Giants follow big win with small win for 2-0 lead

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Giants follow big win with small win for 2-0 lead

SAN FRANCISCO -- Game One of the 2012 World Series was played big, almost comedically so. Three homers from Pablo Sandoval on pitches most players would disdain as being beneath their scientific approach screams bigger than bigger than life.So of course Game Two was very very small, almost to the point of being subatomic. Yes, the result was the same Giants win, 2-0, this time to take a lead of two-games-to-just-watching for the Detroit Tigers but the details that separated victory from defeat were subtle to the point of undetectable.INSTANT REPLAY: Giants ride Bumgarner to 2-0 series lead
Madison Bumgarner, the starting pitcher who gave Giant fans the yips, stifled the Tigers on two hits over seven innings. The only threat the Tigers did mount ended because the Tigers, already sensing that scoring would be difficult, tried to get Prince Fielder to score from first on Delmon Youngs second-inning double. He didnt, because Gregor Blanco, Marco Scutaro and Buster Posey made two throws faster than Fielder could cover the last 90 feet.But the Giants, who nearly formed a Baseball Bugs conga line Wednesday night, had to get their runs in the tiniest way possible -- with a single, walk, line-hugging bunt and a double play grounder in the seventh, and then three walks and a sacrifice fly in the eighth.

RELATED: San Francisco Giants 2012 World Series page
And both wins still look the same if you squint your eyes hard enough. At least that would be Brandon Crawfords position.The Giants shortstop handled more questions about his role in the BlancoScutaroPosey relay (Blanco threw the ball over Crawfords head to Scutaro, essentially) then about his double play grounder that scored Hunter Pence with the winning run. But since it was his best double play grounder ever, he talked happily about it, from the Blanco bunt that rolled just inside the third base line (Oh, I thought it was a great bunt, he laughed) to his own work.Frankly, I didnt really know what to expect, he said. I mean, I think Id seen him (Tiger pitcher Doug Fister) a couple of times in Double-A, but that was it. I wasnt trying to let a lot of things go through my head. I just tried to approach it as a two-strike at-bat.In other words, he walked to the plate with the bases loaded and nobody out in the second game of the World Series with the score 0-0 and thought of . . . well, nothing.Okay, next to nothing.I sort of thought if I put the ball in play on the ground, theyd probably go for two rather than come home, he said. I mean, I looked up, and they were playing back, so I sort of knew what they wanted to do.And to the Tigers delight AND despair, he delivered that.We played double play depth because we felt that we couldnt give them two runs, Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. To be honest with you, we were absolutely thrilled to come out of that inning with just the one run, absolutely thrilled. I mean, we had to score anyway. You give them two, it makes it tougher, obviously, but we felt like we didnt want them to open it up. We got the double play ball and we got out of it, and it actually worked really good for us.Well, except for the double play producing the only run the Giants would actually need. San Francisco scored again in the eighth, denying the locals the satisfaction of knowing that the last double play that produced the only run of a World Series Game was Game 7 in 1962.Yes. The Bobby Richardson game. The one where the Yankees beat the Giants when Willie McCoveys two-out line drive with Matty Alou at third and Willie Mays at second went right at Richardson, killing San Franciscos chances of winning their first Series 48 years before they actually did.So Brandon Crawford was denied a chance to bookend San Francisco baseball history because of Pences bases-loaded sacrifice fly off Phil Coke in the eighth. He was also denied a chance to be in on the relay that may have crushed Detroits spirits.But he delivered the tiny little run that created the tiny little win that will disappear next to the comic-book win the night before. The win that counts just the same as the one before it. The one that sends the Giants to Detroit with a choke hold on a series that skewed heavily Tiger before it began.And yes, in the World Series, wins come in one size. The one that fits all.

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.”