Matt Moore finding comfort zone in first spring with Giants

Matt Moore finding comfort zone in first spring with Giants

GLENDALE, Ariz. — At some point of the offseason, it hit Matt Moore.

“I really settled into feeling like a Giant,” he said.

Getting traded makes for a difficult transition for any player, but for Moore, it was a bit more hectic. He was dealt in the minutes leading up to the trade deadline, crossing the country to join a contender that was seemingly turning into a sinking ship. The Giants acquired Moore to get one more arm for big games, and his season ended with a start in the National League Division Series.

Over the winter, Moore finally caught his breath. He has spent this spring getting to know all the people behind the scenes in the organization, and he smiled Tuesday when he explained that being a Giant now simply “rolls off my tongue easier.”

For the people Moore has met this spring, the “he’s a Giant” day probably came August 25. That was the night Moore came an out away from no-hitting the Dodgers. If you throw a no-hitter at any point of the season, it’ll go down in the history books. If you’re a Giant and you do it at Dodger Stadium, well, that’s a shade or two better, and Moore knows it.

“It was nice being injected into that (rivalry), having watched their battles together,” he said. “It’s probably similar to when I was in Tampa. We didn’t really get along with the Red Sox. There’s a little something extra there.”

The Giants hope Moore can provide that little something extra in 2017, when they’ll look to end the Dodgers’ four-year run atop the division. The early returns were curiously mixed. Moore followed that first start against the Dodgers by giving up six runs in one inning of work on Sept. 21 at Dodger Stadium. Two starts later, he gave up just one run over eight innings in a third matchup.

“That was tough,” he said of the middle start. “That’ll happen, I suppose. That’s what they say, right?”

The Dodgers struggled against left-handers last season and they still lean heavily that way. But their leadoff batter Tuesday, Logan Forsythe, could help make a difference, and Moore said the offseason addition was a good one. He praised his former teammate for his ability to fit into a clubhouse, and the Giants saw the on-field ability when the second baseman picked up two singles in three at-bats, raising his spring average to .462. 

Forsythe, who hit 20 homers for the Rays last season, will make the rivalry games a bit more difficult for Giants left-handers, but Moore didn’t take anything away from Tuesday’s matchups with his teammate of three seasons. He said he has not yet reached the point of the spring where he hides tendencies from division rivals. He’s out there getting his work in, and Tuesday’s results showed he’s on the right track. In three scoreless innings, Moore gave up three hits and struck out five. 

“Let’s just make sure I’m healthy and in a good place heading into the season,” he said. “From there, I think we all like our chances.” 

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.