EXTRA BAGGS: Cain not satisfied with All-Star season yet, etc.

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EXTRA BAGGS: Cain not satisfied with All-Star season yet, etc.

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES How to describe a season that includes anAll-Star Game start, a career-best 2.79 ERA and 193 strikeouts, a five-yearextension worth a guaranteed 112.5 million and lest anyone forget, the firstperfect game in the Giants 129-year existence?

Its a good overall season, but its not something I wantto be sitting on, Matt Cain said Monday night. I want a good bit of starts inthe postseason.

Cain will set the tone for what the Giants hope will beanother deep and memorable run. Hell take the mound for the NL West championsin Game 1 of an NL Division Series, now assuredly to take place Saturday atAT&T Park.

Cain will face either the Washington Nationals or CincinnatiReds; he was 0-2 with a 5.54 ERA in two starts against the Reds, although hepitched into the seventh inning both times. Cain also lost in his lone startagainst the Nationals this season, giving up three runs in 6 23 innings of aroad start July 5.

Hes inheriting a role that belonged to Tim Lincecum in allthree playoff rounds two seasons ago.

Im excited about it, said Cain, who didnt allow anearned run over three playoff starts in 2010. I want to start my routinetomorrow and get ready for Saturdays game. Not add anything else to it. Justfind out whoever were going to face and start thinking about them.

Cain did not skip ahead in his preparation for his finalregular-season start on Monday. He always takes great pride in beating theDodgers, who denied him a victory in his first 14 career starts against them.He was visibly irritated after giving up a two-run home run to Andre Ethier ona first-pitch changeup in the fourth inning.

I felt good and I made one really bad pitch, a hangingchangeup to Ethier, Cain said. Ive got to remember how that felt wrong andnot repeat that again in my next start.

Cain was on a 75-pitch limit. He exited trailing 2-1 afterfive innings and 68 pitches.

That was enough work for him, Bochy said.

The Giants rallied to tie on Marco Scutaros single in theeighth, keeping Cain from a tough loss and ensuring he would finish the seasonwith a 16-5 record. Hes also unbeaten in his last nine outings, and might bethe only Giants starting pitcher who enters the playoffs with a true head ofsteam.

Cain entered the season with a 69-73 record despite a solidsix-year career. Hes no longer a sub-.500 pitcher.

It was good, really good, he said, of his season as awhole. I felt I was consistent. I got in a good routine and stayed with it.Buster (Posey) and I got in a really good rhythm and Hector (Sanchez), when hecaught me, he did a good job too.

Cain wouldve liked to add one more victory to knock out theDodgers. Hell have to settle for a glance at the standings, and a reminderthat the Giants once trailed by 7 games in the NL West.

We put ourselves in a bad spot at the beginning of theseason, and they started out hot, Cain said. But we felt if we playedconsistent ball, we had a shot at chasing those guys down and thats how itworked out.

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The Giants werent 100 percent assured the No. 3 seed in theplayoff picture until Atlanta lost to the Pirates on Monday.

Yes, Atlanta. Its a bit convoluted, but entering Monday,there was a scenario in which the Braves, Nationals, Reds and Giants all couldhave finished with identical 96-66 records. It wouldve required the Braves andGiants sweeping their series and the Nats and Reds both getting swept intheirs.

In that scenario, the Braves and Nats wouldve had to play aone-game playoff for the NL East title, with the loser going to the wild cardgame. If the Braves had won that game, the Reds wouldve been the top seed andthe Giants, because they won their season series with Atlanta, wouldve beenthe second seed.

Once Atlanta lost, that scenario disappeared. The Nationals areyour NL East champions.

And therefore the Giants are guaranteed to play host toGame 1 on Saturday and Game 2 on Sunday.

They will get the No. 2 seed, of course and thats still upin the air. The Reds and Nationals have identical records with two to play. (The Nats ostensibly hold a one-game edge, since they beatthe Reds in their season series and hold the tiebreaker.)

The only way wellget clarity on Tuesday is if the Nats win and the Reds lose. Then itll beCincinnati in the first round for sure. Any other result on Tuesday, and wellhave to wait until the 162nd game is in the books on Wednesday toknow for certain.

This becomes a lot more fun, by the way, when youre a beat reporter whohas to book flights.

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A lot of folks are asking about game times for this weekend, and for good reason. You've got Stanford playing a home game against Arizona at noon on Saturday and Cal hosting UCLA at 7 p.m. The 49ers have a home game against Buffalo at 1:25 p.m. on Sunday. And who knows where the A's will fit into that wild playoff picture in the AL, which they're definitely in now.

Then you've got Fleet Week with the perennially popular Blue Angels, the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in Golden Gate Park and I'm sure there's a quilting expo somewhere, too. At least Apple already unveiled the iPhone 5.

I'll let you know game times as soon as I get them. Whenever they schedule the first pitch, make sure to leave early, pack plenty of patience and carpool or take public transportation if you can.

With Bumgarner sidelined, Blach 'taking full advantage' of opportunity

With Bumgarner sidelined, Blach 'taking full advantage' of opportunity

SAN FRANCISCO -- At some point over the next four days, Madison Bumgarner will pick up a baseball, stand a few feet across from a member of the training staff, and simply play catch. It'll be a huge step in Bumgarner's rehab, and should it go well, a boost to the psyche of a struggling team.

In the meantime, another lefty is making sure the Giants don't suffer too much without their ace, as improbable as that first seemed.

Ty Blach took a shutout into the eighth Saturday night and in true Bumgarner fashion, he added a pair of hits and an RBI. The Giants beat the Braves 6-3. They've won Blach's past three starts, and even with a 10-run outing in Cincinnati mixed in, he has a 3.71 ERA since taking the spot left open by a dirt bike accident.

"Because of what happened he's in the rotation," manager Bruce Bochy said, "And he's taking full advantage."

Blach has shown that long term, he might be a big part of this rotation. It's been years since the Giants locked a young, cost-controlled starter in, and Blach has backed up his big cameo last year. It's possible -- likely even -- that at some point the Giants will need to trade a veteran, perhaps Johnny Cueto, for young bats. Blach provides needed insurance. 

Short term, he's providing a huge boost to a team that doesn't have much going right. Blach has thrown at least seven innings in his past four starts. He has allowed just eight earned runs in four starts since the one in Cincinnati, throwing 28 2/3 innings. 

"I feel good," Blach said. "I've always been a starter, so it's been a pretty easy transition to make. I feel comfortable."

The Giants are comfortable behind him, as evidenced by a half-dozen strong defensive plays Saturday. 

"He's been consistent and he works quickly," first baseman Brandon Belt said. "He's just a great guy to play behind."

Blach even joined in at the plate. He had an RBI single in his first at-bat -- his first big league hit off Not Clayton Kershaw -- and later roped another single. Blach even showed off his wheels, busting it from first to third on Denard Span's ball to the corner before Phil Nevin held him up. 

"I worked into some good counts and I was able to get fastballs," Blach said of his night at the plate. "It's definitely a big confidence booster when your spot comes up and you're able to drive in runs."

The night was straight out of Bumgarner's playbook, and it was needed. The Giants had dropped five of six, but Blach was backed by homers from Nick Hundley and Brandon Belt. It got a little hairy late, but the bullpen held on, clinching Blach's third win of the season. He looks poised for many more, and Bochy is happy to keep running him out there.

"I'm not surprised by what he's doing," the manager said.

 

Instant Analysis: Blach does it all vs Braves, Giants snap skid

Instant Analysis: Blach does it all vs Braves, Giants snap skid

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — This spot in the rotation is the one reserved for the stopper, the pitcher who takes a game by the throat when his team really needs it. 

Ty Blach took the mound Saturday for a team that had lost five of six, and just as Madison Bumgarner often has, Blach ended the skid. The young lefty was dominant into the eighth and the bats finally provided enough support. The Giants won 6-3, tying this weekend series with the Braves.

Here are five things to know from a night we were reminded that Emilio Bonifacio is in the big leagues … 

--- Blach pitched 7 2/3 innings. He has thrown at least seven innings in his last four starts, and five of seven starts overall. Jeff Samardzija (6) is the only Giants starter who has gone that deep more often. Blach is tied with Johnny Cueto for second-most seven-inning starts on staff, and Cueto has made three additional starts. 

--- Blach’s RBI single in the fourth was -- at the time -- the fourth hit of his career, and the first against a pitcher not named Clayton Kershaw. The ball had an exit velocity of 101 mph. Blach tried to score from first on Denard Span’s double, but Phil Nevin held him. Still, the way he was moving, it makes you wonder if Samardzija really is Bruce Bochy’s best pitcher-pinch-running option. In the seventh, Blach picked up a second single. 

--- Blach’s only bad start has been the one he made in Cincinnati, where the Giants played like a Double-A team. If you take that one out, Blach has a 2.21 ERA since taking over Bumgarner’s rotation spot. 

--- Even though he gave up just two earned in 7 2/3, Blach’s home ERA actually went up. It’s 1.75, which ranks seventh in the National League. The sellout crowd gave Blach a standing ovation when he was pulled in the eighth. 

--- Blach had a season-high five strikeouts. When he got Nick Markakis to end the first, Blach ended a streak of 37 left-handers faced without a strikeout. He later struck out another lefty, Matt Adams. The new Braves first baseman came up as the tying run in the eighth but Derek Law got him to ground out to first. 

--- Bonus sixth “thing to know” ... on Blach of course: His first name is Tyson, not Tyler. It’s Tyson Michael Blach.