Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants 2, Dodgers 1

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Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants 2, Dodgers 1

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LOS ANGELES Clayton Kershaw is 24. Madison Bumgarner turned 23 a couple weeks ago.Block out your calendars for the next decade. Well be seeing these two stingy, side-slinging left-handers battle each other for years to come. And often, theres going to be a lot riding on the outcome like first place in the NL West.On an idyllic Monday night at Chavez Ravine, Bumgarner did Juan Marichal proud.Both left-handers struck out 10 in eight innings and did not walk a batter. But Bumgarner was a bit more hard-boiled, a bit better and a bit luckier than Kershaw, mixing hard stuff with dirt-splashing sliders over eight shutout innings while pitching the Giants to a 2-1 victory at Dodger Stadium Monday night.Angel Pagan sparked the lineup with a pair of hits, Pablo Sandoval made enough quality contact to bring him home both times and the defense stole a few hits behind Bumgarner as the Giants regained a half-game advantage in the NL West over their archrivals.Bumgarner threw 123 pitches one short of his career high, which he set July 1 of last season at Detroit. It was the second most pitches a Giant has thrown this season; Cain fired 125 in his perfect game June 13.Sergio Romo served up a home run to Hanley Ramirez in the ninth inningStarting pitching reportBumgarner (14-7) was facing the Dodgers for the first time this season and making his second career start against Kershaw. The only other time they faced off, Bumgarner got pummeled for five runs in five innings on April 11, 2011 the season in which he began with an 0-6 record.He is a different pitcher now. He struck out 10 and didnt walk a batter while twice stranding a runner at third base.Bumgarner wasnt quite settled in the first inning, but the ball wasnt carrying so well as Shane Victorino and Matt Kemp hit loud fly balls to the warning track.Bumgarner flashed strikeout stuff after that. He pitched out of a jam in the second inning when he threw a slider on A.J. Ellis hands to strand two runners. Catcher Buster Posey helped him out of the stretch two other times when he threw out baserunners in the third and fifth, the latter an inning-ending double play.But it got stressful in the sixth, after Kershaw singled for the second time in the game and Victorino replaced him following a fielders choice. Hunter Pence made a sliding catch in right field for the second out, and then the Dodgers kept testing Posey as Victorino stole second and third.Bumgarner expertly put away the Dodgers best hitter, though. He threw six consecutive sliders, bouncing the final one past Kemps lunging swing to end the inning. Posey expertly smothered it to keep Kemp from advancing and a run from scoring.Bumgarner had thrown 104 pitches when he hit for himself in the eighth inning. He still had plenty of bite on his pitches, striking out pinch hitter Juan Uribe and Victorino to keep the shutout intact.It was the fourth time in his career he exceeded 120 pitches.Bullpen reportRomo showed he isnt a one-trick pony when the slider specialist spotted an inside fastball that caught A.J. Ellis looking to start the ninth. He dispatched of Kemp with a ground out to short, too. But he couldnt record the save with a two-strike count on Ramirez, who took him deep for the second time this season.Romo has allowed four homers this season two of them to Ramirez since he joined the Dodgers in July.Giants manager Bruce Bochy summoned left-hander Javier Lopez, who did what he usually does to left-handed hitters. Lopez got Andre Ethier to ground to first base, Brandon Belt scampered across the bag and the Giants shook hands as a first-place club once more.Lopez recorded his second save of the season. Committee adjourned.At the plateLets dust off that stat about Kershaw: He entered with a 1.32 career ERA against the Giants the lowest of any opponent against them in the San Francisco era (with a minimum of 10 starts). Arizonas Ian Kennedy ranked a distant second, with a 2.01 ERA.But the Giants were able to jump him for a run before he could settle in. Angel Pagan roped a double, Marco Scutaro sacrificed him to third and Pablo Sandoval did well to make contact, lifting a sacrifice fly that was just deep enough to get the job done.Pagan started a two-out rally in the sixth that led to another run, although his single off shortstop Hanley Ramirezs glove could have been called an error. Marco Scutaro flared a single and Sandoval again made good things happen by putting the bat on the ball. He dumped a single to left field and Pagan, who got a tremendous jump at the instant Sandoval made contact, barely slid ahead of catcher A.J. Ellis tag.Ellis argued but replays appeared to show that Pagan got a foot across the plate before the catcher tagged his hand.Kershaw (11-7) yielded nothing more. He struck out 10 in eight innings and did not walk a batter.In fieldThe Giants tried the small ball route against Kershaw when Gregor Blanco tried to bunt his way aboard in the third inning. But Kershaw made an incredible play, diving on his stomach and wiping out a good portion of the first base chalk line while catching the little pop.Hunter Pence made a huge play in the sixth, sliding to catch Mark Ellis sinking line drive with one out and a runner aboard. Poseys two throws to nab runners merit special mention, too.And then Marco Scutaro did his part by leaping to snag A.J. Ellis line drive with one out in the eighth.It was a tremendous defensive night in spite of Sandovals error at third base in the seventh inning. Bumgarner pitched around it.AttendanceThe Dodgers announced 36,878 paid. The last three sections down each line in the upper deck were totally empty for the biggest series to date this season.Up nextThe Giants continue their three-game showdown series at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday. Tim Lincecum (6-12, 5.45), coming off another rough start, needs to step up against right-hander Joe Blanton (8-11, 4.96). Lincecum actually has been competitive against the Dodgers this season, posting a 1-1 record and 3.00 ERA in two starts while striking out 16 in 12 innings.

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. 

Tomlinson still a fit as Giants put bench together

Tomlinson still a fit as Giants put bench together

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The “options game” can be a cruel one. It can also be one of the most important parts of spring training. 

If two players are relatively even at the end of camp but only one can be optioned to the minors, he’s usually the man left out. Giants officials have already made reference to this several times in discussing left field, where Jarrett Parker — who is out of options — would surely be claimed off waivers if the Giants try to sneak him back to the minors before Opening Day. Mac Williamson, on the other hand, can be shuttled back and forth. 

The same holds true for Kelby Tomlinson, and while it was easy during the first week of camp to see him as the odd man out, manager Bruce Bochy said that’s not the case. What do all the veteran infielders mean for the young one already in-house?

“It hasn’t affected anything for Kelby, really,” Bochy said. “It’s all about competition for spots on this team.”

Tomlinson played 54 games in 2015 and 52 a year ago, but the Giants put a clear emphasis this offseason on finding backup infielders. Jimmy Rollins, Jae-gyun Hwang, Orlando Calixte and Gordon Beckham were among those brought in before camp, and Aaron Hill arrived on the fourth day. Sure, Ehire Adrianza — who was seemingly perpetually out of options — is no longer around, but if the Giants carry just two backup infielders, one of them will almost certainly be Conor Gillaspie. 

Tomlinson isn’t bothered by the offseason of additions. He said he can take knowledge away from six weeks spent with guys he grew up watching.

“Rollins’ prime was right in my later high school years,” he said, smiling. “I’ve got a lot of guys to learn from and watch. It’s a little of both (a competition and learning experience). We’re all fighting for the same job, but we’re still on the same team and we’re all trying to learn from each other and help each other.”

Tomlinson is the incumbent, and the Giants certainly know all about his speed and ability to play all over the field (he continued to take fly balls this winter, just in case). They also now know that Tomlinson adds something that’s needed on any bench. Last season, he emerged as one of Bochy’s most reliable pinch-hitters. 

Tomlinson’s seven pinch-hits were tied for second on the team after Gillaspie’s 11. He was 7-for-17 in a pinch, adding three walks. Tomlinson’s simple swing and up-the-middle approach have proven perfect for important spots. He’s a .315 career hitter with runners in scoring position, a .373 hitter in situations baseball-reference deems “late and close,” and a .367 hitter in “high leverage” spots.

“I’m just trying to compete up there every at-bat, especially in that pinch-hitting role,” Tomlinson said. “It’s a grind, but that makes it fun when you give the team a quality at-bat. Even if it’s not a hit, you go up there and try to see five pitches and have a good at-bat.”

Tomlinson has given the Giants plenty of them over parts of two seasons. With Brandon Crawford headed for the World Baseball Classic, he is sure to see increased time this spring, and while the options game or non-roster list might catch up to him, the Giants haven’t forgotten what they already have. 

“He gives us versatility,” Bochy said, “So he’s in the mix, too.”