Giants establish winning pattern, sweep Cubs

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Giants establish winning pattern, sweep Cubs

SAN FRANCISCO Ryan Vogelsong woke up with a worried mindMonday morning.

Three guys pitched into the ninth? Thats a little pressureto follow, the All-Star right-hander said.

But Vogelsong followed suit, and the Giants finally timedtheir trump card to sweep a series and complete what could become aseason-defining homestand.

Their 3-2 victory over the distracted, defeated Chicago Cubsgave them six wins in seven games at AT&T Park and the Giants did it byestablishing the exact paradigm that they envisioned.

RECAP: Baggs' Instant Replay -- Giants 3, Cubs 2

Pitching. Defense. More pitching. Timely hits. Goodbaserunning. And Tony Bennett.

The Giants were 12-10 at AT&T Park before this homestandbegan, and they trailed the Los Angeles Dodgers by 7 games in the NL West.They are now back to their winning ways at Third and King and they are within2 games as their archrivals prepare to take the field Monday night.

In completing their first sweep of the season (a four-gamer, no less), the Giants' rotation was brilliant. The starting pitcherscombined for a 1.55 ERA while completing seven innings and giving up fewer thantwo runs in all seven games. Its just the second time in San Franciscofranchise history the club has received seven consecutive starts of that ilk.They had a run of nine in a row in 1988-- from Don Robinson, Mike LaCoss (twice), Kelly Downs (twice), Atlee Hammaker,Terry Mulholland (twice) and Rick Reuschel.

Its hard to beat that, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

Said catcher Buster Posey: To me, I feel like theyve beendoing it all year a couple years since Ive been here, really.

The difference this time? The Giants played errorless ballin their six victories. They committed just one error on the entire homestand.And thats after leading the majors in miscues for most of the season.

Not only are the fielders playing clean games, they also aremaking plays to pick up the pitching staff. Witness Ryan Theriots highlightsweep-and-grab play on Starlin Castro to keep the tiebreaking run from scoringin the seventh inning. The play ended Vogelsongs afternoon, and the Giantsmade a winner of him when Posey who walked four times -- scored in the bottomof the seventh.

I gave him a big hug after that one, Vogelsong said of Theriot.Its pretty amazing. You dont see a guy sweep at it like that and have it popup. Its a pretty athletic play to barehand it and throw in one motion.

That play probably saved the game for us.

Said Theriot: I was hoping it was in my glove. My hand wasnumb, it was hit so hard. It was in my glove briefly, and luckily, it came upright in front of me.

The Giants are playing crisper and smarter than theircompetition, although against the Cubs, thats like matching wits against theguy from Sling Blade. (Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro probably wont enjoy theflight back to the Midwest after losing track of the outs while the Giants tiedthe score on a fielders choice in the fifth inning.)

They are even finding ways to time their contributions,whether its the offense sneaking out runs despite a total power outage (onehomer in their last 19 home games seriously) or the bullpen finding ways topiece together the ninth despite a rash of injuries, or the starters workingdeep to give the bullpen a break.

It was Jeremy Affeldts turn on Monday. With SantiagoCasilla unavailable because of a bruised knee and Sergio Romo also questionablebecause of a knee issue, Affeldt pitched the final two innings without allowinga baserunner to pick up the save.

We have a bullpen who can do it, are able to do it and havethe stuff to do it, Affeldt said. Obviously, were getting it done so itseasy to say that.

They are getting the rest to do it, too. The bullpen onlyneeded to throw 10 23 innings out of 64 on the homestand. Thats fewer thanfive outs per game. And Affeldt said the relievers needed the break, after beinggassed when the club finished a stretch of 20 games in 20 days last Sunday.

The only thing the Giants lacked on the homestand was a goodol blowout victory to rest a few starters like Angel Pagan or Melky Cabrera.The aggregate score over the seven games was 19-13.

No surprise, really, since the Giants havent found anextension cord at AT&T Park. They have played 13 consecutive home gameswithout going deep the second longest in San Francisco-era franchise history(behind a 15-game streak in 1980) and the longest by a major league team sincethe Dodgers had a 14-game power outage at home in 1992.

Is it really sustainable? Can the Giants keep winning withRBI ground outs and a string of singles?

Well, weve done it, Bochy said. Not quite lacking thepower like we are right now. But when you have an added dimension like speed,thats going to show up every day.

The home runs are nice and I think we will hit more. I do.Were in a rut now but Pablo (Sandoval) will be coming back soon.

For now, were going with defense. Any time you win theseone-run games, its pitching and defense. Really, thats what is doing it.

What, should Vogelsong worry?

Weve talked about it, he said. You have to learn how towin and I think were starting to do that.

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.