No cooling down Posey even as Giants end August with loss

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No cooling down Posey even as Giants end August with loss

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO Never mind the sleep deprivation Friday afternoon.Buster Posey couldnt believe how hot, humid and suffocatingly still the air felt at WrigleyField.

It was as high as Ive felt it this year, includingAtlanta, Philly and Washington, said Posey, after the Giants 6-4 loss to theCubs. I was probably sweating like crazy.

Did he use the cooling room?

Cooling room? Posey said.

Yeah. You know. The little room behind the dugout where you can get arefreshing blast of AC.

I didnt know about that, Posey said. Too bad you didnttell me about that before the game.

Well, apologies for whats coming next, but there was nocooling off Posey in August. He hit .371 in the month with six home runs and 21RBIs.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy planned to give Posey the day offFriday, after he caught nine innings on a hard-baked surface in a Thursdaynight game 1,000 miles away in Houston. But Posey sent his skipper a textmessage Friday morning: He was ready to catch another.

Then Posey went out and delivered a 3-for-3 performance witha walk, and knocked in a pair of runs.

Buster, its pretty impressive what he did today, saidBochy, who will put Posey at first base on Saturday and let Hector Sanchez takethe brunt of catching Tim Lincecum.

I will say this for the guys: It was a tough day.

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It was a tough month, too. The Giants played 17 of 28 gameson the road in August, and lest anyone forget, this is the month that steered apromising season onto the rocks a year ago. This year, despite finishing with aloss behind an unfocused Madison Bumgarner on Friday, the Giants went 18-11 inAugust to grab control of the NL West.

They maneuvered in front despite losing Melky Cabrera to aseason-ending drug suspension and watching the archrival Dodgers load up theirroster with high-cost reinforcements.

Last August, we couldnt get any runs on the board, Bochysaid. I think it starts with the job (Angel) Pagan has done in the leadoffspot, and (Marco) Scutaro behind him. Theyre the table setters, and of courseyou look at Posey and (Hunter) Pence and (Joaquin) Arias. Weve scored runsthis month where last year, we had a hard time.

The nagging hand injury to Carlos Beltran certainly crushedthem a year ago.

That hurt us, and Ive said that, Bochy said. He did agreat job for us, but when we lost him for 15 days, that hurt and itcomplicated our problems scoring runs.

Why were they unable to weather Beltran last year buttheyve been able to thrive without Cabrera, the major league leader in runsand hits when he got popped?

In a word: Buster.

Dont forget, he was just starting to put weight on hissurgically repaired ankle at this time a year ago.

There are still concessions to that awful collision May 25,2011. Posey does not camp out in front of the plate. He is instructed to standwell in front of it when he receives throws and reach back to make swipe tags.

Thats what he was trying to do in the third inning, butStarlin Castro knocked it out of his glove.

It didnt really stick in my pocket, said Posey, whoreceived the throw after Wellington Castillo hit a double that littered ivyfrom the left field wall. It was pinched, almost, and when I went to tag, heknocked it out.

Thats when it became apparent to everyone in the FriendlyConfines that Bumgarner wasnt backing up the plate. Castillo took third on thethrow, and scored easily.

Bumgarner was frustrated that he had two outs and the basesempty, then made a pair of 0-2 mistakes for hits (including Alfonso Sorianostwo-run home run), and he allowed himself to get distracted.

I was acting like a baby, getting stubborn with myself,said Bumgarner, who put the Giants in a 5-0 hole before leaving for a pinchhitter in the fifth. It cost us another run. So obviously, you never want todo that. Wont happen again.

Bumgarner will turn the page, as will everyone else asSeptember begins. By the time this weekend is over, the Giants will have played12 road games out of 16. And a Labor Day matinee looms Monday at AT&T Park,too which could be a bear if the remnants of Hurricane Isaac force delays oreven a doubleheader on Sunday.

The Giants are sure to be weary before they get their next break inthe schedule on Thursday. But this is no time to cool down.

I think were all playing with a lot of confidence rightnow, Posey said. This is the time you work so hard for. Its just a fun time.I feel like guys are coming to the ballpark excited each day and lookingforward to going out there and competing.

Posey said hell have enough in his tank to finish strong.

Good, I feel good, he said. Theres going to be thingsthat come up. Its a case of managing them and going out and competing.

Giants Notes: Blach shows resiliency; Another option in center?

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Giants Notes: Blach shows resiliency; Another option in center?

CHICAGO — John Lackey's night started with a leadoff homer. Ty Blach's night started with a 13-pitch battle. Neither one is a positive for a pitcher, but Blach didn't view it that way. He actually appreciated Ben Zobrist stretching him out.

"It's good to have a battle like that and get you locked in," Blach said. "It gets you focused and you'll be like, I can execute and get guys out. It's good. It's a good battle."

There, in a nutshell, is so much of what Bruce Bochy loves about his young left-hander. The Giants have found Blach's arm and resolve to be remarkably resilient. He wasn't bothered when they moved him to the bullpen and he didn't get too high when they moved him back to the rotation. He is the same after seven shutout innings or three poor ones. Bochy smiled when asked about the Zobrist at-bat, which ended in a strikeout looking. 

"How 'bout that?" the manager said. "He won that at-bat. It seems like the advantage goes to the hitter, seeing all those pitches. He kept his focus and got a called strikeout and here he is pitching in the eighth inning."

After needing 13 pitches for one out, Blach got the next 23 on 81 pitches. Bochy thought Blach tired a bit in the eighth, but the deep effort allowed Bochy to mix and match in the bullpen, and ultimately he found the right mix. Hunter Strickland and Mark Melancon closed it out and got Blach his second win.

--- From last night, Joe Panik's huge night helped give Blach an early lead. With the help of Ron Wotus and his shift charts, he also put on a show defensively.

--- We're trying something new right after the final pitch: Here are five quick takeaways from the 6-4 win.

--- The options game sent Kelby Tomlinson back to Triple-A on Wednesday when the Giants activated Melancon, but his latest stint in Sacramento comes with a twist. Tomlinson started his third consecutive game in center field on Monday. The Giants are getting a bit more serious about their longtime plan to make Tomlinson a super-utility player. 

“Tommy is a valuable guy in the majors and if we can give him some experience in the outfield, it gives you more flexibility and versatility,” manager Bruce Bochy said. 

This is not Tomlinson’s first foray into the outfield. He did work there in the offseason after the 2015 season and he has played 25 big league innings in left field the last two seasons. This is Tomlinson’s first real experience with center field, and while in the past he has said that the transition isn’t as easy as some might think, Bochy is confident Tomlinson can figure it out. He certainly has the speed to be a semi-regular in the outfield, and the Giants aren’t exactly brimming with quality center field options behind Denard Span, who is dealing with his second injury of the season. 

“It’s a little different now,” Bochy said when asked about Tomlinson’s past experiences in the outfield. “He’s in Sacramento doing it, and knowing there’s a possibility we could need help in the outfield.”

If the switch doesn’t come in handy this season, it could in 2018. Bochy compared Tomlinson’s infield-outfield ability to Eduardo Nuñez, who has found regular playing time in left but is a free agent after the year. 

--- Hunter Pence did some light running in the outfield before Monday’s game. Bochy said Pence is still about a week away from being an option.

--- Bochy has said it a few times now when asked about the standings, so it’s officially a new motto for a team that got off to a brutal start: “We’ve put ourselves in a great situation for a great story.”

--- They're starting to get a little grumpy around here with their team hovering around .500. Perhaps the Cubs thought they could fool a few on the way out of Wrigley.

Panik takes step in right direction, helps Giants build lead Cubs can't overcome

Panik takes step in right direction, helps Giants build lead Cubs can't overcome

CHICAGO — The Giants gave Mark Melancon $62 million to make sure they don’t have an NLDS repeat, and the closer did shut the Cubs down in the ninth Monday. There’s a far cheaper solution to those big problems, however: Score so much that a late-inning implosion doesn’t matter. 

The Giants gave up four in the eighth inning in their first meeting with the Cubs since that infamous Game 4 meltdown, but thanks in large part to Joe Panik, the cushion was large enough. Panik, back atop the leadoff spot with Denard Span aching, reached base four times and had three extra-base hits. He came into the game with a .172 average over his previous 14 games, but he took John Lackey deep to lead off the night. 

“The last couple of days in St. Louis I started feeling better,” Panik said. “I started feeling a little better and today it clicked. It’s definitely a step in the right direction. I felt good. The swing path felt good. It’s going back to staying on the ball and not trying to do too much.”

With the wind rushing out toward the bleachers, there was no need to try and muscle the ball. The Giants hit a season-high three homers and added four doubles. Brandon Belt and Justin Ruggiano also went deep as the lead was stretched to 6-0. After Ruggiano’s blast, a familiar feeling set in.

Ty Blach had been brilliant through seven, but Javier Baez took him deep in the eighth. Derek Law entered and gave up a two-run shot to Ben Zobrist. Just as in Game 4, Bochy started wearing out the track to the mound. Steven Okert faced one batter and plunked him as Hunter Strickland and Melancon started to heat up. Strickland got the call, and after falling behind in the count, he got Willson Contreras to ground into a double play, stranding a pair. 

“No lead is safe on a night like this,” Bochy said of the wind. “It’s not surprising when the other team answers.”

It probably wasn’t surprising to the players on the field. It did, however, bring back bad memories.

“You’re human,” Panik said. “You’re human, but with the bullpen we’ve got, we have confidence that they’ll shut it down.”

As the Cubs rallied in the eighth and again the ninth, a half-dozen key plays from earlier loomed larger. Panik was sent from second by Phil Nevin on a hard single to left and he cut the corner at third perfectly, scoring the second run of the night. Blach helped kill one potential Cubs rally by cutting behind Albert Almora in the sixth. The center fielder had dropped a one-out bloop into right and he made a hard turn. Blach followed him to first, fielded a throw from Ruggiano, and threw Almora out at second, eliminating a baserunner ahead of Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.

“We work on that all the time,” said Blach, a former minor league Gold Glove winner. “I saw him rounding pretty hard so I tried to sneak in. We were able to catch a guy sleeping.”

Blach was being modest. It is not a play most pitchers make, not in a 5-0 game. It was simply one of many defensive highlights for the Giants, who did just about everything right until the eighth. When the bullpen started to wobble, the lead was large enough that it didn’t matter. 

The win was the eighth in 10 games for a team that’s threatening to get back into the postseason chase. For all that’s gone wrong, the Giants are just 3 1/2 games behind these Cubs. They’ll try to get another one back Tuesday in a reminder of what could have been: Johnny Cueto against Jon Lester.

Earlier this season, Panik would have hit seventh or eighth against Lester, but Bochy said he’ll get another night atop the lineup. The manager said Panik earned it with his first career night with three extra base hits. After the first leadoff homer of his career — and probably life — Panik doubled twice. That helped build the lead, but it led to some ribbing hours later. As Panik addressed reporters, Matt Cain snuck up behind the scrum.

“Ask him why he didn’t try for third on his second double,” Cain whispered.