Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants 6, D'backs 2

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Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants 6, D'backs 2

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PHOENIX Hunter Pence whiled away a few idle moments before batting practice chatting with reporters Friday afternoon, casually shaking his head at his strange fortunes at the plate since joining the Giants.As for Pablo Sandoval, he was just glad to be back in the lineup.No, Buster Posey cannot carry the Giants every night. Sometimes the third and fifth hitters must use the hoisting straps.Pence did his part with his third career grand slam, Sandoval contributed three hits and a game-changing defensive play, and the Giants nudged nearer to bubbly with a 6-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field Friday night.Matt Cain pitched out of enough trouble to win his career-high tying 14th game as the Giants reduced their magic number to 11 while retaining a 7 -game lead in the NL West.Sandoval, who was benched on Wednesday after two messy games in Colorado, made a lunging catch of Chris Youngs hard line drive with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth inning.Starting pitching reportCain (14-5) didnt have his smoothest outing by a long shot, but he parlayed some luck, some good defense and enough well timed pitches to hold the Diamondbacks scoreless into the sixth inning.Cain needed 34 pitches to gut through the first inning, when Arizona failed to score despite three walks and a bunt single. Catcher Buster Posey caught rookie Adam Eaton trying to steal third base and Cain got Justin Upton to hit a playable foul pop to strand the bases loaded.Cain needed an efficient second inning to get his pitch count in order, so it was damaging when third baseman Pablo Sandoval fielded a potential double-play grounder and yanked his throw past second baseman Marco Scutaro and into right field. But after a sacrifice moved the runners to second and third, Cain got Eaton to hit a shallow fly out to left field and induced a grounder from Aaron Hill to escape yet another jam.The first two batters reached against Cain in the fifth, but Jason Kubel lined into a double play to defuse yet another chance.But when the Diamondbacks got the first two batters aboard again in the sixth, Bochy went to his bullpen. Cain threw a first-pitch curveball that hit Miguel Monteros foot and then Upton grounded a single to end the right-handers night.He needed 106 pitches to record just 15 outs, but he left with a shutout intact and qualified for his career-high tying 14th victory.Bullpen reportThe relievers allowed one of Cains two runners to score in the sixth when Jose Mijares allowed a single to the only batter he faced. The threat grew when Guillermo Mota entered and drilled John McDonald in the upper arm with a 2-2 pitch.Because Pence already had gotten plunked (and tossed his bat in apparent disapproval) in his first at-bat after the grand slam, umpire Jim Reynolds was compelled to warn both benches. McDonald and Sandoval had sparked a benches-clearing incident last weekend at AT&T Park, too.But the last thing the Giants wanted was to let the Diamondbacks into the game. Thanks to Sandoval, they didnt. The third baseman made up for his erratic road trip with one huge play, sprawling near the chalk to snare pinch hitter Chris Youngs atomic line drive.Jeremy Affeldt did the rest. He got Eaton to tap into a forceout at the plate, then struck out Hill to strand the bases loaded. It was an uplifting outing for Affeldt, who also had his share of erratic outings in recent days.Affeldt and Casilla teamed up to get through the seventh. Casilla pitched around a leadoff walk in the eighth. Then Sergio Romo stranded two of Javier Lopezs runners in the ninth.And Bochy still had eight relievers left.At the plateCain was an active participant in starting the Giants five-run rally in the third inning. He walked and slid hard into second base while barely beating the throw on Marco Scutaros infield single. Then after Sandoval singled to load the bases, Cain hit the dirt again. This time, he slid his foot across the plate just before third baseman Ryan Wheelers throw arrived. Buster Posey was credited with an RBI on the fielders choice as the Giants took a 1-0 lead.Then Pence widened the gap a bit. He spoiled a 2-2 changeup and jumped on the next pitch, a fastball over the plate, and sent it into the left field seats for his third career grand slam and his first since 2008 with the Houston Astros.Pences overall numbers with the Giants arent pretty since he arrived from the Phillies in late July, as he readily admitted before batting practice. But he has 34 RBIs on 36 hits. Hes been an effective run producer, which is what the Giants wanted when they acquired him.The Giants had trouble adding on from there, as Posey grounded into a double play in the sixth and the Diamondbacks executed another twin killing in the seventh on Scutaros fly out to left field with Angel Pagan on the move. Kubel made a tremendous throw to record his 13th outfield assist, setting a single-season franchise record.But the at-bat of the night heck, the season -- came with the bases loaded in the eighth. Santiago Casilla, who would stand in the on-deck circle if the batters box chalk included it, entered 0 for 1 with a walk in two hilarious career plate appearances. He bailed out after showing bunt on the first pitch, then amazingly, he fisted the next one for a ground ball that snuck through the right side for an RBI single.Casilla remembered to deliver the Pagan salute. But he forgot to turn right instead of left after he ran through the bag, and had to scramble back to first base to avoid being tagged out.Casilla now has a Moneyballesque .667 on-base percentage in his career. And to think, the As let him go.In fieldIt took a weird spin, some improvisation and a caucus of umpires for the Giants to record one of their strangest outs of the season in the third inning.Paul Goldschmidt topped a pitch that spun from foul to fair, catcher Buster Posey pounced on it, and to avoid hitting the runner with a difficult angle, he threw the ball like a kid skipping stones on a pond. First baseman Brandon Belt picked it, but umpire James Hoye called the runner safe. Manager Bruce Bochy came out of the dugout to argue, and after a consultation, the umpires called Goldschmidt out. (Which prompted an even longer and more animated discussion with Arizona manager Kirk Gibson.)There was nothing quirky about Sandovals snare in the seventh, though. That was a game saver.AttendanceThe Diamondbacks announced 31,856 paid on a shockingly cool and pleasant night in the Sonoran Desert. The roof was open. Guess who saved money on their electric bill?Up nextThe Giants continue their three-game series at Chase Field on Saturday. Barry Zito (11-8, 4.33) will try to claim a 12th victory for the first time in six seasons as a Giant. Zito is 2-0 in three starts against Arizona this season but has a 5.86 ERA in 11 career games at Chase Field. Hell oppose left-hander Wade Miley (15-9, 3.07), who leads all NL West pitchers in victories.

Giants call up infield/outfield prospect Ryder Jones, DFA Aaron Hill

Giants call up infield/outfield prospect Ryder Jones, DFA Aaron Hill

SAN FRANCISCO — The rebuild/reload kicked up a notch Saturday morning when the Giants called up one of their more intriguing prospects. 

Power-hitting 23-year-old Ryder Jones was added from Triple-A Sacramento, taking the roster spot of Aaron Hill, who was designated for assignment. Jones will primarily play third base, but he can also handle first base and the outfield. He is a prospect Bruce Bochy has always liked because of his power potential and he has broken through this season, his first in Triple-A. 

Jones was batting .299 with 10 homers and 16 doubles in 53 games for the River Cats. The knock on him has always been a lack of patience at the plate, but he has upped his on-base percentage to .390, a jump of 99 points from his 2016 season in Double-A. In June, Jones had put together a .343/.450/.701 slash line. 

Jones was selected in the second round of the 2013 draft, one round after Christian Arroyo. He is one of the organization’s more physical prospects, standing 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, with an emerging power stroke and the athleticism to handle the outfield. 

For a while this season, it looked like left field would be Jones’ best shot at a spot. But Austin Slater is locked in there and the Giants have an opening at third, with Hill now gone, Eduardo Nuñez on the disabled list, and Conor Gillaspie struggling. Jones should get at least a week or two there to show what he can do, and his new manager is among those looking forward to it. 

“His confidence has really grown,” Bochy said of Jones last week. “He’s a power threat. He’s a guy I’m watching. He’s a guy we don’t have here, who has a lot of power.”

Down on the Farm: Is there a two-way star in MLB's future?

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AP

Down on the Farm: Is there a two-way star in MLB's future?

This game is supposed to be hard. Somehow in the 2017 MLB Draft, two of the top prospects have so much talent they put teams in a tough spot. 

High School phenom Hunter Greene and University of Louisville star Brendan McKay were both options to go No. 1 overall to the Minnesota Twins. The only question with them was, where would they play? No, this isn't because the two are DH-type players who can't stay on the field. Instead, the two are marvels at the plate and on the mound, making the idea of a possible two-way MLB star, start to seem real. 

“I think it’s really just that hard," says Sacramento River Cats pitcher Michael Roth. "I don’t really know if that’s possible." 

If it was up to Roth, he would have made MLB scouts fret over what to label him as well. Roth, who wound up as a College World Series legend on the mound for South Carolina, came to the school with intentions of a career at first base. 

The most games Roth appeared in as a hitter in college were 17 as a senior. He batted .211 that season and the lefty wound up going to the Angels in the ninth round of the draft after completing one of the greatest college careers ever as a pitcher.

As strictly a pitcher, and serving as both a starter and reliever, Roth knows the rigors he must put in before a game. This is hours of work, all prior to a three-hour game. 

"From a pitcher’s perspective, I know how much work goes into honing our craft and you’re never perfect," said Roth. "I mean, you’re always working on it and there’s still something each day that you don’t think you did well enough."

With his past of a former two-way player himself in college who focused more on offense when first arriving on campus, Roth says the same when it comes to position players. 

"I mean they have to put time into honing their craft whether it be on the field fielding ground balls or taking fly balls in the outfield and then taking swings. And it’s a lot of work,” Roth continues. 

For Greene and McKay, the numbers speak for themselves. Maybe they really are the ones.

Greene, a 6-foot-4 right-handed pitcher and shortstop, hit .324 with six home runs in 30 games as a senior at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, Calif. On the mound, with a fastball that can touch 102 miles per hour, Greene allowed a total of three earned runs in 28 innings pitched with 43 strikeouts.

Maybe he is the one.

College baseball's Colossus of Clout put up numbers among the best bats and arms in the country for the Cardinals. McKay led Louisville to the College World Series where his amateur career ended in a 4-3 loss to TCU, going out with a bang as he bashed his 18th home run of the year, 20 rows deep into the right-field bleachers. He finished his junior year at the plate hitting .341 with 18 home runs. His pitching stats weren’t far behind, going 11-3 as he posted a 2.56 ERA and struck out 146 in 109 innings pitched. 

McKay is the only person to win the John Olerud Award, given to the top two-way college baseball player in the country, more than once. He won it three straight years, every single season of his college career. 

Maybe he is the one. 

These are two supreme athletes at 17 years old (Greene) and 21 (McKay). They have not peaked and theoretically can only improve their bodies in the next few years. That’s not the problem.  

“As a pitcher, we’re constantly doing things for our body and same thing for position players,” Roth said. “That’s the biggest thing, recovery. 

“I remember days where I would actually pitch and hit sometimes. I would start on a Friday and then every once in a while on Sunday I would get the DH spot in college and at DH sometimes I could feel on the follow through of my swing, I was tight in my shoulder. Things like that can inhibit your swing.” 

On draft night, Greene went No. 2 overall to the Reds while McKay was selected No. 4 overall by the Rays. Officially, Greene was announced as a right-handed pitcher and McKay a first baseman. Maybe their way to the majors is a one-way street. But maybe in the case of Greene or McKay, there's a two-lane road.

Roth is running down the path of a realist. Don’t mistake him for a pessimist. Like any other baseball fan or player that grew up throwing as hard as they could and trying to hit balls to sights unseen, he wants to see a two-way star in the bigs. 

“I just don’t know how it would really work. Obviously, they’d have to be a specimen too,” Roth said before he smiles with a short laugh and says, “I think that would be really cool if someone could do it because that means they’re a freak. That would be cool, but tough.”

All it takes is one.