Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants 4, Dodgers 3

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Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants 4, Dodgers 3

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LOS ANGELES An earful of boos served as Barry Zito's soundtrack so many times over the past six seasons. They probably never sounded so good as Tuesday night.Zito, derided so often during his Giants career, pitched with a killer instinct at Dodger Stadium and and it meant the death of the Giants archrivals. The left-hander walked off the mound with a three-run lead in the seventh inning and the Giants clung to the last essence of it in a 4-3 victory at Chavez Ravine.It was the Giants' 11th consecutive win on Zitos day to pitch the longest streak by a Giant since Bill Swift in 1992.Because the St. Louis Cardinals lost earlier in the evening, the Giants were afforded the opportunity to eliminate the Dodgers from playoff contention on the field. They did it with pleasure along with solo home runs by Buster Posey and Joaquin Arias and a crushing, two-run double from the irrepressible Marco Scutaro.It was a 4-1 score when Zito walked off the mound to boos in the seventh inning after hitting Andre Ethier with a pitch. Guillermo Mota served up a two-run home run to A.J. Ellis, but five relievers held it from there to silence a raucous, hopeful crowd.Sergio Romo, whose friends and family wore Dodgers gear when they came to watch him as a rookie four years ago, retired Mark Ellis on a fly out to center field to strand the tying runner at second base.Starting pitching reportThe Giants finished with a 21-11 record in Zitos starts. They only won as often on Matt Cains day to pitch (also 21-11).The formula was simple: They scored runs for Zito (15-8) and he made them hold up. For the 18th time in his 32 starts, the Giants supported Zito with at least four runs. He went 13-1 in those starts.He is 125-7 in his career with at least four runs of support, including 40-3 as a Giant.To put that into perspective, Zito received at least four runs in just 37 starts over the previous five seasons.But there is something more. Zito is competing with a fearless edge that should grow his case to play a front-and-center role in the postseason. In a start with playoff implications, he only issued one walk and that was intentional.He ended the season with a 4.15 ERA. That matches his ERA from 2010, when he was left off all three postseason rosters. That wont happen to him again this time.The Dodgers managed a run against Zito in the second inning, when Hanley Ramirez hit a pinball-machine triple into the right field corner that beguiled Hunter Pence and Luis Cruz followed with an RBI ground out.Other than that, Zito pitched inside effectively with his cutter and two-seamer and used a brilliant curveball to keep hitters on their front foot. He even struck out Matt Kemp twice; the Dodgers dangerous center fielder entered with a .462 average in 52 career at-bats against Zito.Zito found a way to pick up his teammates, too. Scutaro strangely dropped his second routine throw of the road trip when Zito had Ramirez picked off in the fourth inning. But Ramirez advanced no further than second base, as Zito got Cruz to fly out and then struck out Andre Ethier to end the fourth inning.Zitos most emotional moment came in the fifth. The Dodgers had runners at second and third after center fielder Angel Pagan allowed Shane Victorinos blooper to scoot past him for a double. (The ball did appear to take a snake bounce off the turf.)Kemp stood in and hit a comebacker up the middle. Zito made like a hockey goalie covering up the 5-hole, snapping his legs together as the ball deflected off his shin. He scooped it up, fired to first base for the out and roared as he slapped catcher Hector Sanchez on his way to the dugout.The reception was just as vigorous when, after six years, he finally arrived.Bullpen reportGuillermo Mota and George Kontos might have traded spots on the postseason roster pecking order.Mota gave up extra-base hits to three of the four batters he faced in the seventh inning, starting with A.J. Ellis two-run home run. Mark Ellis followed with a double that Angel Pagan couldnt cut off in left-center, but the Giants caught a break as the runner tried to stretch a triple. Shortstop Brandon Crawfords relay throw was on target and easily beat Mark Ellis as Pablo Sandoval applied the tag.It was a costly gamble, as Shane Victorino followed with a triple into the right field corner. But Kontos entered, and after falling behind 2-0 to Kemp, he came back with two challenge fastballs one looking, one swinging then threw a slider away that Kemp couldnt lay off. Kemp spiked his bat in disgust as Kontos strode off the mound.Javier Lopez and Santiago Casilla navigated the eighth, and after Jeremy Affeldt allowed a single to start the ninth, Romo got a strikeout and two tense fly outs to record the most stressful of his 14 saves in 15 opportunities.At the plateBack in 1982, a diminutive second baseman by the name of Joe Morgan cranked a three-run home run at Candlestick Park that brought sweet elimination to the Dodgers -- an indelible moment in franchise lore.Three decades later, Scutaro might have lacked the dramatic shot. But his two-run double in the fifth inning was nearly as potent.Scutaro already had extended his hitting streak to 19 games with a single in the third inning. He was hitting .438 over the streak and .361 in 56 games as a Giant. But Dodgers manager Don Mattingly decided to walk Angel Pagan intentionally with first base open and two outs. Scutaro responded to the challenge by serving a hard grounder down the first base line to give the Giants a 4-1 lead.If this sounds familiar, it should. On Sept. 7, Mattingly intentionally walked Pagan and Scutaro followed with a two-run single.Scutaros hit opened up a 2-1 game after the Giants built a scant lead on home runs by Buster Posey in the second inning and Joaquin Arias in the third.Poseys shot was his 24th of the season and gave him 102 RBIs. He continued to show his upper back twinge was no debilitating injury when he singled in the fourth. He went 2 for 4 and added a point to his average, which stands at .337 comfortably ahead of the Pirates Andrew McCutchen, who was 0 for 4 to drop two points to .327.Posey would win the first batting title by an NL catcher since 1942, when Ernie Lombardi hit .330 for the Boston Braves. Thats because Melky Cabrera and his .346 average will be considered unqualified on Wednesday. (Hell finish one plate appearance short of the minimum, and the league, at his request, suspended a rule that would allow him to add a hitless at-bat.)In fieldThe Giants have seen some spectacular catches in left field this season. Who knew Xavier Nady could add one to the pantheon? He raced back and jumped at the wall, holding on despite the impact, to take an extra-base hit away from Adrian Gonzalez in the second inning.AttendanceThe Dodgers announced 42,473 paid, and the crowd was loud and raucous right up to the moment that Romo pumped his fist and pointed to the sky.Up nextThe Giants complete the 2012 regular season with a 4:15 p.m. game Wednesday at Dodger Stadium. Ryan Vogelsong (14-9, 3.46) takes the mound against left-hander Clayton Kershaw (13-9, 2.58), although the Dodgers might make a switch in light of their demise. With a victory, the Giants would finish with an 11-0-1 road series record following the All-Star break.

Giants notes: Bumgarner to take next step in rehab; no skipping Moore

Giants notes: Bumgarner to take next step in rehab; no skipping Moore

SAN FRANCISCO — It wasn’t until a few days ago that Madison Bumgarner was cleared to swing a bat, but he certainly hasn’t appeared to miss a beat. In his second round of BP back at AT&T Park, Bumgarner started peppering the park with line drives. 

It was a pleasing sight for players and coaches who watched, and the next step will give them a bit more to be excited about. After throwing a bullpen session Tuesday, Bumgarner will take the next step in his rehab. He’ll start for the Sacramento River Cats on Friday, kicking off what could be a tour of the organization’s California affiliates. 

Bumgarner will throw every five days as he normally would, but the Giants aren’t sure it’s necessary to send him to Albuquerque for his second start. Manager Bruce Bochy said nothing is final, but Bumgarner’s next start could come July 5 in San Jose, where he hasn’t started since five dominant appearances in 2009. His next start after that could also be in San Jose, since Triple-A has an All-Star break when he’s scheduled to go July 10. 

After that? Well, how ‘bout the big leagues? 

Team officials haven’t shut the door on Bumgarner returning as early as July 15 in San Diego. That would be the second game out of the All-Star break, and would have Bumgarner back about two weeks earlier than first expected. The Giants do not want to rush him, but they’re proud of the way he has attacked the rehab process, and at some point they won’t hold him back if he's deemed 100 percent. 

First things first, Bumgarner needs to get through Friday’s start. The early returns have been positive. He threw three innings in an Arizona Rookie League game Sunday and was so dominant that he had to go down to the bullpen to get his pitch count up. Bumgarner threw 16 fastballs, 14 for strikes. Javier Lopez was on hand keeping an eye on Bumgarner and said the ball was coming out of his hand as it always has. 

--- The Giants have a couple of off days coming up, but Bochy said he is not considering skipping Matt Moore, who has a 6.04 ERA. 

“Right now, we’re better off pitching him,” Bochy said. “He was so good in Atlanta. It’s really important to keep him going. There’s no health issue. I think he needs to keep pitching. I think he's really close, I do. Some of these starts, he’s probably trying to establish his fastball too much and he didn’t have great command of it.”

--- Austin Slater (hip flexor) is expected back in the lineup Wednesday. He didn't play Monday, but he was cleared to pinch-hit if needed. 

--- Cody Hall, a former Giant, is back with the organization. The Giants traded Hall to the Diamondbacks last January and he was briefly a Marlin later in the year. Hall was playing independent league ball when the Giants signed him to a minor league deal. He’ll likely head to Double-A as depth. There have been some injuries and promotions at the higher levels of the organization. 

--- Steven Duggar was in camp for the first time and he might have been an outfield replacement had he stayed healthy. After dealing with a flexor strain and hamstring tightness, he returned to rehab games last night. He should be in San Jose soon, and then it’ll be back to Sacramento at some point. Duggar is the center fielder closest to the majors, so it would be nice to get a look at him in September. 

--- There was something new Monday night, and it wasn't just the victory. Sam Dyson pitched the eighth, striking out Nolan Arenado, Raimel Tapia and Ian Desmond around a single. Bochy said after the game that Dyson is his main eighth-inning guy right now. That's quite the ride for a guy who was DFA'd not long ago, and it's another feather in Dave Righetti's cap. Remember, the Giants basically got Dyson for free. 

Giants put it together in all phases, get back in win column

Giants put it together in all phases, get back in win column

SAN FRANCISCO — In the bottom of the eighth inning Monday, with the Giants finally running away with one, Johnny Cueto started blowing into a giant wad of bubble gum. He held two hands out, ready to catch remnants of an explosion as Brandon Crawford and Kelby Tomlinson looked on and smiled. 

A few minutes later, players started migrating to the dugout rail as they have done in each of the three starts Ryder Jones has made. They are ready to cheer on a rookie’s first big league hit, even if the wait has been an excruciating one for the third baseman. 

Bruce Bochy likes to say that your personality is better when you’re winning, and his players certainly showed that Monday in snapshots here and there. They woke up to a report that there were fractured in the clubhouse, caused in large part by the new closer. They denied it, they met as a group, and then, finally, they won. 

Jeff Samardzija pitched as he has for two months, the top of the lineup came through over and over again, and Brandon Crawford paced a golden night with the gloves. A 9-2 win over the Rockies was just the second since June 11 and it snapped a nine-game losing streak against the Rockies. Any win is meaningful at this point, but this one seemed to mean just a little bit more given the drama of the day. 

“Despite what people might think, we still have a pretty good group here and we get along just fine,” Crawford said. “We’re all rooting for each other.”

It’s one thing to support teammates off the field, and there’s been no indication that the Giants aren’t doing that. It’s quite another to be hand-in-hand between the lines, and for much of this season, Samardzija has been on an island. 

The right-hander has been Bochy’s best pitcher since Madison Bumgarner went down in the hills outside Denver. But he entered Monday with a 2-9 record and 4.74 ERA inflated by faulty defense. He hasn’t grumbled, but he has grown accustomed to the worst, and when Nolan Arenado bounced a ball deep to the hole in shortstop with two on and two outs in the third, Samardzija figured the game was probably tied. 

“I’m thinking maybe they charge it in the outfield and maybe make a play at home,” Samardzija said. “But with a guy like that at shortstop, things change so fast.”

Crawford scooped the ball on the edge of the grass. He would have liked nothing more than to make an otherworldly throw to first to nail his World Baseball Classic teammate, but he knew the best chance was at third. A couple of days ago, Crawford and Jones discussed how the rookie should cover third on such a play. Jones played it perfectly, retreating in time to catch Crawford’s inning-ending throw. 

“The best thing (about Crawford) is he doesn’t even talk about it,” Samardzija said.

No, Crawford put the spotlight on Jones.

“That’s a pretty heads-up play,” he said. “We talked about it and he was there. It was a funny coincidence.”

The play held the lead, and the Giants kept pushing. The top four hitters in the lineup finished with 10 hits, six RBI and six runs. Brandon Belt had an RBI triple in the five-spot. Crawford drove in a run behind him. Gorkys Hernandez and Kelby Tomlinson added insurance from the bottom. Bochy watched it all from the top step and saw a group collectively relax.

“Just quit fighting it so much,” he said. “There’s a lot of talent in this offense. There’s no reason they can’t put consistent runs on the board. Tonight I just thought the at-bats were so much better and the focus was. Once it started rolling, guys felt better about themselves, and it just got contagious.”