Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants 6, Phillies 5 (10)

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Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants 6, Phillies 5 (10)

BOX SCORE
SAN FRANCISCO If at first you dont succeed, squeeze, squeeze again.

Gregor Blanco apparently missed a suicide squeeze sign in the eighth inning that hung out Buster Posey to dry in a tie game. But Blanco got all square in the 10th.

With runners at the corners, he laid down a perfect bunt down the first base line. Either it was a safety squeeze or Blanco made the decision on his own as the 3-1 pitch from Jonathan Papelbon screamed to the plate. Either way, Melky Cabrera scored without a play, and the Giants held on behind Santiago Casilla to take a 6-5 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

Blancos small-ball exploits were the end chapters in a game otherwise ruled by home runs. Matt Cain and Cole Hamels hit solo shots in the third inning, becoming the first starting pitchers to go deep off each other since Kevin Millwood and Denny Stark in 2002. No major league pitchers had homered off each other in the same inning since Kevin Gross and Fernando Valenzuela in 1990.

And it was the first time in Giants franchise history (since 1919, at least) that a Giants starting pitcher and opposing starter both homered in the same game. (The last time two pitchers went deep in a game involving the Giants, Mike Krukow homered off Eric Show at San Diego in 1988 and Padres reliever Mark Davis hit one out off Don Robinson in the eighth.)

Posey tagged a two-run shot in the third inning as part of a huge, four-hit night. But Cains 4-2 lead disappeared in the sixth when he served up a three-run shot to Ryan Howard.

Poseys fourth hit helped set up the rally in the 10th as the Giants clinched a winning road trip and won for the seventh time in eight games following the All-Star break. Theyre 12 over .500 for the first time this season.

Starting pitching report
Giants starting pitchers were 6-1 with a 1.30 ERA in seven games since the All-Star break. Cain couldnt continue that run of excellence while allowing five runs, although he only paid for three mistakes while throwing an economical 97 pitches over eight innings.

Chase Utley homered off him in the first inning and Hamels shot in the third was his first career homer in 420 at-bats. But Howards shot in the sixth was most damaging of all.

Cain issued a leadoff walk to Jimmy Rollins and gave up a hit to Shane Victorino the 1000th of the Flyin Hawaiians career before Howard mashed a 1-2 fastball. It was just Howards third hit in 19 career at-bats against Cain all of them home runs.

It was the first three-homer game against Cain since Oct. 1, 2010 against San Diego, when he took the mound in a failed bid to clinch the NL West.

Bullpen report
The Giants bullpen never seems to get hit against the Phillies. Javier Lopez retired Howard in the ninth and Sergio Romo lowered his bingo-number ERA to 0.64 after retiring Carlos Ruiz and Hunter Pence.

Casilla, who had blown five of his last eight save chances, pitched around a one-out walk to Placido Polanco to nail it down.

At the plate
Hamels took the mound perhaps a few days away from signing a contract that could be worth more than 130 million. So his agent couldnt have been happy that Phillies manager Charlie Manuel let him throw 128 pitches.

Hamels had to battle, all right. He mostly pitched through traffic while flashing his tremendous changeup, but Cain pelted his second home run of the season in the third inning. It was the sixth homer in the third inning and Posey added a two-run shot.

Posey added yet another two-out, RBI hit on this road trip a single in the fifth after Ryan Theriot walked and stole his way into scoring position.

Posey improved to 4 for 6 against Hamels with a home run, two doubles and five RBIs.

Melky Cabrera hit a tying, solo homer in the eighth but the Giants missed an opportunity to take the lead. Posey doubled and took third on a ground out. Posey ran with the 1-1 pitch to Gregor Blanco, who presumably missed a squeeze sign as he took it for a ball. Posey, hung out to dry, couldnt beat the throw back to third base.

Brandon Belt continued his abysmal month by popping up to strand the bases loaded in the eighth. Belt also popped up with one out and the bases loaded in the 10th to complete an 0-for-5 night.
In field
The Giants were all lined up for a big inning in the fifth when Nate Schierholtz hit a leadoff
double and Theriot walked. But Phillies second baseman Chase Utley made a diving catch of Cabreras line drive and then reached with his glove to tag second base to double off Schierholtz.

Attendance
The Phillies announced 45,809 paid surprisingly, the largest regular-season crowd in Citizens Bank Park history.

Up next
The Giants try to make it a banner, 5-1 trip and go for a three-game sweep in Sundays series finale. Left-hander Barry Zito (8-6, 3.75) hopes to finish the trip the way he started it in Atlanta. Hell oppose right-hander Joe Blanton (8-8, 4.79), his former As teammate. The Giants haven't had a three-game sweep in Philadelphia since 2004 -- a series that included J.T. Snow's memorable three-homer game.

After Giants' first Coors Field sweep in 15 years, Bochy preaches urgency

After Giants' first Coors Field sweep in 15 years, Bochy preaches urgency

DENVER — Bruce Bochy watched the first two games of this road trip from his home in San Diego and the final three from the top step of the dugout at Coors Field. He did not like what he saw, but at the moment he’s more concerned with what he might hear. 

“What you have to careful of — you can’t let any kind of complacency set in and say, ‘It’s early, we’ll be ok.’ I don’t want to hear that either,” Bochy said. “It’s the old adage that you come out with some sense of urgency. All these games are important. You’ve got to stay away from that attitude, too: ‘We’re not through April yet and have 140-something games left.’ That doesn’t work out.”

Three weeks into the season, nothing is working. The rotation has a 5.02 ERA, the worst in the Majors. The lineup scored 10 runs over a five-game road trip and got shut out twice. The bullpen hasn’t been given many leads with which to make up for the first-week trouble. The defense has been uncharacteristically sloppy. 

It has added up to a 6-13 start, tied for the worst in club history. The Giants have lost six of seven and they’ll head home seven games out of first place. 

“Right now there’s nothing clicking,” Bochy said. “Let’s be honest, this has been a rough start and we’re not very good right now. I’m not saying we’re not very good. We are good, but we’ve got to find a way to come out of this. This was a tough way to end this series. We’ve been through it. I’ve got men out there and that’s when you find a way to get through this. They will.”

Perhaps Monday will bring some fresh blood for the roster. Drew Stubbs appears poised to give the Giants another veteran option should they cut bait with a struggling outfielder. Michael Morse could be an option in left field soon, and if he’s mostly relegated to first, the Giants can put Brandon Belt in the outfield. He looked fine there Sunday while playing both corner spots. 

Those are moves made around the edges of the roster, though. There is no magic bullet coming from the outside, not even Christian Arroyo, who continues to mash at Triple-A. This is a $200 million roster and much of that has been spent on the rotation. Through 13 games, it is the worst in the National League, and the ace was lost to an off-field accident. Sure, the starters have pitched at Chase Field and Coors Field, but on back-to-back days they were dominated by Rockies rookies who make a living here. 

Samardzija could not keep pace with left-hander Kyle Freeland, who sawed off a handful of bats while cruising through seven. Samardzjiza gave up a run early, two more in the fourth on a hanging splitter that was blasted to right, and five in the sixth.

Bochy challenged his starting staff to improve after Saturday’s game. He has not publicly done the same with the lineup, but subtle changes have been made here and there. It is a group that, outside of a couple of players, has lacked energy. Because they don’t hit for power, the Giants are reliant on stringing together rallies. For the fourth time in seven games, the lineup failed to put a runner on base the first time through the order. 

“Even in spring training we had our games where we had trouble getting something going early,” Bochy said. “It’s the fourth or fifth before a hit. Somehow, we’ve got to change that.”

The Giants played Sunday without Jarrett Parker (clavicle) and Denard Span (right shoulder sprain), but for the most part the lineup is healthy. Bochy said he has talked to hitting coach Hensley Meulens about possibly altering pre-game routines, but that seems a cosmetic fix. 

“We’ve talked and we’ve shaken up the lineup, but as you saw today, there’s only so much you can do,” he said. 

Bochy knows there is outside noise regarding the roster. His eyes bulged the other day when asked if Arroyo would get a call-up next week. The Giants do not feel he is quite ready, or that there is a spot for him on the infield. For all the potential bench options waiting at Triple-A, this team's core is set, and it’s not outrageously banged-up compared to the rest of the division. 

The Dodgers, who come into town Monday, have 10 players on the disabled list, including No. 2 starter Rich Hill, second baseman Logan Forsythe, and left fielder Andre Ethier. The Rockies, the best team in the NL West thus far, are off to this start without big offseason acquisition Ian Desmond and young slugger David Dahl. Jon Gray, their opening day starter, went on the DL after facing the Giants in San Francisco. Chad Bettis, a rotation member, is getting treatment for testicular cancer. 

This division is better than expected, and as the end of April approaches, the Giants are bringing up the rear. Bochy’s plea for urgency was one that would have fit right in with last season’s second half. Back then, the Giants could at least lean on a huge start that got them into the postseason. As they flew home Sunday, there was nothing to fall back on but a simple truth.

This is the team. It must play better.

“We have everything we need in this room,” Samardzija said. “Sometimes you need to go out on the field and prove it.”

 

Instant Replay: Giants' struggles continue in sweep from Rockies

Instant Replay: Giants' struggles continue in sweep from Rockies

BOX SCORE

DENVER — Bruce Bochy spent about 10 minutes before Sunday’s game talking about potential options in left field and center. The problems for this lineup, however, currently go much deeper than the outfield. 

A day after the Giants managed just four hits off Antonio Senzatela, the bats went completely limp against fellow Rockies rookie Kyle Freeland. The Giants were shut out 8-0, a rarity at Coors Field. They were blanked twice on the road trip and scored just 10 runs during a five-game swing through Kansas City and Denver. 

The sweep at Coors Field was the Giants' first since 2002. At 6-13, they have the worst record in the National League.

For the fourth time in seven games, and third time on this five-game road trip, the Giants went one time through the order without a baserunner. That puts added pressure on your starter, and Jeff Samardzija couldn’t keep it close. Charlie Blackmon hit a leadoff liner to right that was misplayed into a triple and he scored on a sacrifice fly. Gerardo Parra got a spinner down in the zone in the fourth and blasted a two-run shot to right. 

As they did Saturday night, the Rockies pulled away with a huge rally. Nolan Arenado’s infield single and a walk of Carlos Gonzalez set the table in the sixth. Gerardo Parra lined a single to center and all runners advanced when Gorkys Hernandez kicked it. Trevor Story’s single to right was bobbled by Hunter Pence and two more scored. Blackmon’s double made it 8-0.

Starting pitching report: Samardzija was charged with seven earned in 5 1/3 innings. He has a 7.40 ERA through four starts. The starting staff has a 5.02 ERA, the worst in the majors. That won’t play, not when you’ve spent most of your resources the last two years on starters. 

Bullpen report: Hunter Strickland's Mullet had a scoreless debut. 

At the plate: Nope. 

In the field: Brandon Belt’s first start in left this season was rather uneventful. He caught a liner right at him in the first and came up inches short on a diving attempt in foul territory. Belt moved to right in the seventh inning. He had one previous inning there in the big leagues but he actually prefers right because it’s the same angle as his normal position. Belt gloved a liner right at him in the eighth. 

Attendance: The Rockies announced a crowd of 42,011 human beings and one donkey, who was a menace. 

Up next: The first look at the Dodgers. The Giants will see Hyun-Jin Ryu, Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood and likely Julio Urias in the four-game series.