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.

Giants spring training Day 7: Rule change should help Bochy

Giants spring training Day 7: Rule change should help Bochy

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — On one of the many nights last season when his bullpen imploded, Bruce Bochy nearly put a catcher on the mound. Trevor Brown ended up playing an inning of third base on June 28 as the Giants gave up eight runs over the final two innings in a brutal loss to the A’s, and he said this week that he was told he was the next man up on the mound. 

That night was an odd one, as a tired bullpen was waiting for Sergio Romo to get activated off a rehab assignment and trying to get by without long reliever Chris Stratton, who had thrown 57 pitches out of the ‘pen the night before. The bench was also short because Joe Panik was about to be put on the concussion DL.

Bochy hopes he doesn’t have to deal with such a situation this season, and not just because the bullpen should be much improved. The disabled list lasts 10 days now, not 15, and Bochy is thrilled with the new rule.

“The DL thing, I really like it,” he said. “You get caught in that gray area so often.” 

Bochy met with league officials on Saturday to go over some of the rule changes. DL stints can now be made retroactive just three days, but it’s still a vast improvement overall. 

“With (position) players and pitchers it’s going to make it easier to DL guys,” Bochy said. “If you’re looking at (starting) pitchers, they could miss just one start.”

The Giants have often played a man or more short, trying to get by day-by-day to give a position player or starter time to heal. Around camp, this could be called the Angel Pagan Rule, as the former Giants outfielder often missed a week or so before officially going on the DL. At times, Bochy has been patient with players like Buster Posey and Hunter Pence, knowing that even if they missed a week, keeping them off the DL could still earn the Giants seven or eight games with a big bat back in the lineup. If a future diagnosis is that a player will miss a week, it’ll be much easier to swallow putting him on the 10-day DL than it was for the 15-day. Likewise, the Giants will take advantage of the change if a pitcher will have to miss a start. 

Bochy has said often that he would like every reliever to go on the DL during the season to freshen up. That’ll make more sense now, and it should keep the Giants from having to play as many games where the bullpen is gassed and a backup catcher is preparing to pitch. For guys like Stratton — a versatile pitcher on the 40-man roster — it should also lead to increased trips up to the big leagues to fill gaps. 

INJURY UPDATE: Pence (side muscle) took 25 swings during a live BP session in the cage and Bochy said he’s doing much better. That was about the only significant activity Sunday. Once again, the workout was rained out. Bochy said the Giants have enough time to get guys ready for the Cactus League opener on Feb. 24, but they’ll likely hold some big-name pitchers out of the early games. Brandon Crawford and Posey will get plenty of early starts to prepare for the WBC. 

PROSPECT WATCH: If the early games are turned over to prospects, Dan Slania will be an interesting guy to watch. Slania is listed at 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, so he always had the look of an imposing reliever. But his greatest success last season came after a surprise move to the rotation. 

Slania, a 2013 fifth-round pick out of Notre Dame, got a call on his 24th birthday telling him to prepare to start because of an injury in Richmond’s rotation. He had not started a game since high school, but his four-pitch mix worked. He had a 5.32 ERA out of the bullpen but it dropped to 1.48 in 10 starts for the Flying Squirrels. In two Triple-A starts, he struck out 14 over 13 innings while allowing just eight hits and two runs. The Giants put him on their 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. 

“He had a great year last year,” Bochy said. “He’s in camp for a reason. He’s got great stuff and a good makeup.”

RULE CHANGE: One more thing that came out of that rules meeting: Managers who are out of challenges now have to wait until the eighth inning to ask an umpire to look at a play.

QUOTABLE: “We know he’s better off taking some days. We talked about it (with him). He agrees that it’ll help him.” Bochy on Pence’s workload. The right fielder is coming off two injury-marred seasons, and the Giants have no intention of even trying to get him back to his Iron Man days. 

Tomlinson still a fit as Giants put bench together

Tomlinson still a fit as Giants put bench together

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The “options game” can be a cruel one. It can also be one of the most important parts of spring training. 

If two players are relatively even at the end of camp but only one can be optioned to the minors, he’s usually the man left out. Giants officials have already made reference to this several times in discussing left field, where Jarrett Parker — who is out of options — would surely be claimed off waivers if the Giants try to sneak him back to the minors before Opening Day. Mac Williamson, on the other hand, can be shuttled back and forth. 

The same holds true for Kelby Tomlinson, and while it was easy during the first week of camp to see him as the odd man out, manager Bruce Bochy said that’s not the case. What do all the veteran infielders mean for the young one already in-house?

“It hasn’t affected anything for Kelby, really,” Bochy said. “It’s all about competition for spots on this team.”

Tomlinson played 54 games in 2015 and 52 a year ago, but the Giants put a clear emphasis this offseason on finding backup infielders. Jimmy Rollins, Jae-gyun Hwang, Orlando Calixte and Gordon Beckham were among those brought in before camp, and Aaron Hill arrived on the fourth day. Sure, Ehire Adrianza — who was seemingly perpetually out of options — is no longer around, but if the Giants carry just two backup infielders, one of them will almost certainly be Conor Gillaspie. 

Tomlinson isn’t bothered by the offseason of additions. He said he can take knowledge away from six weeks spent with guys he grew up watching.

“Rollins’ prime was right in my later high school years,” he said, smiling. “I’ve got a lot of guys to learn from and watch. It’s a little of both (a competition and learning experience). We’re all fighting for the same job, but we’re still on the same team and we’re all trying to learn from each other and help each other.”

Tomlinson is the incumbent, and the Giants certainly know all about his speed and ability to play all over the field (he continued to take fly balls this winter, just in case). They also now know that Tomlinson adds something that’s needed on any bench. Last season, he emerged as one of Bochy’s most reliable pinch-hitters. 

Tomlinson’s seven pinch-hits were tied for second on the team after Gillaspie’s 11. He was 7-for-17 in a pinch, adding three walks. Tomlinson’s simple swing and up-the-middle approach have proven perfect for important spots. He’s a .315 career hitter with runners in scoring position, a .373 hitter in situations baseball-reference deems “late and close,” and a .367 hitter in “high leverage” spots.

“I’m just trying to compete up there every at-bat, especially in that pinch-hitting role,” Tomlinson said. “It’s a grind, but that makes it fun when you give the team a quality at-bat. Even if it’s not a hit, you go up there and try to see five pitches and have a good at-bat.”

Tomlinson has given the Giants plenty of them over parts of two seasons. With Brandon Crawford headed for the World Baseball Classic, he is sure to see increased time this spring, and while the options game or non-roster list might catch up to him, the Giants haven’t forgotten what they already have. 

“He gives us versatility,” Bochy said, “So he’s in the mix, too.”