Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants are NL West champions!


Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants are NL West champions!


SAN FRANCISCO Pablo Sandoval kept his eye on the ball, watched it into his glove, hit the rail and flipped end over end as a sellout crowd gasped.

He blew bubblegum through it all.

And in that instant in the fourth inning Saturday night, you knew: The Giants were not going to drop this thing. They were going to clinch the eighth NL West title in franchise history, and their second in three years.

And they were going to do it in style.

Madison Bumgarner, when he wasnt busy bear-hugging Sandoval in the dugout, rediscovered the syrupy goodness in his delivery, Buster Posey was serenaded with the loudest MVP chants yet heard and the incredible Marco Scutaro added to his legend with three more hits as the Giants beat the San Diego Padres 8-4 to set off a party scene at AT&T Park.

Sergio Romo sent the Giants into the postseason, getting pinch hitter Mark Kotsay to line out. Center fielder Angel Pagan raised two hands like a triumphant middleweight, Romo strutted a dance as Posey ran to embrace him and the Giants stormed the field in celebration.

Just as they did two years ago, the players took a victory lap around the warning track to embrace fans. It wasn't old hat for all of them, though. Romo, Sandoval and Posey were the only starting players on the field for the final out who own 2010 World Series rings.

Starting pitching report
Bumgarner was coming off an effective outing but Giants coaches were concerned because he kept coming out of his delivery while issuing five walks.

Bumgarner stressed that there was no need to worry. Somehow, the 23-year-old left-hander from down on the North Carolina farm knows how to grab the stage when the lights shine brightest. You do remember Game 4 on Halloween Night, dont you?

Bumgarner met the moment again, and now he can jot down division-clinching victory on his career dossier. He operated down in the zone, elevated his fastball when he wanted the Padres to chase and didnt give up an earned run through his first five innings.

The Padres scratched him for an unearned run in the first after Chris Denorfia hit a leadoff single. Bumgarner had the runner picked off, but first baseman Brandon Belt threw wide to second base and Denorfia took third on the error. He scored on a ground out.

Bumgarner was tough after that. The Padres only got two runners into scoring position against him in the next four innings, and they only managed those by stealing second base.

But Bumgarner allowed a leadoff single in the sixth to Logan Forsythe and then left a two-out, first-pitch slider at the belt where Wild Blue Yonder Alonso could hurt him. Alonso sent it into the right field arcade for a two-run shot that cut the Giants lead to 5-3, and Bumgarner stomped off the mound as manager Bruce Bochy employed his bullpen.

Bumgarner (16-10) joined Matt Cain in surpassing the 200-inning mark. Cain has done it in six consecutive seasons; Bumgarner has done it each of the last two years, and is a third of an inning away from matching his career high (204 23).

Bullpen report
Guillermo Mota recorded a quick strikeout and the Giants bullpen committee did not leave open any drafty doors to spoil the building heat and anticipation at China Basin. Jeremy Affeldt struck out the side in the seventh, Santiago Casilla gave up a run on a ground out in the eighth and manager Bruce Bochy made sure Javier Lopez and Romo both got some love in the ninth.

Lopez earned a thunderous ovation when he struck out Alonso, and then Romo adjourned the proceedings -- and started the party -- by pitching around a single while recording the final two outs.

At the plate
The Giants offense made it another ensemble night. And it was no surprise that Scutaro, their understated addition at the trade deadline, was in the middle of almost every scoring rally.

Scutaro lined a pair of two-out, RBI hits and finished with three on the night to give him 180 on the season fewer than only Derek Jeter, Miguel Cabrera and Andrew McCutchen in the major leagues. Scutaro is hitting .361 in 53 games as a Giant all while the Colorado Rockies are paying a quarter of his salary.

The Giants lead the NL in sacrifice flies and they employed the deep enough fly ball to take the lead in the first inning. After loading the bases with a pair of walks and Scutaros first single of the game, Buster Posey drove in his 97th run of the season and Hunter Pence drove in his 96th with a pair of sacrifice flies.

They spent the rest of the night doing what so many Giants clubs have failed to do in the past: They put constant pressure on the opposing pitcher.

Brandon Belt doubled and scored on Bumgarners single in the second inning. Bumgarners sacrifice in the fourth moved Belt and Crawford into scoring position for Scutaro, who collected a two-run, two-out single.

And Scutaro came through with yet another two-out, RBI hit in the sixth.

Belt added a solo homer in the eighth, you know, just for varietys sake.

In field
Sandovals catch earned a standing ovation in the fourth, and for good reason. While blowing a bubble, he flipped over the rail near the photo well and managed to hang on with his right hand while suspended upside down. He alertly held his glove aloft to show the umpires that he had secured Alonsos foul pop.

The Giants announced 42,418 paid as the fans crowded every inch of standing room. They saw what they hoped to see.

Up next
The Giants wrap up their three-game series with the San Diego Padres when Tim Lincecum (10-14, 4.91) takes the mound on Sunday. The Padres, who might be more clear headed, will start left-hander Eric Stults (6-3. 2.69).

Williamson stuns Davis in ninth, but earlier mistakes haunt Giants

Williamson stuns Davis in ninth, but earlier mistakes haunt Giants

CHICAGO — Had a half-dozen other things gone differently Wednesday night, the Giants might have spent the hour after the game shrugging off a blowout loss or celebrating one of the best at-bats of the year. 

Three innings after the game was nearly lost for good, Mac Williamson saw 12 pitches from Wade Davis, who entered with a perfect ERA in 19 appearances, fouling eight of them off before slamming a two-run homer to right. The play came with some comedic value, as Williamson nearly passed Eduardo Nuñez on the bases. It also came with some historic value, as it snapped a streak of 19 consecutive solo shots that was two shy of the MLB record. 

The homer was not, however, the talking point after the game. A few minutes after Williamson went deep, Joe Panik was tossing his bat into the grass in frustration over a called third strike that ended the game and clinched a 5-4 win for the Cubs. Ten minutes after that, Bruce Bochy watched the highlight and tossed his phone onto his desk. 

“It’s a shame to end on that call, it really is,” Bochy said. “We had him on fumes and that’s not a strike. But they got the call and that’s it.”

The Giants were left with their third loss in four games, a run that has halted their momentum. They again are 11 games back in the National League West, with so many nights like this one: A comeback seemed real, but the mistakes were too much to overcome. 

Williamson, in talking about his homer, pivoted and pointed to a blunder of his own. In a tied game in the fifth, Miguel Montero hit a single to right with Addison Russell on first. The speedy shortstop watched Williamson as the ball rolled into the outfield, and when Williamson didn’t charge as hard as he otherwise might, Russell took off for third. The throw was perfect, but late. Russell scored on a fly ball. 

“The home run is really cool but it would have been a lot cooler if I hadn’t have made the mistake earlier in the game and given them the extra run,” Williamson said, explaining that he has tried to focus on being smooth to the ball and not rushing on fast outfields. In the past, rushing has led to bobbles and extra bases. 

Another costly sequence came in the eighth. After the Giants left the bases loaded in the top of the inning, Steven Okert gave up a triple to Jason Heyward, who scored on a sacrifice fly. Okert, so good when he was first called up, has been less effective of late. 

“We’ve got to get our lefties going,” Bochy said. “We gave them a run there and that put it at three and that’s just enough to cover it for them.”

Truth be told, the Giants were probably lucky to even have worries at that point. The wind blew a three-run Heyward homer inches foul in the sixth, and while the Giants grumbled about the final call of the game, an earlier call on Heyward for running inside the base path took a Cubs run off the board and killed a rally. It was correct by the letter of the law, but one you rarely see. The Giants escaped, but they wouldn’t come all the way back, despite Williamson’s late push. 

The young outfielder has been looking to make an impact since coming back up on the last homestand. He knew how tough Davis has been. 

“He’s been the best in the game this year and the numbers speak for themselves,” Williamson said. “He has phenomenal stuff. You get in the box and figure you’ve got nothing to lose, battle as tough as you can.”

Williamson fouled off good strikes and tantalizing balls. When he lofted a 2-2 pitch toward right, he took off out of the box. The ball carried just over the wall, and Williamson didn’t look up until he rounded third. That’s when Phil Nevin started yelling at him to slow down. Nuñez, who had a tight hamstring, turned and told Williamson to slow down.

“I kinda blacked out for a second there,” Williamson said. 

“I was like, ‘Bro, it’s a homer — just jog,’” Nunez said.

The moment temporarily sent a rush through the dugout. Minutes later, the Giants were left livid over a game that probably shouldn’t have been so close, but nonetheless was right there for them to steal. 

Instant Analysis: Giants' rally falls short in 5-4 loss to Cubs

Instant Analysis: Giants' rally falls short in 5-4 loss to Cubs


CHICAGO — The Giants will need a win on getaway day to clinch their first winning road trip.

Wednesday's comeback attempt fell just short, as the Giants scored two in the ninth but lost to the Cubs 5-4. Since taking the first two games in St. Louis, they have dropped three of four, falling 11 games back of the Rockies in the division.

Here are five things to know from the coldest Giants game of the year … 

— Mac Williamson fouled off eight pitches before going the opposite way against Wade Davis, who entered with a 0.00 ERA in 19 appearances. The two-run homer ended a run of 19 consecutive solo shots by the Giants, two short of their own MLB record. It was the first homer off Davis in two years. 

— The sixth inning was one of the stranger escapes we’ve seen from a pitcher this season. With two on and one out, Jason Heyward blasted a Matt Moore pitch right down the line and it looked like it would give the Cubs a 6-2 lead. The wind blew the ball a couple of feet foul. Heyward then topped one down the line and Moore’s throw bounced away from first, allowing a run to score. But the umpires called — correctly — Heyward out for running inside the line. It’s a call you rarely see. Moore then struck out Addison Russell to keep what could have easily been a 6-2 or 4-2 game at 3-2. 

— Before the first game of this series, a Giant asked in the dugout, “I wonder what some of the Cubs’ numbers would look like at our place?” Anthony Rizzo is a .159 hitter with no homers in 18 career games at AT&T Park, but he had no issues on a night when conditions were worse than they are most nights in San Francisco. Rizzo homered off Moore in his first two at-bats. 

— Rizzo will occasionally put a bunt down to beat the shift — he had an accidental bunt in his third at-bat — which the Giants have long wanted Brandon Belt to do. Belt pushed one away from the shift in the sixth, and even though it was too close to pitcher Kyle Hendricks, the throw was off and Belt reached second. One of those a week would open up a few more holes. 

— This lineup has made a habit of making mediocre and downright bad pitchers look good, and the actual good ones are taking advantage, too. A night after Jon Lester recorded his first complete game of the year, Hendricks threw seven innings for the first time.