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

882499.jpg

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

BOX SCORE

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 spring training Day 41: Hwang wins award, hits game-winner

Giants spring training Day 41: Hwang wins award, hits game-winner

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Jae-Gyun Hwang’s day started with an ovation from teammates who had selected Hwang as the Barney Nugent Award winner. It ended in style, too. 

Hwang’s walk-off single in the ninth gave the Giants an 8-7 win and raised his spring average to .308. Barring an injury or sudden change, Hwang will not make the team out of camp, but he’ll travel to San Francisco for the Bay Bridge Series next week and the Giants expect him back at AT&T Park soon.

“He can keep the award now,” Bochy joked after Hwang’s walk-off. “Good for him. Players love him, and the way he’s come out every day and the effort he puts in. He’s been inspiring with how hard he has gotten after it every day.”

The Barney Nugent Award is given to the player in his first big league camp “whose performance and dedication in Spring Training best exemplifies the San Francisco Giants spirit.” It is meaningful in large part because the voters are teammates, trainers and coaches. Hwang was called to the middle of the clubhouse by trainer Dave Groeschner on Saturday morning to accept the award. 

“With this being my first time coming to spring training to play baseball, I wanted to work hard and show that I belong here,” Hwang said through interpreter Mark Kim. “I think my teammates have noticed how hard I’ve worked for the team.”

The rest of the Giants have also noticed how easy Hwang has made the transition look. He said that, outside of learning a new strike zone, the adjustment hasn’t been a difficult one. He has four homers this spring, but doesn’t necessarily view that as a shining positive. Hwang said he wants to show more of an all-around game, especially on defense, and a stint in Triple-A Sacramento should provide that opportunity. 

If the rosters play out as expected, Hwang should see most of the time at third base in Triple-A. He can also play first, and he’s eager to show that he’s viable in left field. 

“I want to show I’m a versatile player,” he said. 

GAME RECAP: Chris Stratton was having a good spring, but he got knocked around by the Padres early … Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford both hit deep homers in their second game back from the WBC … Mark Melancon still has not allowed a run this spring … Hunter Pence's March slump got a bit deeper with an 0-for-3 ... Bryan Reynolds, last year’s top pick, entered as a pinch-runner and flew home from first on a Gorkys Hernandez double off the wall. 

BULLPEN BATTLES: In the front office’s perfect world, Josh Osich would be the one to take over for Will Smith, giving the team a hard-throwing lefty capable of neutralizing lefties and righties. It’s been an up-and-down spring for Osich, but he was filthy Saturday, striking out a pair in his lone inning. 

George Kontos looked even better in his inning, striking out the side. Kontos has allowed just five hits in 10 innings this spring, with 15 strikeouts. He seems forever stuck in that sixth-seventh range, but given his splits have been just about even over the years, maybe it’s time the Giants see what he can do in a more high-profile role. 

Cory Gearrin followed the previous two with a perfect eighth. Neil Ramirez struck out one and allowed one hit in the ninth. In 9 1/3 innings this spring, Ramirez has struck out 16 and allowed just five hits and two runs. He has a real shot to take someone’s job in the bullpen next week. 

ICYMI: The big news from this morning: Michael Morse will stick with the team and try to rehab/play his way back to the big leagues. And from the early afternoon, Johnny Cueto had a ton of fun with a 19-year-old he faced in a minor league game. 

NOTABLE: Bochy said that all of the players left in camp are slated to head home on the team flight Tuesday, but some guys have opt-outs on March 30, so moves are coming. This would seem a great sign for Aaron Hill, who is due a $100,000 retention bonus on Tuesday. Hill has slumped late in camp, but he’s still in position to make the team. Also noteworthy: Tyler Beede is scheduled to start Saturday’s game in Oakland. The Giants surely want to knock some MLB-stadium-nerves off before Beede heads down to Triple-A to wait for a call-up.

 

Cueto toys with young prospect in Giants minor league game

Cueto toys with young prospect in Giants minor league game

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — There is no way to really ramp up the intensity when an All-Star pitcher makes an appearance in minor league camp, so Johnny Cueto instead found a way to have a bit more fun. 

While getting his work in against A-ball hitters, Cueto had a prolonged, smile-filled battle with 19-year-old Jasrado Chisholm, one of the Diamondbacks’ top prospects. The sequence between Cueto and the shortstop from the Bahamas: 

  • Cueto just missed with a two-strike inside fastball, so he went right back to the same spot, freezing Chisholm, who smiled and nodded at Cueto, who laughed back. 
  • The next time up, Chisholm took two vicious hacks, trying to crank a homer onto Hayden Road. He missed both breaking balls by about a foot. 
  •  Before the third pitch, Cueto yelled something at Chisholm and smiled. “I was telling him to keep his eye on the ball,” Cueto said. “Because every time he was swinging, he was taking his eye off the ball.”
  •  The advice worked. Chisholm hung in on the third pitch, lining a single to left-center. Cueto laughed and pointed his glove at the teenager. He promptly picked him off of first base. “He probably doesn’t know I have a quick move,” he said. “I was having fun with a kid who wanted to actually hit against me.”

Nobody has more fun than Cueto, even on a sun-baked minor league field. He capped his day by standing in for an at-bat of his own, and he stood and watched as a young Diamondback struck him out.

The work on the mound was just what was needed: 7 innings, 85 pitches, 10 strikeouts, 0 runs. Cueto, who missed the opening weeks of camp, is ready for the season.

“I feel strong,” he said. “I feel really good."