EXTRA BAGGS: Giants play matador, fluffy schedule ahead, etc.

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EXTRA BAGGS: Giants play matador, fluffy schedule ahead, etc.

MIAMI -- It was obvious that the Giants were determined notto let Giancarlo Stanton beat them on Sunday.

I suppose thats a smart idea -- and a tad overdue -- considering he was 12 for 25with four home runs and five doubles in six games against them.

For the first time in the season series, Stanton was heldhitless against the Giants. Homerless too, obviously.

He tried, Matt Cain said, smirking. He sniffed the wall,didnt he?
RECAP: Baggs' Instant Replay -- Giants 3, Marlins 2

Yes, he did. It sure sounded like the Timothy Leary home runstructure at Marlins Park would go all trippy when Stanton cracked a boomingfly ball to center field in the sixth. But it was hit more high than deep, andalthough center fielder Angel Pagan stutter-stepped a bit as the ball startedbanana cutting in the air, he was able to make the catch short of the warningtrack.

Banana cutting aside, it was clear the Giants had nointention of trying to slip anything past Stanton. Cain walked him in the fifthinning. Sergio Romo did the same in the eighth.

I definitely dont like to give a guy a free pass, Cainsaid. But hes been swinging so well. If youre keeping him in the park, itsusually pretty good.

Said Romo: "Youve got to respect what he can do on thefield. I went out with my best stuff. I fell behind. From there, Ill do mybest to get him, but tip your cap. He laid off some good pitches.

Romo didnt give in, and part of that means trusting therelievers behind you to get the next guy. Thats exactly what Javier Lopez andSantiago Casilla did while recording a strikeout apiece to escape the eighth with the one-run lead intact.

Its that belief in each other that makes a good bullpengreat. And the same is often true for a lineup.

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Other than bringing in Romo at the right time, this wasnt the best strategic performance from Giants manager Bruce Bochy.

The Giants really shouldnt have used an exaggerated infieldshift on Logan Morrison, whom nobody confuses with Ryan Howard or Barry Bonds.Morrison beat it with a bunt single that led to a run in the fifth inning.

And Bochy picked a far too obvious spot to try to squeeze inthe ninth. Pagan broke from third base on the first pitch to Joaquin Arias, thengot caught in a rundown when the Marlins pitched out. (Incidentally, replays appeared to show Pagan evadedthe tag of third baseman Hanley Ramirez and Pagan said he never felt anything swipe hisjersey. He didnt tag me, said Pagan, who was called out.)

The squeeze was a good play there, but only if the countgets to 2-0 or even 1-0 after the first pitchout. Usually Bochy is pretty cageyabout those. This time, the subterfuge was lacking and Marlins manager OzzieGuillen is no dummy.

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Bochy credited the Giants defense with one of its best gamesthis season.

Arias, who was playing so deep at third base that hemightve been standing in Biscayne Bay, made a terrific, charging,barehand-scoop and throw on a slow chopper to nip Stanton at first base in thesecond inning.

And Ryan Theriot made a great stop and jump throw on LoganMorrison to save two runs in the sixth.

Cain enjoyed watching Theriot make that play, as well astrying to trip himself on ground balls hit to him.

Its amazing how it's only taken Arias a couple games thisspring and during the season to begin to look comfortable at third base. In aspan of 17 starts, hes gone from marginal to solidly above average, borderingon exceptional. Its to the point where its fair to wonder if the Giantsdefense will receive a downgrade when Pablo Sandoval comes back.

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Melky Cabrera's 73 hits are the second most through 48 games in the Giants SanFrancisco era, and here's the best part about digging up that stat:

It makes you appreciate the greatness of Willie Mays all themore.
BAGGARLY: Cabrera amazes, outhits his Giants teammates in pivotal win

Cabrera, as incredible as hes been, isnt even close towhat Mays accomplished through 48 games in 1958. The Say Hey Kid had 84 hits through that many games in the franchise's first season on the West Coast.

I told Bochy of Mays' total and his eyes got wide.

Wow. Thats almost two hits a game, Bochy said.

And Mays wasnt even a leadoff hitter. He had a .424 averageat that time, and finished the year at .347 with 208 hits.

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After seeing the Marlins seven times, heres my take: IfHanley Ramirez were the player he was a couple years ago, theyd be one of thebest teams in the NL. Instead, theyll do well to contend into September.There just aren't enough sticks in that lineup. The lower third of the order isworse than what the Giants throw out there.

And Hanley is just awful. Hes taking so many called thirdstrikes and not hitting anything with authority. That big spring was a mirage.

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The Giants are entering a fluffy part of the schedule.Theyll play 12 of the next 15 at home, and 10 of those games will come againstthe Cubs, Padres and Astros. (Although Houston is more dangerousthan you might think.)

Meanwhile, the Dodgers have a four-game home series withMilwaukee and then hit the road for a 10-game trip.

Bochy said he wasnt paying any mind to the schedule. He wasnt evenaware that the Giants deficit in the NL West was 7.5 games entering Sunday.

Thats a mistake and it can come back to bite you, saidBochy, who doesnt want his players to take anyone lightly. You can drop yourguard. You show up to play and it shouldnt have anything to do with the teamyoure playing. Thats the last thing I ever look at.

Its vital for the Giants to get well and win athome, regardless of the opponent. The Dodgers entered Sunday 20-5 at DodgerStadium. But the Giants are just 12-10 at AT&T Park, a venue that should bea perfect fit for the way they plan to win games.

If the Giants are winning at home the way they should, a 4-3road trip is worthy of fireworks. Instead, its just mildly satisfying.

Giants spring training Day 6: Bochy looks for improvement on bases

Giants spring training Day 6: Bochy looks for improvement on bases

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Giants always put together a long list of potential minor league free agents as the offseason approaches and they tend to go hard after two or three players from that group. One of the guys who got the hard sell over the winter was speedy outfielder Wynton Bernard, and the Giants were attractive for reasons beyond the departures of Angel Pagan and Gregor Blanco.

“I thought it was a good opportunity, and it also was a good fit for me because I’m from California,” Bernard said. 

Bernard is technically from Padres territory, but that gives him a connection to one of the men he’s hoping to impress. When Bernard was playing for Rancho Bernardo High, he often went up against a Poway High team that included a young Brett Bochy. Bruce never saw Bernard play because his job kept him away from most of Brett’s games, but he should see plenty of the 26-year-old this spring as the Giants look for a needed speed dimension. 

A big part of the staff overhaul was about making sure the Giants fare better on the bases. Roberto Kelly and Billy Hayes are out and Phil Nevin and Jose Alguacil are in. The Giants stole 79 bases last season, ranking eighth in the National League, and it’s not like they made up for the lack of small-ball by hitting the ball out of the park. Advanced metrics — tracked externally and also by the Giants — showed an inability to make an impact on the bases. According to BsR, an all-encompassing metric tracked by FanGraphs, the Giants were below average, ranking 17th in the majors. 

“We just want to be smarter baserunners,” Bochy said. “You always want to be aggressive. Everyone has the same philosophy — run hard — but it’s the old adage ‘strong to compete, smart to win.’”

A full season of Eduardo Nuñez will help, as would 162 games of Hunter Pence — who tends to make things happen on his own — and Joe Panik, one of the team’s smartest runners. Jimmy Rollins could provide speed off the bench, and Bernard hopes to make himself a viable option in the outfield. He stole 23 bags in 28 attempts last season for the Tigers’ Double-A and Triple-A teams and he stole 88 total bases the two seasons before 2016. 

The Giants know the kind of potential Bernard has, so early in the offseason he got a call telling him to hook up with fellow San Diego resident Vince Coleman, a legendary baserunner who would be joining the staff. The two worked out often in advance of spring training. 

“The Giants said he was in the area and I called him 20 minutes later,” Bernard said. “I feel like I can add a different dynamic with my speed.”

Bernard can play all three outfield spots and he sports a .360 on-base percentage in the minors. He’s likely ticketed for Triple-A for now, but a player with the same profile showed up in camp in 2012, and it wasn’t long before Gregor Blanco had locked up a roster spot. 

Whether Bernard is part of the mix, or it’s a Gorkys Hernandez or Nuñez or Kelby Tomlinson, Bochy knows he needs a little more athleticism and baserunning savvy in a division where the games are often won by one run. 

“We probably made more mistakes than we should have last year,” he said. “The numbers show it.”

CUETO UPDATE: The co-ace remains in the Dominican Republic, where he is tending to his father. The Giants don’t have a timetable for Cueto’s arrival, but he didn’t miss anything Saturday. The workout was banged because of rain. 

Cueto is at a hotel a few minutes from the club’s Santo Domingo facility and he has been working out there. The hope is that Cueto’s father soon gets well enough to travel to Arizona, where Cueto can continue to take care of him. 

NEW FACE: Slade Heathcott, a former Yankee, signed a minor league deal with the Giants on Friday. He will be in minor league camp this spring, not big league camp. The Giants liked his athleticism. 

QUOTABLE: “You can always look back, study it, learn from it … the second half, I think for everybody, you learn from it. Did we drop our guard? Hopefully it wasn’t complacency, which lets you think you have a bigger margin for error. Hopefully you learn from it.” — Bochy, when asked about the lesson learned last season. 

Report: Giants sign former Yankees top OF prospect Slade Heathcott

Report: Giants sign former Yankees top OF prospect Slade Heathcott

The Giants reportedly added to their outfield competition by signing former Yankees top prospect and 2009 first-round draft pick, outfielder Slade Heathcott. 

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports was first to report the news

Heathcott, 26, has only appeared in 17 MLB games, all in the 2015 season for the Yankees. In his short promotion, the lefty batted .400 (10-for-25) with two home runs and two doubles. 

Through multiple stints in the minors, Heathcott has slashed .266/.343/.390 with 26 home runs for his career. 

San Francisco reportedly signed Heathcott to a minor league deal with a big league invite for spring training.