Instant Replay: Diamondbacks 6, Giants 2

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Instant Replay: Diamondbacks 6, Giants 2

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SAN FRANCISCO When a full double rainbow stretched spectacularly over the AT&T Park scoreboard in the first inning, it seemed an omen to the home crowd that the Giants would win Wednesday night, but Trevor Cahill's sinker was dialed in and Madison Bumgarner prolonged the stretch of starters' struggles to eight games. Not even a benches-clearing scrum could spur a Giants comeback as San Francisco dropped the series to the Diamondbacks with a 6-2 loss.Starting pitching report:With a chance to become the first Giants left-hander to win 15 games in a season since Shawn Estes did so in 2000, and the first Giants starter to pitch into the eighth inning since Matt Cain did so on Aug. 28, Bumgarner failed to accomplish either feat.The Giants needed Bumgarner to go deep Wednesday, after using 10 relief pitchers over seven and two-thirds innings on Tuesday. The 23-year-old southpaw retired Trevor Cahill to start the seventh inning before Adam Eaton and Aaron Hill coaxed Giants manager Bruce Bochy to the mound with a single and a run-scoring double.Bumgarner didn't look sharp from the get-go. Eaton roped the second pitch of the game up the middle for a single, spurring a 22-pitch first frame from Bumgarner that included Miguel Montero's run-scoring single. Chris Johnson connected with a 87-mph slider in the fourth inning and it stayed hit for a long time, dropping between Angel Pagan and Hunter Pence square in Triple's Alley ... for a triple. In a strikeout situation with one out, Bumgarner locked in and got Gerardo Parra for the second time in two at-bats, and looked like he escaped the inning when a flare by shortstop John McDonald was corralled in on a dive by Xavier Nady. Wearing No. 12 for the first time, Nady held the ball up high, but third base umpire Greg Gibson correctly ruled McDonald safe on a trap, allowing Johnson to cross home plate and push Arizona's lead to two.RELATED: Giants' Nady set for MRI after straining hamstring
Bumgarner dialed back in until his undoing in the seventh, and he finished with six and one-third innings pitched and four earned runs allowed. It lowered Giants starters' ERA over their last eight games from 7.88 to 7.51.Bullpen report:Jean Machi was the first reliever out of the bullpen, inheriting Bumgarner's runner at third base. He got Justin Upton looking, but Paul Goldschmidt, Miguel Montero and Chris Johnson went single-single-double and broke the game open, pushing their lead to 6-0 before Jose Mijares recorded the final out.Brad Penny pitched the eighth, and aside from the benches-clearing conversation -- detailed in the In the field segment below -- it was uneventful.Dan Runzler began the ninth. Dan Otero finished it.With the bats:Over their past seven games, the Giants averaged 6.43 runs per game -- over two more than their season average. They needed to take the "over" to beat the Diamondbacks Wednesday, and it wasn't happening against former Athletic Trevor Cahill, nor was it happening against Arizona's bullpen, thanks in large part to the double play.Cahill, who lost both his prior starts against the Giants this season with a 6.17 ERA, pitched like he was still in Green and Gold. As an Athletic, Cahill was 3-0 with a 1.30 ERA in four starts against San Francisco.Cahill was perfect through five and one-third innings, and his sinker was in fine form in the third, freezing Xavier Nady, Brandon Crawford and Madison Bumgarner in succession. Crawford's final strike looked to be low, but with Cahill pounding the strike zone, there's no excuse for not getting the bat off the shoulder.Crawford's eye would be vindicated in the sixth, though, when he took four balls and walked to first base to break up the perfect game. The no hitter lasted another two outs, as Marco Scutaro delivered the Giants' first hit of the game with a solid base knock to right field to lead off the bottom of the seventh.AT&T Park came to life as Buster Posey singled, Hunter Pence walked, and Brandon Belt delivered a base hit to break up the shutout and make it a 6-2 ballgame. But the fanfare was short-lived as pinch hitter Ryan Theriot bounced into the inning-ending double play with runners at the corners.The eighth inning also ended on the double play, this one hit by Angel Pagan.Matt Lindstrom made the heart of the Giants order look foolish in the ninth, striking out Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey and Hunter Pence. Sandoval, who was 7-for-15 with four RBIs in his last four games, fanned while checking his swing on a ball in the dirt to finish his day 0-for-4.With the gloves:After back-to-back singles from the bottom of Arizona's lineup to lead off the eighth inning, Eaton hit a ground ball to first base that began the most exciting play of the game. Brandon Belt fielded it cleanly and fired to third base. Pablo Sandoval was not on the bag for the forceout, and shortstop Josh McDonald didn't slide. Sandoval applied a hard tag that send McDonald rolling towards third base coach, and former Giants star Matt Williams. Sandoval followed up, moving forward with an earful for McDonald, presumably for not sliding. Third base umpire Greg Gibson bear-hugged Sandoval and the benches poured onto the field as Williams frantically tried to keep his two former teams apart.Lost on the play was Belt's fine defensive effort to get the lead runner, which proved critical as Penny induced a would-be sacrifice fly and a popout to escape the inning unscathed. Every fly ball to right field seems an adventure for Hunter Pence. He called off Marco Scutaro at the last second on Cahill's shallow fly ball in the second. And his route was less than direct on Paul Goldschmidt's fly ball down the line to end the third. Nonetheless, both balls found his mitt. As it turns out, Nady is no Gold Glover in left, either. Aaron Hill -- he of the five hits on Tuesday -- connected with a backed-up changeup in the fifth. After a step in, a step left and three frantic steps back, Nady leapt to make the grab, but Hill's scorched drive caromed off the tip of his glove and safely fell to the warning track. It took two solid defensive plays to strand Hill. Pablo Sandoval scooped a backhanded short-hop and fired across the diamond for the second out. And Brandon Belt ranged to his right to field a grounder, spun and found Bumgarner at first base for the touchdown putout. With a runner on third in the seventh inning, Posey's unreal forehand block on his backhand side from a Jean Machi offering won't be remembered after a string of Arizona hits.On the bases:The Giants didn't have a baserunner through the first five innings. Brandon Crawford was granted the honor of standing safely with Paul Goldschmidt when his four-pitch walk broke up the perfect game in the sixth. He was stranded on second base when center fielder Adam Eaton kept Cahill's no hitter in tact with a full-extension dive to put away Angel Pagan.Attendance:The Giants announced a paid attendance of 41,035, many of whom were left after the loss wondering profoundly, "What does this mean?"
Up next:The Giants head into their natural day off Thursday in first place in the NL West.When San Francisco resumes baseball on Friday, it will open a pivotal three-game series with the second-place Dodgers at AT&T Park. Unlike Los Angeles, who will skip Joe Blanton's Sunday start in order to slide reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw into the series, Bruce Bochy said the Giants will avoid stacking the deck.Tim Lincecum (8-14, 5.21) will take on newly-acquired Josh Beckett (1-1, 2.92) -- coming off his first win as a Dodger -- in the series opener. Matt Cain (13-5, 2.98) will face Chris Capuano (11-10, 3.63) in the Saturday matinee, and the Giants will stick with Barry Zito (10-8, 4.51) against Kershaw (12-8, 2.79) in the series finale.

Giants spring training Day 11: Could Ty Blach open season in bullpen?

Giants spring training Day 11: Could Ty Blach open season in bullpen?

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Bruce Bochy announced a slight tweak to the spring schedule on Thursday: Matt Cain won't follow Madison Bumgarner on the mound in the opener; he'll likely start the second game, with Ty Blach backing him up.

The Giants have made no secret of the fact that Cain is the perfect-world pick to be the fifth starter this season. Is there a world where Blach could still be in the big leagues?

"Sure, I could see that," manager Bruce Bochy said.

Bochy called Blach a potentially good "swing guy." If he can't crack the rotation this season, Blach may see time as a long reliever or even a short-stint lefty. With Will Smith (elbow) on a tight timeline to get ready for opening day, the lefty help could be needed.

"He's confident, he's a strike-thrower, he has really good command and he's a good athlete," Bochy said, noting the traits that allow Blach to be versatile.

The 26-year-old had already proven to be flexible. A week after he threw eight shutout innings against the Dodgers, Blach came out of the bullpen at Wrigley Field and threw 1 1/3 hitless innings. Two days later he threw two more scorleless innings out of the bullpen. 

Blach said he was at first a little worried about the transition, but he talked to Cain, Jake Peavy, Chris Heston and Chris Stratton about the best ways to adjust to a switch to the bullpen. He ultimately didn't have any problems warming up quickly as a reliever.

"It was pretty similar, you just try to go out there the same way and execute pitches," Blach said.

Blach made the quick transition look easy, and that might have opened up a second path to a roster spot. 

Elsewhere on the final day before the games start ...

STOCK WATCH: Tyler Beede will pitch Sunday, and there are going to be a lot of eyes on him. Beede is probably the No. 7 starter at this point, and when you're in that spot, you're just about guaranteed a decent chunk of starts. Injuries will open doors.

"He's looked real sharp this spring," Bochy said. "He's coming off a great year. He's got great stuff, great makeup. He’s a smart pitcher along with having good command of all of his pitches. He knows what he’s doing out there. He’s one of those guys on a fast pace.”

ICYMI: Speaking of guys on a fast pace, here’s my feature on Christian Arroyo

SPRING OPENER: Buster Posey won’t catch Bumgarner on Friday, but Brandon Crawford will be behind him. Crawford is going to get plenty of time early on to prepare for the WBC. Posey makes his spring debut Saturday.

LIGHTER SIDE: Just about every day, a rookie has to get up in front of the team and do something embarrassing. Thursday’s entertainment: Jae-gyun Hwang, the Korean third baseman, dancing to “Gangnam Style.”

QUOTABLE: I think Mike Morse was the best podcast guest so far. We talked about his wedding negotiations with Bobby Evans, his friendship with Hunter Pence, the photo he took with a trophy right after the World Series, why it’s SF-or-bust, and much more. You can stream it here or download it on iTunes here. 

The last question for Morse: Will he use “Take on Me” this year?

“If this is going to be the last time I play baseball, I’m going to have that song every at-bat,” he said. 

Giants keep Christian Arroyo on fast track to big leagues

Giants keep Christian Arroyo on fast track to big leagues

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Christian Arroyo’s fingers flew across the face of his iPhone in a scene that would not be out of place in any dorm room across the country. For a moment, he was simply a young man facing an online opponent on an app, but Arroyo is far from your average 21-year-old.

Arroyo was sitting in front of a locker where a No. 22 Giants jersey hangs as a sign of what the organization thinks of the infielder. A former MVP, Jimmy Rollins, dressed a few feet away. On a flatscreen TV hanging from the ceiling, a feed showed Brandon Belt, Joe Panik and Brandon Crawford practice bunting. That group is one Arroyo hopes to soon join.

“When you get drafted by a team, your goal is to be a guy that stays around for a while,” he said. “I love it here, and to be one of those guys down the road would be awesome. There’s a lot of work to be done to get to that point, and I understand it is a business and some things work out and some things don’t, but I would definitely love to be one of those guys.”

The Giants believe strongly that he will be. It’s why they ultimately felt they had coverage when Matt Duffy — once the fourth member of that group — was traded away in the seconds before the 2016 deadline. It’s why Arroyo is wearing Will Clark’s old number. It’s why Bruce Bochy broke into a wide smile when asked about Arroyo’s month in camp last spring, when he had 10 hits — including two homers — in 18 at-bats.

“Wow — I mean, he had an impressive spring, to the point where guys are going, ‘Maybe he can help us (now),’” Bochy said. “But he needed to go to (Double-A) Richmond and play. He’s not on our radar to make the club (this spring), but what he did last spring opened a lot of eyes.”

The Giants would like Arroyo to get a full season at Triple-A and general manager Bobby Evans said they don’t feel pressure to have their top hitting prospect in the opening day lineup in 2018. Eduardo Nuñez is in the final year of his contract, but Conor Gillaspie is under team control through next season. Still, Arroyo could be a fit as soon as this summer. 

“We’ll let his development dictate the pace of his rise to the big league level,” Evans said. 

The front office will continue to move Arroyo around the diamond in Triple-A, but his future is at third base and that’s where he’ll get most of his time this season. To make the transition, Arroyo — who was drafted as a shortstop — has at times turned to a player who was once blocking him. When bench coach Ron Wotus started working him in at third last spring, Arroyo started following the lead of the incumbent. 

“I was with Duffy on the back field and we were doing our infield work,” he said. “I started turning double plays and he said, ‘Hey, man, you’ve got to slow it down over here. When you’re here, you have time. If you get a double-play ball just deliver a good throw to Joe. It’s not really the speed, it’s the area that you throw it, and let Joe turn two.’

“He’s a Gold Glove second baseman,” Arroyo continued. “He’s going to turn it every time. Once I started to realize that and started to slow everything down over there, my feet were under me and my angles on the throws were right.”

Arroyo continued to work on slowing the game down during his season in Richmond, where he played 48 games at third base, 48 at shortstop, and 19 at second. He is learning the nuances of positioning, and another spring in big league camp — where Wotus regularly helps veterans grow by leaps and bounds — will only help.

At the plate, the focus is on consistently having the right approach. Arroyo showed it last spring, when he fell behind 0-2 during a televised night game and then calmly worked a full count. When he got a cutter he could handle, Arroyo pulled a two-run homer over the bullpen. Several Giants compared the approach that night to Buster Posey’s, and during the season it was continually reinforced.

“When (team executives) would come into (Richmond) and you talk to them, they tell you very specifically the exact plan for the big league level,” Arroyo said. “'Hey, get on base, keep it moving, and make stuff happen.' I understand that when I’m making stuff happen I’m not hitting home runs, I’m hitting doubles and taking walks and taking the extra base. 

“Eventually, hopefully, when I grow into my body and get a little bit stronger down the road, doubles turn into home runs and I can make things happen that way. But for now I understand what kind of player I am at this age and I’m just going to try to stay consistent at what I do and let the other things fall into place.” 

That's the attitude the Giants want Arroyo to continue to take. It’s easy for a young player to get caught up in prospect rankings or homers and RBI, but the numbers that mean the most to the Giants are the ones on Arroyo’s driver’s license. Arroyo hit .274 with a .316 on-base percentage and .373 slugging last season, but he did so in a league where the average player was more than three years older.

“When you’re playing Double-A at the age of 21 and you have 36 doubles and good defense, it stands out,” Evans said. “We challenged him by moving him around, that’s a lot to take, and he had a good year. He has a good head on his shoulders and a good approach at the plate, and he’s only going to get stronger as he grows into a man’s body. Now he’s looking at Triple-A at the age of 22 — and he’ll still be the youngest player.”

Arroyo won’t mind that. The jump to Double-A last season was a challenge, and he was happy the Giants gave it to him. He’s ready for another jump, another season of trying to stay consistent against older and more experienced players. As Arroyo sat in the clubhouse Tuesday waiting for the on-field workout to start, one veteran infielder after another walked through the door. Nuñez, Gillaspie, Rollins, Aaron Hill and others will get most of the time at third base this spring. There are limited at-bats for the prospects, but Bochy doesn’t need to see much more from Arroyo — who is 14-for-26 in two springs — to know what’s on the way. 

“He showed he can handle the bat, third base, or wherever we put him,” Bochy said. “It’s just a matter of time with him.”