Giants can count magic number on one hand

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Giants can count magic number on one hand

BOX SCORESAN FRANCISCO Bruce Bochy has leafed through his share of leadershipbooks. He is always looking for new ways to connect with and motivate hisplayers.

He picked up a new one Wednesday night: When Pablo Sandovalis in a power drought, just have the starting pitchers start ribbing him inbatting practice.

We were actually talking to him earlier today that hehadnt hit a home run since, like, three years ago, right-hander Matt Cainsaid. (Madison) Bumgarner was giving him some grief.

Sandoval gave it right back to Colorado Rockies right-handerTyler Chatwood. On a pitch that only the Panda could keep fair, he got his batout in front of a 1-2 slider at the ankles and clanked it off the pole abovethe right field arcade.

Sandovals three-run homer in the first inning was all Cainneeded. He improved to 14-0 when receiving at least three runs of support, andthe Giants reduced their magic number to five with a 7-1 victory at AT&TPark.

Now they can count down an NL West title on one hand. AndSandoval no longer has to count back to July 8 to find his last home run.

Ive been on the DL so many times, said Sandoval, who hasmissed time with a fractured hand and a strained hamstring. Im just trying toget my rhythm and timing at home plate.

It was a backfoot slider. I dont know how I hit it.

It was the first of three hits for Sandoval, who celebratedhis homer with a nose-to-beard, jump-around dance with injured closer BrianWilson in the dugout. Then Sandoval made sure to seek out Bumgarner.

Yeah, I said something to him, a beaming Sandoval said. Ifinally got one.

Bumgarner has hit two homers this season, including one earlier this month, and never cheats himself on a swing. Sandoval had taken some overly aggressive cuts in recent weeks, too.

Sometimes its important to get out of the way and itcame at a good time, Bochy said.

It was the 23rd home run for the Giants in 74games AT&T Park this season and just the third with at least two menaboard. Buster Posey and Hunter Pence own the other three-run shots. The Giantsdont have a grand slam at home yet this season.

Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro continued to createopportunities and the Giants offense continues to get all manner of timelycontributions. Even Gregor Blanco appeared to be fresh and healthy whilecollecting three hits.

Its all coming together for the Giants, who suddenly hold anine-game advantage over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

RELATED: MLB standings

Could they hope to play any better?

Youd always like to think theres another level for anyteam, Cain said. It depends on how much you want to put into it. Well keepthat in mind and not just settle.

Cain is not settling for a career-best 15thvictory. Hes expected to get two more starts, and without any adjustments,hed be lined up to pitch Game 1 of the NLDS with one extra day of rest.

It feels good to finally get past that 14th,Cain said. But you know what? Weve got games left and I dont want to stopnow.

Cain put a stop to one thing Wednesday night. By completingeight innings (for just the first time by a Giants starter since Barry Zito didit Aug. 23 vs. Atlanta), Cain kept Bochy from wearing a hiking trail betweenthe dugout and the mound.

Bochy made just one pitching change. Jose Mijares pitchedthe ninth and George Kontos got loose on the mound. Thats a welcome changefrom the seven- and eight-reliever parades that have led to long games andtaxed arms in the late innings.

Bochy said he was not going to use a couple of his shortrelievers, which made Cains contribution even more vital.

And hey, a game under three hours? That aint too shabby,either.

Ill have to get on the treadmill tonight to get my workoutin, Bochy said.

Cain never shies away from a full workload. He exceeded 200innings for the sixth consecutive season.

Only Juan Marichal (11) and Gaylord Perry (7) have more200-inning seasons in the Giants San Francisco era. And both of those guys arein the Hall of Fame.

I dont want to go into whos the ace or whatever, but hesa horse, Bochy said. He can handle the innings. He always has. Werefortunate to have a rotation thats been healthy all year and making theirstarts. Thats so important.

Soon Bochy will have to choose a Game 1 starter from amongthem. Cain would appear the obvious choice.

Heres one more reason: He has a 2.17 ERA in 14 starts atAT&T Park -- the third best home ERA among NL starters. And since the Giantsare likely to open as the No. 3 seed, they would play their first two games athome.

They could follow Cain with Bumgarner and hold Tim Lincecumin Game 3 on the road, where he has won five consecutive starts.

But thats not a subject Bochy is willing to touch yet. Theycould clinch the division as soon as Saturday. All the motivation they need isright in front of them.

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.