CINCINNATI The Giants could have chosen from among two former Cy Young Award winners, Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum, to hold the shield with their backs against the wall in Game 3 Tuesday night.They chose neither. Theyll put their faith in their 35-year-old journeyman, instead.Ryan Vogelsong knows what its like to stand with his back against his wall. Its the natural result of walking down so many career dead ends. But his remarkable path led him back to the major leagues in 2011 after a six-year, continent-jumping hiatus. And now the Giants will entrust him to extend their playoff lives against the surging Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park.Was it emotional when manager Bruce Bochy told Vogelsong the ball would be his?Yes and no, Vogelsong said. It was, because of the path Ive been on. And no, because I went into this series with the mindset that I was going to do whatever was asked of me to do.The fact hes given me the opportunity to start a game is tremendous. Its exciting. its amazing for me, but I said this a couple days ago: Its not about me at this point. Its about the team and whats best for us.Bochy announced Vogelsong in the hours prior to Game 2 on Sunday. Shortly after the club landed in Cincinnati on Monday and prepared to take the field for a light workout, Bochy made it official that Zito would start in Game 4.Bochy, his staff and the front office agreed over the final week of the regular season that Tim Lincecum would be the one starter bypassed in this NL Division Series.Even though Vogelsong got tagged for a 10.31 ERA over a seven-start span in late August and September, he rebounded well and threw filthy stuff at times while allowing just one earned run over his final three outings.Vogelsong said the rough run was a mix of overthinking his mechanics and some bad luck on balls in play.But Im pretty happy with how I feel going into tomorrow, said Vogelsong, who turned down the option to fly ahead of the team.The Giants were 2-0 in Vogelsongs starts against the Reds this season, although he didnt factor in the decision either time. (Angel Pagans ninth-inning homer turned a loss into a victory in Vogelsongs start here April 26.) He had a 4.15 ERA over the two starts and allowed home runs to Jay Bruce (at Cincinnati) and Todd Frazier (at home).Vogelsong said he would take full advantage of the intelligence gained by watching the first two games, when Reds hitters prevented Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner from recording an out in the sixth inning.Bruces homer off Cain, for instance, came when he got a fourth consecutive changeup over a span of two at-bats.Yes, I think we need to attack some people differently, said Vogelsong, who will put his trust in catcher Buster Posey. I have trusted him all year and he and I will talk about things tomorrow and try to come up with a good game plan and hopefully, that works.--Tim Lincecum did not do any pre-throwing or get his arm loose out of sight Sunday. He really did throw just two warmup pitches off a bullpen mound -- in front of the rubber, actually -- before he was summoned amid confusion to take the mound in the sixth inning.Asked again about the odd start to Lincecums rare relief appearance, in which he threw two scoreless innings, Bochy said Lincecum assured them he was OK to take the mound.We placed him on toss (in the bullpen) and he assured Righetti, Im good to go. Im ready to go, Bochy said. And he got confused there because he thought we were waiting for the pitcher to get up.Lincecum made the standard number of warmup pitches on the game mound before retiring six of the seven batters he faced. Perhaps he told Righetti he would be fine, assuming he still had more time to get loose?Im not going to get into that, said Lincecum, when asked about it after Mondays workout at Cincinnati.Bochy said the cold start might have benefited the former ace, who has struggled to repeat his delivery all season.It probably worked well for him, Bochy said. There wasnt a lot of thinking going on and he had some of his best stuff in terms of command.Maybe so. And maybe Lincecum is called The Freak for a reason.But hes still owed 22 million next season. So the Giants should count themselves lucky if they emerge from this with perhaps some hurt feelings and nothing else.--I hadnt appreciated what a tremendous all-around player Brandon Phillips was till I watched him on a playoff stage over the past two games. From diving to back up first base to doing the Bernie Lean to avoid a tag and defuse a potential double play to the more traditional stuff, like playing great defense or hitting a tone-setting, two-run home run. Phillips really does it all.Ill let Dusty Baker explain it. He does a better job than I ever could.Its hard to find that energy with talent. Sometimes you can find that energy, but without talent it doesnt do any good. He sparks us on the field, off the field, on defense, on offense. And he can do many things to beat you. Like the other night when he avoided that tag That goes unnoticed but we notice it. Going first to third, taking pitches or not striking out very much -- here is a guy who can do almost anything on a baseball field.Hes the only person that Ive had probably other than Barry Bonds that can bat anywhere in the lineup and feel comfortable doing that.Ive seen a growth. Hes one of our leaders here. We have a lot of leaders in a lot of departments, but The B is The B. Ive seen him grow big-time since Ive been here. When I first got here, I was having to spank him once a month, you know what I mean? Now its probably once every three months.
WASHINGTON – Albert Almora Jr. didn’t use Wednesday’s Oval Office photo op as a subtle form of political protest, but it did sort of look like the Cubs outfielder gave President Donald Trump the middle finger, at least from that angle in an image that went viral on Twitter.
“There was two fingers! Look closely, there was two fingers!” a veteran player yelled across the room as reporters gathered around Almora’s locker inside the visiting clubhouse at Nationals Park.
“Guys were giving me a hard time about it,” Almora said, “but I pointed out the second finger. We’re all good.”
In another White House visit that didn’t look nearly as unofficial or informal as the Cubs said it would be, one snapshot became Almora with part of his left hand in his pocket. Almora stood near Kris Bryant – who held a 45 Wrigley Field scoreboard panel – and Trump at his desk with the World Series trophy.
“Obviously, it’s unfortunate,” Almora said with a laugh. “I’m getting ready to take a picture and I’m posing there. But you guys know that I would never do that to the president of the United States.
“I respect everybody. It is what it is. We laugh about it now, but there’s definitely two fingers out there.”
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SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants were annoyed by Monday’s “rubbing teammates the wrong way” report for a number of reasons, but near the top of the list was the fact that the target, Mark Melancon, has been pitching hurt to try and help a last-place team. That’s no longer the case.
Melancon went on the DL on Wednesday morning and later had a PRP (platelet rich plasma) injection in his right arm to try and ease some of the discomfort in his pronator. He is expected to be out the rest of the first half. Melancon would be eligible to return with two games left until the break, but there’s no point in rushing him. He missed 12 games the first time this came up and he now has more than two weeks to rest before the second half kicks off.
In the meantime, Sam Dyson is the closer, but he was unavailable Wednesday because of a heavy workload. So Bruce Bochy got creative to close out a 5-3 win over the Rockies. George Kontos came on for a sharp Ty Blach in the seventh and carried the lead to the eighth. Steven Okert got through the 26th out and Hunter Strickland came in to get Ian Desmond to fly out for his first save of the year.
Because Bochy wanted Kontos to face Pat Valaika in the eighth, he got an at-bat 15 hours after Cory Gearrin got to take his hacks. It at first looked like Kontos had “don’t swing” orders, but he fouled a ball off.
“The second fastball I got, if it was near the plate, I was going to swing,” he said.
Kontos said he doesn’t have bragging rights over Gearrin because he fouled a ball off, noting that Gearrin is 1 for 2 in his career and he is 0 for 8. It turns out that they used the same bat, too. Yes, there is a Cory Gearrin model.
“It’s just been hanging out since last year,” Gearrin said, looking down at his equipment bag. “Just in case.”
--- Dan Slania woke up a 4:30, drove to Philadelphia, and boarded a flight that was went down through Nashville to fuel up. He arrived in San Francisco in time for the second inning. And then he watched, met with old teammates, showered … and prepared to fly all the way back to Pennsylvania.
“I’m going to pass out as soon as I get on the plane,” Slania said.
He wasn’t complaining at all. The Giants needed a potential innings-eater with Melancon on the DL, and if Slania is sent back down before Friday’s game, he’ll at least be back near Double-A Richmond and the flight back will have been taken on a chartered jet with a bunch of former teammates. Plus he gets a couple of service days.
“I can tell you it’s well worth it,” Bochy said.
--- The main story today is about Jae-gyun Hwang, who brought some more life to a team that got its first sweep of the year. The standings are what they are, but the Giants are playing much better, and some players started talking Wednesday about how they’re looking forward to being a spoiler for teams like the Rockies and Diamondbacks.
More than anything, the players are just happy that they got to listen to the victory soundtrack again and walk out of this park with smiles.
“We did a really good job of coming into this series and decided what the intent should be,” Nick Hundley said. “We weren’t going to worry about what’s been going on. You control what you can control. It’s nice when the results match up.”
There was a players-only meeting on Monday and Hundley said “everybody got on the same page again.”
Now the tricky part: Keeping it going on the road.
--- Nolan Arenado is a freak and the Giants should give him a blank check, a ton of Facebook stock, and the rights to the Salesforce building when he’s a free agent in two and a half seasons.
--- Ryder Jones is hitless in 16 at-bats but he was keeping his head up. He was an inch or two from a double down the line Wednesday and the Giants feel he’s having good at-bats. More than anything, he's not taking those results into the field and he talked about that at length when we sat down for a podcast the other day. If you subscribe on iTunes here, you’ll have it in the morning.