Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants' season on the brink

918539.jpg

Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants' season on the brink

BOX SCORE
ST. LOUIS Tim Lincecum battled deep counts, labored through traffic, he entreated Dave Righetti for three mound visits, and 91 pitches only advanced him two outs deep into the fifth inning Thursday night.It was the kind of sluggish, brow mopping, occasionally effective start that a team is accustomed to receiving from the No. 5 man in its rotation which, sadly, is exactly who Lincecum has been for the Giants this season.Lincecum walked off with the Giants trailing by three and the Cardinals did not drive a pace car from there. They continued to hit against the Giants bullpen, racing away for a convincing, 8-3 victory in Game 4 that put Mike Mathenys team within one victory of the World Series.The Cardinals lead the NLCS three games to one, meaning that the Giants find themselves in the same spot as they stood in the Division Series round against the Cincinnati Reds: Win three in a row or call it a wrap.At least the Giants only need to win one at Busch Stadium to force this series to return to the shores of McCovey Cove, where Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain await.Itll be up to Barry Zito, et al, in Game 5 to get them there.Lance Lynn is starting for the Cardinals, and the last time the Giants faced him at Busch Stadium, they won 15-0. So theres that. And if you need something else to hug, the Giants have won their last 12 games with Zito on the mound.Of 33 teams to trail 3-1 in a best-of-seven LCS, only four have come back to advance.Starting pitching reportLincecums three postseason relief appearances could not paper over so many months of mediocrity or worse. He was not going to be the Cy Young Award winner who whirled and overwhelmed opponents in 2008 and 09. He was not going to be the true ace who won a World Series clincher two years ago.Four batters into the game and Lincecum already trailed 2-0, having recorded his only out in that stretch on Allen Craigs streaking comet of a sacrifice fly that Angel Pagan chased down in center field.Lincecum began the game from the stretch, which was unusual only for three pitches because Jon Jay singled up the middle. Matt Carpenter drew a walk as Lincecum misfired a couple of non-competitive pitches as he struggled to throw two in a row with the same mechanics. Matt Holliday followed with a single up the middle that scored Jay. Craigs sacrifice fly couldve been much worse.Lincecum averted a total blowup in the first inning by striking out Daniel Descalso to strand two runners. He also pitched around two walks in the second inning, but only because his outfielders ran down deep drives while leaving more marks on the warning track than a wagon team of Clydesdales.The Cardinals went down in order in the third and fourth, as Lincecum got away with a few pitches. Yadier Molina crushed one of them in the third to dead center field, where Pagan made a leaping catch at the wall. It wasnt quite a home run robbery, but you cant hold that against him unless youre Molina, who hadnt been able to buy a hit in this postseason.Lincecums final battle came in the fifth, and he could not survive it. Carpenters one-out double bounced high off the center field wall, just a couple feet short of leaving the yard. Holliday followed by stroking a drive that seemed ticketed for the right-center gap, but Pagan made a charging dive and came up with it cleanly on a short hop.It was the kind of play that saves a run except in this case, it didnt.Shortstop Brandon Crawfords relay throw to the plate was on line and arrived well ahead of Carpenter, but it skipped and catcher Hector Sanchez couldnt handle the hop as the Cardinals went up 3-1.Holliday took second on the throw and Lincecum couldnt seal up the inning. After striking out Craig, Molina battled him for a pair of two-strike fouls before grounding a changeup that leaked through the middle. Holliday scored easily to make it 4-1, Bruce Bochy tottered out for the baseball and Lincecum was left to wonder when hell get to seize it again.Bullpen reportGeorge Kontos stranded Lincecums runner in the fifth, but Descalso and Kozma singled to start the sixth. Left-hander Jose Mijares hadnt folded his napkin across his lap before Jon Jay doubled to score them both.Guillermo Motas startlingly ineffective postseason continued as the Cardinals added on in the seventh.It was notable that Bochy didnt immediately employ his frontline relievers to hold serve. Then again, the way Adam Wainwright was dealing, perhaps a 4-1 lead looked as wide as the mighty Mississippi already. Besides, Bochy is likely to need all hands to back up Zito in Game 5.So there had to be some teeth grinding when Mota couldnt handle the mop and Bochy had to burn Jeremy Affeldt.At the plateA lineup shuffle made no difference. A casino full of card shufflers wouldnt have produced a different outcome against Wainwright, who seldom left pitches over the plate and power-curved his way through innings.The Giants had but one bat-related highlight while it was still a game: Hunter Pence, after another pregame high-school football huddle in the dugout, finally contributed in the batters box. His 451-foot home run in the second inning had serious hangtime and cut the Cardinals lead to 2-1.But Wainwright retired 11 of the next 12 hitters, and stopped a rally in the sixth before it moved beyond a lurch. After Pagan and Marco Scutaro hit one-out singles, Posey had a chance to get the Giants even with one swing. But his fly ball to right field couldnt find turf, and Sandoval grounded to second base to end the inning.So much has been made of getting Posey pitches to hit, with the underlying assumption that hed know what to do with them. But Posey was 0 for 4, hes batting just .182 in the postseason, and hes driven in just one run apart from his grand slam off Mat Latos in Cincinnati.Posey might be back behind the plate to catch Zito in Game 5. Thats because Sanchez did not represent an improvement over Brandon Belt in the lineup, striking out three times and grounding out in the ninth to avoid the full sombrero.Sandoval hammered a two-run shot in the ninth that traveled an estimated 426 feet. It made the final accounting a bit less lopsided, but there was nothing else for Giants fans to like about the balance sheet.In fieldOn a different night, and with a different outcome, Pagan would have earned a heros anthem for his leaping catch on Molinas drive and his diving play to cut off Hollidays single.Sanchez has a lot to learn before he can be considered a good defensive catcher, but arm strength isnt an issue. He made a perfect throw in the second inning to nab Pete Kozma, who had reached on an error when third baseman Pablo Sandoval dropped a ground ball. (Kozma tried to take off on a pitch to Wainwright; someone in a red helmet mustve missed a sign on that one.)AttendanceThe Cardinals announced 47,062 paid, and not one Miller-Coors product was served.Up nextThe Giants and Cardinals meet in Game 5 on Friday at Busch Stadium. Left-hander Barry Zito (0-0, 6.75 in one postseason start) will oppose right-hander Lance Lynn (1-1, 8.59 in five postseason appearances). First pitch is scheduled for 5:07 p.m. PDT.

Former Giants top prospect earns first career MLB win with Twins

Former Giants top prospect earns first career MLB win with Twins

BOX SCORE

MINNEAPOLIS -- Adalberto Mejia made the most of his brief stint back in the majors with the Minnesota Twins by getting his first big-league win.

Robbie Grossman, Max Kepler and Chris Gimenez all homered to help Mejia and the Twins beat the Kansas City Royals 8-4 in the second game Sunday to salvage a split of a doubleheader.

Mejia (1-1) was the Twins' 26th active player for the second game and allowed three runs in seven innings, on two home runs by Salvador Perez - who also went deep in the first game.

Mejia's reward for his first win? A trip back to Triple-A Rochester.

"I'm going to go down there and work on the things they told me work on," Mejia said through interpreter Carlos Font. "Then it will be up to them to see when I get back."

Grossman and Kepler each hit two-run homers in the first inning, and Brian Dozier had an RBI double in the second off Ian Kennedy (0-4) in his first game back from the disabled list.

Brandon Moss hit two of Kansas City's four home runs in the opener of the doubleheader, and Perez and Jorge Bonifacio each hit two-run homers to lead the Royals to a 6-4 win earlier in the day.

With the split, the Twins are now 7-1 on the year against the Royals. Kansas City's win in the first game snapped a seven-game losing streak against Minnesota.

Kennedy, who returned after missing time with a hamstring strain, said he felt fine physically. He walked three batters and gave up a pair of two-run homers in just two innings Sunday.

"He was way out of whack," manager Ned Yost said. "His leg was fine. He felt normal, felt good. Just timing was off, rhythm was off."

MINOR'S WIN

Mike Minor's road back to the majors was not an easy one. Shoulder surgery kept him out of the majors for two years and resulted in a move to the bullpen.

Minor got his first victory since 2014 with 1 1/3 scoreless innings of relief in the first game Sunday. He relieved Jake Junis with a 5-2 lead in the fifth, two outs and two on. The 29-year-old left-hander walked Max Kepler, then retired Kennys Vargas on a popup. Minor retired the side in order in the sixth.

Minor had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his pitching shoulder in May 13, 2015, and did not appear in the major leagues in 2015 and 2016. Minor, who signed a $7.25 million, two-year contract with the Royals in February 2016, got his first major league victory since Aug. 28, 2014, for Atlanta.

JUNIS' FIRST START

Kansas City's Jake Junis, a 24-year-old right-hander, was recalled from Triple-A Omaha and made his first big league start after a pair of relief appearances. He allowed two runs, five hits and four walks in 4 2/3 innings, leaving after RBI singles from Brian Dozier and Miguel Sano.

Junis found out Saturday that he would be making his first career start. He didn't pitch deep enough to get the win, but impressed manager Ned Yost before the Royals optioned Junis back to Omaha after the game.

"I thought he did a nice job," Yost said. "We tried to get him through that fifth inning, but we needed to win this game."

ROYALS MOVES

Kansas City left fielder Alex Gordon missed the second game to join his wife, who is due to give birth on Monday. Infielder Raul Mondesi replacing Gordon on the roster but was optioned to Triple-A Omaha after the game. That means LHP Miguel Almonte, initially the Royals' 26th active player Sunday, remains on the 25-man roster. ... RHP Al Alburquerque was designated for assignment to make room on the roster for Junis.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Royals: RHP Nate Karns had his pitching arm evaluated after Friday's start against Minnesota. Manager Ned Yost said fluid was found in the elbow area but Karns does not have a strain. Karns exited his start Friday after five innings and threw just 72 pitches due to stiffness in his arm.

Twins: RHP Phil Hughes was placed on the 10-day disabled list Sunday with shoulder discomfort. Hughes took the loss in the first game of Sunday's doubleheader. Right-hander Kyle Gibson will take Hughes' place on the roster.

UP NEXT

Royals: LHP Jason Vargas (5-2, 2.03 ERA) starts Monday's series opener at the New York Yankees.

Twins: RHP Kyle Gibson (0-4, 8.20 ERA) will be recalled from Triple-A Rochester to start Monday against Baltimore.

Heston makes first start with Mariners, allows seven in three innings

Heston makes first start with Mariners, allows seven in three innings

BOX SCORE

SEATTLE -- Yolmer Sanchez had a two-run single in Chicago's five-run first inning, Derek Holland pitch eight strong innings and the White Sox beat the Seattle Mariners 8-1 Sunday.

Tim Anderson had three hits and two RBIs for the White Sox, including his fifth home run - a solo shot in the third inning - and Matt Davidson added two hits and two RBIs. Sanchez's single in the first extended his hitting streak to 12 games, tying a career high.

Holland (4-3) gave up a run and six hits while striking out six and walking two. He finished his longest outing of the season by striking out the side in the eighth inning.

Nelson Cruz hit his 11th home run in the seventh for the Mariners, who have lost three straight.

Seattle starter Chris Heston (0-1), recalled from Triple-A Tacoma before the game to make his first major league start since Oct. 2, 2015, was roughed up for seven runs and seven hits in three innings. He walked the bases loaded in the first before giving up four straight hits.

Heston became the 11th pitcher to start for the Mariners this season, the most in the major leagues. In his only other appearance this year, he gave up five runs on seven hits in two innings of relief against Detroit on April 25.

LET'S TURN TWO

The White Sox turned four double plays, equaling the team's season high - set Saturday.

TRAINERS ROOM

White Sox: OF Leury Garcia was back in the starting lineup after missing two games. Garcia was hit on the elbow in Thursday's series opener.

Mariners: 1B Danny Valencia missed his second straight game after hurting his left wrist on a slide in Friday's game, and had an MRI Sunday. First baseman Daniel Vogelbach was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma and started at first base in his place. ... Seattle manager Scott Servais said LHP James Paxton, on the DL with a left forearm strain, will probably have a rehab assignment at Double-A Arkansas later this week. If all goes well Paxton could return after the Mariners' upcoming eight-game road trip. ... OF Mitch Haniger (strained right oblique) will also likely start a rehab assignment this week.

UP NEXT

White Sox: RHP Miguel Gonzalez (3-4, 4.29) starts in Chicago's series opener at Arizona. Gonzalez is 0-4 with a 6.94 ERA in his last four starts.

Mariners: Seattle has a day off Monday. RHP Christian Bergman starts Tuesday at Washington. Bergman is coming off the best outing of his career, when he held Oakland scoreless over 7 1/3 innings with a career high nine strikeouts.