Zito pitching way into Giants' postseason plans


Zito pitching way into Giants' postseason plans


SAN FRANCISCO Way back on August 7 in St. Louis, Giants starter Barry Zito took the mound, looking to rebound from a shellacking he took in his previous start against the New York Mets when he gave up seven runs in 4.1 innings.
Ten starts later, and his team has not lost a single game in which Zito got the ball, including Thursday afternoons 7-3 win over the Arizona Diamonbacks. The 34-year-old Las Vegas native picked up his 14th win of the season by throwing six generally effective innings and allowing three earned runs.
Has Zito earned his way into the starting rotation for the playoffs? Thats a decision that Bruce Bochy places in the category of a good problem to have.
These are things were discussing. Theyre tough decisions. Its great to have these hard choices ahead of us, said the manager, whose club closed out the home portion of its schedule. Guys are throwing the ball well, and Im talking about all five starters. Its a nice luxury to have. That will be decided in the last couple games. Zito is a guy that we have so much confidence in, just like all of them. Well talk about it. We still have some time.

RATTO: Playoff decisions still loom

Its generally thought that it will be either Zito of Ryan Vogelsong who starts the fourth game of the postseason, behind Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Madison Baumgarner. While their numbers are similar (Zito is 14-8, 4.19; while Vogelsong is 13-9, 3.58), there is something to be said for the fact that the Giants havent lost a single Zito start in a month and half. Its the longest such franchise streak of its kind in more than 20 years, when the Giants won 11 in a row behind Bill Swift in 1992.
Zito gives much of the credit to his teammates, who have averaged 6.4 runs per game over his last 10 starts.
These boys definitely come out playing great D and swinging the bats, Zito said. I just try to go out there and have fun, and keep the other team down and keep it close. Our offense has surprised many people this year.
So has Zito, who will post his first winning record in six seasons in a Giants uniform.
Hes done a great job. Hes had a real nice year and its been fun to watch how hes bounced back and really put together a really good year, Bochy said.
Belt in left a work in progress
It wasnt the smoothest afternoon with the glove for Brandon Belt, who got a rare start in left field as Bochy experiments a bit with his lineup after clinching a playoff spot. The 24-year-old misplayed a pair of catchable balls, including one that cost the team a run in the sixth inning.
Bochy chalked up that one to the early afternoon sun, which was beaming straight down into Belts eyes while a line drive screamed towards the outfield wall.
This left field in the day, its as tough as any left field in baseball in any park, Bochy said. With us not taking BP today, Belt didnt have a chance to go out there and take some balls. He had some tough plays, but Im glad he had those tough plays, to be honest. I dont know what were going to do, to be honest, each game in the postseason. We do want to have that option, especially the way hes swinging the bat.
Belt said: Ive generally felt comfortable out there. There are some balls that are a little bit tougher for me to handle, especially line drives right at me. Thats just part of it. I think the more I play out there and the more experience Ill get the easier it will get.
Belt shifted to first base after Buster Posey was removed from the lineup, putting Gregor Blanco in left. Blanco made an impressive sliding catch in foul territory in the top of the ninth inning with one out.
Praise for Marco
Giants infielder Marco Scutaro increased his hitting streak to 15 games with a two-run longball in the second inning. It was the first home run hes belted over that span, and hes now hitting .452 (28-for-62) with 14 RBI during what is the longest active hitting streak in the majors.
Posey said: Hes a professional hitter. He has an idea of what he wants to do each at-bat, depending on whos on the mound. Hes able to make adjustments mid at-bat, and hes fun to watch. Hes a guy I remember watching before I was here, and always appreciated the way he played the game.
Scutaro, of course, was acquired mid-season, as was Hunter Pence, who also had a two-run homer in the six-run second inning.
They have made such a huge difference in this ballclub, said Bochy. Great job by Brian Sabean to bring these guys in. The presence of Pence, we needed somebody to help out the middle of the order, especially what happened earlier in the season.
Scutaro, I cant say enough about what hes done. Hes just been so consistent since Day 1. These two guys have made such an impact on our team and really helped turn us around. Once we acquired them, weve been a different club. Their energy, how they play, they are very professional how they approach every game.

Former top prospect Andy Marte dies from car accident in Dominican Republic

Former top prospect Andy Marte dies from car accident in Dominican Republic

Former major leaguer Andy Marte died early Sunday from a traffic accident in his native Dominican Republic.

Metropolitan traffic authorities say Marte died when the Mercedes Benz he was driving hit a house along a road between San Francisco de Macoris and Pimentel, about 95 miles (150 kilometers) north of the capital.

Marte, a 33-year-old infielder, played for several Major League teams, including Atlanta, Cleveland and Arizona, and was most recently playing in the Korean league.

Marte was playing in the Dominican winter league with the Aguilas Cibaenas team.

"We have awoken this Sunday with this sad news that we have lost a special being," club president Winston Llenas said in a statement about Marte.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Santiago Casilla says he never received offer from Giants

Santiago Casilla says he never received offer from Giants

SAN FRANCISCO — Over the final month of his time with the Giants, it became clear that Santiago Casilla and the team would part ways. On Friday, Casilla confirmed that he never had the opportunity to return. 

On a conference call to announce a two-year deal with the Oakland A’s, Casilla said he “would have been happy to return to the Giants, but I never got an offer from them. I understood.”

Casilla said he had several opportunities to go elsewhere and close, mentioning the Milwaukee Brewers as one interested team. Casilla signed a two-year, $11 million deal with the A’s, who likely won’t need him to pitch in the ninth. The Brewers went on to bring in Neftali Feliz for one year and $5.35 million; he is expected to close. 

“I preferred to return to the Athletics because that’s where my career started,” Casilla said through interpreter Manolo Hernández Douen. “And I’m very excited.”

Casilla spent the first six years of his career with the A’s before crossing the bridge and becoming a key figure in three title runs. In seven seasons in San Francisco, he posted a 2.42 ERA and saved 123 games. Casilla had a 0.92 ERA in the postseason, but he was stripped of a prominent role in the weeks leading up to the 2016 playoffs. 

Casilla, 36, blew nine saves before being pulled from the ninth inning. He appeared just three times in the final 14 regular season games and just once in the playoffs. He did not take the mound in Game 4 of the NLDS, watching as five other relievers teamed up to give back a three-run lead. 

That moment stung Casilla, and it affected Bruce Bochy, too. The Giants struck quickly in December to bring Mark Melancon in as their new closer, but at the Winter Meetings, Bochy said he would welcome Casilla back in a setup role. 

“He’s a great team player (and) teammate,” Bochy said. “(I) certainly wouldn’t rule it out because he still has great stuff. And he had some hiccups there in that closing role, but I would take him anytime.”

As it turned out, that opportunity was never there for Casilla. The Giants didn’t make another move after the big deal with Melancon, and they’ll rely on younger arms to record most of the outs in the seventh and eighth. Casilla said he’s not bitter about the way it all ended. 

“I have left that in the past,” he said. “It’s a new year, it’s a new year. I have left this in the past.”