Vogelsong, Scutaro see Giants through to Game 7

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Vogelsong, Scutaro see Giants through to Game 7

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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.

Giants lineup: Morse gets first start, Posey out vs Padres

Giants lineup: Morse gets first start, Posey out vs Padres

Programming note: Padres-Giants coverage starts today at 6:00pm with Giants Pregame Live on NBC Sports Bay Area, and streaming live right here.

Andy Green and Bruce Bochy issued their lineups for today's series opener at AT&T Park:

Padres (9-15)

1. Manuel Margot (R) CF
2. Erick Aybar (S) SS
3. Wil Myers (R) 1B
4. Yangervis Solarte (S) 2B
5. Ryan Schimpf (L) 3B
6. Cory Spangenberg (L) LF
7. Austin Hedges (R) C
8. Jabari Blash (R) RF
9. Luis Perdomo (R) P

Giants (8-15) 

1. Joe Panik (L) 2B
2. Brandon Belt (L) LF
3. Hunter Pence (R) RF
4. Michael Morse (R) 1B
5. Christian Arroyo (R) SS
6. Conor Gillaspie (L) 3B
7. Nick Hundley (R) C
8. Drew Stubbs (R) CF
9. Jeff Samardzija (R) P

Down on the Farm: Q&A with San Jose Giants 1B/3B Jonah Arenado

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San Jose Giants/Tim Cattera

Down on the Farm: Q&A with San Jose Giants 1B/3B Jonah Arenado

The Giants know Rockies star third baseman Nolan Arenado all too well. In 76 games, Arenado has a .308 batting average against the Giants with 20 home runs, his most off any team in all of the majors. 

Playing in Advanced Single-A, the Giants have their own Arenado. Brother Jonah Arenado plays first and third base for the San Jose Giants and hit 19 home runs in 2016. 

Before the younger brother went 2-for-4 against the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes on Thursday night, NBC Sports Bay Area spoke over the phone with Arenado. Below is the full transcript where we talk his hitting approach, frustrations with the Lakers, trash talk with Nolan in ping pong and much more. 

Dalton Johnson: “You guys are now three weeks in, but I want to actually go back to Opening Day real quick. I know you guys ultimately lost, but it was a 16-inning game. Was that the longest game you’ve ever played in?” 

Jonah Arenado: “No, the longest game I ever played in was 17 innings.” 

DJ: “Really?! Wow! When was that?” 

JA: “I played 17 innings in Lakewood. I was playing for Augusta at the time. We were playing in New Jersey. So we went 17 innings, but we didn’t even get to finish the game. The fog got so extreme that we had to just cancel the game.” 

DJ: “The fog? That’s just crazy. So you were out in Augusta for the GreenJackets?” 

JA: “Yeah.”

DJ: “I was actually out in Savannah for college ball. I’m not sure if you guys ever played against the Sand Gnats.”

JA: “Yeah we were there the last year they had that stadium.” 

DJ: “Grayson Stadium. That was a really fun park. But a 16 or 17-inning game, I’m going to guess that the dugout has to get a little weird at some point, right?” 

JA: “Yeah you're just getting like... it gets kind of monotonous you know. It’s kind of like okay, when are we gonna score or when are they gonna score. And obviously you don’t want to lose the game, but you just want something to happen.” 

DJ: “What are you guys bringing out the rally caps or doing anything different?” 

JA: “No, no rally caps, but there’s times where a couple innings go by and someone will come into the dugout and try get jacked up or excite everyone. When it doesn’t work, it’s like alright here we go again.” 

DJ: “Off the field, I think you’re a Southern California guy and this is your second year out in Northern California in San Jose. Obviously you guys are always busy, but do you ever get to go out and check the Bay Area scenery at all?”

JA: “I’ve been to Santa Cruz and the beach over there. I’ve been to San Francisco. I went to San Francisco on an off day last year to watch the Giants-Rockies game. But besides that, no I rarely ever get to go out to San Francisco or anything like that.” 

DJ: “Off day, or you a golf guy or more of a relax guy? What are you trying to do on an off day?” 

JA: “I’m just trying to relax. Maybe hang out by the pool, just relax and hang out. Go to the beach. And if you do get to relax, I’m not trying to do anything that’s like a workout.” 

DJ: “Are there any places in San Jose where if someone’s coming from out town, you say, ‘Hey, this is where you need to go.’ San Jose, where would you go for one day?”

JA: “Oh, San Jose...” 

DJ: “Just go to a game? Tell them to go to a San Jose Giants game?” 

JA: “Yeah, yeah go to a San Jose Giants game and if not, Santa Cruz is 30 minutes down the road. I’d go to Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is nice.” 

DJ: “And then on the field, you’re someone who hits for power. You hit 19 bombs last year. With the way different people are starting to look at the swing now, are you someone that’s actually trying to swing for the fences a little bit? Are you trying to hit a home run? What’s your approach?”

JA: “No, I feel like the more I try to hit a home run, the more I don’t. When I go in thinking line drive to the middle or stay through the middle, I feel a lot better. I know last year I didn’t start off well, and I’m not starting off well this year either, but I know if I think like I have to drive this ball or I have to hit a home run then that never happens. Try to stay simple, try to stay short is usually when things start working out.” 

DJ: “Well there’s all these different advanced analytics and you can track everything now. Are you someone that actually looks into something like launch angle or exit velocity? Or is it more see ball, hit ball?” 

JA: “I don’t like thinking about those 40-degree angles. Hitting is hard enough. To think about all that stuff is too much. But I know that a lot of people, that’s the new thing. Launch angle and try to lift the ball, and that’s all great. It’s whatever works for that person. I know Donaldson preaches it and he loves talking about it, but that’s him. That’s what works for him. I know for me, trying to lift the ball doesn’t work. When I try to lift the ball, I usually pop up. So when I’m trying to hit a hard line drive, that’s when I usually can drive that ball.” 

DJ: “Yeah it seems like when you’re practicing, you’re on the tee or getting front toss or whatever, that’s when you can kind of work on those things. But I couldn’t really imagine taking that over to the game. Once it’s game time, it’s get a pitch, be aggressive, hit it hard. Are you just trying to make things, like you said, as simple as possible once it’s go time?” 

JA: “Yeah, when I’m in the game I’m just trying to be as ready as I can for that fastball. Just see it and hit it. There’s nothing more to it, honestly. Obviously, when you’re struggling you start trying to fix things. When I’m going well, it’s never thinking about what this guy is gonna throw or make sure your foot is doing this. No, I never think about that. I think about see the ball and hit it as hard as I can.” 

DJ: “In the minor leagues, are these tracking systems as prominent or is that more available the higher you go?” 

JA: “I think it’s more available for the big leaguers. It’s hard to watch our swings on video because sometimes our games aren’t taped. We watch our home games because they are streamed, but besides that it’s hard to get all that stuff done.” 

DJ: “Can that almost be an advantage at the same time though? When you’re younger I think if you look too far into then you might press or try to do too much. If you’re just figuring things out on your own, that might even be a little better. Am I right or wrong there?” 

JA: “I think you’re both wrong and right. There’s times when you think too much and sometimes you think it’s your swing and it’s really not your swing, it’s your approach. I think that’s when it can hurt you. When you’re looking at it on video, but that was never really the problem, so then you’re changing a swing that was actually working, but your approach was what’s messed up so now you’re changing your swing and your approach. So that can hurt you. But it can also help you because if there is something mechanically wrong, you can fix it. If you can’t watch it, then how are you gonna know? When you’re in the box, you feel completely different. You never feel like that’s your swing. When you’re in the box, everything is different. When you see it on film, you see I’m dropping my hands, but in the box I’m telling myself to stay on top of the ball so you don’t think you’re dropping your hands, but you’re still dropping your hands, you know what I mean?” 

DJ: “It’s almost like a best of two evils.” 

JA: “Yeah, yeah.” 

DJ: “Back on the field, clearly you’re obviously from a very athletic family. For you, was it just baseball all the time?” 

JA: “My older brother played soccer, my oldest brother played basketball too and Nolan just played baseball. He played soccer for a little, but then went with just baseball. For me, I played basketball also. Basketball is my favorite sport.” 

DJ: “Oh, really?” 

JA: “Yeah, it was. Basketball is just so much fun. You go out and shoot down the street by your house and technically that’s practicing, you know what I mean?” 

DJ: “Oh yeah. Baseball obviously you can go hit off the tee, but basketball, I mean I shot for 20 minutes at the gym today and you feel great.” 

JA: “Yeah, you can work on so many different things. If you’re hitting like crap that day, then it’s really hard to fix it that day. Basketball, if you’re shooting and keep shooting, eventually it’s going to go in.” 

DJ: “So, who’s your team?” 

JA: “Oh, the Lakers. Unfortunately, yeah.” 

DJ: “Are you feeling good about the rebuild or how are you feeling about all that?” 

JA: “I don’t know, man. Magic Johnson’s in there, so I hope he’s the answer. But they need to get a superstar. The Lakers are my team, they have always been my team, but the players on the team are bothering me lately.” 

DJ: “I’m sure you and your brother Nolan and all of your brothers competed against each other all the time growing up. Whether it be shooting hoops or playing video games or anything else, what was the one thing, especially with Nolan, where you knew you could beat him no matter what?” 

JA: “Oh man, that’s tough. It’s really hard to beat him. Him losing to me is like death, but he’ll do anything he can to not lose to me because he knows if I win I’ll talk. I’ll just keep talking about it. It’s hard to say. There’s days in ping pong, I’m not gonna say I’m a better ping pong player, but we’re both pretty competitive. If I beat him in ping pong, I mean, it’s over. He’s distraught and then he’ll just want to rematch me until he can beat me.” 

DJ: “If you beat him, you said you’re a talker. What’s your go-to angle when it comes to trash talk?” 

JA: “I just never let him forget it. If I beat him in ping pong that series or that day, you better believe all day I’m gonna wear it out.” 

DJ: “Were you guys video game guys at all or more outside?” 

JA: “We played video games here and there. Mostly it was outdoors. Wiffle ball was always big with me and my family. We still play to this day. We still play wiffle ball all the time.” 

DJ: “Wiffle ball, you’re in the backyard 1-on-1. Who wins between you and Nolan and if you have one pitch, what are you throwing him?” 

JA: “Throwing him? I’m throwing fastball at his face.”

DJ: “Fastball at his face?!?” 

JA: “I’m just kidding, just kidding.” 

DJ: “That might be the only way the Giants can slow him down.” 

JA: “I’ll throw some chin music and then try to throw a little changeup away.” 

DJ: “I got you there, I got you. One last question. Video game wise, if EA Sports could bring back college baseball or college football, what are you picking?” 

JA: “Baseball.” 

DJ: “That was the go-to right there.” 

JA: “I forgot, but there was a college baseball game. I forgot which one it was that we played all the time, but it was one of the best games we ever played.” 

DJ: “I remember they had Texas on the cover or something like that—”

JA: “Exactly! That’s exactly the one.” 

DJ: “They have to bring it back.” 

JA: “That game is the best.”