Baggs' Instant Replay: Cards beat Cain for 2-1 NLCS lead


Baggs' Instant Replay: Cards beat Cain for 2-1 NLCS lead

ST. LOUIS Hunter Pence has done so much to ignite the Giants this postseason all of it outside the batters box.That must change if confetti sweepers hope to get any work on Market Street in the coming weeks. It hasnt yet. And while Rev. Pence wasnt the only Giant who looked like he didnt have a prayer in RBI situations, he sits in a position of prominence behind cleanup man Buster Posey.So he was the first one through the rain-splashed windshield as the Giants lost 3-1 to the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 3 of the NLCS Wednesday night.The Giants were 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position while falling behind 2-1 in this best-of-seven series.The Doppler radar proved more foreboding than the Giants lineup. The flying-cattle front finally arrived to halt the game (for three hours, 28 minutes) in the seventh inning. The run support for Matt Cain never did.It led to a ritual, retro-night Caining for Cain, who paid for one mistake, and it was one too many.Starting pitching reportCain established all his pitches early, and aside from catching his spike on one wild delivery, he never appeared out of sorts.He needed just nine pitches in the first inning, just 10 in the second inning and the Giants appeared to catch a huge break when Carlos Beltran left the game after one double-play grounder because of a strained left knee.But like the Reds early loss of Johnny Cueto eight pitches into the Giants postseason run, no breaks are what they appear to be.The Cardinals replaced Beltran with a part-timer, Matt Carpenter, who was 4 for 4 in his career against Cain. He made it 5 for 5 in the third inning, connecting on a 2-2 slider for a two-run home run that sent St. Louisans into a towel-waving stupor.Cain was on his way to another smooth frame before Jon Jay hit a two-out single ahead of Carpenters shot, which eradicated a 1-0 Giants lead.Cain responded by retiring 11 of the next 12 hitters before the rain finally arrived in the seventh. David Freese hit a one-out double, and after an intentional walk, Pete Kozma singled to load the bases. Shane Robinson followed with a ground ball to second baseman Marco Scutaro, who looked home before throwing to first base as a run scored.That was the last pitch Cain threw, and the last action before the tarp came off the cylinder.Even before umpires signaled the delay, Bruce Bochy had indicated for a pitching change. Left-hander Javier Lopez officially was in the game as the game went into delay.Bullpen reportLopez warmed up both before and after the rain delay, which clocked in at three hours, 28 minutes just enough time to screen Gandhi! when he threw a pitch to Jay.Lopez got a ground out to strand Cains runners. It only seemed like they belonged to Ed Halicki.Jose Mijares and George Kontos combined for a zero in the ninth.At the plateKyle Lohse had an 8-1 record at Busch Stadium, he hadnt lost at home since June 15 and he allowed the fourth fewest baserunners per inning among NL pitchers this season.The Giants managed the baserunners, but nothing else.Lohse walked five in a game for the first time in more than four years -- and allowed seven hits, too -- but the Giants stranded 11 of 12 baserunners in his 5 23 innings.They minimized a huge chance in the third inning, after Angel Pagan hit a leadoff single and Marco Scutaro showed no effects from Mondays collision while hustling a double on a poke shot down the first base line.Pablo Sandoval hit an RBI grounder to short, but Lohse made pretense of three pitches to Buster Posey before issuing an intentional ball four. Pence followed by lunging for a double-play grounder.The bottom of the order set the table in the fourth as Gregor Blanco walked and took third on Brandon Crawfords single. But Cain fouled off a safety squeeze attempt and Pagan flied out to center to strand two in scoring position.The Giants threatened again in the sixth when Crawford and Cain hit two-out singles to knock Lohse from the game. But Trevor Rosenthal threw a 101 mph fastball and Pagan grounded into a fielders choice to end the inning.The third and the seventh were the best of the worst, though. Sandoval and Posey hit one-out singles off Edward Mujica in the seventh, but Mitchell Boggs made Pence and Brandon Belt look more awkward than usual while striking them both out. Pence went down swinging with his right knee almost on the ground and Belt complained when plate umpire Bill Miller rang him up on a pitch on the black.The Giants were 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position and two of those at-bats belonged to Pence, which is notable because he is still stuck on zero RBIs in eight postseason games.That is a stark difference from the regular season, when Pence drove in 45 in 59 games as a Giant despite hitting just .219.And Belt needed a strong game to hold off thoughts of starting Hector Sanchez behind the plate and Posey at first base in Game 4. Instead, you can almost bank on that configuration for Game 4.The Giants had a shot in the late innings because the Cardinals lost Boggs to the delay, meaning it was up to Jason Motte to dance a six-out save. But Blanco, Crawford and pinch hitter Aubrey Huff went down on just nine pitches in the eighth. Motte went six up, six down on 19 pitches total.It seems so long ago, but in Huffs previous game at this ballpark, he cranked three home runs. That was June, 2011.Pagan, Scutaro and Crawford combined to go 5 for 11, but the Giants were just too soft in the middle of the order.In fieldSandoval made a diving stop at third base to take a hit away from Lohse in the fifth, but the most notable defensive play might have been Beltrans double-play grounder in the first.It was the first ball hit to Scutaro since the hard slide knocked him out of Game 2, and not only did he handle it without incident, but Jay went feet first into second base and didnt try any overly aggressive tactics on Crawford to break up the play.Jay was hit by Cains second pitch of the game, but there was no apparent intent.AttendanceThe Cardinals announced 45,850 paid, who bravely attended despite a weather radar map that meshed with Jackson Pollocks aesthetic. Roughly half the fans endured the delay, earning them whatever passes for a Croix de Candlestick in these parts.Up nextThe Giants and Cardinals meet in Game 4 Thursday night at Busch Stadium. Right-hander Adam Wainwright (0-0, 7.88 in two postseason starts), who dug the most celebrated six-run hole in Cardinals franchise history in his last outing against Washington, will take the mound for St. Louis. The Giants will hand the ball to Tim Lincecum (1-0, 1.08 in three postseason appearances) for his first playoff start since the Game 5 clincher in the 2010 World Series at Texas. First pitch is scheduled for 5:07 pm. PDT. Bochy also confirmed after the loss that Barry Zito will start Game 5.

Giants Notes: Marrero hopes to be back; Posey faces Romo


Giants Notes: Marrero hopes to be back; Posey faces Romo

SAN FRANCISCO — About 45 minutes after the Giants announced that Chris Marrero had been designated for assignment, the left fielder walked up to the locker of one of the newcomers. Marrero patted Christian Arroyo on the back and shook his hand, congratulating him for his first call-up to the big leagues. 

“That’s my boy,” he said later. “I was really happy for him.”

The Arroyo promotion and the addition of Drew Stubbs signaled the end of Marrero’s April run in the lineup. He was cut and Aaron Hill was put on the disabled list, clearing two roster spots. Just as Arroyo forced his way up with three huge weeks in Triple-A, Marrero forced his way onto the opening day roster with a monster spring that included eight homers. He had just five hits in 38 at-bats before Monday’s moves.

“The team is struggling and we’ve got to make some moves,” Marrero said. “I believe in myself and I’ll go down and get back to how I felt in spring training. This is what I’ve worked for my whole life. I lost the feel that I had in the spring. Things were a little rushed. I came in and worked hard every day to try and find it. I’m going to keep working. I haven’t lost confidence in myself.”

Marrero was put in a bit of a tough spot. He played just about every day in Scottsdale because he was trying to win a job, and when he finally did make it, some Giants coaches felt he was a bit worn down. The team’s brutal start to the season put a glaring spotlight on left field, and this move became obvious over time.

Marrero said he likes it here, and that if he isn’t claimed, he will go to Triple-A Sacramento and try to find that spring swing and get back up here. Count Bruce Bochy among those hoping it goes down that way. 

“We thought a lot of him and still do,” Bochy said. “He’s a good hitter.”

--- Arroyo had a 4.4 GPA in high school, so the Giants knew he was smart. He’s savvy, too. There’s nothing like picking up the longest-tenured player on the team, literally. After snagging a ricochet in the fourth inning last night, Arroyo kept running and lifted Cain off the grass. They then chest-bumped. 

“That just kind of happened,” Arroyo said. “He hit it, I looked at Cain going down and saw the ball, went running and got it, instincts took over. I made a throw and got the guy. It was a fun play. In that moment, I was just pumped up. It’s one of those plays you get excited over.”

Arroyo said he heard Cain yelling and he thought he was hurt, so that’s why he ran over. Cain did have an X-ray on the foot that got hit but it came back negative. 

“Christian did a great job handling himself,” Cain said. “He picked me up big-time.”

The best part of the play came hours after it was made. As Cain talked to reporters, Brandon Crawford — who was in position to scoop the grounder in the fourth — was standing at his locker, a few feet away.

“Let it go through next time,” he said softly.

--- Denard Span was out on the field Monday afternoon, but he’ll miss another two to four days with that right shoulder injury. This will truly be a day-to-day situation. If at any point the Giants feel they need coverage, Span can be put on the 10-day DL. 

--- Hill apparently felt discomfort after playing long toss on the road trip. He can swing a bat but he was going to be kept from throwing for three to four days, so he was put on the DL.

--- This spring, Posey was asked about facing Sergio Romo. Here was his long tendencies-filled answer. Posey faced Romo in the eighth and flied out. 

"It was a little weird, I'm not going to lie," he said. "I caught him for so long. It's definitely interesting being in the batter's box instead of being the plate."

Was there a nod or "hey what's up" look between the two?

"I've caught him long enough to know you don't look at him," Posey said, smiling. 

--- If you missed it, the standing ovation for Romo was a very, very cool moment. Also, here's my story on Madison Bumgarner, who spoke for the first time since his injury. And here's the first story on Arroyo, with a fun anecdote about his mom. She'll be in the stands Tuesday. And finally, my game story from last night. 

On night Giants turn to youth, Matt Cain turns back the clock

On night Giants turn to youth, Matt Cain turns back the clock

SAN FRANCISCO — In the second inning Tuesday, as Christian Arroyo strapped on his gear and grabbed his bat, Buster Posey looked over at Matt Cain. 

“Goodness,” he said. “He looks really young.”

There was a time when that was said about Cain, now 32, and Posey, now 30. They broke in as fresh-faced kids, too, but these days they’re the grizzled vets, anchors of a clubhouse that got some fresh blood on Monday. Arroyo brought the energy to AT&T Park and Cain and Posey did the rest. 

The starter, in the midst of a surprising resurgence, threw six dominant innings against the visiting Dodgers. Posey threw one runner out at second to end the eighth and back-picked Justin Turner at second with two down in the ninth, clinching a 2-1 win that felt like a must-have in the clubhouse. 

“I mean, we needed it,” Posey said. “I don’t think you can underscore it. We definitely needed it.”

The front office sensed that after a sweep at Coors Field. After weeks of saying the Giants had to be patient with Arroyo, Bobby Evans pulled the trigger Monday morning. Drew Stubbs was also added to temporarily take over in center. The message was clear: A sense of urgency was needed throughout the organization, and the players responded with perhaps their cleanest game of the year. 

Cain did the heavy lifting, allowing just two hits and a walk before his right hamstring bit. He was pulled while warming up in the seventh, but he’s optimistic. Cain missed two weeks last year with the same injury, but he said it’s not as bad this time around. 

“Last year it was something that was definitely more on my mind when I did it,” he said. “I pushed too hard. I thought we were being a lot smarter today.”

The bullpen backed Cain, with Steven Okert, George Kontos, Derek Law (who allowed a run but shut down further damage) and Mark Melancon carrying it home. Melancon ran into some trouble in the ninth when Turner alertly took second on a spiked curveball. With Adrian Gonzalez up, the Dodgers were a single away from tying it up. Turner strayed too far off the bag and Posey gunned him down.

“It was just instinct,” he said. “He was anticipating a ball being put in play and took that one or two extra stutter steps. 

Melancon emphatically yelled on the mound. Cain watched the final out from the trainer’s room. The win was his first over the Dodgers in four seasons, and while on the mound, Cain lowered his ERA to a staff-best 2.42.

“He did a great job locating his fastball,” Posey said. “He threw his curveball for strikes, expanded the zone with his fastball, mixed some changeups in. He did a nice job.”

The approach looks sustainable, and the Giants need it. Madison Bumgarner had another MRI on Monday and while the Giants don’t have a firm timetable yet, manager Bruce Bochy acknowledged that it will “be a while.” 

In the meantime, the Giants will try to find a mix that works. Hunter Pence was moved up to leadoff Monday and he drove in a needed insurance run. The infield trio of Brandon Crawford, Arroyo and Joe Panik combined for the first run, with Crawford doubling, Arroyo moving him over, and Panik skying a ball deep enough for a sacrifice fly. 

Bochy praised Arroyo for his approach in that moment, and the rookie said he was focused hard on getting Crawford over. It was the kind of at-bat the Giants teach in the minors, and they hope more is on the way. The Triple-A squad is more talented than it’s been in years, and with big leaguers continuing to drop, the depth will be needed. 

As he got dressed Monday night, Arroyo rattled off facts from the night’s River Cats game and talked about how much he believes in the players there. He’s part of a wave that’s coming slowly, a group that includes Ty Blach, who faces a monumental task Tuesday. The young left-hander will go up against Clayton Kershaw as the Giants try to keep the momentum going.

“We’ve got our hands full tomorrow,” Bochy said. “We know it. I thought tonight was huge for us to stop things.”