Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants 3, Padres 1

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Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants 3, Padres 1

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SAN DIEGO Try telling Ryan Vogelsong that Friday nights game was meaningless. Try telling Buster Posey, who took a pitch flush to the Adams apple, refused to call it a day and then widened his lead in the NL batting race.And try telling the thousands of orange-clad folks who bought airline tickets from the Bay Area to San Diego weeks ago, in the hopes the Giants would clinch at Petco Park.The Rug Doctors scrubbed down the home clubhouse a week ago, but the Giants did not lack for motivation in a 3-1 victory over the San Diego Padres.Vogelsong put himself back in the conversation for a playoff start after holding down the Padres for the second time in a week. Posey tripled and doubled to raise his average to .334 and Pablo Sandoval hit a two-run double as the Giants improved to 92-65, matching their regular-season victory total from 2010, when they went on to win the first World Series in the franchises six-decade San Francisco era.In terms of playoff seeding, the Giants are three games behind the Reds and Nationals, who would enter the playoffs as the top two seeds if the regular season were to end today. (The Nats hold the tiebreaker with the Reds and would be the No.1 seed.)Because the Giants lost the season series to both the Nats and the Reds, they would have to finish with a better record to leap either of those clubs in postseason seeding.Starting pitching reportRemember when Vogelsong had a knack for escaping jams and pitching free of trouble?He found it over six innings while holding down a lineup that had just seen him a week earlier. The right-hander mixed stuff with toughness to get his team back into the dugout, and did his best work after errors were committed behind him.Vogelsong (14-9) might have gotten a bit lucky in the first inning, when Yonder Alonso lined out to shortstop Brandon Crawford with runners at the corners. But Vogelsong picked up Crawford in the fourth when he picked off Chris Denorfia after the Padres No.5 hitter reached on the shortstops throwing error.Vogelsong made his biggest escape in the sixth, after first baseman Brandon Belt bobbled a ground ball and then threw high to second base. The ball sailed into left field and the Padres had two runners in scoring position with no outs.Alonso hit an RBI single to put the tying runners at the corners, but Vogelsong struck out Denorfia and got Cameron Maybin to ground into a 4-6-3 double play.In his last two starts, Vogelsong has held the Padres to one earned run over 12 innings. He struck out four on Friday while issuing only one walk, and that one was strategic a free pass to No.8 hitter Andy Parrino with a base open in the second inning.Vogelsong is in line to pitch one more time in the regular season. Hed get the ball in Game No.162 Wednesday at Dodger Stadium.Bullpen reportThe Giants bullpen threw three scoreless innings, but there was plenty of intrigue because right-hander Sergio Romo never took off his gray sweatshirt.Left-handers Jose Mijares and Jeremy Affeldt each worked a 1-2-3 inning, and after Javier Lopez got his lefty hitter to start the ninth, manager Bruce Bochy turned to Santiago Casilla instead of Romo.Even after Casilla gave up two singles, Romo didnt do anything more strenuous than stretch as Guillermo Mota got loose on the mound. Casilla got a pop fly and ground out to record his 25th save in 31 chances, though.At the plateA triple and a squibbed single count the same in your batting average, but Buster Posey doesnt believe in half measures.Posey went all-out in the second inning after hitting a ball to the gap in right-center field, reaching for his first triple since 2010. He scored when Hunter Pence tapped an infield single.Xavier Nady caught triples fever, too. He led off the fourth by stretching his first since 2008. But Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford couldnt score him with the infield in.Some other kind of illness overcame Marco Scutaro, who was replaced by Ryan Theriot in the fourth inning because of what the Giants described as head and chest congestion. Before bowing out, Scutaro managed an infield hit to extend his streak to a career-best 16 games.Scutaros single in the third put runners at first and second for Pablo Sandoval, who plated them both with a double to left center that gave the Giants a 3-0 lead. Sandoval later hit a hard out to right field; he might be the one hitter who loves swinging the bat at Petco Park.Posey drew an intentional walk and struck out to finish 2 for 4 and end the day with a .334 average. (rounded up from .33397). Andrew McCutchen, part of a Pirates lineup that was no-hit by the Reds Homer Bailey, is at .33043.In fieldBelts error nearly blew up Vogelsongs victory in the sixth inning, but the first basman also made a diving stop of pitcher Andrew Werners hard grounder down the line in the fifth inning.The scariest moment happened in the second inning when one of Vogelsongs curveballs bounced in the dirt and struck Posey near his throat. The catcher appeared stunned and swallowed repeatedly, but after a consultation with manager Bruce Bochy and head trainer Dave Groeschner, he remained in the game. Three pitches later, Cabrera popped out to strand two runners in scoring position.AttendanceThe Padres announced 32,691 paid, including at least 100 Giants fans who were on the Virgin America Fear the Beard plane with me in the morning out of SFO.Up nextThe Giants continue their series at South China Basin on Saturday. Madison Bumgarner (16-10) makes his final regular-season start. Hell oppose left-hander Eric Stults (7-3, 2.81).

Fight Notes: Harper thought this was over; Giants collide; Posey avoids it

Fight Notes: Harper thought this was over; Giants collide; Posey avoids it

SAN FRANCISCO — When the Nationals visited AT&T Park for the first time after the 2014 postseason series, Bryce Harper took to Instagram to compliment the city. “Nothing like SF! #BayArea” he wrote underneath a photo of the Bay Bridge. 

Harper, a Las Vegas kid, has always seemed to enjoy facing the Giants. He hasn’t hit well at AT&T Park, but he was a star in their 2014 matchup and he praised Brandon Crawford on Twitter during this year’s WBC. The greeting Monday was not a friendly one. 

Harper was retired three times by Matt Moore. The first pitch he saw from Hunter Strickland left a dent on his hip and set off a wild brawl. 

Strickland denied any intent. Harper seemed confused by the timing of the payback pitch. 

“It’s so in the past, it’s not even relevant anymore,” he said of their 2014 series, according to Dan Kolko of MASN. “They won the World Series that year. I don’t think he should even be thinking about what happened in the first round. He should be thinking about wearing that ring home every single night. I don’t know why he did it or what he did it for, but I guess it happens.”

The Giants were not surprised when Harper reacted the way he did. Now they’ll wait for Strickland to get hit with a suspension, and Harper is looking at a layoff, too. 

“You never want to get suspended or anything like that, but sometimes you’ve got to go and get him,” Harper said. “You can’t hesitate. You either go to first base or you go after him. And I decided to go after him.”

Strickland, about an hour after the fight, said he’s not sure what will happen in terms of discipline. 

“That’s their decision and obviously I’ll take whatever consequences come with it and we’ll go from there,” he said. 

Any action by the league is unlikely to impact this series. Even if suspensions are handed down swiftly, players can appeal. Harper and Strickland may not be alone. Several players jumped into the fray aggressively and at least one non-active Giant — Hunter Pence — was right in the middle of the scrum. At the very least, he could be facing a fine for trying to help his teammate. 

“It doesn't look good when a guy gets hit but also on their side, the guy throws his helmet,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Strickland’s got to stand his ground. There’s no choice there. I can’t tell you what’s going to happen (with suspensions).”

One player who won’t face discipline: Madison Bumgarner, who is also on the DL but wisely stayed away from this one, even if it probably killed him to do so. 

--- The biggest hit didn’t come from Strickland or Harper. It was Jeff Samardzija and Michael Morse coming together in the middle of the field. Both players said they were fine. 

"I was just trying to get in there to break everything up," Morse said. "We lost the game, that's what's most important."

Ahhh, yes, the Giants lost 3-0. Bochy seemed particularly peeved that Strickland chose the eighth inning of a 2-0 game to exact revenge, and you can bet some teammates weren't thrilled. We'll see if there's anything more to this Tuesday. There was a lot of adrenaline flowing, but some of these guys might not be feeling so spry when they wake up in the morning. Bochy said he had not heard any reports of players getting injured, but he also admitted that he didn't see most of the collisions and had no idea what happened with Morse and Samardzija, who had a world-class reaction, by the way.  

--- As with the incident with the Dodgers a couple weeks ago, Buster Posey stayed out of this one. Smartly. 

"After it happened I saw Harper point and the next thing you know he's going out after them," Posey said. "Those are some big guys tumbling on the ground. You see Michael Morse, as big as he is, and he's getting knocked around like a pinball."

Posey is not alone in staying away from these scrums where 250-pound dudes are flying at knees and ankles. Brandon Crawford can often be found on the outside, as well. It's smart, but I think something else was at play here today. Posey understands that the Giants are fighting for every scrap at this point. Every loss digs the hole that much deeper, and this happened with two outs in the eighth inning of a 2-0 game, against a team with a poor bullpen. I'd imagine there was some serious annoyance there. 

--- How angry was Strickland? It took three guys, three big guys, to drag him into the dugout: Pence, Mac Williamson, and George Kontos. 

"I was pretty fired up to be honest with you, but that’s just adrenaline," he said. 

--- Baseball fights are rather silly, but at least you get some phenomenal photos.

After fight on mound, Strickland denies intentionally throwing at Harper

After fight on mound, Strickland denies intentionally throwing at Harper

SAN FRANCISCO — There’s a certain rhythm to a baseball brawl. A player gets drilled and inches toward the mound, often at the invitation of the man who threw the pitch. The catcher rushes to get in the way as both benches and bullpens clear. Within five seconds, most baseball “fights” turn into a “hold me back” tournament. 

Monday’s showdown between Hunter Strickland and Bryce Harper was not your normal baseball fight, in part because it was a long time coming. 

Three years after Harper twice took Strickland deep in the NLDS, the second homer leading to a stare down and primal screams from the Nationals’ best player, the two met again. Strickland’s first pitch to Harper since that series was a 98 mph fastball directly at the hip. Harper charged the mound and both players connected with shots before sanity was restored.

Strickland was waiting for reporters when the clubhouse opened after a 3-0 loss. He denied any intent.

“Obviously I’ve left the ball over the plate a couple of times to him and he’s taken advantage of that. It was mostly to go inside and obviously I got it in a little bit too far,” Strickland said. “I didn’t expect that (fight) but it’s part of the game and that’s what he decided to do.”

There’s no upside in coming out and saying you flat-out tried to hit a guy, but actions spoke louder than words during the fight and afterward. Buster Posey didn’t move as Harper charged his pitcher, as if to say, this is your mess. Bruce Bochy said he talked to Strickland after the fight to reiterate that this was not the situation to seek payback.

“We’re trying to win a ballgame,” Bochy said. “It’s 2-0 and I had to talk to him. Obviously we don’t take or do things that are out of the ordinary from what I want. We go out there and try to win a ballgame. It’s a situation where I needed to talk to him and make sure that we’re straight with something. We did talk.”

Bochy called the incident “unfortunate” and said a couple of times that “it looks bad.”

“You have two guys that probably don’t care for each other much,” he said.  

No, they certainly don’t, but that’s nothing new. This started in Game 1 of the 2014 NLDS, when Harper, already one of the league’s better hitters, took Strickland, then a rookie, deep. Three games later he hit a game-tying shot into McCovey Cove, watching it as it soared into the dark night. He stared Strickland down as he rounded second and yelled back at the mound as he took his gear off in the dugout. 

It’s unclear why that first incident quite turned out the way it did. There was some speculation that Harper was reacting to Strickland saying after Game 1 that he would throw Harper more fastballs. After the second homer, Harper looked out at the field and yelled, "Let's go! Again!" Either way, nothing more came of that first tussle. The Giants eliminated the Nationals and went on to win the World Series. Harper and Strickland didn’t square off in either of the past two seasons. 

With two outs in the eighth Monday, they finally faced off again. After taking the pitch off the hip, Harper pointed his bat and then flung it down. The players exchanged expletives and Strickland stood with a calm expression on his face, his glove dropped to the ground. Harper threw his helmet toward second and Strickland got the first shot in, an open-handed right to the face. Harper got one good punch in before players from both sides collided on the mound. 

“It’s go time,” Strickland said. “You’ve got to protect yourself and stand your own grand, you know.”

Harper told Nationals reporter that this was probably the first time he was certain a pitcher was going to throw at him.

“One thing I’ve got to say about Strickland: He hit me in the right spot. I do respect him for that. He didn’t come up and in at my face or anything like that, which some guys do," Harper said. "So I respect him on that level, because he could’ve come up and in and got me somewhere you don’t want to get hit. He got me on the hip. But there’s some times where it’s just not relevant. That was a spot where it wasn’t relevant. It was three years ago, over 1,000 days. I don’t know why he’s thinking about it.”

Strickland claimed he wasn’t thinking about 2014, even if the connection was immediate to anyone watching. 

“I can see how that kind of stands in people’s minds, but that’s the past,” he said. “Like I said, I left the ball over the plate a couple of times to him and he’s taken advantage of that. Obviously I’d rather miss in than over the plate.”