Bochy makes passionate defense of Pence, etc.


Bochy makes passionate defense of Pence, etc.

Programming note: Tune into Comcast SportsNet Bay Area after the final out of tonight's Game 4 for Giants October Quest, with highlights and reaction from St. Louis!

ST. LOUIS Everybody needs a motivational talk sometimes.Even motivational speakers.

So Giants manager Bruce Bochy took aside Hunter Pence, whohasnt driven in a run in eight postseason games and called himself the goatafter stranding five runners in the 3-1 loss in Game 3 Wednesday night.

Bochy dropped Pence in the order, from fifth to sixth. He said it never entered his mind to drop Pence entirely.

Instead, Bochy flip-flopped the middle of his order, moving Buster Posey up to third and entrusting Pablo Sandoval with Pence's former duty -- makingsure the NL batting champ would get pitches to hit.

Hector Sanchez is hitting fifth; Posey is playing first base,replacing Brandon Belt in the lineup.

Xavier Nady has a .391 career average against Cardinalsright-hander Adam Wainwright, but Bochy did not consider starting him. The manager iscasting his lot with Pence, who drove in over 100 runs in the regular seasonand fires up his teammates with passionate speeches amid a high school huddleprior to every playoff game.

And heres why:

Certain players, I believe, you need in the lineup, Bochysaid. I believe you need them for their energy and for how much theirteammates respect them and how they play the game. I dont believe, except on therare occasion, you sit a player like that unless hes absolutely lost.

If you have an everyday player who gives you everything hesgot and you know how much he means to a club, then I think he should be outthere.

You can debate whether Pence and absolutely lost belongin the same sentence. If that's your contention, youd have some evidence based on his at-bats and theway hes tapping out on one outside slider after another.

But Bochy said he likes the way Pence is staying aggressiveand not cheating himself with his swings.

Those guys are dangerous hitters because they may expandthe zone, but they also can hit a pitch out of the zone, Bochy said. I alsolook at the makeup of a player and how they carry themselves. To me, that meansa lot.

Hes taking his swings. Now, if you have a player whosfrozen up there, or caught in between, thats more of a concern. If youregoing to go down, go down swinging. Thats the typeof player he is.

Bochy did not mention Belts name, but you couldn't miss the inference. Belt struck out lookingand shook his head at the umpire after taking a borderline pitch in the seventhinning to strand two runners. Pence proceeded him by going down swinging.

Its possible likely, even that Sanchez will startbehind the plate in Game 5, too, when Barry Zito takes the mound. Both Zito hasthrown to Sanchez almost exclusively this season; Game 4 starter Lincecum and Posey have beenbatterymates only a few times since the All-Star break.

Well see how it goes tonight, Bochy said.

Madison Bumgarner is in Lincecum's former long relief role, beginning now. Bochy said Bumgarner is "in a good place" after a couple of bullpen sessions. It's hard to imagine we'll see the same pitcher until he gets an offseason to rest and recharge, though.

Williamson stuns Davis in ninth, but earlier mistakes haunt Giants

Williamson stuns Davis in ninth, but earlier mistakes haunt Giants

CHICAGO — Had a half-dozen other things gone differently Wednesday night, the Giants might have spent the hour after the game shrugging off a blowout loss or celebrating one of the best at-bats of the year. 

Three innings after the game was nearly lost for good, Mac Williamson saw 12 pitches from Wade Davis, who entered with a perfect ERA in 19 appearances, fouling eight of them off before slamming a two-run homer to right. The play came with some comedic value, as Williamson nearly passed Eduardo Nuñez on the bases. It also came with some historic value, as it snapped a streak of 19 consecutive solo shots that was two shy of the MLB record. 

The homer was not, however, the talking point after the game. A few minutes after Williamson went deep, Joe Panik was tossing his bat into the grass in frustration over a called third strike that ended the game and clinched a 5-4 win for the Cubs. Ten minutes after that, Bruce Bochy watched the highlight and tossed his phone onto his desk. 

“It’s a shame to end on that call, it really is,” Bochy said. “We had him on fumes and that’s not a strike. But they got the call and that’s it.”

The Giants were left with their third loss in four games, a run that has halted their momentum. They again are 11 games back in the National League West, with so many nights like this one: A comeback seemed real, but the mistakes were too much to overcome. 

Williamson, in talking about his homer, pivoted and pointed to a blunder of his own. In a tied game in the fifth, Miguel Montero hit a single to right with Addison Russell on first. The speedy shortstop watched Williamson as the ball rolled into the outfield, and when Williamson didn’t charge as hard as he otherwise might, Russell took off for third. The throw was perfect, but late. Russell scored on a fly ball. 

“The home run is really cool but it would have been a lot cooler if I hadn’t have made the mistake earlier in the game and given them the extra run,” Williamson said, explaining that he has tried to focus on being smooth to the ball and not rushing on fast outfields. In the past, rushing has led to bobbles and extra bases. 

Another costly sequence came in the eighth. After the Giants left the bases loaded in the top of the inning, Steven Okert gave up a triple to Jason Heyward, who scored on a sacrifice fly. Okert, so good when he was first called up, has been less effective of late. 

“We’ve got to get our lefties going,” Bochy said. “We gave them a run there and that put it at three and that’s just enough to cover it for them.”

Truth be told, the Giants were probably lucky to even have worries at that point. The wind blew a three-run Heyward homer inches foul in the sixth, and while the Giants grumbled about the final call of the game, an earlier call on Heyward for running inside the base path took a Cubs run off the board and killed a rally. It was correct by the letter of the law, but one you rarely see. The Giants escaped, but they wouldn’t come all the way back, despite Williamson’s late push. 

The young outfielder has been looking to make an impact since coming back up on the last homestand. He knew how tough Davis has been. 

“He’s been the best in the game this year and the numbers speak for themselves,” Williamson said. “He has phenomenal stuff. You get in the box and figure you’ve got nothing to lose, battle as tough as you can.”

Williamson fouled off good strikes and tantalizing balls. When he lofted a 2-2 pitch toward right, he took off out of the box. The ball carried just over the wall, and Williamson didn’t look up until he rounded third. That’s when Phil Nevin started yelling at him to slow down. Nuñez, who had a tight hamstring, turned and told Williamson to slow down.

“I kinda blacked out for a second there,” Williamson said. 

“I was like, ‘Bro, it’s a homer — just jog,’” Nunez said.

The moment temporarily sent a rush through the dugout. Minutes later, the Giants were left livid over a game that probably shouldn’t have been so close, but nonetheless was right there for them to steal. 

Instant Analysis: Giants' rally falls short in 5-4 loss to Cubs

Instant Analysis: Giants' rally falls short in 5-4 loss to Cubs


CHICAGO — The Giants will need a win on getaway day to clinch their first winning road trip.

Wednesday's comeback attempt fell just short, as the Giants scored two in the ninth but lost to the Cubs 5-4. Since taking the first two games in St. Louis, they have dropped three of four, falling 11 games back of the Rockies in the division.

Here are five things to know from the coldest Giants game of the year … 

— Mac Williamson fouled off eight pitches before going the opposite way against Wade Davis, who entered with a 0.00 ERA in 19 appearances. The two-run homer ended a run of 19 consecutive solo shots by the Giants, two short of their own MLB record. It was the first homer off Davis in two years. 

— The sixth inning was one of the stranger escapes we’ve seen from a pitcher this season. With two on and one out, Jason Heyward blasted a Matt Moore pitch right down the line and it looked like it would give the Cubs a 6-2 lead. The wind blew the ball a couple of feet foul. Heyward then topped one down the line and Moore’s throw bounced away from first, allowing a run to score. But the umpires called — correctly — Heyward out for running inside the line. It’s a call you rarely see. Moore then struck out Addison Russell to keep what could have easily been a 6-2 or 4-2 game at 3-2. 

— Before the first game of this series, a Giant asked in the dugout, “I wonder what some of the Cubs’ numbers would look like at our place?” Anthony Rizzo is a .159 hitter with no homers in 18 career games at AT&T Park, but he had no issues on a night when conditions were worse than they are most nights in San Francisco. Rizzo homered off Moore in his first two at-bats. 

— Rizzo will occasionally put a bunt down to beat the shift — he had an accidental bunt in his third at-bat — which the Giants have long wanted Brandon Belt to do. Belt pushed one away from the shift in the sixth, and even though it was too close to pitcher Kyle Hendricks, the throw was off and Belt reached second. One of those a week would open up a few more holes. 

— This lineup has made a habit of making mediocre and downright bad pitchers look good, and the actual good ones are taking advantage, too. A night after Jon Lester recorded his first complete game of the year, Hendricks threw seven innings for the first time.