Vogelsong beats Mariners, matches Cain in one respect

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Vogelsong beats Mariners, matches Cain in one respect

SEATTLE Ryan Vogelsong came out of his ritualistic bloodfever, which he enters in the hours before every start, to say a rare word to ateammate Friday afternoon.

It was Matt Cain.

Yeah, I told him before the game today Im trying to keepup with him, said Vogelsong, who was one of the greatest admirers of Cainsperfect game on Wednesday. Hes not making it easy.

Vogelsong was not perfect in a 4-2 victory over the SeattleMariners. But if there is something more pure than perfection, its overcomingimperfection. And nobody does that better than the Giants 34-year-old successstory.

I actually feel Ive pitched better than I did last yearbecause Im pitching out of jams, said Vogelsong, who faced plenty of earlyturbulence yet took a two-hit shutout into the eighth inning. Not that Ididnt last year, but its even more now. That comes with success andconfidence. You just keep making pitches. Guys make plays for you.

Like I said, Im just trying to keep up with the big man.

In the most important sense, he is. The Giants are 8-0 inCains last eight starts. Theyre 8-0 in Vogelsongs last eight, too.

In case math is not your strong suit ... the Giants are 16-0 in their last 16 games with Cain and Vogelsong on the mound.

Thats incredibly convenient for Tim Lincecum. As theirstruggling two-time Cy Young Award winner takes the mound Saturday, its evenmore well documented that the Giants are 0-8 in his last eight outings.

Imagine how crippling the pressure would be on Lincecum ifnot for Vogelsong and Cain.

Oh, without question, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. AndI think you have to look at Zito, too, with the job hes done. It does take thepressure off. You dont always rely on your No.1 guy to win a ballgame.

Its gonna get better with Timmy. No question. But in themeantime, its about picking each other up. And Vogelsong, its fun to watchhim. I think Buster (Posey) will tell you its fun to catch him, too.

The longball is fun, too. The Giants got two of them, fromPosey and Melky Cabrera, and have hit eight over their last four games. Toparaphrase Bochy and Posey: Hey, they come in bunches.

Vogelsongs quality starts are consistent as well asplentiful. He battled again in the early innings and fought himself to throwstrikes at times. But second baseman Ryan Theriot made a jump throw across hisbody and shortstop Joaquin Arias picked it out of the dirt while sweepingacross the bag, then threw off-balance to complete an impressive double play inthe fourth inning.

If Arias doesnt dig out that ball and keep it from goinginto left field, its likely that a run scores and the Mariners have runners atsecond and third with one out. Instead. Theriot gave Arias a round of applauseas they jogged off the field together.

Vogelsong retired the next nine hitters.

Well, what a play like that does is it makes you pitch tocontact, he said. If guys are going to make plays like that let them hitit.

Vogelsongs ability to grind through starts is what mostimpresses Bochy.

What you like about him, he keeps his composure out there,Bochy said. He continues to grind it out and make pitches.

Bochy would love to be able to say the same thing afterLincecums start in his hometown Saturday.

After Giants' first Coors Field sweep in 15 years, Bochy preaches urgency

After Giants' first Coors Field sweep in 15 years, Bochy preaches urgency

DENVER — Bruce Bochy watched the first two games of this road trip from his home in San Diego and the final three from the top step of the dugout at Coors Field. He did not like what he saw, but at the moment he’s more concerned with what he might hear. 

“What you have to careful of — you can’t let any kind of complacency set in and say, ‘It’s early, we’ll be ok.’ I don’t want to hear that either,” Bochy said. “It’s the old adage that you come out with some sense of urgency. All these games are important. You’ve got to stay away from that attitude, too: ‘We’re not through April yet and have 140-something games left.’ That doesn’t work out.”

Three weeks into the season, nothing is working. The rotation has a 5.02 ERA, the worst in the Majors. The lineup scored 10 runs over a five-game road trip and got shut out twice. The bullpen hasn’t been given many leads with which to make up for the first-week trouble. The defense has been uncharacteristically sloppy. 

It has added up to a 6-13 start, tied for the worst in club history. The Giants have lost six of seven and they’ll head home seven games out of first place. 

“Right now there’s nothing clicking,” Bochy said. “Let’s be honest, this has been a rough start and we’re not very good right now. I’m not saying we’re not very good. We are good, but we’ve got to find a way to come out of this. This was a tough way to end this series. We’ve been through it. I’ve got men out there and that’s when you find a way to get through this. They will.”

Perhaps Monday will bring some fresh blood for the roster. Drew Stubbs appears poised to give the Giants another veteran option should they cut bait with a struggling outfielder. Michael Morse could be an option in left field soon, and if he’s mostly relegated to first, the Giants can put Brandon Belt in the outfield. He looked fine there Sunday while playing both corner spots. 

Those are moves made around the edges of the roster, though. There is no magic bullet coming from the outside, not even Christian Arroyo, who continues to mash at Triple-A. This is a $200 million roster and much of that has been spent on the rotation. Through 13 games, it is the worst in the National League, and the ace was lost to an off-field accident. Sure, the starters have pitched at Chase Field and Coors Field, but on back-to-back days they were dominated by Rockies rookies who make a living here. 

Samardzija could not keep pace with left-hander Kyle Freeland, who sawed off a handful of bats while cruising through seven. Samardzjiza gave up a run early, two more in the fourth on a hanging splitter that was blasted to right, and five in the sixth.

Bochy challenged his starting staff to improve after Saturday’s game. He has not publicly done the same with the lineup, but subtle changes have been made here and there. It is a group that, outside of a couple of players, has lacked energy. Because they don’t hit for power, the Giants are reliant on stringing together rallies. For the fourth time in seven games, the lineup failed to put a runner on base the first time through the order. 

“Even in spring training we had our games where we had trouble getting something going early,” Bochy said. “It’s the fourth or fifth before a hit. Somehow, we’ve got to change that.”

The Giants played Sunday without Jarrett Parker (clavicle) and Denard Span (right shoulder sprain), but for the most part the lineup is healthy. Bochy said he has talked to hitting coach Hensley Meulens about possibly altering pre-game routines, but that seems a cosmetic fix. 

“We’ve talked and we’ve shaken up the lineup, but as you saw today, there’s only so much you can do,” he said. 

Bochy knows there is outside noise regarding the roster. His eyes bulged the other day when asked if Arroyo would get a call-up next week. The Giants do not feel he is quite ready, or that there is a spot for him on the infield. For all the potential bench options waiting at Triple-A, this team's core is set, and it’s not outrageously banged-up compared to the rest of the division. 

The Dodgers, who come into town Monday, have 10 players on the disabled list, including No. 2 starter Rich Hill, second baseman Logan Forsythe, and left fielder Andre Ethier. The Rockies, the best team in the NL West thus far, are off to this start without big offseason acquisition Ian Desmond and young slugger David Dahl. Jon Gray, their opening day starter, went on the DL after facing the Giants in San Francisco. Chad Bettis, a rotation member, is getting treatment for testicular cancer. 

This division is better than expected, and as the end of April approaches, the Giants are bringing up the rear. Bochy’s plea for urgency was one that would have fit right in with last season’s second half. Back then, the Giants could at least lean on a huge start that got them into the postseason. As they flew home Sunday, there was nothing to fall back on but a simple truth.

This is the team. It must play better.

“We have everything we need in this room,” Samardzija said. “Sometimes you need to go out on the field and prove it.”

 

Instant Replay: Giants' struggles continue in sweep from Rockies

Instant Replay: Giants' struggles continue in sweep from Rockies

BOX SCORE

DENVER — Bruce Bochy spent about 10 minutes before Sunday’s game talking about potential options in left field and center. The problems for this lineup, however, currently go much deeper than the outfield. 

A day after the Giants managed just four hits off Antonio Senzatela, the bats went completely limp against fellow Rockies rookie Kyle Freeland. The Giants were shut out 8-0, a rarity at Coors Field. They were blanked twice on the road trip and scored just 10 runs during a five-game swing through Kansas City and Denver. 

The sweep at Coors Field was the Giants' first since 2002. At 6-13, they have the worst record in the National League.

For the fourth time in seven games, and third time on this five-game road trip, the Giants went one time through the order without a baserunner. That puts added pressure on your starter, and Jeff Samardzija couldn’t keep it close. Charlie Blackmon hit a leadoff liner to right that was misplayed into a triple and he scored on a sacrifice fly. Gerardo Parra got a spinner down in the zone in the fourth and blasted a two-run shot to right. 

As they did Saturday night, the Rockies pulled away with a huge rally. Nolan Arenado’s infield single and a walk of Carlos Gonzalez set the table in the sixth. Gerardo Parra lined a single to center and all runners advanced when Gorkys Hernandez kicked it. Trevor Story’s single to right was bobbled by Hunter Pence and two more scored. Blackmon’s double made it 8-0.

Starting pitching report: Samardzija was charged with seven earned in 5 1/3 innings. He has a 7.40 ERA through four starts. The starting staff has a 5.02 ERA, the worst in the majors. That won’t play, not when you’ve spent most of your resources the last two years on starters. 

Bullpen report: Hunter Strickland's Mullet had a scoreless debut. 

At the plate: Nope. 

In the field: Brandon Belt’s first start in left this season was rather uneventful. He caught a liner right at him in the first and came up inches short on a diving attempt in foul territory. Belt moved to right in the seventh inning. He had one previous inning there in the big leagues but he actually prefers right because it’s the same angle as his normal position. Belt gloved a liner right at him in the eighth. 

Attendance: The Rockies announced a crowd of 42,011 human beings and one donkey, who was a menace. 

Up next: The first look at the Dodgers. The Giants will see Hyun-Jin Ryu, Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood and likely Julio Urias in the four-game series.