Kemp serves Giants dagger

541266.jpg

Kemp serves Giants dagger

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Matt Kemp tweeted on his way to the stadium, "Let's end the season wit a bang!" Did he ever.Kemp went 4-for-5 with a two-run homer and a career-high three doubles in his final home game of the season, Juan Rivera homered and drove in three runs and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat San Francisco 8-2 Thursday night, pushing the Giants to the brink of elimination in the NL West playoff race.The Giants open a three-game series at first-place Arizona on Friday and a victory by the Diamondbacks, who were idle Thursday, would eliminate the defending World Series champions."We're still in there, I guess, but we've got to win from here on out and hope the other teams don't," Giants starter Madison Bumgarner said. "Everything went wrong this year pretty much."The Dodgers moved a game over .500 with Hall of Famer Tom Lasorda serving as honorary coach of the team he managed to two World Series titles during his 20-year tenure."They played hard, they played great," said Lasorda, who stood next to rookie manager Don Mattingly at the dugout railing for much of the game. "It was a great night. It was fun."Mattingly said Lasorda spent the game telling him stories."He was into the game the whole night," he said.Fans saluted Hiroki Kuroda as he left the game in the eighth, and they chanted "MVP!" in response to Kemp's offensive show."I felt it tonight," Kemp said. "I had my mom sitting there in the front row. It was definitely a happy night."Kemp's mother Judy was in town from her home in Oklahoma and she'll follow her son to San Diego for a three-game series starting Friday."I might take her to Arizona, too," Kemp said, laughing. "Every time my mom comes, I play good."Kemp's two-run homer in the eighth inning off Barry Zito was his 36th, second-best in the NL. The league MVP candidate scored three times to extend his NL lead to 109 runs and and 118 RBIs. His .326 batting average is just shy of league leader Ryan Braun of Milwaukee, who is hitting .330."To see a night like that really puts an exclamation mark on what he's been doing all season," Mattingly said.Kemp said, "I wish we'd been playing like this at the beginning of the season."He told fans after the game that the Dodgers would make the playoffs next year, something they haven't done since 2009."It's sad we're not making the playoffs, but we've been playing great the last two months," Kemp said. "We're going to come back even harder next year. I have all the faith in my team to go out there every day and win."Kuroda (13-16) allowed two runs and five hits in seven-plus innings to extend his career high in wins. The right-hander struck out four and walked none. By pitching the first inning, Kuroda earned a 175,000 bonus. He gave up a run and two hits as the Giants took a 1-0 lead on Carlos Beltran's two-out homer.It might have been Kuroda's final start at Chavez Ravine. He becomes a free agent after the World Series and will turn 37 in the offseason. He was the subject of considerable trade speculation before the non-waiver deadline, when he declined to waive his no-trade clause with the only major league team he's pitched for since coming from Japan four seasons ago. Kuroda has spoken of wanting to pitch the final seasons of his career with the Hiroshima Carp in his hometown."At this moment, I really don't know (about the future)," Kuroda said through a translator. "It was great to win the last game of the season here."Bumgarner (12-13) gave up four runs and nine hits in four innings, struck out one and walked none to snap his five-game winning streak. It was the left-hander's shortest outing since he also pitched four innings in a 7-2 loss at Cincinnati on July 30.Nothing worked for Bumgarner against Kemp."It seemed like it didn't matter where I threw it. He was going to find a way to get a knock," Bumgarner said. "It seemed like that this whole series. He's having a career year. When you're facing a good hitter and he's hot, it makes it even harder."The Dodgers took the lead for good in the bottom of the first on Rivera's two-out, two-run homer. His RBI single in the third made it 3-1.Dee Gordon's RBI single with two outs in the fourth extended the Dodgers' lead to 4-1.Waldis Joaquin gave up a bases-loaded walk to Rod Barajas, the first batter he faced in the fifth, before Jamey Carroll's fielder's choice grounder increased the Dodgers' lead to 6-1.The Giants' other run came on Pablo Sandoval's 23rd homer on Kuroda's first pitch of the seventh.NOTES: The announced crowd of 37,560 gave the Dodgers a season home attendance total of 2,935,139, the first time they failed to draw at least 3 million in a non-strike year since 1992. They averaged 36,236 and had just three sellouts at the 56,000-seat stadium. ... Bumgarner is 2 1-3 innings short of reaching 200 innings for the first time in his career. ... The teams ended their season series with nine wins apiece. ... The Giants have given up 95 homers this season, fewest in the majors. ... The Dodgers went 42-39 at home, their sixth straight season with a winning home record. ... Lasorda presented Dodgers jerseys to the Little League World Series champions, Ocean View from Huntington Beach. The youngsters received a commemorative Frosted Flakes cereal box featuring the team. ... Lasorda delivered the Dodgers' lineup card to the umpires, chatting with them and Giants manager Bruce Bochy at home plate.

Why you shouldn't freak out in June about Cueto's opt-out

Why you shouldn't freak out in June about Cueto's opt-out

SAN FRANCISCO — There’s a very important fact you need to keep in mind when talk of Johnny Cueto’s opt-out comes up, as it so often will over the next six weeks: The Giants always expected him to opt-out after this season, from the moment the ink was dry on the six-year, $130-million contract. 

When you sign at the top of your game and have a chance to hit the market at 31 years old and cash out a second time, you take it. Those are just the rules of professional sports. On the day Cueto was introduced, his agent, Bryce Dixon, said the two-year opt-out was important because they felt Cueto didn’t get a totally fair shot at free agency. 

“Johnny, a little bit unfairly, had a lot of questions about his arm,” Dixon said in December of 2015. “I felt we could reestablish his actual value … He knows he’s as good as (David) Price and (Zack) Greinke, but his situation was a little different.”

The Giants were fine with this, too. The flip side of the opt-out is that if you have the chance to pay a dominant right-hander $46 million over two years, and then escape his mid- to late-thirties, you do it. Every time. You don’t even blink. 

So, here we are, in June of the second year of that deal, with reports that Cueto will opt out. You should take a deep breath because you should have already expected this. But if you didn’t, take comfort in this: By all indications, Cueto has not made a decision, even with the Giants having an unimaginably poor season. 

First of all, Cueto can't make a decision in June. What if the blisters return and he repeats his April ERA a couple more times? What if his elbow starts barking? There are no guarantees with pitchers, and until Cueto gets through the second season, there will be no finality with his decision. 

Aside from the fact that he really can’t make that decision, though, sources insist Cueto hasn’t made up his mind or even thought much about it. People familiar with his thinking continue to say the focus has been baseball all season long, from spring training through his last start. 

Cueto is said to be happy in San Francisco and he enjoys pitching in front of the crowd at AT&T Park. His biggest concern has been wins and losses, and in that respect, this has been a disappointing year for all involved. 

That record has brought the Giants to a crossroads, and this is where it gets interesting. The easy solution is to trade Cueto next month, avoid the opt-out situation entirely, and add prospects to a system lacking them. But, it’s complicated. The Giants do not intend a full teardown, and if they’re going for it again in 2018 — with their core of Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Madison Bumgarner, etc. locked in, that’s the plan — they’ll want that second ace at the top of the rotation. And if Bumgarner doesn’t return to form after an injury, they’ll need Cueto’s presence. 

The Giants have until July 31 to decide what to do with Cueto. He has until three days after the World Series ends to decide what to do with his contract. Here in June, by all indications, those decisions haven’t been made. 

Giants lineup: Pence hitting third, Panik back into two-hole

Giants lineup: Pence hitting third, Panik back into two-hole

Clutch, late-game hitting by Hunter Pence has propelled him to the three hole as the Giants look to bounce back vs the Braves. Bruce Bochy has released the rest of his lineup for Game 2 of the series...

San Francisco Giants:
1. Kelby Tomlinson (R) 3B
2. Joe Panik (L) 2B
3. Hunter Pence (R) RF
4. Buster Posey (R) 1B
5. Austin Slater (R) LF
6. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
7. Nick Hundley (R) C
8. Gorkys Hernandez (R) CF
9. Matt Cain (R) P

Atlanta Braves:
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. Dansby Swanson (R) SS
8. Johan Camargo (S) 3B
9. Jaime Garcia (L) P