Penny enjoys 'a pitcher's dream' in loss to Reds

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Penny enjoys 'a pitcher's dream' in loss to Reds

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SAN FRANCISCO Brad Penny has a theory about pitching inAT&T Park, and it goes something like this:

Good luck, chumps.

OK, maybe hes not quite that flippant. But here is whatPenny actually said after tossing 2 13 scoreless innings in his first appearanceas a Giant since 2009:

Let a right-handed hitter hit it the opposite way outthere. See how far it goes.

The usual answer: not far enough to hurt you.

The ballpark suited Penny. On a less convenient note for theGiants, it also suited Cincinnati Reds right-hander Mat Latos, who took aone-hit shutout into the ninth inning before slamming pinkies in car doors witha 2-1 victory Saturday afternoon at AT&T Park.

The Reds have thrown consecutive complete games to takecommand of this series. Prior to that, the Giants threw four consecutiveshutouts for the first time in club history.

Very, very good starting pitching is the key ingredienthere. But it helps that the Giants home yard is like using a CETI-sizedsatellite dish for a mixing bowl.

Or, as Mr. Penny summarized it:

I love playing here. For me, you cant build a betterstadium for a pitcher. These guys from Cincinnati, they pitch in that littleballpark and they come here and theyre in heaven. This is a pitchers dream.

Penny didnt just glean these truths in his seven-batterspan on Saturday. He was a Giant for a couple months at the end of the 2009season, when the Boston Red Sox heaved him and his 5.69 ERA off the loadingdock onto Lansdowne Street. He went to San Francisco, where he was 4-1 with a2.59 ERA in six starts.

It wasnt enough to squeeze the Giants into the postseason.But it got Penny a 7.5 million deal with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Now, after getting his fill of his affiliation with theSoftbank Hawks following just a month in Japan, Penny is back. Did he likeplaying for Bruce Bochy the first time? Well, sure, he said. But he made itclear that the real lure was the ballpark. And he couldnt be happier to be inthe major leagues again, even if hes coming out of the bullpen for the firsttime.

Its a relief, yeah, said Penny, not trying to be punny.I shouldve come here from the get-go. I had an opportunity to come in springtraining.

I dont listen to anyone 'till they tell me to go to Japan,and then I listened. I wasnt comfortable or happy over there. I wasnt goingto be any good for that team if Im not happy.

It was pointed out to Penny that the Giants were apitching-rich club the last time he was here. Other than those sparkly WorldSeries rings everyone seems to have, not much has changed.

Thats how its gonna be, he said. Youre not going toput a team together thats going to bash it out of the park. San Francisco willalways have good pitching. You can put the Yankees in this park and they wontscore runs.

The 2002 Giants, who are gathering for their 10-year reunionon Sunday, might disagree. They did a fair amount of bashing in their day. Ofcourse, that was a different era in baseball history.

Now its about chicks digging the hit-and-run, the stolenbase and the diving defensive play to keep the tying run from scoring. TheGiants have been very good in those areas with a more dynamic offense thisseason.

But when they need someone to pop one out of the park,especially at home, theyre usually going to disappoint the paying customers.Pablo Sandoval and Melky Cabrera own the only two home runs on this six-gamehomestand.

The Giants have just 14 home runs in 41 home games thefewest in the major leagues. (By sadistic comparison, the aforementionedYankees have hit 68 longballs in 40 home games.)

Buster Posey and Ryan Theriot both hit deep outs Saturday that might have cleared the fences elsewhere.

The Giants must accept their lot in life. But there are times it is harder than others. They needed someone to pop one out of the park against Latos in theninth, after Brandon Belt knocked a pinch-hit triple. Instead, they got an RBI groundout from Gregor Blanco and a strikeout from Theriot, who had to marvel as Dale Scotts suddenly ample strike zone grew faster than Aliceafter a slice of eat me cake.

A year ago, the Orange and Black masses would be frantic over two low-scoringlosses. This year, its easier for the Giants to tip their caps to the likes of Mike Leakeand Latos.

Weve got a great offense, said third baseman PabloSandoval, who had a highlight-stocked defensive game despite making an error. Wefaced tough guys. Leake made all his pitches and today, Latos, he finds hisway. He beat us because he mixed all his pitches. He comes right at you.

Sandoval said the Giants couldnt have done anythingdifferent, except maybe call timeout more often to disrupt Latos timing.

Hes working so fast, Sandoval said. We didnt take him outof his timing. Hes coming at us pitch after pitch."

Penny came atthe Reds with one pitch, essentially. He didnt have good command in thebullpen, so he threw all sinking, two-seam fastballs. That worked well enough.He struck out Ryan Ludwick on a backdoor two-seamer to strand two runners, thenestimated he threw maybe two or three four-seamers and the rest sinkers toretire the next six batters.

I cant remember the last time I entered a game withsomeone on base, said Penny, who was making just his fifth relief appearancein 320 career games. It was definitely different. Its something Ill have toget used to, and getting ready real quick.

Its going to be easier to focus for one, two or threeinnings than starting. It should be, anyway. I guess well see.

Penny offered one more thought on the Giants lineup:

In Cincinnati, you put this same lineup on the field andtheyre scoring runs left and right.

That might be true some nights. But against Latos at GreatAmerican Ball Park, the Giants managed just four hits in seven shutout innings.

In the final analysis, sometimes the ingredients are more important than the satellitedish.

Span clinches win for Giants and Gearrin, who had walk-off dreams of his own

Span clinches win for Giants and Gearrin, who had walk-off dreams of his own

SAN FRANCISCO — With the winning run on second and a bat in his hands, Cory Gearrin allowed himself to dream. He was a second baseman at Mercer University years ago and he entered the night with a 1.000 batting average in the big leagues. Why couldn’t this be his night on the mound and at the plate?

Gearrin stopped on the way to the plate and told Buster Posey that he was going to walk it off. He dug in against right-hander Chad Qualls and waited for the first sinker. He swung over the top of it, but he felt it was a quality hack. And then he missed the next sinker, and then the next. 

“I felt good going into that at-bat,” Gearrin said. “It was fun getting that opportunity. I’ve never faced a sinker like that. I felt like I missed it … by a lot.”

Gearrin can take solace in two facts. First, using his own sinker, he pitched three shutout innings, more than earning his keep, and he was a well-deserved winning pitcher in a 4-3 win over the Rockies that became official one minute after midnight.

Second, perhaps he gave the next hitter, Denard Span, a better view of an opposing pitcher’s repertoire. 

“Yeah ... he gave me a lot of information during that at-bat,” Span said as he laughed. 

Okay, so maybe Gearrin’s contributions were limited to the mound, but oh what a job he did against one of the best lineups in the National League. Span didn’t glean anything from Gearrin’s brief battle, but he didn’t need to. He spat on a changeup and then ripped a sinker into right, allowing Gorkys Hernandez to race home for a 14th-inning victory. 

Span, who is open about his distrust of birds, had spent nearly two hours standing under a circling flock of seagulls. Between pitches, he often dropped his hands onto his knees, looking more eager than anyone for the night to end. 

“Those birds were dropping stuff all around me,” he said. “I was like, you know what man, I don’t got time for this.”

The single gave the Giants back-to-back wins for the first time since May 27-28. It validated so much good work, from the five relievers who got the ball to Gearrin, to the Brandons who turned a snazzy double play in the 11th, to Buster Posey, who twice threw out runners at second in extra innings. Gearrin shouted out the defense in his post game media session. 

“It’s not news to us that we’ve got gold glovers all over the field,” he said. 

The Giants trailed by a pair after Matt Cain hung a curveball to Mark Reynolds, but they chipped away. The Rockies were the jumpier team in extra innings, but every rally was cut down by stellar defense and quality pitches. Gearrin threw 34 of them. 

The veteran right-hander had never before recorded more than six outs in a big league game. He got nine outs Tuesday, giving Bochy one extension after another as he battled to make it through a game shorthanded. With Conor Gillaspie headed to the DL, the Giants had just three position players on the bench. That meant Ty Blach was used as a pinch-runner. Jeff Samardzija pinch-hit in the 11th. Bochy thought of using Matt Moore in the 14th when the pitcher’s spot came up. Hunter Strickland was warming up to pitch the 15th, but …

“I could have hit Moore — I probably should have,” Bochy said, smiling. “But Cory is a pretty good athlete and had a pretty good average going into that at-bat. The numbers swayed me.”

Gearrin got his first career at-bat last season and singled. He has not even taken batting practice since that day, but he was fired up when given the opportunity. He was still so fired up after the Giants chased Span into the outfield that he didn’t mind the fact that his shiny 1.000 batting average has been cut in half. 

“I got to use that line for a year,” he said. “But I’ll gladly sacrifice the 1.000 average for a walk-off win.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' 14-inning win over Rockies

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' 14-inning win over Rockies

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SAN FRANCISCO — This, at long last, is a winning streak. A modest one, but still. 

Denard Span hit a walk-off single to right in the bottom of the 14th inning, giving the Giants a 4-3 win that became official one minute after midnight. The Giants have back-to-back wins for the first time since May 27-28. 

The Giants led early, fell behind on a three-run dinger, and then chipped away until the game went to extras. Buster Posey twice gunned runners down at second to help keep the score tied and the bullpen held tough, with Cory Gearrin throwing three scoreless innings. 

Gearrin had a chance to win it for himself in the 14th, but he struck out with Gorkys Hernandez on second. Span promptly singled. If you’re just waking up for work, here are five things to know from a night when the seagulls outnumbered the humans … 

--- Matt Cain needs an assist on the first run of the night. With Gorkys Hernandez on first, he got a sacrifice bunt down on a two-strike curveball that was headed for the dirt. Hernandez went to second and promptly scored on Denard Span’s single to right. The curveball wasn’t so kind in the sixth. With a runner on, the Giants intentionally walked lifelong nemesis Nolan Arenado to get to Mark Reynolds. Cain hung a curve and Reynolds crushed it to left for a three-run homer. 

--- The Giants got a run back in the sixth when Brandon Crawford’s deep fly allowed Buster Posey to trot in from third. Crawford leads the majors with nine sacrifice flies. He also turned a ridiculous double play that can’t adequately be described, except to say that he should expand his trophy case. 

--- Kelby Tomlinson came off the bench to tie it in the bottom of the eighth. His single to right brought Brandon Belt in from third. Tomlinson is 9 for 27 as a pinch-hitter this season. That’ll keep you on the chartered jets. 

--- Sam Dyson, with a fastball that reached 97 and an infield defense that was just as firm, pitched 1 2/3 shutout innings in extras. What a find. 

--- With the go-ahead run on first and no outs in the 13th, Nolan Arenado put down a sacrifice bunt. That's one of the five best moments of the Giants' season.