One down -- Beltran slugs Giants past D'backs


One down -- Beltran slugs Giants past D'backs

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Matt Cain sensed a different energy around the San Francisco Giants with August in the rear view at last.A vibe much like that of the 2010 club that propelled itself into the postseason with a stellar September.Carlos Beltran hit a go-ahead, two-run homer among his four hits, Cain calmly recovered from a rough first inning and the Giants beat the first-place Diamondbacks 6-2 on Friday night to snap Arizona's season-best nine-game winning streak.Cody Ross hit a two-run homer and made a nice play with his glove as the reigning World Series champions pulled within five games of Arizona in the NL West race. San Francisco figures it must take the series to stay in the chase for a chance at defending its division title.
RATTO: Playoff atmosphere returns, Giants thrive
"That's the energy we needed, the way we needed to start off September," Cain said. "This is the time to do it, obviously. We only have a month left."The Giants began last September with a four-game division deficit behind San Diego, which gives this group hope of pulling off another unlikely run.Jeff Keppinger added an RBI double off Joe Saunders (9-12) for the Giants, who denied the D-backs brass a trip to the barber shop. San Francisco won a series opener for the first time in its last 13 chances since taking Game 1 on July 18 against the rival Dodgers.Cain (11-9) won for only the second time in seven starts, escaping a bases-loaded jam in the first with minimal damage.Whether this crucial victory will help save San Francisco's season remains to be seen."This is fun as a ballplayer. You want to be in a situation where every game is meaningful, every game is worth something," Beltran said. "I heard they played well in September. We're looking forward to that."
It is Tim Lincecum (12-11) vs. 17-game winner Ian Kennedy on Saturday night in a marquee pitching matchup. Lincecum has two NL Cy Young awards, Kennedy is vying for this year's honor.Arizona won't be pulling out those razors this time.First-year general manager Kevin Towers and team president Derrick Hall vowed to shave their heads if the club's win streak reached 10 - a little friendly bet they had going with manager Kirk Gibson."We made some mistakes which were very uncharacteristic of the way we have been playing baseball," Gibson said. "We walked six people tonight and we gave them some added opportunities. They outplayed and outpitched us tonight. We'll be back tomorrow."The D-backs beat both Cain and Lincecum in consecutive games during their trip here a month ago. That after Arizona dropped three games all by one run at AT&T Park from May 10-12.This one wasn't close.Beltran added an RBI single in the fifth and singled again in the seventh to match his career high with four hits. It was his 20th career four-hit game and first since June 30, 2007, at Philadelphia while with the Mets.The slugger finally produced the way the Giants hoped he would when they acquired him in a July 28 trade from New York, showing the power stroke that has defined his 14-year big league career. The six-time All-Star recently spent a stint on the disabled list with an injured right hand and wrist.
VIDEO: Cody Ross postgame
Ross, one of those castoffs and misfits who shined last September and during an improbable championship run, connected in the seventh. Then, he made a spectacular diving catch on Justin Upton's sharply hit fly to start the eighth. Ross caught the ball in fair territory and slid face-first into the dirt in foul territory.Ross also snapped an 0-for-16 stretch with his fifth-inning double.Cain appeared to be in trouble right away but wound up going eight innings, allowing two runs and five hits. After striking out Ryan Roberts to start the game, he allowed Aaron Hill's single, a walk to Upton then Miguel Montero's RBI double. Chris Young drew a free pass one out later to load the bases for Gerardo Parra, but Cain retired him on a fly ball to left."We had a good opportunity in the first inning to score two runs but we didn't," Montero said. "We had the opportunity but we couldn't make it happen. Today was a little rough for us."Santiago Casilla gave up a single to Parra in the ninth before striking out pinch-hitter Geoff Blum to end it.Keppinger's double off the left-field wall in the third tied the game at 1, then Beltran followed with his 17th home run. Keppinger has eight RBIs in his last nine games.Beltran hit just his second clout in 21 games since joining the Giants. He came into the game in an 0-for-11 funk and was hitless in his previous three games. He also had been unsuccessful in his last eight at-bats with runners in scoring position and was 2 for his last 20 with chances to drive in runs."We had some big hits, the longball, two-out hits," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "We've been missing that for a while. Better late than never."
VIDEO: Bruce Bochy postgame
Saunders fell to 0-3 lifetime against the Giants, all the losses this year. He never found a rhythm with a sellout crowd of 40,948 on their feet cheering on a night fog swirled above the outfield in the early innings and wind whipped the ballpark flags right off the bay.The Giants are the only NL West team Saunders is yet to beat. Hill added a sacrifice fly in the fifth for Arizona's other run.Pat Burrell was back in the San Francisco lineup and playing left field after he missed 43 games with a strained right foot. He struck out and walked twice before being replaced.NOTES: These teams meet for three games at Chase Field in the season's final week. ... Beltran tripled in the first. The homer was No. 297 of his career. He is batting .500 (14 for 28) with a homer, three triples, a double and four RBIs in seven games against Arizona this season. ... Lincecum is 0-1 in two starts vs. the D-backs this season despite a 1.20 ERA. He has allowed two earned runs and seven hits with 17 strikeouts and five walks over 15 innings. The loss came here Aug. 2. ... Kennedy beat Cain on Aug. 1 during his stretch of seven straight winning starts. ... The Giants are 45-9 when scoring four or more runs.

Giants Notes: Blach shows resiliency; Another option in center?


Giants Notes: Blach shows resiliency; Another option in center?

CHICAGO — John Lackey's night started with a leadoff homer. Ty Blach's night started with a 13-pitch battle. Neither one is a positive for a pitcher, but Blach didn't view it that way. He actually appreciated Ben Zobrist stretching him out.

"It's good to have a battle like that and get you locked in," Blach said. "It gets you focused and you'll be like, I can execute and get guys out. It's good. It's a good battle."

There, in a nutshell, is so much of what Bruce Bochy loves about his young left-hander. The Giants have found Blach's arm and resolve to be remarkably resilient. He wasn't bothered when they moved him to the bullpen and he didn't get too high when they moved him back to the rotation. He is the same after seven shutout innings or three poor ones. Bochy smiled when asked about the Zobrist at-bat, which ended in a strikeout looking. 

"How 'bout that?" the manager said. "He won that at-bat. It seems like the advantage goes to the hitter, seeing all those pitches. He kept his focus and got a called strikeout and here he is pitching in the eighth inning."

After needing 13 pitches for one out, Blach got the next 23 on 81 pitches. Bochy thought Blach tired a bit in the eighth, but the deep effort allowed Bochy to mix and match in the bullpen, and ultimately he found the right mix. Hunter Strickland and Mark Melancon closed it out and got Blach his second win.

--- From last night, Joe Panik's huge night helped give Blach an early lead. With the help of Ron Wotus and his shift charts, he also put on a show defensively.

--- We're trying something new right after the final pitch: Here are five quick takeaways from the 6-4 win.

--- The options game sent Kelby Tomlinson back to Triple-A on Wednesday when the Giants activated Melancon, but his latest stint in Sacramento comes with a twist. Tomlinson started his third consecutive game in center field on Monday. The Giants are getting a bit more serious about their longtime plan to make Tomlinson a super-utility player. 

“Tommy is a valuable guy in the majors and if we can give him some experience in the outfield, it gives you more flexibility and versatility,” manager Bruce Bochy said. 

This is not Tomlinson’s first foray into the outfield. He did work there in the offseason after the 2015 season and he has played 25 big league innings in left field the last two seasons. This is Tomlinson’s first real experience with center field, and while in the past he has said that the transition isn’t as easy as some might think, Bochy is confident Tomlinson can figure it out. He certainly has the speed to be a semi-regular in the outfield, and the Giants aren’t exactly brimming with quality center field options behind Denard Span, who is dealing with his second injury of the season. 

“It’s a little different now,” Bochy said when asked about Tomlinson’s past experiences in the outfield. “He’s in Sacramento doing it, and knowing there’s a possibility we could need help in the outfield.”

If the switch doesn’t come in handy this season, it could in 2018. Bochy compared Tomlinson’s infield-outfield ability to Eduardo Nuñez, who has found regular playing time in left but is a free agent after the year. 

--- Hunter Pence did some light running in the outfield before Monday’s game. Bochy said Pence is still about a week away from being an option.

--- Bochy has said it a few times now when asked about the standings, so it’s officially a new motto for a team that got off to a brutal start: “We’ve put ourselves in a great situation for a great story.”

--- They're starting to get a little grumpy around here with their team hovering around .500. Perhaps the Cubs thought they could fool a few on the way out of Wrigley.

Agony still present, Kerr uncertain if he can coach Warriors in NBA Finals

Agony still present, Kerr uncertain if he can coach Warriors in NBA Finals

SAN ANTONIO -- Those following the Warriors and their effort to rage through the playoffs should put away those thoughts and hopes that Steve Kerr will return to full-time coaching later this week or sometime before the NBA Finals.

Forget about it, unless you know something he doesn’t.

And if you do, he wants to hear what you have to say.

Don’t get it wrong: Kerr wants to coach, would love to coach. That’s why, even as he feels like hell, he’s hanging around the team like a languid groupie. He wants to be with the Warriors in the heat of battle because they’re his team, within the culture he instilled, and he would like nothing more to get another chance to win The Finals.

But because the procedure he underwent more than two weeks ago at Duke Spine Center did not deliver the relief he’d hoped for, Kerr knows he’s not up to the task and, therefore, continues to operate as sort of a associate head coach to acting head coach Mike Brown.

“Mike is doing great,” Kerr told late Monday night, after the Warriors clinched a third consecutive trip to the NBA Finals with a 129-115 Game 4 win over the Spurs. “He’s such a wonderful human being. He’s so unselfish and team-oriented. I’m proud of him and the job he’s doing, along with the rest of the staff. I wish I could be out there with them. And maybe I will. I don’t know. We’ll see.

“He’s a great partner. And we’re in this together, obviously, but he’s got to make decisions with the staff without me. He’s done a great job of navigating the games. We’re undefeated, so he’s doing something right.”

Kerr can only help from the perimeter. The demands of the job require the coach be able to function at near-peak levels, particularly before and during a game, and he simply can’t. He knows there will be times, all too often, when the discomfort becomes unbearable to such a degree he hardly can think straight.

The agony is visible. The players see it. The staff sees it. Brown sees it, feels it and hears it. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is one of Kerr’s best friends -- as well as a good friend of Brown -- was able to see it during the Western Conference Finals.

“I've spoken with Steve and Mike; we're friends,” Popovich said two hours before Game 4. “We've known each other a long time. But as far as Steve's concerned, it's just a crap situation.

“You know, he's done a phenomenal job. And when you're going through that pain every day and that frustration of not being able to do what you want to do, it's hard to enjoy it at the fullest level. So I feel badly for him all the time but hopeful that stuff will get figured out.”

Nobody wants that more than Kerr, who has tried nearly everything any respectable specialist has recommended. So far, there has been no miracle.

So Kerr forges ahead, getting his Warriors fix by being around the group. By meeting with coaches and players. By meeting with general manager Bob Myers. Kerr was with the Warriors throughout their stay in San Antonio. He was at practices and shootarounds, sometimes on the floor and sometimes sitting in the stands observing from afar.

“I need to be around the guys,” he said. “I don’t want to miss this. Just being in the locker room, being able to talk to the guys means a lot to me. I’m thrilled for them. It’s fun to see how happy they are with three straight trips to The Finals. It’s pretty incredible.”

Kerr has been with the team for at least a few hours every day since May 10, less than a week after his procedure at Duke.

Kerr’s presence has been invaluable, both physically and psychologically, according to staff and players.

“Coach just empowers everybody,” Kevin Durant said. “His message is still the same. Even when he wasn't there in the Utah series, you could still feel his presence. That's what great leaders do.”

Participation, making himself feel useful, is one form of therapy that gives Kerr a semi-satisfying break from the misery.

“He watches film, and he watches the game,” Brown said. “So he gives his perspective from where he is. He gives insight on what we should be doing going forward, what he felt we could have done better, what we did that was good. So he just gives his input, mainly. He addresses the team every once in a while. He doesn't always do that, but he'll address the team from time to time.”

There was some belief that Kerr could return to full-time coaching within a week or so after the procedure, for which he declined to provide details. Warriors CEO Joe Lacob expressed hope Kerr might return “sooner rather than later.” Had it been as successful as Kerr and the doctors hoped, he would have.

That was May 5. Kerr announced he was stepping aside on April 23. As of Wednesday, he was been on leave for a full month.

Asked if he plans to travel during the NBA Finals, Kerr said he hopes so: “It’s like a month away,” he said, exaggerating the nine-day layoff.

He’d rather say with certainty that, yes, he will be accompanying the team because, after all, he’s the head coach.

And he will say that, the moment his body tells him it’s OK to do so.