Cabrera's Giants teammates 'shocked, stunned' by suspension

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Cabrera's Giants teammates 'shocked, stunned' by suspension

SAN FRANCISCO Melky Cabrera had long since departed the Giants clubhouse by the time histeammates returned after a 6-4 loss to the Washington Nationals Wednesday.The suspended switch-hitter left a few items in his locker, but could notremain to face questions about what led to his positive test for testosterone,a performance-enhancing substance. That left 24 other men to respond to thebarrage of inquiries in his stead.Ultimately it was just a bad decision and thats all Im really going to sayabout it, Giants catcher Buster Posey said. He added that what was said in ameeting that manager Bruce Bochy called before the game was something thatstays between us.Hunter Pence was similarly terse:It happened. We move on. Thats all I have to say.Angel Pagan wouldnt even go that far, offering no comment responses to atleast three questions and clichs to the rest.We have to move on, Pagan said. Weve got a good team so we have to keepplaying.Pablo Sandoval also chose an optimistic team-first approachinstead of addressing one individuals mistake.Were a team. Were going to fight. Thats all I gottasay, Sandoval said.One of the few players willing to open up about Cabrerassuspension was none other than reliever Clay Hensley, who faced his ownsuspension as a minor leaguer in 2005. Hensley only missed 15 games instead ofthe 50 Cabrera faces, but offered the unique perspective of someone whos beenin Cabreras shoes.People are going to make mistakes, Hensley said. You dont ever know whatsgoing on in someones head when they do something like that.Without Cabrera around to explain what was going on in his head, Hensley andBrandon Belt explained what went through their heads when they first learned ofthe news.Everyone was shocked, stunned, Hensley said. Melky will just have to sufferthe consequences.A little bit of shock at first, Belt said of his reaction. Then everybodysaid we have to move on and step up. We still think we have a shot at this.Tim Lincecum, Wednesdays losing pitcher, said he learned of the news becauseit came across the televisions in the clubhouse before Bochy had a chance totalk to his players.That is crushing, obviously, just to hear that our besthitters not going to be in the lineup, Lincecum said. But thats just like aday where they get a day off. Youve got to approach it that way.Unfortunately for Lincecum and the rest of the Giants starters, they will bewithout Cabreras bat backing them in the lineup for the remainder of theregular season. Thats a far cry from an average day off.Were disappointed, Bochy said. Melky was having a real nice year for us,but our thoughts right now are we move on. Thats all you can do this teamwill remain focused on trying to win ballgames.Winning ballgames will be a lot tougher with a Cabrera-less lineup, as the freeagent-to-be was hitting .346 with 149 hits, 84 runs scored, 60 runs driven in,11 home runs and 13 steals. Were going to miss his bat and presence in the clubhouse,Hensley said. It is what it is. We just have to try to win ballgames withouthim Hes a big bat that well miss but it creates opportunities for others tostep up.Gregor Blanco is likely to be the beneficiary of those opportunities movingforward, and he wasted no time taking advantage on Wednesday with two hits andan RBI in four at-bats.Hopefully Gregor takes advantage of the playing time,Bochy said.Blanco said he hadnt talked to Cabrera about the positive test yet, butplanned on contacting him at some point after leaving the clubhouse. He wasalso optimistic that his teammates would help him carry the load left in thewake of Cabreras suspension.We have a great group of guys that can step up, Blancosaid. We just have to hang together Everybody needs to step up and just dotheir jobs.The Giants havent lost a big bat to a PED suspension before Cabrera, but theydid lose their best hitter to a season-ending injury last year when Posey wasbowled over at home plate.Its a tough blow but weve been through this before, Belt said, referring tothe Giants injury woes with both Posey and Sandoval. We know what we have to do.The Giants know what they have to do and know they have to win a playoff seriesjust for the chance to get Cabrera back in uniform. But what they dont know iswhether knowing what you have to do will translate into proper execution andenough wins to even make the postseason.Hensley, though, is ready for the challenge.Its a game of adjustments, so were just going to have toadjust and move forward, he said. We all wish him the best and well all bebehind him when he gets back.

Morse, Arroyo stun Dodgers, lift Giants to thrilling comeback win

Morse, Arroyo stun Dodgers, lift Giants to thrilling comeback win

SAN FRANCISCO — This spring, Hunter Pence briefly tried to cut back on his coffee intake. The experiment did not last long for a player who is pure caffeine on and off the field, but even Pence is occasionally in need of more than a large cold brew. 

Pence tried to stay upbeat throughout a sluggish start to the season, but around him was a clubhouse in need of energy. Christian Arroyo walked through the door on Monday. Two days later, Michael Morse arrived.

“That’s quite an energy jolt,” Pence said of Arroyo. “Morse, it’s been an energy jolt as well.”

The two recent River Cats sent a pair of jolts through a stadium that was sold out for the 499th consecutive time. Arroyo hit a two-run homer in the seventh, his first in the big leagues. Morse went deep in the eighth for his first big league hit in two years and first homer as a Giant since the 2014 NLCS. 

Pence is close friends with Morse and an admirer of Arroyo, the 21-year-old who has taken a locker a few feet away. He made sure neither jolt went to waste, hitting a walk-off sacrifice fly in the 10th to give the Giants a thrilling 4-3 win they hope they can build on.

“That was a shot in the arm,” Morse said.

The big slugger was just that earlier Wednesday. Morse agreed to terms on a minor league deal at Pence’s wedding last winter and he was on track for Opening Day before a hamstring injury. He was so excited by Wednesday’s call back to San Francisco that he beat Bruce Bochy to the park. The manager tried to lower expectations before the game, telling reporters that Morse would not be a regular starter, especially in left, where the Giants have watched a black hole open. 

Morse was here for the late innings, for the moment when Bochy looks at him and says simply, “Get ready, Mo.” For most of Wednesday’s game, it looked like that big moment wouldn’t come. Alex Wood took a no-hitter into the sixth but he was pulled in the seventh by a Dodgers staff trying to protect his arm. Sergio Romo entered and soon faced a kid who was 19 the first time he walked into Romo’s clubhouse. 

“He’s been doing the same thing in the big leagues with good results for a long time,” Arroyo said. 

Arroyo got the slider that’s always coming, low and away, and he drilled it deep to left-center. He hit only three homers last year but Giants management felt the 36 doubles at Richmond showed a developing power bat. The strength has come quickly, and the ball carried into the first row of seats. 

“I looked up and saw the ump waving and I was like, ‘I’ve got to slow down,’” Arroyo said, smiling. “I tried to slow down and take it all in.”

As Arroyo crossed the plate and looked to the sky, his family shared hugs — without spilling a nacho — in a section overlooking the home dugout. The ballpark roared. A 3-0 deficit had been nearly erased. 

“Now it’s a one-run game,” Bochy said. “Anything can happen.”

Even by that standard, Morse’s blast was improbable. This is a player who didn’t have a hit last season before being sent home by the Pittsburgh Pirates. A player who, at 35, was having a poor spring before he announced to a reporter one day that he was going to hit a homer -- and then promptly did. On a rehab assignment over the past week, Morse had a .250 average and no homers, but he insisted to general manager Bobby Evans that his swing was ready. 

Evans believed, and Morse rewarded him with a moment that had everyone in the park throwing it back to 2014. Just as in the deciding game of the NLCS against the Cardinals, Morse was sent up as a pinch-hitter in the eighth. Sidewinding Pat Neshek was replaced by fire-balling Pedro Baez, but the approach was the same. 

“Swing hard,” Morse said. “Just in case you hit it.”

Baez kept pumping fastballs and Morse turned on one at 97 mph. He raised his arm the same way he did three years ago, an inning before Travis Ishikawa’s heroics. 

“I’m not going to lie,” Bochy said. “I was thinking about that game against St. Louis.”

All the Giants were. 

“You kind of just sit there and shake your head a little bit because it was very similar to his last homer here,” Posey said. “Even his excitement out of the box was similar.”

Morse said he didn’t intend to strike the same pose. 

“I was like, ‘I hope I didn’t strike out and I’m just running around the bases,’” he said, laughing. “It was cool, man. Not only for me, but for the team.”

For four innings, the surging bullpen made sure the homers would not be a fun footnote to another loss. Gorkys Hernandez kicked off the winning rally in the 10th with a single. He was pushed along by a stolen base, walk and bunt. Pence stepped in with no outs and engaged in one of the strangest battles of a career full of them. 

Ross Stripling, a starter with a deep repertoire, kept pumping 94 mph fastballs up near Pence’s eyes. Pence swung through one, fouled off five, and took three more for balls. Only one of the pitches he saw was in the strike zone. In the dugout, Posey shook his head in amusement. 

“It was kind of hard not to laugh,” Posey said. “He’s probably the only guy who can do that.”

Some Giants couldn’t hold the laughter in, even in a tense spot.

“He had that ‘Thou shall not walk’ going in that at-bat,” Bochy said. “He probably expanded as much as I’ve ever seen. If he would have walked it would have gone down as one of the more amazing walks with all the balls he swung at.”

On a night full of so much energy, a walk would have been an anticlimactic ending. Pence, who had been expecting a curveball the whole at-bat, lofted a 10th fastball deep enough to left to score Hernandez and send the Giants streaming out of the dugout. 

Arroyo, the youngest of them all, went sprinting across the infield. Morse followed, and soon he had Pence wrapped in a hug. Hours earlier, he had promised that at the very least, he would bring energy to the clubhouse. He delivered more than anyone could have imagined.

“To do that is one of those special moments that can change a season,” Pence said. “It was electric ... Morsey being Morsey.”

Instant Replay: Arroyo, Morse go deep, Giants walk off on Dodgers

Instant Replay: Arroyo, Morse go deep, Giants walk off on Dodgers

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — Michael Morse hoped to bring a little levity to a battered clubhouse Wednesday. On his first day as a Giant since the 2014 World Series, he ended up bringing the most thrilling win of the season. 

Morse’s pinch-hit homer in the eighth shook AT&T Park and tied the game. His good friend Hunter Pence won it with a sacrifice fly in the 10th, giving the Giants a 4-3 win over the Dodgers. 

The 10th-inning rally started with Gorkys Hernandez’s single off Ross Stripling. Hernandez stole second and Conor Gillaspie drew a walk, and both runners were safe when Adrian Gonzalez went to third on Nick Hundley’s bunt. Pence flied out to deep left on the 10th pitch of his at-bat. The Giants had been 0-13 when trailing after seven. Morse  helped change all that.

Morse’s homer came an inning after Christian Arroyo’s first career homer. The newcomers saved a night that started with nothing but failure. 

The Giants entered with four games this month where they failed to put a runner on the first time through the order. Lefty Alex Wood stayed with the theme. Brandon Belt finally touched first with a one-out walk in the fourth but it wasn’t until the sixth that a Giant — Drew Stubbs — picked up a hit.

By that time, the Dodgers led 3-0. Johnny Cueto worked around some early trouble but Corey Seager got to him in the sixth. The young shortstop led off with a mammoth blast on a 3-2 pitch that landed a couple dozen rows up in left-center. The homer was tracked at 462 feet per Statcast, tied for the longest in the Majors this season.

The Dodgers went up 2-0 when Chase Utley blooped a single to left with the bases loaded. Utley was 1-for-31 at the time. Andrew Toles beat out a grounder to bring home a third run. 

The Giants looked dead in the water, but Wood — the Dodgers’ swingman — was pulled after 77 pitches and old friend Sergio Romo immediately opened the door. Buster Posey hit a one-out single and Arroyo lined a slider just over the fence in left-center.

Morse’s first at-bat as a Giant in three years sent an even bigger charge through the park. He got a 97 mph fastball from Pedro Baez with two strikes and blasted it to left. Morse held his arm up right away and screamed as he rounded first.

Starting pitching report: Cueto was charged with three runs on seven hits and two walks. He’ll finish April with a 5.10 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. After holding opposing hitters to a .238 average last year, he’s getting hit at a .271 clip this season. 

Bullpen report: Steven Okert did a great job of settling the place down, throwing a scoreless inning before Arroyo’s homer and retiring two more immediately after. 

At the plate: The 21-year-old Arroyo calmly clapped his hands once as he rounded first. He was pushed out of the dugout for a curtain call as the park roared. Most impressive of all, his mom, Kimberly, didn’t drop a single nacho as she celebrated in the stands.

In the field: Stubbs made a diving catch to open the seventh and Gorkys Hernandez followed with a nifty sliding catch at the wall.

Attendance: The Giants announced a crowd of 41,572 human beings. Thursday will be the 500th consecutive (announced) sellout.

Up next: Matt Moore (1-3, 5.87 ERA) will try to turn his month around. The Dodgers will trot out young lefty Julio Urias, who spent three weeks in the minors to control his innings count.