Giants bash, Lincecum wins to improve NL West math

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Giants bash, Lincecum wins to improve NL West math

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DENVER There is plenty of math in baseball. Here are somefun numbers for Giants fans to contemplate:

If the Giants merely go 8-9 to finish the season, theDodgers must go 15-4 to tie them atop the NL West standings. Oh yeah: And theDodgers have a home series coming up with the wild-card jousting St. LouisCardinals, followed by a road trip with stops in division-leading Washington and Cincinnati.

Or if you prefer the neat and tidy version: The Giantsmagic number is 13.

They took one more step toward their second NL West title inthree seasons and their ninth since moving to San Francisco, beating theColorado Rockies 8-3 behind Tim Lincecum in yet another thumper at Coors FieldWednesday night.

Combined with the Dodgers third consecutive loss, theGiants stretched their NL West lead to seven games with 19 to play.

Trailing the Dodgers for most of the season, the Giants tookfirst place July 14. Since then, they are 8-0-1 in nine road series. AndLincecum, for all his trials this season, has won five consecutive road starts something hes never accomplished before in his career.

Lincecums key moment came in the sixth inning, with theGiants leading 5-3 and the Rockies threatening. Giants manager Bruce Bochy cameout from the dugout following Charlie Blackmons pinch double, but thedouble-time in his step told everyone that he wasnt going to ask for thebaseball.

He wanted to look his pitcher in the eye and make sure hesaw what he wanted to see.

Lincecum went slider-curve-fastball to strike out DexterFowler and complete a six-inning performance that lacked aesthetic appeal butfilled the bill.

I said, Youre the guy right now. Focus on your pitches,Bochy said. He made three great pitches there. I think he knew that was hislast hitter so he gave it his all.

Your starters are critical for you, believe me. Weve had acouple guys have their hiccups. Hes picked up his game and helped to pick usup.

Lincecum has a 3.33 ERA in the second half after a 6.42 ERA before the All-Star break. More to thepoint, the Giants are 10-6 in his last 16 starts after beginning the year 2-12in his first 14 assignments.

It feels good from a personal standpoint, Lincecum said.You want to get better as the year goes along. Ive completely eliminated myfirst half from my mindset. My second half has been a little better and knowingwhat were striving for, and what direction were going into, that motivationis a little deeper.

Is he ready to take the ball in the front three of a playoffrotation? Where would the Giants slot Lincecum, who carried them so far in2010?

Those are questions that do not require answers for a coupleweeks still. But Lincecum said he would be ready for the stage when it arrives.

Right now Im not pitching great, but Im getting out ofjams, which was a lot different than the first half, he said.

Hed also like to be more efficient. Lincecum has thrownmore than 100 pitches in each of his last three starts but hasnt made it intothe seventh inning. And there are those walks four more on Wednesday,including three in the first two innings.

Including his two previous starts, Lincecum became the firstGiants starting pitcher since John DAcquisto in 1976 to walk at least onebatter in 10 consecutive innings. Thats not a distinction he embraced, even ifonly two of those 11 walks came around to score.

Im messing with fire there, obviously, he said. It onlytakes one blooper to turn it into a big inning. Its a fine line, but it givesme confidence to know Im in a jam and can get out of it.

Now the Dodgers, for all their high-priced acquisitions, arein the thick of it. While they try to rattle off an improbable run against someof the top teams in the NL, the Giants will play their next 16 games againstthe Diamondbacks, Rockies and Padres.

Theres one way the West is being won: The Giants are 32-21against division opponents. The Dodgers are 28-35. Thats a nine-game swingbetween the clubs.

Dont expect Bochy to take it easy or start skippingstarters or playing reserves anytime soon, though. Heck, he used sevenrelievers to get nine outs at Coors Field. He even used Guillermo Mota, JavierLopez and Sergio Romo one batter at a time to get through the ninth, despite afive-run lead.

Is he being paid by the pitching change?

Well, I think we all know this ballpark, Bochy said. Youdont want a rally getting started because once it starts, its hard to stop.

Confidence works that way, too. The Giants are awash in it.

With Bumgarner sidelined, Blach 'taking full advantage' of opportunity

With Bumgarner sidelined, Blach 'taking full advantage' of opportunity

SAN FRANCISCO -- At some point over the next four days, Madison Bumgarner will pick up a baseball, stand a few feet across from a member of the training staff, and simply play catch. It'll be a huge step in Bumgarner's rehab, and should it go well, a boost to the psyche of a struggling team.

In the meantime, another lefty is making sure the Giants don't suffer too much without their ace, as improbable as that first seemed.

Ty Blach took a shutout into the eighth Saturday night and in true Bumgarner fashion, he added a pair of hits and an RBI. The Giants beat the Braves 6-3. They've won Blach's past three starts, and even with a 10-run outing in Cincinnati mixed in, he has a 3.71 ERA since taking the spot left open by a dirt bike accident.

"Because of what happened he's in the rotation," manager Bruce Bochy said, "And he's taking full advantage."

Blach has shown that long term, he might be a big part of this rotation. It's been years since the Giants locked a young, cost-controlled starter in, and Blach has backed up his big cameo last year. It's possible -- likely even -- that at some point the Giants will need to trade a veteran, perhaps Johnny Cueto, for young bats. Blach provides needed insurance. 

Short term, he's providing a huge boost to a team that doesn't have much going right. Blach has thrown at least seven innings in his past four starts. He has allowed just eight earned runs in four starts since the one in Cincinnati, throwing 28 2/3 innings. 

"I feel good," Blach said. "I've always been a starter, so it's been a pretty easy transition to make. I feel comfortable."

The Giants are comfortable behind him, as evidenced by a half-dozen strong defensive plays Saturday. 

"He's been consistent and he works quickly," first baseman Brandon Belt said. "He's just a great guy to play behind."

Blach even joined in at the plate. He had an RBI single in his first at-bat -- his first big league hit off Not Clayton Kershaw -- and later roped another single. Blach even showed off his wheels, busting it from first to third on Denard Span's ball to the corner before Phil Nevin held him up. 

"I worked into some good counts and I was able to get fastballs," Blach said of his night at the plate. "It's definitely a big confidence booster when your spot comes up and you're able to drive in runs."

The night was straight out of Bumgarner's playbook, and it was needed. The Giants had dropped five of six, but Blach was backed by homers from Nick Hundley and Brandon Belt. It got a little hairy late, but the bullpen held on, clinching Blach's third win of the season. He looks poised for many more, and Bochy is happy to keep running him out there.

"I'm not surprised by what he's doing," the manager said.

 

Instant Analysis: Blach does it all vs Braves, Giants snap skid

Instant Analysis: Blach does it all vs Braves, Giants snap skid

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SAN FRANCISCO — This spot in the rotation is the one reserved for the stopper, the pitcher who takes a game by the throat when his team really needs it. 

Ty Blach took the mound Saturday for a team that had lost five of six, and just as Madison Bumgarner often has, Blach ended the skid. The young lefty was dominant into the eighth and the bats finally provided enough support. The Giants won 6-3, tying this weekend series with the Braves.

Here are five things to know from a night we were reminded that Emilio Bonifacio is in the big leagues … 

--- Blach pitched 7 2/3 innings. He has thrown at least seven innings in his last four starts, and five of seven starts overall. Jeff Samardzija (6) is the only Giants starter who has gone that deep more often. Blach is tied with Johnny Cueto for second-most seven-inning starts on staff, and Cueto has made three additional starts. 

--- Blach’s RBI single in the fourth was -- at the time -- the fourth hit of his career, and the first against a pitcher not named Clayton Kershaw. The ball had an exit velocity of 101 mph. Blach tried to score from first on Denard Span’s double, but Phil Nevin held him. Still, the way he was moving, it makes you wonder if Samardzija really is Bruce Bochy’s best pitcher-pinch-running option. In the seventh, Blach picked up a second single. 

--- Blach’s only bad start has been the one he made in Cincinnati, where the Giants played like a Double-A team. If you take that one out, Blach has a 2.21 ERA since taking over Bumgarner’s rotation spot. 

--- Even though he gave up just two earned in 7 2/3, Blach’s home ERA actually went up. It’s 1.75, which ranks seventh in the National League. The sellout crowd gave Blach a standing ovation when he was pulled in the eighth. 

--- Blach had a season-high five strikeouts. When he got Nick Markakis to end the first, Blach ended a streak of 37 left-handers faced without a strikeout. He later struck out another lefty, Matt Adams. The new Braves first baseman came up as the tying run in the eighth but Derek Law got him to ground out to first. 

--- Bonus sixth “thing to know” ... on Blach of course: His first name is Tyson, not Tyler. It’s Tyson Michael Blach.