Instant Replay: Giants 3, Astros 2

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Instant Replay: Giants 3, Astros 2

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Freshly promoted Marwin Gonzalez's third-inning leadoff double to right field drew an audible groan from the 129th consecutive sellout at AT&T Park. No perfect game this Sunday. But Matt Cain and the Giants did treat their fans to a 3-2 win over the Houston Astros and a series sweep in their last home game until July 23.Starting pitching report:Matt Cain entered Sunday's game with a streak of 28 consecutive Astros retired, dating back to 2011 and including his June 13 perfect game. More of the same from the Giants' horse as he went 1-2-3 in the first and second innings to push his retired batters streak to 34 before Gonzalez's double. Cain had the chance to strand him, but it was his error that brought the Astros within one on the unearned run.Houston earned its next run. Brian Bogusevic knocked a fourth-inning single and Chris Johnson tattooed a ball into the left-center field gap. Bogusevic came all the way around to tie the game, but strong San Francisco defense limited the damage and kept it tied at two.Thanks to his offense, Cain took the mound again with the lead in the sixth inning, and he turned in a shutdown inning of dominant proportion. Facing the heart of the Astros order, he struck out All-Star Jose Altuve swinging on a tight slider, Scott Moore looking on the same slider and J.D. Martinez swinging at a 92-mph outside-paint fastball.Cain was lifted in the seventh inning after Gonzalez's ground ball eluded Brandon Crawford, who was moving to cover second with Bogusevic in motion.It wasn't perfection, but it was enough to leave in line for the win. Cain's final line: six and one-third innings, five hits, two runs, one earned run, one walk, six strikeouts, 108 pitches, 74 strikes and the win.Bullpen report:Jeremy Affeldt entered the game -- and a high-stress situation -- when Cain sputtered in the seventh. Protecting a one-run lead with one away and runners on the corners, Affeldt induced a foul pop out from Carlos Corporan and got pinch-hitter Jason Maxwell -- he of the big ninth-inning double Saturday -- to fly out to right field and end the threat.With the dynamic specialist duo of Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo warming up in the bullpen, Affeldt staying in for the eighth inning and made quick work of Jordan Schafer and Altuve before he hit Moore in the forearm.Bochy was quickly out of the dugout calling on Romo to face the right-handed Martinez. Romo's Frisbee-slider was on point, and Martinez went down swinging to end the inning.Still holding on to the one-run lead, Bochy elected not to start the ninth inning with Santiago Casilla. Instead, it was Javier Lopez who faced Bogusevic. As he had done to each of the two other batters he faced this series, Lopez struck him out.And then it was Casilla time.Fans were audible with their disfavor of Bochy's decision, but Casilla was strong. He struck out Johnson and got Gonzalez to ground out to record his 23rd save of the year -- good for third in the National League -- without a shred of doubt.With the bats:Owners of 23 hits in the first two games of the series, the Giants kept finding space between the lines early Sunday. Gregor Blanco and Emmanuel Burriss each slapped singles between short and third to begin San Francisco's day at the plate. After a wild pitch, Buster Posey stroked a clean single to right-center field to plate Blanco and open the scoring. After loading the bases with one out, though, the Giants could only add one more run when Brandon Belt drew a four-pitch walk that scored Burriss.Two runs for Matt Cain against the Astros? It wouldn't be enough on this Sunday.The Giants were primed to score when Norris walked the first two batters of the fourth inning, but Crawford, Cain and Burriss came up empty with runners in scoring position.Tied at two, Sandoval put the pressure on the Astros with a leadoff double in the fifth inning. The Giants didn't waste any time, as Posey's second RBI single of the game reclaimed the lead.Posey added a seventh-inning single to finish the game 3-for-4 with two RBIs.With the gloves:Matt Cain did well to field Norris' third-inning sacrifice bunt and throw across his body and against his momentum to record the out. But he was tested again when, with two outs and a runner on third, Schafer dropped down a second consecutive bunt. Cain charged this one towards the first-base line, but his on-the-run overhand toss to first dove towards Brandon Belt's feet and couldn't be corralled. Cain's error allowed Gonzalez to score and brought the Astros within one.On the next play, Crawford dove to his right to field Altuve's sharp shot in the hole, rose and fired a one-hop frozen rope to Belt that appeared to beat Altuve by a hair. First-base umpire Lance Barrett saw otherwise and the inning continued...for one more batter.Crawford made another nice play in the fourth inning when, while leaning toward second to keep baserunner Chris Johnson close, Gonzalez hit a ground ball his way. Crawford charged, scooped it up and made the alert play to throw on to Sandoval with plenty of time to cut down Johnson, who made the ill-advised decision to take third on a ball hit a step in front of him.The fine fourth-inning defense wasn't over. Crawford's fielder's choice left Gonzalez on first base, and when he attempted to steal, Crawford slapped down the tag from a rifle throw by Buster Posey and trotted off the field.Attendance:The Giants announced a paid crowd of 42,265, 25,000 of which went home with the coveted Madison Bumgarner bobblehead, complete with the 22-year old's bristly 5 p.m. shadow. Up next:After a travel day Monday, the Giants hit the road for a six-game trip through Atlanta and Philadelphia that begins with Barry Zito (7-6, 4.01) and Jair Jurrjens (3-2, 4.97) going head to head at 4:10 p.m. Coverage begins Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

Giants spring training Day 15: Arroyo picks up where he left off

Giants spring training Day 15: Arroyo picks up where he left off

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Giants do not expect Christian Arroyo, their top hitting prospect, to get a lot of at-bats in a camp filled with veteran infielders. But the 21-year-old continues to make the most of every opportunity he gets. 

Arroyo hit a scorching single to left in his first at-bat Monday. When he came up with the bases loaded in the seventh, he poked a single into right, tying the game. Arroyo grounded out in his final at-bat, ending his perfect run this spring. With three hits in his first four at-bats down here, Arroyo is now 17-for-30 in three springs in big league camp.

“It’s the same (thing) he did last spring,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s getting great at-bats and playing well at shortstop. In the early go here, he’s playing the kind of ball that he was last spring. His mechanics are very solid. It’s a good foundation, good balance, and he doesn’t try to do too much. The bat stays in the zone a long time and he uses the whole field well. He’s a good hitter. He’s only going to hit for more power. The power is going to come, too.”

A move to the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League should help. No matter what Arroyo does this spring, the Giants will send him to Triple-A if their 40-man guys are healthy. But Arroyo’s time is coming, and it’s coming soon. 

For more on Arroyo, here’s a feature I wrote about him last week. Here’s more from the first day of the third week of spring training … 

GAME RECAP: The Giants will not go undefeated this season. They lost to the A’s for the 124th consecutive time in the Cactus League, this time by a score of 5-4 … Michael Morse got the first hit of his comeback attempt. His pinch-hit single up the middle in the seventh drove in a run. In the eighth, he lined a two-strike single to right … Brandon Belt hit his first homer of the spring. It was the 24th of his spring training career. You can see it here … Bochy was impressed with Jose Dominguez, who struck out one in a scoreless inning. 

STOCK WATCH: Orlando Calixte played right field, after previously seeing time at short and second this spring. “He’s intriguing,” Bochy said. “He showed the arm off in right field. He’s a good shortstop and plays second and third. He’s a good athlete.” The Giants plan to carry five outfielders, but if none of the right-handed bats break through, they could always carry Calixte as a super-utility guy. Remember, he’s on the 40-man roster. 

CUETO UPDATE: The co-ace still is not in big league camp, or on the way. Here’s the latest on Johnny Cueto. 

TRAINER’S ROOM: This room now belongs to Anthony Reyes, as Dave Groeschner is off to South Korea with Hensley Meulens and Team Netherlands. Will Smith (elbow) threw off flat ground and everything went fine. Eduardo Nuñez (shoulder) will likely resume playing third base later this week.

QUOTABLE: “To have that splitter that out of the hand looks like a heater, for me, that’s huge.” — Jeff Samardzija on a pitch that helped him dominate in September. Here’s more on Samardzija and his plans for 2017. 

 

Samardzija sticking with more versatile approach in second year with Giants

Samardzija sticking with more versatile approach in second year with Giants

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Jeff Samardzija’s first season in San Francisco was ultimately not far from what the Giants hoped it would be. Samardzija gave them the desired durability, throwing 203 innings with a 3.81 ERA in 32 starts. 

The route to those final numbers was remarkably circuitous. Samardzija had a 2.84 ERA through the season’s first two months, but that number jumped all the way up to 6.23 over his next 11 starts, seven of them losses for the team. As the Giants went into a second-half tailspin, Samardzija found his groove and helped keep them in the playoff race. He had a 2.45 ERA over his final 10 starts, earning the nod as the Game 2 starter in the NLDS. That appearance against the Cubs lasted just two innings. 

The up-and-down season showed the Giants two very different versions of a big offseason acquisition, and at times opposing hitters saw two very different Samardzijas. He went heavy on his cutter early, but when hitters started teeing off on pitches that all came in at a somewhat similar velocity, Samardzija mixed in a curveball that was completely mothballed through June. Down the stretch, when he found his form, Samardzija brought back his splitter and ignored the cutter. He threw 165 cutters in April but just two in September. On the flip side, he threw 113 splitters in September after never throwing more than 35 the first five months. 

“He found the splitter and using it more made him more of a complete pitcher,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s got the four (main) pitches now. They can’t just sit on the hard stuff. He had a good year. It was a little bump there, but he had a great run and was throwing the ball really well (down the stretch). He’s one of our guys. We certainly think (that deal) is going to pay off, and it did last year. He got us deep into games consistently.”

Samardzija learned from the up-and-down year, and during his first start of the spring, he varied the repertoire. He gave up two runs in the first inning but was pleased with a curveball he threw four times — twice for called strikes, twice for foul balls. 

“If you can get it going here in Arizona, it’s going to be a pretty solid pitch for you,” he said. “(Bringing it back last year) was kind of out of necessity. I picked it up and played around with it and it felt good.”

The curveball, which he hadn't thrown since 2012, changed eye levels last season and kept hitters from loading up on pitches in the low to mid 90s. Samardzija further expanded the velocity gap by finding the feel of a splitter that had toyed with him for years.

“For me, with that splitter coming back late in the year, it’s going to be about mixing it in and seeing what feels good on that day, seeing what’s going to be the out pitch,” he said. “I had been chasing (the feel) of it since 2014. We broke it all the way back down and went back to zero. So many guys were sitting fastball. To have that splitter that out of the hand looks like a heater, for me, that’s huge.”

The Giants expect the more varied approach to lead to big results in 2017, and Samardzija could subtly benefit from a change Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti made. Samardzija will pitch behind left-hander Matt Moore, not Johnny Cueto. He said he would often last season compare notes with Cueto, who like Samardzija, pitched most of his career in the NL Central. The two would often take a similar approach on the mound.

“(Opponents will) have to face a tough lefty like Moore, so they can’t have that same lineup two days in a row,” Samardzija said. “To me, that’s big.”