Giants

Posey avoids collision as 'perfect' relay sparks Giants win

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Posey avoids collision as 'perfect' relay sparks Giants win

BOX SCORE
SAN FRANCISCO -- There are few sights more harrowing for a Giants fan than the image of Prince Fielder's 275-pound frame bearing down on their catcher.

For the third time in his career, Fielder found himself charging hard toward a home plate protected by a backstop in Orange and Black, and for the second consecutive time, he was out.

In the second inning of the Giants' 2-0 win over the Tigers in Game 2 of the World Series, Detroit looked to be setting up a big inning when Delmon Young followed a leadoff hit batsman with a double into the left field corner. But Tigers third-base coach Gene Lamont, paying close attention, tried to capitalize on a funky bounce off the wall.

"I thought he would score, to be honest, the way it carried off the wall," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said after the game. "It took two perfect throws to get him."

It looked like Fielder would score easily when Gregor Blanco's throw sailed over the head of lead cutoff-man Brandon Crawford. But in the most instinctual defensive play since Derek Jeter's "Flip Play" in Game 5 of the 2001 ALDS, 2012 NLCS MVP Marco Scutaro found himself in perfect position to receive the throw from Blanco and complete the relay to Buster Posey to cut down the potential go-ahead run in a bang-bang play at the plate.

"What was Scutaro doing there?" Blanco asked after the game. "I was throwing to Crawford. I don't know what he was doing, but he was there."

Scutaro made it all the way across the diamond from deep second base to trail Crawford tight along the third-base line. He broke for third as soon as he saw the ball get past third baseman Pablo Sandoval, explaining his actions after the game like it was the most natural play of the season.

"That's what you work on in spring training," Scutaro said, dismissing his role in the play.

Never mind that Scutaro has never spent a spring training with the Giants, the 11-year veteran knew where he had to be.

"When it went over my head," Crawford said, "I was thinking, 'I hope Marco's there.' 'Cause I had no chance of catching it. But it was right to him."

Scutaro, who acknowledged the thought of a potential collision between Fielder and Posey flashed through his mind after he let the ball go, saw the play through a simpler lens.

"I just tried to throw the ball to home," he said.

He put it right on the money, and he gave Posey a chance to show off the swipe-tag skills that Bochy and the Giants coaching staff have been encouraging their young catcher to use.

Instead of taking a 1-0 lead and bringing up Jhonny Peralta with no outs and a runner on second, the Tigers sent Peralta to the plate in a tie game with one out and Young on second. Madison Bumgarner achieved his 10th consecutive scoreless World Series inning when he got a fly out and a strikeout to escape the frame.

In the Giants 13 previous playoff games, the team that scored first enjoyed an 11-2 record. The Giants eventually scored the first run in the seventh inning, and they won, advancing their playoff record to 8-1 when pushing across the game's first tally.

It's easy to say, now, that Fielder should have been held at third, but few were surprised when Lamont waved him home.

"I felt like, when the ball took that funny bounce, they might send him," Posey said. Crawford and Scutaro said they could tell Fielder was going home by the reaction of the sold-out AT&T Park crowd -- 42,582 strong.

It turned out to be the biggest play of the game, and the Tigers' best scoring opportunity.

"I'm okay with him sending me there," Fielder reflected. But his manager shared a different perspective.

"I think Gene just got a little overaggressive," Jim Leyland said.

If Fielder beat the throw, like he thought, there would be little debate over the decision.

"I didn't feel the tag," Fielder said. "I thought I was able to get in there."

Replays revealed home plate umpire Dan Iassogna got the call right, impressive given the magnitude of the game, the developing pitcher's duel and the speed of the play.

Posey joined Eli Whiteside and Todd Greene as San Francisco catchers who have met Fielder in the dirt circle around home plate, and Posey handled the the play with his customary aplomb, despite his collision history.

"You want to try to make sure you are light on your feet," Posey said. "You have to be there to know what it's like."

Whiteside isn't on the Giants' World Series roster, but he knows what it's like -- he stood between Fielder and home plate in 2011 and lived to tell the tale.

"Buster did a good job," Whiteside said Thursday night. "He gave him the plate. He gave him something to slide to. That's what you want to do, give the guy something to slide to and take (contact) out of the equation.

"That's a big man coming at you."

Following his own play at the plate with Fielder, Whiteside acknowledged he played the role of the aggressor.

"Hes coming at you," Whiteside said in 2011. "Theres no rule in the book that says you cant take it to him."

While it worked for Whiteside, it's certainly not the course of action the Giants coaching staff wants to see from Posey. Posey did just what he was asked to do, as Fielder verified.

"He gave me the plate," Fielder explained. "Whenever that happens, you gotta make the slide."

In 2006 Fielder didn't make the slide. He planted his shoulder square in the face of Giants catcher Todd Greene, sending him sprawling to the ground with a mild concussion and a busted shoulder. It essentially ended Greene's career, as the catcher retired after that '06 season.

In 2009 Fielder hit a game-winning home against the Giants and took his sweet time untucking his jersey on a drawn-out home run trot that culminated in the infamous "bowling pin" celebration.

But those plays, while aggravating for Giants fans, are history -- water under the Golden Gate Bridge.

"That's old," Fielder said. "I'm an adult now."

An adult whose team trails in the World Series two games to zero, and all because of a perfect little relay.

"It's all about executing," Bochy said. "And tonight we did a great job of it."

If Bochy can coach his players through two more wins before four losses, it'll all be about ticker tape, and Scutaro will again find himself in the right place -- leading a parade down Market Street.

Top prospect Shaw not feeling pressure of potential call-up

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Top prospect Shaw not feeling pressure of potential call-up

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants do not like to set timetables for their top prospects, instead encouraging them to force their way into promotions. Christian Arroyo did that in April and Ryder Jones followed over the summer, and both should be in position to compete for the third base job next spring. 

One of those two could ultimately fill a gaping hole in the lineup. When it comes to left field, one of their current River Cats teammates hopes to do the same. Chris Shaw is the organization’s top prospects on some lists, and on all lists, he is their top power-hitting prospect. 

The 23-year-old has 16 homers and 23 doubles across two levels this season, good for a .503 slugging percentage that’s right in line with his mark (.502) over 269 professional games. Shaw is on the fast track, and he became more intriguing when the Giants — with Brandon Belt signed long-term at first — moved him to left full-time this season. 

Shaw is doing what was asked of him. Earlier this week, I asked him if that has him thinking about a promotion. 

“It’s my motivation obviously to get to the big leagues, that’s why you work so hard in the offseason is to put yourself in that position to be knocking on the door,” he said. “But now, in season, you kind of put all your work in up to this point and everything else is a result of all your hard work up to this point. I don’t necessarily put any extra pressure on myself because right now I just go out and play and whatever happens, happens.

“I can’t dictate what falls and what doesn’t fall and what my batting average is going to look like a month from now, and ultimately what the front office wants to do. I’m fully aware they don’t have to add me this year. I trust in the front office in promoting me when they feel I’m ready developmentally.”

The big problem for Shaw at the moment is that the Giants do not need to add him to the 40-man roster until after the 2018 season. They are big on inventory, and not keen on DFA’ing another player this year and taking up a winter roster spot over the offseason for a prospect who currently is not in the opening day plans for 2018. That’s the paperwork side of this. On the field, Shaw is blocked by Gorkys Hernandez (who is now playing everyday), Jarrett Parker (who will finish his rehab assignment soon), Mac Williamson, and others. It remains a bit of a long shot that Shaw gets a September cameo, and when I checked in with team officials a week ago, the word was that it’s not currently in the plans. 

Having said that, the last-place Giants could certainly use some excitement and a glimpse of power. Shaw has some time left to change the front office's September plans. In the meantime, he’s the latest guest on our Giants Insider podcast. The quote above is from the podcast, which you can stream here or download on iTunes here. We talked promotions, his move to left, his power, his post-deadline tweet last year, and more. 

Former college football star shows athleticism on pivotal play in Giants win

Former college football star shows athleticism on pivotal play in Giants win

SAN FRANCISCO — Wednesday was a throwback for the Giants, the type of 2-1 win they’ve become so accustomed to at AT&T Park in past years. Solid starting pitching, a good bullpen, an opportunistic lineup, and sparkling defense. That’s the recipe, only on Wednesday there was a twist. 

The highlights usually come from the Brandons or Gold Glovers Joe Panik and Buster Posey. Wednesday’s defensive star was the pitcher. Jeff Samardzija’s barehanded grab-and-throw in the second inning killed a Pirates rally and kept Samardzija in line for a deep start. He was rewarded with his fifth win. 

The big play came with the bases loaded and one out in the second. Opposing pitcher Trevor Williams bounced one toward third and Samardzija sprung off the mound, cutting in front of Conor Gillaspie. He caught the ball with his bare hand as it came down from the first hop and made a perfect off-balance strike to Buster Posey for the force at the plate. 

“Your back is up against the wall there,” Samardzija said. “That’s a lack of other options and I had to make a play. It was the only option I had. I didn’t think I had a chance at first.”

Even with the pitcher running, Samardzija probably didn’t. After getting the tough out at the plate, he induced an inning-ending pop-up. Samardzija would get through the seventh and a mistake in left opened the door for the Giants' game-winning run. Afterward, Bruce Bochy pointed to that second-inning play as a unique turning point. 

“It looked like he was receiving a football, didn’t it?” Bochy said, smiling. “He’s so quick off the mound. He’s a good athlete. For a pitcher, that’s one of the better plays I’ve seen. You have to be a good athlete to jump off the mound that quick and have the instincts to know where to go with the ball.”

Samardzija, a former college football star, said that athleticism has hurt him at times. He explained that it can lead to some mechanical laziness on the mound, as better athletes tend to rely on that to get the ball to the plate. He did some work in a recent bullpen session to try and hone in those mechanics, and it showed against a charging Pirates club. 

If there were any scouts waiting for one last glimpse of Good Samardzija, this was it. But the right-hander said he doesn’t expect to be traded by Monday’s deadline.

“I haven’t heard anything,” he said. “I don’t read the news.”

He hears enough, though, to know that his name has been thrown around. Samardzija said he thinks that’s just other teams looking for leverage in trade discussions. He made his preference clear.

“I love being here,” he said.