Defensive effort sets stage for Giants' bittersweet walk-off win

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Defensive effort sets stage for Giants' bittersweet walk-off win

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Brandon Crawford was named the Giants 2012Opening Day shortstop because of his glove, not his bat. But it was the latterthat gave San Francisco a 3-2 walk-off win over the San Diego Padres Tuesday atAT&T Park.Crawford and his teammates had a bittersweet victory celebration, though,because it came at a price: The left hamstring of Pablo Sandoval. The Giantsthird baseman turned first baseman did the splits to field a relay throw fromCrawford to complete a difficult double play and is scheduled for an MRIWednesday, according to manager Bruce Bochy.Well know the extent of it, but hell be down a few days at least, Bochysaid. We just have to find out how bad it is tomorrow with the MRI. Hopefullywe get good news.Sandovals injury, which Bochy said was on the high part of his hamstring, came on one of two spectacular doubleplays the Giants turned to keep the game tied 2-2.After Sandoval teamed up with Crawford and Ryan Theriot for the inning-endingdouble play in the third, Angel Pagan made a diving catch in the eighth tostart another twin killing that saved the game.With Chase Headley representing the go-ahead run after a one-out single offSergio Romo, Carlos Quentin drove a ball deep into the left-centerfield gap.Pagan, who has had issues with bad jumps and routes earlier this season, immediatelybroke into a full sprint and came down with the ball as he crashed onto thegrass just in front of the warning track. With his momentum still pushing him towardthe outfield wall, an off-balance Pagan hit cutoff man Crawford, who completedthe double play with a relay throw to Brandon Belt at first that barely beat ahustling Headley.When he hit it I thought there was no shot, said Madison Bumgarner, whostruck out nine and allowed two runs in seven innings of work before becoming aspectator for Pagans grab. It saved the game.Bruce Bochy was equally complimentary, although he may have offended GregorBlanco and his perfect game catch in the process.Its hard to find a better catch than Pagans, Bochy said.That saved us. Ive said this so many times: Defense can win a ballgame foryou Its hard to see a better play in baseball than that, especially withwhat was on the line. Pagan did not hesitate when asked to compare the catch to some of the otherhighlight-reel plays hes made over his seven-year career.What can I say? It was one of the best plays of my career, Pagan said.Pagans play wouldve been an afterthought if the Giantsdidnt come away with the win. But Belt, Pagan and Crawford put together arally against Padres reliever Joe Thatcher that made the defensive plays allthe more important.Belt, only in the game because of Sandovals injury, worked a full-count walkto lead off the inning and advanced to second when Pagan poked a base hitthrough the left side of the infield. Crawford, originally asked to lay down asacrifice bunt, had his assignment change when both runners advanced on apassed ball. With the winning run 90 feet away, Crawford sent Belt home andAT&T Park into a frenzy with a sharp line-drive single back up the middle.Crawford had a double taken away Monday when umpire Jordan Baker ruled he nevertouched first and was later ejected for arguing that call in his next at-bat.Tuesday, first base coach Roberto Kelly pointed to first to make sure Crawfordtouched the bag to complete the walk-off win.After the game, Crawford wanted to talk more about the defensive effort thanhis clutch knock.They say hitting is contagious, but I think defense is too, he said. Crawfords hit ended the game, but it was his defense, along with the effortsof Theriot, Sandoval and Pagan that set the stage for the late theatrics.The Giants 3-2 win coupled with the Dodgers loss in St.Louis gives San Francisco a 2.5 game lead in the N.L. West. Don Mattinglyssquad makes its second visit of the season to AT&T Park for three gamesstarting on Friday, and they may be bringing a new face or two with them. Late reports Tuesday claim the Dodgers have acquired Hanley Ramirez and Randy Choate from the Miami Marlins in exchange Nathan Eovaldi and an unknown minor leaguer. Sandoval made it clear that he holds out hope he canplay in that series.Well see whats going on tomorrow, but Im planning on playing, Sandovalsaid.

Headed for 100 losses, Giants quietly give up on "Don't Stop Believin'" tradition

Headed for 100 losses, Giants quietly give up on "Don't Stop Believin'" tradition

SAN FRANCISCO — At some point over the last month, the Giants quietly stopped playing “Don’t Stop Believin’” in the late innings of games they trail. 

It’s unclear exactly when it started, or who made the decision. A number of team employees, surveyed over the past week, had noticed. But nobody knew the exact details. Perhaps the longtime staple of AT&T Park was shelved on July 9, when FanGraphs dropped the playoff odds to 0.00 percent for the first time in a lost season. Maybe it was during a bad loss before that or a bad loss after that. You can take your pick. This season has been filled with so many of them it’s hard to keep track. 

Friday’s stood out, in part because this was the kind of night where Journey briefly made sense. The Giants gave Jeff Samardzija a 4-0 lead in the first inning against a Padres team that spent the early innings kicking and throwing the ball all over the field and making mistakes on the bases. It was 5-1 after three innings. By the sixth, the Padres had tied it. By the seventh, they had the lead. By the eighth, it was a three-run lead. 

Before the bottom of the eighth, the in-stadium crew played Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” for a crowd of a few thousand. Last weekend, Huey Lewis was the fill-in for Journey. On Wednesday, a game the Giants actually came back to win, the scoreboard played a singalong game to “Happy Together” by The Turtles. 

On this night, the Giants actually would come back. Conor Gillaspie hit a two-run homer with two outs in the ninth, tying the game and sending it into extras. The Giants had trailed by three with one out remaining, but the momentum provided by Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and Gillaspie was just a blip. The Padres scored three in the 11th off George Kontos, who has pitched five times over the last eight days and was supposed to get a night to rest. 

Kontos was the last to give up runs in a 12-9 loss, but hardly the only one. Samardzija took blame after failing to get through five with a big early cushion. That put pressure on the tired bullpen, and the relievers blew it over and over again. The Padres scored runs in six consecutive innings at one point and had 20 hits. 

“We couldn’t stop them,” Bruce Bochy said, shaking his head. 

Nothing can apparently stop this skid. The Giants are 37-61 and six games behind the Padres. They are much closer to the No. 1 draft pick than they are to fourth place in their division. 

“Don’t Stop Believin’” survived the 2013 season. It survived 2015 and the second half of last year. Nothing can survive this season.

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as Giants lose marathon in extras to Padres

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as Giants lose marathon in extras to Padres

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SAN FRANCISCO — A few hundred, maybe a few thousand, stayed to watch the Giants late Friday night. The Giants did not make it worth the effort. 

Conor Gillaspie’s two-out homer in the ninth sent the game to extras, but the Giants lost 12-9 in a game that lasted nearly five hours. The Giants had trailed by three with two outs and nobody on in the ninth. They tied it. Instead of carrying that momentum over, they suffered yet another demoralizing loss. 

They have dropped both games of this series and they trail the Padres -- who had 20 hits -- by six games in the race for fourth place. Those are facts. Here are five more, mostly from earlier, when a young man harbored dreams of leaving a ballpark before 1 a.m. … 

—- Hector Sanchez took Jeff Samardzija deep to lead off the fourth, and at this point it’s flat-out hilarious. Sanchez has seven homers this season and three have come against his former team. He hit two homers at AT&T Park in 296 plate appearances as a Giant, and the fourth-inning blast gave him three in 11 plate appearances as a Padre. He also doubled in a run and singled. It’s an all-time revenge tour. Just go along for the ride. 

—- There were a ton of scouts on hand to watch two starting pitchers who could move in the next 10 days, and they left disappointed. Trevor Cahill gave up six earned on seven hits and four walks and lasted just 3 2/3 innings. Jeff Samardzija gave up eight hits and five earned in 4 1/3 innings. 

—- I dunno man, it’s really hard getting to five of these every night. Sam Dyson was good again. 

—- Gillaspie's pinch-hit homer was the sixth of his career. He's a hero around these parts, but perhaps Bobby Evans should see if a team out there was watching Friday and remembers his October run. Gillaspie could help a contender. 

—- When MLB inevitably introduces a pitch clock and pitchers start complaining, this will be the game I tell them to sit down and try to watch start to finish.