Giants mix luck with toughness to sweep Astros

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Giants mix luck with toughness to sweep Astros

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HOUSTON No escaping it: The Giants got a bit lucky in thisseries at Minute Maid Park. They needed to engineer two come-from-behind escapesto accomplish a three-game sweep. Both times, their go-ahead hits werebroken-bat bloops.

And they needed to erase a four-run deficit behind RyanVogelsong to complete their biggest comeback of the season in Thursday nights8-4 victory over the Houston Astros.

But hey, its better to be lucky than on pace to lose 112games.

A great comeback a couple great comebacks here, Giantsmanager Bruce Bochy said. They played us tough and were glad to get out ofhere winning all three. Were battling hard. They kept pushing and Vogey helpedhimself.

Eight different players scored the Giants eight runs, whichneatly sums up the collaborative thrust of this comeback.

But the rally truly started in the fifth when Vogelsongslug-bunted the Giants into position for a big score. Bochy had to let theright-hander hit because he used six relievers the previous night, but he didntwant to give away an out with a 4-0 deficit.

So Vogelsong squared, then pulled the bat back.

He can handle the bat, said Bochy, of Vogelsongs grounderthrough the newly vacated hole on the left side. And it makes it easier whenthe pitcher gets behind.

Vogelsong wasnt surprised to see the sign once the countreached 1-0. In fact, he was glad to get another shot to swing the bat, sincehis lineout with the bases loaded in the second inning was probably thehardest I hit a ball all year.

The gambit led to a three-run inning that cut the Astros' lead to 4-3, and as Vogelsong said, "When we cut it to one, I had a good feeling we were going to put some more runs up."

As for the way he settled down on the mound? Vogelsongcouldnt take much credit for that.

I was just trying to find myself, really, said Vogelsong,who certainly has hit a snag over his last six starts in what had been aseamless season. I was grinding tonight, I really was. I was trying everythingto get myself right. It would work for a couple pitches, and then it went away.

It came down, really, to throwing it over the plate andseeing what happened.

So a little luck was required there, too.

But throw in a bit of belief and toughness as well.

He left the ball up and they took advantage, but you knowwhat? He kept grinding, Bochy said. Its a gritty, gutty effort. He knew weneeded innings and he kept going and going and he got a win out of it. It showsyou how tough he is.

The Giants will have to be resilient again very, very soon.They had barely 13 hours to bus to the airport, fly nearly 1,000 miles, bus totheir hotel, pretend to fall asleep for a few hours and then get on the bus forday baseball at Wrigley Field.

By the time the Giants finish this weekend series inChicago, they will have played 12 of 16 on the road. Oh yeah, and theyll havea fourth consecutive day game on Monday a Labor Day matinee at AT&T Park.

Bochy said Buster Posey likely would get the day off Fridaybecause his ankle got a little cranky Thursday night after three games on thehard surface in Houston.

He said he felt like he was catching on concrete, Bochysaid.

But Bochy plans to find a place for Joaquin Arias, whoentered as a pinch hitter and raised his average to .429 in August with a homerun off a right-hander, no less.

Weve got to go with the hot hand, Bochy said.

Hopefully all hands will be alert enough for a "strap it on" game.

Its a tough schedule, Bochy said. Its a tough group.Theyll be ready to go.

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants dropping series vs Braves

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants dropping series vs Braves

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SAN FRANCISCO — The kid who raced The Freeze on Thursday night blew a tire as he hit center field, hobbled for about 50 feet, and then went down for good. He still had a better night than the Giants. 

They blew all four tires in the fifth, giving up eight runs in a nightmare frame that turned a two-run lead into a 12-11 loss. The Giants finished 1-7 on the swing through Denver and Atlanta, and they have lost 18 of their last 23 games. 

But, let’s face it, you’re here already. So here are five more things to know from the night … 

—- Matt Cain was hanging in there until the fifth, and then … disaster. The inning started with Brandon Phillips’ solo shot that cut the lead to one. Then it went single, single before Cain was relieved by Bryan Morris. After that, it was single, single, single, sacrifice fly, homer, flyout, walk, single, pitching change, single. 

—- Morris had to wear it in the fifth because the bullpen is short, and boy, did he wear it. Morris gave up five runs on five hits and a walk. His ERA jumped two full points in two-thirds of an inning. 

—- Kyle Crick made his MLB debut in that horrendous bottom of the fifth. The Giants surely did not want to bring him in with runners on, but Bruce Bochy had no choice when Morris blew up. Crick’s first pitch was a 95 mph heater. After giving up a hit in that inning, he pitched a perfect sixth and perfect seventh. Crick topped out at 97 mph. Pretty, pretty good stuff there. He needs to get a long look the rest of this year. 

—- In the second, Buster Posey hit a ball that went 311 feet and had a hit probability of just six percent. Cain hit a ball 357 feet. Posey got a homer that bounced off the top of the wall; Cain just got a double. Baseball is such an odd game.  

—- On a positive note, Javi Lopez, who calls Brandon Belt “Sparky,” repeatedly referred to Posey as Gerald. He’s going to be good at this job. 

Why you shouldn't freak out in June about Cueto's opt-out

Why you shouldn't freak out in June about Cueto's opt-out

SAN FRANCISCO — There’s a very important fact you need to keep in mind when talk of Johnny Cueto’s opt-out comes up, as it so often will over the next six weeks: The Giants always expected him to opt-out after this season, from the moment the ink was dry on the six-year, $130-million contract. 

When you sign at the top of your game and have a chance to hit the market at 31 years old and cash out a second time, you take it. Those are just the rules of professional sports. On the day Cueto was introduced, his agent, Bryce Dixon, said the two-year opt-out was important because they felt Cueto didn’t get a totally fair shot at free agency. 

“Johnny, a little bit unfairly, had a lot of questions about his arm,” Dixon said in December of 2015. “I felt we could reestablish his actual value … He knows he’s as good as (David) Price and (Zack) Greinke, but his situation was a little different.”

The Giants were fine with this, too. The flip side of the opt-out is that if you have the chance to pay a dominant right-hander $46 million over two years, and then escape his mid- to late-thirties, you do it. Every time. You don’t even blink. 

So, here we are, in June of the second year of that deal, with reports that Cueto will opt out. You should take a deep breath because you should have already expected this. But if you didn’t, take comfort in this: By all indications, Cueto has not made a decision, even with the Giants having an unimaginably poor season. 

First of all, Cueto can't make a decision in June. What if the blisters return and he repeats his April ERA a couple more times? What if his elbow starts barking? There are no guarantees with pitchers, and until Cueto gets through the second season, there will be no finality with his decision. 

Aside from the fact that he really can’t make that decision, though, sources insist Cueto hasn’t made up his mind or even thought much about it. People familiar with his thinking continue to say the focus has been baseball all season long, from spring training through his last start. 

Cueto is said to be happy in San Francisco and he enjoys pitching in front of the crowd at AT&T Park. His biggest concern has been wins and losses, and in that respect, this has been a disappointing year for all involved. 

That record has brought the Giants to a crossroads, and this is where it gets interesting. The easy solution is to trade Cueto next month, avoid the opt-out situation entirely, and add prospects to a system lacking them. But, it’s complicated. The Giants do not intend a full teardown, and if they’re going for it again in 2018 — with their core of Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Madison Bumgarner, etc. locked in, that’s the plan — they’ll want that second ace at the top of the rotation. And if Bumgarner doesn’t return to form after an injury, they’ll need Cueto’s presence. 

The Giants have until July 31 to decide what to do with Cueto. He has until three days after the World Series ends to decide what to do with his contract. Here in June, by all indications, those decisions haven’t been made.