Bumgarner benefits from Crawford's all-around effort

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Bumgarner benefits from Crawford's all-around effort

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SAN FRANCISCO Madison Bumgarner became the firstleft-handed Giants pitcher to win 15 games since Shawn Estes in 2000. TheGiants young southpaw accomplished the feat in Mondays 2-1 win over theColorado Rockies despite mechanics that he described as probably as bad astheyve been all year.Bumgarner labored through six innings, but held the Rockies to one run to helpthe Giants lower their magic number to eight games, with the second-place Dodgersidle Monday.At the tender age of 23, Bumgarner has made a name for himself in the bigleagues thanks to routinely pinpoint control. That wasnt the case Monday.I dont think he was quite as sharp, but he competed reallywell out there, made pitches when he had to, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. Hemixed in a few walks, and thats unlike Madison, and he got in a couple jams,but kept his poise out there and made the pitches when he had to. Thats alwaysa great sign. He found a way to win that ballgame for us.Bumgarners assessment?My mechanics were way off compared to when Im usually on and feeling good,Bumgarner said. I dont know if its necessarily one thing but Im going toget a closer look at it the next couple of days and try to figure it out andget back on track.Bumgarner doesnt think hes back on track, despite picking up the qualitystart after he came into Mondays game with a 7.29 ERA and nine walks over hislast four outings. However, he did say that its encouraging to end up with arespectable pitching line without your A-game.It feels better to win a game like that then it does to goout there when youre really sharp and throwing good, Bumgarner said. Itfeels good to know that if you dont have your best stuff, you can still fightyour way through and give us a chance.I was just trying to battle and make pitches and just keepbattling every inning. I was fortunate to make pitches when I needed to and getout of it.Fortunate may be the right word for Bumgarner, consideringhe only put together one 1-2-3 inning and set a new career-high with his fivefree passes. The only reason the Rockies ended up with a 1 in the run columnis because Bumgarner benefited from some spectacular defense, especially fromshortstop Brandon Crawford. First it was Buster Posey helping Bumgarner with agreat throw to nail Dexter Fowler trying to steal second after a leadoff walkto open the game. Crawford then helped Bumgarner through two more scorelessframes, starting an inning-ending double play in the second and completing aspectacular backhanded grab on a ground ball in the hole with a perfect throwacross his body from the edge of the outfield grass in the third. There weretwo runners on at the time and neither would end up scoring.Bumgarner knew he needed to give Posey and Crawford some credit for theircontributions.Thats big; thats a momentum changer, Bumgarner said of Poseys play in thefirst and Crawfords in the third. Theres no telling what could happen ifthey didnt. I was obviously trying to battle and get out of it, but those aretwo big plays.Bochy appears close to starting a door-to-door campaign forCrawfords Gold Glove candidacy.I dont know whos playing better defensively, Bochy said.Hes got the confidence going, a sense of belonging up here. Hes doing agreat job.While Crawford was known for his defensive pedigree in theminor leagues, it didnt carry over at the start of the 2012 season. His Apriland May struggles are long forgotten in the Giants clubhouse, though.Weve known it all along, Bumgarner said of Crawfordsglove-work. He struggled a little bit earlier in the year, but hes got one ofthe best gloves in the game. Hes very athletic and a really good shortstop.Crawford has been carrying his weight on defense for some time now, but hasntcontributed at the plate with regularity. But he came through with a triple anda double on Monday, the first of which was as close to a home run as you canget at AT&T Park and the second of which would have been a triple if ithadnt skipped over the wall out of play.Crawford led off the third inning with a ball that bouncedoff the top of the wall in center and scored the Giants first run on a passedball. Ian Kinsler wore a stunned look on his face when the same thing happenedto him in Game 2 of the 2010 World Series. Crawford said he hadnt seenKinslers hit but planned to after an unnamed teammate told him about it. Inhis next at-bat, Crawford led off the fifth with a double that wouldve been ahome run in most parks.Both of them off the bat Ithought might be out, Crawford said. But you never know here. Got about asclose as you can without hitting a home run.Once again the Giants won a game without hitting a home run. With the win, SanFrancisco is now an even 42-42 when held homer-less. The Giants are 42-21 whenthey go deep. More importantly, the Giants have now won 29 one-run games, themost in Major League Baseball. Its what you talk about, you hope for in spring training and here we are,Bochy said. These are very exciting games. Of course you can feel it from thecrowd. But we have baseball left and you have to come out here every day and beon your toes.The Giants now have a season-high eight-game lead over the Dodgers in thedivision. But Bochy isnt comfortable with his advantage yet.Youd like to hopefully keep that margin for error and comeout here and go hard every day, Bochy said. All these games are important.Were not taking anything for granted. We have work ahead of us playing goodtimes and thats how you have to approach it. You dont watch what the otherclubs are doing, just focus on what you need to do and thats go out there andplay good ball and play hard.

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants dropping series vs Braves

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants dropping series vs Braves

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SAN FRANCISCO — The kid who raced The Freeze on Thursday night blew a tire as he hit center field, hobbled for about 50 feet, and then went down for good. He still had a better night than the Giants. 

They blew all four tires in the fifth, giving up eight runs in a nightmare frame that turned a two-run lead into a 12-11 loss. The Giants finished 1-7 on the swing through Denver and Atlanta, and they have lost 18 of their last 23 games. 

But, let’s face it, you’re here already. So here are five more things to know from the night … 

—- Matt Cain was hanging in there until the fifth, and then … disaster. The inning started with Brandon Phillips’ solo shot that cut the lead to one. Then it went single, single before Cain was relieved by Bryan Morris. After that, it was single, single, single, sacrifice fly, homer, flyout, walk, single, pitching change, single. 

—- Morris had to wear it in the fifth because the bullpen is short, and boy, did he wear it. Morris gave up five runs on five hits and a walk. His ERA jumped two full points in two-thirds of an inning. 

—- Kyle Crick made his MLB debut in that horrendous bottom of the fifth. The Giants surely did not want to bring him in with runners on, but Bruce Bochy had no choice when Morris blew up. Crick’s first pitch was a 95 mph heater. After giving up a hit in that inning, he pitched a perfect sixth and perfect seventh. Crick topped out at 97 mph. Pretty, pretty good stuff there. He needs to get a long look the rest of this year. 

—- In the second, Buster Posey hit a ball that went 311 feet and had a hit probability of just six percent. Cain hit a ball 357 feet. Posey got a homer that bounced off the top of the wall; Cain just got a double. Baseball is such an odd game.  

—- On a positive note, Javi Lopez, who calls Brandon Belt “Sparky,” repeatedly referred to Posey as Gerald. He’s going to be good at this job. 

Why you shouldn't freak out in June about Cueto's opt-out

Why you shouldn't freak out in June about Cueto's opt-out

SAN FRANCISCO — There’s a very important fact you need to keep in mind when talk of Johnny Cueto’s opt-out comes up, as it so often will over the next six weeks: The Giants always expected him to opt-out after this season, from the moment the ink was dry on the six-year, $130-million contract. 

When you sign at the top of your game and have a chance to hit the market at 31 years old and cash out a second time, you take it. Those are just the rules of professional sports. On the day Cueto was introduced, his agent, Bryce Dixon, said the two-year opt-out was important because they felt Cueto didn’t get a totally fair shot at free agency. 

“Johnny, a little bit unfairly, had a lot of questions about his arm,” Dixon said in December of 2015. “I felt we could reestablish his actual value … He knows he’s as good as (David) Price and (Zack) Greinke, but his situation was a little different.”

The Giants were fine with this, too. The flip side of the opt-out is that if you have the chance to pay a dominant right-hander $46 million over two years, and then escape his mid- to late-thirties, you do it. Every time. You don’t even blink. 

So, here we are, in June of the second year of that deal, with reports that Cueto will opt out. You should take a deep breath because you should have already expected this. But if you didn’t, take comfort in this: By all indications, Cueto has not made a decision, even with the Giants having an unimaginably poor season. 

First of all, Cueto can't make a decision in June. What if the blisters return and he repeats his April ERA a couple more times? What if his elbow starts barking? There are no guarantees with pitchers, and until Cueto gets through the second season, there will be no finality with his decision. 

Aside from the fact that he really can’t make that decision, though, sources insist Cueto hasn’t made up his mind or even thought much about it. People familiar with his thinking continue to say the focus has been baseball all season long, from spring training through his last start. 

Cueto is said to be happy in San Francisco and he enjoys pitching in front of the crowd at AT&T Park. His biggest concern has been wins and losses, and in that respect, this has been a disappointing year for all involved. 

That record has brought the Giants to a crossroads, and this is where it gets interesting. The easy solution is to trade Cueto next month, avoid the opt-out situation entirely, and add prospects to a system lacking them. But, it’s complicated. The Giants do not intend a full teardown, and if they’re going for it again in 2018 — with their core of Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Madison Bumgarner, etc. locked in, that’s the plan — they’ll want that second ace at the top of the rotation. And if Bumgarner doesn’t return to form after an injury, they’ll need Cueto’s presence. 

The Giants have until July 31 to decide what to do with Cueto. He has until three days after the World Series ends to decide what to do with his contract. Here in June, by all indications, those decisions haven’t been made.