Giants

EXTRA BAGGS: Assessing the Giants after 159 games, etc.

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EXTRA BAGGS: Assessing the Giants after 159 games, etc.

SAN DIEGO In a sense, the Giants 7-5 victory at PetcoPark had all the markings of one of their comeback victories from down thestretch in 2010.

Simply substitute Xavier Nady for Pat Burrell and cast HunterPence in the role of Juan "Jazz Hands" Uribe. Their home runs in the ninth inning gave theGiants a sudden and stirring 7-5 victory over the Padres at Petco Park.

But in so many other respects, this is not the same teamthat so memorably squeaked into the playoffs two years ago. Their pitchersdont have near the run of dominance heading into an NL Division Series, and aswe all know, pitching is what usually leads to trophy hoisting, stingingcorneas and the like.

Tim Lincecum, for all his brave face, is not Tim Lincecumanymore. And for all the teams success in holding a bullpen together without atrue closer, the Giants will miss Brian Wilsons bravado more in October thanany other month. Someone has to have the stones to throw that last pitch to naildown a postseason series. Aside from Wilson, nobody in a Giants uniform has anyexperience doing that.

But every year is unto itself, with a different set of namesand chemistry and circumstances.

Here is where the NL West champion Giants stand right now,with three games remaining in the regular season:

Theyre going to open at home as the No.3 seed unless theylose the last three and the Reds win their last three. Their opponent could bethe Reds or Nationals; the two teams have identical records after the Reds wonand the Nats lost on Sunday. But Washington holds the tiebreaker by virtue ofwinning the season series. So theres still a better likelihood itll beCincinnati.

It hasnt been announced that Matt Cain will start for theGiants in Game 1 on Saturday at AT&T Park. But it also hasnt beenannounced that I have a nose in the middle of my face.

I would be surprised if its anyone but Cain and MadisonBumgarner in the first two games, both because Bumgarner has pitched so muchbetter at home and because hes looked upon as the second most trustworthystarter of the bunch

As for Cain hes Matt Cain.

Under this (one-time only!) 2-3 format, the lower seedpretty much has to throw the best two guys and hope to sweep their two homegames. I think thats how the Giants will decide to line them up.

I also think youll see Lincecum start Game 3, in spite ofhis wretched season. As Bochy said, Lincecum is a rise to the occasion typeof guy. And as we reported today, Lincecum has been told he will be a part of the postseason rotation. (Although it was unclear who, exactly, delivered that message.)

But as Lincecum himself acknowledged Sunday, he cannot expect to get along leash if he struggles. Ryan Vogelsong has much more experience in reliefthan Barry Zito, so Id expect that Vogelsong would unbutton a jacket in ahurry if Lincecum is out of whack in the early innings.

That would leave Zito for Game 4, right? Well, thats myguess, too. But only if the Giants are leading the series. Actually, my guessis that the Giants wont announce a Game 4 starter at the outset. If they faceelimination, it might be more likely that theyll bring back Cain on shortrest.

Remember, Bochy is the wily skipper who used three-fourthsof his playoff rotation in a clinching Game 6 victory at Philadelphia in theNLCS two years ago. And that was a non-elimination game.

During the regular season, the smart money is always topredict that Bochy will make the conservative move. In the playoffs, all betsare off. Its all decks on hand, as he himself once famously said.

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One other thing to keep in mind: Two years ago, the Giants opened the postseason against an injury-wrecked Braves team that limped to the wild card with a skeleton crew in their lineup. This time, the Giants are guaranteed to face a powerhouse. So that's one more reason the pitching needs to step up, and fast.

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Nady hit his pinch home run to dead center not far fromwhere Cameron Maybin robbed him by reaching over the wall a night earlier. Thisone was hit a little deeper, and Maybin mustve left his Go-Go Gadget arm inhis car.

It also should be noted that Nadys homer came off aright-hander, Huston Street, who had not given up a home run all season.(Street hadnt given up a homer since Aug. 1, 2011, when he was wearing aRockies uniform.)

It begs the question: Would Bruce Bochy consider startingNady in left field against right-handers in the postseason?

Bochy did go as far as to caution that left field wouldntbe a straight platoon between Nady and Gregor Blanco.

No, not necessarily, Bochy said. Weve talked about it,the matchups, and the defense, speed and (Nadys) bat. These are things weretalking about. In the meantime, hes getting his at-bats and hes getting moreand more comfortable out there.

One other advantage to starting Nady: It would allow Blancoto provide another option off the bench to get a bunt down or pinch-run.

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Not only had Huston Street not given up a homer all year,but he hadnt been dealt a loss or blown a save.

As the great Bill Center of the San Diego Union Tribunewrote it: Gone, gone and gone twice.

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Xavier Nady and Hunter Pence hit home runs in the ninthinning to save Tim Lincecum from his 16th loss.

If you told me in spring training that Id be typing thatsentence on Sept. 30, Id assume you escaped the drunk tank at the city jailbeyond the center field fence at Scottsdale Stadium.

Come to think of it, that must be the shortest distance inAmerica between a drunk tank and an actual beer line.

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The Dodgers are two games behind St. Louis for the finalwild card spot. They could be eliminated with a Cardinals victory and a loss tothe Giants on Monday night.

Nothing would give the Giants greater pleasure or theirfans, to be sure.

This series at Dodger Stadium might be exactly what theGiants need a motivated opponent throwing quality pitching at them to helpthem get tuned up for the postseason.

As advantageous as the Giants downy soft schedule has beenin September, they havent faced many high-level arms. And theyre sure to seegood ones (Mat Latos, Gio Gonzalez, etc.) very soon.

So ending the season with Clayton Kershaw on Wednesday couldbe constructive, for once.

Plus, theres the chance to eliminate the Dodgers. And youdont need to be Wayne Franklin to realize thats a good thing.

After Stratton leads way in Giants' shutout, what does his future hold?

After Stratton leads way in Giants' shutout, what does his future hold?

SAN FRANCISCO — After the final out Monday night, a round table was carried into the corner of the home clubhouse at AT&T Park and surrounded by chairs. Eleven players were sitting, eating, drinking and laughing as Chris Stratton prepared to address the media. 

It was a rare sight for the Giants these days, a very rare sight. But then, so was Monday’s result. Stratton led the way in a 2-0 win over the Brewers that was the first home shutout of the season and motivated the joyous post-game scene. 

The shutout was just the second of the season for the staff. Ty Blach went the distance in the other one and Stratton, a fellow rookie, did the heavy lifting Monday, throwing six strong innings before giving way to the bullpen. Matt Cain pitched the seventh, Mark Melancon pitched the eighth while going back-to-back for the first time in three months, and Sam Dyson closed it out quickly. 

There’s a chance that Stratton joins that group in a few days. Johnny Cueto is scheduled to make a rehab start on Tuesday night in Sacramento and that could put him on track to return to the rotation a turn later. That would line up with Stratton’s next start, but Bruce Bochy wasn’t ready to kick the young righty out of the rotation, not after back-to-back scoreless starts against two of the better lineups in the league. A few days after striking out 10 Washington Nationals, Stratton cut through the Brewers. He has 12 2/3 scoreless innings over his past two appearances. 

“For how we’re using him, he’s really handled it well,” Bochy said. “We skipped him, moved him back three or four days, but he doesn’t let it faze him. This is an important time for these young players coming up, whether it’s (Ryder) Jones or (Jarrett) Parker or Stratton. They’re trying to show they belong in the Major Leagues.

“You’re hoping these guys show they’re ready to play here and we don’t have to do something else because we can do it internally.”

Bochy said he could use a six-man rotation when Cueto returns, or a starter could be skipped. That will all sort itself, but the manager made one thing clear. 

“We’d like to pitch him as much as we can,” Bochy said of Stratton.

That’s the same thing Bochy used to say of another right-hander, one he compared Stratton to before Monday’s game. Bochy was asked about Yusmeiro Petit, and he smiled and fondly stated, “He was so good. So good.” The Giants see some Petit in Stratton. He is unaffected by long layoffs and he’s capable of starting, relieving, or even pumping his fastball up a couple ticks for short outings. 

Petit was a mainstay in San Francisco for years, a key cog in a championship team. Bochy has been looking for that piece since Petit departed in free agency, and Stratton seems like he might be suited for the role. He will want more, of course, because all pitchers do. The Giants will give him five more weeks here to try and earn that. 

For the moment, Stratton’s focus is elsewhere. He turns 27 on Monday and the celebration started early. As Stratton answered questions, veterans at the table heckled him about striking out just one Brewer. 

“I left all the strikeouts in Washington, I guess,” Stratton said. 

Nick Hundley walked up with a TV remote and held it up between the cameras. 

“What was your thought on the punchout?” he asked. 

“I’m glad he swung,” Stratton said, smiling. “It was a ball.”

“Did you think about getting any more?” Hundley asked. 

With that, he smiled and ducked back behind the cameras to return to the celebration in the corner. A few minutes later, Stratton joined him.

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' first home shutout of 2017

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' first home shutout of 2017

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — Ty Blach has been a bright spot in this losing season, giving the Giants a young, cost-controlled lefty who can potentially fill a huge role next season. Chris Stratton is trying to do the same thing from the right side. 

The 26-year-old continued his August surge, throwing six dominant innings against the Brewers in a 2-0 win that was the staff's first shutout at AT&T Park this season. 

It was the kind of night that's been so familiar over the years. The Giants had six home shutouts last season. Here are five things to know from this year's first ... 

—- The Brewers are first in the league in homers and the Nationals are third, so Stratton had his work cut out for him the last two times out. His results: 12 2/3 innings, 9 hits, 0 runs, 3 walks, 11 strikeouts. That’s quite the statement. Stratton’s scoreless streak is the longest by a Giants rookie starter since Chris Heston threw 16 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings in July of 2015. 

—- Matt Cain was used as a short reliever to protect a two-run lead in the seventh. He had a 1-2-3 inning that ended with a strikeout. 

—- Mark Melancon pitched back-to-back games for the first time since May 19-20. He struck out Neil Walker and Ryan Braun in a perfect inning. 

—- Jarrett Parker reached base his first three times up. He’s hitting .385 at home this season but he’s just 4-for-35 (.114) on the road. Weird splits for a Giant slugger. 

—- Brandon Crawford is finally finding some traction. His double in the fourth was the big hit in a two-run frame that gave Stratton a lead to work with. Crawford is 7-for-17 on the home stand with three extra-base hits and four RBI.