Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants 7, Padres 5


Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants 7, Padres 5

SAN DIEGO The Giants have problems as they approach the postseason, and Tim Lincecum is just one of them.But a couple of well-timed home runs can cover up a multitude of sins.Xavier Nadys pinch homer in the ninth inning tied the game and rescued Lincecum from a 16th loss, then Hunter Pence cranked a two-run shot as the Giants stormed back to take a 7-5 victory over the San Diego Padres at Petco Park.The Giants scored five runs over the last two innings to take two of three in San Diego and keep their road series streak intact. They havent dropped a series away from AT&T Park since July 6-8 at Pittsburgh, posting a series record of 10-0-1 since then.Starting pitching reportLincecum finished the season with a 10-15 record and 5.18 ERA the highest among all 47 NL pitchers with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title.That is not what anyone expected. Even more stunning, it took a much-improved second half just to help Lincecum arrive where he did.He did not end on a good note, though.Allowing three home runs at Petco Park is alarming in any context. Before Lincecum surrendered three jacks in his final regular-season start, it had been done just one other time by a Giants pitcher (Noah Lowry in 2006) in 83 games at the Padres spacious home.That wasnt the only way the Padres kicked sand in Lincecums face. Everth Cabrera stole four bases on him, including once on a pitchout.The combination of homers and stolen bases undid what otherwise could have been a solid start. Lincecum allowed just one other hit besides the home runs and stayed around the zone with his slider and curveball while throwing a relatively efficient 90 pitches in six innings.But he missed his spot on a 3-2 fastball to Logan Forsythe for a two-run home run in the third inning that gave the Padres a one-run lead. Yasmani Grandal hit a 2-2 changeup in the fourth inning and Chase Headley tagged a first-pitch slider in the sixth as Lincecum surrendered his homers on three different pitches a sign he still lacks consistency in just about every area.Lincecum finished with 186 innings in 33 starts his lowest innings output since his rookie year. He still managed to strike out more than a batter per inning, but his 190 strikeouts ended a streak of four consecutive seasons topping the 200 mark.Lincecums struggles were acute on the road, especially before the All-Star break. He finished 6-7 with a 6.43 ERA away from AT&T Park. He remains the presumptive No. 3 starter in the playoff rotation, thoughBullpen reportAs is usually the case in any comeback victory, the bullpen gave the Giants a chance to rally. Dan Runzler and Shane Loux each tossed a scoreless inning, and Sergio Romo pitched around a two-out single in the ninth to record his 13th save in 14 opportunities.At the platePrior to the game, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he wanted his club to tighten up a few things. His club responded by making a series of mistakes early in the game, especially on the basepaths.They managed just two runs despite 10 baserunners in four innings against Edinson Volquez, who was exceptionally wild at times and had to come out at the start of the fifth.In the second inning, Gregor Blanco made the mistake of swinging at a 2-0 pitch after Volquez had walked Lincecum to load the bases. Blanco missed and ended up striking out to end the inning.The Giants gave Volquez an even bigger reprieve in the fourth. Brandon Belt and Hector Sanchez both singled, including a nicely executed hit-and-run play, to put runners at the corners. But Belt got a truly terrible read on Joaquin Arias single to right field, racing back to tag up under the assumption it would be caught. Right fielder Chris Denorfia threw out Belt at the plate.Lincecum walked to load the bases and this time Blanco showed better patience while drawing a bases-loaded walk to tie the game. But Ryan Theriot hit a tapper and Volquez left his feet while making a throw to the plate that forced Arias by a hair to end the inning.The Giants were quiet until the eighth, when they used a walk, three singles and a sacrifice fly to score a pair of runs and cut the Padres lead to 5-4. Belt contributed the RBI hit and Brandon Crawford hit the sacrifice fly to complete a rally that Aubrey Huff began with a walk.They completed the comeback in the ninth against Huston Street when Nady hit the sixth pinch homer of his career, sending it over the wall to dead center and yes, beyond the reach of Cameron Maybin, who had reached over the fence to rob him a day earlier.Francisco Peguero, who had entered as a pinch runner for Huff in the eighth, followed with a single and Hunter Pence connected for his 24th homer of the season. The right fielder finished the day with 104 RBIs, including 45 in 56 games as a Giant.In fieldIt was another tough game for catcher Hector Sanchez, who couldnt throw out Cabrera on a pitchout because he bounced his throw. Sanchez also made an errant throw to third base on another stolen-base attempt, allowing Cabrera to trot home in the fifth.Bochy has insisted that its his preference that Sanchez, and not Buster Posey, has continued to catch Lincecum. Draw your own conclusions, gentle reader.Arias and Huff combined on two nice stretches to record an out on a chopper in the third inning. Peguero went to the wall to make a running catch in the eighth.AttendanceThe Padres announced 33,407 paid in the final game at Petco Park of 2012. Now the Padres jet to Milwaukee for a three-game series to end the season, including a night game in the finale. What did they do to tick off the schedule makers?Up nextThe Giants bus north to finish the regular season with three games at Dodger Stadium, aware that one more loss will knock out their archrivals from playoff contention. Matt Cain (16-5, 2.77) will face right-hander Aaron Harang (10-10, 3.68) on Monday, with Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong to follow in the next two games. The Dodgers finish the season with lefties Chris Capuano and Clayton Kershaw, although that might change if they are eliminated.

Giants lineup: Ruggiano moves up against lefty Lester

Giants lineup: Ruggiano moves up against lefty Lester

Bruce Bochy and Joe Maddon issued their lineups for Game 2 of the four-game series in Chicago:

Giants (20-26)
1. Joe Panik (L) 2B
2. Christian Arroyo (R) 3B
3. Brandon Belt (L) 1B
4. Buster Posey (R) C
5. Justin Ruggiano (R) RF
6. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
7. Eduardo Nunez (R) LF
8. Gorkys Hernandez (R) CF
9. Johnny Cueto (R) P (4-3, 4.50 ERA)

Cubs (22-21)
1. Ben Zobrist (S) 2B
2. Kyle Schwarber (L) LF
3. Kris Bryant (R) 3B
4. Anthony Rizzo (L) 1B
5. Ian Happ (S) CF
6. Jason Heyward (L) RF
7. Willson Contreras (R) C
8. Addison Russell (R) SS
9. Jon Lester (L) P (2-2, 3.57 ERA)

Giants notes: Blach shows resiliency; another option in center?

Giants notes: Blach shows resiliency; another option in center?

CHICAGO — John Lackey's night started with a leadoff homer. Ty Blach's night started with a 13-pitch battle. Neither one is a positive for a pitcher, but Blach didn't view it that way. He actually appreciated Ben Zobrist stretching him out.

"It's good to have a battle like that and get you locked in," Blach said. "It gets you focused and you'll be like, I can execute and get guys out. It's good. It's a good battle."

There, in a nutshell, is so much of what Bruce Bochy loves about his young left-hander. The Giants have found Blach's arm and resolve to be remarkably resilient. He wasn't bothered when they moved him to the bullpen and he didn't get too high when they moved him back to the rotation. He is the same after seven shutout innings or three poor ones. Bochy smiled when asked about the Zobrist at-bat, which ended in a strikeout looking. 

"How 'bout that?" the manager said. "He won that at-bat. It seems like the advantage goes to the hitter, seeing all those pitches. He kept his focus and got a called strikeout and here he is pitching in the eighth inning."

After needing 13 pitches for one out, Blach got the next 23 on 81 pitches. Bochy thought Blach tired a bit in the eighth, but the deep effort allowed Bochy to mix and match in the bullpen, and ultimately he found the right mix. Hunter Strickland and Mark Melancon closed it out and got Blach his second win.

--- From last night, Joe Panik's huge night helped give Blach an early lead. With the help of Ron Wotus and his shift charts, he also put on a show defensively.

--- We're trying something new right after the final pitch: Here are five quick takeaways from the 6-4 win.

--- The options game sent Kelby Tomlinson back to Triple-A on Wednesday when the Giants activated Melancon, but his latest stint in Sacramento comes with a twist. Tomlinson started his third consecutive game in center field on Monday. The Giants are getting a bit more serious about their longtime plan to make Tomlinson a super-utility player. 

“Tommy is a valuable guy in the majors and if we can give him some experience in the outfield, it gives you more flexibility and versatility,” manager Bruce Bochy said. 

This is not Tomlinson’s first foray into the outfield. He did work there in the offseason after the 2015 season and he has played 25 big league innings in left field the last two seasons. This is Tomlinson’s first real experience with center field, and while in the past he has said that the transition isn’t as easy as some might think, Bochy is confident Tomlinson can figure it out. He certainly has the speed to be a semi-regular in the outfield, and the Giants aren’t exactly brimming with quality center field options behind Denard Span, who is dealing with his second injury of the season. 

“It’s a little different now,” Bochy said when asked about Tomlinson’s past experiences in the outfield. “He’s in Sacramento doing it, and knowing there’s a possibility we could need help in the outfield.”

If the switch doesn’t come in handy this season, it could in 2018. Bochy compared Tomlinson’s infield-outfield ability to Eduardo Nuñez, who has found regular playing time in left but is a free agent after the year. 

--- Hunter Pence did some light running in the outfield before Monday’s game. Bochy said Pence is still about a week away from being an option.

--- Bochy has said it a few times now when asked about the standings, so it’s officially a new motto for a team that got off to a brutal start: “We’ve put ourselves in a great situation for a great story.”

--- They're starting to get a little grumpy around here with their team hovering around .500. Perhaps the Cubs thought they could fool a few on the way out of Wrigley.