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.

Top prospect Shaw not feeling pressure of potential call-up


Top prospect Shaw not feeling pressure of potential call-up

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants do not like to set timetables for their top prospects, instead encouraging them to force their way into promotions. Christian Arroyo did that in April and Ryder Jones followed over the summer, and both should be in position to compete for the third base job next spring. 

One of those two could ultimately fill a gaping hole in the lineup. When it comes to left field, one of their current River Cats teammates hopes to do the same. Chris Shaw is the organization’s top prospects on some lists, and on all lists, he is their top power-hitting prospect. 

The 23-year-old has 16 homers and 23 doubles across two levels this season, good for a .503 slugging percentage that’s right in line with his mark (.502) over 269 professional games. Shaw is on the fast track, and he became more intriguing when the Giants — with Brandon Belt signed long-term at first — moved him to left full-time this season. 

Shaw is doing what was asked of him. Earlier this week, I asked him if that has him thinking about a promotion. 

“It’s my motivation obviously to get to the big leagues, that’s why you work so hard in the offseason is to put yourself in that position to be knocking on the door,” he said. “But now, in season, you kind of put all your work in up to this point and everything else is a result of all your hard work up to this point. I don’t necessarily put any extra pressure on myself because right now I just go out and play and whatever happens, happens.

“I can’t dictate what falls and what doesn’t fall and what my batting average is going to look like a month from now, and ultimately what the front office wants to do. I’m fully aware they don’t have to add me this year. I trust in the front office in promoting me when they feel I’m ready developmentally.”

The big problem for Shaw at the moment is that the Giants do not need to add him to the 40-man roster until after the 2018 season. They are big on inventory, and not keen on DFA’ing another player this year and taking up a winter roster spot over the offseason for a prospect who currently is not in the opening day plans for 2018. That’s the paperwork side of this. On the field, Shaw is blocked by Gorkys Hernandez (who is now playing everyday), Jarrett Parker (who will finish his rehab assignment soon), Mac Williamson, and others. It remains a bit of a long shot that Shaw gets a September cameo, and when I checked in with team officials a week ago, the word was that it’s not currently in the plans. 

Having said that, the last-place Giants could certainly use some excitement and a glimpse of power. Shaw has some time left to change the front office's September plans. In the meantime, he’s the latest guest on our Giants Insider podcast. The quote above is from the podcast, which you can stream here or download on iTunes here. We talked promotions, his move to left, his power, his post-deadline tweet last year, and more. 

Former college football star shows athleticism on pivotal play in Giants win

Former college football star shows athleticism on pivotal play in Giants win

SAN FRANCISCO — Wednesday was a throwback for the Giants, the type of 2-1 win they’ve become so accustomed to at AT&T Park in past years. Solid starting pitching, a good bullpen, an opportunistic lineup, and sparkling defense. That’s the recipe, only on Wednesday there was a twist. 

The highlights usually come from the Brandons or Gold Glovers Joe Panik and Buster Posey. Wednesday’s defensive star was the pitcher. Jeff Samardzija’s barehanded grab-and-throw in the second inning killed a Pirates rally and kept Samardzija in line for a deep start. He was rewarded with his fifth win. 

The big play came with the bases loaded and one out in the second. Opposing pitcher Trevor Williams bounced one toward third and Samardzija sprung off the mound, cutting in front of Conor Gillaspie. He caught the ball with his bare hand as it came down from the first hop and made a perfect off-balance strike to Buster Posey for the force at the plate. 

“Your back is up against the wall there,” Samardzija said. “That’s a lack of other options and I had to make a play. It was the only option I had. I didn’t think I had a chance at first.”

Even with the pitcher running, Samardzija probably didn’t. After getting the tough out at the plate, he induced an inning-ending pop-up. Samardzija would get through the seventh and a mistake in left opened the door for the Giants' game-winning run. Afterward, Bruce Bochy pointed to that second-inning play as a unique turning point. 

“It looked like he was receiving a football, didn’t it?” Bochy said, smiling. “He’s so quick off the mound. He’s a good athlete. For a pitcher, that’s one of the better plays I’ve seen. You have to be a good athlete to jump off the mound that quick and have the instincts to know where to go with the ball.”

Samardzija, a former college football star, said that athleticism has hurt him at times. He explained that it can lead to some mechanical laziness on the mound, as better athletes tend to rely on that to get the ball to the plate. He did some work in a recent bullpen session to try and hone in those mechanics, and it showed against a charging Pirates club. 

If there were any scouts waiting for one last glimpse of Good Samardzija, this was it. But the right-hander said he doesn’t expect to be traded by Monday’s deadline.

“I haven’t heard anything,” he said. “I don’t read the news.”

He hears enough, though, to know that his name has been thrown around. Samardzija said he thinks that’s just other teams looking for leverage in trade discussions. He made his preference clear.

“I love being here,” he said.