Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants are World Series champions

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Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants are World Series champions

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DETROIT The Giants endured so many nights when the flags whipped, the icy wind chapped faces and the dreams were bigger than the attendance.

But it only felt like Candlestick Park on a chilly Sunday night. And the Giants are no longer dreaming.

They are a full-fledged powerhouse franchise now, using pitching and precision to stand alone as World Series champions for the second time in three seasons.

They did not have to wait another half-century for a follow-up to 2010. Survivors of six elimination games against the Reds and Cardinals, the Giants outlasted the stubborn Detroit Tigers with a combination of smart hitting, determined pitching and clean plays afield to seize a 4-3, 10-inning victory and a four-game sweep.

Marco Scutaro delivered the hit and the ring. He stroked a two-out single to center field off Phil Coke after Ryan Theriot, the player whose job Scutaro took in July, had reached on a hit and advanced on Brandon Crawfords sacrifice bunt.

Theriot slid across home plate as if crashing into a catcher who wasnt blocking his path. He popped up into a power-squat pose and roared as the Giants dugout tingled with anticipation.

Sergio Romo remained brilliant to the end, striking out the side in the 10th inning including a fearless, 89-mph two-seam fastball that froze AL Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera to kickstart a fist-pumping dance and a wild celebration on the mound.

After three games that didnt include a single lead change, Game 4 was a back-and-forth affair. Brandon Belts triple put the Giants in front in the second inning, but Cabrera and Delmon Young hit wind-aided home runs off Matt Cain that both erased leads. Buster Poseys home run preceded Youngs in the sixth inning.

The Giants had four shots to bring home this prize. The Tigers made them work for it. But if this team showed anything this season, its a will to compete till the last out.
They swept a Tigers club that had just pulled off a sweep of its own while dominating the New York Yankees in the ALCS.

Bruce Bochy became the first Giants manager to win two World Series titles since John McGraw (in 1905 and 1921-22).

Starting pitching report
In his only scheduled start of the World Series, and with 242 13 innings on his arm, Cain battled with less than his best stuff and only paid for two pitches.

It was apparent from the start that Cain didnt have the consistent put-away finish on his pitches. Quintin Berry battled him for a long at-bat in the first inning that included a fortuitous drive into the right field corner that thudded foul by a couple inches.

But Cain lost a 1-0 lead in the third inning thanks in part to the wind tunnel to right field, which Cabrera used to great effect when he hit a 1-1 changeup the opposite way and let the breeze do the rest. Hunter Pence, fully expecting to make a play, bumped against the right field wall as the ball soared over his head for a two-run home run.

It was Cabreras second career World Series home run; his previous one came in 2003 against Roger Clemens.

The shot gave the Tigers a 2-1 lead their first lead of any kind in the World Series. It ended the Tigers scoreless streak at 20 innings.

And for the first time in 57 innings, dating back to Game 4 of the NLCS, the Giants trailed.

The wind played a part when Cain squandered a second lead after Poseys two-run shot put the Giants ahead in the sixth. Cain made it through Cabrera and Prince Fielder in the bottom of the inning, but Young used the same wind tunnel to coax a first-pitch slider the opposite way and over the wall in right.

It was the sixth home run allowed by Cain in the postseason, one short of matching the major league record held by five pitchers (including former Giant Scott Garrelts in 1989).

Cain barely escaped the sixth, as he allowed a two-out single to Andy Dirks and needed Gregor Blanco to track down Jhonny Peraltas drive to the warning track in left field to get the Giants back in the dugout.

It was more than a bit curious when manager Bruce Bochy sent Cain back out for the seventh inning, but he got three quick outs and painted a 91 mph fastball on the outside corner on his last pitch of the night to strike out Austin Jackson and preserve the tie.

Cain made one last town-sheriff walk off the mound, likely his final act in a season that included a perfect game, a start for the NL All-Star team and victories in two winner-take-all postseason games against the Reds and Cardinals.

Bullpen report
Tim Lincecum isnt the only secret weapon in the Giants bullpen. Jeremy Affeldt has been a machine in the postseason, and because of Lincecums efforts in Game 3, Bochy was able to deploy Affeldt on the heart of the Tigers lineup in the eighth inning.

After a leadoff walk, Affeldt flung weapons-grade stuff to strike out Cabrera, Fielder and Young including a curve so nasty that it caused Fielder to recoil before fluttering over the plate for a strike. After striking out Andy Dirks to start the ninth, Affeldt survived a scare when Peralta once again had a deep drive knocked down by the wind. This one turned around Angel Pagan before the center fielder ran it down on the warning track.

Affeldt bent backwards in a display of relief. He has a perfect 0.00 ERA over 10 13 innings spanning 10 appearances.

Santiago Casilla hit Omar Infante with a pitch that fractured his left hand, as X-rays confirmed. But Casilla followed by getting Gerald Laird to ground into a fielders choice, sending the game to extra innings.

The Giants did not have Brian Wilsons bravado to throw the last pitch. But Romo never wavered in that role. He recorded his third save of this World Series in the 10th, and for the third time, he got the final out in a series-clinching victory.

At the plate
The Giants knew they wouldnt get much to hit from Max Scherzer, who matches a hard, running fastball with a plus slider and a decent changeup. Sure enough, Scherzer blazed through a first inning while throwing eight of 10 pitches for strikes.

But the Giants managed to barrel up twice in the second inning, when Hunter Pence hit a ground-rule double that skipped off the warning track in left-center. Belt followed by swinging at a first-pitch fastball down and in, yanking it into the right field corner. The drive struck the shortest portion of the wall, just a foot or two short of being a home run.

Belt raced around the bases for his second triple of the World Series and the Giants sixth of the postseason.

But the Tigers played their infield tight, Gregor Blancos ground ball to second base couldnt score Belt from third and the Giants had to be satisfied with the 1-0 lead.

Posey flied out in the third, stranding two runners when Scherzer threw a changeup off the end of his bat. But Posey didnt miss another changeup in the sixth inning, as the NL batting champ finally made his presence felt.

Posey was hitting .190 in the postseason, he hadnt scored a run in this World Series and he had just one RBI against the Tigers when he stepped to the plate following Scutaros single in the sixth.

But he sent a gasp through the crowd when he got the bat head out to a 1-0 changeup, sending it through the wind as it sailed two rows deep near the pole in left field, 363 feet away. Posey raised an index finger as he trotted through the drizzle, and for a player who always seems so composed, he nearly pulled a Mark McGwire and forgot to step on first base.

The shot gave the Giants a momentary 3-2 lead.

They needed one more rally, and one more clutch hit. It figured that Scutaro would provide it, as he waited for a 3-1 fastball he could handle and then did just enough with it, shooting the pitch to center field to give the Giants the lead that they would keep.

Pablo Sandoval had a single to finish with 24 hits this postseason, one away from matching the major league record. In deference to his three-homer performance in Game 1, he was named World Series MVP. He and Edgar Renteria are the only World Series MVPs in franchise history.

In field
Managers and coaches submitted their Gold Glove ballots in late September. If they bothered to watch Brandon Crawford in the postseason, they probably slapped their foreheads and said, Well, I screwed that one up.

Crawford was brilliant yet again as the Giants supported Cain with another solid defensive game. He fell down but stayed with a vicious, hooking one-hop smash off Prince Fielders bat in the third inning. Then he made a more spectacular play in the fifth after Cain deflected Quintin Berrys comebacker. Crawford changed direction, made a barehand pickup and threw to first base to nip the runner.

More infield defense saved Cain greater pain in the third, just before Cabrera hit his home run. Berry followed Austin Jacksons walk with a bunt to the left side, and Cain had to twist his body to avoid an onrushing Pablo Sandoval. The third baseman made a clean pickup and Brandon Belt scooped the skipping throw to record a very important out. Belt nearly picked off Jackson making a wide turn around second base, too.

Blancos catch on Peralta in the sixth was not an easy play, either, especially considering the windy conditions.

Attendance
The Tigers announced 42,152 paid to watch their team lose its seventh consecutive World Series game dating to 2006.

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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.

Panik takes step in right direction, helps Giants build lead Cubs can't overcome

Panik takes step in right direction, helps Giants build lead Cubs can't overcome

CHICAGO — The Giants gave Mark Melancon $62 million to make sure they don’t have an NLDS repeat, and the closer did shut the Cubs down in the ninth Monday. There’s a far cheaper solution to those big problems, however: Score so much that a late-inning implosion doesn’t matter. 

The Giants gave up four in the eighth inning in their first meeting with the Cubs since that infamous Game 4 meltdown, but thanks in large part to Joe Panik, the cushion was large enough. Panik, back atop the leadoff spot with Denard Span aching, reached base four times and had three extra-base hits. He came into the game with a .172 average over his previous 14 games, but he took John Lackey deep to lead off the night. 

“The last couple of days in St. Louis I started feeling better,” Panik said. “I started feeling a little better and today it clicked. It’s definitely a step in the right direction. I felt good. The swing path felt good. It’s going back to staying on the ball and not trying to do too much.”

With the wind rushing out toward the bleachers, there was no need to try and muscle the ball. The Giants hit a season-high three homers and added four doubles. Brandon Belt and Justin Ruggiano also went deep as the lead was stretched to 6-0. After Ruggiano’s blast, a familiar feeling set in.

Ty Blach had been brilliant through seven, but Javier Baez took him deep in the eighth. Derek Law entered and gave up a two-run shot to Ben Zobrist. Just as in Game 4, Bochy started wearing out the track to the mound. Steven Okert faced one batter and plunked him as Hunter Strickland and Melancon started to heat up. Strickland got the call, and after falling behind in the count, he got Willson Contreras to ground into a double play, stranding a pair. 

“No lead is safe on a night like this,” Bochy said of the wind. “It’s not surprising when the other team answers.”

It probably wasn’t surprising to the players on the field. It did, however, bring back bad memories.

“You’re human,” Panik said. “You’re human, but with the bullpen we’ve got, we have confidence that they’ll shut it down.”

As the Cubs rallied in the eighth and again the ninth, a half-dozen key plays from earlier loomed larger. Panik was sent from second by Phil Nevin on a hard single to left and he cut the corner at third perfectly, scoring the second run of the night. Blach helped kill one potential Cubs rally by cutting behind Albert Almora in the sixth. The center fielder had dropped a one-out bloop into right and he made a hard turn. Blach followed him to first, fielded a throw from Ruggiano, and threw Almora out at second, eliminating a baserunner ahead of Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.

“We work on that all the time,” said Blach, a former minor league Gold Glove winner. “I saw him rounding pretty hard so I tried to sneak in. We were able to catch a guy sleeping.”

Blach was being modest. It is not a play most pitchers make, not in a 5-0 game. It was simply one of many defensive highlights for the Giants, who did just about everything right until the eighth. When the bullpen started to wobble, the lead was large enough that it didn’t matter. 

The win was the eighth in 10 games for a team that’s threatening to get back into the postseason chase. For all that’s gone wrong, the Giants are just 3 1/2 games behind these Cubs. They’ll try to get another one back Tuesday in a reminder of what could have been: Johnny Cueto against Jon Lester.

Earlier this season, Panik would have hit seventh or eighth against Lester, but Bochy said he’ll get another night atop the lineup. The manager said Panik earned it with his first career night with three extra base hits. After the first leadoff homer of his career — and probably life — Panik doubled twice. That helped build the lead, but it led to some ribbing hours later. As Panik addressed reporters, Matt Cain snuck up behind the scrum.

“Ask him why he didn’t try for third on his second double,” Cain whispered.