Giants' reunion weekend forcing focus on future

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Giants' reunion weekend forcing focus on future

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Heres how much history matters to Dusty Baker: When asked after Saturdays 2-1 Cincinnati victory over the Giants whether he would be participating in Sundays 10-year fete for the 02 World Series team, he said, and you should clip and save this for future notation:

I guess Im supposed to. The sent me a notice. But right now, Im going fishing out in the Bay.

And heres how much history matters to Mat Latos: When asked how to explain his success in San Francisco, which by the way there hasnt been of since his 2010 grumble about Brian Sabeans roster restock, he said, Its just a team. A team is a team. It doesnt matter who Im facing.

In other words, history is for the customers, to amuse themselves while they wait in a concessions line. The participants dont look backward a lot.

Latos can look backward at one of his best starts ever, though. In holding the Giants to a third-inning single by Brandon Crawford and a ninth-inning triple by Brandon Belt, he consolidated the mastery he showed five days earlier in a complete game win against Milwaukee, and gave the Reds not only a leg up on the Giants in the National League race, but gave Baker another alternative to ace Johnny Cueto.

At least on days when the Reds pitch in the airport that is American Telephone and Telegraph Southwestern Bell Corporation Pacific Bell Park -- that is, as opposed to the Peet's Coffee kiosk that is Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park.

More than that, he sent a brief but pointed message to the Giants that they have more than just the Los Angeles Dodgers to worry about.

That last part is not something that should come as news to the Giants. Like Washington and Cincinnati and Los Angeles and Pittsburgh and St. Louis and Atlanta and New York and Arizona, San Franciscos position is fluid, and even stretches like their four consecutive shutouts this dont figure to be prolonged things.

Put another way, theres more error than margin here for everyone.

And put still another way, the nostalgia fest Sunday, in which all the ups, downs and all-arounds of the 2002 season are a lot like the history of World War I. The immediacy of a long and likely confusing playoff race is already beginning to take shape, with two natural standings breaks beginning to take form after the nine-hole (Arizona) and then after the 14-hole (Colorado).

It is not hard to imagine that those will hold and even widen as Colorado, Houston and Milwaukee drop out of contention, perhaps close enough to the trade deadline to make them sellers in an eager market. But it is equally fathomable that Miami and Philadelphia might get their acts and health together and join the top nine in a real contender pigpile, the kind that induces Bud Selig to broaden the playoffs every few years whether they need them or not.

So 2002 can hang. And while youre at it, fretting about Barry Zitos departure from the strike zone in the fourth and fifth innings is also yesterdays news, even though it is still today. Zito walked six of eight hitters in those two innings but was saved a righteous beating because of a strikeout of Latos to end the fourth and a line drive by Jay Bruce with the bases loaded right into Crawfords glove.

In other words, though you might not know it looking at his pitches out of context, Zito did meet his burden by giving the Giants a chance to win, just as Latos was insuring that they actually had no chance at all.

Not complaints about Sabean stacking the deck two years ago from Latos. No grumblings about the way 2002 ended from Baker. Latos had a win to enjoy, and Baker had some fish to subdue. In baseball, now and forever, nothing is as important as the here and now.

Span clinches win for Giants and Gearrin, who had walk-off dreams of his own

Span clinches win for Giants and Gearrin, who had walk-off dreams of his own

SAN FRANCISCO — With the winning run on second and a bat in his hands, Cory Gearrin allowed himself to dream. He was a second baseman at Mercer University years ago and he entered the night with a 1.000 batting average in the big leagues. Why couldn’t this be his night on the mound and at the plate?

Gearrin stopped on the way to the plate and told Buster Posey that he was going to walk it off. He dug in against right-hander Chad Qualls and waited for the first sinker. He swung over the top of it, but he felt it was a quality hack. And then he missed the next sinker, and then the next. 

“I felt good going into that at-bat,” Gearrin said. “It was fun getting that opportunity. I’ve never faced a sinker like that. I felt like I missed it … by a lot.”

Gearrin can take solace in two facts. First, using his own sinker, he pitched three shutout innings, more than earning his keep, and he was a well-deserved winning pitcher in a 4-3 win over the Rockies that became official one minute after midnight.

Second, perhaps he gave the next hitter, Denard Span, a better view of an opposing pitcher’s repertoire. 

“Yeah ... he gave me a lot of information during that at-bat,” Span said as he laughed. 

Okay, so maybe Gearrin’s contributions were limited to the mound, but oh what a job he did against one of the best lineups in the National League. Span didn’t glean anything from Gearrin’s brief battle, but he didn’t need to. He spat on a changeup and then ripped a sinker into right, allowing Gorkys Hernandez to race home for a 14th-inning victory. 

Span, who is open about his distrust of birds, had spent nearly two hours standing under a circling flock of seagulls. Between pitches, he often dropped his hands onto his knees, looking more eager than anyone for the night to end. 

“Those birds were dropping stuff all around me,” he said. “I was like, you know what man, I don’t got time for this.”

The single gave the Giants back-to-back wins for the first time since May 27-28. It validated so much good work, from the five relievers who got the ball to Gearrin, to the Brandons who turned a snazzy double play in the 11th, to Buster Posey, who twice threw out runners at second in extra innings. Gearrin shouted out the defense in his post game media session. 

“It’s not news to us that we’ve got gold glovers all over the field,” he said. 

The Giants trailed by a pair after Matt Cain hung a curveball to Mark Reynolds, but they chipped away. The Rockies were the jumpier team in extra innings, but every rally was cut down by stellar defense and quality pitches. Gearrin threw 34 of them. 

The veteran right-hander had never before recorded more than six outs in a big league game. He got nine outs Tuesday, giving Bochy one extension after another as he battled to make it through a game shorthanded. With Conor Gillaspie headed to the DL, the Giants had just three position players on the bench. That meant Ty Blach was used as a pinch-runner. Jeff Samardzija pinch-hit in the 11th. Bochy thought of using Matt Moore in the 14th when the pitcher’s spot came up. Hunter Strickland was warming up to pitch the 15th, but …

“I could have hit Moore — I probably should have,” Bochy said, smiling. “But Cory is a pretty good athlete and had a pretty good average going into that at-bat. The numbers swayed me.”

Gearrin got his first career at-bat last season and singled. He has not even taken batting practice since that day, but he was fired up when given the opportunity. He was still so fired up after the Giants chased Span into the outfield that he didn’t mind the fact that his shiny 1.000 batting average has been cut in half. 

“I got to use that line for a year,” he said. “But I’ll gladly sacrifice the 1.000 average for a walk-off win.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' 14-inning win over Rockies

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' 14-inning win over Rockies

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SAN FRANCISCO — This, at long last, is a winning streak. A modest one, but still. 

Denard Span hit a walk-off single to right in the bottom of the 14th inning, giving the Giants a 4-3 win that became official one minute after midnight. The Giants have back-to-back wins for the first time since May 27-28. 

The Giants led early, fell behind on a three-run dinger, and then chipped away until the game went to extras. Buster Posey twice gunned runners down at second to help keep the score tied and the bullpen held tough, with Cory Gearrin throwing three scoreless innings. 

Gearrin had a chance to win it for himself in the 14th, but he struck out with Gorkys Hernandez on second. Span promptly singled. If you’re just waking up for work, here are five things to know from a night when the seagulls outnumbered the humans … 

--- Matt Cain needs an assist on the first run of the night. With Gorkys Hernandez on first, he got a sacrifice bunt down on a two-strike curveball that was headed for the dirt. Hernandez went to second and promptly scored on Denard Span’s single to right. The curveball wasn’t so kind in the sixth. With a runner on, the Giants intentionally walked lifelong nemesis Nolan Arenado to get to Mark Reynolds. Cain hung a curve and Reynolds crushed it to left for a three-run homer. 

--- The Giants got a run back in the sixth when Brandon Crawford’s deep fly allowed Buster Posey to trot in from third. Crawford leads the majors with nine sacrifice flies. He also turned a ridiculous double play that can’t adequately be described, except to say that he should expand his trophy case. 

--- Kelby Tomlinson came off the bench to tie it in the bottom of the eighth. His single to right brought Brandon Belt in from third. Tomlinson is 9 for 27 as a pinch-hitter this season. That’ll keep you on the chartered jets. 

--- Sam Dyson, with a fastball that reached 97 and an infield defense that was just as firm, pitched 1 2/3 shutout innings in extras. What a find. 

--- With the go-ahead run on first and no outs in the 13th, Nolan Arenado put down a sacrifice bunt. That's one of the five best moments of the Giants' season.