EXTRA BAGGS: A homestand gone awry, etc.

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EXTRA BAGGS: A homestand gone awry, etc.

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO Matt Cain served up a leadoff home run to aguy who hadnt gone deep in 629 at-bats.

Wednesday nights game got stranger from there.

The New York Mets had 18 baserunners, scored just two runs and won.

The Giants committed the greater sin by letting them off thehook. Well leave it to David Wright to provide the analysis:

We shouldve lost that game about nine times over.

No wonder relievers George Kontos and Clay Hensley sat intheir chairs with their arms wrapped in ice, staring into space. No wonder theclubhouse had a vibe like theyd just accidentally put a winning lotto ticketthrough the trash compactor.

Hunter Pence has been here just 24 hours. But hes playedbaseball all his life. He knows how a missed opportunity looks and feels.

There was a ton of excitement, it was loud, it was rowdy,and we had a crazy game, said Pence, who was 0 for 4 with two strikeouts inhis Giants debut. Unfortunately, I didnt do what they brought me here for.But its Game One.

For the Giants, its game No.104. And by the grace of God,its its another day in first place, since the Dodgers got swept at home bythe Diamondbacks.

Then again, that made the missed-opportunity feeling in theGiants clubhouse all the more hollow in the gut. Youd better believe they areaware that Arizona is just 2 games back.

This is a juncture in the schedule when the Giants needed to start climbing. Their current 10-game homestand matches their longest of the season. Now their best hope is to win behind Barry Zito on Thursday just to finish 4-6, and split a four-game series against a subpar opponent.

You never want to be forced to get well on the road, and after Thursday, the Giants will play 19 of their next 29 games away from AT&T Park.

Back to Pence for a moment: He came in with unimpressivenumbers against Mets lefty Jonathon Niese (3 for 20) and he only felt he hadone good at-bat Wednesday, when he fouled off four consecutive pitches one ofthem a long foul fly down the right field line before striking out.

I might have been trying to calm myself down too much,relax too much, Pence said. There was a lot of adrenaline. But Niese was on.Ill give him that.

Ill keep grinding. I wont be 0 for 4 every night.

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The Mets were abysmal with runners on base, but credit theGiants defense with making some huge plays to save runs.

And cue up another highlight for Gregor Blanco, who hauledin another full-extension catch that left 41,000 slack-jawed. While this onedidnt preserve a perfect game, it did keep the Mets from scoring a run in afourth inning that couldve turned from homely to hideous.

Matt Cain is now officially spoiled.

Blanco picked me up again, Cain said. Who knows whatcouldve happened after that? That was a momentum builder. We just couldntcapitalize on it after that.

How does Blanco rank that catch among his best?

Second, he said, without hesitation.

Just like that remarkable catch June 13, Blanco took acouple extra steps to his right because he was reading the pitch.

I knew he was going to throw away, so I was guessing if hehit it, hes going to put it in the gap, Blanco said.

Will Cain come to expect every ball to end up in Blancosglove?

Thats what I like, Blanco said. I say to him, Make themhit everything to center field. I can get it. That gives him trust so he canthrow his pitch and dont worry about anything, because we have a greatdefense.

Pence walked up to Blanco and told him it was the best catchhes seen all year.

You just got here, Blanco told him, smiling.

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So what the heck was wrong with Cain? He almost neverapproaches 100 pitches in five innings. Hes given up eight home runs in hislast six starts, too.

I did feel fine in the bullpen, but for some reason, I wentout there and it just changed, Cain said. I was battling myself the wholetime and couldnt throw early strikes. It was a constant struggle. It was along five innings for me, and definitely not what I want to do.

Cain didnt get the support to win and he did well to limitthe damage, but he blamed himself for letting the Mets dominate time ofpossession.

I just put our guys behind the 8-ball, Cain said. I didntget them in the dugout fast enough to get something going.

So Pence had plenty of time to bend blades of grass in rightfield. At least bird legs lady wasnt there to heckle him this time.

Giants spring training Day 42: Blach still in the fifth starter mix

Giants spring training Day 42: Blach still in the fifth starter mix

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Ty Blach is the young one in the race to be the fifth starter, but on Sunday he sounded like a veteran. Asked if he has gotten a hint one way or the other about his opening day role, Blach smiled.

“I’m just taking it day-by-day and trying to get better,” Blach said. “I’m enjoying the process and having fun.”

Smooth. 

Those days are adding up to a nice spring for Blach, the left-hander trying to unseat Matt Cain. While Bruce Bochy didn’t shed any additional light on the current lean, team officials hinted Sunday that this is not as open-and-shut as it seems. Matt Cain, who will start Tuesday, looked like a lock to be the fifth starter a week ago, but the Giants are considering all options because they have an off day during the first week and two more shortly thereafter. 

“We’ve had discussions every day,” Bochy said. “We’ve got some tough calls.”

The Giants are expected to announce their official rotation when they return home for the Bay Bridge Series. Whether he’s starting, long-relieving, or pitching in a completely new role, Blach has certainly done all he can to make sure he’s in the big leagues on April 2. He gave up two runs over six innings Sunday, walking one and striking out one while giving up seven hits. Blach has allowed 10 runs in 20 1/3 innings this spring, but four of those came when he was ambushed coming out of the bullpen one day.

“Wherever I’ll be, I know I’ll be in a good spot,” Blach said. “I’m just looking forward to getting the season rolling.

After pitching out of the bullpen most of the spring, Blach got his pitch count up to 85 on Sunday. 

“We’ve gotten him stretched out,” Bochy said. “That’s a solid, solid job. We’ve got guys stretched out where you want them. We’ve got some flexibility. We’ll see as we get close here which way we’ll go.”

POSITION BATTLES: The Giants will carry a backup for Denard Span, and for about a month it looked like Gorkys Hernandez would be that guy. But Hernandez has slumped so badly this spring that he went over the minor league facility Sunday to get a ton of extra at-bats, and Justin Ruggiano has emerged, reaching base in nine of his last 16 plate appearances. The plan a few days back was for Ruggiano to go to Sacramento and get 50 or so at-bats to see where he’s at, but this is another race that could change in the coming week. 

Cory Gearrin has done his part to hold off any charging relievers, throwing two sharp innings while going back-to-back for the first time this spring. 

FAMILIAR FACES: A rough day for a couple of longtime Giants. Ehire Adrianza and Gregor Blanco both have oblique injuries, hurting their odds of breaking with the Twins and Diamondbacks, respectively. Elsewhere, David Hernandez showed that he made a smart decision asking for his release. He was signed by the Braves. 

AROUND CAMP: Hunter Pence really does do all he can to make every single teammate feel welcome in the clubhouse. He spent some time with young right-hander Roberto Gomez on Sunday morning, learning a few Spanish phrases. When the players went out to warm up, Pence threw with Jae-Gyun Hwang. These are small gestures, but for the new guys, they matter. 

BARRY’S BACK: We all knew Barry Bonds would step into the cage at some point, and on a quiet Sunday morning, there he was. Bonds, 52, took about five or six easy hacks before crushing one out to deep right. He’s still got it. The other day, reporters asked Bonds if he could suit up in the WBC if asked. He said he can absolutely still hit, but he would need to DH and he would need a day or two off before games. Being a big league hitter is not easy, even if he always made it look that way.

 

Bonds dusts off swing, cracks home run during BP in Giants' camp

Bonds dusts off swing, cracks home run during BP in Giants' camp

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants knew Barry Bonds would step back into the box at some point. It happened Sunday, with Bonds taking a few cracks at BP pitches from Gary Davenport.

Bonds warmed up with a couple of lighter swings and then blasted a homer to deep right. That was enough, as the 52-year-old walked away with a big smile on his face. 

Bonds is in camp as a special instructor, and he still picks his spots to show off his legendary swing. When he was the Marlins' hitting coach last season, he beat slugger Giancarlo Stanton in an impromptu home run derby.