Giants mix luck with toughness to sweep Astros

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Giants mix luck with toughness to sweep Astros

BOX SCORE

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.

Giants spring training Day 42: Blach still in the fifth starter mix

Giants spring training Day 42: Blach still in the fifth starter mix

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Ty Blach is the young one in the race to be the fifth starter, but on Sunday he sounded like a veteran. Asked if he has gotten a hint one way or the other about his opening day role, Blach smiled.

“I’m just taking it day-by-day and trying to get better,” Blach said. “I’m enjoying the process and having fun.”

Smooth. 

Those days are adding up to a nice spring for Blach, the left-hander trying to unseat Matt Cain. While Bruce Bochy didn’t shed any additional light on the current lean, team officials hinted Sunday that this is not as open-and-shut as it seems. Matt Cain, who will start Tuesday, looked like a lock to be the fifth starter a week ago, but the Giants are considering all options because they have an off day during the first week and two more shortly thereafter. 

“We’ve had discussions every day,” Bochy said. “We’ve got some tough calls.”

The Giants are expected to announce their official rotation when they return home for the Bay Bridge Series. Whether he’s starting, long-relieving, or pitching in a completely new role, Blach has certainly done all he can to make sure he’s in the big leagues on April 2. He gave up two runs over six innings Sunday, walking one and striking out one while giving up seven hits. Blach has allowed 10 runs in 20 1/3 innings this spring, but four of those came when he was ambushed coming out of the bullpen one day.

“Wherever I’ll be, I know I’ll be in a good spot,” Blach said. “I’m just looking forward to getting the season rolling.

After pitching out of the bullpen most of the spring, Blach got his pitch count up to 85 on Sunday. 

“We’ve gotten him stretched out,” Bochy said. “That’s a solid, solid job. We’ve got guys stretched out where you want them. We’ve got some flexibility. We’ll see as we get close here which way we’ll go.”

POSITION BATTLES: The Giants will carry a backup for Denard Span, and for about a month it looked like Gorkys Hernandez would be that guy. But Hernandez has slumped so badly this spring that he went over the minor league facility Sunday to get a ton of extra at-bats, and Justin Ruggiano has emerged, reaching base in nine of his last 16 plate appearances. The plan a few days back was for Ruggiano to go to Sacramento and get 50 or so at-bats to see where he’s at, but this is another race that could change in the coming week. 

Cory Gearrin has done his part to hold off any charging relievers, throwing two sharp innings while going back-to-back for the first time this spring. 

FAMILIAR FACES: A rough day for a couple of longtime Giants. Ehire Adrianza and Gregor Blanco both have oblique injuries, hurting their odds of breaking with the Twins and Diamondbacks, respectively. Elsewhere, David Hernandez showed that he made a smart decision asking for his release. He was signed by the Braves. 

AROUND CAMP: Hunter Pence really does do all he can to make every single teammate feel welcome in the clubhouse. He spent some time with young right-hander Roberto Gomez on Sunday morning, learning a few Spanish phrases. When the players went out to warm up, Pence threw with Jae-Gyun Hwang. These are small gestures, but for the new guys, they matter. 

BARRY’S BACK: We all knew Barry Bonds would step into the cage at some point, and on a quiet Sunday morning, there he was. Bonds, 52, took about five or six easy hacks before crushing one out to deep right. He’s still got it. The other day, reporters asked Bonds if he could suit up in the WBC if asked. He said he can absolutely still hit, but he would need to DH and he would need a day or two off before games. Being a big league hitter is not easy, even if he always made it look that way.

 

Bonds dusts off swing, cracks home run during BP in Giants' camp

Bonds dusts off swing, cracks home run during BP in Giants' camp

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants knew Barry Bonds would step back into the box at some point. It happened Sunday, with Bonds taking a few cracks at BP pitches from Gary Davenport.

Bonds warmed up with a couple of lighter swings and then blasted a homer to deep right. That was enough, as the 52-year-old walked away with a big smile on his face. 

Bonds is in camp as a special instructor, and he still picks his spots to show off his legendary swing. When he was the Marlins' hitting coach last season, he beat slugger Giancarlo Stanton in an impromptu home run derby.