EXTRA BAGGS: Crawford limps into spotlight, etc.

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EXTRA BAGGS: Crawford limps into spotlight, etc.

Programming Note: Giants and Braves coverage begins this morning at 8:30 a.m. with Giants Pregame Live and baseball follows from Atlanta at 9 a.m., only on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area!

ATLANTA The night began with lightning streaking acrossthe sky. It ended with plenty of thunder in the 11th inning.

And since the Giants and Braves are planning to reconvene ina few hours, it seems only sane for me to go directly into lightning-round modewith some notes and quotes from one of the best back-and-forth regular-seasongames Ive covered.

Do us both a favor first and read the Instant Replay storyif you didnt watch the game. (Or even if you did. There was a lot toremember.)

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What was Brandon Crawford thinking after he fouled that ChadDurbin cutter off his knee in the 11th inning? Did he realize theGiants were out of position players?

I was thinking about it a little bit when I was on theground, Crawford said, soberly. I knew Cain had been warming up, but

Said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, asked if he had to explain the situation to Crawford: Well, I was close totelling him that. We were going to have to get creative. Hes a tough guy andhe recovered and recovered well.

Indeed. Crawford hit the next pitch for a tiebreaking, three-runhome run.

It seems a pitcher always tries to come inside after ahitter fouls a ball off his shin or foot. I asked Crawford if that thought was goingthrough his mind once he willed himself back into the box.

Well, Ive done it before and they come back with the samepitch, Crawford said. I didnt hit the home run the previous times, though. I guess you could say I wasnt cheating to get there, but the thought wentthrough my mind.

It was quite a gimpy trot, but Crawford said his knee was OKafter the momentary shock. It was his first homer since April 11, or 249at-bats ago.

I wasnt trying to pull it, he said. My hands just gotout there, finally, and I got my barrel to it.

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The Giants used 20 of 24 players at Bochys disposal,and the pair of three-run homers in the 11th came from Crawford andGregor Blanco two players who were used off the bench. Blanco pinch-ran forBuster Posey after his leadoff single in the ninth, and Crawford entered as theshortstop on a double-switch in the 10th.

Why 24? Madison Bumgarner was sent home to get some shuteye.

Bumgarner will try to replicate a feat last accomplished by CavemanDon Robinson in June, 1988 pitching the Giants to a three-game sweep inFulton County.

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What if Crawford hadnt been able to go? Well, you wouldveseen Justin Christian move to the infield and Matt Cain, right fielder.

He was a second baseman in his high school days, Bochysaid, not so soberly.

Tim Lincecum joked that he couldve played catcher. Hesbeen involved in enough plays at the plate this season, that's for sure.

Just put a chest protector on me and Id stick my gloveout, he said, smiling.

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Put aside how the Giants won for a moment, and consider allthe times they came within an inch of losing.

Most of those are detailed in the Instant Replay story. Butthere was one small moment that bears attention:

Paul Janish looked like he was swinging a broomstick atthree sliders from Sergio Romo while striking out in the ninth (with one outand the winning run on third base). It was a huge recovery for Romo, who was asall over the board as Ive ever seen him against Chipper and old nemesis DanUggla.

But that third pitch to Janish was in the dirt. And EliWhiteside, catching his first major league inning of the season, blocked it tosave the game.

Whiteside then had to orchestrate a bases-loaded,nine-pitch, four-fouls-with-two-strikes confrontation between Javier Lopez andMichael Bourn.

Im basically throwing everything, all over the zone,Lopez said. Hes blessed with tremendous eyehand coordination, so it was a challenge, for sure. It seems weget walked off here all the time. So thats a big spot to come in and face oneof the best hitters in the game.

And thats whats great about having Whitey back. We wereback on the same page really quick. He knows all of us and what we throw insituations. I wanted to get him to strike out or hit a ground ball. I threw asinker away and he swung over the top.

So yes, it took a huge contribution from their belovedformer backup catcher, in his first major league inning of the season, for theGiants to win this ballgame.

Being with these guys the last two or three years helps outa lot, Whiteside said. All these guys have great stuff. I'd imagine it would be tough tostep into a situation like (Wednesday night) if you hadnt caught them before.

Its great to see all these guys again. I hadnt been ableto watch many games, but I followed as best I could. Its nice to be back.

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What about the decision to pinch-run for Posey in the ninth?It wasnt the wrong call, per se. When you're the road team, you always try to pull out all the stops to win. The longer the game goes, the worse your chances get.

But I heard quite a bit of criticism from fans over themove, and it went something like this: if youre going to pinch run Blanco, don't you have to try to steal?

Well, its a valid point. But I think players have toreact to what the game gives them. And Blanco was nearly picked off twice byCraig Kimbrel. Obviously, he wasnt comfortable getting agood jump. So he didnt go, and Pablo Sandoval hit into a double play.

Why not bunt with Sandoval? Well, thats another debate. Isuppose aside from the argument that Sandoval is paid to drive in runs, itsnot automatic for a guy like him to get a bunt down against Kimbrel, whosthrowing 96 mph.

You could go down the rabbit hole on five dozen things outof a game like this. But its baseball, and the games keep on coming. The nextones coming perhaps a bit too soon for this ball scribe.

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

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USATSI

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

BOX SCORE

The Giants scored twice in the first, four times in the second and once more in the third as they went on to beat the Braves 7-1 Sunday at AT&T Park.

Coming off a rough start against the Cubs, Johnny Cueto bounced back with six solid innings. He allowed six hits, one earned run, one walk and struck out eight.

The scoring started in the bottom of the first when Eduardo Nunez scored on a wild pitch by Braves starter R.A. Dickey. Brandon Crawford followed with an RBI-groundout.

Joe Panik led off the bottom of the second with a triple to right center and scored on a single by Gorkys Hernandez. Two batters later, following a walk to Denard Span, Nunez knocked in Hernandez with a single to left. Later in the inning, Crawford drove in two more runs with a single to left.

In the third, Panik opened the frame with a walk and moved to third on a single by Hernandez. Cueto helped his own cause with a sacrifice fly to right.

After taking two of three from the Braves, the Giants welcome the NL East-leading Nationals to town. The series begins with a Memorial Day matinee.

 

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