Posey avoids collision as 'perfect' relay sparks Giants win

924797.jpg

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.

Williamson stuns Davis in ninth, but earlier mistakes haunt Giants

Williamson stuns Davis in ninth, but earlier mistakes haunt Giants

CHICAGO — Had a half-dozen other things gone differently Wednesday night, the Giants might have spent the hour after the game shrugging off a blowout loss or celebrating one of the best at-bats of the year. 

Three innings after the game was nearly lost for good, Mac Williamson saw 12 pitches from Wade Davis, who entered with a perfect ERA in 19 appearances, fouling eight of them off before slamming a two-run homer to right. The play came with some comedic value, as Williamson nearly passed Eduardo Nuñez on the bases. It also came with some historic value, as it snapped a streak of 19 consecutive solo shots that was two shy of the MLB record. 

The homer was not, however, the talking point after the game. A few minutes after Williamson went deep, Joe Panik was tossing his bat into the grass in frustration over a called third strike that ended the game and clinched a 5-4 win for the Cubs. Ten minutes after that, Bruce Bochy watched the highlight and tossed his phone onto his desk. 

“It’s a shame to end on that call, it really is,” Bochy said. “We had him on fumes and that’s not a strike. But they got the call and that’s it.”

The Giants were left with their third loss in four games, a run that has halted their momentum. They again are 11 games back in the National League West, with so many nights like this one: A comeback seemed real, but the mistakes were too much to overcome. 

Williamson, in talking about his homer, pivoted and pointed to a blunder of his own. In a tied game in the fifth, Miguel Montero hit a single to right with Addison Russell on first. The speedy shortstop watched Williamson as the ball rolled into the outfield, and when Williamson didn’t charge as hard as he otherwise might, Russell took off for third. The throw was perfect, but late. Russell scored on a fly ball. 

“The home run is really cool but it would have been a lot cooler if I hadn’t have made the mistake earlier in the game and given them the extra run,” Williamson said, explaining that he has tried to focus on being smooth to the ball and not rushing on fast outfields. In the past, rushing has led to bobbles and extra bases. 

Another costly sequence came in the eighth. After the Giants left the bases loaded in the top of the inning, Steven Okert gave up a triple to Jason Heyward, who scored on a sacrifice fly. Okert, so good when he was first called up, has been less effective of late. 

“We’ve got to get our lefties going,” Bochy said. “We gave them a run there and that put it at three and that’s just enough to cover it for them.”

Truth be told, the Giants were probably lucky to even have worries at that point. The wind blew a three-run Heyward homer inches foul in the sixth, and while the Giants grumbled about the final call of the game, an earlier call on Heyward for running inside the base path took a Cubs run off the board and killed a rally. It was correct by the letter of the law, but one you rarely see. The Giants escaped, but they wouldn’t come all the way back, despite Williamson’s late push. 

The young outfielder has been looking to make an impact since coming back up on the last homestand. He knew how tough Davis has been. 

“He’s been the best in the game this year and the numbers speak for themselves,” Williamson said. “He has phenomenal stuff. You get in the box and figure you’ve got nothing to lose, battle as tough as you can.”

Williamson fouled off good strikes and tantalizing balls. When he lofted a 2-2 pitch toward right, he took off out of the box. The ball carried just over the wall, and Williamson didn’t look up until he rounded third. That’s when Phil Nevin started yelling at him to slow down. Nuñez, who had a tight hamstring, turned and told Williamson to slow down.

“I kinda blacked out for a second there,” Williamson said. 

“I was like, ‘Bro, it’s a homer — just jog,’” Nunez said.

The moment temporarily sent a rush through the dugout. Minutes later, the Giants were left livid over a game that probably shouldn’t have been so close, but nonetheless was right there for them to steal. 

Instant Analysis: Giants' rally falls short in 5-4 loss to Cubs

Instant Analysis: Giants' rally falls short in 5-4 loss to Cubs

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO — The Giants will need a win on getaway day to clinch their first winning road trip.

Wednesday's comeback attempt fell just short, as the Giants scored two in the ninth but lost to the Cubs 5-4. Since taking the first two games in St. Louis, they have dropped three of four, falling 11 games back of the Rockies in the division.

Here are five things to know from the coldest Giants game of the year … 

— Mac Williamson fouled off eight pitches before going the opposite way against Wade Davis, who entered with a 0.00 ERA in 19 appearances. The two-run homer ended a run of 19 consecutive solo shots by the Giants, two short of their own MLB record. It was the first homer off Davis in two years. 

— The sixth inning was one of the stranger escapes we’ve seen from a pitcher this season. With two on and one out, Jason Heyward blasted a Matt Moore pitch right down the line and it looked like it would give the Cubs a 6-2 lead. The wind blew the ball a couple of feet foul. Heyward then topped one down the line and Moore’s throw bounced away from first, allowing a run to score. But the umpires called — correctly — Heyward out for running inside the line. It’s a call you rarely see. Moore then struck out Addison Russell to keep what could have easily been a 6-2 or 4-2 game at 3-2. 

— Before the first game of this series, a Giant asked in the dugout, “I wonder what some of the Cubs’ numbers would look like at our place?” Anthony Rizzo is a .159 hitter with no homers in 18 career games at AT&T Park, but he had no issues on a night when conditions were worse than they are most nights in San Francisco. Rizzo homered off Moore in his first two at-bats. 

— Rizzo will occasionally put a bunt down to beat the shift — he had an accidental bunt in his third at-bat — which the Giants have long wanted Brandon Belt to do. Belt pushed one away from the shift in the sixth, and even though it was too close to pitcher Kyle Hendricks, the throw was off and Belt reached second. One of those a week would open up a few more holes. 

— This lineup has made a habit of making mediocre and downright bad pitchers look good, and the actual good ones are taking advantage, too. A night after Jon Lester recorded his first complete game of the year, Hendricks threw seven innings for the first time.