Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants 5, Angels 3

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Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants 5, Angels 3

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ANAHEIM Matt Cain was far from perfect Monday night.He allowed the leadoff batter to reach base in each of his five innings. He struggled to locate while lobbing 100 pitches. If he forgot how to work out of the stretch after going 27 up and 27 down in his history-making outing last Wednesday, the Los Angeles Angels gave him plenty of practice.But Cain found a way to make pitches amid a freeway interchange of traffic while surviving just long enough to earn the decision. He became the first Giant since Rick Reuschel in 1989 to win eight consecutive starts as the Giants held on for a 5-3 victory at Angel Stadium.Cain wasnt perfect, but the Giants bullpen was. Shane Loux, Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt and Santiago Casilla combined to retire all 12 batters they faced.Former Giant Jerome Williams, who was chased in the fourth inning, was taken to a hospital during the game because of breathing problems, Angels officials confirmed. His condition wasnt immediately known, but the hospitalization was believed to be a precaution.Starting pitching reportFor the first time all season, Cain (9-2) didnt complete six innings. But he certainly put in a full days labor while stranding seven baserunners.Any thoughts of another no-hitter vanished with the first batter, as ultra-talented rookie Mike Trout whistled a single to end Cains streak at 32 consecutive batters retired. Cain never got close to matching the NL record of 41, set by the Giants Jim Barr in 1972.Trout stole second base, advanced on a deep fly out and scored when right fielder Gregor Blanco made an impressive, running grab of Albert Pujols sacrifice fly.Cain served up a solo homer to Mike Trumbo leading off the second inning but pitched out of a one-out, runners-at-the-corners jam when he got Bobby Wilson to ground sharply into a double play to shortstop Brandon Crawford.Cain faced the same situation in the third after hitting Pujols on the hand with a first-pitch fastball, but he struck out Kendry Morales and got Trumbo to fly out. He couldnt pitch his way completely out of the fourth inning, after the Angels loaded the bases with no outs on a single, a walk and a masterful bunt by Manny Aybar. Wilsons sacrifice fly to the warning track got the Angels within 4-3.But Cain did not surrender the lead. He blocked Trouts hard comebacker with his midsection and recovered to throw to the plate, where Posey made a swipe tag on Maicer Izturis. A walk to Torii Hunter loaded the bases for Pujols, who entered 8 for 14 with two homers against Cain.It was the confrontation of the game. The right-hander missed with two slow, outside sliders, but threw a tighter version of the pitch on the hands and Pujols fouled it into the Angels dugout. Then Cain came back with another drop-in curveball and Pujols grounded into a fielders choice to end the inning.The question was no longer when Cain would give up a hit but whether he would last long enough to win. He issued a leadoff walk in the fifth as Loux warmed up behind him in the bullpen. Then the longest-tenured Giant dug deep, as he usually does. He retired the next three hitters, two on strikeouts, to get his team back in the dugout and qualify for the victory.Bullpen reportLoux worked the Giants first perfect inning of the game, retiring all three hitters in the sixth inning. Romo did the same in the seventh, getting Pujols to ground out while going through the middle of the Angels lineup.After Romo retired Trumbo on a pop fly to start the eighth, Affeldt took care of the next two hitters and Casilla recorded his 19th save in 20 opportunities.At the plateWilliams had good stuff but couldnt always harness it, and the Giants put up a series of smart at-bats to drive him from the game in the fourth inning.Crawfords two-run triple followed walks to Pablo Sandoval and Brandon Belt in the second inning. After Trumbos solo shot off Cain tied the score, the Giants moved back in front in the third on consecutive singles by Melky Cabrera, Buster Posey and Angel Pagan. Cabrera raced home on an aggressive send by third-base coach Tim Flannery, aware that center fielder Torii Hunters arm isnt what it used to be.The Giants manufactured a run in the fourth when Joaquin Arias singled, stole a base, moved up on Gregor Blancos ground out and scored on Ryan Theriots single.Theriot added another RBI hit in the sixth after Arias doubled and advanced on Blancos sacrifice (which replays showed he beat out).Cabrera ended up with his ninth three-hit game of the season to give him a major league high 98 hits; Theriot also finished with three singles. Belt reached base four times on a double, a hard single and two walks. His on-base percentage is up to .379.In fieldBlancos grab on Pujols in the first inning set the tone for the night. Belt made two nice stabs at first base and Arias played flawlessly while handling several between-hops chances at third.Pujols made the play of the night, when he stretched to snag Blancos liner in the eighth.AttendanceThe Angels announced 41,234 paid. Although the Giants were well represented, stuffed monkeys outnumbered pandas and giraffes by at least a 6-to-1 margin.Up nextThe Giants continue their series at Angel Stadium Tuesday night with a battle of offbeat left-handers. Barry Zito (5-4, 3.61) will face the Angels C.J. Wilson (7-4, 2.30).

Giants notes: Melancon gets injection; Kontos gets an at-bat

Giants notes: Melancon gets injection; Kontos gets an at-bat

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants were annoyed by Monday’s “rubbing teammates the wrong way” report for a number of reasons, but near the top of the list was the fact that the target, Mark Melancon, has been pitching hurt to try and help a last-place team. That’s no longer the case. 

Melancon went on the DL on Wednesday morning and later had a PRP (platelet rich plasma) injection in his right arm to try and ease some of the discomfort in his pronator. He is expected to be out the rest of the first half. Melancon would be eligible to return with two games left until the break, but there’s no point in rushing him. He missed 12 games the first time this came up and he now has more than two weeks to rest before the second half kicks off. 

In the meantime, Sam Dyson is the closer, but he was unavailable Wednesday because of a heavy workload. So Bruce Bochy got creative to close out a 5-3 win over the Rockies. George Kontos came on for a sharp Ty Blach in the seventh and carried the lead to the eighth. Steven Okert got through the 26th out and Hunter Strickland came in to get Ian Desmond to fly out for his first save of the year. 

Because Bochy wanted Kontos to face Pat Valaika in the eighth, he got an at-bat 15 hours after Cory Gearrin got to take his hacks. It at first looked like Kontos had “don’t swing” orders, but he fouled a ball off. 

“The second fastball I got, if it was near the plate, I was going to swing,” he said. 

Kontos said he doesn’t have bragging rights over Gearrin because he fouled a ball off, noting that Gearrin is 1 for 2 in his career and he is 0 for 8. It turns out that they used the same bat, too. Yes, there is a Cory Gearrin model.

“It’s just been hanging out since last year,” Gearrin said, looking down at his equipment bag. “Just in case.”

--- Dan Slania woke up a 4:30, drove to Philadelphia, and boarded a flight that was went down through Nashville to fuel up. He arrived in San Francisco in time for the second inning. And then he watched, met with old teammates, showered … and prepared to fly all the way back to Pennsylvania. 

“I’m going to pass out as soon as I get on the plane,” Slania said. 

He wasn’t complaining at all. The Giants needed a potential innings-eater with Melancon on the DL, and if Slania is sent back down before Friday’s game, he’ll at least be back near Double-A Richmond and the flight back will have been taken on a chartered jet with a bunch of former teammates. Plus he gets a couple of service days. 

“I can tell you it’s well worth it,” Bochy said. 

--- The main story today is about Jae-gyun Hwang, who brought some more life to a team that got its first sweep of the year. The standings are what they are, but the Giants are playing much better, and some players started talking Wednesday about how they’re looking forward to being a spoiler for teams like the Rockies and Diamondbacks. 

More than anything, the players are just happy that they got to listen to the victory soundtrack again and walk out of this park with smiles. 

“We did a really good job of coming into this series and decided what the intent should be,” Nick Hundley said. “We weren’t going to worry about what’s been going on. You control what you can control. It’s nice when the results match up.”

There was a players-only meeting on Monday and Hundley said “everybody got on the same page again.”

Now the tricky part: Keeping it going on the road. 

--- Nolan Arenado is a freak and the Giants should give him a blank check, a ton of Facebook stock, and the rights to the Salesforce building when he’s a free agent in two and a half seasons. 

--- Ryder Jones is hitless in 16 at-bats but he was keeping his head up. He was an inch or two from a double down the line Wednesday and the Giants feel he’s having good at-bats. More than anything, he's not taking those results into the field and he talked about that at length when we sat down for a podcast the other day. If you subscribe on iTunes here, you’ll have it in the morning. 

Giants celebrate Hwang homer in MLB debut: 'These are moments you love'

Giants celebrate Hwang homer in MLB debut: 'These are moments you love'

SAN FRANCISCO — Jae-gyun Hwang spent years dreaming of this day, of stepping onto the green grass in a big league stadium and then digging his cleats into the dirt alongside the plate. He never imagined hitting a homer in his debut, though, and he certainly never pictured what would come next. 

Hwang was pulled into the clubhouse shower a few minutes after a 5-3 sweep-clinching win over the Rockies and surrounded as teammates emptied cans of beer on their new third baseman and cheered so loud that they could be heard from the press conference room. There are many quirky traditions in the KBO, where Hwang was a superstar, but the list does not include beer showers. Any confusion didn’t last long. 

“We had his translator in there with him,” Nick Hundley said, smiling. “We said, this is what you get when you hit a homer in the big leagues.”

You get something else, too: Another day in the lineup. Bruce Bochy has a tongue-in-cheek rule that if you hit a homer, you play the next day. The Giants, however, expect to get starting third baseman Eduardo Nuñez back from the disabled list on Friday in Pittsburgh. What will Bochy do with a 29-year-old rookie who hit a 417-foot laser shot in his third MLB at-bat?

“I have a loophole,” Bochy said. “We’re off tomorrow.”

Bochy might not have to use the loophole. Austin Slater, the starting left fielder, was still feeling tightness in his right hip Wednesday and Nuñez could move over to left for a few days, allowing the Giants a longer look at Hwang. It’s an audition that seemed to never be coming as late as Tuesday morning. But Conor Gillaspie showed up with back spasms, and with Christian Arroyo on the minor league disabled list, Nuñez a few days away, and Aaron Hill recently released, the Giants turned to Hwang. 

It’s the kind of break that you need to make your mark, but you also need talent and confidence in your own abilities, and Hwang oozes both. 

The Giants had hit just 20 homers at AT&T Park this season when Hwang stepped to the plate in the sixth. Hundley’s was the third in the past 15 home games, and it helped them head into the late innings tied up with the Rockies. Hwang had earlier driven in a run with a groundout and in his third at-bat he started by taking two balls from lefty Kyle Freeland. 

“My focus is always the same: Hit in my zone,” Hwang said through interpreter Mark Kim. “Because I’m a rookie, I figured once I got to a 2-0 count it might be a fastball down the middle, and that’s what happened.”

Hwang blasted it and briefly held his bat in the air, posing as the ball soared to the bleachers. He dramatically dropped the bat and started his first journey around the bases as the dugout exploded. 

“When it comes to bat flips, you don’t plan it,” Hwang said. “It comes naturally. I don’t know what I was thinking. It just happened.”

Hwang’s bat flips in South Korea were so legendary that YouTube videos made their way overseas. He had promised not to flip his bat in the big leagues, saying that he doesn’t want to get hit in retaliation. There are pitchers on Hwang’s own team who don’t approve of flips or drops, but his manager said he doesn’t care one bit. 

“I want these guys to be who they are and he’s just been a lot of fun to be around,” Bochy said. “He’s a great guy and he’s very popular in that clubhouse.”

Hwang’s work ethic this spring won teammates over, and he showed a willingness to jump right into the fray, whether he was making jokes or the butt of them. On St. Patrick’s Day, he entered Scottsdale Stadium with a green fedora and a green Tinker Bell shirt that read “I’m so fly … I never land.” Throughout the spring he handed out chocolate pies from boxes above his locker. During his time in Sacramento he regularly took teammates to Korean BBQ restaurants, where he was recognized as a celebrity. Hwang is so famous in his native country that multiple networks scrambled to air the Giants game at 4:45 a.m. Those in his hometown of Seoul either woke up to watch or woke up to celebrate. 

Thousands of miles away, Hwang focused on his new reality. As he packed to head to Pittsburgh, he exchanged a signed jersey for his first home run ball. The only No. 1 jersey Hwang had was the one on his back, so a fan walked away with an old Matt Duffy jersey instead. 

If Hwang can keep showing that power stroke, he’ll return in a week to a ballpark eager to cheer a new contributor. For now, the Giants are just happy to have another spark. 

“They were so excited for him and happy for him,” Bochy said. “They all know what he’s been through. He’s given up baseball in Korea to play here and he reaches his dream and hits a homer. It’s a special moment. These are moments you love.”