Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants claim 3-0 World Series lead

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Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants claim 3-0 World Series lead

BOX SCORE

DETROIT Some things perturb Ryan Vogelsong. Cold weather is not among them.In fact, Vogelsong, who lives in rural Pennsylvania, was downright ticked when it only snowed once this past winter. He is the rare soul who finds therapy in shoveling out his driveway.So Vogelsong took the mound wearing short sleeves in 47-degree weather Saturday night, and he cleared the widest lane imaginable. He held down a thoroughly frustrated Detroit Tigers lineup for 5 23 scoreless innings, Tim Lincecum followed with more toxic stuff out of the bullpen, and after a 2-0 victory at Comerica Park, the Giants have a three-to-none lead and an open path to another World Series title.Gregor Blanco, a non-roster invitee this spring, knocked in the first run with a triple in the second inning. And the Giants pitching staff, as its done all postseason, refused to part with the lead as Bruce Bochys club threatens to complete a four-game sweep.Vogelsong survived a head-in-the-lions-jaws confrontation with Miguel Cabrera that will linger in memory, facing the first Triple Crown winner in 45 years with the bases loaded and jamming him with a gutsy, inside fastball to leave them full in the fifth inning.The Giants havent trailed in 54 consecutive innings -- a streak that began with Game 5 of the NLCS. Theyve led at the conclusion of 44 of those innings.Giants starting pitchers have allowed one earned run in 18 13 innings in the World Series, continuing the momentum from their incredible run to storm back and beat the Cardinals in the NLCS. Incredibly, Giants starters are 6-0 with a 0.47 ERA over their last six games.And the Giants pitching staff has held the Tigers scoreless in 25 of 27 innings to take total control of this series.Starting pitching reportVogelsong continues to pitch with a chip on his shoulder while earning stripes on his chest. He became the fifth pitcher in major league history to make four starts in a single postseason and allow one run or fewer in all of them, joining Arizonas Curt Schilling (2001), Atlantas John Smoltz (1996), the Dodgers' Burt Hooton (1981) and the As John Blue Moon Odom (1972).Vogelsong is 3-0 with a 1.09 ERA over 24 23 innings this postseason but he worked up a cold sweat against the Tigers, who put him in the stretch in every inning save the second.Taking enough time in between pitches to knit some mittens, Vogelsong found his changeup early and used it in a couple of huge spots. After two of the first three batters reached to start the game, Vogelsong threw a changeup to induce a double-play grounder from Prince Fielder.The Tigers laced a pair of one-out singles in the third, but Quintin Berry swung at the first pitch and grounded into another double play to end that threat. It was the 11th double-play grounder for the Tigers in this postseason.Then came the fifth inning. Alex Avila lined a single, Omar Infante blooped another to make him 9-for-13 in his career against Vogelsong, and Austin Jackson walked on a 3-2 pitch as the Tigers loaded the bases with one out.But after Berry fouled off a fastball up and away, Vogelsong went back to the same pitch and got a swing-through for the second out.Then up stepped Cabrera, who accepted the Triple Crown trophy in a pregame ceremony (yes, it really was a crown) after he led the AL with a .330 average, 44 home runs and 137 RBIs.He hit a monstrous .420 with two outs and runners in scoring position, too.But Vogelsong went hard in on the first pitch, which Cabrera flared six feet foul down the right field line. Vogelsong came back inside again and Cabrera popped up to shortstop as the sellout crowd groaned its displeasure.With that at-bat, the Tigers fell to 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position in three World Series games.Vogelsong stepped around Fielder one more time while getting a fly out to right field in the sixth, but his pitch count stood at 104 after a two-out walk to Andy Dirks.He did not look pleased when he handed over the baseball. And it wasnt because he was cold.Bullpen reportTim Lincecum continued to morph into the second coming of John Smoltz.He retired Jhonny Peralta on a fly out to end the sixth and strand Vogelsongs runners, then he threw straight filth over the next two innings. Lincecums changeup was his money pitch, as he used it to rack up all three of his strikeouts -- including Fielder in the eighth.In five relief appearances this postseason, Lincecum has thrown 13 innings and allowed just three hits and one run while walking three and striking out 17.Romo retired all three batters he faced in the ninth, striking out Infante to record his second World Series save.At the plateThere was a suggestion that Bochy shouldve batted Gregor Blanco ninth, essentially giving him another leadoff hitter in front of Angel Pagan once the lineup turned over.I like Blanco right where he is, Bochy said in a pregame chat. I like the way hes swinging.He likes it even more now. Blanco ignited the Giants following Hunter Pences leadoff walk in the second inning. The little left fielder fouled off a cutter and a changeup and Anibal Sanchezs slider was no more effective for him. Blanco improved to 5-for-8 lifetime against Sanchez, putting a charge into the 3-2 pitch and hitting a triple to the deepest reaches of right-center field.Blanco became the first Giant in franchise history with two triples in a single World Series. And Brandon Crawford found a way to get him home, blooping a two-out single that fell in front of center fielder Austin Jackson.Sanchez stood at 47 pitches after two innings but he began to throw more quality strikes and get the feel for his breaking stuff. He retired 11 of 12 batters after Crawfords RBI single.The Tigers kept Pablo Sandoval in the ballpark, but the Panda did manage a single in the first inning and a double in the eighth. He has 23 hits in these playoffs, breaking J.T. Snows record for the most by a Giant in a single postseason. (The major league record is 25, held by Marquis Grissom, Darin Erstad and David Freese.)In fieldBlanco made another outstanding play in left field. This one put him in World Series company with Sandy Amoros, Al Gionfriddo and Cookie Lavagetto in baseball lore.It was almost a carbon copy of Amoros catch on Yogi Berra in the 1955 World Series, as Blanco raced into the left field corner and caught Jhonny Peraltas foul fly a step in front of the wall to help Romo record the first out in the ninth inning.The Giants played steady defense all night long. Crawford made a nice stop and quick transfer to start the double play against Berry, who gets down the line better than most.But the shortstop made an error in the eighth when he bobbled Delmon Youngs grounder, then failed to take his time and get a good grip on the ball. He had plenty of time to get the plodding Young, but his throw knuckled short and first baseman Brandon Belt couldnt pick it.AttendanceThe Tigers announced 42,262 paid, and it was a peaceable assembly. That wasnt the case in 1984, after the Tigers swept the San Diego Padres. Bochy recalled thinking wed have to fight for our lives as police in riot gear held back the unruly crowd.Up nextThe Giants and Tigers meet in Game 4 of the World Series Sunday night at Comerica Park. Right-hander Matt Cain (2-2, 3.52 in four postseason starts) takes the mound against right-hander Max Scherzer (1-0, 0.82 in two postseason starts), who has struck out 18 in 11 playoff innings. First pitch is scheduled for 5:07 p.m. PDT.

Giants Notes: Blach shows resiliency; Another option in center?

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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.