NLDS Game 2: Key matchup

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NLDS Game 2: Key matchup

SAN FRANCISCO Here are a few key matchups, facts and figures as the Giants and Reds prepare to clash in Game 2 of their NL Division Series on Sunday at AT&T Park:-The Reds are starting Bronson Arroyo in Game 2 ostensibly to keep him away from livelier Great American Ball Park. But the right-hander, whose delivery is more straight-legged than a pair of trendy Levis, actually gave up more home runs on the road (16) than at home (10). Its a huge reversal from last season, when Arroyo served up 46 gopherballs 11 more than anyone else in the major leagues.Hunter Pence provides a bit of a scare for Arroyo; he is a .343 hitter (12 for 35) with two home runs, four doubles and a triple. Pence homered off Arroyo the last time he faced him, too although that was last year when he played for the Phillies. Almost all his career numbers came in hitter-friendly Cincinnati and Houston while Pence wore an Astros uniform.If the Giants need a pinch hitter while Arroyo is still in the game, Aubrey Huff owns a .522 average (12 for 23, 1 home run). Angel Pagan, while just a .217 hitter against Arroyo, has taken him deep twice in 23 at-bats.-The Reds might have tagged Matt Cain for six home runs in his three starts against them this season, but they face a much more difficult matchup with Game 2 starter Madison Bumgarner. The 23-year-old left-hander struggled down the stretch but has the good vibes to draw upon from his 1-hit shutout against the Reds on June 28.Reds manager Dusty Baker might be tempted to sit left fielder Ryan Ludwick, who is 1 for 16 lifetime against Bumgarner. But Ludwick is coming off a good game that included two catches in left field that otherwise lacked style points. Besides, Ludwick hit 10 home runs in just 118 at-bats against left-handed pitching this season.The Reds don't have any boffo performers against Bumgarner, but Joey Votto and Ryan Hanigan each own a homer off him and Brandon Phillips is 3 for 7. Impressively, Votto an on-base machine has not drawn a walk while striking out four times in 11 career at-bats vs. the young lefty.-Expect the Reds to be aggressive on the basepaths. Among NL pitchers, only the Pirates A.J. Burnett and the Braves Tommy Hanson gave up more stolen bases than Bumgarner, whose pickoff move lacked the same effectiveness it had in earlier seasons. Opponents were successful in 27 of 37 tries against him. (Tim Lincecum wasnt far behind, and opponents were wildly successful while stealing in 25 of 27 attempts.)-The Giants hit a couple of ropes off Reds setup man Jonathan Broxton and put plenty of pressure on closer Aroldis Chapman, which might bode well for the rest of the series.Chapman, who battled shoulder fatigue in September, threw 28 pitches his most in a game since June 24. He has never appeared on a second consecutive day in his career after throwing that many pitches.

Giants spring training Day 15: Arroyo picks up where he left off

Giants spring training Day 15: Arroyo picks up where he left off

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Giants do not expect Christian Arroyo, their top hitting prospect, to get a lot of at-bats in a camp filled with veteran infielders. But the 21-year-old continues to make the most of every opportunity he gets. 

Arroyo hit a scorching single to left in his first at-bat Monday. When he came up with the bases loaded in the seventh, he poked a single into right, tying the game. Arroyo grounded out in his final at-bat, ending his perfect run this spring. With three hits in his first four at-bats down here, Arroyo is now 17-for-30 in three springs in big league camp.

“It’s the same (thing) he did last spring,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s getting great at-bats and playing well at shortstop. In the early go here, he’s playing the kind of ball that he was last spring. His mechanics are very solid. It’s a good foundation, good balance, and he doesn’t try to do too much. The bat stays in the zone a long time and he uses the whole field well. He’s a good hitter. He’s only going to hit for more power. The power is going to come, too.”

A move to the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League should help. No matter what Arroyo does this spring, the Giants will send him to Triple-A if their 40-man guys are healthy. But Arroyo’s time is coming, and it’s coming soon. 

For more on Arroyo, here’s a feature I wrote about him last week. Here’s more from the first day of the third week of spring training … 

GAME RECAP: The Giants will not go undefeated this season. They lost to the A’s for the 124th consecutive time in the Cactus League, this time by a score of 5-4 … Michael Morse got the first hit of his comeback attempt. His pinch-hit single up the middle in the seventh drove in a run. In the eighth, he lined a two-strike single to right … Brandon Belt hit his first homer of the spring. It was the 24th of his spring training career. You can see it here … Bochy was impressed with Jose Dominguez, who struck out one in a scoreless inning. 

STOCK WATCH: Orlando Calixte played right field, after previously seeing time at short and second this spring. “He’s intriguing,” Bochy said. “He showed the arm off in right field. He’s a good shortstop and plays second and third. He’s a good athlete.” The Giants plan to carry five outfielders, but if none of the right-handed bats break through, they could always carry Calixte as a super-utility guy. Remember, he’s on the 40-man roster. 

CUETO UPDATE: The co-ace still is not in big league camp, or on the way. Here’s the latest on Johnny Cueto. 

TRAINER’S ROOM: This room now belongs to Anthony Reyes, as Dave Groeschner is off to South Korea with Hensley Meulens and Team Netherlands. Will Smith (elbow) threw off flat ground and everything went fine. Eduardo Nuñez (shoulder) will likely resume playing third base later this week.

QUOTABLE: “To have that splitter that out of the hand looks like a heater, for me, that’s huge.” — Jeff Samardzija on a pitch that helped him dominate in September. Here’s more on Samardzija and his plans for 2017. 

 

Samardzija sticking with more versatile approach in second year with Giants

Samardzija sticking with more versatile approach in second year with Giants

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Jeff Samardzija’s first season in San Francisco was ultimately not far from what the Giants hoped it would be. Samardzija gave them the desired durability, throwing 203 innings with a 3.81 ERA in 32 starts. 

The route to those final numbers was remarkably circuitous. Samardzija had a 2.84 ERA through the season’s first two months, but that number jumped all the way up to 6.23 over his next 11 starts, seven of them losses for the team. As the Giants went into a second-half tailspin, Samardzija found his groove and helped keep them in the playoff race. He had a 2.45 ERA over his final 10 starts, earning the nod as the Game 2 starter in the NLDS. That appearance against the Cubs lasted just two innings. 

The up-and-down season showed the Giants two very different versions of a big offseason acquisition, and at times opposing hitters saw two very different Samardzijas. He went heavy on his cutter early, but when hitters started teeing off on pitches that all came in at a somewhat similar velocity, Samardzija mixed in a curveball that was completely mothballed through June. Down the stretch, when he found his form, Samardzija brought back his splitter and ignored the cutter. He threw 165 cutters in April but just two in September. On the flip side, he threw 113 splitters in September after never throwing more than 35 the first five months. 

“He found the splitter and using it more made him more of a complete pitcher,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s got the four (main) pitches now. They can’t just sit on the hard stuff. He had a good year. It was a little bump there, but he had a great run and was throwing the ball really well (down the stretch). He’s one of our guys. We certainly think (that deal) is going to pay off, and it did last year. He got us deep into games consistently.”

Samardzija learned from the up-and-down year, and during his first start of the spring, he varied the repertoire. He gave up two runs in the first inning but was pleased with a curveball he threw four times — twice for called strikes, twice for foul balls. 

“If you can get it going here in Arizona, it’s going to be a pretty solid pitch for you,” he said. “(Bringing it back last year) was kind of out of necessity. I picked it up and played around with it and it felt good.”

The curveball, which he hadn't thrown since 2012, changed eye levels last season and kept hitters from loading up on pitches in the low to mid 90s. Samardzija further expanded the velocity gap by finding the feel of a splitter that had toyed with him for years.

“For me, with that splitter coming back late in the year, it’s going to be about mixing it in and seeing what feels good on that day, seeing what’s going to be the out pitch,” he said. “I had been chasing (the feel) of it since 2014. We broke it all the way back down and went back to zero. So many guys were sitting fastball. To have that splitter that out of the hand looks like a heater, for me, that’s huge.”

The Giants expect the more varied approach to lead to big results in 2017, and Samardzija could subtly benefit from a change Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti made. Samardzija will pitch behind left-hander Matt Moore, not Johnny Cueto. He said he would often last season compare notes with Cueto, who like Samardzija, pitched most of his career in the NL Central. The two would often take a similar approach on the mound.

“(Opponents will) have to face a tough lefty like Moore, so they can’t have that same lineup two days in a row,” Samardzija said. “To me, that’s big.”