Pagan, Vogelsong steer Giants to fifth consecutive win

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Pagan, Vogelsong steer Giants to fifth consecutive win

SAN FRANCISCO Ryan Vogelsongs rut lasted two starts.Angel Pagan skidded on the shoulder for the better part of July.

They both had different triggers for setting themselvesright again. And without those course corrections, the Giants wouldve stood littlechance against the Atlanta Braves Friday night.

For Pagan, it was the move to the leadoff spot on Aug. 3.Since then, hes batting .391 and has scored 27 runs in 21 games. He had fourmore hits and crossed the plate three times to help the streaking Giantsovercome an early deficit in a 5-3 victory at AT&T Park.

For Vogelsong, it was a trip to the video room and a sessionwith pitching coach Dave Righetti following two rough outings in which he mighthave been giving away his pitches. Vogelsong had dismissed his eight-run,2.2-inning start against Washington as a fluke. But then after the Padresharassed him in three innings

With all those foul balls, I knew something had to be goingon, Vogelsong said. Something needed to be adjusted. My direction towardthe plate needed to get better. I was swinging off the ball, maybe showing theball too early.

Sure, Vogelsong allowed three home runs, which matched hiscareer high set April 20, 2004 at Pittsburgh. That day, the Cubs Alex Gonzalezgot him twice and Todd Walker also took him deep. (That was another life,Vogelsong said.)

This time, it was Jason Heyward in the first, FreddieFreeman in the second and Freeman again on the last pitch he threw in theseventh.

But in between, Vogelsong had life on his cutter andtwo-seamer again. He only allowed one other hit while leading the Giants totheir season high-tying fifth consecutive victory.

And the starters won all five, right? Vogelsong said.

And the starters won all five. Exactly right.

You wouldnt think that to be a rare feat, especially for apitching-rich organization like this one. But the Giants hadnt accomplishedthat since April 20-25, 2007. Back then, it was Russ Ortiz, Barry Zito, MattCain, Matt Morris and Noah Lowry.

April of 2007 might sound strangely familiar to you, and forgood reason. When the Giants finished their sweep in LA on Wednesday, it markedtheir first at Dodger Stadium since April 24-26, 2007. As it happened, Morrisand Lowry won the first two games of that series.

The lesson: It always begins with starting pitching. Always.

Vogelsong wasnt aware how rare it was for the starters towin five in a row. He was just glad to keep the streak alive.

Here lately, Im the only one not holding up my end of thebargain, he said. I just wanted a piece of the action.

Its all action all the time with Pagan, who said getting back to aleadoff mentality is what allowed him to keep a better approach. He's hittimg .514 with a .552 on-base percentage over an eight-game hitting streak, while scoring 28 runs in 21 games since moving back to the leadoff spot.

When youre a leadoff hitter, youre not there to hit ahome run, he said. Youre there to get a hit and get on base.

Heres how dedicated he is to that proposition: When heneeded a home run for the cycle, he didnt even try for it. He singled up themiddle, instead.

Well I hit a ball pretty good and it didnt go, saidPagan, of his triple off the bricks in the fourth. So why would I want to gofor that? I wanted to get on base again.

And again, and again, and again

This is the best Ive felt and I think its at the righttime, when the team needs it the most, Pagan said. When you know you can givethe pitcher two strikes and still be confident, thats where you want to be.

First place is a good place to be, too.

Right now were playing the best weve played all season, andwe have to keep it up, Pagan said. What other teams do, thats theirbusiness. Were in first place and weve got to protect that.

D'backs release former Giants outfielder

D'backs release former Giants outfielder

Editor's Note: The above video was recorded following Matt Cain's perfect game in 2012.

Gregor Blanco's bid to make the Arizona Diamondbacks' Opening Day roster is over.

The former Giants outfielder was released on Monday, Arizona announced.

Blanco had been dealing with an oblique injury and had played since March 21.

In 14 Cactus League games, Blanco went 9-for-40 (.225) with one double and three triples.

Blanco spent five years with the Giants and was part of the World Series winning teams in 2012 and 2014. During his time in San Francisco, the 33-year-old hit .259/.338/.360 with 78 doubles, 24 triples and 157 RBI in 649 games.

The D'backs signed Blanco to a minor league deal in January.

Giants spring training Day 43: A big game for veteran trying to lock up OF job

Giants spring training Day 43: A big game for veteran trying to lock up OF job

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For the first time, Gorkys Hernandez did not go back to Venezuela in the offseason to play winter ball. He's hoping that leads to another first. 

Hernandez has never made an opening day roster, but after breaking into the Giants’ outfield rotation last season, he entered the winter in a decent shot. To bolster his case, Hernandez stayed in Scottsdale over the offseason to work out at the minor league facility. The added strength didn’t lead to any notable results over the first month of games, but Hernandez broke through Monday with three doubles in the final home game of the spring.

“Sometimes (slumps) happen and sometimes you’re late (on pitches) and you don’t feel comfortable at the plate, but now I feel different. I feel better,” Hernandez said. “I’m recognizing pitches and trying to keep it simple and not do too much.”

The coaching staff has asked several players to head down to the minor league facility late in the spring and get additional at-bats, and Hernandez took Bruce Bochy up on the offer. He twice played in minor league games, and on Sunday he rotated into different games so he could get six at-bats. Hernandez said that helped him find his timing. 

“Without question, it helped his timing,” Bochy said. “He was off. He was getting out front, his timing was off. I think the at-bats he got paid off.”

The three-double day was perfectly timed. Hernandez entered with a .159 average and Justin Ruggiano, the other option as a backup center fielder, had started to put together better at-bats. Monday’s game was a reminder in more ways than one. Hernandez showed off the type of speed the Giants won’t have on the bench if Kelby Tomlinson is optioned, and he played all three outfield positions, switching from left to right to center. 

The role in play is one Gregor Blanco had for five seasons. The Giants would like Hernandez to be their defensive whiz at every outfield spot, and they’re light on true center fielders. If the Giants put Hernandez on the roster this week as expected, he’ll be ready to try and be the new Blanco. 

“If they give me that role, I’ll try to do the same thing,” he said. “Or better.”

THE ACE: Madison Bumgarner is going to Madison Bumgarner. He threw seven sharp innings Monday, lowering his spring ERA to 2.52. In 25 innings, he has allowed just 17 hits and struck out 23. Bochy appreciated Bumgarner’s intensity Monday against a Reds team that was filled with minor leaguers. 

“That’s what makes him so good,” Bochy said. “He takes every outing seriously. His preparation doesn’t waver.”

Bumgarner even added a single, and he liked that it came on a breaking ball. He’s worked on getting better at hitting those pitches, which he’s seeing more and more. 

“I feel I’m as ready as I can be to start the season,” Bumgarner said. 

His next pitch will be thrown Sunday at Chase Field. 

GAME RECAP: The Giants blasted poor Reds starter Cody Reed, hanging 10 runs on his line in 3 2/3 innings. Denard Span had two hits and Aaron Hill had three, driving in three runs. Bochy went with an interesting lineup, leading off with Span, Brandon Belt, Hunter Pence, Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford. He said he likes Crawford in that five-spot. He also plans to hit the pitcher eighth on occasion.

TRAINER’S ROOM: Joe Panik was drilled by a fastball in the lower back and he came out of the game as a precaution. Panik has a nasty welt, so he’s in for a night of ice, but there are no concerns. 

QUOTABLE: Posey turned 30 today. As he walked out to stretch, Bumgarner was asked if he was giving Posey a hard time. “No, he’s been 30 for the last seven years,” Bumgarner said.