Lincecum rocked, Giants fall to Rockies 17-8

730548.jpg

Lincecum rocked, Giants fall to Rockies 17-8

BOX SCORE
DENVER Tim Lincecum does not have the shingles. But he had a bad case of the doubles and triples Wednesday night.In what ranked as the shortest start of his career, Lincecum couldnt escape the third inning as the Colorado Rockies pounded him for six earned runs.Whatever Lincecum contracted proved contagious to the rest of the pitching staff, too. The Giants took their ace off the hook by rallying from a 6-0 deficit to take a 7-6 lead, but the Rockies kept right on bashing to take a 17-8 victory on a vintage, pre-humidor night at Coors Field.Starting pitching report: Lincecum had so much trimmed away at the barber shop, you could see the back of his neck for the first time in years. The Colorado Rockies proceeded to step on it.The two-time Cy Young Award winner retired just seven of 17 batters while failing to complete three innings for the first time in 157 career starts. Lincecums fastball was in the 90-92 mph range most of the night but the real issue was the many changeups he left up in the zone. Seven of the eight hits he allowed came on offspeed pitches, including all five in the third inning as the Rockies blitzed him from the game.Lincecum said this spring that he planned to pitch to contact. This is not what he had in mind. In two starts, he has a 12.91 ERA and has allowed 14 hits and three walks in 7.2 innings. Opponents have a .368 average against him; Lincecum entered the year with a career .223 OBA.Carlos Gonzalez tripled twice against Lincecum, who looked most disconsolate in the third when catcher Hector Sanchez couldnt block a wild pitch that scored a run.Lincecums outing could have been worse. He was pulled after walking Chris Nelson to load the bases in the third. Right-hander Dan Otero stranded all three inherited runners by getting opposing pitcher Jeremy Guthrie to hit into a double play. If not fot Oteros sinker, Lincecum might have eclipsed his career high of seven earned runs.
Bullpen report: Guillermo Mota and Jeremy Affeldt combined to allow 12 hits to the 23 batters they faced. Anything else you want to know?Well, OK. Brian Wilson made his 2012 debut. The bearded wonder allowed a run on a hit and a walk, but topped out at 95 mph and looked healthy.At the plate: Well, the Rockies didnt have all the fun. The Giants sure enjoyed themselves while they erased a 6-0 deficit in a seven-run fourth inning, which Nate Schierholtz and Brandon Crawford touched off with back-to-back home runs. Pablo Sandoval hit an RBI double and Gregor Blanco drew a pinch walk to load the bases for Hector Sanchez, who hit a two-run single. Blanco scored the tiebreaking run on Schierholtzs sacrifice fly.Schierholtz also hit a home run leading off the seventh inning. It was his second career multi-homer game.Brandon Belt entered as part of a double-switch in the third and promptly exited in another double-switch in the fifth. He struck out and walked in two trips.And Buster Posey, who didnt start because of the shingles, hit a deep fly out as a pinch hitter in the eighth.The Rockies? Well, they were 19-for-32 through just five innings. Thats a .594 average. They finished with 22 hits. Well spare you all the play-by-play.
In the field: Brett Pill committed two errors on a hideously ugly play in the fifth inning. Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up:Michael Cuddyer on first. Todd Helton on second. Two outs. Ramon Hernandez singles up the middle. Helton scores. Pill cuts off the throw from center, lets the ball tick off his glove. Error as Hernandez takes second. Cuddyer dashes for the plate. Hector Sanchez makes a nice sliding scoop and throw to Affeldt covering home. Cuddyer caught in a rundown. Affeldt throws too early to third base. Pablo Sandoval throws home. Pill drops the ball. Error No.2. Cuddyer scores. Pill throws to third base, where shortstop Crawford is covering. Hernandez overslides the bag, yet somehow avoids Crawfords tag. At least thats how the umpire saw it. No outs on the play.As bad as that was, the most damaging error came leading off the bottom of the fourth. Thats when second baseman Emmanuel Burriss bobbled, then threw wide to allow Marco Scutaro to reach. The Giants had just taken a 7-6 lead. The error opened the door for a three-run inning as Colorado wrested it back.Oh yeah, and Ryan Theriot ended up in left field for the first time since 2007. It was that kind of night.Attendance: The Rockies announced 30,337 paid. The seventh-inning stretch came just in time to avoid thousands of cases of deep-vein thrombosis.Up next: The Giants and Rockies complete their three-game series onThursday (first pitch at 12:10 PDT) with a matchup for the ages. Or about the ages, at least.When 22-year-old Madison Bumgarner takes on 49-year-old Jamie Moyer, it will be the third largest age difference between opposing starting pitchers in major league history, and the largest in nearly five decades. The only instances with a wider age gap both involve Satchel Paige, who was 59 years old when he started for the Kansas City As in 1965.Moyer was 26 years, 256 days old on the day Bumgarner was born. With a victory, Moyer will become the oldest pitcher in major league history to win a game.The way Wednesday nights game dragged on, Moyer might have made it to 50 before lobbing his next pitch.

Now the bullpen's veteran, Kontos picking up where Core Four left off

Now the bullpen's veteran, Kontos picking up where Core Four left off

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — On a rainy morning early in camp, George Kontos walked through the clubhouse at Scottsdale Stadium with an oversized envelope in his hand. Often times that’s bad news, the sign of a player who has been handed MRI results. For Kontos, it was a sign of his standing in the bullpen.

With the Core Four era officially over, Kontos has picked up where his longtime teammates left off. He has taken over for Javier Lopez as the Giant who organizes spread pools, squares, team golf tournaments and bullpen dinners. He has at times taken on Jeremy Affeldt’s role as a target of clubhouse jokes. When the Giants return home, it will be Kontos who takes Sergio Romo’s spot as the catcher for the first pitch.

“I wouldn’t mind doing that, so I’m sure that’s something I’ll do as well,” he said, noting that he caught Draymond Green and Metallica last season. “Whenever Sergio wasn’t available for some events they would ask me to do it.”

For the rest of the responsibilities, Kontos won’t have to be asked. With Lopez and Affeldt retired and Romo and Santiago Casilla pitching elsewhere, Kontos is all of a sudden the longest-tenured member of the bullpen, and it’s not particularly close.

Mark Melancon and Will Smith are in camp for the first time. Derek Law and Steven Okert are coming off rookie seasons. Josh Osich and Cory Gearrin have two seasons with the Giants and Hunter Strickland has three. Kontos is entering his sixth season in San Francisco. Not bad for a pitcher who shuttled repeatedly between San Francisco and Triple-A Fresno from 2012-2014. 

“I think it goes to show that hard work and doing your job and following the example of the guys who were here actually works,” Kontos said. “If you keep your head down and work hard and do your job, good things tend to happen.”

When Kontos first showed up in 2012, he was put between Lopez and Affeldt in the clubhouse. Every spring thereafter, Kontos was asked if he wanted to move to a different locker. He never did, and as Affeldt neared retirement, he saw in Kontos a player who could one day pick up the leadership baton for the bullpen.

“Most guys don’t really want that role, even if they have time. A lot of guys just want to pitch, but there’s so much more to a team than just pitching,” Affeldt said. “George has kind of always shown leadership in different ways. He was the guy that ran the hardest or worked out more than anyone else, and we always ripped on him for it, but that’s also a part of his drive to be the best and it shows the discipline that leaders have.”

At a recent event for sponsors, Kontos found that the ribbing isn’t limited to the clubhouse. “I guess I’m the new Affeldt,” he said, laughing, after taking a series of jabs during speeches from other members of the organization. That’s not a bad thing, not after a second-half slide during which Giants coaches and executives privately lamented the lack of energy and joy in the clubhouse. The original Affeldt believes the role is a key one.

“The reason you want to be able to be ripped on is that you want to show that to the younger guys,” Affeldt said. “If I don’t talk to you, I don’t like you. If I’m making fun of you, we’re just having fun. We’re ribbing like brothers.”

The back-and-forth can help a team get through the 162-game grind. While Kontos has grown comfortable in that respect, he has found new ways to grow on the field. 

“When he first got here he was predominantly a four-seam guy, and he two-seamed it a little and threw a lot of sliders,” pitching coach Dave Righetti said. “He can cut it now. He can still use his slider. He’s got a changeup and he threw a nice curveball last year. He’s adapted. He can keep pitching, and if he stays in shape, for quite a while. A lot of hitters are one-way type of guys now and George is able to do different things now to different guys. He’s done a hell of a job doing that.”

Kontos threw his four-seam fastball 44 percent of the time when he broke into the big leagues, but that dropped to 12 percent last season, per BrooksBaseball.net. He threw his two-seamer a career-high 22 percent of the time last season, and his cutter — a pitch he didn’t prominently feature until 2014 — 33 percent. In his first full season with the Giants, 51 percent of Kontos’ pitches were sliders; last season it was 22 percent. Throw in the curveball and changeup and you’ve got a starter’s repertoire coming out of the bullpen. 

Kontos came into professional baseball as a starting pitcher, but he has quietly been one of the more effective relievers in the National League over the past three seasons, ranking 15th among NL relief pitchers with a 2.49 ERA. Over the past two years, he ranks in the top 20 in the league in relief outings (130) and innings (126 2/3).

That durability has put Kontos in an odd spot. The pitchers he learned from were late-innings guys, but Kontos has been viewed as a better fit for the sixth and seventh. He often comes on with a starter’s runners on base, and Bruce Bochy knows he can ask Kontos to warm up multiple times without worrying about him being down for the count. 

“He’s been a staff-saver,” said Righetti. 

That has led to a long career in orange and black. With tenure comes added responsibility, and in a rebuilding bullpen, Kontos is ready to fill in for role models who have since departed.

“With Javi gone now, it’s one of those things that whether you want it or not, you’re going to be one of the guys,” Affeldt said. “And he has the background to step up and do that leadership stuff.”

Team USA dominates Puerto Rico to win 2017 World Baseball Classic

Team USA dominates Puerto Rico to win 2017 World Baseball Classic

LOS ANGELES -- Marcus Stroman tossed six hitless innings, Ian Kinsler slugged a two-run homer and the United States routed Puerto Rico 8-0 on Wednesday night to win its first World Baseball Classic in four tries.

Stroman dominated the tournament's highest-scoring team. Puerto Rico lost for the first time in eight games after outscoring the opposition 55-26. The U.S. territory finished runner-up for the second time, having lost to the Dominican Republic in the 2013 final.

Stroman, who was named the tournament's MVP, avenged his shakiness in the Americans' 6-5 loss to Puerto Rico during pool play. The right-hander from the Toronto Blue Jays retired the side on three grounders to open the game. In all, he gave up one hit, struck out three and walked one on 73 pitches.

He allowed just three balls past the infield until Angel Pagan's double in the left-field corner leading off the seventh, when Stroman departed to a standing ovation, having staked the Americans to a 7-0 lead.

Stroman walked Carlos Beltran leading off the second, but the defense helped him out. Yadier Molina hit the ball to shortstop Brandon Crawford, who started a double play before Stroman struck out Javier Baez to end the inning.

The U.S. pounded out 13 hits and finished with a 6-2 record while making the final for the first time in front of 51,565 at Dodger Stadium.

Kinsler homered off an 0-1 pitch from Seth Lugo into left-center field in the third, scoring Jonathan Lucroy, who singled leading off.

Lugo of the New York Mets allowed four runs and five hits, struck out seven and walked four in four innings. The right-hander won his first two starts of the tournament, including in the second round against Stroman and the U.S.

In that game, Stroman gave up six consecutive singles in a four-run first inning and took the loss against Puerto Rico last Friday in San Diego.

The Americans made it 4-0 in the fifth on RBI singles by Christian Yelich and Andrew McCutchen.

Fans wore flags of both countries as capes and decorated their faces in team colors. Puerto Rico boosters pounded cowbells, tooted horns and blew whistles early on before their team fell behind 4-0.

Fans were on their feet chanting "U-S-A" when the Americans loaded the bases in the seventh with two outs. They were rewarded with Crawford's two-run single that chased J.C. Romero, extending the lead to 6-0.

The U.S. tacked on another run on Giancarlo Stanton's RBI single off Hiram Burgos past diving shortstop Francisco Lindor.

Burgos' wild pitch moved runners to second and third before he walked Lucroy to load the bases a second time. Kinsler flied out to end the inning.

The Americans led 8-0 in the eighth on McCutchen's RBI single with two outs.

The U.S. defeated two-time champion Japan, while Puerto Rico beat the Netherlands to reach the final.

The three games at Dodger Stadium drew 109,892.