Posey, Giants down Reds, slam their way to NLCS


Posey, Giants down Reds, slam their way to NLCS


CINCINNATI They are icons now, all of them.Brandon Crawford for his glove. Matt Cain for his ability to match zeroes as long as he could. Sergio Romo for his fearless, 88-mph fastballs with a season hanging on every one.And Buster Posey. For being Buster Posey.Itll be a month before they announce the National League Most Valuable Player Award. The Giants will not bother to count ballots. They already have their answer.Posey stepped into a perfect MVP moment and met it. His grand slam off perfectly-cast heel Mat Latos in the fifth inning struck the facing of the upper deck at Great American Ball Park, and the Giants will to play baseball again together.They barely held on for a 6-4 victory over the Cincinnati Reds and clinched a most improbable NL Division Series in which they trailed after losing the first two games at home.Poseys slam was the first by a Giant in the postseason since 1989, when Will Clark read Greg Madduxs lips and timed a fastball into the Wrigley Field bleachers.Crawford had the biggest day of his baseball life, hitting a tiebreaking triple in the fifth and making stops both solid and spectacular to help subdue a Reds club that kept straining the leash.And Romo finally dispatched the Reds, who were down 6-0 after Poseys slam, yet found a way to get the tying run to the plate in each of the last three innings. Romo strutted and yelled after he struck out Scott Rolen with two on base to send the Giants along to the NL Championship Series.The Giants succeeded where 21 other clubs had failed. They became the first NL team in the Division Series era to recover from an 0-2 deficit and advanceThey also became the first team all season to sweep a three-game series at Cincinnati. In fact, the Reds hadnt lost three in a row at home all season. The Giants hadnt done it since April, 1999, at old Riverfront Stadium.Starting pitching reportThe Reds had an opportunity to tag Matt Cain in the first inning, when Zack Cozart chopped an infield single to third base and Joey Votto walked on pitches that missed by a wide margin.But Ryan Ludwick fouled off the one hittable fastball he saw before Cain dusted him off with his slider. Then came Jay Bruce, who was 8-for-15 lifetime against Cain and bedeviled him for a double and home run in Game 1.Nothing Cain had thrown to Bruce seemed to work, so he improvised. After getting ahead, Cain took something off a two-seamer turning it into an 86-mph changeup, essentially and the pitch cut away from the left-handed hitters powerful bat as he struck out to end the inning.Cain had to pitch from the stretch again in the second inning, when third baseman Pablo Sandoval dropped Scott Rolens grounder down the line. But Cain picked up Sandoval by inducing a double-play grounder from Ryan Hanigan.Cain matched Latos until the fifth, when the Giants shook the big, blond right-hander. Cain ran into some trouble, too, as Hanigan got hit by a pitch and Drew Stubbs singled in front of Brandon Phillips two-run double.But Cain kept a critical third run from scoring, as Joey Votto grounded out to end the inning.If Cain was fuzzy in the strike zone at times in the fifth, he started to unravel in the sixth. Ryan Ludwick led off with a no-doubt home run, Bruce drew a walk and Scott Rolen singled to bring the tying run to the plate.Hanigan battled Cain for an eight-pitch at-bat but the right-hander got the call on a 3-2 fastball on the outer fringes, and for reasons known only to Reds manager Dusty Baker, the runners were moving on the 3-2 pitch.Posey managed to avoid a leaning Hanigan and zip a throw to third base, where Pablo Sandoval applied the tag on Bruce to complete a rather monumental double play.Those were the first outs recorded by a Giants starting pitcher in the sixth inning all series.Cain had thrown 96 pitches, and after that taxing battle with Hanigan, Bochy walked out for the baseball.Cain finished one out short of a quality start, giving up three runs on six hits, two walks and a hit batter. It was not his cleanest or finest work, but he matched Latos zero for zero until the Giants could get in the right-handers meaty-thick head.Bullpen reportNo three-run lead is safe. The Giants understand that better than most.The bullpen had 10 outs to get, and they did not come easily. The Reds brought the tying run to the plate in each of the last three innings.George Kontos got the first out, stranding Cains inherited runner by getting Stubbs to ground out to end the sixth.The Reds got the tying run to the plate in the seventh against Jeremy Affeldt after Phillips singled and Joey Votto rapped a hit up the middle. It took Crawfords incredible, diving effort to keep the ball from going into center field and prevent Phillips from taking third base.In one of the tensest at-bats of the game, Affeldt stayed in to face Ludwick. The left-hander allowed just one home run in the regular season (to the Padres Carlos Quentin), and Bochy didnt want to use up all his relievers going batter-to-batter so soon.Ludwick fouled off four pitches in the course of working the count full, but he hit a sharp comebacker that Affeldt gloved and walked to first base to end the inning.Bochy wanted Affeldt to face Bruce to start the eighth, but Gregor Blanco lined a foul ball that hit the left-hander as he stood at the top of the dugout stairs. Affeldt tumbled down the stairs and trainers immediately raced after him.So Bochy had to break the seal on his left-handed anti-venom, using Javier Lopez to retire Bruce on a grounder to start the eighth. After that, the Reds once again found a way to get the tying run to the plate. Santiago Casilla retired just one of three batters he faced, and that one out only came because Crawford made a startling, diving catch of Hanigans line drive.The Giants needed one more incredible defensive play to escape the inning, when Sergio Romo entered and pinch hitter Dioner Navarro blooped a pitch to center field. Angel Pagan raced in and made a sliding catch, punching the air with his fist as he was still rolling on the grass.Your browser does not support iframes.
The Reds did not give up there.Romo issued a one-out walk to Cozart and then Votto and Ludwick hit consecutive singles. Cozart scored without a throw to get the Reds within two runs and bring the winning run to the plate in the form of Bruce, who hit 34 home runs in the regular season including 21 in the Reds cozy ballpark.Bruce gave Romo the battle of his life in a 12-pitch at-bat. He fouled off six two-strike pitches all fastballs that brushed the outside edge of the plate. Romo came back with an up-and-in fastball that couldnt have been spotted any better, but he didnt get the call. Undeterred, he came back with a slider that Bruce got under to left field for the second out.A five-pitch strikeout of Rolen brought the Giants running onto the field to embrace Romo the first pitcher other than Brian Wilson to record a clinching out in a postseason series since Robb Nen 10 years ago.That team, with Dusty Baker in the dugout, couldnt hold onto a three-run lead with six outs to get. This one, with Baker in the opposite dugout, did.At the plateThe Giants needed time to crack Latos, who took advantage of umpire Tom Hallions ample strike zone and kept working the ladder with high fastballs to induce fly outs with runners on base.Latos got a big out in the first inning, after Marco Scutaro and Pablo Sandoval lined hard singles. Posey took a rip at a high fastball and got under it, lifting it to center field for an out. Latos did the same to retire Hunter Pence.But the Giants knew from past entanglements with Latos that he was a different pitcher once something rattled him. And when the big right-hander didnt get a two-strike call on Gregor Blanco to start the fifth, the steam rose from his cap as if someone opened the top of a hot dog cart.Crawford, who has a taste for high fastballs, followed with the most important hit of his young career. He tripled into the right field corner to break the scoreless tie, and the Giants were able to bring him home on Angel Pagans chopper up the middle. It wouldve been a close play at the plate if Reds shortstop Zack Cozart hadnt dropped the ball while trying to make a quick transfer.Pagan reached on the error, and Latos could not restore order between the lines or between his ears. He walked Scutaro, Sandoval lined another crisp single and Posey stepped into his MVP moment.He took a huge rip at a 2-1 cutter. Latos came back with the same pitch, but this one didnt hit catcher Ryan Hanigans down-and-in target. It stayed over the plate and merged with Poseys liquid swing. Hanigan almost melted in his catching gear as Posey watched the ball clank off the facing of the second deck.It was the first grand slam by a Giant in the postseason since Will Clarks iconic lip reading shot off Greg Maddux in 1989.It was a 434-foot lance to the neck.It was Poseys second home run off Latos in the series, too, and once again the right-hander watched the Giants send him home for the winter. Latos grand slam pitch is the last one hell throw until next season.The Giants did not score again after Poseys slam, although they were a bit unlucky in the eighth as Brandon Belt and Blanco made hard outs with a runner in scoring position.In fieldBochy had one lineup decision to make for Game 5. He was tempted to start Joaquin Arias at shortstop after he doubled twice after coming off the bench a night earlier. But Bochy stayed with Crawford, calling him the clubs best defender and noting that Latos was extra tough on right-handed hitters.Once again, Bochy made a golden move. In addition to his triple, Crawford made two tricky grounders look easy to end fifth- and sixth-inning rallies with runners on base. Then Crawford was flat-out spectacular in the eighth.Also good to note: Crawfords single on a 97-mph fastball from Aroldis Chapman a left-hander, no less.AttendanceThe Reds announced 44,142 paid. Now the good folks of Hamilton County can sit back, watch political ads till their eyes bleed and decide who the next POTUS will be.Up nextThe NLCS begins on Sunday and the Giants await the winner of the other NL Division Series, which the St. Louis Cardinals led 2-1 over the Washington Nationals heading into Game 4 Thursday night. A Giants-Cardinals series would begin at AT&T Park; a Giants-Nationals series would open at Nationals Park.

Giants lineup: Morse gets first start, Posey out vs Padres

Giants lineup: Morse gets first start, Posey out vs Padres

Programming note: Padres-Giants coverage starts today at 6:00pm with Giants Pregame Live on NBC Sports Bay Area, and streaming live right here.

Andy Green and Bruce Bochy issued their lineups for today's series opener at AT&T Park:

Padres (9-15)

1. Manuel Margot (R) CF
2. Erick Aybar (S) SS
3. Wil Myers (R) 1B
4. Yangervis Solarte (S) 2B
5. Ryan Schimpf (L) 3B
6. Cory Spangenberg (L) LF
7. Austin Hedges (R) C
8. Jabari Blash (R) RF
9. Luis Perdomo (R) P

Giants (8-15) 

1. Joe Panik (L) 2B
2. Brandon Belt (L) LF
3. Hunter Pence (R) RF
4. Michael Morse (R) 1B
5. Christian Arroyo (R) SS
6. Conor Gillaspie (L) 3B
7. Nick Hundley (R) C
8. Drew Stubbs (R) CF
9. Jeff Samardzija (R) P

Down on the Farm: Q&A with San Jose Giants 1B/3B Jonah Arenado

San Jose Giants/Tim Cattera

Down on the Farm: Q&A with San Jose Giants 1B/3B Jonah Arenado

The Giants know Rockies star third baseman Nolan Arenado all too well. In 76 games, Arenado has a .308 batting average against the Giants with 20 home runs, his most off any team in all of the majors. 

Playing in Advanced Single-A, the Giants have their own Arenado. Brother Jonah Arenado plays first and third base for the San Jose Giants and hit 19 home runs in 2016. 

Before the younger brother went 2-for-4 against the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes on Thursday night, NBC Sports Bay Area spoke over the phone with Arenado. Below is the full transcript where we talk his hitting approach, frustrations with the Lakers, trash talk with Nolan in ping pong and much more. 

Dalton Johnson: “You guys are now three weeks in, but I want to actually go back to Opening Day real quick. I know you guys ultimately lost, but it was a 16-inning game. Was that the longest game you’ve ever played in?” 

Jonah Arenado: “No, the longest game I ever played in was 17 innings.” 

DJ: “Really?! Wow! When was that?” 

JA: “I played 17 innings in Lakewood. I was playing for Augusta at the time. We were playing in New Jersey. So we went 17 innings, but we didn’t even get to finish the game. The fog got so extreme that we had to just cancel the game.” 

DJ: “The fog? That’s just crazy. So you were out in Augusta for the GreenJackets?” 

JA: “Yeah.”

DJ: “I was actually out in Savannah for college ball. I’m not sure if you guys ever played against the Sand Gnats.”

JA: “Yeah we were there the last year they had that stadium.” 

DJ: “Grayson Stadium. That was a really fun park. But a 16 or 17-inning game, I’m going to guess that the dugout has to get a little weird at some point, right?” 

JA: “Yeah you're just getting like... it gets kind of monotonous you know. It’s kind of like okay, when are we gonna score or when are they gonna score. And obviously you don’t want to lose the game, but you just want something to happen.” 

DJ: “What are you guys bringing out the rally caps or doing anything different?” 

JA: “No, no rally caps, but there’s times where a couple innings go by and someone will come into the dugout and try get jacked up or excite everyone. When it doesn’t work, it’s like alright here we go again.” 

DJ: “Off the field, I think you’re a Southern California guy and this is your second year out in Northern California in San Jose. Obviously you guys are always busy, but do you ever get to go out and check the Bay Area scenery at all?”

JA: “I’ve been to Santa Cruz and the beach over there. I’ve been to San Francisco. I went to San Francisco on an off day last year to watch the Giants-Rockies game. But besides that, no I rarely ever get to go out to San Francisco or anything like that.” 

DJ: “Off day, or you a golf guy or more of a relax guy? What are you trying to do on an off day?” 

JA: “I’m just trying to relax. Maybe hang out by the pool, just relax and hang out. Go to the beach. And if you do get to relax, I’m not trying to do anything that’s like a workout.” 

DJ: “Are there any places in San Jose where if someone’s coming from out town, you say, ‘Hey, this is where you need to go.’ San Jose, where would you go for one day?”

JA: “Oh, San Jose...” 

DJ: “Just go to a game? Tell them to go to a San Jose Giants game?” 

JA: “Yeah, yeah go to a San Jose Giants game and if not, Santa Cruz is 30 minutes down the road. I’d go to Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is nice.” 

DJ: “And then on the field, you’re someone who hits for power. You hit 19 bombs last year. With the way different people are starting to look at the swing now, are you someone that’s actually trying to swing for the fences a little bit? Are you trying to hit a home run? What’s your approach?”

JA: “No, I feel like the more I try to hit a home run, the more I don’t. When I go in thinking line drive to the middle or stay through the middle, I feel a lot better. I know last year I didn’t start off well, and I’m not starting off well this year either, but I know if I think like I have to drive this ball or I have to hit a home run then that never happens. Try to stay simple, try to stay short is usually when things start working out.” 

DJ: “Well there’s all these different advanced analytics and you can track everything now. Are you someone that actually looks into something like launch angle or exit velocity? Or is it more see ball, hit ball?” 

JA: “I don’t like thinking about those 40-degree angles. Hitting is hard enough. To think about all that stuff is too much. But I know that a lot of people, that’s the new thing. Launch angle and try to lift the ball, and that’s all great. It’s whatever works for that person. I know Donaldson preaches it and he loves talking about it, but that’s him. That’s what works for him. I know for me, trying to lift the ball doesn’t work. When I try to lift the ball, I usually pop up. So when I’m trying to hit a hard line drive, that’s when I usually can drive that ball.” 

DJ: “Yeah it seems like when you’re practicing, you’re on the tee or getting front toss or whatever, that’s when you can kind of work on those things. But I couldn’t really imagine taking that over to the game. Once it’s game time, it’s get a pitch, be aggressive, hit it hard. Are you just trying to make things, like you said, as simple as possible once it’s go time?” 

JA: “Yeah, when I’m in the game I’m just trying to be as ready as I can for that fastball. Just see it and hit it. There’s nothing more to it, honestly. Obviously, when you’re struggling you start trying to fix things. When I’m going well, it’s never thinking about what this guy is gonna throw or make sure your foot is doing this. No, I never think about that. I think about see the ball and hit it as hard as I can.” 

DJ: “In the minor leagues, are these tracking systems as prominent or is that more available the higher you go?” 

JA: “I think it’s more available for the big leaguers. It’s hard to watch our swings on video because sometimes our games aren’t taped. We watch our home games because they are streamed, but besides that it’s hard to get all that stuff done.” 

DJ: “Can that almost be an advantage at the same time though? When you’re younger I think if you look too far into then you might press or try to do too much. If you’re just figuring things out on your own, that might even be a little better. Am I right or wrong there?” 

JA: “I think you’re both wrong and right. There’s times when you think too much and sometimes you think it’s your swing and it’s really not your swing, it’s your approach. I think that’s when it can hurt you. When you’re looking at it on video, but that was never really the problem, so then you’re changing a swing that was actually working, but your approach was what’s messed up so now you’re changing your swing and your approach. So that can hurt you. But it can also help you because if there is something mechanically wrong, you can fix it. If you can’t watch it, then how are you gonna know? When you’re in the box, you feel completely different. You never feel like that’s your swing. When you’re in the box, everything is different. When you see it on film, you see I’m dropping my hands, but in the box I’m telling myself to stay on top of the ball so you don’t think you’re dropping your hands, but you’re still dropping your hands, you know what I mean?” 

DJ: “It’s almost like a best of two evils.” 

JA: “Yeah, yeah.” 

DJ: “Back on the field, clearly you’re obviously from a very athletic family. For you, was it just baseball all the time?” 

JA: “My older brother played soccer, my oldest brother played basketball too and Nolan just played baseball. He played soccer for a little, but then went with just baseball. For me, I played basketball also. Basketball is my favorite sport.” 

DJ: “Oh, really?” 

JA: “Yeah, it was. Basketball is just so much fun. You go out and shoot down the street by your house and technically that’s practicing, you know what I mean?” 

DJ: “Oh yeah. Baseball obviously you can go hit off the tee, but basketball, I mean I shot for 20 minutes at the gym today and you feel great.” 

JA: “Yeah, you can work on so many different things. If you’re hitting like crap that day, then it’s really hard to fix it that day. Basketball, if you’re shooting and keep shooting, eventually it’s going to go in.” 

DJ: “So, who’s your team?” 

JA: “Oh, the Lakers. Unfortunately, yeah.” 

DJ: “Are you feeling good about the rebuild or how are you feeling about all that?” 

JA: “I don’t know, man. Magic Johnson’s in there, so I hope he’s the answer. But they need to get a superstar. The Lakers are my team, they have always been my team, but the players on the team are bothering me lately.” 

DJ: “I’m sure you and your brother Nolan and all of your brothers competed against each other all the time growing up. Whether it be shooting hoops or playing video games or anything else, what was the one thing, especially with Nolan, where you knew you could beat him no matter what?” 

JA: “Oh man, that’s tough. It’s really hard to beat him. Him losing to me is like death, but he’ll do anything he can to not lose to me because he knows if I win I’ll talk. I’ll just keep talking about it. It’s hard to say. There’s days in ping pong, I’m not gonna say I’m a better ping pong player, but we’re both pretty competitive. If I beat him in ping pong, I mean, it’s over. He’s distraught and then he’ll just want to rematch me until he can beat me.” 

DJ: “If you beat him, you said you’re a talker. What’s your go-to angle when it comes to trash talk?” 

JA: “I just never let him forget it. If I beat him in ping pong that series or that day, you better believe all day I’m gonna wear it out.” 

DJ: “Were you guys video game guys at all or more outside?” 

JA: “We played video games here and there. Mostly it was outdoors. Wiffle ball was always big with me and my family. We still play to this day. We still play wiffle ball all the time.” 

DJ: “Wiffle ball, you’re in the backyard 1-on-1. Who wins between you and Nolan and if you have one pitch, what are you throwing him?” 

JA: “Throwing him? I’m throwing fastball at his face.”

DJ: “Fastball at his face?!?” 

JA: “I’m just kidding, just kidding.” 

DJ: “That might be the only way the Giants can slow him down.” 

JA: “I’ll throw some chin music and then try to throw a little changeup away.” 

DJ: “I got you there, I got you. One last question. Video game wise, if EA Sports could bring back college baseball or college football, what are you picking?” 

JA: “Baseball.” 

DJ: “That was the go-to right there.” 

JA: “I forgot, but there was a college baseball game. I forgot which one it was that we played all the time, but it was one of the best games we ever played.” 

DJ: “I remember they had Texas on the cover or something like that—”

JA: “Exactly! That’s exactly the one.” 

DJ: “They have to bring it back.” 

JA: “That game is the best.”