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.

Early offense, six strong from Cueto lift Giants past Braves in finale

Early offense, six strong from Cueto lift Giants past Braves in finale

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SAN FRANCISCO -- The blisters on Johnny Cueto's middle and index fingers that limited his effectiveness in his last few starts haven't yet completely healed.

But the two-time All-Star is learning to pitch with them.

Cueto threw six strong innings and Brandon Crawford drove in three runs as the San Francisco Giants defeated the Atlanta Braves 7-1 on Sunday.

Cueto (5-4) bounced back from his roughest stretch as a Giant. He was 0-3 with a 4.33 ERA in his previous four starts.

"They're not bothering me like they were before," Cueto said through a translator. "I'm just getting used to it but I have to continue pitching until they get better."

The Giants won their third straight home series and posted their 11th victory in 18 games overall.

Crawford's two-run single highlighted a four-run second against R.A. Dickey (3-4) that made it 6-0.

Matt Kemp had three hits for Atlanta. But the Braves couldn't get much going against Cueto, who allowed one run on six hits and a walk. Cueto struck out eight, including five in a row at one point.

"He did what he needed to do to get us out," Kemp said. "We had chances to score runs and we didn't. I think in this series we really didn't do a good score of scoring runs."

Dickey allowed a season-high seven runs (six earned) on six hits and five walks in six innings.

"This can be a challenging place to throw because of the wind because it swirls so much," Dickey said.

Eduardo Nunez and Gorkys Hernandez each had two hits for the Giants. Joe Panik tripled to start the second-inning burst.

Cueto had two productive at-bats, bunting a runner to second in the second inning and driving in a run with a sacrifice fly in the third.

"It's always nice to have a lead and I thought Johnny was the sharpest he'd been this year," Giants catcher Buster Posey said. "Hopefully it's something he can build on. The changeup was working really well and his command of the fastball was really good."

Posey was 0 for 2 with two walks. He hasn't struck out in 55 consecutive plate appearances.

FUN FACTOR:
The Giants scored the game's first run when Nunez came around from third when a knuckleball glanced off catcher Kurt Suzuki glove in the bottom of the first. The play was ruled a passed ball. Asked if he had any empathy for the plight of his counterpart, Posey said "Yes, no question. It's not fun to hit, it doesn't look fun to catch, either."

FANCY FIELDING:
Hernandez made a diving catch in the gap in left-center robbing Emilio Bonifacio of an extra-base hit with one out in the seventh inning.

TRAINER'S ROOM:
Braves: 2B Brandon Phillips left in the fifth for pinch-hitter Jace Peterson. Phillips fouled a ball off his foot in his last at-bat in the third.

Giants: LHP Madison Bumgarner will start his throwing program on Friday, manager Bruce Bochy said. Bumgarner will start out playing catch and make five rehab starts. The 2014 World Series MVP suffered a separated left shoulder in a dirt biking accident. "The progress is happening," Bochy said. "I think he sees light at the end of the tunnel." ... Slumping rookie INF Christian Arroyo was out of the lineup on Sunday and his playing status appears uncertain. Arroyo, who turns 22 on Tuesday, is 0 for 19 in his last five games. "I'll talk to him, about what his situation is," Bochy said. "I'm definitely planning on giving him a couple of days" off.

UP NEXT:
Braves: RHP Julio Teheran will make his first career start against the Angels in Anaheim on Monday. He is 3-9 with a 5.63 ERA in 15 career interleague starts.

Giants: LHP Matt Moore will face the Nationals for the second time in his career. He was with Tampa Bay when he gave up two runs in five innings against Washington in 2012.

Giants lineup: Posey catching, Nunez at third base against Braves

Giants lineup: Posey catching, Nunez at third base against Braves

The Giants look to win two straight against the Braves and Bruce Bochy has made a few changes to the lineup Sunday.

Atlanta Braves (21-26)

1. Ender Inciarte (L) CF
2. Brandon Phillips (R) 2B
3. Nick Markakis (L) RF
4. Matt Kemp (R) LF
5. Matt Adams (L) 1B
6. Kurt Suzuki (R) C
7. Rio Ruiz (L) 3B
8. Dansby Swanson (R) SS
9. R.A. Dickey (R) P

San Francisco Giants (21-30)

1. Denard Span (L) CF
2. Eduardo Nunez (R) 3B
3. Brandon Belt (L) 1B
4. Buster Posey (R) C
5. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
6. Justin Ruggiano (R) RF
7. Joe Panik (L) 2B
8. Gorkys Hernandez (R) LF
9. Johnny Cueto (R) P