Killion: Weekend wrap -- Giant wake-up call

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Killion: Weekend wrap -- Giant wake-up call

Aug. 1, 2011

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Ann Killion
CSNBayArea.com

There are rumblings of panic in the Giants kingdom. A sweep in Cincinnati. A big-name acquisition that hasnt started hitting yet. A trade deadline come and gone without help at catcher.In some quarters, the benefit of the doubt that Brian Sabean earned by winning the World Series has already expired.

But its not quite time to panic. The Giants have been swept before. The last time they were swept on the road -- in June against Oakland -- they were only a few miles from home, werent operating in suffocating heat and humidity and didnt have Barry Zito start.In other words, they had fewer excuses than they did over the past weekend when they lost all three to Cincinnati.RECAP: Reds clobber Zito, sweep Giants with 9-0 win
And after their last sweep they went 7-1.Still, getting swept isnt a great way to start August. Not a good launch into a critical series against Arizona, which is breathing down the Giants neck just 3.5 games back. Not an encouraging way to begin a home stand against three playoff contenders.RELATED: MLB standings
But the Cincinnati sweep could have some benefits. Like:-- Forcing Zito out of the rotation for good. All the rest of the Giants games are going to be critical. Theres no way -- barring injury or illness to another starter --that the Giants can hand the ball to Zito.-- Reminding everyone that nothing has been won yet. When the Giants traded for Carlos Beltran last week, the stories all spun ahead to how Beltran could help the Giants in the playoffs. Uh, not there yet folks.-- Refocus the AT&T Park crowd. Not that the fans havent been on their game all season. But the Giants play 22 of their next 35 games at home. Time to make that home field advantage count.-- Spur Brian Sabean to try to make more waiver-wire deals like he did last season.There are two more months left for panic. Remember people, you have to pace yourselves.The As offense continues to roll. When I asked Conor Jackson if it was frustrating that it was too little, too late, he said no.RECAP: A's take series from Twins with 7-3 victory
Theres two months of baseball left, he said. Thats a lot of baseball.Jackson cited the Colorado Rockies, who were seven games back and in fourth place on Sept 10 in 2007. Yet the Rockies made the playoffs and knocked Jacksons Arizona Diamondbacks team out of the NLCS before losing in the World Series.I think this is what they envisioned when they put the team together, Jackson said. Of course, they didnt want it to happen after the All-Star game.Billy Beane didnt hear any deals that enticed him. So, aside from trading reliever Brad Ziegler to Arizona, he kept the As together to see if they can make a Rockies-like run. The As are currently 11.5 back but playing the best ball of the season.I think we just have confidence, Jackson said. Were feeding off each other. ..Its all confidence. Its a mental game.The Raiders officially said goodbye to Nnamdi Asomugha, one of the shining lights of the Bay Area sports scene in recent years. Asomugha never won in the Bay Area, either with Cal or with the Raiders. But he was a great player and a stellar person off the field: professional, articulate, honest and involved in the community.GUTIERREZ: Seed for Nnamdi's exit planted long ago
The Raiders made a nice pickup by signing Trent Edwards over the weekend. The former Stanford quarterback had some solid years in Buffalo and is still relatively young.The 49ers have a free agency plan. Thats what Trent Baalke and Jim Harbaugh said over the weekend.They didnt say what the plan is, because it may be top secret.KILLION: Dreary outlook for Harbaugh, 49ers
We are going to be patient, Baalke said. We have been patient. We do have a plan. Were executing the plan.At least the 49ers spent a lot of time with the stencil machine over the lockout period. Theyve stenciled sayings for the players on the inside of doors and hung banners with sayings like You are getting better or you are getting worse. You never stay the same.The 49ers fans are hoping for option A of those three possibilities.The big sports news that got pushed aside in the midst of the baseball trade deadline and the opening of training camp: Juergen Klinsmann has taken over as coach of the U.S. mens national soccer team.Local angles? Klinsmanns wife Debbie is from San Jose. Also, U.S. Soccer needs a bigger fix than just a new coach, which makes the team a lot like the 49ers.

Giants put it together in all phases, get back in win column

Giants put it together in all phases, get back in win column

SAN FRANCISCO — In the bottom of the eighth inning Monday, with the Giants finally running away with one, Johnny Cueto started blowing into a giant wad of bubble gum. He held two hands out, ready to catch remnants of an explosion as Brandon Crawford and Kelby Tomlinson looked on and smiled. 

A few minutes later, players started migrating to the dugout rail as they have done in each of the three starts Ryder Jones has made. They are ready to cheer on a rookie’s first big league hit, even if the wait has been an excruciating one for the third baseman. 

Bruce Bochy likes to say that your personality is better when you’re winning, and his players certainly showed that Monday in snapshots here and there. They woke up to a report that there were fractured in the clubhouse, caused in large part by the new closer. They denied it, they met as a group, and then, finally, they won. 

Jeff Samardzija pitched as he has for two months, the top of the lineup came through over and over again, and Brandon Crawford paced a golden night with the gloves. A 9-2 win over the Rockies was just the second since June 11 and it snapped a nine-game losing streak against the Rockies. Any win is meaningful at this point, but this one seemed to mean just a little bit more given the drama of the day. 

“Despite what people might think, we still have a pretty good group here and we get along just fine,” Crawford said. “We’re all rooting for each other.”

It’s one thing to support teammates off the field, and there’s been no indication that the Giants aren’t doing that. It’s quite another to be hand-in-hand between the lines, and for much of this season, Samardzija has been on an island. 

The right-hander has been Bochy’s best pitcher since Madison Bumgarner went down in the hills outside Denver. But he entered Monday with a 2-9 record and 4.74 ERA inflated by faulty defense. He hasn’t grumbled, but he has grown accustomed to the worst, and when Nolan Arenado bounced a ball deep to the hole in shortstop with two on and two outs in the third, Samardzija figured the game was probably tied. 

“I’m thinking maybe they charge it in the outfield and maybe make a play at home,” Samardzija said. “But with a guy like that at shortstop, things change so fast.”

Crawford scooped the ball on the edge of the grass. He would have liked nothing more than to make an otherworldly throw to first to nail his World Baseball Classic teammate, but he knew the best chance was at third. A couple of days ago, Crawford and Jones discussed how the rookie should cover third on such a play. Jones played it perfectly, retreating in time to catch Crawford’s inning-ending throw. 

“The best thing (about Crawford) is he doesn’t even talk about it,” Samardzija said.

No, Crawford put the spotlight on Jones.

“That’s a pretty heads-up play,” he said. “We talked about it and he was there. It was a funny coincidence.”

The play held the lead, and the Giants kept pushing. The top four hitters in the lineup finished with 10 hits, six RBI and six runs. Brandon Belt had an RBI triple in the five-spot. Crawford drove in a run behind him. Gorkys Hernandez and Kelby Tomlinson added insurance from the bottom. Bochy watched it all from the top step and saw a group collectively relax.

“Just quit fighting it so much,” he said. “There’s a lot of talent in this offense. There’s no reason they can’t put consistent runs on the board. Tonight I just thought the at-bats were so much better and the focus was. Once it started rolling, guys felt better about themselves, and it just got contagious.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' skid-snapping win over Rockies

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AP

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' skid-snapping win over Rockies

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — On a day that started with controversy, Giants players called a meeting following batting practice. Perhaps they were talking about when and where to stretch. Perhaps a reminder was given to keep clubhouse complaints in the actual clubhouse. 

Or, perhaps, the players just decided that enough was enough. 

In a rare display, the Giants put a clean and complete game together. They beat the Rockies 9-2 at AT&T Park, getting just their second win since June 11 and snapping a nine-game losing streak to the Rockies. 

Jeff Samardzija continued his hot streak, the lineup was opportunistic and flashed some power, and the defense sparkled at times. Here are five things to know from the throwback night … 

—- Samardzija walked off to a standing ovation after throwing 112 pitches. He was charged with two earned in 6 1/3 innings. Ignore the record and ERA for a second — his FIP is 3.37 and his xFIP is 2.95. He really is having a very good and underrated season. 

—- Here’s another one for your Samardzija file: Over the past two months, he has 82 strikeouts and three walks. 

—- It was a good day in the race for another Brandon Crawford Gold Glove. Adeiny Hechavarria, one of the few in the National League who even approaches Crawford, was traded to the Rays. Crawford added to the reel by gunning a runner down on third and making a nifty spin-and-throw in the fourth to rob Ian Desmond of a hit. 

—- There are nights where Denard Span looks like a game-changer, and this was one of them. He had a single, walk and triple in his first three plate appearances, scoring twice as the Giants built a 5-0 lead. He was spry in center, too 

—- Nolan Arenado was 0 for 4. Apparently that’s legal now. (It was actually his ninth 0 for 4 or worse against the Giants, in 81 games.)

—- Bonus sixth fact since the Giants won a game: Sam Dyson, acquired basically for free, is the new setup man. That didn’t take long, and it probably won’t be changing anytime soon. Dyson gave up a single but struck out the other three batters he faced.