Fighting Giants ride Scutaro to walk-off win over Arizona

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Fighting Giants ride Scutaro to walk-off win over Arizona

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO Long before he laced a single past a divingDiamondback for a walk-off single in the Giants 9-8 win, Marco Scutaro was lettingloose in the Giants clubhouse by taking Hunter Pences new motorized scooterfor a joy ride.Five hours later, Scutaro tried to scoot away from a mob scene of teammateslooking to pulverize their new ringer, who came over from the Rockies in a inlate July trade.For all the attention the rival Los Angeles Dodgers received for their multipleblockbuster trades to acquire Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez and Co., the mostvaluable mercenary so far this season might be a man by the name of Marco.In 36 games with San Francisco, Scutaro has hit .322 with nine doubles, twohome runs and 22 RBIs. He has hit safely in 28 of his 36 games as a Giant. Hes just a professional player, said Buster Posey, whoset the stage for Scutaro with a similarly placed game-tying hit in the ninth.He does it on defense and then he gives you a great at-bat every time. Hes aguy that goes up there with a plan, has an idea of what he wants to do and hesbeen huge for us.What was Scutaros plan?I just go there with a plan and try and get a good pitch tohit. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesnt. Thats pretty much my plan.It may seem like a simple approach, but it has led to a successful 11-year MLBcareer and earned praise from his skipper.Ive always admired Marcos play, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. Ivealways respected how he plays the game. Hes so professional with how he goesabout his business.It was business as usual when Scutaro picked up his third hit of the afternoonin the 10th inning; and it was the culmination of an impressivecomeback.The Giants scored four runs in the first inning to give Barry Zito an earlylead, but the veteran southpaw, 36-3 in his career when given that muchsupport, unraveled after four sparkling innings. Zito struck out five in hisfirst two frames, but gave up a two-run shot in the fifth and allowedback-to-back singles to open the sixth. That forced Bochy to turn to GuillermoMota, who allowed both runs to score and opened the floodgates for a five-runinning. Down 7-4 after six innings, the Giants scored once in the seventh onlyto watch Arizona take that run back in the top of the eight. But Bochys clubcontinued to claw back into the game, scoring twice in the home half of theeighth before tying the game with a run in the ninth and winning it onScutaros knock in the 10th.Tremendous comeback, especially when you have the four-run lead and couldnthold it and couldnt get that last out in the sixth for a while, Bochy said. Thefellas fought hard off some good pitching.Fighting seemed to be a common theme in the victorious clubhouse.Were just showing a lot of fight right now, showing a lotof character, Zito said. We just keep fighting. Were relentless. Its justawesome.Its always exciting to get a walk-off, but the importantthing is it was a great team effort, Scutaro said. We never give up; we justkeep fighting. We didnt put our head down, we just keep fighting and play hardall the way till the end.The team effort that Scutaro made sure to mention was aproduct of an expanded roster that included players like Jean Machi, whocontributed with a scoreless ninth inning in his MLB debut, and Brett Pill, wholaid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move Brandon Crawford, the eventualgame-winning run, into scoring position ahead of Scutaros single.It makes it a little tougher when you have so many playersthere, Bochy said of his inflated roster. The thinking process is a littlebit longer right now because you have more choices and decisions. For example, with Hector Sanchez, wemade the double switch there and Pill goes in the game and lays down a perfectbunt and helps us win the ballgame.It was the first career sacrifice bunt for Pill, who said he wasnt sure if heeven had one in the minor leagues. But he said that he learned buntingfundamentals at Cal State Fullerton and told bench coach Ron Wotus that he wasready to put those skills to the test.We did check with him when he was up here earlier, Bochy said. He can handlethe bat. He laid down a perfect bunt. Theres no question we were going to askhim to bunt at that point.Pills bunt was part of an unorthodox offensive effort in San Francisco, butone that is obviously working as the Giants are in first place and aseason-high 19-games over .500 at 77-58. Long balls are rare at AT&T Park,but clutch hitting has become the norm of late. The Giants went 9-for-15 with runners in scoringposition, including three doubles, a triple and all nine of their RBIs.Its pretty impressive watching this offense do its work,Zito said. They are scrappy. We dont hit a ton of home runs. We just fightand manufacture runs. Pill laid down a huge bunt today and thats a hugeindicator of what weve been doing.What the Giants have been doing is slowly but surelyextending a division lead over the Dodgers. And while Bochy isnt ready to lookahead, he is aware of the extra eyes focused on his club.Theres a lot more attention on these games now, Bochysaid. Every games intense, but the intensity goes up a little bit inSeptember.Every win counts the same in the standings, but it wasnthard to pick up on a vibe that the Giants were aware this one wasnt just anyordinary win.Its huge; every game is huge, as we know, Zito said. Butyoure going to lose a few. And when theres some games where it looks likeyoure going to lose, and then you come back and win, thats just in the bonuscolumn. Its those ones that really make the difference when the years over,the ones that we just kind of scrapped and ended up taking it.Posey, a player who has shown himself to be wary of hyperbole, didnt mince hiswords when he described Mondays win.Its probably one of, if not the best, wins of the year,he said. Especially just bouncing out to an early lead and the DBacks comingback and taking the lead. It felt like we were a little flat there in themiddle of the game. To pick it up and come away with the win is big.

Reliable on the mound, Melancon seeks thrills off of it

Reliable on the mound, Melancon seeks thrills off of it

SAN FRANCISCO — At his introductory press conference Friday, new Giant Mark Melancon was asked about the fearlessness it takes to be a big league closer. He looked down at the first row of seats, where his wife Mary Catherine was sitting in a brand new No. 41 jersey, smiling. 

“You should probably ask my wife that,” Melancon joked.

When the Melancons got married, Mary Catherine had a calligrapher write up an actual bucket list of things the two could do together and presented it to Mark as a wedding gift. 

“It’s framed and it’s in our bathroom,” Mark said during an interview with CSN Bay Area on Friday. “It’s literally in our bathroom and we look at it all the time and try to plan out what we’re going to get done. Because it is on paper and it’s a goal and all that, we’ve checked off probably 40 or 50 percent of it in six years.”

The check marks include biking down the world’s “most dangerous road” in Bolivia and diving with great white sharks near New Zealand. The Melancons have visited Dubai and gone on a safari and stayed in countless cities off the beaten path. They have gone underwater with manta rays and high in the air in a blimp. Some of the items are simple ones, like attending a Nascar race. 

“There are a few items we’ll have to wait for until after baseball,” Melancon said. “We try to keep it safe of course, but it’s just a lot of fun. It’s a way to kind of bring creativity and allow ourselves to do things you could easily say no to.”

The standard MLB contract prohibits quite a few “dangerous” activities, and with a four-year, $62 million deal that is currently the second-biggest ever for a reliever, Melancon will hold off on certain trips, like skiing the Swiss Alps. “Attend the Kentucky Derby” is on the bucket list, but because the Derby is in May, that one is saved for retirement. In his first year with the Giants, Melancon hopes to put a check mark next to “sit backstage at a concert.”

Melancon said the thrill-seeking has slowed down a bit because the couple now has three young children, two daughters and a son. The Giants are hoping the more relaxed vibe carries over into their ninth innings. Team officials have been told by past Melancon employers that they signed a closer who is “boring” on the mound, in a good way. With a cutter-heavy approach, Melancon tends to get his ninth-inning work done quickly and without drama. That’s a welcome change of pace for an organization that has grown accustomed to “torture” late in games. 

“He was our target and we’ve gotten to know him, and the more we’ve gotten to know him the better we’ve felt about the fact that he was really meant to be a Giant,” team president and CEO Larry Baer said. 

The Giants had Melancon as their top offseason choice — and only big offseason expenditure — all along. Team officials feel even better about that approach after watching Melancon tour the ballpark Friday morning and meet with season-ticket holders and team employees. The fit was an easy one, with one member of the front office saying Melancon is “practically straight out of Giants central casting.”

Melancon’s new teammates feel the same way. He said eight to 10 of them have reached out since the deal was announced Monday. The group includes the types of players who are on any free agent’s bucket list of potential teammates. A ground ball pitcher, Melancon is looking forward to working with a Gold Glove infield. 

“That’s kind of an attractive thing to have a couple of Gold Glovers (up the middle) and then being able to throw to Buster is icing on the cake,” he said. “When you put things together on paper and go ‘who do you want to throw to and back you up,’ this team stands out.”

Dexter Fowler leaves Cubs, signs $82.5 million deal with Cardinals

Dexter Fowler leaves Cubs, signs $82.5 million deal with Cardinals

ST. LOUIS -- Dexter Fowler is headed from the World Series champions to their biggest rival.

After helping the Chicago Cubs end their long championship drought, he finalized an $82.5 million, five-year contract with the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday. Fowler fills the last big hole left in the Cardinals lineup after moves made earlier in the offseason to shore up the bullpen.

"It was an honor just to be considered to be in the Cardinals organization," said Fowler, who will wear No. 25 in honor of his mentor, Barry Bonds, because his usual 24 is retired by the Cardinals.

"You play against the Cardinals, I've been playing against them for eight years now," Fowler said, "and they always come out fighting. Always fighting. And then being with a rival, being the Cubs however many times we play them a year, you see them and - it's always good a winning team wants you."

Fowler was also a free agent a year ago, when he spurned a $33 million, three-year offer from Baltimore, who refused to offer an opt out after one year, and signed a $13 million, one-year deal with the Chicago Cubs. He hit .276 with 13 homers and a career-best .393 on-base percentage that landed him in his first All-Star Game, then had a pair of home runs in helping the Cubs win their first World Series title in 108 years.

"Playing over there, and playing against the Cardinals, you see them and you saw that they weren't far away," Fowler said. "Obviously they beat up on us, we beat up on them. It was almost even. It was one day or another. I can't put my finger on one thing or another, but we're definitely close."

His new deal calls for a $10 million signing bonus, payable in $1 million installments each July 1 and Oct. 1 for the next five years, and annual salaries of $14.5 million.

He gets a full no-trade provision, $50,000 bonuses for making the All-Star Game and winning a Gold Glove, a $25,000 bonus for a Silver Slugger, $100,000 for League Championship Series MVP and $150,000 for World Series MVP. He would get $250,000 for NL MVP, $150,000 for finishing second in voting and $100,000 for third through fifth. He would get $50,000 for Division Series MVP if the award is created.

One of the goals this offseason for St. Louis was to get more athletic, both defensively and on the base paths. Fowler was identified early in the process as someone who filled that role.

"He was always someone we were hoping to sign," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said, "but after this past week at winter meetings ... we certainly wanted to get this done. And we're excited we got this done."

The lanky 30-year-old from Atlanta is a .268 career hitter over nine seasons with Colorado, Houston and the Cubs. He's expected to slot into the Cardinals' leadoff spot, giving St. Louis a switch-hitter in front of lefty-hitting Matt Carpenter and righties Aledmys Diaz, Stephen Piscotty and Yadier Molina.

"You obviously have great presence at the top of the lineup," manager Mike Matheny said. "The athleticism, the excitement of bringing in a player that has all those physical attributes, I think it's been well-said, this is the guy we were hoping to be sitting up here with."

Fowler said negotiations with the Cardinals were easy with one notable exception.

"We were on a 2-hour time difference, and I guess he wanted to get in touch with me," Fowler said, "but I was in the dentist chair, so he couldn't get in touch."

So, Fowler sent his agent Casey Close a photo of him to pass along to Mozeliak - "That was a first for me, that kind of photo," the GM said - and everything proceeded smoothly after that.

The news of his signing started breaking while Fowler was on a plane to St. Louis, and that also created some problems: namely, with his sleep. People started coming up to him while he was trying to take a nap and asking him whether the news was true.

"I was like, 'Uh, you know, I don't know,'" Fowler said with a grin. "It was definitely funny."

Fowler is eager to help the Cardinals add their 12th World Series championship.

"This is a baseball city," said Fowler. "The fans, every time you come here, you see red everywhere. That's awesome to see. Even going through our parade (in Chicago), you saw Cardinals fans out there. They've won World Series (and) they're poised to be back in the World Series and win again. That was a big part of my decision."

The Cardinals were investigating the trade market for an outfielder during the winter meetings, but decided Fowler was their best option. Because Fowler did not accept Chicago's $17.2 million qualifying offer, St. Louis forfeits its top draft pick next June, No. 18 overall, and the Cubs get an extra selection after the first round as compensation

It was a sacrifice the Cardinals were willing to make to not only improve their lineup, but snag a piece away from their biggest rival in the NL Central.

"There's always the baseball angle in all decisions, but there's also the human element," Mozeliak said. "We think about him as a leader. He wants to have a voice in that clubhouse. When you think back to wanting to change the culture of what we have going on - we like what we have, but now it's even better."