It's all about the rebound after Giants drop Game 1 to Reds

907825.jpg

It's all about the rebound after Giants drop Game 1 to Reds

SAN FRANCISCO Here is the neatest, sparest, most sanitized-for-your-protectionway to describe the fate of the Giants cosmos Saturday night:

If Ian Kinsler had hit a fly ball off the top of the centerfield wall, it wouldve bounced over for a home run.

Kinsler does not play for the Cincinnati Reds, of course.The Giants were not playing a two-year-old World Series game, either.

They were beginning their hopeful march back to the FallClassic Saturday night. And now, for the first time since 1997, itll be anuphill slog. Their streak of eight consecutive Game 1 victories ended in a 5-2,thumb-in-your-eye loss to the Reds at China Basin.

We had tough luck, said Giants manager Bruce Bochy.

They had tough luck. Yes, that is right. They did not have access to the samefree-flowing energy particles that carried them along in 2010.

You can point to Matt Cains bases-loaded lineout to rightfield in the second inning. Or Brandon Belts blistered line drive that turnedfrom a double into a double play. Or Hunter Pences two well struck drives tothe warning track, which didnt have a prayer of cutting through the colder,heavier night air. Reds shortstop Zack Cozarts hand might still be numb fromcatching Pablo Sandovals lineout in the eighth, too.

Cain scorched that ball, and that can change the gamethere, Bochy said. I thought we had better at-bats than what it looked like.

Those wont show up in the box score. So what did? What willsomeone notice years from now, when they click on the play-by-play?

Easy: The Reds lost their starter after eight pitches. Andthey won.

Johnny Cuetos back spasms sent him to the dugout withoutlobbing a trial pitch in the first inning. But what looked to be a series-changing break turnedinto a boon for the Reds. After warmup comic Sam LeCure prepped the audienceover an inning and two-thirds, presumed Game 3 starter Mat Latos emerged withhis platinum blond hair and did what he usually does to the Giants at AT&TPark. (Other than breaking a radio announcers sunroof, that is.)

RELATED: Baker flips script on Giants in Game 1 victory

Latos held the Giants to just Buster Poseys home run infour innings, lasting long enough to hand the ball to the Reds NL-best bullpen but not too long to be sidelined forever in this series. Latos threw just 57pitches (39 strikes).

The Giants' reaction to the switch could best be described as, "Uhhmmmm....wait a sec..."

Pence was like most of the Giants hitters. He had prepared by watching videoof Cueto and the Reds relievers. He didnt look at any footage of Latos. Beltsaid he prepped the same way.

Its a little bit of a curveball, Pence said.

Posey being Posey, said: Weve faced both those guys. We expected toface both those guys. Its not like Latos was not going to pitch in thisseries.

True. Except now, Latos might pitch in this series twice.

And Cueto might not be badly injured, either. Cincinnati GMWalt Jocketty said he didnt intend to replace the right-hander and 19-gamewinner on the NLDS roster. So Cueto could face the Giants in Game 3, with Latoseither ready on short rest for Game 4 or fully rested if the series goes thedistance.

How was this a huge break for the Giants, again?

Even their apparent strokes of luck turned into fictional Kinsler home runs.

Instead of the red thong, it was Reds gone as in the pairof home runs that Matt Cain allowed in five innings.

Cain tipped his cap to Jay Bruce, who kept up appearances of careerownage by hitting a double and a solo home run, both on changeups. But when it came to Brandon Phillips' two-run shot in the third, on a 1-2 do-nothing floater, Cain could only shake his head.

The pitch to Bruce wasnt too terrible but the hangingbreaking ball to Phillips is something you definitely cant let happen in a bigsituation like this, Cain said. In big games, they hurt even more.

Especially when the hitter is waiting to swoop on thatmistake like a circling buzzard.

I sat on the curveball the whole at-bat and he left it upand I was like, okay, there we go, said Phillips, who also took Cain deep fora two-strike, two-run homer (on a changeup) in April at Great American BallPark.

I was like, okay, weve got momentum now and the team wasgoing crazy. And I was going crazy too. I was like, I hit a home run, thisfeels good. Everybody in the dugout was going crazy and everybody was like,Okay, we got this win, thats all it really takes.

And, like, okay, those were the first earned runs that Cainhad given up in 23 23 career postseason innings. And they sent him to hisfirst playoff defeat.

How do the Giants come back from here, knowing that they neverlost a Game 1 in their three postseason series in 2010? And knowing they haventwon a postseason series after losing the opener since 1921, when the WorldSeries was a best-of-9?

Well be fine, Cain said. These guys showed what theyremade of. Well find out what tomorrow brings. Todays done with.

You wonder if High Pockets Kelly told his mates the same thing over non-alcoholic cereal beverages in 1921. Or maybe Irish Meusel or Frankie Frisch delivered the sermon following a 3-0 loss to Carl Mays and the Yankees at the Polo Grounds.

Almost a century later, the Giants know this:

No more bad bounces. Its the rebound that counts now.

Giants spring training Day 44: Marrero caps huge spring with eighth homer

Giants spring training Day 44: Marrero caps huge spring with eighth homer

MESA, Ariz. — The Giants went 0-62 last season when trailing after eight innings. Chris Marrero wasn’t around for any of that, but it’s a stat that could help Marrero as he tries to lock up a bench spot. 

The first baseman/left fielder crushed a three-run shot in the ninth inning Tuesday, wiping out a two-run deficit against the Cubs. Marrero also has two walk-off homers this spring. 

“This kid, you see it when he goes up there. He’s got great focus,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s intensity and determination. From day one, you could see it in his at-bats. Late in the game, he seems very comfortable. He wants to go up there.”

Tuesday’s homer, which shot out to right-center, was the eighth of the spring for Marrero. That ties him with a guy named Bryce Harper for the MLB lead, and the vast majority of Marrero’s bombs were no-doubters. 

“It’s been a great spring for him,” Bochy said. “The last game here, it seems fitting that he would do something like that. He’s already done it a couple of times. This kid has done all he can. I love his swing and the work that he’s put in.”

With Michael Morse down, Marrero is the best remaining option as a power right-handed bat off the bench, a glaring need a year ago. Justin Ruggiano, another one in the mix, followed Marrero’s shot with one of his own. The homer was Ruggiano’s second of the spring. 

Ruggiano is a better fit defensively in the outfield, but Marrero has been solid at first and Bochy said he’s fine with what he’s seen in left field. “He’s still working on it,” Bochy said, noting that Marrero will play left field during the Bay Bridge Series. 

LEADING OFF: Denard Span saw a wild pitch bounce off the bricks behind home plate, and he never slowed down. Span sped around third in the second inning and slid in ahead of the throw. The notable part of the play wasn’t that a quirky bounce allowed Span to take 180 feet on a wild pitch. It was that his legs did. The 33-year-old has been a different guy in his second spring with the Giants. Last year, Span was coming off hip surgery. This spring, his old game has returned.

“I’ve just been able to do the things I’ve always been able to do,” Span said. “I have more control of my body. I’m stronger. I had a full offseason and a full spring training to get my legs up under me. The last couple of weeks, I’ve felt much better and more confident.”

A healthy and spry Span would be a big boost to a lineup that often looked flat in the second half last season Span showed off every aspect of his game Tuesday. He blasted a leadoff homer on Jake Arrieta’s second pitch, and during their second matchup, he put a perfect bunt down the third base line for a single. Span stole second easily before his race home. 

“He’s playing terrific baseball and he’s been a real inspiration, being our leadoff hitter,” Bochy said. “That’s what we needed — energy at the top of the order.”

TRAINER’S ROOM: Eduardo Nuñez (shoulder) is feeling much better, and Bochy said he’ll play third base during the games at AT&T Park before getting four or five innings at shortstop on Saturday. Joe Panik (drilled in the back on Monday) said he’s feeling fine. 

POSITION BATTLES: Here’s the latest on Matt Cain, and here’s an update on Aaron Hill and Jimmy Rollins. 

ICYMI: Big news today from NBC Bay Area. Matt Williams, Javier Lopez and Cody Ross have joined out pre- and post-game shows. You can find stories about those guys on our homepage here. Those shows will also now be an hour long on both ends of the game, adding an extra hour of Giants coverage to your day. Which is good. 

That’s all on the way during the regular season. If you missed any of our spring coverage, you can find a bunch of features here, and podcasts here (spring pods included Mike Morse, Matt Cain, Mac Williamson, Jimmy Rollins and others, with one more coming this week). And in case you’re new to our coverage, the Twitter account is here and the Facebook page is here. Next stop, San Francisco … 

 

Giants appear to have decided between Hill or Rollins for roster spot

Giants appear to have decided between Hill or Rollins for roster spot

MESA, Ariz. -- Aaron Hill didn't play in the final Cactus League game, but he didn't need to. By simply being on the flight to San Francisco on Tuesday, Hill got good news. 

The veteran infielder was due a $100,000 bonus on Tuesday, and while the Giants haven't formally announced their roster, you don't pay a man that much money to come play three exhibition games against the A's. Hill appears to have made this club as a second backup infielder, along with Conor Gillaspie. Another veteran, Jimmy Rollins, got the news that the Giants are headed in a different direction. 

Team officials spoke with Rollins this week about their future plans. He was not on the travel roster Tuesday and did not attend the game against the Cubs. 

"We're waiting to hear back from him," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He knows the scenario and the situation. We're waiting to hear back."

Rollins, 38, showed the Giants that he can still handle shortstop defensively, and he was a quick learner when he moved to second. But he hit just .119, falling behind Hill, Kelby Tomlinson and others in the mix for bench spots. It would seem unlikely that Rollins would want to get additional at-bats in Triple-A, but that feeling hadn't been fully conveyed to team officials Tuesday. There was a hope that Rollins, an East Bay native, might join the team for the Bay Bridge Series, which finishes Saturday in Oakland. Rollins grew up an A's fan.

Rollins and Hill were part of a crowded infield group at the start of camp. Gordon Beckham also had a retention bonus and he asked to be released when he was told he wouldn't make the opening day roster. David Hernandez, the third player due a bonus, also was released. He promptly signed with the Atlanta Braves.