Pagan, Cabrera and Blanco turning out to be terrific outfield trio

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Pagan, Cabrera and Blanco turning out to be terrific outfield trio

SAN FRANCISCO They met in center field and leapt inunison. Angel Pagan gloved the final out in the Giants 4-3 victory over theChicago Cubs, then he collided with Melky Cabrera and Gregor Blanco for acelebratory, triple-hip check.

There was nothing choreographed about it.
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Yes, the Giants starting outfielders are having as much funas it appears. Thats easy when youre breaking records, setting the table fora productive offense and whacking one pitch after another to the wall. But itseven better when theyre all doing it together.

Oh my God, its the best, Pagan said after Fridaysvictory. To me, weve got three center fielders running around. I dont thinkthe pitchers mind that, either. Definitely, you have fun playing with thoseguys. Were getting to know each other more and more.

Whats not to like about these three first-year Giants?

Cabrera, fresh off a 51-hit May, kicked off June withanother multiple-hit game. He singled and tripled to fuel scoring rallies inthe first and third innings. He leads the majors with 80 hits, 26 multiple-hitgames and seven triples.

His .376 average is the highest in the NL.

And its the highest by a (qualified) Giant on June 1 inalmost two decades. Barry Bonds, fresh off signing his record contract in 1993,had a .394 average on June 1 of that season. (Hat tip to the amazing DaveFeldman for crunching those numbers).

Cabrera even found a way to smile through some rather personalpain in the fifth inning, when he chopped a foul ball off his manly parts.Credit Cubs catcher Steve Clevenger with some solid bro points; he made a moundvisit to give Cabrera some time to gather his considerable thoughts.

The most important ball of the night belonged to Pagan, whoblooped a single in the third inning to enter the Giants record books. Heextended his streak to 25 consecutive home games with a hit. Its the longestin franchise history, or at least dating to 1918 when data is available tocheck such matters.

Pagan secured the ball from the hit and clubhouse managerMike Murphy also made sure to save him the lineup card. Pagan received waves ofhugs and handshakes upon returning to the dugout.

Hes hitting .356 at AT&T Park and he hasnt gonehitless since the home opener here. Thats quite an accomplishment in a parkthat causes mostly grumbles from hitters especially for Pagan, who endured awretched spring and had to hear whispers about losing a regular gig even beforethe season began.

We didnt start the best way I wanted, but every day I findsomething to do to help the team, said Pagan, who didnt know about the recorduntil hitting coach Hensley Bam Bam Meulens told him about it earlier Friday.

He said, Youre going to break a record today, Pagansaid. It feels good. Its not something Im looking to do, but it means Imdoing my job. Im getting on base. Its good. It feels good, the vibe from yourteammates, when they support you for what you do.

The Giants have a pretty good team vibe going right now.They have nearly cut their NL West deficit in half in five days, takingadvantage of the Dodgers four-game losing streak to creep from 7 out to fourout. Its the closest theyve been to first place since May 8.

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Blanco is a big part of that resurgence ever since becomingthe clear, everyday leadoff hitter. He entered with a .401 on-base percentageand led off the first inning with a walk, then scored on Ryan Theriots double.

Bochy credited Blanco with setting the tone for a lineupthat still lacks power, yet is taking the field with greater confidence.

You see the energy we have here, Pagan said.

Pagan had one more reason to be excited after the game. Hisfriend and former teammate Johan Santana, became the first pitcher in New YorkMets history to throw a no-hitter. Pagan said he was about to send acongratulatory text.

Johan is one of the best teammates Ive ever had, Pagansaid. I want to congratulate him because hes come a long way from hisinjuries. Thats a good thing. He competes and hes a horse. Weve got a lot ofthose guys here, too.

With Bumgarner sidelined, Blach 'taking full advantage' of opportunity

With Bumgarner sidelined, Blach 'taking full advantage' of opportunity

SAN FRANCISCO -- At some point over the next four days, Madison Bumgarner will pick up a baseball, stand a few feet across from a member of the training staff, and simply play catch. It'll be a huge step in Bumgarner's rehab, and should it go well, a boost to the psyche of a struggling team.

In the meantime, another lefty is making sure the Giants don't suffer too much without their ace, as improbable as that first seemed.

Ty Blach took a shutout into the eighth Saturday night and in true Bumgarner fashion, he added a pair of hits and an RBI. The Giants beat the Braves 6-3. They've won Blach's past three starts, and even with a 10-run outing in Cincinnati mixed in, he has a 3.71 ERA since taking the spot left open by a dirt bike accident.

"Because of what happened he's in the rotation," manager Bruce Bochy said, "And he's taking full advantage."

Blach has shown that long term, he might be a big part of this rotation. It's been years since the Giants locked a young, cost-controlled starter in, and Blach has backed up his big cameo last year. It's possible -- likely even -- that at some point the Giants will need to trade a veteran, perhaps Johnny Cueto, for young bats. Blach provides needed insurance. 

Short term, he's providing a huge boost to a team that doesn't have much going right. Blach has thrown at least seven innings in his past four starts. He has allowed just eight earned runs in four starts since the one in Cincinnati, throwing 28 2/3 innings. 

"I feel good," Blach said. "I've always been a starter, so it's been a pretty easy transition to make. I feel comfortable."

The Giants are comfortable behind him, as evidenced by a half-dozen strong defensive plays Saturday. 

"He's been consistent and he works quickly," first baseman Brandon Belt said. "He's just a great guy to play behind."

Blach even joined in at the plate. He had an RBI single in his first at-bat -- his first big league hit off Not Clayton Kershaw -- and later roped another single. Blach even showed off his wheels, busting it from first to third on Denard Span's ball to the corner before Phil Nevin held him up. 

"I worked into some good counts and I was able to get fastballs," Blach said of his night at the plate. "It's definitely a big confidence booster when your spot comes up and you're able to drive in runs."

The night was straight out of Bumgarner's playbook, and it was needed. The Giants had dropped five of six, but Blach was backed by homers from Nick Hundley and Brandon Belt. It got a little hairy late, but the bullpen held on, clinching Blach's third win of the season. He looks poised for many more, and Bochy is happy to keep running him out there.

"I'm not surprised by what he's doing," the manager said.

 

Instant Analysis: Blach does it all vs Braves, Giants snap skid

Instant Analysis: Blach does it all vs Braves, Giants snap skid

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — This spot in the rotation is the one reserved for the stopper, the pitcher who takes a game by the throat when his team really needs it. 

Ty Blach took the mound Saturday for a team that had lost five of six, and just as Madison Bumgarner often has, Blach ended the skid. The young lefty was dominant into the eighth and the bats finally provided enough support. The Giants won 6-3, tying this weekend series with the Braves.

Here are five things to know from a night we were reminded that Emilio Bonifacio is in the big leagues … 

--- Blach pitched 7 2/3 innings. He has thrown at least seven innings in his last four starts, and five of seven starts overall. Jeff Samardzija (6) is the only Giants starter who has gone that deep more often. Blach is tied with Johnny Cueto for second-most seven-inning starts on staff, and Cueto has made three additional starts. 

--- Blach’s RBI single in the fourth was -- at the time -- the fourth hit of his career, and the first against a pitcher not named Clayton Kershaw. The ball had an exit velocity of 101 mph. Blach tried to score from first on Denard Span’s double, but Phil Nevin held him. Still, the way he was moving, it makes you wonder if Samardzija really is Bruce Bochy’s best pitcher-pinch-running option. In the seventh, Blach picked up a second single. 

--- Blach’s only bad start has been the one he made in Cincinnati, where the Giants played like a Double-A team. If you take that one out, Blach has a 2.21 ERA since taking over Bumgarner’s rotation spot. 

--- Even though he gave up just two earned in 7 2/3, Blach’s home ERA actually went up. It’s 1.75, which ranks seventh in the National League. The sellout crowd gave Blach a standing ovation when he was pulled in the eighth. 

--- Blach had a season-high five strikeouts. When he got Nick Markakis to end the first, Blach ended a streak of 37 left-handers faced without a strikeout. He later struck out another lefty, Matt Adams. The new Braves first baseman came up as the tying run in the eighth but Derek Law got him to ground out to first. 

--- Bonus sixth “thing to know” ... on Blach of course: His first name is Tyson, not Tyler. It’s Tyson Michael Blach.