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.

Giants continue embarrassing stretch against rebuilding Padres

Giants continue embarrassing stretch against rebuilding Padres

SAN FRANCISCO — Three years ago, the Giants and Padres were the two teams in it until the very end for Pablo Sandoval’s services. He ended up in Boston, and when he became available again over the past week, the Padres politely backed away. 

They prefer youth and Rule 5 Draft picks. They came into this season knowing they might lose 100 games, and they didn’t mind. If anything, they welcomed the increased shot at the top pick in the 2018 draft. They’re here to tank, but the Giants (who expect to welcome Sandoval back on a minor league deal as soon as Friday) just won’t let them. 

Thursday’s 5-2 loss to San Diego was like so many others over the past calendar year. The Giants didn’t hit, they didn’t come through in the clutch, they did not support their starting pitcher, and they did not guarantee a handshake line. 

The Giants have lost 15 of 20 to the Padres since last year’s All-Star break, including three straight last July to kickstart a tailspin that has lasted over a year now. They have dropped four of five meetings in this second half, which was supposed to prove that a Padre-like rebuild is not needed up here in the Bay Area. They are five games behind the Padres in the race to finish a distant fourth in the National League, and in a season full of disappointment, that stands as one of the more embarrassing facts. 

Not even Madison Bumgarner’s return to AT&T Park could turn the tide. The lefty looked good most of the night, but two homers left him with a rougher-than-hoped line. Bumgarner gave up four earned on two homers. He has allowed multiple homers in back-to-back games for the first time in his career. Both starts have come against the Padres. 

“I’ve got to stop giving up homers,” Bumgarner said of his start. “That’s not going to work.”

Bumgarner said he felt fine physically, and his curveball — the pitch that has backfired on him most often since his return — feels right mechanically. He was facing his last batter in the seventh as George Kontos warmed up with a runner on. Corey Spangenberg hit a two-run shot to the deepest part of the yard to make it 4-2. 

Buster Posey flied out with the bases loaded in the eighth. The Giants brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth but couldn’t score, which has been the norm against the Padres. The Giants are averaging just 3.2 runs per game during this 20-game stretch of futility against a team they once dominated. 

“We need to win ballgames right now,” Bumgarner said. “We’ve got to start doing that. There’s no magic solution. We’ve got to start playing better, all of us.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as homers hurt Bumgarner vs Padres

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as homers hurt Bumgarner vs Padres


SAN FRANCISCO — A day after he did his press conference from a “Game of Thrones” throne, manager Bruce Bochy said he was happy the Giants won their series finale against the Indians and kept that plan in play. In that respect, he’s lucky his team wasn’t facing the Padres on Wednesday. 

The Giants were on Thursday, however, and they continued their baffling stretch of ineptitude against what is supposed to be the worst team in the National League West. The 5-2 loss to San Diego was the 15th in the last 20 meetings between the two teams, one of which has a $200 million payroll and the other of which is actively tanking. 

The Giants had a shot at a comeback in the eighth, but Buster Posey flied out to right with two outs and the bases loaded. Here are five things to know, if you are the curious type: 

—- Madison Bumgarner has faced the Padres twice since returning. In 13 1/3 innings, he has allowed 10 hits and seven earned runs. He is getting hurt by a familiar problem for the 2017 Giants: The Padres have four homers off Bumgarner in those two starts. Hunter Renfroe and Cory Spangenberg took him deep Thursday, with Spangenberg hitting one out to the deepest part of the yard on Bumgarner’s final pitch. 

—- This is the first time in Bumgarner’s career that he has allowed multiple homers in back-to-back starts. 

—- Kyle Crick showed good stuff — sitting 96-97 — while stranding a runner on second in the eighth. He followed that with a scoreless ninth. The Giants should make it a priority to throw him into some deeper water over the next two months. 

—- There’s an epidemic these days of outfielders making foolish throws to the plate. We see it just about every night, and it cost the Padres in the sixth. Gorkys Hernandez was on second and he took off right away on Denard Span’s single to right. Renfroe had no play at the plate but he threw it anyway and Span took second. He scored when Eduardo Nuñez singled to left. 

—- The Giants announced their second consecutive sellout. That’s a streak. Maybe?