Beltran shies from Pence comparison, expects 'crazy' fans

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Beltran shies from Pence comparison, expects 'crazy' fans

SAN FRANCISCO -- Perennial All Star Carlos Beltran has a unique perspective on the upcoming NLCS between the Giants and Cardinals after spending the second half of last year in San Francisco before signing as a free agent with St. Louis in the offseason.

You might think his familiarity with the Giants organization would give him the upper hand.

"C'mon, no," Beltran brushed away the notion. "You still have to out there and play the games."

The Giants gave up blue-chip pitching prospect Zack Wheeler to acquire Beltran less than three months before he entered free agency. (Wheeler was elevated from Double-A to Triple-A in the Mets organization this year, and went 12-8 with a 3.26 ERA and 148 strikeouts in 25 combined starts.) But Beltran doesn't have any particular message for Giants fans who were upset that the front office didn't make a move to bring him back.

"I made it clear before the (2011) season was over that I was willing to come back," Beltran reiterated Saturday. "Yes, I had a good time (with the Giants), I really enjoyed the opportunity. I think this organization is always taking the right steps to try to put a good team out there and win. I stayed in the offseason and they never called. But as a player I have to make my move."

The move was to the defending world champions, where Beltran signed a two-year, 26 million contract.

If the Giants gave Beltran an extension, the chances that they acquire Hunter Pence from the Philadelphia Phillies at the trade deadline are none.

Beltran avoided a direct comparison with Pence.

"It's hard for me to talk about myself, so I will talk about him," Beltran opted. "I believe he is a good ballplayer. He shows a lot of emotions, a lot of energy in the field. He does everything hard. And I believe since the time he was acquired from Philadelphia he did a good job for the organization. So they should be proud of him."

In reality, Giants fans are more proud of the source of inspiration Pence has provided, rather than his on-field production. Pence's 4-for-20 (.200) NLDS with no runs or RBIs pales in comparison to Beltran's monster series. The seven-time All Star, three-time Gold Glover and two-time Silver Slugger was 8-for-18 (.444) with two home runs, two doubles, four RBIs and five runs scored.

Not surprisingly, Beltran is picking himself over Pence in right field.

"I'm always going to believe in myself," Beltran explained diplomatically. "I believe we will (both) go out there and do well, but our production won't mean anything if the rest of the guys don't play well."

No matter how the rest of the guys play, their respect for Beltran is steadfast, especially that of his former New York teammate and Giants centerfielder Angel Pagan.

"He's my mentor," Pagan said. "Any time I had a question or anything I went to him. I always want to get better, even if it's the last day of my career. And he's such a good hitter and such a great guy."

Direct comparisons between Pence and Beltran will be made, but the only thing that really matters is the outcome of the games.

RELATED: Carlos Beltran stats Hunter Pence stats
Health shouldn't affect Beltran's impact on those games; the 35-year old missed time with the Giants last year with an injured right hand and will play the rest of his career on a right knee that has little cartilage after multiple surgeries. With his knee brace sitting idle in his locker, Beltran announced Saturday he feels completely healthy.

"It's going to be a fun one," Beltran said of the 2012 National League Championship Series. "That's no doubt. This place is going to be packed. Fans are crazy about baseball here."

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny also has ties with the Giants after catching for San Francisco in 2005 and '06. The former Willie Mac Award winner also foresees a good series, though he's not ready to cast it as "fun" just yet.

"I see a knock-down, drag out."

Early offense, six strong from Cueto lift Giants past Braves in finale

Early offense, six strong from Cueto lift Giants past Braves in finale

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO -- The blisters on Johnny Cueto's middle and index fingers that limited his effectiveness in his last few starts haven't yet completely healed.

But the two-time All-Star is learning to pitch with them.

Cueto threw six strong innings and Brandon Crawford drove in three runs as the San Francisco Giants defeated the Atlanta Braves 7-1 on Sunday.

Cueto (5-4) bounced back from his roughest stretch as a Giant. He was 0-3 with a 4.33 ERA in his previous four starts.

"They're not bothering me like they were before," Cueto said through a translator. "I'm just getting used to it but I have to continue pitching until they get better."

The Giants won their third straight home series and posted their 11th victory in 18 games overall.

Crawford's two-run single highlighted a four-run second against R.A. Dickey (3-4) that made it 6-0.

Matt Kemp had three hits for Atlanta. But the Braves couldn't get much going against Cueto, who allowed one run on six hits and a walk. Cueto struck out eight, including five in a row at one point.

"He did what he needed to do to get us out," Kemp said. "We had chances to score runs and we didn't. I think in this series we really didn't do a good score of scoring runs."

Dickey allowed a season-high seven runs (six earned) on six hits and five walks in six innings.

"This can be a challenging place to throw because of the wind because it swirls so much," Dickey said.

Eduardo Nunez and Gorkys Hernandez each had two hits for the Giants. Joe Panik tripled to start the second-inning burst.

Cueto had two productive at-bats, bunting a runner to second in the second inning and driving in a run with a sacrifice fly in the third.

"It's always nice to have a lead and I thought Johnny was the sharpest he'd been this year," Giants catcher Buster Posey said. "Hopefully it's something he can build on. The changeup was working really well and his command of the fastball was really good."

Posey was 0 for 2 with two walks. He hasn't struck out in 55 consecutive plate appearances.

FUN FACTOR:
The Giants scored the game's first run when Nunez came around from third when a knuckleball glanced off catcher Kurt Suzuki glove in the bottom of the first. The play was ruled a passed ball. Asked if he had any empathy for the plight of his counterpart, Posey said "Yes, no question. It's not fun to hit, it doesn't look fun to catch, either."

FANCY FIELDING:
Hernandez made a diving catch in the gap in left-center robbing Emilio Bonifacio of an extra-base hit with one out in the seventh inning.

TRAINER'S ROOM:
Braves: 2B Brandon Phillips left in the fifth for pinch-hitter Jace Peterson. Phillips fouled a ball off his foot in his last at-bat in the third.

Giants: LHP Madison Bumgarner will start his throwing program on Friday, manager Bruce Bochy said. Bumgarner will start out playing catch and make five rehab starts. The 2014 World Series MVP suffered a separated left shoulder in a dirt biking accident. "The progress is happening," Bochy said. "I think he sees light at the end of the tunnel." ... Slumping rookie INF Christian Arroyo was out of the lineup on Sunday and his playing status appears uncertain. Arroyo, who turns 22 on Tuesday, is 0 for 19 in his last five games. "I'll talk to him, about what his situation is," Bochy said. "I'm definitely planning on giving him a couple of days" off.

UP NEXT:
Braves: RHP Julio Teheran will make his first career start against the Angels in Anaheim on Monday. He is 3-9 with a 5.63 ERA in 15 career interleague starts.

Giants: LHP Matt Moore will face the Nationals for the second time in his career. He was with Tampa Bay when he gave up two runs in five innings against Washington in 2012.

Giants lineup: Posey catching, Nunez at third base against Braves

Giants lineup: Posey catching, Nunez at third base against Braves

The Giants look to win two straight against the Braves and Bruce Bochy has made a few changes to the lineup Sunday.

Atlanta Braves (21-26)

1. Ender Inciarte (L) CF
2. Brandon Phillips (R) 2B
3. Nick Markakis (L) RF
4. Matt Kemp (R) LF
5. Matt Adams (L) 1B
6. Kurt Suzuki (R) C
7. Rio Ruiz (L) 3B
8. Dansby Swanson (R) SS
9. R.A. Dickey (R) P

San Francisco Giants (21-30)

1. Denard Span (L) CF
2. Eduardo Nunez (R) 3B
3. Brandon Belt (L) 1B
4. Buster Posey (R) C
5. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
6. Justin Ruggiano (R) RF
7. Joe Panik (L) 2B
8. Gorkys Hernandez (R) LF
9. Johnny Cueto (R) P