EXTRA BAGGS: Two-day break benefits Sandoval, etc.

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EXTRA BAGGS: Two-day break benefits Sandoval, etc.

DENVER Back in 2010, Pablo Sandoval lost his starting jobdown the stretch.

There is almost no way manager Bruce Bochy could turn himinto a bench player again. He is too much of a run-producing presence on a teamthat has hit the fewest home runs in the major leagues.

For all the talk about filling the Melky Cabrera void inleft field, lets not forget that the Giants needed to fill Cabreras No. 3 spotin the batting order, too. That is Sandovals job, and it remained so when hereturned to the lineup Friday after 48 hours to complete a mental flush.

Sandoval responded with three hits, and while he threw aball into right field while bungling a potential double play in the second inning,he came right back to make the play of the game in the sixth.

With the bases loaded and no outs, he made a diving,sprawling, terrific reaction play to snare Chris Youngs line drive down theline.

RECAP: Baggs' Instant Replay -- Giants 6, D'backs 2

Sandoval was frustrated by the error. But he didnt allow itto be disruptive.

Youve got to forget about it, he said. When you make anerror, the next ball will come to you. Ill take it.

Remember, Sandoval lost his starting job in 2010 when he couldn't be relied upon to catch the ball. So his focus and performance in the field is perhaps even more important than his ability to produce in the No. 3 slot.

Did the break help? Sandoval said it did.

When youre struggling both on defense and offense, itstime to refresh my mind, Sandoval said. A manager like Bochy gives you theopportunity to think a little more about your game. I dont want to take it,but its part of the game. Today I was like a new guy, a new mind.

Did Bochy think about giving Sandoval yet another dayoff on Friday?

The two days is long enough to recharge the batteries,Bochy said prior to the game. You dont want to get inside his head, either,or break his spirit. Hes a presence in this lineup, and really, hes doing agood job against left-handed pitching. Well see how it goes.

It usually goes well at Chase Field. Sandoval entered theday as a .355 hitter with a .981 OPS in 32 career games here. Five homers in121 at-bats, too.

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This was not Matt Cains prettiest effort while matching hisseason high with his 14th victory. But it was satisfying, especiallygiven the opponent.

The Giants are now 6-7 against the Arizona Diamondbacks withfive to play. And while Bochy downplayed the motivation to win it, Cain had amore strenuous opinion.

It definitely would, especially with last year when we hadto watch these guys clinch, Cain said. I think we would like that. We allhave that in our memories. So we all want to win the season series with theseguys.

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What does Hunter Pence think of the fact he has 34 RBIs on37 hits?

Well, he said, gulping surprise. That tells me I need tostart getting more hits. Thats what that tells me. Make em pitch to (Buster) Poseywith runners on.

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Xavier Nady told Bochy that hes ready to start in leftfield, estimating his hamstring to be at 90 percent after getting more work inleft field and doing agility drills in addition to sprint work.

But Bochy said he wanted to give Nady one more day to makesure hes comfortable in left field. And the manager liked Gregor Blancosat-bats in Wednesdays victory at Coors Field. So Blanco gets another start.

I asked Nady if hes eager to show what he can do, knowinghell have to force his way onto a playoff roster.

Yeah, but no matter the situation, you obviously want to beon the field, Nady said. Ive been here such a short period of time and thenhad the injury its frustrating but you try to do whatever you can to getback out there.

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Ryan Vogelsong threw in the bullpen with no issues and wascleared to start on Sunday, Bochy said. Vogelsong took a hard line drive offhis shin that pretty much caught him on the bone in his last outing at CoorsField.

"There was a little concern, Bochy said. But its muchbetter. I dont see any issue with him making his start.

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The Giants are sending pitchers Heath Hembree, Chris Gloor,and Jacob Dunnington to the Arizona Fall League. The club was checking onwhether they could get a special dispensation for Dan Runzler as well, but theleft-hander told me that he feels a full offseason of rest is the best thingfor him. Hes been rehabbing his lat injury since last December, and thatsbeen a mental drain as well as a physical one. Ill have more on Runzler in thenext day or two.

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Former big leaguer Mike Fetters chatted up Bochy on the field. Hes probably been watching all of Bochys pitching changes on TV and figured he could use a 15th reliever.

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Everyone had a jab for Santiago Casilla after he collectedhis first big league hit. But one guy couldnt say a word. In case youveforgotten, a couple years ago, Dan Runzler dislocated his knee while taking ahack in his first big league at-bat. Madison Bumgarner had to finish it, and hetook some of those big Bumgarner cuts while striking out.

But the at-bat belonged to Runzler. So he was sitting on thetrainers table in pain when he officially struck out.

Good times.

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants dropping series vs Braves

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants dropping series vs Braves

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — The kid who raced The Freeze on Thursday night blew a tire as he hit center field, hobbled for about 50 feet, and then went down for good. He still had a better night than the Giants. 

They blew all four tires in the fifth, giving up eight runs in a nightmare frame that turned a two-run lead into a 12-11 loss. The Giants finished 1-7 on the swing through Denver and Atlanta, and they have lost 18 of their last 23 games. 

But, let’s face it, you’re here already. So here are five more things to know from the night … 

—- Matt Cain was hanging in there until the fifth, and then … disaster. The inning started with Brandon Phillips’ solo shot that cut the lead to one. Then it went single, single before Cain was relieved by Bryan Morris. After that, it was single, single, single, sacrifice fly, homer, flyout, walk, single, pitching change, single. 

—- Morris had to wear it in the fifth because the bullpen is short, and boy, did he wear it. Morris gave up five runs on five hits and a walk. His ERA jumped two full points in two-thirds of an inning. 

—- Kyle Crick made his MLB debut in that horrendous bottom of the fifth. The Giants surely did not want to bring him in with runners on, but Bruce Bochy had no choice when Morris blew up. Crick’s first pitch was a 95 mph heater. After giving up a hit in that inning, he pitched a perfect sixth and perfect seventh. Crick topped out at 97 mph. Pretty, pretty good stuff there. He needs to get a long look the rest of this year. 

—- In the second, Buster Posey hit a ball that went 311 feet and had a hit probability of just six percent. Cain hit a ball 357 feet. Posey got a homer that bounced off the top of the wall; Cain just got a double. Baseball is such an odd game.  

—- On a positive note, Javi Lopez, who calls Brandon Belt “Sparky,” repeatedly referred to Posey as Gerald. He’s going to be good at this job. 

Why you shouldn't freak out in June about Cueto's opt-out

Why you shouldn't freak out in June about Cueto's opt-out

SAN FRANCISCO — There’s a very important fact you need to keep in mind when talk of Johnny Cueto’s opt-out comes up, as it so often will over the next six weeks: The Giants always expected him to opt-out after this season, from the moment the ink was dry on the six-year, $130-million contract. 

When you sign at the top of your game and have a chance to hit the market at 31 years old and cash out a second time, you take it. Those are just the rules of professional sports. On the day Cueto was introduced, his agent, Bryce Dixon, said the two-year opt-out was important because they felt Cueto didn’t get a totally fair shot at free agency. 

“Johnny, a little bit unfairly, had a lot of questions about his arm,” Dixon said in December of 2015. “I felt we could reestablish his actual value … He knows he’s as good as (David) Price and (Zack) Greinke, but his situation was a little different.”

The Giants were fine with this, too. The flip side of the opt-out is that if you have the chance to pay a dominant right-hander $46 million over two years, and then escape his mid- to late-thirties, you do it. Every time. You don’t even blink. 

So, here we are, in June of the second year of that deal, with reports that Cueto will opt out. You should take a deep breath because you should have already expected this. But if you didn’t, take comfort in this: By all indications, Cueto has not made a decision, even with the Giants having an unimaginably poor season. 

First of all, Cueto can't make a decision in June. What if the blisters return and he repeats his April ERA a couple more times? What if his elbow starts barking? There are no guarantees with pitchers, and until Cueto gets through the second season, there will be no finality with his decision. 

Aside from the fact that he really can’t make that decision, though, sources insist Cueto hasn’t made up his mind or even thought much about it. People familiar with his thinking continue to say the focus has been baseball all season long, from spring training through his last start. 

Cueto is said to be happy in San Francisco and he enjoys pitching in front of the crowd at AT&T Park. His biggest concern has been wins and losses, and in that respect, this has been a disappointing year for all involved. 

That record has brought the Giants to a crossroads, and this is where it gets interesting. The easy solution is to trade Cueto next month, avoid the opt-out situation entirely, and add prospects to a system lacking them. But, it’s complicated. The Giants do not intend a full teardown, and if they’re going for it again in 2018 — with their core of Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Madison Bumgarner, etc. locked in, that’s the plan — they’ll want that second ace at the top of the rotation. And if Bumgarner doesn’t return to form after an injury, they’ll need Cueto’s presence. 

The Giants have until July 31 to decide what to do with Cueto. He has until three days after the World Series ends to decide what to do with his contract. Here in June, by all indications, those decisions haven’t been made.