Vogelsong, Scutaro see Giants through to Game 7


Vogelsong, Scutaro see Giants through to Game 7


SAN FRANCISCO Major LeagueBaseball players dont always mix well with philosophical questions.

The season is too long, toodemanding. The next game and the next days starting pitcher is a constantpreoccupation. There is no time to pick up your head, to wonder about thebroader context, to place any grand meaning on a summers labor.

But cheating death does somethingto a fellow. Its a lot easier to consider what it all means when your lifekeeps flashing before your eyes.

And so, after the Giants 6-1victory in Game 6 of the NLCS, making them the first band of big-leaguebelievers in 27 years to win five elimination games in a single postseason, wegive you Hunter Pence:

Do I believe in clutch? he said,narrowing his intense eyes as if trying to stare down the abstraction. I dontknow. But I believe in adversity. And I believe thats when you find out whatyoure made of.

Strong stuff, it would seem particularly from Ryan Vogelsong, who might need to find a new chip to place onhis shoulder after making believers of a baseball nation this postseason. Andparticularly for Marco Scutaro, the embodiment of a team knocked down but notout.

Vogelsong hopped so many continentsand twice received Triple-A walking papers before reaching this moment. He dominated the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 6 with atwo-seam fastball that conjured visions of Greg Maddux, with a little morepower and just as much movement.

Scutaro was traded twice before heever reached the big leagues, was claimed off waivers twice more and the Colorado Rockies even paid a quarter of the 2 million left on his dealwhen they dealt him to the Giants in July.

All hes done is go 9 for 19 sincethe Cardinals Matt Holliday knocked him off second base and into the MRIchamber with his controversial slide in Game 2. His two-run double brought downthe house, scoring Vogelsong all the way from first base and helping to turnthe NL pennant into a winner-take-all affair.
RATTO: Giants continue to dispel myths

Vogelsong and Scutaro sat next toeach other in a postgame interview session the 35-year-old pitcher and the36-year-old contact man, both 27 outs away from their first World Series.

I think a lot of the nation is finally getting to see thekind of player that Marco is because of this postseason, Vogelsong said. Butthe things hes doing are not a surprise to anybody on this club. I was nothappy in the offseason when I saw Marco was going to Colorado and going to bein our division, because you know hes going to put a professional at-bat onyou. Hes going to battle you. And hes one of the best clutch hitters Iveever seen.

He might not remember this, but I faced Marco in winterball in 2004. And hes still the same guy.

I was, like, 21 years old, right? Scutaro said.

Me too, nodded Vogelsong, knowingly.

So many talented 21-year-olds come up withthe same vision: The world cannot give them what they want fast enough. Theyhave more energy than the next guy. They have more talent than the next guy.Theyll move to the front of the line.

Vogelsong and Scutaro know itdoesnt work that way. You aren't guaranteed anything, and you certainly aren't going to get it in the snap of your fingers. Thatswhy Vogelsong had to respond with a weary grin when asked if hard work was thekey to his success this postseason.

I worked like that when I wasnt pitching very well,either, in Pittsburgh and Japan, he said. Its just how Ive been. My dadraised me that way. When I came into the game, everybody kind of said, Dontlet that be the reason why you dont succeed.

What succeeded for Vogelsong inthree postseason starts is a two-seam fastball that crackled like BenFranklins kite. He threw fastballs on 28 of his first 31 pitches, and theCardinals put exactly one of them into play.

He threw it over the plate and letit run onto the hands of right-handed hitters. He threw it off the plate andlet it snap back over the edge for freezing strikes. He used it inside againstlefties, too helping him set up changeups away that overwhelmed even CarlosBeltran.

Its often said the changeup isthe best pitch in baseball. With all due respect to Pedro Martinez, there is nothingthat will break bats, induce soft contact, set up secondary pitches and stealstrikes and roar through a lineup like a powerful, running two-seamer.

Ive always thrown it, Vogelsong said. Its just really,really good right now. Its one of those pitches, some days its harder thanothers. Some days its bigger than others.

And some days its more of a bastard than others.

During his seven-start aberration in late August andSeptember, the two-seamer wasnt there for him.

No, it wasnt, Vogelsong said. And that was moremechanical. If you pull off it, it wont do the same thing. Its having theright direction, like we were talking about before.

These Giants are all about direction straight through onefiery hoop after another. And it isnt just Pence who is getting them into afrenzy as they prepare to take the field.

Marco actually said something good, Vogelsong said. Itwas, Concentrate and win every pitch, win every swing, win every inning. Ithink we just go with that. And its been worth it for us.

Said Scutaro: Im just happy to be here in this situation.Its been fun the last couple days watching these guys pitch and playing behindthem. Tomorrow is Game 7. It doesnt get any better than that.

Were 27 outs way from being in the World Series. And that, for me, ispriceless.

The Giants were just in the WorldSeries two years ago, so its easy to forget that so many among this currentgroup mostly on the position side are playing to reach the Fall Classic forthe first time. Pence is one, of course. Angel Pagan is another. Gregor Blanco,Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt are playing in the postseason for the firsttime.

But to a man, the Giants keepsaying they are hell-bent on winning for the guy lockering next to them. Andimpractical as the thought might be, it sure seems like everyone is lockeringnext to Scutaro and Vogelsong.

We would love to make that memory for Marco because hesthe ultimate teammate and such a good person who puts so much into the game andplays it the right way, Pence said. And Vogelsong, I mean WHOO!

Whoo, indeed. Sometimes, when asked a philosophicalquestion, theres no more appropriate answer.

As Arroyo is shut down, Sandoval's numbers nosedive


As Arroyo is shut down, Sandoval's numbers nosedive

SAN FRANCISCO — There is a Houston Astros prospect named Dean Deetz, and in a way, Pablo Sandoval can thank him for his second shot with the Giants. 

Deetz drilled Christian Arroyo on July 1, halting the young third baseman’s bid to return to the Giants for the final two months. With Eduardo Nuñez traded to Boston and Arroyo recovering from minor hand surgery, the Giants turned to Sandoval, who has been a fixture in the middle of their lineup the last couple of weeks. Arroyo hoped to get some time at the hot corner in September, but on Thursday the Giants conceded that won’t happen. 

Arroyo will miss the rest of the regular season, team officials said. The hope is that he can get healthy in time for the Arizona Fall League and then potentially make up lost at-bats in a winter league.

Arroyo is either the organization’s best or second-best hitting prospect, depending on which list you look at. He hit .396 in Triple-A this season and then provided a momentary jolt after he forced his way into the big league lineup. Then the slump came, and overall Arroyo hit just .192 in 34 big league games. He was sent back to the minors and promptly was hit by a couple of pitches. 

It was a season with plenty of highs but a disappointing ending, but Arroyo is still just 22 and looks to be a big part of the future. Has he done enough to go into next spring with a firm grip on a job? 

“I’ll have to answer that later on and see where we’re at,” manager Bruce Bochy said Thursday. “It’s all going to be competitive, that’s the way I look at it. You look at where we’ll finish, and not in the postseason, and you have to stay open-minded on everything.”

This could be setting up for a pretty intriguing spring battle. Arroyo and 23-year-old Ryder Jones were the internal candidates set for a competition, but Sandoval likely will be the everyday third baseman down the stretch. He has shown flashes of his old pre-Boston self and the Giants have been generally pleased with his play. Still, the results aren’t really there. 

Sandoval is hitting .200 since returning, with a .220 on-base percentage and .325 slugging percentage. That's good for a .545 OPS, which is nearly 100 points below his OPS in Boston this season. The Red Sox, at some point, had seen enough.  

Bochy said he has taken positives away from Sandoval's energy and some of his bigger moments, particularly the upper-deck homer he hit off Max Scherzer over the weekend. That’s his only homer with the Giants so far, but it made an impression. 

“He’s got the bat speed,” Bochy said. “That’s one of the longest homers we’ve seen this year. That shows (the bat speed) is there.”

Jones has been a fixture as well, playing first base in place of Brandon Belt. He has looked much better the second time around, but his average is still below .200 and his OPS of .559 is just about equal to Sandoval's. The Giants have not seen enough from anyone to have a favorite to play third base next season, and Bochy said the same holds true at other positions. 

"We've got to stay open-minded about who is going to be where next year (and) playing time," he said. "It's up to us to adjust and get better."

Pence chases Span home in win over Phillies: 'That's Hunter being Hunter'

Pence chases Span home in win over Phillies: 'That's Hunter being Hunter'

SAN FRANCISCO — Denard Span has played enough center field at AT&T Park that he knew not to assume anything when Jarrett Parker crushed a ball to dead center. Span, standing on second, held up for a second to make sure the ball got over Nick Williams. Hunter Pence, standing on first, had a better view, and he took off with the crack of the bat. As Pence approached Span, he tried to yell over the crowd. 

“Go!” Pence yelled.

Span didn’t hear him. 

“I just felt him,” he said later, smiling. 

Span raced around third and Pence roared up on his back like the third sprinter in a 4x100 relay trying to hand off a baton. Span crossed first and Pence was inches behind him, stretching the lead to three runs. 

“It’s one of those plays that’s a little weird but it worked out,” Pence said. 

Jeff Samardzija, the pitcher of record in a 5-4 win over the Phillies, said Pence “was on a mission.” Span said simply, “That’s Hunter being Hunter.”

“I knew he was right on my heels,” he said. “I was trying to run as fast as I could. In my defense, he had a running start. It was fun, though, it was fun. I’ve never had anyone chasing me like that on the bases.”

The moment brought some levity to a season that’s been lacking it. Span laughed as he crossed the plate and the dugout was full of smiles and jokes as the two returned. But on a grander scale, it was a reminder of what Pence has been and what the Giants need him to be if they are to recover from this season. Pence is signed for 2018 at a hefty price. The odds are good that he'll be in right field, so it’s been a relief for coaches and team officials to see Pence pick it up in recent weeks. 

Pence had a hit and two walks on Thursday, scoring two runs and driving in another. He is batting .346 in August. 

“He has just been making more consistent contact and staying in the strike zone more,” manager Bruce Bochy said. 

That has led to better results at the plate, and Pence has provided reminders that the physical skills are still there. After going 0-for-AT&T Park in the first half he hit a couple of homers on the last homestand. Statcast’s Sprint Speed shows that Pence is actually running faster at his top speed than in the past couple of years, when he battled injuries. Pence is at 28.2 feet per second this year, a tick up from 28.1 each of the past two seasons. 

“Baseball goes in waves,” he said. “I’ve had some tough stretches, but right now I’m in a stretch where I’m going better and I’m still trying to improve.”

On Thursday, he pushed a teammate to run just a little faster. But perhaps Pence’s good friend deserves some credit for Span’s speed, too. After stealing his fifth base a few days back, Buster Posey started needling Span. The leadoff hitter has three stolen bases in seven games since that point, getting to eight for the year. 

“He was just talking too much trash,” Span said of Posey. 

Span said Posey mentioned their equal stolen base totals two or three times. He didn’t respond because he couldn’t. Now, he has bragging rights again, and he’s enjoying it. 

“Check the tapes,” Span said as reporters started to walk away from his locker. “I think I’ve got a stolen base off of him.”