EXTRA BAGGS: Broomsticks turn from blue to black, etc.


EXTRA BAGGS: Broomsticks turn from blue to black, etc.

LOS ANGELES Well, you can say one thing about the lastthree rivalry series between the Dodgers and Giants:

Hardware stores have done a brisk business in the broomaisle.

Have you ever seen a trio of three-game series like these?

In June, the Giants took advantage of the Dodgers without Matt Kemp anddominated them while sweeping three games at AT&T Park by a combined scoreof 13-0.

The Giants were the class of the NL West.

A month later, with Kemp and new addition Hanley Ramirez inthe fold, the Dodgers went back to San Francisco returned the favor whilesweeping three by a combined score of 19-3. The Giants were the down-and-outclub in that series, having just put Pablo Sandoval back on the DL. They hadntyet traded for Hunter Pence, either.

The Dodgers were the class of the NL West.

The Giants figured to be back in the prone position as theyarrived at Dodger Stadum on Monday, having just lost Melky Cabrera, the majorleague hits and runs leader, to a season-ending drug suspension.

Instead, it went the other way so much so that the Giantseven managed to pull off a three-game sweep in Chavez Ravine on Wednesdaywithout Cabrera and Buster Posey in the lineup.

Entering this series, I felt these three games would giveeveryone a clearer indication of how these two teams really stack up. One clubor the other would stamp itself the true team to beat in the division.

The Giants cast themselves in that role. They did it in themanner they must, with Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain combiningfor a 3-0 record, 0.87 ERA and 19 strikeouts against one walk in 20 23innings. And the Giants huddled around unexpected heat sources in Angel Pagan,Marco Scutaro and Joaquin Arias.

RELATED: Pagan helping Giants' cause, and his own

But the postgame clubhouse, while jovial, did not includeany chest puffing. There were no comments to the effect of, We gave them whatthey deserved or We showed were the better club, or even, Were the teamto beat.

This season series has seen two many wild swings, and toomany brooms in both black and blue hues. Anything could happen in the six gamesremaining between these two clubs including three Oct. 1-3 at Dodger Stadiumto end the regular season.

Will it come down to that series?

Yeah, it more than likely will, Cain said. I read where(Clayton) Kershaw said the same thing. Youd like to run away, but it more thanlikely will come down to that final series if both teams continue to playwell.

I asked Tim Lincecum if he could remember the last time the Giants swept three games at Dodger Stadium.

"No, I can't," he said.

I expected that answer. Because it hadn't happened since April 26, 2007 -- exactly 10 days before Lincecum made his major league debut.

Bochy likes what hes seeing from Arias, who is hammeringleft-handers but also hit two doubles against right-handed relievers inWednesday.

Arias got a load of at-bats on thetrip because the Giants faced four lefties in a five-game span.

Great trip for Joaquin, Bochy said. Hes gotten moreaggressive. Hes letting the bat go and hes playing good defense, too. Hesswinging with authority and hes got some pop, as he showed tonight.

RELATED: Joaquin Arias career stats 2012 game logs

The Giants will face one lefty (Mike Minor on Saturday) inthe upcoming four-game series against the Braves. Its not like Brandon Crawford is slumping, either. Heshitting .400 over his last 11 games and his defense is first-rate.

But I wonder if Bochy will try tofind a way to get Arias in there against some of the right-handers, too.

One option could be to play Arias at third base and moveSandoval to first, but that probably wont happen as long as Pablos hamstringis still tender.

Both Arias and Sandoval made remarkable plays behind Cain.Arias was the most impressive because he had to heave it as his momentum wasgoing away from first base, and Shane Victorino is not somebody who loafs itdown the line.

I try to make every play, Arias said, through interpreterSergio Romo. That one just turned out to be a little nicer.

Romo found himself trailing off a couple times when tryingto put Arias words in English. So it was suggested he tie up the final answerwith his trademark, Thats whats up catchphrase.

Yeah, Romo said. Thats whats up!

In this space 24 hours ago, I suggested its not time topanic about Hunter Pence. Well, after watching him go 0 for 3 with two strikeoutsand a pop up Wednesday to finish an 0-for-11 series at Dodger Stadiumit might be time to revise that assessment.

Pence was so out of sorts that Vin Scully went on forseveral minutes about it. All else being equal, Pence looks ready for a dayoff. But the Giants are so stretched in the outfield already. Its more likelythat Pence will just have to make an adjustment on the fly.

Pence is hitting .193 as a Giant but his slump dates backquite a bit longer. Hes got a .188 average in 37 games beginning July 8.

You never want to take your at-bats into the field, or viceversa. But you have to believe that Justin Christians amazing catch in theseventh inning provided a huge personal lift.

Christian is hitlessin his last 18 at-bats over 11 games.

Yeah, itsfrustrating, said Christian, who could find himself back in the minors soon ifthe Giants acquire a right-handed hitting upgrade in left field. Im a betterplayer than whats been happening on the hitting side, but defense is somethingthats easier to control. The hitting comes and goes. Its been a tough spotfor me, but you take the at-bats when they come and do the best you can. Youvegot to stay positive.

The catch was a positive in every way.

I was going to try to play it off the wall, saidChristian, who ran out of grass as he made a full-extension dive in the leftfield corner. As I continued to run, I realized I was getting a lot closerthan I thought. I took a chance at trying to make a play.

There was just one problem. Christian extended out so farwith his glove hand that his wrist hit the ground first. It was swollen and theGiants wont know the extent of the injury until Thursday. It might even putChristian on the disabled list, which could be the avenue that gets Xavier Nadyto the big leagues.

I jammed it pretty good, Christian said. I hope itsnothing major.

Cain was asked (hopefully in jest): Has a better catch everbeen made behind him?

Uhmmm this one guy made one pretty good one for me, saidCain, who might name his first-born son Gregor Blanco Cain after the man whosaved his perfect game. He made two, actually.

But that ones up there. I cant lie, because it was fullspeed. Everything was perfect on that catch.

And it helped preserve a near-perfect road trip.

After Giants' first Coors Field sweep in 15 years, Bochy preaches urgency

After Giants' first Coors Field sweep in 15 years, Bochy preaches urgency

DENVER — Bruce Bochy watched the first two games of this road trip from his home in San Diego and the final three from the top step of the dugout at Coors Field. He did not like what he saw, but at the moment he’s more concerned with what he might hear. 

“What you have to careful of — you can’t let any kind of complacency set in and say, ‘It’s early, we’ll be ok.’ I don’t want to hear that either,” Bochy said. “It’s the old adage that you come out with some sense of urgency. All these games are important. You’ve got to stay away from that attitude, too: ‘We’re not through April yet and have 140-something games left.’ That doesn’t work out.”

Three weeks into the season, nothing is working. The rotation has a 5.02 ERA, the worst in the Majors. The lineup scored 10 runs over a five-game road trip and got shut out twice. The bullpen hasn’t been given many leads with which to make up for the first-week trouble. The defense has been uncharacteristically sloppy. 

It has added up to a 6-13 start, tied for the worst in club history. The Giants have lost six of seven and they’ll head home seven games out of first place. 

“Right now there’s nothing clicking,” Bochy said. “Let’s be honest, this has been a rough start and we’re not very good right now. I’m not saying we’re not very good. We are good, but we’ve got to find a way to come out of this. This was a tough way to end this series. We’ve been through it. I’ve got men out there and that’s when you find a way to get through this. They will.”

Perhaps Monday will bring some fresh blood for the roster. Drew Stubbs appears poised to give the Giants another veteran option should they cut bait with a struggling outfielder. Michael Morse could be an option in left field soon, and if he’s mostly relegated to first, the Giants can put Brandon Belt in the outfield. He looked fine there Sunday while playing both corner spots. 

Those are moves made around the edges of the roster, though. There is no magic bullet coming from the outside, not even Christian Arroyo, who continues to mash at Triple-A. This is a $200 million roster and much of that has been spent on the rotation. Through 13 games, it is the worst in the National League, and the ace was lost to an off-field accident. Sure, the starters have pitched at Chase Field and Coors Field, but on back-to-back days they were dominated by Rockies rookies who make a living here. 

Samardzija could not keep pace with left-hander Kyle Freeland, who sawed off a handful of bats while cruising through seven. Samardzjiza gave up a run early, two more in the fourth on a hanging splitter that was blasted to right, and five in the sixth.

Bochy challenged his starting staff to improve after Saturday’s game. He has not publicly done the same with the lineup, but subtle changes have been made here and there. It is a group that, outside of a couple of players, has lacked energy. Because they don’t hit for power, the Giants are reliant on stringing together rallies. For the fourth time in seven games, the lineup failed to put a runner on base the first time through the order. 

“Even in spring training we had our games where we had trouble getting something going early,” Bochy said. “It’s the fourth or fifth before a hit. Somehow, we’ve got to change that.”

The Giants played Sunday without Jarrett Parker (clavicle) and Denard Span (right shoulder sprain), but for the most part the lineup is healthy. Bochy said he has talked to hitting coach Hensley Meulens about possibly altering pre-game routines, but that seems a cosmetic fix. 

“We’ve talked and we’ve shaken up the lineup, but as you saw today, there’s only so much you can do,” he said. 

Bochy knows there is outside noise regarding the roster. His eyes bulged the other day when asked if Arroyo would get a call-up next week. The Giants do not feel he is quite ready, or that there is a spot for him on the infield. For all the potential bench options waiting at Triple-A, this team's core is set, and it’s not outrageously banged-up compared to the rest of the division. 

The Dodgers, who come into town Monday, have 10 players on the disabled list, including No. 2 starter Rich Hill, second baseman Logan Forsythe, and left fielder Andre Ethier. The Rockies, the best team in the NL West thus far, are off to this start without big offseason acquisition Ian Desmond and young slugger David Dahl. Jon Gray, their opening day starter, went on the DL after facing the Giants in San Francisco. Chad Bettis, a rotation member, is getting treatment for testicular cancer. 

This division is better than expected, and as the end of April approaches, the Giants are bringing up the rear. Bochy’s plea for urgency was one that would have fit right in with last season’s second half. Back then, the Giants could at least lean on a huge start that got them into the postseason. As they flew home Sunday, there was nothing to fall back on but a simple truth.

This is the team. It must play better.

“We have everything we need in this room,” Samardzija said. “Sometimes you need to go out on the field and prove it.”


Instant Replay: Giants' struggles continue in sweep from Rockies

Instant Replay: Giants' struggles continue in sweep from Rockies


DENVER — Bruce Bochy spent about 10 minutes before Sunday’s game talking about potential options in left field and center. The problems for this lineup, however, currently go much deeper than the outfield. 

A day after the Giants managed just four hits off Antonio Senzatela, the bats went completely limp against fellow Rockies rookie Kyle Freeland. The Giants were shut out 8-0, a rarity at Coors Field. They were blanked twice on the road trip and scored just 10 runs during a five-game swing through Kansas City and Denver. 

The sweep at Coors Field was the Giants' first since 2002. At 6-13, they have the worst record in the National League.

For the fourth time in seven games, and third time on this five-game road trip, the Giants went one time through the order without a baserunner. That puts added pressure on your starter, and Jeff Samardzija couldn’t keep it close. Charlie Blackmon hit a leadoff liner to right that was misplayed into a triple and he scored on a sacrifice fly. Gerardo Parra got a spinner down in the zone in the fourth and blasted a two-run shot to right. 

As they did Saturday night, the Rockies pulled away with a huge rally. Nolan Arenado’s infield single and a walk of Carlos Gonzalez set the table in the sixth. Gerardo Parra lined a single to center and all runners advanced when Gorkys Hernandez kicked it. Trevor Story’s single to right was bobbled by Hunter Pence and two more scored. Blackmon’s double made it 8-0.

Starting pitching report: Samardzija was charged with seven earned in 5 1/3 innings. He has a 7.40 ERA through four starts. The starting staff has a 5.02 ERA, the worst in the majors. That won’t play, not when you’ve spent most of your resources the last two years on starters. 

Bullpen report: Hunter Strickland's Mullet had a scoreless debut. 

At the plate: Nope. 

In the field: Brandon Belt’s first start in left this season was rather uneventful. He caught a liner right at him in the first and came up inches short on a diving attempt in foul territory. Belt moved to right in the seventh inning. He had one previous inning there in the big leagues but he actually prefers right because it’s the same angle as his normal position. Belt gloved a liner right at him in the eighth. 

Attendance: The Rockies announced a crowd of 42,011 human beings and one donkey, who was a menace. 

Up next: The first look at the Dodgers. The Giants will see Hyun-Jin Ryu, Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood and likely Julio Urias in the four-game series.