Giants knock down doors, resoundingly win NL West

893821.jpg

Giants knock down doors, resoundingly win NL West

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO It was the prudent thing to say. It was thelogical thing to believe. Its the words that dropped from so many lips overthe past six weeks.

Everything is going to come down to those final three gamesat Dodger Stadium.

The Giants would have to step into their most hostile sand pit thosethree days in October and either shrink in the faces of their payroll-fattenedarchrivals or outmaneuver them to win the NL West.

Well, guess what? The Giants team bus wont turn ontoElysian Park Ave. for nine more days. And theyre already soaking in the dewystink of the eighth NL West title in franchise history.

They got there with another resounding win Saturday night,this time dispatching the overwhelmed San Diego Padres 8-4 at AT&T Park.

This was not torture. This was something altogetherdifferent.

This was a team that settled into the bucket seat and floored it, paying no heed to the road hazards. They won their sixth consecutive and their 10th in 11 games.

"This is a really special year for me, the most special,said Bruce Bochy, his gray shirt dampened by the residue of the sixth NL West titlein 17 seasons as a big league manager. This year just had a different feelingin the way we did it, and the way we won it. We didnt get in the back door,and I love that. We got on a winning streak and we came through the front door.

With a battering ram, not a soft knock.

This is a club that trailed by as much as 7 games in late May. They lost Brian Wilson before the home opener. Freddy Sanchez never made it out of spring training. Tim Lincecum, even after a decent second half, still ranks 46th out of 47 NL starting pitchers who qualify for the ERA title.

NEWS: Lincecum absent from celebration, scratched from Sunday's start

Someone always provided a counterpoint. For Wilson, it wasSantiago Casilla, and then Bochys determined committee in the bullpen. ForLincecum, it was Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong, who put together a first-halfstreak in which the Giants went 16-0 in their starts.

Determined group, businesslike, Giants GM Brian Sabean said. As much as youcan say about individual play, its the overall consistency of the team ingeneral. They managed to find a way to win games and win series. Weve shownthat in the second half.

We had enough experience and weve had enough good players.You dont do this without good players.

They lost one of their best on Aug. 15, when Melky Cabrera at the time, the leading collector of hits and runs in the major leagues received a 50-game suspension for testing positive for testosterone.

The Giants were tied for first place at the time. Theirworld was collapsing and the Dodgers were adding high-priced players every day.

The Giants have gone 25-10 since then.

What happened? Well, Angel Pagan caught fire from theleadoff spot. Marco Scutaro hit .361 in 51 games as a Giant. He did it again inthe clincher; two of his three hits were two-out, RBI singles.

And through it all, there was Buster Poseys polish at theplate, his leadership behind it and his permanently set jaw.

Of all the statements in the hazy, celebratory clubhouse,perhaps Posey opened eyes the widest when he offered this blunt assessment of what he called the Melky incident.

I dont think anybody in our clubhouse took it that hard,Posey said. Obviously, he was a big part of our lineup. But guys had to stepup.

They stepped on inferior opponents in September, never onceeasing up despite an obvious edge in the schedule. Bochy would use hisfrontline relievers to go batter-by-batter even with four- and five-run leads.

RATTO: It wasn't clean, but it was classically Giant

Their effort was as plain as the grass stains on their creamcolored uniforms. Pablo Sandoval even flipped over the rail near thephotographers well while catching a foul pop in the fourth inning,hanging onto the ball with one hand while holding upside down to the rail withthe other.

Unbelievable play. Unbelievable, Pagan said. I kind ofgot scared. Then I started laughing. Hey, it looked pretty funny. But I tellyou what, Pablo works hard. Hes a gamer.

Now theyll face a new challenge staying finely tuned overthe final 10 games while taking strategic pit stops to rest up for thepostseason. The Giants are currently positioned to be the No. 3 seed, threegames behind NL Central champ Cincinnati and four behind presumptive NL East champ Washington in the loss column.

They arelikely to open at home against either the Nationals or Reds in the NL DivisionSeries.

Well be playing a really good team. We know it, Bochysaid. But I just like the way weve been playing. This is step one, but thisis a special group with a lot of heart and determination.

Its a group that will not enter that final weekend with aseason on the line.

Two weeks ago if you wouldve asked me, Id say theres agood chance itd come down to that last series, said Posey, the likely NL MVP.It shows you never know whats going to happen in baseball. Its a fickle gameand thats what makes it great."

'The Kid' Arroyo continues wildly impressive first week with Giants

'The Kid' Arroyo continues wildly impressive first week with Giants

SAN FRANCISCO — In a quiet moment in the dugout Friday, manager Bruce Bochy tried to figure out a nickname for his new budding star. During a week where Christian Arroyo has made the game look so easy, this has turned out to be the most difficult part. 

Bochy briefly settled on “Yo” before that was scuttled because the team’s video coordinator is Yo Miyamoto. Joe Panik said some players have tried C.A. or YoYo, but admitted that neither is all that good. The team’s Twitter account spent a few days trying to make Boss Baby a thing, but Arroyo wasn’t thrilled with that one and the experiment appears to be over. In a back room of the clubhouse, there’s a printout showing Arroyo and Buzz from “Home Alone,” but that comparison is much better made with Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman. 

Perhaps the answer is as simple as the path Arroyo’s bat takes to a fastball. As he watched Arroyo field grounders during batting practice, Dick Tidrow was asked about the 21-year-old. Tidrow, the team’s senior VP of player personnel, has seen and worked with Arroyo since he was drafted. 

“We always just called him The Kid,” Tidrow said. “He would turn around when I called him Kid.”

The Kid is growing up quickly. Arroyo’s second homer of the week was the game-winner Friday, an eighth-inning blast that put a lead in Mark Melancon’s hands. The new closer made sure the new third baseman’s homer didn’t go to waste, clinching a 4-3 win that got the Giants out of the National League West’s cellar. 

The homer might have surprised Arroyo as much as anyone. He came here with a reputation as a mature and talented hitter, but power is not his calling card. 

“I’m not trying to hit a homer there,” he said. “Get the head out, see a pitch over the plate, barrel something, just keep the line moving. I got a good pitch, elevated it, and fortunately it went out.”

Arroyo already speaks like a hitting coach, but he is not afraid to admit that there are things he doesn’t know. It’s easy to get film on opposing starters, but there’s little a rookie can do to prepare for late-inning pitching changes. Arroyo consulted Buster Posey and Conor Gillaspie before facing Ryan Buchter, who has been in the division for two years. Gillaspie told him Buchter’s fastball has some late life and gets on a hitter. 

“I wanted to see it and the first pitch was a little low so I got a good read on them,” Arroyo said. 

The second one was right at the belt and Arroyo pulled it down the line for his second big league homer. He had just three last year in Double-A, but the Giants felt the 36 doubles showed that power was on the way. 

“He’s got pop,” Bochy said. “He’s not a guy trying to hit homers. He tries to put a good swing on it. But he drives balls and you saw it tonight. We see him more as a gap guy, but he’ll get more power as he gets older. We’re not asking him to hit homers, trust me, but it’s good to see him letting it go.”

The homer secured a win on a night when a lot went right. Jeff Samardzija was sharp, paying for one pitch to Ryan Schimpf that left the park but otherwise pitching seven strong. Panik and Brandon Belt ignited the offense early and Michael Morse came through with a game-tying sacrifice fly in the fifth. Derek Law and Mark Melancon closed it out, with Melancon getting help from Panik, who made a spectacular tumbling catch on a flare to shallow right-center. It was a big first out given that Melancon was pitching for the third straight day. 

“It was going to be in no man’s land,” Panik said. “You give it everything you’ve got. Fortunately the ball stayed in the glove.”

When it was over, the youngest Giant was in for another round of interviews to cap a hectic week. On Monday he made his debut and on Tuesday he picked up his first hit. Wednesday brought the first homer and Thursday was the first multi-hit game. What will the weekend include? Maybe a real nickname? 

For now, the Giants are fine with leaning on The Kid, because many of them didn’t even know how young the star of the week was until he was a couple of days into his big league career.

“I was thinking he was 23 or 24,” Samardzija said. “This has been really impressive.”

Instant Replay: Arroyo's late-game heroics lifts Giants past Padres

Instant Replay: Arroyo's late-game heroics lifts Giants past Padres

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — On Monday, Christian Arroyo made his MLB debut. Tuesday brought his first hit and on Wednesday it was the first homer. Thursday’s game was his first multi-hit game as a big leaguer. What was in store Friday? The best swing yet.

Arroyo hit a go-ahead shot to left while leading off the eighth, giving the Giants a 4-3 win in their series opener with the Padres. The player coaches simply call “The Kid” has two homers in his first five games, and both have come in huge spots. Friday’s sent another jolt through AT&T Park and got a lead to Mark Melancon, who closed out the Padres. 

For four innings, a long-haired right-hander was no-hitting the Padres. Jeff Samardzija was sharp early and he got a nice cushion in the first. Joe Panik and Brandon Belt led off with singles and Panik scored on Erick Aybar’s two-out error. A Conor Gillaspie knock made it 2-0. 

The first hit allowed by Samardzija was a painful one. He plunked Yangervis Solarte to open the fifth and Ryan Schimpf hit a long dinger to dead center to tie the game. Cory Spangenberg followed with a single to left that skipped under Belt’s glove. Spangenberg went to third on the play and scored on a bloop. 

Belt made up for the play in the bottom of the inning, beating the outfield shift with a double and scoring on Mike Morse’s sacrifice fly to right two batters later. Samardzija ran into trouble in the seventh, but with two in scoring position and one out, he got a strikeout and a grounder to third. The Giants put the go-ahead run on second in their half, but Hunter Pence and Morse struck out. 

Starting pitching report: Samardzija has allowed six homers. He’s tied for fourth in the NL with a handful of players, including Johnny Cueto and Matt Moore. 

Bullpen report: Melancon has five straight saves since blowing his first opportunity as a Giant. 

At the plate: Belt reached base four times. His on-base percentage is sitting at a cool .390. 

In the field: Panik made a brilliant diving catch in center for the first out of the ninth. 

Attendance: The Giants announced a sellout crowd. One of the fans looked just like Samardzija, possibly on purpose. 

Up next: Matt Cain has a 2.42 ERA but he left his last start with a tight hamstring. He’ll face Jhoulys Chacin (2-3, 5.90).