Sanchez redeems self with game-winning hit

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Sanchez redeems self with game-winning hit

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SAN FRANCISCO -- As he strode to the plate with runners at first and second and none out in the 12th inning, Hector Sanchez stared at Giants third-base coach Tim Flannery, fulling expecting to get the sign to bunt.Instead, Sanchez was given the green light to hit away."I was like, 'Wow,'" Sanchez said in Spanish. "That gave me confidence, you know?"If you didn't know, now you do. As do the Houston Astros. Sanchez's single off second baseman Jose Altuve allowed Pablo Sandoval to score from second base and give the Giants not only a 3-2 victory, but reclaim first place in the National League West by 12 a game over the Los Angeles Dodgers.Of course, Sanchez and his career-high fourth hit of the night -- he said he last had four hits in a game in 2010 for Class A Augusta -- had a back story. One of redemption.It was his throwing error on a potential game-ending strikeout with two out in the ninth inning that allowed the Astros to tie the score at 2-2 when the ball scooted away from Sanchez toward the third-base dugout and deny Tim Lincecum just his second win since April 28."That's a tough play to make anyways," said Lincecum, who had a season-high 11 strikeouts in a season best-tying eight innings. He also lowered his career ERA against the Astros to 0.99 and has received two runs or fewer of support in 12 of his 19 starts this season."It was good to see him come up big there."In fact, Sanchez, who was four-for-six with a run-scoring double in the sixth inning, said he was trying to make that last play to clinch the victory for Lincecum, who he caught for the fifth consecutive start."I was too quick on that play," Sanchez said. "The catcher was running. I went too fast."The play also gave closer Santiago Casilla a blown save -- his fourth blown save in his last six opportunities -- as it was his third strike to Chris Snyder that got away from Sanchez, who slid to retrieve the ball and fired to first, wide and late. An alert Justin Maxwell, meanwhile, kept on running from second to score the tying run."That's a tough way to get a blown save," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy."(But) it is rewarding to see a guy who felt so awful a few innings earlier come through."It was the rookie Sanchez's second walk-off hit of the season, along with the game-ending base hit he had on May 6 in the 11th inning against Milwaukee."It's what we want to do," Sanchez said, "keep winning, keep playing."And, it turns out, keep getting the green light.

Giants spring training day 8: Melancon, Hundley go way back

Giants spring training day 8: Melancon, Hundley go way back

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — A couple of days before he signed a four-year deal, Mark Melancon fired off a midnight text to Nick Hundley. 

“Call me,” Melancon wrote.

When Hundley called, he found out his college teammate had chosen the Giants, ending a free agency process the two spoke about often. Two months later, it was Hundley’s turn to reach out. 

“I asked him if he wanted to play together again,” Hundley said. “He said, ‘You better not be messing with me.’”

The Giants signed just two free agents who are guaranteed of being on the opening day roster. In an odd twist, the new closer and new backup catcher have known each other for over a decade. Hundley was a second-round pick in 2005 out of the University of Arizona. A year later, his college teammate Melancon was a ninth-round pick. The two have stayed close throughout the pro ball journey. They were groomsmen in each other’s weddings and their wives and children hang out together. 

“We always talked about playing together,” Hundley said, adding that the odds were long in a 30-team sport.

The friends have crossed off a good chunk of them. Melancon has played for the Yankees, Astros, Red Sox, Pirates and Nationals. Hundley has played for the Padres, Orioles and Rockies. Finally, the two have hooked on to the same team, and the Giants are excited to have them both. Hundley will be the veteran catcher the team has missed in recent years, and the Giants are hopeful that he’s a pinch-hit threat, too. Melancon, of course, was brought in to fix the glaring problem in the ninth. Hundley is confident he’ll do it.

“I’ve caught him since 2005,” he said smiling, “And he’s always been nasty.”

NEW FACE: It’s hard to take much away from drills, but Orlando Calixte certainly impressed. As the Giants worked out on the field for the first time in three days, I asked GM Bobby Evans what Calixte showed the team’s scouts. “Just his athleticism, his tools, they stand out,” Evans said. They certainly do. Calixte is smooth out there, and he showed quickness at short that might differentiate him from the pack of infield options. 

Calixte has also played second, third and the outfield in the minors, and while the Giants intend on keeping five outfielders, that versatility could come into play. The Giants plucked Calixte from Kansas City’s system and put him on the 40-man roster when it became apparent that other offers were out there. They thought he could provide more versatility than Ehire Adrianza, and it helps that he has an option remaining. Calixte has to beat out a bunch of guys to win a roster spot, but given his glove and his status on the 40-man, it would be a surprise if we don’t see him at some point this season. 

ICYMI: Bruce Bochy said he’ll call Johnny Cueto to talk about his preparation for the World Baseball Classic. 

POSITION BATTLE: Matt Cain, the clear frontrunner for the No. 5 spot, faced hitters on the main field. Bochy liked what he saw. “He’s gotten more time away from that surgery and he’s throwing the ball well,” Bochy said. “Buster said the same thing. It’s coming out good.”

NOTEWORTHY: The Giants are serious about making Trevor Brown a more versatile option. He fielded grounders at short today and also spent plenty of time at second. 

QUOTABLE: “Just a good day. We (the coaches) were talking about how it’s changed a little bit. We’re not even in March yet and guys are letting it go.” — Bochy on the first day of live BP sessions. The pitchers were certainly well ahead of the hitters today. 

Will Cueto be ready for the WBC? 'That’s the question we have to answer'

Will Cueto be ready for the WBC? 'That’s the question we have to answer'

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Jeff Samardzija whirled and fired a strike to Eduardo Nuñez shortly after 11:30 a.m. on Monday. With that, the Giants took another step back toward actual baseball.

Monday was the first day of live batting practice sessions, but the most important one took place thousands of miles east of Scottsdale Stadium. Johnny Cueto faced teenage prospects at the club’s facility in Santo Domingo, and Bruce Bochy said he would call Cueto to check in on his progress. 

The Giants are not concerned that Cueto — who is tending to his ill father — is missing so much of spring training. They know him well enough by now to know that Cueto paces himself and takes care of his body. They are, however, starting to get a little concerned about Cueto missing so much camp and then going straight to the World Baseball Classic. 

“The spring started early so he’s got plenty of time to get ready for (opening day),” manager Bruce Bochy said. “The question will be will he be ready for the WBC. That’s the question we have to answer.”

Bochy said he would like to see Cueto in the 50-60 pitch range before he goes off to compete for the Dominican Republic. The Dominican team opens play March 9 at Marlins Park. 

“We’re going to talk about a lot of things,” Bochy said. “We’ll see where he’s at, see where he’s at mentally, and see how his father is doing.”

Bochy noted that Nolan Ryan used to show up to camp on March 1 and throw 80 mph, working his way up from there. The Giants view Cueto the same way, but at some point there will be a breaking point where the WBC participation becomes a real concern. At the very least, Bochy said, Cueto might be asked to join the DR team later in the tournament.