Humbled Giants hope slumbering bats wake up on road trip

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Humbled Giants hope slumbering bats wake up on road trip

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SAN FRANCISCO The Giants marketing department is throwinga Slumber Party on the AT&T Park field Thursday night. The annual event comesat an appropriate time, since the Giants bats slumbered through the last twogames of a momentum-killing 10-game homestand, racking up just two runs onseven hits in back-to-back losses.The Giants are 32-23 at home and 24-26 on the road, but Bruce Bochy mayactually be looking forward to a seven-game road trip that starts Friday inColorado.Weve been awful here this past week, Bochy said. You getin these funks; theyre not fun. How we press on through these tough times willdetermine our season. Were in arut right now. Were not swinging the bats, our pitchings not quite as sharp.Youve got to regroup here and hopefully thats whats going to happen here onthe road.The Giants hit the road coming off one of a 9-1 loss, one oftheir ugliest of the season. In the first two innings, Barry Zito gave up fiveruns in two separate rallies that started with two outs and nobody on. The waythe Giants offense has been producing lately, even a stellar Zito startwouldnt have made much of a difference.We have to pick up the energy, everything, Bochy said. It was tough today.We got down early and just couldnt get much going with the bats. Really whathurt was the first five runs; theres two outs and nobody on. Its a tough wayto get started.A couple quick outs then those couple walks were thedifference there, Zito said of his two first-inning free passes that led tothe first two Mets runs. Youve got to bear down and put them away. But Idont think it was mental. I was fighting myself mechanically a little bit.That was the difference in the command today.Zito has now allowed 18 earned runs in the first inning ofhis 21 starts this season for an 8.10 ERA. He received a smattering of boos ashe walked back to the dugout in the middle of the fifth inning with the Giantstrailing 6-1. My timing was off so my command was erratic, Zito said.At times it was there, but at times the ball was up in the zone and I wasntcommanding the off-speed like I usually am.As bad as Zito was Thursday, the Giants lineup stole somenegative attention away from him. Take away Melky Cabreras three hits and theGiants were one-hit by Chris Young and two Ramirezes, Elvin and Ramon. Cabrerafinished a home run shy of the cycle and Brandon Belt had the only other hit, atriple that he may have had a chance to stretch into an inside-the-park homerun if not for a lackadaisical start out of the batters box. Cabrera scoredthe Giants lone run on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Hunter Pence, who isstill searching for his first hit since being traded to San Francisco.Pence, who hit .329 with five home runs and 10 RBIs in 20games as a visiting player at AT&T Park but is 0-for-6 with two strikeouts,a walk and an RBI in two games as a Giant, has no qualms with his new home.The offense has to get better, not the ballpark, Pence said. Theres a longway to go and were going to keep plugging away and continue to go out thereand get after it.Pence said he relishes the pressure of being the player theGiants acquired to lift a struggling offense and keep them in anever-tightening division race.I think it motivates you, Pence said of the expectations.Were in this race and thats something good. Hopefully Ill be able to feedoff of it and well get the whole offense clicking here.Like his shiny new toy Pence, Bochy is optimistic that theGiants will wake up.Weve been through some tough times and they have bouncedback, Bochy said. Earlier in the season we had our funks, our ruts, and theseguys found a way to get through it. But the team that snapped out of an early season slump is not the one thatBochy is trotting out there now. With the addition of Pence and fellow tradeacquisition Marco Scutaro, how can Bochy be sure that the chemistry that workedmonths ago will return to a new-look roster?Even though its a new group, a lot of these guys have beenaround and theyre experienced, Bochy said. I really believe once we getclicking here well get back on track and start having some fun again. Its nota lot of fun when you go out for a week and struggle the way we have. This gamecan humble you at times. It did here in this homestand.Not only do the Giants get a change of scenery in Colorado,they will also see a familiar face in Jonathan Sanchez staring them down fromthe Coors Field mound Friday. Now that Tim Lincecum appears to have at leasttemporarily righted his ship, Sanchez is arguably the worst pitcher in the bigleagues. But that doesnt make Bochy breathe any easier.It really doesnt matter who were facing, we just got toget these quality at-bats going again, Bochy said. We know Johnny. Hes gotgood stuff. Hes dangerous when hes out there. Hes got a good breaking ballalong with the fastball so we got to go out there and execute and hopefully getthese bats going.Zito will be a spectator in Colorado, where he threw acomplete game shutout on April 9 to put the Giants in the win column after aseason-opening sweep in Arizona, but is optimistic his teammates will reboundif they dont let the losses linger mentally. A lot of times when youre going into a rut, you try to press and do too muchand thats when you get farther in it, Zito said. So as a team, we just needto trust ourselves and know that were here for a reason. Weve been on topmost of the year and we just have to be ourselves.With both the Dodgers and Diamondbacks within striking distance, the Giantsmight need to be a little better than their usual selves to maintain theirdivision lead. Thats not exactly what Bochy is preaching, though. For the Giants' skipper, it's about attitude.
"Were in first place; we need tostart carrying ourselves like it and pick it up here, he said.

Early offense, six strong from Cueto lift Giants past Braves in finale

Early offense, six strong from Cueto lift Giants past Braves in finale

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SAN FRANCISCO -- The blisters on Johnny Cueto's middle and index fingers that limited his effectiveness in his last few starts haven't yet completely healed.

But the two-time All-Star is learning to pitch with them.

Cueto threw six strong innings and Brandon Crawford drove in three runs as the San Francisco Giants defeated the Atlanta Braves 7-1 on Sunday.

Cueto (5-4) bounced back from his roughest stretch as a Giant. He was 0-3 with a 4.33 ERA in his previous four starts.

"They're not bothering me like they were before," Cueto said through a translator. "I'm just getting used to it but I have to continue pitching until they get better."

The Giants won their third straight home series and posted their 11th victory in 18 games overall.

Crawford's two-run single highlighted a four-run second against R.A. Dickey (3-4) that made it 6-0.

Matt Kemp had three hits for Atlanta. But the Braves couldn't get much going against Cueto, who allowed one run on six hits and a walk. Cueto struck out eight, including five in a row at one point.

"He did what he needed to do to get us out," Kemp said. "We had chances to score runs and we didn't. I think in this series we really didn't do a good score of scoring runs."

Dickey allowed a season-high seven runs (six earned) on six hits and five walks in six innings.

"This can be a challenging place to throw because of the wind because it swirls so much," Dickey said.

Eduardo Nunez and Gorkys Hernandez each had two hits for the Giants. Joe Panik tripled to start the second-inning burst.

Cueto had two productive at-bats, bunting a runner to second in the second inning and driving in a run with a sacrifice fly in the third.

"It's always nice to have a lead and I thought Johnny was the sharpest he'd been this year," Giants catcher Buster Posey said. "Hopefully it's something he can build on. The changeup was working really well and his command of the fastball was really good."

Posey was 0 for 2 with two walks. He hasn't struck out in 55 consecutive plate appearances.

FUN FACTOR:
The Giants scored the game's first run when Nunez came around from third when a knuckleball glanced off catcher Kurt Suzuki glove in the bottom of the first. The play was ruled a passed ball. Asked if he had any empathy for the plight of his counterpart, Posey said "Yes, no question. It's not fun to hit, it doesn't look fun to catch, either."

FANCY FIELDING:
Hernandez made a diving catch in the gap in left-center robbing Emilio Bonifacio of an extra-base hit with one out in the seventh inning.

TRAINER'S ROOM:
Braves: 2B Brandon Phillips left in the fifth for pinch-hitter Jace Peterson. Phillips fouled a ball off his foot in his last at-bat in the third.

Giants: LHP Madison Bumgarner will start his throwing program on Friday, manager Bruce Bochy said. Bumgarner will start out playing catch and make five rehab starts. The 2014 World Series MVP suffered a separated left shoulder in a dirt biking accident. "The progress is happening," Bochy said. "I think he sees light at the end of the tunnel." ... Slumping rookie INF Christian Arroyo was out of the lineup on Sunday and his playing status appears uncertain. Arroyo, who turns 22 on Tuesday, is 0 for 19 in his last five games. "I'll talk to him, about what his situation is," Bochy said. "I'm definitely planning on giving him a couple of days" off.

UP NEXT:
Braves: RHP Julio Teheran will make his first career start against the Angels in Anaheim on Monday. He is 3-9 with a 5.63 ERA in 15 career interleague starts.

Giants: LHP Matt Moore will face the Nationals for the second time in his career. He was with Tampa Bay when he gave up two runs in five innings against Washington in 2012.

Giants lineup: Posey catching, Nunez at third base against Braves

Giants lineup: Posey catching, Nunez at third base against Braves

The Giants look to win two straight against the Braves and Bruce Bochy has made a few changes to the lineup Sunday.

Atlanta Braves (21-26)

1. Ender Inciarte (L) CF
2. Brandon Phillips (R) 2B
3. Nick Markakis (L) RF
4. Matt Kemp (R) LF
5. Matt Adams (L) 1B
6. Kurt Suzuki (R) C
7. Rio Ruiz (L) 3B
8. Dansby Swanson (R) SS
9. R.A. Dickey (R) P

San Francisco Giants (21-30)

1. Denard Span (L) CF
2. Eduardo Nunez (R) 3B
3. Brandon Belt (L) 1B
4. Buster Posey (R) C
5. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
6. Justin Ruggiano (R) RF
7. Joe Panik (L) 2B
8. Gorkys Hernandez (R) LF
9. Johnny Cueto (R) P