EXTRA BAGGS: Cards will come packed, Pence done speaking, etc.


EXTRA BAGGS: Cards will come packed, Pence done speaking, etc.


ST. LOUIS Take this for what its worth:

The Cardinals instructed their players to arrive at BuschStadium for Game 5 on Friday with their bags packed in case the series shiftsback to San Francisco.

Two years ago, Giants manager Bruce Bochy did the oppositewhen the Giants needed a win in the final regular-season game to clinch the NLWest. A loss and the team wouldve been forced into a one-game playoff at SanDiego the following day.

Bochy told his players to bring themselves, and nothingelse.

It was a bold stroke bolder now, with time and perspective.

Oh, we wouldve been scrambling, Bochy has said, on morethan one occasion.

Make no mistake about it: The Giants are scrambling now.They must rattle off three consecutive victories to claim the NL pennant, andwhile they already accomplished the same Heartbreak Hill climb in Cincinnati,there is more lactic acid in their legs now. And generals on horseback can onlydeliver a war speech once.

Remember the Maine! Remember the Alamo! Remember GreatAmerican Ball Park!

(Actually, the Maine exploded and sank and everyone died atthe Alamo. Who comes up with these depressing rallying cries, again? Anyway, you get the premise.)

We believed we could do it in Cincinnati, Giantsleft-hander Jeremy Affeldt said. I dont see any reason why we shouldntbelieve now.

I dont expect those guys over there will think anything iswrapped up yet, and we wont let anything be wrapped up. We wont roll over.Thats not our nature. We showed that in Cincinnati. It can be dangerous toplay a team that has that type of mentality.

Until the first pitch Friday night, the only things theCardinals will wrap up are their shaving kits.

We're coming here packed," Cardinals third basemanDavid Freese said. "Hopefully, we can unpack."

The Giants will have to find a new motivational speaker.Hunter Pence is out of things to say.

Probably not, said Pence, asked if he planned anotherfiery oration before Game 5. Its ran its course. I didnt have the firstspeech prepared (before Game 3 in Cincinnati). It just happened.

Who knows who might speak? Who knows what happens when yourbacks against the wall?

I asked Buster Posey, the NL batting champion and likelyMVP: Would he take the floor?

I think we all know at this point what its going to take,Posey said.

Funny how baseball works. Amid all the hand wringing aboutgetting Posey pitches to hit, there was the underlying assumption that hedknow what to do with them.

But you look up and Posey is hitting .183 in the postseason,and aside from his grand slam off Mat Latos in Cincinnati, hes driven in justone run.

He was 0 for 4 with three fly outs against Adam Wainwright,who really did spin one of the better games youll see pitched this postseason.Wainwright even said his curveball might have broken better than it ever has,which is quite a statement.

I had a few pitches to hit, Posey told me.

Are these empty games beginning to take a mental toll onhim?

Well, personally, there have been some frustrating times,he said. But at this point, its all about winning. Weve still got life andthats the main thing.

What does manager Bruce Bochy make of Posey, who is 2 for 14with no runs, no RBIs and no extra-base hits in the NLCS?

Hes such a good hitter, and the bar is set so high withBuster, Bochy said. You go a game or two without a hit and the questions aregoing to be asked. But hes fine. Theyre making good pitches. Theyre beingcareful with him. We know it and he knows it.

When the playoffs began, I thought the Reds were the mosttalented team, top to bottom, in the National League. But the Cardinals are notlight on power arms in their bullpen, either. They have experience if notdominance in their rotation and their lineup just has a way of grinding down anopponent that the Reds did not.

"They do havesomething going, no getting around that, with what they did last year and thisyear, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

We have all the confidence in Barry (Zito) tomorrow. Wehave to get these bats going, though. Theyre shutting us down. It would benice, make life a little easier, to get some runs for our staff.

As third base coach Tim Flannery said in Cincinnati, theGiants needed something weird to happen, they needed a big pitchingperformance, they needed at least one game when the runs flowed and they neededto pull out at least one in the late innings to run the table. All of thosethings happened.

This time, it might be simpler: They need to bring thisseries home, where Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain offer authentic hope.

We worked hard to be here, Pence said. We played verywell to be here. Thats the way Ill continue to look at it. Zito has beentremendous for us. Weve got to find a way to get tomorrow, and if we can gohome with Vogelsong and Cain, were feeling pretty confident.

If the Cardinals clinch in Game 5, they can hang their haton this: Theyll break the Giants streak of 12 consecutive victories when Zitotakes the mound.

Of course, thats not so impressive when youve already beatenAtlanta and Kris Medlen in the wild card knockout game and the Braves had wona major league record 23 consecutive games with Medlen on the mound.

The Cardinals will come packed. The Giants had better pack alunch.

Dodgers infielder weighs in on Harper's errant helmet throw

Dodgers infielder weighs in on Harper's errant helmet throw

Before the right hooks and haymakers, there was the helmet toss.

A very bad helmet toss.

As he made his way to the mound after getting hit by a pitch on Monday afternoon, Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper attempted to throw his helmet at Giants reliever Hunter Strickland. He missed by a wide margin.

Observers took notice, including Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner.

"What was worse, Harper's helmet throw or 50 Cents first pitch? Heads up in the #McCoveyCove," Turner tweeted shortly after the brawl between the Giants and Nationals.

Turner is referring to a ceremonial first pitch thrown by rapper 50 Cent prior to a Mets game in 2014.

Harper mentioned the helmet when addressing the situation after the game.

"I was trying to go after him, with the helmet or with myself, just doing what I needed to do keep it going, I guess," Harper told reporters.


Fight Notes: Harper thought this was over; Giants collide; Posey avoids it

Fight Notes: Harper thought this was over; Giants collide; Posey avoids it

SAN FRANCISCO — When the Nationals visited AT&T Park for the first time after the 2014 postseason series, Bryce Harper took to Instagram to compliment the city. “Nothing like SF! #BayArea” he wrote underneath a photo of the Bay Bridge. 

Harper, a Las Vegas kid, has always seemed to enjoy facing the Giants. He hasn’t hit well at AT&T Park, but he was a star in their 2014 matchup and he praised Brandon Crawford on Twitter during this year’s WBC. The greeting Monday was not a friendly one. 

Harper was retired three times by Matt Moore. The first pitch he saw from Hunter Strickland left a dent on his hip and set off a wild brawl. 

Strickland denied any intent. Harper seemed confused by the timing of the payback pitch. 

“It’s so in the past, it’s not even relevant anymore,” he said of their 2014 series, according to Dan Kolko of MASN. “They won the World Series that year. I don’t think he should even be thinking about what happened in the first round. He should be thinking about wearing that ring home every single night. I don’t know why he did it or what he did it for, but I guess it happens.”

The Giants were not surprised when Harper reacted the way he did. Now they’ll wait for Strickland to get hit with a suspension, and Harper is looking at a layoff, too. 

“You never want to get suspended or anything like that, but sometimes you’ve got to go and get him,” Harper said. “You can’t hesitate. You either go to first base or you go after him. And I decided to go after him.”

Strickland, about an hour after the fight, said he’s not sure what will happen in terms of discipline. 

“That’s their decision and obviously I’ll take whatever consequences come with it and we’ll go from there,” he said. 

Any action by the league is unlikely to impact this series. Even if suspensions are handed down swiftly, players can appeal. Harper and Strickland may not be alone. Several players jumped into the fray aggressively and at least one non-active Giant — Hunter Pence — was right in the middle of the scrum. At the very least, he could be facing a fine for trying to help his teammate. 

“It doesn't look good when a guy gets hit but also on their side, the guy throws his helmet,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Strickland’s got to stand his ground. There’s no choice there. I can’t tell you what’s going to happen (with suspensions).”

One player who won’t face discipline: Madison Bumgarner, who is also on the DL but wisely stayed away from this one, even if it probably killed him to do so. 

--- The biggest hit didn’t come from Strickland or Harper. It was Jeff Samardzija and Michael Morse coming together in the middle of the field. Both players said they were fine. 

"I was just trying to get in there to break everything up," Morse said. "We lost the game, that's what's most important."

Ahhh, yes, the Giants lost 3-0. Bochy seemed particularly peeved that Strickland chose the eighth inning of a 2-0 game to exact revenge, and you can bet some teammates weren't thrilled. We'll see if there's anything more to this Tuesday. There was a lot of adrenaline flowing, but some of these guys might not be feeling so spry when they wake up in the morning. Bochy said he had not heard any reports of players getting injured, but he also admitted that he didn't see most of the collisions and had no idea what happened with Morse and Samardzija, who had a world-class reaction, by the way.  

--- As with the incident with the Dodgers a couple weeks ago, Buster Posey stayed out of this one. Smartly. 

"After it happened I saw Harper point and the next thing you know he's going out after them," Posey said. "Those are some big guys tumbling on the ground. You see Michael Morse, as big as he is, and he's getting knocked around like a pinball."

Posey is not alone in staying away from these scrums where 250-pound dudes are flying at knees and ankles. Brandon Crawford can often be found on the outside, as well. It's smart, but I think something else was at play here today. Posey understands that the Giants are fighting for every scrap at this point. Every loss digs the hole that much deeper, and this happened with two outs in the eighth inning of a 2-0 game, against a team with a poor bullpen. I'd imagine there was some serious annoyance there. 

--- How angry was Strickland? It took three guys, three big guys, to drag him into the dugout: Pence, Mac Williamson, and George Kontos. 

"I was pretty fired up to be honest with you, but that’s just adrenaline," he said. 

--- Baseball fights are rather silly, but at least you get some phenomenal photos.