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.

Giants spring training Day 44: Marrero caps huge spring with eighth homer

Giants spring training Day 44: Marrero caps huge spring with eighth homer

MESA, Ariz. — The Giants went 0-62 last season when trailing after eight innings. Chris Marrero wasn’t around for any of that, but it’s a stat that could help Marrero as he tries to lock up a bench spot. 

The first baseman/left fielder crushed a three-run shot in the ninth inning Tuesday, wiping out a two-run deficit against the Cubs. Marrero also has two walk-off homers this spring. 

“This kid, you see it when he goes up there. He’s got great focus,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s intensity and determination. From day one, you could see it in his at-bats. Late in the game, he seems very comfortable. He wants to go up there.”

Tuesday’s homer, which shot out to right-center, was the eighth of the spring for Marrero. That ties him with a guy named Bryce Harper for the MLB lead, and the vast majority of Marrero’s bombs were no-doubters. 

“It’s been a great spring for him,” Bochy said. “The last game here, it seems fitting that he would do something like that. He’s already done it a couple of times. This kid has done all he can. I love his swing and the work that he’s put in.”

With Michael Morse down, Marrero is the best remaining option as a power right-handed bat off the bench, a glaring need a year ago. Justin Ruggiano, another one in the mix, followed Marrero’s shot with one of his own. The homer was Ruggiano’s second of the spring. 

Ruggiano is a better fit defensively in the outfield, but Marrero has been solid at first and Bochy said he’s fine with what he’s seen in left field. “He’s still working on it,” Bochy said, noting that Marrero will play left field during the Bay Bridge Series. 

LEADING OFF: Denard Span saw a wild pitch bounce off the bricks behind home plate, and he never slowed down. Span sped around third in the second inning and slid in ahead of the throw. The notable part of the play wasn’t that a quirky bounce allowed Span to take 180 feet on a wild pitch. It was that his legs did. The 33-year-old has been a different guy in his second spring with the Giants. Last year, Span was coming off hip surgery. This spring, his old game has returned.

“I’ve just been able to do the things I’ve always been able to do,” Span said. “I have more control of my body. I’m stronger. I had a full offseason and a full spring training to get my legs up under me. The last couple of weeks, I’ve felt much better and more confident.”

A healthy and spry Span would be a big boost to a lineup that often looked flat in the second half last season Span showed off every aspect of his game Tuesday. He blasted a leadoff homer on Jake Arrieta’s second pitch, and during their second matchup, he put a perfect bunt down the third base line for a single. Span stole second easily before his race home. 

“He’s playing terrific baseball and he’s been a real inspiration, being our leadoff hitter,” Bochy said. “That’s what we needed — energy at the top of the order.”

TRAINER’S ROOM: Eduardo Nuñez (shoulder) is feeling much better, and Bochy said he’ll play third base during the games at AT&T Park before getting four or five innings at shortstop on Saturday. Joe Panik (drilled in the back on Monday) said he’s feeling fine. 

POSITION BATTLES: Here’s the latest on Matt Cain, and here’s an update on Aaron Hill and Jimmy Rollins. 

ICYMI: Big news today from NBC Bay Area. Matt Williams, Javier Lopez and Cody Ross have joined out pre- and post-game shows. You can find stories about those guys on our homepage here. Those shows will also now be an hour long on both ends of the game, adding an extra hour of Giants coverage to your day. Which is good. 

That’s all on the way during the regular season. If you missed any of our spring coverage, you can find a bunch of features here, and podcasts here (spring pods included Mike Morse, Matt Cain, Mac Williamson, Jimmy Rollins and others, with one more coming this week). And in case you’re new to our coverage, the Twitter account is here and the Facebook page is here. Next stop, San Francisco … 

 

Giants appear to have decided between Hill or Rollins for roster spot

Giants appear to have decided between Hill or Rollins for roster spot

MESA, Ariz. -- Aaron Hill didn't play in the final Cactus League game, but he didn't need to. By simply being on the flight to San Francisco on Tuesday, Hill got good news. 

The veteran infielder was due a $100,000 bonus on Tuesday, and while the Giants haven't formally announced their roster, you don't pay a man that much money to come play three exhibition games against the A's. Hill appears to have made this club as a second backup infielder, along with Conor Gillaspie. Another veteran, Jimmy Rollins, got the news that the Giants are headed in a different direction. 

Team officials spoke with Rollins this week about their future plans. He was not on the travel roster Tuesday and did not attend the game against the Cubs. 

"We're waiting to hear back from him," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He knows the scenario and the situation. We're waiting to hear back."

Rollins, 38, showed the Giants that he can still handle shortstop defensively, and he was a quick learner when he moved to second. But he hit just .119, falling behind Hill, Kelby Tomlinson and others in the mix for bench spots. It would seem unlikely that Rollins would want to get additional at-bats in Triple-A, but that feeling hadn't been fully conveyed to team officials Tuesday. There was a hope that Rollins, an East Bay native, might join the team for the Bay Bridge Series, which finishes Saturday in Oakland. Rollins grew up an A's fan.

Rollins and Hill were part of a crowded infield group at the start of camp. Gordon Beckham also had a retention bonus and he asked to be released when he was told he wouldn't make the opening day roster. David Hernandez, the third player due a bonus, also was released. He promptly signed with the Atlanta Braves.