Pablo powers Giants to win ninth straight Zito start

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Pablo powers Giants to win ninth straight Zito start

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO In 2010, Barry Zito was left off thepostseason roster altogether and Pablo Sandoval was essentially a role player.The times they are a-changin.Zito picked up his 13th win of the season Thursday at AT&T Park andappears poised to take one of four spots in the playoff rotation. Sandoval hita home run from each side of the plate for the first time in his career to leadan offensive charge in a 9-2 sweep-clinching win over the Colorado Rockies. Sandoval snapped a 161 at-bat homerless streak in the first inning ofWednesdays win and one-upped himself in the series finale. He homered in thefirst inning again --- this time as a right-hander -- on a fastball fromRockies southpaw Jorge De La Rosa. Sandoval then took advantage of an inning-extendingerror in the fourth and, as a left-hander, turned on an 0-2 slider headed forhis back ankle and deposited it in the arcade seats for a three-run bomb and a 7-2lead. Buster Posey followed Sandovals second shot with one of his own for theGiants first back-to-back big flies since April and the rout was officiallyon.I feel great at home plate, Sandoval said. When you arelike that, everything is going your way. I just come every single day here andhave fun out there.While Sandovals first home run Thursday accounted for onerun instead of the three his second blast drove in, it may be more noteworthysimply because he hit it right-handed. In 2010, Sandovals splits were drastic.He hit .227 with one home run right-handed and .282 with 12 bombs as a lefty.That trend continued into 2011, when he even tried hitting left-handed againstsouthpaws in four plate appearances as he built up strength following the first of his two hamatesurgeries.I feel great from the right side; Im strong, my swing is there,Sandoval said. When I was struggling in 2010, I wasnt hitting wellright-handed. But this year I just focused, and last season, on trying to workon my stamina on swings from my right-handed side, so I feel great.Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he doesnt think the injury was a factor inSandovals slump as much as his mindset was.I think once he hit the one last night, it just seemed to relax him a littlebit more, Bochy said. He has to realize, he doesnt have to hit home runs.Hes strong enough to hit the ball out of the ballpark. Those swings were notout of control. He got some good pitches. Actually the ball he hit left-handedwas a pretty good pitch.Like Bochy, Sandovals teammate Angel Pagan thinks the Pandas prodigous poweris back because of his frame of mind.He never got out of his confidence; he was just going outthere trying to get it done, Pagan said. It happened to me and Im sure ithappened to a lot of my teammates. Something you cant lose is your confidencewhen youre at the plate. He just kept believing. He kept working in the cagetrying to get back to his swing and finally got it.Zito may have finally got it, too, following season afterdisappointing season since signing a bloated contract with San Francisco in2006. The slow-throwing southpaw walked off the mound with two outs in thesixth inning to a standing ovation, despite allowing a season-high 10 hits.The fans have just been great, Zito said. Theyre the best fans in baseball,especially as we come down to the October part of the year. They were justelectric back in 2010 and theyre all very excited to be out here. We loveseeing that.Fans loved seeing Zito in control (he walked one) and limiting the damage (he onlyallowed two runs on those 10 hits). The Giants have won behind Zito over his last nine starts and Bochy has an ideawhy.When hes pounding the strike zone and commanding hispitches, hes going to have a good game. Hes smart, he knows what hes doingout there and hes got four pitches to work with. Hes really throwing the ballwell.Bochy said that avoiding the free passes and not getting flustered with men onbase was crucial for Zito on Thursday as well.Hes very locked in, getting the ball where he wants andstaying away from those walks, Bochy said. Thats whats always hurt him inthe past. Occasionally he would get out of synch and walk two or three guys inan inning, setting up the big inning. Hes staying away from that and doing a greatjob of limiting the damage if something happens.Its all about keeping your composure and your poise outthere and making pitches. Hes doing a great job of that. They did have someguys on base. He had to make pitches at times to get out of it. Its all aboutkeeping your concentration and just keep going.The Giants, despite a nearly insurmountable lead in the N.L.West, are keeping their concentration on the task at hand.The view looks great right now, but we have to really make sure. We cantthink about playoffs right now, said Pagan, who acknowledged that its easiersaid than done.Sandoval, who unlike Pagan was with the Giants when thedivision title came down to the last day of the season in 2010, agreed with hisnew teammate.We are happy, but were not satisfied, Sandoval said. Wereloose; were having fun. Its not over yet, so you have to keep fighting.Bochy is certainly setting an example when it comes tokeeping it loose. He showed up to his pregame meeting with reporters in a 49ershat to honor Alex Smith. RELATED: Bochy shows support for 49ers' Smith
Were 1-0 with that hat, he said after the game.With the Dodgers in progress in Cincinnati after Bochys work was done, theskipper couldve relaxed with a glass of wine and watched to see if his teams magicnumber would drop to three or stay at four. So would he stick around to watchthe game?No, Im probably going to go to dinner, to be honest. Iveseen enough baseball today. Its up to us to take care of business.

Giants spring training Day 40: Belt continues domination of Rockies' home park

Giants spring training Day 40: Belt continues domination of Rockies' home park

BELT RIVER FIELDS, Ariz. — Earlier this spring, Brandon Belt moved his schedule around so he could get additional at-bats. That led to some random trips across the desert, but there was never any doubt Belt would be in Friday’s road lineup.

Belt demolishes the ball at Salt River Fields, spring home of the Rockies and Diamondbacks. After coming out of Friday’s win, he shook his head in mock disgust when talking about the day’s stats.

“One for four, you’ve gotta be kidding me,” Belt said. “That’s terrible.”

That one happened to be a homer, a three-run shot off Jon Gray, the likely opening day starter for the Rockies. Belt thought he crushed the ball but it ended up pretty high, so it simply dropped onto the berm in right. 

“It squeaked out,” Belt said. “Good mojo, I guess.”

The mojo kept his remarkable run going at Salt River. His updated career stats here: 22 for 35, with eight homers, four doubles, one triple and 18 RBI. Belt said he’s not quite sure why he turns into the flames emoji every time he steps onto this field. 

“I don’t know what it is, but I like hitting here,” he said. “Maybe it’s the batter’s eye?”

Salt River has a dark green batter’s eye with no distractions on either side, and the Giants certainly saw the ball well Friday. They had seven straight hits in the third before Gray was pulled with a sore foot. Belt hit second, and manager Bruce Bochy said that wasn’t simply because Joe Panik had the day off. Bochy will look at several different lineup permutations over the next week, and a Span/Belt/Pence/Posey/Crawford one-through-five is one option. 

“I like (that spot) a lot,” Belt said. “I feel good getting started and knowing I’ll get to bat in the first inning. It’s a good spot. I don’t think my approach changes that much: Get a pitch to hit and try to hit it hard.”

GAME RECAP: Jeff Samardzija was sharp in four innings, allowing just two hits and striking out three. He threw about 45 pitches on the field and then went down to the bullpen for 45 more. Samardzija certainly benefited from having Buster Posey back in the lineup. He said Posey noticed during warmups that Samardzija’s delivery was a little flat and his arm was dragging too low. 

“That doesn’t happen often,” Samardzija said of having a guy like Posey back there. “You have a lot of catchers who are afraid to say something.”

The rest of this one was a laugher until the ninth, when the Rockies rallied and brought the winning run to the plate. It hasn’t been a great spring for the bullpen.

STOCK WATCH: Chris Marrero hit a deep homer, his seventh of the spring. He also made a nice pick at first, where he looks much more comfortable. At this point, it appears it’s either Marrero or Kelby Tomlinson for that final bench spot.

TRAINER’S ROOM: The news on Will Smith was as expected. He will have Tommy John surgery next week. 

There is good news for Trevor Brown: The catcher, who has a sore ankle, took some swings and he’s feeling much better. Brown did not, as first reported, get hurt hiking on an off day. It happened during a game. Brown won’t be ready in time to return to Cactus League action, so he’ll likely stay here during the Bay Bridge Series and then travel home with Triple-A Sacramento. 

ICYMI: Brandon Crawford, Buster Posey and Mark Melancon are back in camp. Here’s a story on Posey’s WBC experience, with the catcher saying he’d like to play again in four years. Here’s Crawford on his month, which ended with him giving an NL West rival a slump-busting bat. 

ROSTER UPDATE: The Giants released David Hernandez, at his request. They have started to tell others that they’re not making the opening day roster, so there should be a series of minor transactions this weekend. (You know where to go.)

QUOTABLE: "I swung at a heater and a slider went right into my bat. I was happy to be able to track (pitches), and happy that the next time the bunt didn't go off my beautiful face." -- Samardzija, when asked about his double off the wall. 

Plenty of high-profile MLB players wearing new uniforms in 2017

Plenty of high-profile MLB players wearing new uniforms in 2017

Chris Sale traded socks (AP) -- or Sox - from white to red. Edwin Encarnacion took his big bat to Cleveland. Aroldis Chapman returned to the Bronx.

Plenty of All-Stars, Cy Young winners and MVPs are wearing new uniforms this season.

The biggest move occurred when the Boston Red Sox acquired Sale from the Chicago White Sox. The five-time All-Star left-hander left a team that hasn't reached the playoffs since 2008 for one that's won three World Series titles since 2004.

Encarnacion left Toronto for the team that beat the Blue Jays in last year's ALCS. He averaged 39 homers and 110 RBIs over the past five seasons in Toronto and gives the Indians a major boost.

Chapman is back in New York after spending the first half of last season with the Yankees before he was traded to the Chicago Cubs and helped them win the World Series.

Here's a 25-man roster of familiar faces in different places this season:

STARTING LINEUP

1. CF: Dexter Fowler. Jumped from World Series champion Cubs to rival St. Louis. Gives the Cardinals stability atop the batting order.

2. RF: Adam Eaton. Traded from White Sox to defending NL East champion Nationals. He'll play center field in Washington between Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper.

3. DH: Kendrys Morales. Joined Blue Jays to help fill Encarnacion's void after spending past two seasons with the Royals.

4. 1B: Encarnacion.

5. C: Brian McCann. Traded from Yankees to Astros, giving Houston's stacked lineup another slugger.

6. SS: Ian Desmond. Returns to NL to join Rockies after one season playing outfield in Texas. He'll play first base for Colorado, but he's back at shortstop on this squad.

7. LF: Matt Holliday. Signed with Yankees following 7 1/2 seasons in St. Louis. The seven-time All-Star will likely DH in New York though he'll see some action in left field.

8. 2B: Brandon Phillips. Waived no-trade clause to go to rebuilding Braves after 11 seasons with Reds.

9. 3B: Howie Kendrick. Comes east after spending his entire career in Los Angeles - nine seasons with Angels and last two with Dodgers. Kendrick is playing left field for Philadelphia but he starts at third to fill this lineup.

BENCH

1B: Chris Carter. Landed with Yankees after swatting 41 homers for Milwaukee last season to tie for NL lead.

INF: Jimmy Rollins. Former NL MVP is trying to land a roster spot with San Francisco as a utility man after playing all but one-third inning of his 17-year career at shortstop. Has bounced from Dodgers to White Sox to Giants after 15 seasons in Philadelphia.

OF: Michael Saunders. All-Star for Blue Jays last season and will start in right field for Phillies.

OF: Carlos Beltran. Returns to Houston after spending half the 2004 season with the Astros and hitting eight postseason homers for them.

C: Matt Wieters. Left Baltimore for Washington to replace All-Star Wilson Ramos, who joined Tampa Bay and is still recovering from knee surgery.

STARTING ROTATION

Sale.

Edinson Volquez. Goes from Royals to Marlins.

Jaime Garcia. Lefty joins Braves after eight seasons in St. Louis.

Jered Weaver. Stays in California, switching to Padres after 11 seasons with Angels.

R.A. Dickey. Knuckleballer returns to NL East after four seasons in Toronto. One of two 40-plus former Cy Young award winners signed by Braves.

LONG RELIEVER

Bartolo Colon. Other veteran Braves signed to bolster rotation. He'll be long man on this staff.

BULLPEN

Chapman.

Mark Melancon. Signed with Giants after finishing last season in Washington.

Sergio Romo. Went from San Francisco to rival Dodgers.

Wade Davis. Traded from Royals to Cubs to replace Chapman.

Santiago Casilla. Stays in Bay Area, going from Giants to A's.