Casilla to Giants fans: 'I can do this job'

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Casilla to Giants fans: 'I can do this job'

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PHILADELPHIA A thought drifted through Santiago Casillas mind with two outs in the 10th inning and Jimmy Rollins stepping to bat.

It wasnt that Casilla had blown five of his previous eightsave attempts. It wasnt the firm reminder that pitching coach Dave Righettiand manager Bruce Bochy had given him to keep mixing his pitches to the veryend. It wasnt the cacophony of voices from back home who want the Giants toget an established closer on the trade market.

Instead, Casilla thought back to the last time he stood onthis mound, in this place. It was Game 2 of the 2010 NL Championship Series,and he gave up the bases-clearing double to Rollins that blew open a tightgame.

With a one-run lead and the tying run on first base, Casillathought this: This is a different game. This is going to be different.

He mixed his pitches to the end.

Casilla bought a strike with his slider, he missed with acurveball, then he came back with a backdoor cutter that Rollins mildly put inplay to seal the Giants 6-5 victory and ensure a pair of series victories onthis tough trip to Atlanta and Philadelphia.

RECAP: Baggs' Instant Replay -- Giants 6, Philliese 5 (10)

It felt like the Giants played a weeks worth of games in onelate afternoon, for all the back-and-forth action on Saturday. They rallied after Ryan Howards crushing, three-run shot off Matt Cain put thembehind. They tied it on Melky Cabreras solo shot and took the lead againstPhillies closer Jonathan Papelbon with a squeeze of redemption from GregorBlanco.

So when the Giants moved to the bottom of the 10th, they entrusted Casilla to protect more than just aone-run lead on the road. He was protecting their collective effort, theirspirit and their tenacity. To blow this one wouldve been an especially harshshock to the system. It's games like these that make executives spend millions to have "that guy" in the bullpen.

Bochy said he briefly considered letting Sergio Romo hit forhimself in the 10th so he could start the bottom of the inning. But Bochy thought it would be a needless risk. Hehad Casilla rested and ready, and he still believed in him. He wanted to makesure his closer, for all his struggles in the last two weeks, got that message,too.

That should build some confidence, Bochy said. Heregrouped. You could see he came out pitching right away a different guy.

Casilla went curve-slider-curve to retire John Mayberry Jr.on a fly out. Righetti came out for a visit following a walk to PlacidoPolanco, just to remind the right-hander not to get too cheddar-happy.

And when Casilla got two strikes on pinch hitter Ty Wigginton, he didn't go dead red. He buried one ofthose spike curves of his, Wigginton couldn't lay off and Buster Posey blocked it to get the strikeout.

Casilla made an interesting comment after the game. He said he had fallen intothe trap of pitching like it was the sixth or seventh innings, when hitters arestill trying to take pitches or time fastballs. He noted that he gave up only twohome runs last year but already has surrendered six this season.

The ninth is different because they swing hard, he said.Ive learned a little bit. Too many fastballs with two strikes. I have a goodslider. I have a good curve.

Thats why he said he didnt lose confidence, even when hewas giving up the lead with alarming frequency. His stuff wasn't the problem.

I never lose the feeling in my heart, Casilla said. Iknow I can pitch any inning. I dont lose that. You make a mistake here, youhave to pay and I pay!

But I feel good to know the manager, Bochy, he believes inme.

From everything I'm told, that belief is authentic. The Giants really do think theycan make it down the stretch and thrive in the postseason with Casilla in thecloser role. Theyll look to upgrade in the bullpen, for sure, and JonathanBroxton is an arm they like. Other closers, such as Rafael Betancourt andHuston Street, are less obtainable. Brett Myers just got dealt to the WhiteSox. So obtaining another closer isnt as easy as the catalog of names mightsuggest. If help arrives, it's more realistic that it'll come in the form of another right-handed setup man.

I asked Casilla: What would you tell people who arentconvinced you can be this teams closer down the stretch and into the playoffs?

I tell them that sometimes you go through a bad time,Casilla said. "I tell them that I know if I keep pitching, I can help this team.I can do this job. I tell them 'hey, were in first place.'

Casillas save was his 24th in 30 opportunities,third in the NL behind Craig Kimbrel and Joel Hanrahan.

He was in the middle of telling reporters that he didntcare about any statistics except team victories when Clay Hensley, residentwise guy, shouted from across the room: Aw, dont believe him. He just caresabout saves and ERA.

Hensley was smiling all the while. Casilla wasted no timewhile delivering a comeback line:

Hey! We won a World Series here, and you werent here!

Now thats how you mix it up.

Giants get blanked by Braves, now have lowest-scoring team in majors

Giants get blanked by Braves, now have lowest-scoring team in majors

SAN FRANCISCO — Over in Cleveland earlier Friday, Brandon Moss hit a three-run homer for the visiting team and five other players chipped in a pair of hits. The Royals had six runs, which meant that when Jim Johnson closed the Giants out a few hours later, what has seemed true all season became officially true. The Giants have the lowest-scoring lineup in the majors.

At 3.32 runs per game, they have dipped below the equally-disappointing Royals (3.38). They are capable at the moment of making any pitching staff look dominant. A 2-0 shutout was the first of the year for the Braves, who previously had just two games this season where they allowed fewer than two runs. 

“Six runs in (the last) four games … I thought we would come home and get some rips in tonight, but it didn’t happen,” Bruce Bochy said. 

The manager’s frustration showed late in this one. After the only rally of the game — a two-run single by opposing pitcher Jaime Garcia — Bochy took his cap off and rubbed his forehead. He dipped his head and briefly stood as if he was going to fall asleep on the rail. The bats were equally still. 

The Giants had just four hits, all of them singles against Garcia, who is a nice pitcher but hardly one of the league’s best. One was an infield single by Eduardo Nuñez, another a single through Garcia’s five-hole, and a third a generous ruling by the official scorekeeper. 

“It comes down to, you’ve got to get some hits and create opportunities, and we’re not doing it very often,” Bochy said. “It’s just a matter of guys getting somewhat hot. We did, we had some success, and we won some games. The thing you like to see is some good cuts and I didn’t think we got enough of those tonight.”

That run, which spanned the last homestand and small parts of two road trips, has come to a screeching halt. The Giants have lost five of six. It seems silly to scoreboard-watch in May, especially when a team is playing like this, but it’s worth noting that the teams the Giants eventually need to catch keep winning. They fell 12 games back of the Rockies and 11 back of the streaking Diamondbacks. They are 9 1/2 back of the Dodgers, who might be the best team in the whole league. 

Matt Cain did his part to allow the Giants to keep pace. He got beat just once in seven sharp innings. The Giants intentionally walked Dansby Swanson to get to Garcia, who bounced a single into left. Brandon Belt had a play at the plate, but his throw was short and hit the runner. A second run scored. 

“That’s tough,” Cain said. “(Garcia) was throwing the ball really good and that’s what it comes down to, you’re looking for that one hit and he did it. He’s a good hitter. We’ve seen it in St. Louis. But it definitely is tough when the pitcher does that … it just stinks on my part to give up a hit to the opposing pitcher.”

Instant Analysis: Giants bats silenced, losing streak now at four games

Instant Analysis: Giants bats silenced, losing streak now at four games

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SAN FRANCISCO — The return to AT&T Park was a huge boost to Matt Cain, who has wild home-road splits this season, but it did predictable things to an already-limp Giants offense. 

The Giants entered the night as the lowest-scoring team in the National League and they got blanked 2-0 by Jaime Garcia and the Braves. Garcia out-dueled Cain and provided the only offense of the night, as well. The Giants have dropped five of six.

Here are five things to know from AT&T Park, where they keep having Star Wars Night but they’ve never once celebrated Super Troopers … 

--- Cain entered the seventh with a 0.94 ERA at home this season, but the opposing pitcher busted him. With one on and two outs, the Giants intentionally walked Dansby Swanson to get to Garcia, a career .145 hitter. He bounced a single into shallow left and it looked like Brandon Belt had a play at the plate, but his throw home hit the runner. That allowed Swanson to race home for a 2-0 lead. 

--- Cain’s final line: seven innings, one earned run, one walk, three strikeouts. Yep, that’s a Caining.

--- Justin Ruggiano is here for the opportunity he was given in the sixth. Ruggiano has always crushed lefties, and Bruce Bochy put him behind Buster Posey on Friday night. The Braves intentionally walked Posey to load the bases for Ruggiano, who grounded out to third. Even the platoon splits are failing the Giants. 

--- If you need a little perspective on Christian Arroyo’s struggles, look across the field. Swanson, the former No. 1 overall pick, is batting .198. The shortstop slashed .302/.361/.442 as a rookie but his numbers are way down across the board, and he’s nearly two years older than Arroyo. These things take time. Having said that, Arroyo’s hole is pretty deep. He’s hitless in his last 21 at-bats after an 0 for 3.

--- There were three no-pitch intentional walks. I hope you used the extra ninety seconds wisely.