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 spring training Day 15: Arroyo picks up where he left off

Giants spring training Day 15: Arroyo picks up where he left off

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Giants do not expect Christian Arroyo, their top hitting prospect, to get a lot of at-bats in a camp filled with veteran infielders. But the 21-year-old continues to make the most of every opportunity he gets. 

Arroyo hit a scorching single to left in his first at-bat Monday. When he came up with the bases loaded in the seventh, he poked a single into right, tying the game. Arroyo grounded out in his final at-bat, ending his perfect run this spring. With three hits in his first four at-bats down here, Arroyo is now 17-for-30 in three springs in big league camp.

“It’s the same (thing) he did last spring,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s getting great at-bats and playing well at shortstop. In the early go here, he’s playing the kind of ball that he was last spring. His mechanics are very solid. It’s a good foundation, good balance, and he doesn’t try to do too much. The bat stays in the zone a long time and he uses the whole field well. He’s a good hitter. He’s only going to hit for more power. The power is going to come, too.”

A move to the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League should help. No matter what Arroyo does this spring, the Giants will send him to Triple-A if their 40-man guys are healthy. But Arroyo’s time is coming, and it’s coming soon. 

For more on Arroyo, here’s a feature I wrote about him last week. Here’s more from the first day of the third week of spring training … 

GAME RECAP: The Giants will not go undefeated this season. They lost to the A’s for the 124th consecutive time in the Cactus League, this time by a score of 5-4 … Michael Morse got the first hit of his comeback attempt. His pinch-hit single up the middle in the seventh drove in a run. In the eighth, he lined a two-strike single to right … Brandon Belt hit his first homer of the spring. It was the 24th of his spring training career. You can see it here … Bochy was impressed with Jose Dominguez, who struck out one in a scoreless inning. 

STOCK WATCH: Orlando Calixte played right field, after previously seeing time at short and second this spring. “He’s intriguing,” Bochy said. “He showed the arm off in right field. He’s a good shortstop and plays second and third. He’s a good athlete.” The Giants plan to carry five outfielders, but if none of the right-handed bats break through, they could always carry Calixte as a super-utility guy. Remember, he’s on the 40-man roster. 

CUETO UPDATE: The co-ace still is not in big league camp, or on the way. Here’s the latest on Johnny Cueto. 

TRAINER’S ROOM: This room now belongs to Anthony Reyes, as Dave Groeschner is off to South Korea with Hensley Meulens and Team Netherlands. Will Smith (elbow) threw off flat ground and everything went fine. Eduardo Nuñez (shoulder) will likely resume playing third base later this week.

QUOTABLE: “To have that splitter that out of the hand looks like a heater, for me, that’s huge.” — Jeff Samardzija on a pitch that helped him dominate in September. Here’s more on Samardzija and his plans for 2017. 


Samardzija sticking with more versatile approach in second year with Giants

Samardzija sticking with more versatile approach in second year with Giants

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Jeff Samardzija’s first season in San Francisco was ultimately not far from what the Giants hoped it would be. Samardzija gave them the desired durability, throwing 203 innings with a 3.81 ERA in 32 starts. 

The route to those final numbers was remarkably circuitous. Samardzija had a 2.84 ERA through the season’s first two months, but that number jumped all the way up to 6.23 over his next 11 starts, seven of them losses for the team. As the Giants went into a second-half tailspin, Samardzija found his groove and helped keep them in the playoff race. He had a 2.45 ERA over his final 10 starts, earning the nod as the Game 2 starter in the NLDS. That appearance against the Cubs lasted just two innings. 

The up-and-down season showed the Giants two very different versions of a big offseason acquisition, and at times opposing hitters saw two very different Samardzijas. He went heavy on his cutter early, but when hitters started teeing off on pitches that all came in at a somewhat similar velocity, Samardzija mixed in a curveball that was completely mothballed through June. Down the stretch, when he found his form, Samardzija brought back his splitter and ignored the cutter. He threw 165 cutters in April but just two in September. On the flip side, he threw 113 splitters in September after never throwing more than 35 the first five months. 

“He found the splitter and using it more made him more of a complete pitcher,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s got the four (main) pitches now. They can’t just sit on the hard stuff. He had a good year. It was a little bump there, but he had a great run and was throwing the ball really well (down the stretch). He’s one of our guys. We certainly think (that deal) is going to pay off, and it did last year. He got us deep into games consistently.”

Samardzija learned from the up-and-down year, and during his first start of the spring, he varied the repertoire. He gave up two runs in the first inning but was pleased with a curveball he threw four times — twice for called strikes, twice for foul balls. 

“If you can get it going here in Arizona, it’s going to be a pretty solid pitch for you,” he said. “(Bringing it back last year) was kind of out of necessity. I picked it up and played around with it and it felt good.”

The curveball, which he hadn't thrown since 2012, changed eye levels last season and kept hitters from loading up on pitches in the low to mid 90s. Samardzija further expanded the velocity gap by finding the feel of a splitter that had toyed with him for years.

“For me, with that splitter coming back late in the year, it’s going to be about mixing it in and seeing what feels good on that day, seeing what’s going to be the out pitch,” he said. “I had been chasing (the feel) of it since 2014. We broke it all the way back down and went back to zero. So many guys were sitting fastball. To have that splitter that out of the hand looks like a heater, for me, that’s huge.”

The Giants expect the more varied approach to lead to big results in 2017, and Samardzija could subtly benefit from a change Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti made. Samardzija will pitch behind left-hander Matt Moore, not Johnny Cueto. He said he would often last season compare notes with Cueto, who like Samardzija, pitched most of his career in the NL Central. The two would often take a similar approach on the mound.

“(Opponents will) have to face a tough lefty like Moore, so they can’t have that same lineup two days in a row,” Samardzija said. “To me, that’s big.”