EXTRA BAGGS: Vogelsong for Cy?

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EXTRA BAGGS: Vogelsong for Cy?

ST. LOUIS Ryan Vogelsong adheres to the same philosophy every time he kicks and deals:

I just try to pitch like its 0-0 all the time, he said.

He needed to use his imagination in the latter stages ofthe Giants 15-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday.

The offense, and Marco Scutaros seven RBIs, will make the 3Dleap off the boxscore. But Vogelsong provided the base of the pyramid yetagain. Its been astounding how consistent hes been all season. Its now 19out of 21 quality starts, and he hasnt failed to complete six innings once.

What do you think? From All-Star snub to Cy Young Awardwinner?

Im not sure if Vogelsong could be considered a favorite atthe moment, although he does own the lowest ERA in the NL among qualifiedstarters, at 2.27. There are some who will argue Aroldis Chapman and CraigKimbrel merit serious attention, and they have a case.

I, for one, would preferto vote for a worthy starting pitcher. But Im not opposed to relievers winningthe award if they are having a truly dominant, impact season.

Chapman hit a bump or two in July, but his numbers are justso ridiculous, and the Reds are playing so well by shortening the game to sixinnings, essentially, that I think he might be my choice if I had to fill out aballot right now.

But Vogelsong man, you look up after a start likeWednesday night tough lineup, on the road, only three strikeouts in seveninnings and you wonder how he kept the Cardinals off the board. How did hekeep them from doing any damage?

Here's one big reason: Vogelsong has held opponents to a .143 averagewith runners in scoring position. Hes allowed just 15 hits with a runner atsecond or third all season.

But the Cardinals didnt even get many opportunitiesWednesday.

So what went right?

Well, I felt we had a really good game plan going in and Iwas able to execute, he said. I was able to make pitches, and on the fewmistakes, I got lucky. They were either fouled off or they took them.

Then there was Brandon Crawfords play in the fourth inning.Its hard to argue that one defensive play saved the game when the final scorewas 15-0. But at minimum, Crawford kept the Cardinals from making it a 2-1score. And if he doesnt make that play, Vogelsongs inning goes fromtroublesome to taxing. Maybe the whole game changes based on that play.

And what a play it was: Crawford made a diving stop of David Freeses grounder tohis right, scampered quickly to his feet and delivered an alarmingly firm throwto first base. He didnt try for the short force. Thats how much confidenceCrawford had in his arm.

It was hit pretty quick, so I didnt really have time tothink whether it would get through, Vogelsong said. It was definitely a playIve seen him make a lot, so for him to make that play wasnt a great shock. Heplays a great shortstop. And the way we swung the bats, I just felt like I wasalong for the ride again.

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More on Crawford: He had 11 total chances, and tallied sixassists and five putouts. As mentioned in the Instant Replay story: Following arough start that included a dozen errors in the first two months, Crawford has committedjust one error in his last 39 games.

That game he had defensively is one of the better gamesIve seen at shortstop, both going to his left and his right, Giants managerBruce Bochy said. And that play, thats a big out right there. That gives apitcher so much more confidence. That lifted Vogey, really. He was starting tolabor.

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Even after taking a 15-0 thrashing, the Cardinals 99 rundifferential remains the best in the major leagues.

That must be small consolation after the Giants handed theCards the worst shutout defeat in history between the two longstandingfranchises. The loss was also the worst shutout defeat by a defending WorldSeries champion since the 1926 Pittsburgh Pirates were beaten 16-0.

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The Giants flip-flopped Marco Scutaro and Ryan Theriot, withTheriot moving down from second to seventh in the order.

Seeing how Scutaro had seven RBIs, that was a move thatworked OK.

Bochy said he talked to Theriot, who is in a bit of alull.

Theriot hit .307 in June, .282 in July and was batting .192in six games this month. Hes been playing as much as anyone on the club notnamed Melky Cabrera, and its fair to assume the Giants will be able to resthim more often once Pablo Sandoval returns in a few days.

Theriot said his elbow has felt mostly good and he hasntrequired any follow-up cortisone injections since he had one in late April.

Scutaro is hitting .347 in a dozen games since joining theGiants.

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Sandoval remains on track to start his rehab assignment forSingle-A San Jose, likely on Friday. He ran the bases aggressively and lookedunencumbered as he busted it from home to third.

A shirtless Bochy raced alongside him for awhile beforebench coach Ron Wotus reminded him that MLB Network cameras were on the field,and its always open season for pregame footage on the irreverent IntentionalTalk show.

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Dont look now, but Brandon Belt has three consecutivemulti-hit games for the first time in his career.

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Jose Mijares will be used as a one-inning pitcher and notstrictly as a left-handed specialist, Bochy said.

Thats OK with Mijares, who sounded gleeful to escape KansasCity and join a first-place club that includes several fellow Venezuelans. Hesaid he knew Pablo Sandoval and played against Gregor Blanco and Marco Scutaro.

Its a good group in here, said Mijares, who speaks prettygood English.

Mijares said he likes to throw his slider to left-handers.As for his overall pitching philosophy?

Strike, strike, strike, he said.

He said he wasnt able to make his scheduled flight from KansasCity on Tuesday night, but caught another and was in the ballpark at the firstpitch. He admitted he was a little nervous when he warmed up in the sixthinning.

No stretching, no nothing, he said.

He ended up not being used. His break-in outing came a nightlater, and in a 15-0 game. If it were any more of a low-pressure situation, hedhave been weightless. (Which I can assure you is NOT the case.)

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Santiago Casilla threw 15 pitches off a bullpen moundWednesday afternoon and was available, Bochy said. In case you were wondering.

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What a great night for Giants pitching prospects. Lefty MikeKickham threw seven no-hit innngs for Double-A Richmond against Harrisburg.With 105 pitches, the game was turned over to the bullpen and the combined no-nobid got busted up in the eighth.

Meanwhile, Kyle Crick looks every bit like the high-ceilingarm the Giants envisioned when they drafted him last year. He struck out 10while allowing three hits and a walk in 6 23 innings for Low-A Augusta. The19-year-old Texan has 97 strikeouts in 87 13 innings.

And last I looked, Joe Panik was 4 for 4 and had hits inseven consecutive at-bats for Single-A San Jose as its game went to extrainnings Wednesday night.

Puerto Rico in scarce supply of hair dye amid World Baseball Classic fever

Puerto Rico in scarce supply of hair dye amid World Baseball Classic fever

AN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Pharmacies and beauty stores across Puerto Rico are running out of hair dye with even a top economist joining men going blond in support of the island's baseball players who bleached their hair ahead of the World Baseball Classic.

What began as a joke among team members playing in California has spread across the island in a trend that spiked Tuesday just hours after Puerto Rico beat the Netherlands in 11 innings to reach the championship game undefeated in the tournament, which is held every four years. Puerto Rico will play Wednesday night in the final against the United States, which defeated Japan.

"Ever since they began winning, this has not stopped," said Myrna Rios, a manager at a Sally Beauty Supply store in the capital of San Juan. "We have run out of the product in most of our stores."

Copper blond, platinum blond, golden blond - all shades of blond (even burnt orange) are turning heads in a U.S. territory where the majority of men have thick, dark hair. Bald men dyed their beards or goatees in a nod to Puerto Rico coach Carlos Delgado.

"We have been able to unite our country with our blond hair," said star Carlos Correa, who hit a two-run homer and scored the winning run against the Netherlands. "That's what we want as players to unite our country, our people, and give them the best."

Men ranging from news anchors to university students to professionals have embraced a trend that has sparked the rallying cry of "Team Rubio!" or "Team Blond" in Spanish.

Among them is civil engineer Christian Rodriguez, who dyed his beard Saturday after visiting four different pharmacies to find the product he needed. At first, he didn't dye his hair as well because he thought it would be too much at church on Sunday. But he noticed six male churchgoers had dyed their hair blond and decided to take the plunge, calling a hair stylist friend to help him go platinum.

Rodriguez complained of an intense burning sensation during the two-hour process and sent pictures to his wife, who responded with the emoticon of a monkey with its eyes covered.

"Anything for my island!" he said as he lifted his arm to cheer the team.

Rodriguez then sent a picture of his dyed hair to his mechanic, who responded with a selfie taken underneath a car of him smiling with a bleached beard.

Puerto Rico's undefeated run to the championship has boosted the spirit of an island mired in a decade-long recession that faces a rocky recovery amid looming austerity measures for its government. Even young students have been sporting blond do's, prompting public schools to suspend them until the island's education secretary stepped in and said in a letter made public Tuesday that they should be allowed to dye their hair during the tournament.

"We wanted to do this to unite the team, and then the people of Puerto Rico, they started dying their hair, too," pitcher Edwin Diaz said. "I saw that there were some students that were suspended from school. I think they shouldn't be doing that because it just means that we have united our nation."

Even the prominent Puerto Rico-based economist Sergio Marxuach joined the trend, sporting yellow hair as he walked into a seminar in Puerto Rico on Wednesday, drawing laughs.

"My youngest son asked me, 'Why did you paint your hair like Donald Trump?'" he recalled with a laugh. "If this team can give us hope, we're going to need it given what's coming down the pipe."

Giants spring training Day 38: Cain still on track for fifth starter job

Giants spring training Day 38: Cain still on track for fifth starter job

MARYVALE, Ariz. — After a series of questions the other day about getting extra rest between starts, Madison Bumgarner smiled and pointed at the personalized calendar taped to his locker. He said he simply operates by the schedule set out by pitching coach Dave Righetti.

A glance at the calendar in Matt Cain’s locker might show a reason why the longest-tenured Giant is still in a good position to win the No. 5 starter spot despite continued spring struggles. Because they have two off days sandwiching a two-game series in Kansas City in the middle of April, the Giants can potentially use their No. 5 starter just twice until April 25, a span of 20 games.

If there’s any concern about Cain’s ability to hold up during the regular season, the early slate could help. The Giants can throw Cain against the Padres and Diamondbacks to start the season, and if it's not working out, they can go a stretch with just their top four as they reevaluate. 

"We'll see once we get a little closer how guys are doing, but it certainly gives you some options," manager Bruce Bochy said. 

Cain has been preparing all along to start April 7 at Petco Park. That hasn’t changed.

“That’s what I’m looking at,” he said. “That’s the only thing I’m preparing for, to make sure I’m ready to go 100 pitches.”

Cain had another mixed-bag day against the Brewers. The first inning was full of loud contact and Cain was charged with three runs on four hits. But he settled down from there, allowing just one run over the next four innings. In all, Cain allowed four runs on seven hits and struck out four. He said he tried to change speeds more often after the early ambush. 

“I was maybe getting the timing different for them,” he said. “Those guys were getting balls where they could hit them. You’ve got to make a quick adjustment to that, and I had to do that.”

Cain threw 70 pitches, another sign that he’s locked in for April 7. His competition, Ty Blach, has not been fully stretched out this spring. 

TRAINER'S ROOM: Will Smith will head to Los Angeles on Thursday to get a second opinion on his left elbow strain. The Giants will then know if Smith needs Tommy John surgery, which would end his season. Eduardo Nuñez flew back to San Francisco with Smith earlier in the week to get a corisone shot in his sore right shoulder. He's back, but he'll be down a few days. 

GAME RECAP: Hunter Pence has been slumping for several weeks, but he got on the board in the sixth with a double that spun off the end of his bat and down the first base line. A classic Pence hit ... Jae-gyun Hwang hit a two-run shot to right-center ... Steven Okert did some nifty work to keep his spring ERA at 0.00. With runners on first and third and no outs, he got a double play and a fly ball to left.

ICYMI: Barry Bonds has arrived. Here is a story about his return to the Giants, and here’s video from his media session this morning. 

GOOD NEWS: First base coach Jose Alguacil returned to camp Wednesday morning, and he said he’s only a few days from returning to game action. Alguacil, who had surgery earlier in March after taking a line drive off the face, was cleared for full activity. Hensley Meulens, Dave Groeschner and Taira Uematsu also returned from a stint in the WBC. 

FLASHING THE LEATHER: Aaron Hill started the prettiest double play of the spring by snagging a Hernan Perez liner with a dive and making a perfect throw to second baseman Gordon Beckham. Hill later smashed a double into the left field corner. That dude is making the team. 

QUOTABLE: "I figured Barry is in town, so I'd show him how it's done." -- Denard Span on a very long two-run homer he hit to right.