Cain will try to end history of Game 7 pain for Giants

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Cain will try to end history of Game 7 pain for Giants

SAN FRANCISCO The Giants have never won a Game 7 in their128 years of dancing on diamonds. Theyll hand a freshly rubbed baseball andall their hopes to Matt Cain as they seek to outreach the St. Louis Cardinalsfor the NL pennant on Monday.

Could there be a more perfect choice?

What a remarkable follow-up it would be: Barely four monthsafter throwing the first perfect game in franchise history, Cain could becomethe first Giant to punch them through a Game 7 glass ceiling that has createdso many bad memories over the years.
REWIND: Baggarly: Cain pitches MLB's 22nd Perfect Game

The Giants are 0-5 in their history in Game 7s. Theirshortcomings include a roaring red surge at Anaheim in the 2002 World Series,Bobby Richardson gloving Willie McCoveys line drive in the 1962 World Series and, most applicably given their current foe, Jose Oquendos three-run knockoutshot against Atlee Hammaker in the 1987 NLCS at old Busch Stadium.

(Doubtful anyone remembers that 4-3, 12-inning loss to theWashington Senators in Game 7 of the 1924 World Series, or that 3-2, 10-inningloss to the Boston Red Sox to decide it all in 1912. But they had to be cryingat Coogans Bluff back then.)

Cain, for all his postseason experience over the past threeyears, has never participated in a Game 7. The only current Giant who has isRyan Theriot, who was 0 for 5 amid the Cardinals World Series-clinchingvictory over Texas last year.

So this will be a new experience -- but perhaps not adaunting one for a team that already has won five elimination games thispostseason.

The Cardinals are tested, too, having won all six of theirelimination games over the past two postseasons. They stormed back from a 6-0deficit to win their NLDS Game 5 at Washington, too.
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So even if the Giants race out to an early lead againstright-hander Kyle Lohse and theyre confident they will, after letting himoff the hook in Game 3 -- dont expect them to feel comfortable at any point.

Cains job is simple: Keep the ball in the park. Hesallowed four home runs in his three postseason starts, accounting for six ofthe nine runs hes allowed overall. Matt Carpenters two-run shot made thedifference in Game 3 at Busch Stadium and Carpenter is likely to be in thelineup again, if Matt Hollidays lower back issue keeps him out of the lineup.
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Weather is likely to play a huge factor, too, as theforecast calls for intermittent showers and winds up to 20 mph. It might comedown to which team plays the cleanest afield.

Cain was if hed ever had to pitch in a winner-take-all gamebefore.

My senior clear of high school, to go to state (finals)against our rival school, Cain said. But that didn't work out so well forme.

Eleven days ago, when he prepared to pitch atCincinnati in the deciding Game 5 of the NLDS, Cain said he thought of that long-ago game for Houston Highin Germantown, Tenn.

I know it's a long time in between, he said. But I triedto use that, go out there and still have fun with it, enjoy it, not put toomuch on to it.

If the old high school frame of reference sounds familiar, it should. Madison Bumgarner caused all kinds of snickers two years ago when he compared Game 4 of the World Series to his North Carolina highschool district championship game.

"I don't remember if I was one of those guys who madesome fun about it," said Cain, smiling. "I probably did. But that's in a way, that's alot of times what this game is. You almost have to revert back when youwere in Little League because the game is about having fun. And sometimeswhen you put too much on to it, it kind of ruins the moment for you and youdon't end up playing as well as you'd like to if you put too much pressure onyourself.

The Giants have avoided being blinded by that pressure sofar, but Game 7 tends to focus light like a magnifying glass. Even underdarkening, stormy skies.

We all know what situation we're in, Cain said. So it'snot really something that has to be said. But I think it really gets theguys together and gets them thinking, Let's go out there and leave it outthere.Whatever happens, happens."

Giants spring training Day 10: Bochy on board with new rules

Giants spring training Day 10: Bochy on board with new rules

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — During his season managing Barry Bonds, Bruce Bochy watched the slugger get intentionally walked 43 times. 

“There were (managers) who had the (signal) up before he even got to the batter’s box,” Bochy said Wednesday. 

That’s part of the reason Bochy is completely on board with a new rule stating that managers only have to signal for an intentional walk. The elimination of the four pitches has been approved by MLB and the MLBPA, with the caveat that a manager can change his mind in the middle of the plate appearance. 

“I’m fine with it,” Bochy said. “I know a few pitchers are happy because they kind of have a thing about throwing (those pitches), not on our team, but last year it happened to us and we didn’t go. I’m fine with it.”

It’s rare that an intentional ball would go to the backstop, but the Giants experienced it last year against the Yankees. Dellin Betances threw wide as he tried to put Brandon Crawford on and Angel Pagan didn’t react quickly enough to score from third. 

Bochy met with league officials last week to go over some of the new rules and ideas, and he said he wants MLB to keep pushing to cut the time of games. 

“We talk about it so much but we really haven’t done a lot,” Bochy said. “I’m all for (limiting mound visits). I’m all for it, I am. It’s gotten more and more popular in the game. It used to be the catcher, and now it’s the catcher and infielders, and they go to the mound and come back and then the pitching coach goes out there.”

EXHIBITION SCHEDULE: Bochy said Madison Bumgarner is currently slated to start Friday’s Cactus League opener, with Matt Cain also throwing an inning. Ty Blach will start Saturday, Matt Moore and Tyler Beede will pitch Sunday, and Jeff Samardzija will start Monday. It’s possible that 18 or 20 different pitchers will take the mound over the first two days since almost all of them will be scheduled for just three outs. With the exception of Will Smith, every projected Giant should see the field this weekend. Hunter Pence is the only guy who has been held back at all, but his intercostal issue has cleared up. Pence put several on the left-field berm during BP on Wednesday.

“Hunter wants to (play Friday). He's ready to go,” Bochy said. “I’ll make that call tomorrow once I talk to the staff, but Hunter assured me he’s a full go with no limitations, and he really wants to play.”

PROSPECT WATCH: Bochy took the van over to the minor league facility to watch some of the projected Triple-A players take part in live BP. Jae-gyun Hwang hit a homer off Jose Dominguez during his session. 

“He’s a guy that rotates (well) and he’s got good power,” Bochy said. “He can go the other way. He’s got some bat control. He’s got a nice swing.”

Over on the main field, Gorkys Hernandez hit an impressive homer to left-center. 

ICYMI: From this morning, Smith is being held out of workouts. Reporters spoke to him in the afternoon and he said there’s no concern. Also, here’s a podcast with Derek Law and Josh Osich. Subscribe on iTunes if you haven’t … there’s a very popular Giant coming soon.

QUOTABLE: Smith missed time last season because he tore a knee ligament while taking his shoe off, so this spring’s speed bump is somewhat easier to take. He had a message for the trainers: “I said I’m going to sit down every day this spring,” when I take my shoes off.

MLB players’ union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

MLB players’ union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

NEW YORK -- There won't be any wild pitches on intentional walks this season.

The players' association has agreed to Major League Baseball's proposal to have intentional walks without pitches this year.

"It doesn't seem like that big of a deal. I know they're trying to cut out some of the fat. I'm OK with that," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said.

While the union has resisted many of MLB's proposed innovations, such as raising the bottom of the strike zone, installing pitch clocks and limiting trips to the mound, players are willing to accept the intentional walk change.

"As part of a broader discussion with other moving pieces, the answer is yes," union head Tony Clark wrote Wednesday in an email to The Associated Press. "There are details, as part of that discussion, that are still being worked through, however."

The union's decision was first reported by ESPN .

"I'm OK with it. You signal. I don't think that's a big deal," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "For the most part, it's not changing the strategy, it's just kind of speeding things up. I'm good with it."

There were 932 intentional walks last year, including 600 in the National League, where batters are walked to bring the pitcher's slot to the plate.

"You don't want to get your pitcher out of a rhythm, and when you do the intentional walk, I think you can take a pitcher out of his rhythm," Girardi said. "I've often wondered why you don't bring in your shortstop and the pitcher stand at short. Let the shortstop walk him. They're used to playing catch more like that than a pitcher is."

Agreement with the union is required for playing rules changes unless MLB gives one year advance notice, in which case it can unilaterally make alterations. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope Tuesday that ongoing talks would lead to an agreement on other changes but also said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Some changes with video review can be made unilaterally, such as shortening the time to make a challenge.

"I know they were thinking about putting in a 30-second (limit) for managers to make a decision," Francona said. "I actually wish they would. I think it would hustle it up and if we can't tell in 30 seconds, maybe we shouldn't be doing it anyway."