Crawford earns Bochy's trust as Giants go for clinch

893447.jpg

Crawford earns Bochy's trust as Giants go for clinch

SAN FRANCISCO -- Leave it to Mat Latos, an old family friend of the Giants, to make the proposition nice and neat at AT&T Park tonight:

Latos shut down the Dodgers in Cincinnati, leading the Reds to an NL Central-clinching victory -- and also reducing the Giants' magic number to one heading into their game against the San Diego Padres.

So now the math becomes simple. The Giants will claim the eighth NL West title in franchise history if they beat the Padres. And if they cannot wrap it up tonight, they'll have another chance behind Tim Lincecum on Sunday afternoon.

Just win one of those two games and the division is theirs. That's a much more satisfying outcome than having to wait around Sunday night to see if the Dodgers lose again. And if the Giants clinch with a victory, they'd get to share the celebration with 42,000 of their closest friends, too.

There was just a bit of pregame news as the Giants prepared for their 152nd game of the season:

-- Brandon Crawford is starting at shortstop, even though the Padres are starting a left-hander. Andrew Werner has been tough on lefty hitters, too. But Giants manager Bruce Bochy signaled that he's willing to consider ending the platoon at short and giving Crawford the everyday role as they coast into the postseason.

RELATED: Giants lineup -- Nady in LF, Crawford starts vs. lefty

"It's a compliment to Craw because of the way he's adjusted against lefties," Bochy said. "He really made some adjustments in spring training and now I think he's swinging the bat very well. He's made himself into a solid player on both sides."

Crawford is hitting .264 against lefties this season -- better than his .243 average against right-handers. But lately, it doesn't make much difference. He's kept a solid approach and is seeing the ball well against everyone while hitting .307 in his last 36 games.

He's at .357 in his last 18 home games, too. He's even making hard outs. And he's committed just three errors in his last 71 games while putting himself in the conversation for a Gold Glove.

Bochy plans on keeping Crawford in the No. 8 spot for the sake of continuity. He likes Crawford's patience there, and with the club humming along, the skipper doesn't want to risk touching a spinning top.

-- Madison Bumgarner will try to accomplish what Ryan Vogelsong did a night earlier: build momentum and confidence heading into the postseason.

Bumgarner is coming off a much better outing against the Colorado Rockies, but he allowed at least four earned runs in four consecutive starts before that. The big left-hander swore up and down to Bochy that he wasn't dealing with any fatigue.

But Bochy acknowledged that Bumgarner needs to make a few mechanical adjustments.

"He's gotta be a little more compact," Bochy said. "That's where we're trying to get him. ... The last start, he was out of sync there. Sure, that's going to concern us when his mechanics are a little bit different."

-- Lincecum was awarded the "Good Guy" award by the local chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America for being available and offering candid assessments after all his starts this season -- something that revealed character, I think, given all the frustration and adversity that came with so many of those starts.

-- Northwestern is 4-0. And Iowa lost at home to a directional Michigan school. So I already feel like popping corks.

After another Giants clunker, Bochy tells players 'enough is enough'

After another Giants clunker, Bochy tells players 'enough is enough'

SAN FRANCISCO — A few minutes after yet another missed opportunity at the plate Sunday, a voice came over a speaker in the press box at AT&T Park and announced a 524th consecutive sellout. It nicely summed up this current stretch of Giants baseball. 

The seats are emptier than they used to be at first pitch, and they were just about abandoned in the ninth inning of an 8-2 loss, but for the most part the fans are still showing up in droves. One woman brought a toaster by the dugout Sunday morning and asked players and coaches to sign it, hoping to recapture the magic from across the bridge. Another, Bryan Stow, made his first appearance of the season at AT&T Park, met with Bruce Bochy, and said he hoped to see a win. As Matt Moore started warming up, a band set up on top of the visiting dugout to play hits that celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love. 

For a while, AT&T Park was rocking. And then, as has happened so often this summer, the game started. 

The Giants turned in another epic clunker in a season full of them. They have lost 12 of their last 13 games and 21 of 26, but it’s worse than the raw numbers. On most nights, some in the organization have noted privately, they are simply boring. It’s one thing to lose, it’s quite another to do it in this way. 

“There’s no getting around it,” Bochy said after the sweep. “I’ve been through some tough stretches here and this is as tough as any stretch I’ve seen. For some reason the baseball gods are really testing us here and (testing) this group. It’s not that they’re not coming out ready or trying, but enough is enough.

“At some point, we’ve got to find a way to get this thing turned around.”

Even a slight pivot would be welcomed by the faithful. There were scattered boos Sunday, the latest in a growing trend. This is a fan base that has seen the highest highs, but rarely in franchise history have the lows been this low. 

The crowd no longer turns to the rally lights that were used so often in an awful April, but the noise still grows with each new rally. And then, every single time Sunday, the Giants killed off any hope. 

In the second inning, a Brandon Belt bunt single and Brandon Crawford bloop put two on, but a pair of rookies flied out. 

In the third, the bases were loaded ahead of Buster Posey. He flied out to bring one run across, and there were still runners on the corners for Belt, who leads the team in homers. On a 2-2 count, Hunter Pence inexplicably took off for second. He was caught, the inning was over, and the two-run Mets lead was intact. Bochy said he did not send Pence. 

In the sixth, there were two on with no outs for Posey. Both runners bolted to stay out of a double play. Posey popped up to first -- for a double play.

“He’s not a guy that strikes out, so I’m pretty confident sending runners with Buster,” Bochy said. “We can’t keep laying back. We’re trying to force the issue a bit and stay out of double plays.”

In the eighth, the Giants loaded the bases for Posey and Belt. Posey grounded out. Belt struck out for the third time. 

“We’re getting guys out there,” Bochy said. “We’re not doing enough damage.”

Matt Moore’s damage was self-inflicted. He twice gave up homers to the guy — Rene Rivera — hitting in front of the pitcher. Moore said he has stopped throwing his cutter the past three starts and tried to get his four-seamer going, but the Mets were teeing off. Moore gave up five runs on seven hits. He was pulled in the fifth, left to think about mechanics that still aren’t right. 

“The cutter is a little bit different of a pitch and at times it can take away from the four-seam fastball location-wise, and command of the four-seam was starting to go down the more I threw (the cutter),” Moore said. “I’m anxious to get back to it, but the foundation has got to be throwing the four-seam fastball. I need to execute where they’re carrying through the zone, not running or cutting.”

Moore said his confidence is fine and his problems are not physical. Others can no longer say that. Austin Slater, a rare bright spot in this five-win month, was pulled with a tight hip flexor. He was headed for an MRI. 

Slater is too young to be one of the players Bochy approached after the game. He said he talked to a few, though, passing along that “enough is enough” message. Moore, last in the National League in ERA (6.04), was not one who needed a reminder. 

“I’m sitting on a six right now with not a lot of wins and not enough team wins when I’m throwing,” he said. “It’s been 'enough' for me for the last couple of months.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as Giants get swept by Mets at home

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as Giants get swept by Mets at home

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — The Mets spent the first half of this week in Los Angeles, where they got swept by the Dodgers and outscored 36-11. Their beat writers publicly wrote an end to any thoughts of the postseason. The fan base renewed the calls for manager Terry Collins to be fired. 

That’s where they were. And then they flew to San Francisco. 

AT&T Park continues to be a place where others get healthy, and this weekend it was the Mets. The Giants lost 8-2 on Sunday, getting swept by a similarly disappointing team. They have lost 12 of their last 13 games. 

There’s not much more to be said about it, but I did anyway. Here are five things to know from the day a relief pitcher got an at-bat but it would have been far too cruel to text your friends … 

—- Matt Moore’s line: 4 1/3 innings, seven hits, five earned runs, three walks, five strikeouts. Through 16 starts, he has a 6.04 ERA and 1.61 WHIP. He ranks last among qualified NL starters in ERA. Only Matt Cain (1.73) has a worse WHIP. Good times. 

—- Mets righty Rafael Montero entered with an 0-4 record and 6.49 ERA. He gave up one run in 5 2/3 innings. Good times. 

—- With runners on the corners and two outs in the third inning, Brandon Belt strolled to the plate. He leads the team in homers. Hunter Pence tried to steal second for some reason and he was caught, ending the inning and keeping Belt from batting in a two-run game. Good times. 

—- With two on and no outs in the sixth, the Giants sent the runners to make sure Buster Posey didn’t hit into a double play. Posey popped up softly to first and Joe Panik was doubled off of second. Good times. 

—- One last bit of bad news: Austin Slater was removed from the game with a tight right hip flexor.