Kontos gets celebratory soak after rescuing Giants


Kontos gets celebratory soak after rescuing Giants


HOUSTON Time to nominate Javier Lopez for teammate of theyear.

As his bullpen mates conspired to give George Kontos thecustomary beer shower to celebrate his first major league win Wednesday night,Lopez remembered that the rookie tucked his cell phone into his sweatshirtpocket. So he advised him to take it off.

I took his advice, said Kontos, just before he was loadedinto a laundry cart and wheeled into the shower for the ol' Pilsner parade.

The Giants hope to spray many more sticky beverages over thecoming weeks, and if they manage to win the NL West, there will be no shortageof contributors that got them there. On Wednesday, it was Kontos and the fiverelievers who followed him as the Giants bullpen logged 6 23 innings in a 6-4victory over the Houston Astros.

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The defense flashed two tremendous plays behind Lopez in theninth -- shortstop Brandon Crawfords deft pickup for a force out followed byfirst baseman Brandon Belts perfect snag of a short hop to start a double play-- and then manager Bruce Bochycould exhale.

Not just because the Giants tore another page off thecalendar while retaining their 3 game lead over the Dodgers in the NL West.Also because Bochy only had Sergio Romo left in the bullpen.

Extra innings wouldve been extra painful.

I was in a bind, no question, Bochy said. It wouldvetaken Timmy or Vogelsong. You hope you dont get to that point. You fire yourbullets to keep the lead and it can catch up with you. Thats why that doubleplay is one of the biggest double plays weve had this year, because I didnthave much backup for Javy.

Kontos fired the first of those bullets. Entering the game, the 27-year-old had allowed 10 of his 19 inherited runners to score, later explaining that he put morepressure on himself when he knew the runners belonged to his teammates.

But he got ready in the span of four or five warmup pitchesand quickly established his fastball and slider to get a fly ball and astrikeout, stranding both of Barry Zitos runners in the third inning. Kontos retired the next six batters after that, too.

The phone rang and with (Guillermo) Mota back, I assumed itwould be him knowing that was his role, Kontos said. I threw just four orfive pitches and I was in the game and I just had to make sure to bear down andkeep Zitos runners from scoring.

He said he tried to tunnel on Buster Poseys glove, imaginethe runners were his own and just throw my regular stuff, which I feel ispretty good to begin with.

He knew it would be a good night when he started freezingAstros batters with his fastball when they were expecting his slider. But hedidnt realize that he was in line for the decision until the ninth, when hedawned on him that the Astros didnt retake the lead at any point.

Its awesome everything I thought it would be, said Kontos, who was appearing in his 39th major league game. I always thought my first win in the big leagues would come as astarter, but it feels just as good coming as a reliever.

So many victories in relief come by quirk or arrive on thewings of a vulture. This one didnt.

Lopez saved the game ball from the last out for Kontos andclubhouse man Mike Murphy shook his hand while presenting him with the lineupcard.

Theres more in store for Kontos beginning on Friday, whenthe Chicagoland native and Northwestern University alum will play for the firsttime at Wrigley Field, not far from where his grandfather once owned a hot dogstand. He already heard from high school buddies who bought tickets in thefirst row behind the visiting bullpen. Hes already worried that theyll jabbertoo much during the game and annoy bullpen coach Mark Gardner.

He estimated his cheering section would be in the hundreds.

For Wednesday night, at least, Kontos heard applause from insidehis own clubhouse. And thanks to Lopez, he had a dry, functional phone toreturn all those congratulatory texts and messages.

Pence chases Span home in win over Phillies: 'That's Hunter being Hunter'

Pence chases Span home in win over Phillies: 'That's Hunter being Hunter'

SAN FRANCISCO — Denard Span has played enough center field at AT&T Park that he knew not to assume anything when Jarrett Parker crushed a ball to dead center. Span, standing on second, held up for a second to make sure the ball got over Nick Williams. Hunter Pence, standing on first, had a better view, and he took off with the crack of the bat. As Pence approached Span, he tried to yell over the crowd. 

“Go!” Pence yelled.

Span didn’t hear him. 

“I just felt him,” he said later, smiling. 

Span raced around third and Pence roared up on his back like the third sprinter in a 4x100 relay trying to hand off a baton. Span crossed first and Pence was inches behind him, stretching the lead to three runs. 

“It’s one of those plays that’s a little weird but it worked out,” Pence said. 

Jeff Samardzija, the pitcher of record in a 5-4 win over the Phillies, said Pence “was on a mission.” Span said simply, “That’s Hunter being Hunter.”

“I knew he was right on my heels,” he said. “I was trying to run as fast as I could. In my defense, he had a running start. It was fun, though, it was fun. I’ve never had anyone chasing me like that on the bases.”

The moment brought some levity to a season that’s been lacking it. Span laughed as he crossed the plate and the dugout was full of smiles and jokes as the two returned. But on a grander scale, it was a reminder of what Pence has been and what the Giants need him to be if they are to recover from this season. Pence is signed for 2018 at a hefty price. The odds are good that he'll be in right field, so it’s been a relief for coaches and team officials to see Pence pick it up in recent weeks. 

Pence had a hit and two walks on Thursday, scoring two runs and driving in another. He is batting .346 in August. 

“He has just been making more consistent contact and staying in the strike zone more,” manager Bruce Bochy said. 

That has led to better results at the plate, and Pence has provided reminders that the physical skills are still there. After going 0-for-AT&T Park in the first half he hit a couple of homers on the last homestand. Statcast’s Sprint Speed shows that Pence is actually running faster at his top speed than in the past couple of years, when he battled injuries. Pence is at 28.2 feet per second this year, a tick up from 28.1 each of the past two seasons. 

“Baseball goes in waves,” he said. “I’ve had some tough stretches, but right now I’m in a stretch where I’m going better and I’m still trying to improve.”

On Thursday, he pushed a teammate to run just a little faster. But perhaps Pence’s good friend deserves some credit for Span’s speed, too. After stealing his fifth base a few days back, Buster Posey started needling Span. The leadoff hitter has three stolen bases in seven games since that point, getting to eight for the year. 

“He was just talking too much trash,” Span said of Posey. 

Span said Posey mentioned their equal stolen base totals two or three times. He didn’t respond because he couldn’t. Now, he has bragging rights again, and he’s enjoying it. 

“Check the tapes,” Span said as reporters started to walk away from his locker. “I think I’ve got a stolen base off of him.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as Giants fight off Phillies for victory

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as Giants fight off Phillies for victory


SAN FRANCISCO — In a battle of the National League’s two worst teams, the Giants struck first. 

The lineup jumped out to an early lead and the new-look bullpen took it home in a 5-4 win over the visiting Phillies. The Giants scored five runs off budding ace Aaron Nola, and Mark Melancon, Hunter Strickland and Sam Dyson shut it down in the final three innings, in that (new) order. 

What a recipe for a victory. They should try that more often, in my opinion. Anyway, here are five things you should know … 

—- Hunter Pence and Denard Span combined for a funny moment in the three-run fifth. Span held up on Jarrett Parker’s ball off the wall and then took off from second; Pence had been on first, and he ran right up Span’s back as they approached the plate. Span heard him coming. He was laughing as he scored. 

—- With those runs, the Giants became the first team since June 16 to score more than two runs off Nola. The 2017 Giants are weird. 

—- Span stole second before scoring in the fifth. He has three stolen bases in seven games since Buster Posey’s mini run-of-speed. Posey had been talking trash to the leadoff hitter. 

—- Jeff Samardzija got the win, but this wasn’t one he’ll remember fondly. He needed a slick Tomlinson-Crawford double play to help get through the sixth. Samardzija was charged with four earned on eight hits.

—- Cameron Rupp flipped his bat when he hit a rocket off Samardzija in the fifth. It for sure looked like a premature bat-flip, but the ball kept carrying and landed in the arcade section above Triples Alley. Cameron Rupp is right-handed. That’s an absolute blast for a right-hander in a night game at AT&T Park. I don’t know where he would play but the Giants should trade for him.