Who needs home runs when you have triples?


Who needs home runs when you have triples?

PHOENIX Barring a fairly seismic collapse andor an unanticipated power surge, the Giants are on the verge of accomplishing something unprecedented in the live-ball era.

They would become just the fifth team in the last 78 years to reach the postseason despite hitting the fewest home runs in the major leagues.

The 1987 St. Louis Cardinals were the last team to do it. Whitey Herzogs 82 Cardinals, too. Then you have the 1965 Los Angeles Dodgers and the 1959 White Sox.

And thats it. After the Go-Go Sox, you have to go back to the 1924 Washington Senators -- and thats when the ball was deader than dead.

So what makes these Giants unprecedented, you say? Well, those other four teams led their league in stolen bases. By a wide margin, too. The current Giants, by comparison, have stolen just six bases above the NL average.

The Giants do not have Vince Coleman, who swiped 109 bases in 87, or Lonnie Smith, who stole 68 in 82. They do not have Maury Wills, who led the majors with 94 steals while scratching out all the runs Koufax and Drysdale would need. Luis Aparicio also led the majors with 59 steals in 59, when he and Nellie Fox legged the Go-Go theme all the way from the South Side to the World Series.

So how are the Giants doing it with just 89 home runs? How are they scoring enough not only to support their pitchers, but to bail them out as their arms have softened up a bit in the second half?

Well, Ive got to give a lot of credit to the guys at the top of the order, said cleanup Buster Posey, who was too modest to mention that hes hitting nearly .400 since the All-Star break.

Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro, since he came over here, have been huge, and you cant forget how (Gregor) Blanco and (Ryan) Theriot contributed, especially earlier in the season. And with Pagan, youre talking about a guy who set a triples record. Hes not just getting on base. Hes hitting the ball with authority. Hes in scoring position and were getting him in. That has something to do with it, I think.

After tying and passing Willie Mays on the last road trip, Pagans 13 triples stand as the most in the Giants San Francisco era. Its one more than the New York Yankees have hit as a team this season.

As you might suspect, the Giants 51 triples lead the major leagues. That partly explains how, despite their major league-low 89 home runs, have a respectable .392 slugging percentage just a shade below the .401 average for NL clubs.

But those home runs.oh, those home runs are nice, arent they?

The Giants, as mentioned, have hit just 89. The only other team with fewer than 100 home runs is the Dodgers, and theyve hit 99. So itll take some doing in these final 16 games for the Giants to avoid bringing up the rear in roundtrippers when the season ends.

That only tells part of the story, of course. The Giants arent so power-deprived on the road. Theyve hit 67 in grays -- more than the Dodgers, the Rockies and seven other major league clubs.

At home? Well, everyone knows that part by now. The Giants have hit just 22 home runs in 71 home games at AT&T Park, and if that sounds paltry well, it is. The Padres have hit the next fewest at home, with 42 homers at Petco Park almost doubling the Giants total.

More perspective on that: Detroits Miguel Cabrera has hit more home runs at Comerica Park (24) than the Giants have hit as a team at home. (And in case you were curious, those triples-averse Yankees lead the majors with 121 home runs in the Bronx.)

But heres the interesting part: The Giants have come to terms with this. Whereas past players (and some former coaches, too) grumbled over the 420-foot crown in right-center field, the heavy air and the breeze through the archways, this lineup has made its peace with China Basin.

Sure, its the ballpark, said Posey, who has hit six of his 22 home runs at AT&T Park. It is what it is. Your goal as a ballplayer, wherever you are, is to be consistent. Another goal is to control what you can control. Thats half the battle in this game.

The other half is waged from 60 feet, 6 inches. And on that front, Bochy likes what hes seen.

You look at the club and were more athletic, Bochy said. Were quicker. In 2010, sure, we hit more home runs. But this team can go first to third, first to home. And the other thing that needed to happen is were getting quality at-bats and executing. Its been our best year as far as getting guys over and getting them in. The timely hits in the second half, were getting them. Thats the only way its gonna work when you dont hit home runs.

They found a way to amplify those skills even after Aug. 15, when Melky Cabrera was suspended for a positive drug test. Cabrera was leading the majors in hits and runs at the time. He was the poster child for the Giants offensive philosophy. The poster came down, but the Giants found a way to wallpaper it over.

Ive never been on a team thats been through something like that, Posey told me. I didnt know what to expect, to tell you the truth. So I think everybody should be happy with how they handled it. I mean, really, what choice did we have?

There might be no better choice to hit cleanup on this team, as its constructed, than Posey. Hes not a masher in the typical mold of a No. 4 hitter. But home runs, strange as it sounds, have a way of stopping rallies. Posey is more likely to serve an RBI single to right field or line a double to the gap -- and keep the pitcher in the stretch, the better to wear him down a little further.

Were having lots of rallies, said No. 5 hitter Hunter Pence, who owns 34 RBIs on 38 hits. Crazy, crazy rallies.

The Giant dont have electrifying speed like those Cardinals teams. But special assistant Shawon Dunston, who saw an awful lot of Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee, Tommy Herr and Co. during his playing days for the Chicago Cubs, sees some resemblance between them and these Giants.

Defense, for one, Dunston said. Nah, they didnt make errors. A ball in the gap was cut off. They covered ground. And they were a team you feared, power or no power. They werent all slap hitters, either. And going first to third thats a beautiful thing. Thats how they played. It was runners at first and third every time.

They knew what they were about and they were not embarrassed because they did not hit home runs.

Know thyself. Its not just a macram wall hanging.

Somehow, this years Giants team has found acceptance where so many other clubs found frustration. They arent trying to overpower the big yard at Third and King or gobble up numbers on the road, knowing they cant hit for power at home.

They are not hot to trot.

You know, I just think the goal is to win ballgames and weve got a good group of guys who have that common goal, Posey said. Thats what makes this game fun.

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


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.