Baggs' Instant Replay: Pirates 3, Giants 1

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Baggs' Instant Replay: Pirates 3, Giants 1

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH Back in April, when James McDonalds single was the only thing that separated Matt Cain from a perfect game, the Pirates pitcher expressed surprising remorse.

Wonder what hes feeling now?

McDonald injured the Giants in a much different way on a brutally hot Saturday afternoon at PNC Park. He pitched masterfully over seven innings, mixing a boring fastball with breaking pitches on the black while striking out 10. Ryan Vogelsong could not match him as the Giants lost 3-1 to even the series.
Starting pitching report

A Giant has not entered the All-Star break as the NL ERA leader since Atlee Hammaker (1.70) in 1993. Vogelsong (7-4) entered the day with the best mark in the league, at 2.26.

By the end of Saturdays proceedings, Vogelsong stood at 2.36 one point behind the Reds Johnny Cueto, who will start on Sunday. McDonald is right behind them both, at 2.37.

What else do Cueto, Vogelsong and McDonald have in common, other than ranking 1-2-3 in the NL in ERA? All three were snubbed for the NL All-Star team.

The Pirates scratched Vogelsong for a run in the third inning, when McDonald led off with a walk and scored from first base on Neil Walkers double. Michael McKenry, the Pirates backup catcher, hit his seventh homer of the season a solo shot in the fourth.

The Pirates plated a third run in the sixth when Andrew McCutchen singled and scored on Pedro Alvarezs opposite-field double. The drive missed being a home run by a foot or two, as it struck high off the wall in the left field corner.

Vogelsong still fought through the heat and a 27-minute rain delay to provide a quality start for the 15th time in 16 assignments. He has completed at least six innings every time hes taken the mound this season.

Bullpen report

Santiago Casilla was unavailable because of his blister, but the Giants didnt need him. At least they were able to get a day of rest for interim-interim closer Sergio Romo.

At the plate

The Giants were sunk the moment the Pirates put a run on the board. McDonald entered with an 8-3 record, and the Pirates were shut out in all three of his losses including that April game at AT&T Park against Cain.

McDonald faced one more than the minimum in the first five innings. They broke through for a run in the sixth when Gregor Blanco hit a two-out single, advanced on a wild pitch and Ryan Theriot came through with an RBI single in a terrific at-bat. He was down 0-2 before working the count full, then grounded his hit through the middle.
In field

Third baseman Pablo Sandoval ranged to make a nice play that saved a run in the sixth inning and Blanco made a sliding catch in the third, but the Pirates flashed the leather when it most mattered.

After Blanco reached on a bunt single in the ninth, shortstop Clint Barmes turned into a vacuum cleaner on a pair of grounders. Buster Posey flung his helmet after right fielder Garrett Jones ran down a deep drive in the right field corner.

Attendance

The Pirates announced 34,545 paid on Sauna Day at the ballpark.

Up next

The Giants finish their road trip and the unofficial first half with an afternoon game under sweltering skies at PNC Park. Tim Lincecum (3-9, 6.08) will try to keep from melting down against right-hander A.J. Burnett (9-2. 3.74). First pitch is at 1:35 p.m. EDT.

With Bumgarner sidelined, Blach 'taking full advantage' of opportunity

With Bumgarner sidelined, Blach 'taking full advantage' of opportunity

SAN FRANCISCO -- At some point over the next four days, Madison Bumgarner will pick up a baseball, stand a few feet across from a member of the training staff, and simply play catch. It'll be a huge step in Bumgarner's rehab, and should it go well, a boost to the psyche of a struggling team.

In the meantime, another lefty is making sure the Giants don't suffer too much without their ace, as improbable as that first seemed.

Ty Blach took a shutout into the eighth Saturday night and in true Bumgarner fashion, he added a pair of hits and an RBI. The Giants beat the Braves 6-3. They've won Blach's past three starts, and even with a 10-run outing in Cincinnati mixed in, he has a 3.71 ERA since taking the spot left open by a dirt bike accident.

"Because of what happened he's in the rotation," manager Bruce Bochy said, "And he's taking full advantage."

Blach has shown that long term, he might be a big part of this rotation. It's been years since the Giants locked a young, cost-controlled starter in, and Blach has backed up his big cameo last year. It's possible -- likely even -- that at some point the Giants will need to trade a veteran, perhaps Johnny Cueto, for young bats. Blach provides needed insurance. 

Short term, he's providing a huge boost to a team that doesn't have much going right. Blach has thrown at least seven innings in his past four starts. He has allowed just eight earned runs in four starts since the one in Cincinnati, throwing 28 2/3 innings. 

"I feel good," Blach said. "I've always been a starter, so it's been a pretty easy transition to make. I feel comfortable."

The Giants are comfortable behind him, as evidenced by a half-dozen strong defensive plays Saturday. 

"He's been consistent and he works quickly," first baseman Brandon Belt said. "He's just a great guy to play behind."

Blach even joined in at the plate. He had an RBI single in his first at-bat -- his first big league hit off Not Clayton Kershaw -- and later roped another single. Blach even showed off his wheels, busting it from first to third on Denard Span's ball to the corner before Phil Nevin held him up. 

"I worked into some good counts and I was able to get fastballs," Blach said of his night at the plate. "It's definitely a big confidence booster when your spot comes up and you're able to drive in runs."

The night was straight out of Bumgarner's playbook, and it was needed. The Giants had dropped five of six, but Blach was backed by homers from Nick Hundley and Brandon Belt. It got a little hairy late, but the bullpen held on, clinching Blach's third win of the season. He looks poised for many more, and Bochy is happy to keep running him out there.

"I'm not surprised by what he's doing," the manager said.

 

Instant Analysis: Blach does it all vs Braves, Giants snap skid

Instant Analysis: Blach does it all vs Braves, Giants snap skid

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — This spot in the rotation is the one reserved for the stopper, the pitcher who takes a game by the throat when his team really needs it. 

Ty Blach took the mound Saturday for a team that had lost five of six, and just as Madison Bumgarner often has, Blach ended the skid. The young lefty was dominant into the eighth and the bats finally provided enough support. The Giants won 6-3, tying this weekend series with the Braves.

Here are five things to know from a night we were reminded that Emilio Bonifacio is in the big leagues … 

--- Blach pitched 7 2/3 innings. He has thrown at least seven innings in his last four starts, and five of seven starts overall. Jeff Samardzija (6) is the only Giants starter who has gone that deep more often. Blach is tied with Johnny Cueto for second-most seven-inning starts on staff, and Cueto has made three additional starts. 

--- Blach’s RBI single in the fourth was -- at the time -- the fourth hit of his career, and the first against a pitcher not named Clayton Kershaw. The ball had an exit velocity of 101 mph. Blach tried to score from first on Denard Span’s double, but Phil Nevin held him. Still, the way he was moving, it makes you wonder if Samardzija really is Bruce Bochy’s best pitcher-pinch-running option. In the seventh, Blach picked up a second single. 

--- Blach’s only bad start has been the one he made in Cincinnati, where the Giants played like a Double-A team. If you take that one out, Blach has a 2.21 ERA since taking over Bumgarner’s rotation spot. 

--- Even though he gave up just two earned in 7 2/3, Blach’s home ERA actually went up. It’s 1.75, which ranks seventh in the National League. The sellout crowd gave Blach a standing ovation when he was pulled in the eighth. 

--- Blach had a season-high five strikeouts. When he got Nick Markakis to end the first, Blach ended a streak of 37 left-handers faced without a strikeout. He later struck out another lefty, Matt Adams. The new Braves first baseman came up as the tying run in the eighth but Derek Law got him to ground out to first. 

--- Bonus sixth “thing to know” ... on Blach of course: His first name is Tyson, not Tyler. It’s Tyson Michael Blach.