Romo, Giants continue to dispel myths

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Romo, Giants continue to dispel myths

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The last time a team won three consecutive games twice in a year to win postseason series was 1985, when the Kansas City Royals were the best team in baseball.Thats right. When the earth was still cooling.But to those who believe in vibes, thats all the throb in the San Francisco Giant clubhouse. Having punched holes in myths this entire postseason, they enter the all-in game with the St. Louis Cardinals Monday night with their best pitcher going, their bullpen rested, and their lineup healthy.I dont know how else to put it, Sergio Romo said, the words running over each other in a rush to escape his arrhythmic emotions. We dont want to go home yet. I dont want to go home yet.Well, the Giants ARE home, to be precise. Sundays 6-1 win over St. Louis in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series kept them from scattering to the nine vectors of offseason life, and anyway, home is what you make it.Or in this case, what Ryan Vogelsong and Marco Scutaro and Pablo Sandoval and yes, Sergio Romo, chose to make it. The Giants, who allegedly struggled at home this year (and yes, allegedly is the word), gave the Cardinals all the home cooking a person can stomach. Between the atmosphere and the unique hops from an unusually choppy infield, the Cardinals got a weeks worth of San Francisco baseball in one night.
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Romo is probably the spokesman for the rumble and hum of the Giants ascendant. If the Giants bullpen is closer by committee, he is the committee chair, and pulls the team and crowd with him. Indeed, he is one of the enduring myths of this season the closer who gets everything but the official title.Then again, the starting rotation itself is a bit of a myth. It has been saved three times in October alone by the fourth and fifth starters, Ryan Vogelsong and the redoubtable Barry Zito, if you go by the pecking order established at the beginning of the year. Vogelsong defied the reaper and his preseason place Sunday by overwhelming the Cardinals with fastballs early and baffling them with breaking balls the second time through the order. By the time he had allowed St. Louis first hit, to David Descalso in the fifth inning, the Giants had already scored five of their six runs.And theres another myth dispelled. For all the focus on pitching matchups, postseason games are truly won by scoring first and establishing advantages that can be held. The team scoring first in San Franciscos 11 games is 9-2, and the team scoring first has fallen behind only twice as well. The Giants won one of those two games, Game 3 in Cincinnati.The first Vogelsong start.Which, oddly, is the one of his three that impressed him the least.I actually think that my stuff was better in Game 2, he said. I threw the ball extremely well tonight, obviously, but I feel like I had some good misses (that they swung through). It comes down to executing the pitches then getting lucky on the ones you dont make, the ones they foul off or swing through. So I think Game 2, my stuff overall was better. Tonight I just had some good misses and some good fortune.
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And Scutaro, the other logical choice for series MVP if the Giants win, had another eye-popping game, walking and scoring the games first run, doubling home two runs in the second, and kicking in a third hit in the fourth just to reinforce the suggestion that he is part of the true nucleus of this team, after only three months in town. Remember, he was once a Colorado Rockie, a level of punishment that is hard to describe. Except, of course, by Scutaro himself.I wish I could see Dan ODowd, so I could kiss him right on the lips, Scutaro said of the Colorado general manager who moved Scutaro west largely to save the Rockies a million dollars. He told me he was going to work to put me in the best place he could, where I had a chance to win. He kept his word.And Scutaro has kept his since his unfortunate 2011 in Boston. He is hitting .471 since Matt Holliday steamrolled him in the first inning of Game 2. People notice that sort of thing, especially in October, as in one step closer to overcoming his difficult end with the Red Sox.I remember the last out in Cincinnati, when (Jay) Bruce was fouling all those pitches off, he said. I was saying, Please God, dont make me feel like that again.Bruce flied out, Scott Rolen struck out, and Scutaro survives. So yes, some of it is timing. And some of it is luck. Good, and bad.The Cardinals have injuries to Carlos Beltran (knee) and Holliday (back) that are impacting the St. Louis lineup, and catcher Yadier Molina has struggled in the five-spot. In addition, Game 6 starter Chris Carpenter was pitching the equivalent of his final spring training start after missing almost the entire year with an injury, and couldnt find the feel of his sinker at any point of the game.Plus, the Cardinals have allowed 10 unearned runs in this series, making them a team-wide version of Brooks Conrad, the unfortunate soul who committed four errors against the Giants in their NLDS win over the Braves two years ago.All that, though, is filed under tough cheese. In October, explanations become excuses, and excuses are the last thing to be packed on the plane. You win, or you lose. You live with the recriminations, or you live with the ambient noise of a city that envelops you.And right now, San Francisco is all noise.For all the credit Hunter Pence gets for his pregame speeches, and Bruce Bochy gets for his calm yet creative work at the rudder, bouncing out of the corner after losing the early rounds is as much a matter of vibe as anything else. And Romo carries that vibe to its overwhelming conclusion.I dont know if theres a knack to winning when your backs are against the wall, Romo said, but I will say that doing it alone is impossible. You need everyone. In uniform, in the stands, all of it. We want to do well for ourselves, and this city. These people deserve our best efforts, and our best games.Well, one game, anyway, one which will tell just how much this city will get what Romo says it deserves. At home, where the Giants are not supposed to play well. With their best pitcher, Matt Cain, who will have to go very deep and very strong to beat the work of his two predecessors, Vogelsong and Zito.And with Romo finishing, to the roaring strains of his own entry music, El Mechon.The Lock.

Three more Giants likely to join Posey in World Baseball Classic

Three more Giants likely to join Posey in World Baseball Classic

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Four years ago, Giants coaches made no secret of the fact that they felt some veterans were affected by playing in the World Baseball Classic. The Giants were coming off a long postseason run, but eight of their big leaguers chose to participate in the 2013 event. 

Four years later, the list is down to just four, and the Giants won’t stand in their way. Buster Posey has already been announced as a catcher for Team USA and Brandon Crawford is expected to play as well. Johnny Cueto has told the Giants that he intends on pitching for the Dominican Republic and Albert Suarez plans to pitch for his native Venezuela. 

In past years, clubs have primarily been concerned about pitchers. In an odd way, hitters are almost better off playing in the WBC instead of facing amped up prospects in Cactus League games. The Giants learned that lesson the hard way in 2015 when Hunter Pence was drilled by a prospect with a lack of command, causing him to miss the start of the season. For pitchers, the run-up to Opening Day is a tedious one, but Giants officials said they’re not concerned about their co-ace, Cueto, participating. 

“Major League Baseball is doing everything it can to help us protect them in terms of the quantity of players on the roster and pitch counts and innings,” general manager Bobby Evans said. “We feel MLB is working carefully to help all of us manage guys while they’re away from camp. We feel as confident as ever that they’ll be protected. Lessons have been learned, and everyone involved will try to find ways to avoid issues.”

If Crawford commits to playing, he could find himself in a fun spot. Nolan Arenado has already said he will play for the United States and the two National League West stars could form one hell of a defensive duo on the left side of the infield. Posey will start for a team that already has Max Scherzer and Chris Archer as part of the starting staff. Evans said the teams will carry three catchers, and Posey isn’t expected to be overworked. His manager said he’s not worried about the decision. Posey will simply have to start his preparation process a bit sooner.

“I’m fine with it,” Bruce Bochy said of Posey playing. “Buster wants to do it and I’m good with it.”

This will be the fourth edition of the WBC. In 2013, the Giants were represented by Ryan Vogelsong, Jeremy Affeldt, Sergio Romo, Angel Pagan, Santiago Casilla, Marco Scutaro, Pablo Sandoval and Jose Mijares. 

Bochy: Game 4 loss to Cubs toughest I've ever had to bounce back from

Bochy: Game 4 loss to Cubs toughest I've ever had to bounce back from

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Bruce Bochy had grown accustomed to being in the October spotlight during even years, so he had a hard time getting on board as a spectator during one of the most exciting postseasons in recent memory. 

Bochy’s Giants blew a three-run lead in their final game of the season, a loss so devastating that several players headed home the next day without even packing up their lockers. Two months later, Bochy is all smiles. He likes his team, and on Monday he got the closer he needed back in Game 4 of the NLDS. 

Bochy sat down with CSN Bay Area on Tuesday for a one-on-one interview about Mark Melancon, left field, that postseason loss, his new coaches and much more. It will air tonight on SportsTalk Live at 5 p.m. and we’ll run the whole thing back as a podcast. But for now, here are Bochy’s thoughts on the loss that ended his even-year run: 

“I had a hard time, I’m not going to lie. In all my years, that’s the toughest game I’ve ever had to bounce back off of,” he said. “It took a while. It was hard to watch that first postseason game but gradually it got a little better. Just the way we went out, that’s a tough way to go. Our bullpen has been such a big reason for our success so to go out that way, it really wasn’t just that game — it was the second half — we just had a hard time trying to get it figured out. 

“You know, you’ve got to put it behind you, but I’m not going to lie, that was a pretty big blow to the chin. It took a while to get over it.” 

The Giants led the Cubs 5-2 when Bochy made the decision to pull Matt Moore after eight brilliant innings and 120 pitches. That night, Moore and Bochy and everyone else involved said that there was a consensus that Moore had reached the end of the line. Two months later, Bochy doesn’t regret the move. Moore’s 120 pitches went down as the postseason high. 

“I think you can always look back, but these cards have backs on them,” Bochy said. “I felt good about protecting Moore. If he goes back out there he’s probably looking at 135 or maybe more pitches or you’ve got to bring a reliever in with men on base. I felt with the three-run lead that the guys I had could get three outs.” 

Derek Law was the first man out of the bullpen and he gave up a single that was inches from Brandon Crawford’s glove. Javier Lopez walked Anthony Rizzo. Sergio Romo entered and gave up a double to Ben Zobrist. Will Smith gave up a single to pinch-hitter Willson Contreras. After an error, Hunter Strickland gave up a single to Javier Baez. The Cubs won 6-5 and went on to win the World Series. 

“We knew we could get the matchups that we wanted,” Bochy said on Tuesday. “It started out with Law and he got the ground ball right in the shift. The walk hurt. We got behind Rizzo and ended up walking him and Romo ended up getting behind Zobrist and that hurt, the double. And then we had Smitty. I was comfortable and sure they put in the right-handed bat, but the tying run was on second and I didn’t want a left-handed bat up there to pull the ball. He hits a ball that Smitty doesn’t quite get to, a seeing-eye base hit, and unlike us, we made a costly error. There was another, I felt, like a cheap hit there.

“But these are moments you relive. The good ones, but the bad ones stay with you too sometimes.”