Bochy keeps cards close when it comes to playoff rotation


Bochy keeps cards close when it comes to playoff rotation

SAN FRANCISCO -- Bruce Bochyis keeping his cards close to the vest when it comes to the Giants' playoff rotation. But he did confirm that Madison Bumgarner will start Game 2 Sunday at AT&T Park after Matt Cain takes the ball inthe opener against the Cincinnati Reds.

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You look at the years that Matt and Madison have had,thats why theyre going Game 1 and Game 2, Bochy said Thursday afternoon ashe watched his players work out at AT&T Park. We feel like thesetwo have earned these starts and thats why theyre out there.Cain and Bumgarner tied for the team lead with 16 wins apiece, with the formerposting a rotation-leading and career-best 2.79 ERA and 193 strikeouts. WhileCain beat up on other NL Central opponents, including a perfect game against theHouston Astros, he allowed eight runs in 13 innings against the Reds. Histeammate, left-handed reliever Jeremy Affeldt, isnt worried though.When he faced them the last few times, I think he had some pitches working forhim, but he didnt have the other pitches working for him, Affeldt said. Fromwhat Ive seen his last few outings out, he seems to be controlling hisoff-speed and his fastball pretty well. And hes not afraid to throw whateverin any count. So I think that Matt doesnt really shy down to any kind ofopponent, no matter how hes faced them before.Just as Affeldt endorsed Cain, outfielder Hunter Pence did the same for BochysGame 2 choice.Bumgarners pitched excellent, Pence said. Every one of our pitchers hasdone a good job and earned a spot. Our pitching is a big reason why we won theNL West.Pence came to the Giants in a deadline deal and, unlike many of his newteammates, has faced Bumgarner before. In fact, Pence has three hits, includingtwo solo home runs, in just five at-bats against the Giants young lefty. Pencetold Comcast SportsNets Amy Gutierrez what makes Bumgarner so effective.Hes got a really good angle; just a lot of movement. Hesgot a real good cutter. His long leverage is something unique that you dontsee very often. Hes got a lot of deception.Deception is something Bochy knows a little something about, considering hetold beat reporters after Wednesdays regular-season finale in Los Angeles that hed announce his fullplayoff rotation after Thursdays workout. He quickly changed his mind.Well announce the rest of the rotation a little later,Bochy said. Obviously, we want to talk to the guys. Really, thats where wereat right now. The candidates to start Game 3 are Tim Lincecum, RyanVogelsong or Barry Zito and Bochy said that all three could come out of hisbullpen in the best-of-five National League Division Series.We want to keep our options open for games three, four andfive, Bochy said. We may have to switch the order, so instead of setting itright now, we just decided to announce Game 1 and Game 2.Zito, who has six relief appearances in his Giants careerbut none in his Athletics tenure, said he is ready for whatever Bochy needs himfor. Were all flexible here; weve all shown that we can pitchin various roles, said Zito, who has allowed five runs in six innings as areliever. If Im on a mound, Im on a mound and I look forward to that.Bochy masterfully managed his bullpen en route to a World Series win in 2010and has been put to the test in 2012 because closer Brian Wilson was lost for theseason in early April. But his closer-by-committee approach has been workingand he has no intention of fixing what aint broke.Well use everybody and theyve done a great job doing it,Bochy said. We now have at least one long guy to help us in the bullpen andgive us coverage there. Im not going to really make any changes now becauseits been working. Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez, Jeremy Affeldt and Santiago Casilla willall be used in the eighth and ninth and maybe the seventh; and well have astarter to help out.There arent many more mysteries surrounding Bochys playoff plans. Although hehas not made it official, its safe to assume Gregor Blanco will start in leftover Xavier Nady in Games 1 and 2 with the Reds starting right-handed pitchers.But after that, if he decides to use Hector Sanchez to catch Tim Lincecumandor Barry Zito, theres a chance that Brandon Belt could shift to left withBuster Posey playing first base. Belt has played just 27.1 innings in theoutfield this season compared to nearly 1,000 at first base. But, like Zito,hes prepared for any assignment.If that scenariodoes arise, Ill be ready for it, Belt said.If Belt starts all three necessary games in the NLDS, hellhave surpassed his managers postseason playing experience at the tender age of 24.Bochy amassed just two career playoff at-bats, one in 1980 with Houston and another in 1984 with San Diego. That gives him a perspective hewants to pass down to his players.You cherish it; its what you play for. These guys haveearned that. This is when the fun begins.

After Stratton leads way in Giants' shutout, what does his future hold?

After Stratton leads way in Giants' shutout, what does his future hold?

SAN FRANCISCO — After the final out Monday night, a round table was carried into the corner of the home clubhouse at AT&T Park and surrounded by chairs. Eleven players were sitting, eating, drinking and laughing as Chris Stratton prepared to address the media. 

It was a rare sight for the Giants these days, a very rare sight. But then, so was Monday’s result. Stratton led the way in a 2-0 win over the Brewers that was the first home shutout of the season and motivated the joyous post-game scene. 

The shutout was just the second of the season for the staff. Ty Blach went the distance in the other one and Stratton, a fellow rookie, did the heavy lifting Monday, throwing six strong innings before giving way to the bullpen. Matt Cain pitched the seventh, Mark Melancon pitched the eighth while going back-to-back for the first time in three months, and Sam Dyson closed it out quickly. 

There’s a chance that Stratton joins that group in a few days. Johnny Cueto is scheduled to make a rehab start on Tuesday night in Sacramento and that could put him on track to return to the rotation a turn later. That would line up with Stratton’s next start, but Bruce Bochy wasn’t ready to kick the young righty out of the rotation, not after back-to-back scoreless starts against two of the better lineups in the league. A few days after striking out 10 Washington Nationals, Stratton cut through the Brewers. He has 12 2/3 scoreless innings over his past two appearances. 

“For how we’re using him, he’s really handled it well,” Bochy said. “We skipped him, moved him back three or four days, but he doesn’t let it faze him. This is an important time for these young players coming up, whether it’s (Ryder) Jones or (Jarrett) Parker or Stratton. They’re trying to show they belong in the Major Leagues.

“You’re hoping these guys show they’re ready to play here and we don’t have to do something else because we can do it internally.”

Bochy said he could use a six-man rotation when Cueto returns, or a starter could be skipped. That will all sort itself, but the manager made one thing clear. 

“We’d like to pitch him as much as we can,” Bochy said of Stratton.

That’s the same thing Bochy used to say of another right-hander, one he compared Stratton to before Monday’s game. Bochy was asked about Yusmeiro Petit, and he smiled and fondly stated, “He was so good. So good.” The Giants see some Petit in Stratton. He is unaffected by long layoffs and he’s capable of starting, relieving, or even pumping his fastball up a couple ticks for short outings. 

Petit was a mainstay in San Francisco for years, a key cog in a championship team. Bochy has been looking for that piece since Petit departed in free agency, and Stratton seems like he might be suited for the role. He will want more, of course, because all pitchers do. The Giants will give him five more weeks here to try and earn that. 

For the moment, Stratton’s focus is elsewhere. He turns 27 on Monday and the celebration started early. As Stratton answered questions, veterans at the table heckled him about striking out just one Brewer. 

“I left all the strikeouts in Washington, I guess,” Stratton said. 

Nick Hundley walked up with a TV remote and held it up between the cameras. 

“What was your thought on the punchout?” he asked. 

“I’m glad he swung,” Stratton said, smiling. “It was a ball.”

“Did you think about getting any more?” Hundley asked. 

With that, he smiled and ducked back behind the cameras to return to the celebration in the corner. A few minutes later, Stratton joined him.

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' first home shutout of 2017

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' first home shutout of 2017


SAN FRANCISCO — Ty Blach has been a bright spot in this losing season, giving the Giants a young, cost-controlled lefty who can potentially fill a huge role next season. Chris Stratton is trying to do the same thing from the right side. 

The 26-year-old continued his August surge, throwing six dominant innings against the Brewers in a 2-0 win that was the staff's first shutout at AT&T Park this season. 

It was the kind of night that's been so familiar over the years. The Giants had six home shutouts last season. Here are five things to know from this year's first ... 

—- The Brewers are first in the league in homers and the Nationals are third, so Stratton had his work cut out for him the last two times out. His results: 12 2/3 innings, 9 hits, 0 runs, 3 walks, 11 strikeouts. That’s quite the statement. Stratton’s scoreless streak is the longest by a Giants rookie starter since Chris Heston threw 16 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings in July of 2015. 

—- Matt Cain was used as a short reliever to protect a two-run lead in the seventh. He had a 1-2-3 inning that ended with a strikeout. 

—- Mark Melancon pitched back-to-back games for the first time since May 19-20. He struck out Neil Walker and Ryan Braun in a perfect inning. 

—- Jarrett Parker reached base his first three times up. He’s hitting .385 at home this season but he’s just 4-for-35 (.114) on the road. Weird splits for a Giant slugger. 

—- Brandon Crawford is finally finding some traction. His double in the fourth was the big hit in a two-run frame that gave Stratton a lead to work with. Crawford is 7-for-17 on the home stand with three extra-base hits and four RBI.