoff games. He and leadoff man AngelPagan are 1 for 17.

Thats the way baseball is, man, Scutaro said. I goteight at-bats and I have at least three or four hard-hit balls. When things arenot going your way, mentally youve just got to turn the page and staypositive.

Bad luck is a comfortable and convenient fallback. It beatstrying to explain these two games any other way.

Seems like the whole series, everything is bouncing theirway, Scutaro said. They get the momentum going and it seems like we cant geta break. They make a nice play or its at somebody.

Its a short series. It can change real quick. We just haveto come back Tuesday and keep fighting.

RATTO: It's do or be done for Giants

They will try to succeed where 21 other NL clubs havefailed, rallying back to win an NL Division Series after losing the first twogames. And for all their road savvy while winning 10 of 12 series away fromAT&T Park after the All-Star break, sweeping three in the Queen City issomething no major league team has done to the Reds this season.

We know where were at right now and out backs are to thewall, said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who will wait to address the team untilthey reconvene at the ballpark for a 10 a.m. flight Monday. I know they knowwhats at stake, and theyve done a great job all year at bouncing back. Itsbeen done before and theres no choice in this. We have to keep our heads upand be ready to go.

As Bochy and third base coach Tim Flannery know well, the1984 San Diego Padres are one team that came back from a 2-0 deficit to win abest-of-5 series. But they went back home to Jack Murphy Stadium to take threestraight from the Chicago Cubs and clinch the NL pennant.

Time and place and historical precedent aside, and luck,too, the Giants knew from the outset that they wouldnt get anywhere withoutthe kind of dominant, hold-the-line pitching that they received in 2010.

That pitching was nowhere to be found down the stretch, andthere is no plugging those leaks now. Neither Matt Cain nor Madison Bumgarnercould retire a hitter in the sixth inning.

Well, of course you want your pitcher to go out there andgive you a quality start, Bochy said. It hasnt happened these first twogames. Now you hope it happens the next three. Its hard to beat this team ifyou dont get a quality start.

Its tough when those guys arent quite on top of theirgame.

It means the Giants are rallying from behind -- not scoring first, which they did so often while surging to an NL West title. When you trail in 15 of 18 innings, and lead in none, you aren't able to swing or run the bases with the same press-the-issue aggressiveness.

Bumgarner, like Cain a night earlier, had an encouragingfirst inning but left too many mistakes over the plate after that. Catcher Buster Poseyeven said he thought Bumgarner got away with a few mistake sliders.

You hate to see it, Bochy said. Its a good hitting ballclub and they threw out some good at-bats against him.

Bumgarner took the Scutaro approach.

They found holes, he said. I felt good. I was throwingthe pitches I wanted to throw. Just bad luck, I guess.

They guess. If the Giants entertained any other explanation,how could they convince themselves they're good enough to save this season?

Giants spring training Day 42: Blach still in the fifth starter mix

Giants spring training Day 42: Blach still in the fifth starter mix

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Ty Blach is the young one in the race to be the fifth starter, but on Sunday he sounded like a veteran. Asked if he has gotten a hint one way or the other about his opening day role, Blach smiled.

“I’m just taking it day-by-day and trying to get better,” Blach said. “I’m enjoying the process and having fun.”

Smooth. 

Those days are adding up to a nice spring for Blach, the left-hander trying to unseat Matt Cain. While Bruce Bochy didn’t shed any additional light on the current lean, team officials hinted Sunday that this is not as open-and-shut as it seems. Matt Cain, who will start Tuesday, looked like a lock to be the fifth starter a week ago, but the Giants are considering all options because they have an off day during the first week and two more shortly thereafter. 

“We’ve had discussions every day,” Bochy said. “We’ve got some tough calls.”

The Giants are expected to announce their official rotation when they return home for the Bay Bridge Series. Whether he’s starting, long-relieving, or pitching in a completely new role, Blach has certainly done all he can to make sure he’s in the big leagues on April 2. He gave up two runs over six innings Sunday, walking one and striking out one while giving up seven hits. Blach has allowed 10 runs in 20 1/3 innings this spring, but four of those came when he was ambushed coming out of the bullpen one day.

“Wherever I’ll be, I know I’ll be in a good spot,” Blach said. “I’m just looking forward to getting the season rolling.

After pitching out of the bullpen most of the spring, Blach got his pitch count up to 85 on Sunday. 

“We’ve gotten him stretched out,” Bochy said. “That’s a solid, solid job. We’ve got guys stretched out where you want them. We’ve got some flexibility. We’ll see as we get close here which way we’ll go.”

POSITION BATTLES: The Giants will carry a backup for Denard Span, and for about a month it looked like Gorkys Hernandez would be that guy. But Hernandez has slumped so badly this spring that he went over the minor league facility Sunday to get a ton of extra at-bats, and Justin Ruggiano has emerged, reaching base in nine of his last 16 plate appearances. The plan a few days back was for Ruggiano to go to Sacramento and get 50 or so at-bats to see where he’s at, but this is another race that could change in the coming week. 

Cory Gearrin has done his part to hold off any charging relievers, throwing two sharp innings while going back-to-back for the first time this spring. 

FAMILIAR FACES: A rough day for a couple of longtime Giants. Ehire Adrianza and Gregor Blanco both have oblique injuries, hurting their odds of breaking with the Twins and Diamondbacks, respectively. Elsewhere, David Hernandez showed that he made a smart decision asking for his release. He was signed by the Braves. 

AROUND CAMP: Hunter Pence really does do all he can to make every single teammate feel welcome in the clubhouse. He spent some time with young right-hander Roberto Gomez on Sunday morning, learning a few Spanish phrases. When the players went out to warm up, Pence threw with Jae-Gyun Hwang. These are small gestures, but for the new guys, they matter. 

BARRY’S BACK: We all knew Barry Bonds would step into the cage at some point, and on a quiet Sunday morning, there he was. Bonds, 52, took about five or six easy hacks before crushing one out to deep right. He’s still got it. The other day, reporters asked Bonds if he could suit up in the WBC if asked. He said he can absolutely still hit, but he would need to DH and he would need a day or two off before games. Being a big league hitter is not easy, even if he always made it look that way.

 

Bonds dusts off swing, cracks home run during BP in Giants' camp

Bonds dusts off swing, cracks home run during BP in Giants' camp

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants knew Barry Bonds would step back into the box at some point. It happened Sunday, with Bonds taking a few cracks at BP pitches from Gary Davenport.

Bonds warmed up with a couple of lighter swings and then blasted a homer to deep right. That was enough, as the 52-year-old walked away with a big smile on his face. 

Bonds is in camp as a special instructor, and he still picks his spots to show off his legendary swing. When he was the Marlins' hitting coach last season, he beat slugger Giancarlo Stanton in an impromptu home run derby.