Scutaro playing hurt, Lincecum likely in Game 4

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Scutaro playing hurt, Lincecum likely in Game 4

Programming note: Tune in to Giants October Quest, today at noon leading up to the first pitch of Game 3, and tune in again following the final out for highlights and interviews from St. Louis, only on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area!

ST. LOUIS -- The first pitch of Game 3 remains an iffy proposition to be lobbed on time, even if the horizontal rain hasn't arrived by the 1:07 (PDT) scheduled start.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he and Cardinals manager Mike Matheny were in agreement: They don't want to start a game only to take cover after an inning or two, knocking out both Matt Cain and Kyle Lohse and turning this NLCS into a long-relief baton handoff. In fact, Bochy said he'd be surprised if the game started on time.

As the skies darkened over Busch Stadium, this much was clear: Bochy would not use the Merkin Valdez maneuver.

When the game starts, Cain will be on the mound. Bochy wouldn't try to outsmart the weather and start a relief pitcher, as he did a few years ago when a storm was approaching Dodger Stadium and Valdez started in place of Tim Lincecum.

(The Giants did win that day, but Bochy outsmarted himself. Valdez absolutely dealt in two quick innings, so Lincecum took the mound in the third -- and then the heavy rain arrived. The Giants brought back Lincecum after a long delay; then-Dodgers manager Joe Torre, who used the same gambit only to end up putting Chad Billingsley in the game, did not choose to heat up his starter again.)

There is a sense of urgency to get this game in, though. If the series is delayed and Saturday's travel day is wiped out, then the Giants wouldn't have the option to bring back a fully rested Cain to pitch a potential Game 7. The same would be true for the Cardinals and Kyle Lohse, who has been their best starting pitcher this season.

Bochy is not a fan of using pitchers on short rest -- and he confirmed he wouldn't ask that of Ryan Vogelsong for a possible Game 5 assignment. (Vogelsong is lined up for Game 6.)

Even though the Giants remain officially TBA for games 4 and 5, the pencil plan is for Tim Lincecum to take the ball Thursday as long as he isn't needed for emergency relief in Game 3.

Game 5 is a choice between Madison Bumgarner and Barry Zito, and as Bochy said about Bumgarner, "I don't think I'm concerned to the point where we don't play on using him. I'm not as concerned as you may think, because he's healthy. There's nothing going on with the arm. He's a big, strong guy. He's pressing more than anything and we've got to get his confidence back."

You can bank on this: There's no way the Giants would start both Bumgarner AND Zito in the remaining four games. The Cardinals posted the best batting average against left-handed pitching among NL teams. The Giants want to limit the Cards' exposure to lefties as much as possible.

Bumgarner and Zito both threw side session on Tuesday, so both are almost certainly unavailable to be used in relief in Game 3, Bochy said.

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Marco Scutaro didn't look like Brandon Phillips at second base while taking grounders, but his lack of mobility wasn't concerning enough for Bochy to scratch him from the lineup.

Scutaro said he hadn't spoken Wednesday with Matt Holliday, whose controversial takeout slide sent the veteran infielder to the MRI chamber Monday night.

Scutaro told me his hip felt much better with another day of rest, but his left knee soreness was about the same.

Bochy was 80 percent sure Scutaro would start when the team boarded their flight Tuesday morning; he upgraded the Chance of Scutaro to 100 percent after watching Tuesday's workout.

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Giants first base coach Roberto Kelly said he still had a couple of last-minute tests to pass before he'd be cleared to return to the coaches' box, but it hadn't been ruled out for Game 3. Hitting assistant Joe Lefebvre coached first base the previous two games after Kelly was struck on the head by a line drive in batting practice Saturday.

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A shirtless Brian Wilson ducked his bearded head into Bochy's office during his session with the beat reporters and made a declaration.

"Activate me," Wilson said. "First toss Friday, big league game. Write it."

Friday marks the six-month mark from Wilson's reconstructive elbow surgery. He'll be cleared to start tossing on that day. He offered advice on how reporters should cover it.

"Make me a left-hander," he said. "Spice it up."

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The Toronto Blue Jays claimed Scott Cousins off waivers. Wonder if the Maple Leafs will add him to their goon squad, too.

With Bumgarner sidelined, Blach 'taking full advantage' of opportunity

With Bumgarner sidelined, Blach 'taking full advantage' of opportunity

SAN FRANCISCO -- At some point over the next four days, Madison Bumgarner will pick up a baseball, stand a few feet across from a member of the training staff, and simply play catch. It'll be a huge step in Bumgarner's rehab, and should it go well, a boost to the psyche of a struggling team.

In the meantime, another lefty is making sure the Giants don't suffer too much without their ace, as improbable as that first seemed.

Ty Blach took a shutout into the eighth Saturday night and in true Bumgarner fashion, he added a pair of hits and an RBI. The Giants beat the Braves 6-3. They've won Blach's past three starts, and even with a 10-run outing in Cincinnati mixed in, he has a 3.71 ERA since taking the spot left open by a dirt bike accident.

"Because of what happened he's in the rotation," manager Bruce Bochy said, "And he's taking full advantage."

Blach has shown that long term, he might be a big part of this rotation. It's been years since the Giants locked a young, cost-controlled starter in, and Blach has backed up his big cameo last year. It's possible -- likely even -- that at some point the Giants will need to trade a veteran, perhaps Johnny Cueto, for young bats. Blach provides needed insurance. 

Short term, he's providing a huge boost to a team that doesn't have much going right. Blach has thrown at least seven innings in his past four starts. He has allowed just eight earned runs in four starts since the one in Cincinnati, throwing 28 2/3 innings. 

"I feel good," Blach said. "I've always been a starter, so it's been a pretty easy transition to make. I feel comfortable."

The Giants are comfortable behind him, as evidenced by a half-dozen strong defensive plays Saturday. 

"He's been consistent and he works quickly," first baseman Brandon Belt said. "He's just a great guy to play behind."

Blach even joined in at the plate. He had an RBI single in his first at-bat -- his first big league hit off Not Clayton Kershaw -- and later roped another single. Blach even showed off his wheels, busting it from first to third on Denard Span's ball to the corner before Phil Nevin held him up. 

"I worked into some good counts and I was able to get fastballs," Blach said of his night at the plate. "It's definitely a big confidence booster when your spot comes up and you're able to drive in runs."

The night was straight out of Bumgarner's playbook, and it was needed. The Giants had dropped five of six, but Blach was backed by homers from Nick Hundley and Brandon Belt. It got a little hairy late, but the bullpen held on, clinching Blach's third win of the season. He looks poised for many more, and Bochy is happy to keep running him out there.

"I'm not surprised by what he's doing," the manager said.

 

Instant Analysis: Blach does it all vs Braves, Giants snap skid

Instant Analysis: Blach does it all vs Braves, Giants snap skid

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — This spot in the rotation is the one reserved for the stopper, the pitcher who takes a game by the throat when his team really needs it. 

Ty Blach took the mound Saturday for a team that had lost five of six, and just as Madison Bumgarner often has, Blach ended the skid. The young lefty was dominant into the eighth and the bats finally provided enough support. The Giants won 6-3, tying this weekend series with the Braves.

Here are five things to know from a night we were reminded that Emilio Bonifacio is in the big leagues … 

--- Blach pitched 7 2/3 innings. He has thrown at least seven innings in his last four starts, and five of seven starts overall. Jeff Samardzija (6) is the only Giants starter who has gone that deep more often. Blach is tied with Johnny Cueto for second-most seven-inning starts on staff, and Cueto has made three additional starts. 

--- Blach’s RBI single in the fourth was -- at the time -- the fourth hit of his career, and the first against a pitcher not named Clayton Kershaw. The ball had an exit velocity of 101 mph. Blach tried to score from first on Denard Span’s double, but Phil Nevin held him. Still, the way he was moving, it makes you wonder if Samardzija really is Bruce Bochy’s best pitcher-pinch-running option. In the seventh, Blach picked up a second single. 

--- Blach’s only bad start has been the one he made in Cincinnati, where the Giants played like a Double-A team. If you take that one out, Blach has a 2.21 ERA since taking over Bumgarner’s rotation spot. 

--- Even though he gave up just two earned in 7 2/3, Blach’s home ERA actually went up. It’s 1.75, which ranks seventh in the National League. The sellout crowd gave Blach a standing ovation when he was pulled in the eighth. 

--- Blach had a season-high five strikeouts. When he got Nick Markakis to end the first, Blach ended a streak of 37 left-handers faced without a strikeout. He later struck out another lefty, Matt Adams. The new Braves first baseman came up as the tying run in the eighth but Derek Law got him to ground out to first. 

--- Bonus sixth “thing to know” ... on Blach of course: His first name is Tyson, not Tyler. It’s Tyson Michael Blach.