Protection for Posey key to Giants' chances

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Protection for Posey key to Giants' chances

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Well, weve finally gotten the answer to the question that has nagged for nearly two weeks: Your Game Four and Five starters for the San Francisco Giants are . . .Not as important as we thought.Oh, sure, Tim Lincecum is important, and getting the ball for the Giants in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series creates with it a few tweaks to a lineup that needs all the tweaks its skin can endure. And Barry Zito is certainly an interesting notion for Game 5, insofar as it means that Madison Bumgarner is out, at least for the moment.In other words, Hector Sanchez catches, which means Buster Posey goes to first base, which means Brandon Belt sits and, more likely than not, Hunter Pence moves down a spot in the lineup to break out of what has become the teams most noticeable slump.But as Bruce Bochy picked at his food in the Managers office after Wednesdays rain-engorged 3-1 win by the St. Louis Cardinals, he knew what the real problem is. And though he couldnt say it aloud, he could think it.He doesnt have enough difference-making players.Melky Cabrera is being missed, not so much in left field but certainly in the three-hole in the batting order. And Pablo Sandoval isnt hurting the team all that much in the three-hole, but he is a better five-hole hitter. And Pence, who is a better sixth-place hitter, is stuck in the five-spot unless Bochy decides that semi-desperate times call for semi-desperate measures.This all matters because the Cardinals, unlike the Cincinnati Reds before them, have decided that Buster Posey is not to see a hittable pitch in this series. Period. And there is no second Posey in the order to make the Cardinals think otherwise.This is a long-standing Cardinal philosophy the other guys best player is not to be the instrument of your death. It was a staple of Tony La Russas managing and Dave Duncans pitching philosophies, and it remains so with Mike Matheny and Derek Lilliquist.They dont walk him outright, although he had two Wednesday night. But they give him so little to work with because (a) they have no fear of Pence, Belt or Gregor Blanco behind Posey, (b) the bases are not crowded when Posey bats, and (c) hes seen eight different pitchers in three games, none more than twice in situations where he was actually allowed to hit.In short, St. Louis is ahead in this series, two games to one, in significant part because they dont believe the Giants have enough hitting to force them to pitch to Posey.In Game 1, he batted once with a runner in scoring position and Joe Kelly walked him. In Game 2, he batted once with a runner scoring position again, in the bottom of the eighth with the Giants already ahead, 6-4, and was struck out by Marc Rzepcynski in a what-the-hell situation. And in Game 3, his one chance with a runner in scoring position ended in another walk, from Kyle Lohse.You may not remember it because, well, it was before the rain delay.The point is, in sum, that while we have exercised our mighty brains wondering about the level of Marco Scutaros health, the relative darkness of Matt Hollidays soul, the identities of the Giants fourth and fifth starters and the whereabouts of Pence, the Cardinals have been making the Giants beat them without their best hitter in play.And except for the fourth inning of Game 1, the fourth and eighth innings of Game 2 and the third inning Wednesday, they havent.So, while it is invigorating in some sense to know that Lincecum and Zito are pitching games Four and Five and Madison Bumgarner is being reduced to a role as the new Lincecum, the real issue is offense, and more specifically which player or combination of players is going to force the Cardinals to break programming and face Posey in a difficult situation.In other words, Lincecum can do a lot of things, but he cant win a game with Matt Cains run support levels, and neither can Zito for that matter. Pitching will not save the Giants if they cant solve the more fundamental problem. Losing 2-1, 6-1, or 11-1 is the same thing when youre the guy packing the 1.And while it seems like every day presents a different reason why Bochy picks at his postgame meal and curses the events of the day, so much of it has to do with one thing.The Cardinals have not been forced to face Buster Posey straight up. Until they are, all the other nuances of the series will be rendered moot.

After another loss, Bochy challenges staff to 'tighten it up here'

After another loss, Bochy challenges staff to 'tighten it up here'

DENVER — For the second straight start, Matt Moore watched an outfielder chase down a rocket, slam into the wall, and immediately leave the game with a hurt shoulder. 

“You’ve got to feel a little responsible,” he said Saturday night, shaking his head. 

That’s not entirely fair. The Jarrett Parker and Denard Span injuries have been flukes, but there is a different kind of responsibility for the starting staff. Bobby Evans built this team on the starting five, and through three weeks, the group has been a letdown. 

Madison Bumgarner was hurt during an off-field incident. Johnny Cueto has an uncharacteristic 5.25 ERA and 1.38 WHIP through four starts. Moore gave up six runs in four innings Saturday, raising his own ERA to 5.87. On the other side, a rookie — Antonio Senzatela — held the Giants to four hits, leading the Rockies to a 12-3 win.

“He just made mistakes. You saw them,” manager Bruce Bochy said of Moore. “They caught too much of the plate and they were up and they took advantage of them. This can be a tough park but they pitched well tonight with a young kid. You’ve got to make your pitches. Keep concentrating and don’t give in. That’s the way it works and we’re not doing a very good job of that.

“Obviously our staff, we’re a much better staff than what’s happened. We’ve got to tighten it up here and wake up. We’re not a team that goes out and pounds it with you. We’ve got to pitch.”

The starting staff, even without Bumgarner, is more important than it first seemed. That's because the rest of the Giants are dropping, too. Span went out in the third when he slammed into the wall while making a catch, and while the initial read is positive, he was going for X-rays Saturday night. At the very least, a right shoulder sprain will keep him out a couple of days. 

That means Bochy, 18 games in, is dealing with one of his Bomb Squad situations. Buster Posey will play first on Sunday after a couple of long days in the squat, and it’s possible Brandon Belt will get a day in left. Gorkys Hernandez, hitting just .088, is the man in center while Span is out. Hunter Pence (knee bruise) is expected to return to right field Sunday, but the outfield is hanging by a string. The Giants have even talked about putting Eduardo Nuñez in left, and on Saturday he played several innings in right because of the Span injury. 

Bochy challenged his starters, but the regulars behind them will need to be better, too. The bats didn’t get going until the eighth inning at Coors Field, and even then, a rally was cut short and the Giants promptly gave up six more runs. Nuñez was late getting over on a pop-up that clanked off Joe Panik’s glove and extended the inning. 

“You’re going to deal with that,” Bochy said. “He’s going to feel discombobulated.”

Bochy had just one positive to point to, and he lit up when asked about Chris Stratton, who threw three hitless innings to keep the Giants within shouting distance. 

“Boy, that kid did a nice job," he said. 

Stratton isn’t far down the depth chart if there are further injuries in the rotation, and with a fastball that touched 95, he looked better than he has in years. The Giants hope they don’t need to test him. They’re banged-up, but at the moment, they still have four of their projected starting pitcher, along with Ty Blach. Without Bumgarner, the group will have to be better, and Bochy let them know it Saturday. 

Instant Replay: Rockies crush Moore, Giants lose Span in third straight loss

Instant Replay: Rockies crush Moore, Giants lose Span in third straight loss

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DENVER — Near the end of last season’s collapse, the Giants spent a couple of days sitting eight games out of first place. Less than three weeks into this season, they’re already six out, and there are no signs that this is going to get better anytime soon.

The Giants managed just four hits against rookie Antonio Senzatela and went on to lose 12-3 at Coors Field. They also lost another starter to injury. 

A week to the day after Jarrett Parker broke his clavicle, Denard Span was removed after a similar collision with an outfield wall. Span has a mild right shoulder sprain and will go for X-rays. Throw in Hunter Pence’s left knee bruise and the Giants played most of this game without all three of their projected starting outfielders. 

To hang in a game like this one, the Giants needed a one-man show on the mound. Matt Moore wasn’t up to it. The lefty gave up six runs in four innings, including three homers. Mark Reynolds hit a deep blast in a three-run first and Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon went deep in a three-run fourth. 

The Giants threatened in the eighth, getting two runs back and sending the tying run to the plate. That rally seemed a lifetime away by the top of the ninth. The Rockies scored six runs off Neil Ramirez in their half of the eighth. 

Starting pitching report: No pitcher likes this place, but Moore has a real beef. In three career starts at Coors Field he has thrown just 11 2/3 innings and allowed 16 earned runs. 

Bullpen report: Chris Stratton, called up for the Madison Bumgarner roster spot, made his season debut in the fifth. He was outstanding. Stratton allowed just a walk in three innings and he topped out at 95 mph, a significant tick up from where he was last year. Stratton struck out three and broke Nolan Arenado’s bat on a grounder. 

At the plate: Joe Panik went deep in the sixth for his first homer of the year. 

In the field: Eduardo Nuñez made a great stop in the second and threw Stephen Cardullo out as he rolled over. An inning later, he was in right field. The Span injury forced Nuñez to right for just the seventh time in his career. He wasn't tested until the eighth, when he was late getting over to a deep pop-up that Panik dropped. 

Attendance: The Rockies announced a crowd of 39,239 human beings. They’re excited about this team, and for good reason. 

Up next: Save them, Jeff.