Romo, bullpen mates rise to the challenge

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Romo, bullpen mates rise to the challenge

DETROIT -- The Giants bullpen spent all season answering questions about its legitimacy after the loss of closer Brian Wilson in April.

So it only seemed appropriate Sergio Romo and the crew answered one more query on Sunday night.

Romo closed out the 21st sweep in World Series history and put an exclamation point on another chapter of bullpen excellence with a strikeout of Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera in the 10th inning of a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers in Game 4 at Comerica Park.

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Romo struck out all three batters he faced as he, Jeremy Affeldt and Santiago Casilla combined for seven strikeouts in three shutout innings. Giants relievers finished the Series with a 1.54 ERA in 11 23 innings.

For Romo, the perfect final frame, one that ended as Cabrera watched an 89-mph fastball land in Buster Poseys mitt for a called third strike, was more affirmation his own doubts about his ability to handle the role were incorrect. Romo converted 18 of 19 save opportunities this season, including all four in the postseason.

It was quite the grind, quite the test, Romo said. I got asked to do something that I honestly felt was bigger than who I am and what I am. Just to be able to get it done, the confidence my teammates showed in me throughout the year, I feel beyond blessed.

Even after they lost Wilson to reconstructive elbow surgery in mid-April, the Giants confidence never wavered in their bullpen even though their wasnt a proven closer in the bunch. Wilson may have converted 163 saves over the previous four seasons, but manager Bruce Bochy still had Romo, Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez among others on which to rely.

Giants relievers posted a 3.56 ERA in the regular season and finished with 53 saves. Those figures only improved in the postseason and peaked in the World Series, when Giants relievers allowed two earned runs and two hits in 11 23 innings. Bolstered by the addition of two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, the bullpen struck out 17 Detroit hitters against two walks and a hit batter.

They found ways to finish games for us, starter Matt Cain said.

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Our bullpen has been unbelievable not only in the postseason, but the regular season, starter Madison Bumgarner said. When the postseason came they were even more locked in. We had 100 percent faith in them. We knew if it came to a matchup of bullpens we had a really good shot.

Game 4 provided the Giants with their first true battle of the bullpens. The Giants and Tigers were tied at 3 when Affeldt took over for Cain to start the eighth inning. After he started with a walk of Quintin Berry to start the frame, Affeldt went on to strike out Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Delmon Young in order.

The left-hander then struck out Andy Dirks to start the ninth inning and got Jhonny Peralta to fly out to deep center before Casilla entered the game.

(Affeldt) is going to go after you with everything he has got, especially in situations like this, fellow reliever Clay Hensley said. Hes a winner.

Romo has proven himself to have similar qualities even if its something he questioned. With a wipeout slider in tow, Romo allowed one run and four hits in 10 23 innings this postseason. He walked one batter and struck out nine.

But it was more than the numbers that displayed Romos grit. He survived a 12-pitch showdown against Jay Bruce in the NLDS clincher on Oct. 11 with the tying runs aboard and then silenced the Tigers on three separate occasions.

Even with Cabrera looming, Lopez said he had no doubt Romo would close out the Giants second World Series title in three seasons when he took the mound.

(Romo) has an unhittable slider and he throws strikes so I think thats what puts him in that spot, Lopez said. Hes a little man, but he pitches like hes a big man. Hes 180 pounds, if that, when hes soaking wet, and he goes out and pitches like hes 6-4, 250. The guys got it and he showed it tonight and all series.

Latest round of bullpen auditions go poorly in Giants' 50th loss

Latest round of bullpen auditions go poorly in Giants' 50th loss

SAN FRANCISCO -- Practically speaking, the 50th loss is no different than the one before or the one after, but this sport is built on milestones, and this one came quickly.

The Giants lost their 50th game on August 12 last year. This season, it was clinched when Ryder Jones grounded out in his fourth career at-bat, handing the Mets a 5-2 win on June 24. 

Bruce Bochy called losing 50 of your first 77 games "hard to believe" and "embarrassing." Johnny Cueto, who went seven strong, said the reality was "hard and sad." Brandon Belt, who got Cueto off the hook for a loss, agreed with his manager.

"That's a pretty good word to use -- it is embarrassing to come out and lose every day, especially with the group of guys we have," Belt said. "When you're losing as much as this, it is embarrassing. We're trying to do whatever we can to turn this thing around."

Lately, that has meant changes to the roster. It is officially audition season, and in that respect, it was not a particularly inspiring day for the bullpen. The Giants felt they would have a better mix this year, but it hasn't played out. Instead, they're once again trying to find pieces for the next successful Giants bullpen.

With Hunter Strickland suspended and Derek Law in the minors, two young relievers, a middle-innings stalwart, and a newcomer pitched the final two frames. They gave up four runs.

Sam Dyson was the first on the mound in the eighth. Belt had homered a few minutes earlier, tying a good starter's duel. Dyson gave up a leadoff triple to Curtis Granderson and walked Asdrubal Cabrera before throwing two good sliders past Yoenis Cespedes for the strikeout. With two lefties coming up and the go-ahead run still on third, Bochy turned to Steven Okert. He immediately gave up a seeing-eye RBI single to Jay Bruce. Wilmer Flores doubled off George Kontos later in the frame to make it 3-1. 

In the ninth, Kyle Crick showed some of the wildness that kept him in the minors for seven years. He, too, gave up a leadoff triple, a sin you always pay for. A walk helped put another run into scoring position and a wild pitch extended the Mets’ lead to four. 

Before the game, Bochy talked of getting an extended look at Jones. He was 0-for-4 in his first big league game but he’ll be back out there tomorrow. It’s time to fight for a job, and the same holds true of some relievers who didn’t fare well Saturday. It is a group with a closer locked into a longterm deal and little else decided. 

Are Strickland or Law eighth-inning guys? Will Dyson be a worthwhile reclamation project? Will Kontos be back, and will he carve out a different role? Are Okert and Josh Osich capable of giving Bochy lefties he trusts? Is Crick’s improvement in Triple-A a sign of things to come? There are many questions to be answered over the next three months. 

“This is a good time for them, this is what players get up here for, to show what they can do,” Bochy said. “Because of our situation, we’re going to take a look at these guys and we know there are going to be growing pains.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' 50th loss of the season

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' 50th loss of the season

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — The promotion of an intriguing prospect can bring a certain buzz to the ballpark. It didn’t last long. 

The debut of Ryder Jones came in the latest flat performance from the Giants, who collapsed late and fell 5-2 to the Mets. The loss was their 50th of the season. They did not lose their 50th game last season until August 12. 

With the score tied in the eighth, Curtis Granderson crushed a leadoff triple into the alley. Sam Dyson walked the next batter and then whiffed Yoenis Cespedes, but Jay Bruce greeted Steven Okert with an RBI single to right. It kept going poorly from there. 

Here are five things to know from a cool day by the water … 

—- Jones grounded out to second in his first at-bat and then flied out to center, grounded out to first, and grounded out to second. He had one chance in the field, starting a double play that ended the second inning.  

—- Johnny Cueto seems to have turned a corner. Over his past two starts, he has allowed just three earned runs over 14 innings. Whether they trade him or not, the Giants certainly could use a nice little hot streak for the next six weeks. 

—- A few seconds after Bruce Bochy shook Cueto’s hand, Brandon Belt got him off the hook for a loss. He hit the first pitch of the bottom of the seventh into the seats in left-center, tying the game. The homer was Belt’s 14th. He’s on pace for 29. 

—- The Mets got eight one-run innings out of Jacob deGrom, who is quietly the most reliable of a star-studded rotation. He struck out seven and gave up just four hits. 

—- If Madison Bumgarner wants another Silver Slugger Award, he’ll have to chase down deGrom, who hit a homer in his last start. His single in the third was his 10th hit, and he finished the day with a .294 average.