Baker flips script on Giants in Game 1 victory

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Baker flips script on Giants in Game 1 victory

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Eight pitches into Cincinnati's playoff run and it seemed, well, over.Reds ace Johnny Cueto had just delivered a pitch out of his Luis TiantEl Duque delivery and hopped off the mound to the left side, waving with the international signal that he was done. His back had spasmed and, with the pain showing on his face, indeed, he was finished for the night, if not the entire series.NEWS: Cueto exits game after eight pitches
No way the Reds, with just 10 other pitchers on their postseason roster, would be able to withstand the Giants' constant pressure Saturday night, right? Especially not with the Giants' horse on the mound in Matt Cain."I was like, Why? Why? Why?" said Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips. "It kind of sucked."ExceptThe Reds flipped the script on the Giants -- Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker used penciled-in Game 3 starter and Giants nemesis Mat Latos to throw four innings of one-run ball in relief as the Reds took a one-game lead in this best-of-five National League Division Series opener, 5-2."It wasn't planned like that," Baker said."We were just fortunate to win that game, like the way we did tonight. And you got to give big props to Latos.Here is a guy sitting back, relaxed, thinking he was going to pitch next week at home and now all of the sudden, boom, this is his first playoff game.It was a great feat by him."And Cueto's was the shortest postseason start by a pitcher since Atlanta's John Thomson also went 13 of an inning on Oct. 9, 2004.But suddenly, it does not really matter. Especially not if Cueto is able to start Game 3 in place of Latos now.Cueto, who said he initially felt discomfort in his right side before the game and used a heating balm to loosen it up, acknowledged that he felt fine after the game and could see himself making that start come Tuesday in Cincinnati. But he said he had to wait until Sunday morning to see exactly how it felt."Only God knows," Cueto said in Spanish.Saturday night, no one knew the Reds would be able to shut down an opportunistic Giants offense and end a seven-game postseason losing streak while winning their first playoff game since 1995.Consider: Sam LeCure, Latos, Sean Marshall, Jonathan Broxton and Aroldis Chapman combined to limit the Giants to two runs on seven hits, with six walks and five strikeouts."It was Latos' throw day," Baker said."This is his third day, so that's why we didn't want to go any further than we went with him, but we wanted to go with Sam LeCure first, give Latos time to get ready mentally, because as a starting pitcher you have a day or two to get yourself ready mentally, and also give him plenty of time to get ready in the bullpen."The only real blemishes on the Reds' "relievers" were the solo home run Buster Posey hit off Latos in the sixth inning and Chapman's wild ride in the ninth, when he walked two and uncorked a pair of wild pitches while loading the bases.

Cubs outfielder vows he didn't give Trump the middle finger at White House

Cubs outfielder vows he didn't give Trump the middle finger at White House

WASHINGTON – Albert Almora Jr. didn’t use Wednesday’s Oval Office photo op as a subtle form of political protest, but it did sort of look like the Cubs outfielder gave President Donald Trump the middle finger, at least from that angle in an image that went viral on Twitter.    

“There was two fingers! Look closely, there was two fingers!” a veteran player yelled across the room as reporters gathered around Almora’s locker inside the visiting clubhouse at Nationals Park. 

“Guys were giving me a hard time about it,” Almora said, “but I pointed out the second finger. We’re all good.”

In another White House visit that didn’t look nearly as unofficial or informal as the Cubs said it would be, one snapshot became Almora with part of his left hand in his pocket. Almora stood near Kris Bryant – who held a 45 Wrigley Field scoreboard panel – and Trump at his desk with the World Series trophy.

“Obviously, it’s unfortunate,” Almora said with a laugh. “I’m getting ready to take a picture and I’m posing there. But you guys know that I would never do that to the president of the United States. 

“I respect everybody. It is what it is. We laugh about it now, but there’s definitely two fingers out there.”

READ MORE AT CSNChicago.com

Giants notes: Melancon gets injection; Kontos gets an at-bat

Giants notes: Melancon gets injection; Kontos gets an at-bat

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants were annoyed by Monday’s “rubbing teammates the wrong way” report for a number of reasons, but near the top of the list was the fact that the target, Mark Melancon, has been pitching hurt to try and help a last-place team. That’s no longer the case. 

Melancon went on the DL on Wednesday morning and later had a PRP (platelet rich plasma) injection in his right arm to try and ease some of the discomfort in his pronator. He is expected to be out the rest of the first half. Melancon would be eligible to return with two games left until the break, but there’s no point in rushing him. He missed 12 games the first time this came up and he now has more than two weeks to rest before the second half kicks off. 

In the meantime, Sam Dyson is the closer, but he was unavailable Wednesday because of a heavy workload. So Bruce Bochy got creative to close out a 5-3 win over the Rockies. George Kontos came on for a sharp Ty Blach in the seventh and carried the lead to the eighth. Steven Okert got through the 26th out and Hunter Strickland came in to get Ian Desmond to fly out for his first save of the year. 

Because Bochy wanted Kontos to face Pat Valaika in the eighth, he got an at-bat 15 hours after Cory Gearrin got to take his hacks. It at first looked like Kontos had “don’t swing” orders, but he fouled a ball off. 

“The second fastball I got, if it was near the plate, I was going to swing,” he said. 

Kontos said he doesn’t have bragging rights over Gearrin because he fouled a ball off, noting that Gearrin is 1 for 2 in his career and he is 0 for 8. It turns out that they used the same bat, too. Yes, there is a Cory Gearrin model.

“It’s just been hanging out since last year,” Gearrin said, looking down at his equipment bag. “Just in case.”

--- Dan Slania woke up a 4:30, drove to Philadelphia, and boarded a flight that was went down through Nashville to fuel up. He arrived in San Francisco in time for the second inning. And then he watched, met with old teammates, showered … and prepared to fly all the way back to Pennsylvania. 

“I’m going to pass out as soon as I get on the plane,” Slania said. 

He wasn’t complaining at all. The Giants needed a potential innings-eater with Melancon on the DL, and if Slania is sent back down before Friday’s game, he’ll at least be back near Double-A Richmond and the flight back will have been taken on a chartered jet with a bunch of former teammates. Plus he gets a couple of service days. 

“I can tell you it’s well worth it,” Bochy said. 

--- The main story today is about Jae-gyun Hwang, who brought some more life to a team that got its first sweep of the year. The standings are what they are, but the Giants are playing much better, and some players started talking Wednesday about how they’re looking forward to being a spoiler for teams like the Rockies and Diamondbacks. 

More than anything, the players are just happy that they got to listen to the victory soundtrack again and walk out of this park with smiles. 

“We did a really good job of coming into this series and decided what the intent should be,” Nick Hundley said. “We weren’t going to worry about what’s been going on. You control what you can control. It’s nice when the results match up.”

There was a players-only meeting on Monday and Hundley said “everybody got on the same page again.”

Now the tricky part: Keeping it going on the road. 

--- Nolan Arenado is a freak and the Giants should give him a blank check, a ton of Facebook stock, and the rights to the Salesforce building when he’s a free agent in two and a half seasons. 

--- Ryder Jones is hitless in 16 at-bats but he was keeping his head up. He was an inch or two from a double down the line Wednesday and the Giants feel he’s having good at-bats. More than anything, he's not taking those results into the field and he talked about that at length when we sat down for a podcast the other day. If you subscribe on iTunes here, you’ll have it in the morning.