Giants tab ZitoBumgarner to begin; Vogelsong in Game 7

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Giants tab ZitoBumgarner to begin; Vogelsong in Game 7

SAN FRANCISCO It was a phone call that Giants managerBruce Bochy couldnt have been prouder to make: He was going to tell Barry Zitothat the honor would be his to start Game 1 of the World Series.

There was just one problem.

Zito left his cell phone at the ballpark.

Thats why I was holding off announcing it, Bochy said onTuesday. But I think we all knew that Barry was starting, and I think he had agood idea. He was ecstatic. He was proud, honored that we have the trust in himto start Game 1.

Bochy didnt leave any mystery with the rest of hisrotation, either. Madison Bumgarner will start Game 2 on Thursday at AT&TPark, with Ryan Vogelsong going in Game 3 at Detroits Comerica Park and MattCain taking the ball in Game 4.
RELATED: Giants announce World Series rotation

Tim Lincecum will work out of the bullpen, where he madesuch a huge impact in the NL Division Series against the Cincinnati Reds.

Said Lincecum: Weve been doing it this way so far, so whychange it? Im just excited to see another packed house. Im sure our fans aretasting it already.

Bochy could have selected Lincecum to start Game 2. But hesaid Bumgarner, who has gotten tagged ever since late August and got bouncedfrom the NLCS rotation, made progress in two side sessions. And Lincecum wouldbe much more versatile and valuable in a relief role than Bumgarner, who has noexperience pitching out of the bullpen.

Madison has had a break, which we wanted to give him,Bochy said. Its allowed him to get some bullpens in, work on some things. Asfar as Timmy, we just think hes better served for this club at this pointhelping us out of the bullpen. He gives us another weapon there. Hesresilient. I can use him back-to-back days. I can use him three or fourinnings, if necessary. If something happens, I can start him. So we thinkthats the best way to go right now.

Bochy had no qualms with going lefty-lefty, righty-righty.It comes down to executing pitches, no matter what side it comes from. Zito andBumgarner have differing styles, too.

Here was the most important factor in the decision to startBumgarner in Gmae 2 against Tigers right-hander Doug Fister, though: Bochy andpitching coach Dave Righetti had to be convinced that the 23-year-old foundsomething authentic in his mechanics that would keep him from throwinghittable, flat pitches over the plate.

Bumgarner looked at video with Righetti and realized that hewas over-rotating.

And that was causing a lot of other problems, Bumgarnersaid. Ive always been a guy who closes off some, but it was too much.Throwing that way causes a lot more stress and causes me to tire out a littlefaster.

About his session on Saturday, Bumgarner said, I think wevegot things straightened out. I do feel better. The stuff feels better. Thebreaking ball feels sharper. But the only way to be sure is to get into gamespeed.

If game speed is too much, the Timmy Tourniquet will bethere for Bochy assuming Lincecum isnt needed for multiple innings behindZito in Wednesday nights opener against Justin Verlander.

There was one more interesting wrinkle in Bochys rotation:He could have flip-flopped his Nos. 3-4 starters, giving Cain the ball in Game3 to line him up for a potential Game 7. Cain already owns victories in theGiants two winner-take-all games this postseason, after all.

But it wasnt lost on Giants coaches that Cains fastballrode up in the zone and he relied heavily on his defense while throwing 5 23shutout innings against the Cardinals in Game 7 on Monday. Vogelsongs stuff,by comparison, has been filthy in all three of his postseason starts.

So Cain will only make one start in this series. But he'll also get an extra day of rest before taking the ball in Game 4 againstright-hander Max Scherzer. And Vogelsong will drawright-hander Anibal Sanchez, who has mystified the Giants over his career especially at AT&T Park, where he is 3-0 with a 0.36 ERA in three careerstarts.

If Vogelsong gets the last start, we have no problem withthat, Bochy said. I know Matt has worked hard, hes got a lot of innings. Ididnt think we needed to flip-flop the two, to be honest, the way Vogey isthrowing.

But Game 7 is an eon away. Its all about Zito and Verlanderin Game 1 and yes, Bochy finally got word to his veteran left-hander that hedbe pitching.

I couldnt be happier for him, Bochy said. It says a lotabout his mental toughness, his makeup. For him to keep grinding and trying toget better, I was really proud to tell him, Im glad to hand you the ball onthe first game, with all hes been through and the way hes handled it. Itsbeen off the charts.

Two years ago, Bochy left Zito off all three playoffrosters. This year, he told another Cy Young Award winner, Lincecum, that hewouldnt be in the rotation.

Oh, without question, its one of the most difficult thingsyou have to do as a manager, said Bochy, particularly when youre talking to astar player, a guy whos won a Cy Young Award and wants to be out there and whosbeen there all year for you.

I think the only way you handle it is to be straightforwardwith him and tell him what youre thinking, whether its a veteran or a youngplayer. It still bothers you a little bit because you know how much heshurting and maybe even embarrassed.

You do think about his feelings. Its something that has tobe done, and you move on. But again, how theyve dealt with it was one of themore impressive things Ive seen from a veteran player.

Said Zito: Hes always handled me very professional, alwayscommunicated, and sometimes the truth was not what I wanted to hear. But it wasthe truth, and other times hes said things that felt good to me. Hes alwaysbeen a great guy personally and a great manager from a players perspective.

It was Zitos heroic Game 5 start at Busch Stadium that keptthe Giants alive and brought the NLCS back to San Francisco. After thatinspiring outing, his teammates have every confidence hell bring the samestuff and poise to the mound against a power-packed Tigers lineup.

Its just complete retribution, Lincecum said. Im reallyclose to him and I know hes helped me through what Ive gone through. Hes soselfless. Hes always going about his work, trying to be better no matter thesituation. This has been a big week for him and its been fun to watch. I lookup to him like hes a big brother. It was pretty emotional for me to watch himpitch in St. Louis. Im just really, really proud of him.

Zito played on five playoff teams in Oakland but this is hisfirst time on a World Series roster.

I feel like Ive grown up in this game, you know? Zitosaid. When I came up in Oakland, I felt like I was a boy in this game. Youhave talent and you just keep going to the next level and all of the suddenpeople are looking at you and theres fans chanting your name and stuff, andyou dont know why. And then, to mature in this game is a big deal.

That process is a huge part of becoming a free agent, goingto a new team, signing a big deal and dealing with everything that comes withthat.

So I feel like an adult in the game now.

Giants Notes: Blach shows resiliency; Another option in center?

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Giants Notes: Blach shows resiliency; Another option in center?

CHICAGO — John Lackey's night started with a leadoff homer. Ty Blach's night started with a 13-pitch battle. Neither one is a positive for a pitcher, but Blach didn't view it that way. He actually appreciated Ben Zobrist stretching him out.

"It's good to have a battle like that and get you locked in," Blach said. "It gets you focused and you'll be like, I can execute and get guys out. It's good. It's a good battle."

There, in a nutshell, is so much of what Bruce Bochy loves about his young left-hander. The Giants have found Blach's arm and resolve to be remarkably resilient. He wasn't bothered when they moved him to the bullpen and he didn't get too high when they moved him back to the rotation. He is the same after seven shutout innings or three poor ones. Bochy smiled when asked about the Zobrist at-bat, which ended in a strikeout looking. 

"How 'bout that?" the manager said. "He won that at-bat. It seems like the advantage goes to the hitter, seeing all those pitches. He kept his focus and got a called strikeout and here he is pitching in the eighth inning."

After needing 13 pitches for one out, Blach got the next 23 on 81 pitches. Bochy thought Blach tired a bit in the eighth, but the deep effort allowed Bochy to mix and match in the bullpen, and ultimately he found the right mix. Hunter Strickland and Mark Melancon closed it out and got Blach his second win.

--- From last night, Joe Panik's huge night helped give Blach an early lead. With the help of Ron Wotus and his shift charts, he also put on a show defensively.

--- We're trying something new right after the final pitch: Here are five quick takeaways from the 6-4 win.

--- The options game sent Kelby Tomlinson back to Triple-A on Wednesday when the Giants activated Melancon, but his latest stint in Sacramento comes with a twist. Tomlinson started his third consecutive game in center field on Monday. The Giants are getting a bit more serious about their longtime plan to make Tomlinson a super-utility player. 

“Tommy is a valuable guy in the majors and if we can give him some experience in the outfield, it gives you more flexibility and versatility,” manager Bruce Bochy said. 

This is not Tomlinson’s first foray into the outfield. He did work there in the offseason after the 2015 season and he has played 25 big league innings in left field the last two seasons. This is Tomlinson’s first real experience with center field, and while in the past he has said that the transition isn’t as easy as some might think, Bochy is confident Tomlinson can figure it out. He certainly has the speed to be a semi-regular in the outfield, and the Giants aren’t exactly brimming with quality center field options behind Denard Span, who is dealing with his second injury of the season. 

“It’s a little different now,” Bochy said when asked about Tomlinson’s past experiences in the outfield. “He’s in Sacramento doing it, and knowing there’s a possibility we could need help in the outfield.”

If the switch doesn’t come in handy this season, it could in 2018. Bochy compared Tomlinson’s infield-outfield ability to Eduardo Nuñez, who has found regular playing time in left but is a free agent after the year. 

--- Hunter Pence did some light running in the outfield before Monday’s game. Bochy said Pence is still about a week away from being an option.

--- Bochy has said it a few times now when asked about the standings, so it’s officially a new motto for a team that got off to a brutal start: “We’ve put ourselves in a great situation for a great story.”

--- They're starting to get a little grumpy around here with their team hovering around .500. Perhaps the Cubs thought they could fool a few on the way out of Wrigley.

Panik takes step in right direction, helps Giants build lead Cubs can't overcome

Panik takes step in right direction, helps Giants build lead Cubs can't overcome

CHICAGO — The Giants gave Mark Melancon $62 million to make sure they don’t have an NLDS repeat, and the closer did shut the Cubs down in the ninth Monday. There’s a far cheaper solution to those big problems, however: Score so much that a late-inning implosion doesn’t matter. 

The Giants gave up four in the eighth inning in their first meeting with the Cubs since that infamous Game 4 meltdown, but thanks in large part to Joe Panik, the cushion was large enough. Panik, back atop the leadoff spot with Denard Span aching, reached base four times and had three extra-base hits. He came into the game with a .172 average over his previous 14 games, but he took John Lackey deep to lead off the night. 

“The last couple of days in St. Louis I started feeling better,” Panik said. “I started feeling a little better and today it clicked. It’s definitely a step in the right direction. I felt good. The swing path felt good. It’s going back to staying on the ball and not trying to do too much.”

With the wind rushing out toward the bleachers, there was no need to try and muscle the ball. The Giants hit a season-high three homers and added four doubles. Brandon Belt and Justin Ruggiano also went deep as the lead was stretched to 6-0. After Ruggiano’s blast, a familiar feeling set in.

Ty Blach had been brilliant through seven, but Javier Baez took him deep in the eighth. Derek Law entered and gave up a two-run shot to Ben Zobrist. Just as in Game 4, Bochy started wearing out the track to the mound. Steven Okert faced one batter and plunked him as Hunter Strickland and Melancon started to heat up. Strickland got the call, and after falling behind in the count, he got Willson Contreras to ground into a double play, stranding a pair. 

“No lead is safe on a night like this,” Bochy said of the wind. “It’s not surprising when the other team answers.”

It probably wasn’t surprising to the players on the field. It did, however, bring back bad memories.

“You’re human,” Panik said. “You’re human, but with the bullpen we’ve got, we have confidence that they’ll shut it down.”

As the Cubs rallied in the eighth and again the ninth, a half-dozen key plays from earlier loomed larger. Panik was sent from second by Phil Nevin on a hard single to left and he cut the corner at third perfectly, scoring the second run of the night. Blach helped kill one potential Cubs rally by cutting behind Albert Almora in the sixth. The center fielder had dropped a one-out bloop into right and he made a hard turn. Blach followed him to first, fielded a throw from Ruggiano, and threw Almora out at second, eliminating a baserunner ahead of Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.

“We work on that all the time,” said Blach, a former minor league Gold Glove winner. “I saw him rounding pretty hard so I tried to sneak in. We were able to catch a guy sleeping.”

Blach was being modest. It is not a play most pitchers make, not in a 5-0 game. It was simply one of many defensive highlights for the Giants, who did just about everything right until the eighth. When the bullpen started to wobble, the lead was large enough that it didn’t matter. 

The win was the eighth in 10 games for a team that’s threatening to get back into the postseason chase. For all that’s gone wrong, the Giants are just 3 1/2 games behind these Cubs. They’ll try to get another one back Tuesday in a reminder of what could have been: Johnny Cueto against Jon Lester.

Earlier this season, Panik would have hit seventh or eighth against Lester, but Bochy said he’ll get another night atop the lineup. The manager said Panik earned it with his first career night with three extra base hits. After the first leadoff homer of his career — and probably life — Panik doubled twice. That helped build the lead, but it led to some ribbing hours later. As Panik addressed reporters, Matt Cain snuck up behind the scrum.

“Ask him why he didn’t try for third on his second double,” Cain whispered.