EXTRA BAGGS: No-lose situation for Loux, Kobe Bryant's baseball brother, etc.

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EXTRA BAGGS: No-lose situation for Loux, Kobe Bryant's baseball brother, etc.

ANAHEIM Matt Cain wasnt the only Giants pitcher to workwith an extra surge of adrenaline Monday night.

Shane Loux admitted he nearly jumped out of his chair whenthe bullpen phone rang and he was summoned to get loose with the Giants leadingin the fifth inning.

Loux took the mound after a laboring Cain barely made itthrough five. He retired all three batters he faced in the sixth, setting atone that held for the bullpen the rest of the night. Cain wasnt perfect, butfour Giants relievers retired all 12 batters they faced.

And Loux got credited with a hold in the box score. That might not mean much to me or youor to your fantasy team. It might not come with a trophy or a souvenir or anewspaper headline to frame.

But when youve appeared in seven games all season, eachtime entering with your team trailing, each time walking into a losingclubhouse at the end of the day well, you learn to appreciate a change ofpace.

Nobody knows their role better than I do, and Im OK withthat, said Loux, who hadnt appeared in the majors since 2009 with the Angelsbefore the Giants purchased his contract last month. Still, theres someadrenaline when the phone rings.

Its nice. I like getting work, but its nice getting workto help the team win, especially for Matt.

Just a few weeks ago, everyone assumed that Loux would goback to Triple-A Fresno the moment that Brad Penny was ready. It looked like itwould take a couple of tune-up outings for Penny in the minors. But even thoughPennys shoulder is healthy enough to compete now, its hard to argue theGiants would be better off with him over Loux. Theyve already got a long guywith good stuff who throws strikes.

Loux has a 1.35 ERA and hes unscored upon in seven of eightoutings.

Threw strikes, he said, matter-of-factly. Get aggressivehitters to hit it on the ground. Thats what you want to do as a bullpen: getquick outs. Obviously, Romo and Affeldt and Casilla have been doing it. It wasnice to be a part of a victory.

Maybe Loux will get his own victory one of these days.

Got a win in 03 and another in 09, he said, smiling. SoIll wait another few years and get another one.

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Cain made a nice recovery on Mike Trouts comebacker in thefourth inning, but just as impressive was the way Buster Posey managed the playat the plate. He received the throw, swiped his tag on Maicer Izturis, thenkicked his legs out of the way to make extra sure that his lower half wouldntmake contact with the runner.

That is exactly, EXACTLY how Bruce Bochy and Posey worked tohandle these plays in the spring.

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Yes, its amazing that Cain retired 32 consecutive battersbefore Trout broke his streak with a leadoff single. But lets not forget thatlast year, Sergio Romo retired 31 consecutive over 15 appearances.

I let Romo know that Cains last out of his perfect gamenudged him ahead by one.

Ah, he got me, huh? Romo said.

Romo had a rough one in Seattle on Sunday, but he sure didbounce back well. He retired all four hitters he faced, including AlbertPujols.

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I havent seen Bryce Harper play yet. But if hes betterthan Mike Trout, Ill be a rally monkeys uncle.

There are some players who fall under the category of worththe price of admission. One game and Im convinced: Hes one of them.

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The press box here at the Big A has changed a bit since Icovered the team last in 2001. They pinched around 15 feet from each end tocreate extra luxury boxes. Imagine my surprise when I glanced to my left anddiscovered Kobe Bryant sitting in one, intently watching the game just a fewfeet away from me.

The Giants players noticed, too. In fact, they see Kobeevery day.

Joaquin Arias is his stunt double.

Whenever he makes a good play we yell Koh-BEEE! ClayHensley said. We were wondering why he went up there to watch the game.Somehow he got dressed real quick, I guess.

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On a more somber note, best wishes to former Giant JeromeWilliams, who exited the game in the fourth inning and then ended up in thehospital when he had difficulty breathing. Based on reports from Angelsofficials, he is stable and doing well but will be held overnight as aprecaution. Hes expected at the ballpark on Tuesday.

The uncertainty and scary nature of the news reminded me ofthe night on the Angels beat in 2000 when left-hander Kent Mercker fell to one knee on the mound and had to behelped off the field. None of us knew how he was injured or how serious it was.Mercker suffered a cerebral hemmhorage a one in-a-million shot and camevery close to losing his life. He ended up making a full recovery, and was ableto resume his career, too.

We shouldnt need reminders that life is fragile and thatevery day is a gift to be appreciated.

After Giants' first Coors Field sweep in 15 years, Bochy preaches urgency

After Giants' first Coors Field sweep in 15 years, Bochy preaches urgency

DENVER — Bruce Bochy watched the first two games of this road trip from his home in San Diego and the final three from the top step of the dugout at Coors Field. He did not like what he saw, but at the moment he’s more concerned with what he might hear. 

“What you have to careful of — you can’t let any kind of complacency set in and say, ‘It’s early, we’ll be ok.’ I don’t want to hear that either,” Bochy said. “It’s the old adage that you come out with some sense of urgency. All these games are important. You’ve got to stay away from that attitude, too: ‘We’re not through April yet and have 140-something games left.’ That doesn’t work out.”

Three weeks into the season, nothing is working. The rotation has a 5.02 ERA, the worst in the Majors. The lineup scored 10 runs over a five-game road trip and got shut out twice. The bullpen hasn’t been given many leads with which to make up for the first-week trouble. The defense has been uncharacteristically sloppy. 

It has added up to a 6-13 start, tied for the worst in club history. The Giants have lost six of seven and they’ll head home seven games out of first place. 

“Right now there’s nothing clicking,” Bochy said. “Let’s be honest, this has been a rough start and we’re not very good right now. I’m not saying we’re not very good. We are good, but we’ve got to find a way to come out of this. This was a tough way to end this series. We’ve been through it. I’ve got men out there and that’s when you find a way to get through this. They will.”

Perhaps Monday will bring some fresh blood for the roster. Drew Stubbs appears poised to give the Giants another veteran option should they cut bait with a struggling outfielder. Michael Morse could be an option in left field soon, and if he’s mostly relegated to first, the Giants can put Brandon Belt in the outfield. He looked fine there Sunday while playing both corner spots. 

Those are moves made around the edges of the roster, though. There is no magic bullet coming from the outside, not even Christian Arroyo, who continues to mash at Triple-A. This is a $200 million roster and much of that has been spent on the rotation. Through 13 games, it is the worst in the National League, and the ace was lost to an off-field accident. Sure, the starters have pitched at Chase Field and Coors Field, but on back-to-back days they were dominated by Rockies rookies who make a living here. 

Samardzija could not keep pace with left-hander Kyle Freeland, who sawed off a handful of bats while cruising through seven. Samardzjiza gave up a run early, two more in the fourth on a hanging splitter that was blasted to right, and five in the sixth.

Bochy challenged his starting staff to improve after Saturday’s game. He has not publicly done the same with the lineup, but subtle changes have been made here and there. It is a group that, outside of a couple of players, has lacked energy. Because they don’t hit for power, the Giants are reliant on stringing together rallies. For the fourth time in seven games, the lineup failed to put a runner on base the first time through the order. 

“Even in spring training we had our games where we had trouble getting something going early,” Bochy said. “It’s the fourth or fifth before a hit. Somehow, we’ve got to change that.”

The Giants played Sunday without Jarrett Parker (clavicle) and Denard Span (right shoulder sprain), but for the most part the lineup is healthy. Bochy said he has talked to hitting coach Hensley Meulens about possibly altering pre-game routines, but that seems a cosmetic fix. 

“We’ve talked and we’ve shaken up the lineup, but as you saw today, there’s only so much you can do,” he said. 

Bochy knows there is outside noise regarding the roster. His eyes bulged the other day when asked if Arroyo would get a call-up next week. The Giants do not feel he is quite ready, or that there is a spot for him on the infield. For all the potential bench options waiting at Triple-A, this team's core is set, and it’s not outrageously banged-up compared to the rest of the division. 

The Dodgers, who come into town Monday, have 10 players on the disabled list, including No. 2 starter Rich Hill, second baseman Logan Forsythe, and left fielder Andre Ethier. The Rockies, the best team in the NL West thus far, are off to this start without big offseason acquisition Ian Desmond and young slugger David Dahl. Jon Gray, their opening day starter, went on the DL after facing the Giants in San Francisco. Chad Bettis, a rotation member, is getting treatment for testicular cancer. 

This division is better than expected, and as the end of April approaches, the Giants are bringing up the rear. Bochy’s plea for urgency was one that would have fit right in with last season’s second half. Back then, the Giants could at least lean on a huge start that got them into the postseason. As they flew home Sunday, there was nothing to fall back on but a simple truth.

This is the team. It must play better.

“We have everything we need in this room,” Samardzija said. “Sometimes you need to go out on the field and prove it.”

 

Instant Replay: Giants' struggles continue in sweep from Rockies

Instant Replay: Giants' struggles continue in sweep from Rockies

BOX SCORE

DENVER — Bruce Bochy spent about 10 minutes before Sunday’s game talking about potential options in left field and center. The problems for this lineup, however, currently go much deeper than the outfield. 

A day after the Giants managed just four hits off Antonio Senzatela, the bats went completely limp against fellow Rockies rookie Kyle Freeland. The Giants were shut out 8-0, a rarity at Coors Field. They were blanked twice on the road trip and scored just 10 runs during a five-game swing through Kansas City and Denver. 

The sweep at Coors Field was the Giants' first since 2002. At 6-13, they have the worst record in the National League.

For the fourth time in seven games, and third time on this five-game road trip, the Giants went one time through the order without a baserunner. That puts added pressure on your starter, and Jeff Samardzija couldn’t keep it close. Charlie Blackmon hit a leadoff liner to right that was misplayed into a triple and he scored on a sacrifice fly. Gerardo Parra got a spinner down in the zone in the fourth and blasted a two-run shot to right. 

As they did Saturday night, the Rockies pulled away with a huge rally. Nolan Arenado’s infield single and a walk of Carlos Gonzalez set the table in the sixth. Gerardo Parra lined a single to center and all runners advanced when Gorkys Hernandez kicked it. Trevor Story’s single to right was bobbled by Hunter Pence and two more scored. Blackmon’s double made it 8-0.

Starting pitching report: Samardzija was charged with seven earned in 5 1/3 innings. He has a 7.40 ERA through four starts. The starting staff has a 5.02 ERA, the worst in the majors. That won’t play, not when you’ve spent most of your resources the last two years on starters. 

Bullpen report: Hunter Strickland's Mullet had a scoreless debut. 

At the plate: Nope. 

In the field: Brandon Belt’s first start in left this season was rather uneventful. He caught a liner right at him in the first and came up inches short on a diving attempt in foul territory. Belt moved to right in the seventh inning. He had one previous inning there in the big leagues but he actually prefers right because it’s the same angle as his normal position. Belt gloved a liner right at him in the eighth. 

Attendance: The Rockies announced a crowd of 42,011 human beings and one donkey, who was a menace. 

Up next: The first look at the Dodgers. The Giants will see Hyun-Jin Ryu, Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood and likely Julio Urias in the four-game series.