Sergio Romo: 'Closer...I don't need that title'

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Sergio Romo: 'Closer...I don't need that title'

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH Sergio Romo hears it all the time. He knowsthey always mean well.

They call it from the stands. They rain down sweet tweets.They tell him he should be the Giants closer, and not Santiago Casilla.

Romo heard it even when Casilla was dominating whilerecording 19 of his first 20 save chances. He heard it with greater frequencywhen Casilla hit a six-appearance skid, and blew three of four chances.

With Casilla unavailable because of a blister Friday night,Romo inherited the one-run lead in the ninth inning. He retired three hitters,including the incredible Andrew McCutchen on a ground out to end a badly needed6-5 victory at PNC Park.
RECAP: Giants 6, Pirates 5

Youd better believe Romo will hear it now.

Here is his response:

Closer I dont want that title, he said. I dont needthat title. I just want the opportunity to pitch. Casilla has done a great joball year. He hit a rough patch but who cares? He was our closer. He is ourcloser. So yeah.

Romos status as a fan favorite doesnt just stem from hissuccess on the mound. He exudes joy in everything he does. Most teams have toscour the clubhouse and beg a player to catch the ceremonial first pitch. Romoinsists on volunteering every single day. It could be a celebrity or aninsurance salesman who met his sales quota. Romo gets behind the plate forevery one of them, in full perma-grin.

Ceremonial catcher? Thats the only job he insists onhaving.

Im really fortunate things have gone well and I appreciatethe support and that people back me up, but Im here to get outs, Romo said. Seventh,eighth, ninth is irrelevant. The team needs me every time to be good so I havethat mentality: Do good, and Im fortunate to be put in tough situations.

The Giants had several of them Friday night. In addition to Romos guts and stuff in the ninth, they also needed two crisp innings from Brad Penny, who is becoming a regularcaddy for Barry Zito. They needed George Kontos to step into an eighth-inningrole and protect a one-run lead. They needed to get over the shock of JavierLopez allowing his first home run in three seasons as a Giant.

The Giants bullpen has been scored upon in 11 of the last 15games. Its a strength of the team, but Casilla had blown three saves in hislast four chances and the rest of the unit was having a rough stretch behindhim.

So this was an important game for the Giants bullpen,especially coming off getting swept in three games at Nationals Park.

Weve got some fresh arms and weve got Penny, whos beendoing it for 12 years, said Lopez, whose 457-foot gopherball to Pedro Alvarezearned the status of curiosity piece because of the happy outcome. He bringsconfidence to the pen, and then weve got Kontos who is getting an opportunityto establish himself and hes taken advantage of it. Well be playing a lot oftight ballgames in the second half, so were used to this.

So is Romo, who has a 0.72 ERA and has held opponents to a.129 average. Hes been unscored upon in 58 of 61 outings dating back to lastseason. And dont forget, last year he pitched the equivalent of a perfectgame, plus four more hitters. He retired 31 consecutive hitters over a stretchof 15 appearances.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy is using Romo a little more oftenagainst left-handed hitters this season, but there remains no plans to have thefearless little Frisbee thrower enter the closer role.

The main reasons: Hes way too effective as a right-handedspecialist paired with Lopez, and his slight frame and history of elbowinflammation make it hard for Bochy to use him the way a closer needs to beused, sometimes pitching on a third consecutive day or four out five, etc., assave situations present themselves.

He pitches efficiently, Bochy said. He throws strikes. Hecan pitch to both sides of the plate. You talk about his slider but he can runa pretty good fastball by you at times.

There might comes a day when Romo proves hes durable enoughto get a look in that ninth-inning role. But Bochy isnt going to try it now, especiallywhen Casilla was so good until the last few bumpy outings.

Romo certainly has the stomach for any situation. He didnt backdown when McCutchen stepped in the box.

Everyone with a bat is dangerous, Romo said. I had to gothrough two guys before I got to him. Once he stepped in the box, yeah, thenits me and him. And really, I take pride in being able to get guys like himout. When I do, its really gratifying.

For Romo, and his fans.

Morse, Arroyo stun Dodgers, lift Giants to thrilling comeback win

Morse, Arroyo stun Dodgers, lift Giants to thrilling comeback win

SAN FRANCISCO — This spring, Hunter Pence briefly tried to cut back on his coffee intake. The experiment did not last long for a player who is pure caffeine on and off the field, but even Pence is occasionally in need of more than a large cold brew. 

Pence tried to stay upbeat throughout a sluggish start to the season, but around him was a clubhouse in need of energy. Christian Arroyo walked through the door on Monday. Two days later, Michael Morse arrived.

“That’s quite an energy jolt,” Pence said of Arroyo. “Morse, it’s been an energy jolt as well.”

The two recent River Cats sent a pair of jolts through a stadium that was sold out for the 499th consecutive time. Arroyo hit a two-run homer in the seventh, his first in the big leagues. Morse went deep in the eighth for his first big league hit in two years and first homer as a Giant since the 2014 NLCS. 

Pence is close friends with Morse and and admirer of Arroyo, the 21-year-old who has taken a locker a few feet away. He made sure neither jolt went to waste, hitting a walk-off sacrifice fly in the 10th to give the Giants a thrilling 4-3 win they hope they can build on.

“That was a shot in the arm,” Morse said.

The big slugger was just that earlier Wednesday. Morse agreed to terms on a minor league deal at Pence’s wedding last winter and he was on track for opening day before a hamstring injury. He was so excited by Wednesday’s call back to San Francisco that he beat Bruce Bochy to the park. The manager tried to lower expectations before the game, telling reporters that Morse would not be a regular starter, especially in left, where the Giants have watched a black hole open. 

Morse was here for the late innings, for the moment when Bochy looks at him and says simply, “Get ready, Mo.” For most of Wednesday’s game, it looked like that big moment wouldn’t come. Alex Wood took a no-hitter into the sixth but he was pulled in the seventh by a Dodgers staff trying to protect his arm. Sergio Romo entered and soon faced a kid who was 19 the first time he walked into Romo’s clubhouse. 

“He’s been doing the same thing in the big leagues with good results for a long time,” Arroyo said. 

Arroyo got the slider that’s always coming, low and away, and he drilled it deep to left-center. He hit only three homers last year but Giants management felt the 36 doubles at Richmond showed a developing power bat. The strength has come quickly, and the ball carried into the first row of seats. 

“I looked up and saw the ump waving and I was like, ‘I’ve got to slow down,’” Arroyo said, smiling. “I tried to slow down and take it all in.”

As Arroyo crossed the plate and looked to the sky, his family shared hugs — without spilling a nacho — in a section overlooking the home dugout. The ballpark roared. A 3-0 deficit had been nearly erased. 

“Now it’s a one-run game,” Bochy said. “Anything can happen.”

Even by that standard, Morse’s blast was improbable. This is a player who didn’t have a hit last season before being sent home by the Pittsburgh Pirates. A player who, at 35, was having a poor spring before he announced to a reporter one day that he was going to hit a homer -- and then promptly did. On a rehab assignment over the past week, Morse had a .250 average and no homers, but he insisted to general manager Bobby Evans that his swing was ready. 

Evans believed, and Morse rewarded him with a moment that had everyone in the park throwing it back to 2014. Just as in the deciding game of the NLCS against the Cardinals, Morse was sent up as a pinch-hitter in the eighth. Sidewinding Pat Neshek was replaced by fire-balling Pedro Baez, but the approach was the same. 

“Swing hard,” Morse said. “Just in case you hit it.”

Baez kept pumping fastballs and Morse turned on one at 97 mph. He raised his arm the same way he did three years ago, an inning before Travis Ishikawa’s heroics. 

“I’m not going to lie,” Bochy said. “I was thinking about that game against St. Louis.”

All the Giants were. 

“You kind of just sit there and shake your head a little bit because it was very similar to his last homer here,” Posey said. “Even his excitement out of the box was similar.”

Morse said he didn’t intend to strike the same pose. 

“I was like, ‘I hope I didn’t strike out and I’m just running around the bases,’” he said, laughing. “It was cool, man. Not only for me, but for the team.”

For four innings, the surging bullpen made sure the homers would not be a fun footnote to another loss. Gorkys Hernandez kicked off the winning rally in the 10th with a single. He was pushed along by a stolen base, walk and bunt. Pence stepped in with no outs and engaged in one of the strangest battles of a career full of them. 

Ross Stripling, a starter with a deep repertoire, kept pumping 94 mph fastballs up near Pence’s eyes. Pence swung through one, fouled off five, and took three more for balls. Only one of the pitches he saw was in the strike zone. In the dugout, Posey shook his head in amusement. 

“It was kind of hard not to laugh,” Posey said. “He’s probably the only guy who can do that.”

Some Giants couldn’t hold the laughter in, even in a tense spot.

“He had that ‘Thou shall not walk’ going in that at-bat,” Bochy said. “He probably expanded as much as I’ve ever seen. If he would have walked it would have gone down as one of the more amazing walks with all the balls he swung at.”

On a night full of so much energy, a walk would have been an anticlimactic ending. Pence, who had been expecting a curveball the whole at-bat, lofted a 10th fastball deep enough to left to score Arroyo and send the Giants streaming out of the dugout. 

Arroyo, the youngest of them all, went sprinting across the infield. Morse followed, and soon he had Pence wrapped in a hug. Hours earlier, he had promised that at the very least, he would bring energy to the clubhouse. He delivered more than anyone could have imagined.

“To do that is one of those special moments that can change a season,” Pence said. “It was electric ... Morsey being Morsey.”

Instant Replay: Arroyo, Morse go deep, Giants walk off on Dodgers

Instant Replay: Arroyo, Morse go deep, Giants walk off on Dodgers

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — Michael Morse hoped to bring a little levity to a battered clubhouse Wednesday. On his first day as a Giant since the 2014 World Series, he ended up bringing the most thrilling win of the season. 

Morse’s pinch-hit homer in the eighth shook AT&T Park and tied the game. His good friend Hunter Pence won it with a sacrifice fly in the 10th, giving the Giants a 4-3 win over the Dodgers. 

The 10th-inning rally started with Gorkys Hernandez’s single off Ross Stripling. Hernandez stole second and Conor Gillaspie drew a walk, and both runners were safe when Adrian Gonzalez went to third on Nick Hundley’s bunt. Pence flied out to deep left on the 10th pitch of his at-bat. The Giants had been 0-13 when trailing after seven. Morse  helped change all that.

Morse’s homer came an inning after Christian Arroyo’s first career homer. The newcomers saved a night that started with nothing but failure. 

The Giants entered with four games this month where they failed to put a runner on the first time through the order. Lefty Alex Wood stayed with the theme. Brandon Belt finally touched first with a one-out walk in the fourth but it wasn’t until the sixth that a Giant — Drew Stubbs — picked up a hit.

By that time, the Dodgers led 3-0. Johnny Cueto worked around some early trouble but Corey Seager got to him in the sixth. The young shortstop led off with a mammoth blast on a 3-2 pitch that landed a couple dozen rows up in left-center. The homer was tracked at 462 feet per Statcast, tied for the longest in the Majors this season.

The Dodgers went up 2-0 when Chase Utley blooped a single to left with the bases loaded. Utley was 1-for-31 at the time. Andrew Toles beat out a grounder to bring home a third run. 

The Giants looked dead in the water, but Wood — the Dodgers’ swingman — was pulled after 77 pitches and old friend Sergio Romo immediately opened the door. Buster Posey hit a one-out single and Arroyo lined a slider just over the fence in left-center.

Morse’s first at-bat as a Giant in three years sent an even bigger charge through the park. He got a 97 mph fastball from Pedro Baez with two strikes and blasted it to left. Morse held his arm up right away and screamed as he rounded first.

Starting pitching report: Cueto was charged with three runs on seven hits and two walks. He’ll finish April with a 5.10 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. After holding opposing hitters to a .238 average last year, he’s getting hit at a .271 clip this season. 

Bullpen report: Steven Okert did a great job of settling the place down, throwing a scoreless inning before Arroyo’s homer and retiring two more immediately after. 

At the plate: The 21-year-old Arroyo calmly clapped his hands once as he rounded first. He was pushed out of the dugout for a curtain call as the park roared. Most impressive of all, his mom, Kimberly, didn’t drop a single nacho as she celebrated in the stands.

In the field: Stubbs made a diving catch to open the seventh and Gorkys Hernandez followed with a nifty sliding catch at the wall.

Attendance: The Giants announced a crowd of 41,572 human beings. Thursday will be the 500th consecutive (announced) sellout.

Up next: Matt Moore (1-3, 5.87 ERA) will try to turn his month around. The Dodgers will trot out young lefty Julio Urias, who spent three weeks in the minors to control his innings count.