Giants can only grimace against McDonald

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Giants can only grimace against McDonald

PITTSBURGH Last week at AT&T Park, when the Reds MatLatos carved up the Giants like butterballs, Pablo Sandoval made an interestingpostgame comment.

Hes working so fast, Sandoval said. We didnt take himout of his timing. Hes coming at us pitch after pitch.

The Giants faced another unrelenting presence at PNC Park onSaturday. James McDonald was coming after them again and again, throwing hisexplosive fastball, getting them to chase breaking pitches and then flippingtwo-strike curveballs on the outer fringe.

The Giants tried. They kept stepping out of the box. Twice,they called timeout when McDonald was on the verge of kicking into hisdelivery. They got a timing disruption from above, too, in the form of a28-minute rain delay.

It didnt work. None of it worked. McDonald was just thatgood, and Ryan Vogelsong was just a bit less so in a 3-1 loss at AT&T Park.

Much has been made of the Giants performance againstfirst-place teams. They lost two of three to the Rangers and the Angels. Theysplit four with the Reds. The NL-leading Washington Nationals just swept them.Now theyre even in two games against the surprising NL-Central-leadingPirates.

But it might be more instructive to look at what the Giantshave done against top pitchers. In previous seasons, when their offense was atrue collection of duds, the Giants would get exposed almost every time theyran up against a stud pitcher.

Their record is a little better now. Theyve beaten ClaytonKershaw twice. They scored five runs when NL ERA leader Johnny Cueto startedagainst them. They even beat McDonald in April behind Matt Cains one-hitshutout.

But there are also the Latoses and Jered Weavers of theworld. And there was McDonald on Saturday, making the entire Giants lineup looklike a beer-league unit. Brandon Belt and Sandoval come to mind, but BusterPosey had just as tough a time. It made Ryan Theriots two-strike, two-out RBIsingle in the sixth all the more impressive an at-bat.

Great at-bat, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. He reallycompetes well and grinds out every at-bat. Those things help you winballgames.

The Giants needed a few more of them. Blanco certainly triedafter striking out in his first two at-bats. He lined a single in the sixth andalso contributed a bunt hit in the ninth. There was that sliding catch thatBlanco contributed in right field, too.

It was a nice game for the leadoff man, who has looked worndown in recent weeks. He had a .401 on-base percentage through the end of May butentered Saturday with just a .274 OBP in 31 games since June 1.

He acknowledged the All-Star break would come at a goodtime.

For sure, I want to get back on track and play like I wasplaying a few months ago, he said. I know I can and I will. Im working hardto start doing it again.

I know physically Im a little tired. But in this game, youhave to have the mentality to play hard and work harder.

Against McDonald, effort didnt seem to matter.

Sneaky fastball, and the breaking pitches we keptswinging at them and he kept throwing it, Blanco said. It was really hard tolay off, and his fastball is explosive. He did a great job and we didnt takeadvantage by laying off those breaking pitches to swing at a better pitch.

One more thing, Blanco said:

"I made an adjustment on him. If we face him next time, Ithink its going to be different.

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

BOX SCORE

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.