Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants 4, Mariners 2

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Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants 4, Mariners 2

BOX SCORE

SEATTLE For a starting pitcher, the line is so thin. When are you nibbling and when are you refusing to give in?

Ryan Vogelsong simply will not throw a pitch down Broadway. But he does not take small bites. He battled to go deep again Friday night, pitching through early traffic before settling into a groove. Buster Posey and Melky Cabrera hit home runs as the Giants took a 4-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field.

Second baseman Ryan Theriot and shortstop Joaquin Arias combined on an improbable double play to rescue Vogelsong when he had trouble throwing a strike in the fourth inning. The determined right-hander finally settled down and retired the next nine hitters to give the Giants yet another quality start.

Starting pitching report
Vogelsong (6-2) ran his winning streak to six consecutive decisions after holding the Mariners woeful lineup to two runs in seven-plus innings. But his start was nearly better than that.

He carried a two-hit shutout into the eighth inning before consecutive singles sent Giants manager Bruce Bochy to the mound. Both his inherited runners scored, leaving him with a 2.40 ERA.

But Vogelsong relied on some good fortune to escape trouble when he was not sharp at all in the early innings. Jesus Montero hit a ringing double to lead off the second inning and Michael Saunders followed with a wicked line drive to center field. But Angel Pagan had a better read on it than Montero did. Pagan charged the line drive, then lollipopped the ball to the infield to double off the runner.

Vogelsong pitched out of trouble again in the third after Miguel Olivo doubled and Brendan Ryan drew a one-out walk. Vogelsong got Ichiro Suzuki to pop out and then third baseman Pablo Sandoval made a nice, ranging play and running throw to retire Franklin Gutierrez.

The fourth inning was the turning point in the game. Vogelsong kept missing while walking Kyle Seager and Montero, the latter on a 3-1 cutter when he refused to give in and throw a cookie fastball. But Saunders hit a loud out to right field and the middle infield turned a sensational double play on Justin Smoaks hard ground ball.

Bullpen report
Javier Lopez gave up a single to Casper Wells to load the bases in the eighth but he managed to deflect Ichiros chopper up the middle that Arias turned into a forceout at second base.

Sergio Romo kept the inning from getting totally out of hand. He got an RBI ground out from Franklin Gutierrez and did a good job covering first base on Kyler Seagers ground out to Brandon Belt.

Santiago Casilla had his hard fastball and spike curve working while recording his 18th save in 19 chances.

At the plate
The Mariners are frustrated with the hitting conditions in their home ballpark. Sound familiar? It probably has more to do with a deficiency of talent than the spacious dimensions, as Buster Posey demonstrated with his no-doubt home run into the left field seats leading off the second inning.

Poseys shot was his team-leading eighth of the season and it drew a loud cheer from the crowd, which was at least half orange and especially enthusiastic.

The Giants added a run in the fourth when Angel Pagan drew a leadoff walk and Brandon Belt stayed hot by clearing his hips and turning on a pitch for a double to right field. Pagan slipped around third base, but Arias scored him with a sacrifice fly.

Cabrera took a rip at a pitch in the eighth inning for a two-run shot, his sixth of the season. The ball barely cleared the fence in left-center and it came after Gregor Blancos leadoff single.

The Mariners entered the game hitting .198 at Safeco, by the way.

In field
It looked like the Giants would be lucky to get one out on Smoaks sharp ground ball to the right side in the fourth. They got two.

Theriot made an aggressive play and spun toward second base, even though he had to bounce a difficult throw. Arias made a clean pick of it while sweeping across the bag, then made a firm throw to complete the double play.

Theriot applauded Arias on his way off the field. If not for the shortstop, the play likely would have gone for an error and Vogelsong wouldve been in a world of trouble.

Attendance
The Mariners announced 29,818 paid for Felix Hernandez bobblehead night. Not sure what all those Giants fans will do with them. If Petco Park has become AT&T Park South, Safeco Field is the Giants version of Winterfell.

Up next
Tim Lincecum (2-7, 6.00) takes the mound at Safeco Field for the first time Saturday night, when hell try to pitch the Giants to victory for the first time since April 24. Right-hander Kevin Millwood (3-5, 3.57) starts for the first time since June 8, when he and five relievers combined to no-hit the Los Angeles Dodgers here. Millwood departed that start with a strained groin but was deemed fit to return to the rotation.

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants dropping series vs Braves

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants dropping series vs Braves

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — The kid who raced The Freeze on Thursday night blew a tire as he hit center field, hobbled for about 50 feet, and then went down for good. He still had a better night than the Giants. 

They blew all four tires in the fifth, giving up eight runs in a nightmare frame that turned a two-run lead into a 12-11 loss. The Giants finished 1-7 on the swing through Denver and Atlanta, and they have lost 18 of their last 23 games. 

But, let’s face it, you’re here already. So here are five more things to know from the night … 

—- Matt Cain was hanging in there until the fifth, and then … disaster. The inning started with Brandon Phillips’ solo shot that cut the lead to one. Then it went single, single before Cain was relieved by Bryan Morris. After that, it was single, single, single, sacrifice fly, homer, flyout, walk, single, pitching change, single. 

—- Morris had to wear it in the fifth because the bullpen is short, and boy, did he wear it. Morris gave up five runs on five hits and a walk. His ERA jumped two full points in two-thirds of an inning. 

—- Kyle Crick made his MLB debut in that horrendous bottom of the fifth. The Giants surely did not want to bring him in with runners on, but Bruce Bochy had no choice when Morris blew up. Crick’s first pitch was a 95 mph heater. After giving up a hit in that inning, he pitched a perfect sixth and perfect seventh. Crick topped out at 97 mph. Pretty, pretty good stuff there. He needs to get a long look the rest of this year. 

—- In the second, Buster Posey hit a ball that went 311 feet and had a hit probability of just six percent. Cain hit a ball 357 feet. Posey got a homer that bounced off the top of the wall; Cain just got a double. Baseball is such an odd game.  

—- On a positive note, Javi Lopez, who calls Brandon Belt “Sparky,” repeatedly referred to Posey as Gerald. He’s going to be good at this job. 

Why you shouldn't freak out in June about Cueto's opt-out

Why you shouldn't freak out in June about Cueto's opt-out

SAN FRANCISCO — There’s a very important fact you need to keep in mind when talk of Johnny Cueto’s opt-out comes up, as it so often will over the next six weeks: The Giants always expected him to opt-out after this season, from the moment the ink was dry on the six-year, $130-million contract. 

When you sign at the top of your game and have a chance to hit the market at 31 years old and cash out a second time, you take it. Those are just the rules of professional sports. On the day Cueto was introduced, his agent, Bryce Dixon, said the two-year opt-out was important because they felt Cueto didn’t get a totally fair shot at free agency. 

“Johnny, a little bit unfairly, had a lot of questions about his arm,” Dixon said in December of 2015. “I felt we could reestablish his actual value … He knows he’s as good as (David) Price and (Zack) Greinke, but his situation was a little different.”

The Giants were fine with this, too. The flip side of the opt-out is that if you have the chance to pay a dominant right-hander $46 million over two years, and then escape his mid- to late-thirties, you do it. Every time. You don’t even blink. 

So, here we are, in June of the second year of that deal, with reports that Cueto will opt out. You should take a deep breath because you should have already expected this. But if you didn’t, take comfort in this: By all indications, Cueto has not made a decision, even with the Giants having an unimaginably poor season. 

First of all, Cueto can't make a decision in June. What if the blisters return and he repeats his April ERA a couple more times? What if his elbow starts barking? There are no guarantees with pitchers, and until Cueto gets through the second season, there will be no finality with his decision. 

Aside from the fact that he really can’t make that decision, though, sources insist Cueto hasn’t made up his mind or even thought much about it. People familiar with his thinking continue to say the focus has been baseball all season long, from spring training through his last start. 

Cueto is said to be happy in San Francisco and he enjoys pitching in front of the crowd at AT&T Park. His biggest concern has been wins and losses, and in that respect, this has been a disappointing year for all involved. 

That record has brought the Giants to a crossroads, and this is where it gets interesting. The easy solution is to trade Cueto next month, avoid the opt-out situation entirely, and add prospects to a system lacking them. But, it’s complicated. The Giants do not intend a full teardown, and if they’re going for it again in 2018 — with their core of Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Madison Bumgarner, etc. locked in, that’s the plan — they’ll want that second ace at the top of the rotation. And if Bumgarner doesn’t return to form after an injury, they’ll need Cueto’s presence. 

The Giants have until July 31 to decide what to do with Cueto. He has until three days after the World Series ends to decide what to do with his contract. Here in June, by all indications, those decisions haven’t been made.