Giants make their outs count to tame Tigers in Game 2

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Giants make their outs count to tame Tigers in Game 2

SAN FRANCISCO Tim Flannery does it every spring.

Hell receive throws at first base during infield practice,leap off the bag the instant the ball slaps leather and pump both arms like hejust clinched the World Series.

Because thats what you practice for, the Giants bald,crystal blue-eyed third base coach said. If it doesnt matter then, when willit?

Relay throws. Bunting situations. Productive outs. Theymattered on the World Series stage on a warm, late-October night at AT&TPark. And thanks to the small stuff, the Giants are thinking very, very big.

They scored their Game 2 runs on a double-play grounder inthe seventh inning and a sacrifice fly in the eighth. They were aided by aperfect, shuffleboard bunt that delivered more than the intended bargain. And theGiants prevented a run, too, because a second baseman smartly wandered acrossthe diamond to back up a relay throw that arrived with too much thrust.

RELATED: Anatomy of a perfect relay

The Giants did what they were supposed to do in a 2-0victory over the Detroit Tigers. They played National League baseball in aNational League ballpark, and made their AL opponents look like a bunch of fat,stodgy, athletically challenged softball players.

Madison Bumgarner possessed something well short of dominantstuff, but he had enough bite on an improved slider and he varied its location.That was sufficient to frustrate the big-swinging Tigers, who kept snappingtheir jaws only to find the chain didnt quite reach.

And all of the sudden, the Giants -- this collection ofcockroaches, survivors of six elimination games against the Reds and Cardinals-- are up two games to none as the series shifts to the Motor City. Thats notto suggest the ring fittings should commence post haste. The roaches have notbecome the exterminators yet, and this World Series is far from over.

But after besting Justin Verlander and Doug Fister, letsjust say the house is tented.

You cant count anybody out, said right-hander SergioRomo, who retired three hitters in smoke-bomb fashion to record his first WorldSeries save. I mean, just look where we came from. And besides, theyre the ALchamps. They were picked to be here from the get-go. But to beat those twounbelievable starters? To shut down that lineup? Yeah, we like our position.

There will be much blathering and bloviating over thingslike fate and destiny, citing paranormal signs such as Angel Pagans doink shotoff third base in Game 1 or Gregor Blancos masterful bunt, which came to reston the fair side of the chalk to set up the first run of Game 2.

But lets leave a seasoned observer to dispel all that.

I dont think theyre getting the breaks, Tigers managerJim Leyland said. I think theyve earned everything theyve got. Up to thispoint, theyve outplayed us.

They did a little bit better than us today. They did quitea bit better yesterday. But I always tip my hat. I mean, theyre playinggood. Theyre playing like the Giants play, and we expected that coming in.Theyre good. Theyre really good.

Game 2 was about outs, what you did with them and how hardyou made your opponent work to achieve them. The Giants saw enough pitches to getFister out of a scoreless game following Hunter Pences leadoff single inthe seventh, and Brandon Belt drew a walk from left-hander Drew Smyly.

That brought Blanco to the plate, and even when an erratic Smylystarted him with a 2-0 count, the bunt sign stayed on. Blanco fouled oneattempt but could not have placed the 3-1 pitch any better, hugging it up thethird base line as three Tigers stood over and watched it to a stop, as if tryingto see their reflection in their shoes.

I was hoping their guys would grab the ball because Ithought it was going foul, said Flannery, noting that a ball on the dirtusually hits the lip of the grass and takes a left turn. Well, I guess thisone didnt tonight. When it didnt do anything else, I thought, This is one ofthose weird things.

You just go home and you thank the higher power orwhoevers in charge, and try not to piss any others off.

Leyland had a choice to make, and it wasnt Vishnu or Yahweh. Withthe bases loaded and no outs, the manager stationed his infielders atdouble-play depth. Sure, Leylands lineup had six outs remaining and an emptystomach, but he figured one run would be easier to make up than two, should theGiants bleed something through a drawn-in infield.

Brandon Crawford delivered the grounder to second base thatgave both clubs what they wanted.
Flannery watched that 4-6-3 grounder and knew Marco Scutarohad a hand in it. The veteran second baseman, the most significant late Julyacquisition since Neil Armstrong picked up a moon rock, had been tutoringCrawford and other younger players, telling them always to think about usingthe middle of the field with a runner on third and less than two out.

If Crawford hits that to first base, the run doesntscore, Flannery said.

Scutaro's awareness extends to run prevention, too. If he had not driftedover from second base to back up Blancos throw from left field on DelmonYoungs double, then Prince Fielder would have scored from first base. And ifScutaros relay to the plate had been less accurate, perhaps steering catcherBuster Posey into the baseline, the Giants might have lost much more than aWorld Series game.

You can ask Todd Greene about that. (Or you can just GoogleToddGreene PrinceFielder collision.)

When the throw went over my head, I thought, I hopeMarcos there, Crawford said. I didnt really think about it. But thinkingnow, its a dangerous play (for Posey), I guess. But he got in the rightposition and made a good tag.

The Giantsadded a run in the eighth after Angel Pagan stole his way into scoringposition, enticing Leyland to intentionally walk Pablo Sandoval with a baseopen. Posey walked to load the bases, and Pence already owner of a 10-pitchat-bat and a rally-starting single -- completed a tenacious night at the platewith a sacrifice fly.

But all of those small deeds would have amounted to nothingif not for the littlest player on the field.

Me? Im 5-foot-10, Romo said. But I dont feel 5-10 outthere. I feel 6-10. I feel like Im legitimately somebody out there and I feellike my teammates look at me as someone whos important.

Especially here, when you hear that crowd. Its electric.Its somewhat indescribable.

Romo only began to address reporters after taking severalminutes to compose himself. He arrived at his locker 15 minutes after the finalout and buried his head in his hands, still shaking with the tension of hisfirst World Series save opportunity. He almost seemed to hyperventilate whileripping off his uniform as if having hot flashes.

No, he did not stop to think that he needed a 1-2-3 inningto keep Miguel Cabrera and Fielder from batting in the ninth. He only stareddown the hitters as they came at him, cocking his arm and daring them to hithis 88 mph two-seamer and running slider. And when they could not, Romo punchedhis glove and started the handshake line.

Ive heard it said some guys can get outs in certaininnings and some guys cant, Romo said. Me, I dont have time to worry aboutthat. I just know a lot of guys are riding on the pitches Ive beenthrowing.

Romo delivered them. Belt caught the last one near the coaches' box. And seven months after the last early-morningfrost thawed away on the grass in Scottsdale, the Giants are one step nearer topumping both arms.

Morse, Arroyo stun Dodgers, lift Giants to thrilling comeback win

Morse, Arroyo stun Dodgers, lift Giants to thrilling comeback win

SAN FRANCISCO — This spring, Hunter Pence briefly tried to cut back on his coffee intake. The experiment did not last long for a player who is pure caffeine on and off the field, but even Pence is occasionally in need of more than a large cold brew. 

Pence tried to stay upbeat throughout a sluggish start to the season, but around him was a clubhouse in need of energy. Christian Arroyo walked through the door on Monday. Two days later, Michael Morse arrived.

“That’s quite an energy jolt,” Pence said of Arroyo. “Morse, it’s been an energy jolt as well.”

The two recent River Cats sent a pair of jolts through a stadium that was sold out for the 499th consecutive time. Arroyo hit a two-run homer in the seventh, his first in the big leagues. Morse went deep in the eighth for his first big league hit in two years and first homer as a Giant since the 2014 NLCS. 

Pence is close friends with Morse and and admirer of Arroyo, the 21-year-old who has taken a locker a few feet away. He made sure neither jolt went to waste, hitting a walk-off sacrifice fly in the 10th to give the Giants a thrilling 4-3 win they hope they can build on.

“That was a shot in the arm,” Morse said.

The big slugger was just that earlier Wednesday. Morse agreed to terms on a minor league deal at Pence’s wedding last winter and he was on track for opening day before a hamstring injury. He was so excited by Wednesday’s call back to San Francisco that he beat Bruce Bochy to the park. The manager tried to lower expectations before the game, telling reporters that Morse would not be a regular starter, especially in left, where the Giants have watched a black hole open. 

Morse was here for the late innings, for the moment when Bochy looks at him and says simply, “Get ready, Mo.” For most of Wednesday’s game, it looked like that big moment wouldn’t come. Alex Wood took a no-hitter into the sixth but he was pulled in the seventh by a Dodgers staff trying to protect his arm. Sergio Romo entered and soon faced a kid who was 19 the first time he walked into Romo’s clubhouse. 

“He’s been doing the same thing in the big leagues with good results for a long time,” Arroyo said. 

Arroyo got the slider that’s always coming, low and away, and he drilled it deep to left-center. He hit only three homers last year but Giants management felt the 36 doubles at Richmond showed a developing power bat. The strength has come quickly, and the ball carried into the first row of seats. 

“I looked up and saw the ump waving and I was like, ‘I’ve got to slow down,’” Arroyo said, smiling. “I tried to slow down and take it all in.”

As Arroyo crossed the plate and looked to the sky, his family shared hugs — without spilling a nacho — in a section overlooking the home dugout. The ballpark roared. A 3-0 deficit had been nearly erased. 

“Now it’s a one-run game,” Bochy said. “Anything can happen.”

Even by that standard, Morse’s blast was improbable. This is a player who didn’t have a hit last season before being sent home by the Pittsburgh Pirates. A player who, at 35, was having a poor spring before he announced to a reporter one day that he was going to hit a homer -- and then promptly did. On a rehab assignment over the past week, Morse had a .250 average and no homers, but he insisted to general manager Bobby Evans that his swing was ready. 

Evans believed, and Morse rewarded him with a moment that had everyone in the park throwing it back to 2014. Just as in the deciding game of the NLCS against the Cardinals, Morse was sent up as a pinch-hitter in the eighth. Sidewinding Pat Neshek was replaced by fire-balling Pedro Baez, but the approach was the same. 

“Swing hard,” Morse said. “Just in case you hit it.”

Baez kept pumping fastballs and Morse turned on one at 97 mph. He raised his arm the same way he did three years ago, an inning before Travis Ishikawa’s heroics. 

“I’m not going to lie,” Bochy said. “I was thinking about that game against St. Louis.”

All the Giants were. 

“You kind of just sit there and shake your head a little bit because it was very similar to his last homer here,” Posey said. “Even his excitement out of the box was similar.”

Morse said he didn’t intend to strike the same pose. 

“I was like, ‘I hope I didn’t strike out and I’m just running around the bases,’” he said, laughing. “It was cool, man. Not only for me, but for the team.”

For four innings, the surging bullpen made sure the homers would not be a fun footnote to another loss. Gorkys Hernandez kicked off the winning rally in the 10th with a single. He was pushed along by a stolen base, walk and bunt. Pence stepped in with no outs and engaged in one of the strangest battles of a career full of them. 

Ross Stripling, a starter with a deep repertoire, kept pumping 94 mph fastballs up near Pence’s eyes. Pence swung through one, fouled off five, and took three more for balls. Only one of the pitches he saw was in the strike zone. In the dugout, Posey shook his head in amusement. 

“It was kind of hard not to laugh,” Posey said. “He’s probably the only guy who can do that.”

Some Giants couldn’t hold the laughter in, even in a tense spot.

“He had that ‘Thou shall not walk’ going in that at-bat,” Bochy said. “He probably expanded as much as I’ve ever seen. If he would have walked it would have gone down as one of the more amazing walks with all the balls he swung at.”

On a night full of so much energy, a walk would have been an anticlimactic ending. Pence, who had been expecting a curveball the whole at-bat, lofted a 10th fastball deep enough to left to score Arroyo and send the Giants streaming out of the dugout. 

Arroyo, the youngest of them all, went sprinting across the infield. Morse followed, and soon he had Pence wrapped in a hug. Hours earlier, he had promised that at the very least, he would bring energy to the clubhouse. He delivered more than anyone could have imagined.

“To do that is one of those special moments that can change a season,” Pence said. “It was electric ... Morsey being Morsey.”

Instant Replay: Arroyo, Morse go deep, Giants walk off on Dodgers

Instant Replay: Arroyo, Morse go deep, Giants walk off on Dodgers

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — Michael Morse hoped to bring a little levity to a battered clubhouse Wednesday. On his first day as a Giant since the 2014 World Series, he ended up bringing the most thrilling win of the season. 

Morse’s pinch-hit homer in the eighth shook AT&T Park and tied the game. His good friend Hunter Pence won it with a sacrifice fly in the 10th, giving the Giants a 4-3 win over the Dodgers. 

The 10th-inning rally started with Gorkys Hernandez’s single off Ross Stripling. Hernandez stole second and Conor Gillaspie drew a walk, and both runners were safe when Adrian Gonzalez went to third on Nick Hundley’s bunt. Pence flied out to deep left on the 10th pitch of his at-bat. The Giants had been 0-13 when trailing after seven. Morse  helped change all that.

Morse’s homer came an inning after Christian Arroyo’s first career homer. The newcomers saved a night that started with nothing but failure. 

The Giants entered with four games this month where they failed to put a runner on the first time through the order. Lefty Alex Wood stayed with the theme. Brandon Belt finally touched first with a one-out walk in the fourth but it wasn’t until the sixth that a Giant — Drew Stubbs — picked up a hit.

By that time, the Dodgers led 3-0. Johnny Cueto worked around some early trouble but Corey Seager got to him in the sixth. The young shortstop led off with a mammoth blast on a 3-2 pitch that landed a couple dozen rows up in left-center. The homer was tracked at 462 feet per Statcast, tied for the longest in the Majors this season.

The Dodgers went up 2-0 when Chase Utley blooped a single to left with the bases loaded. Utley was 1-for-31 at the time. Andrew Toles beat out a grounder to bring home a third run. 

The Giants looked dead in the water, but Wood — the Dodgers’ swingman — was pulled after 77 pitches and old friend Sergio Romo immediately opened the door. Buster Posey hit a one-out single and Arroyo lined a slider just over the fence in left-center.

Morse’s first at-bat as a Giant in three years sent an even bigger charge through the park. He got a 97 mph fastball from Pedro Baez with two strikes and blasted it to left. Morse held his arm up right away and screamed as he rounded first.

Starting pitching report: Cueto was charged with three runs on seven hits and two walks. He’ll finish April with a 5.10 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. After holding opposing hitters to a .238 average last year, he’s getting hit at a .271 clip this season. 

Bullpen report: Steven Okert did a great job of settling the place down, throwing a scoreless inning before Arroyo’s homer and retiring two more immediately after. 

At the plate: The 21-year-old Arroyo calmly clapped his hands once as he rounded first. He was pushed out of the dugout for a curtain call as the park roared. Most impressive of all, his mom, Kimberly, didn’t drop a single nacho as she celebrated in the stands.

In the field: Stubbs made a diving catch to open the seventh and Gorkys Hernandez followed with a nifty sliding catch at the wall.

Attendance: The Giants announced a crowd of 41,572 human beings. Thursday will be the 500th consecutive (announced) sellout.

Up next: Matt Moore (1-3, 5.87 ERA) will try to turn his month around. The Dodgers will trot out young lefty Julio Urias, who spent three weeks in the minors to control his innings count.