Pirates end losing streak, shut out Giants 5-0


Pirates end losing streak, shut out Giants 5-0

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Clint Hurdle exhaled and enjoyed a quiet moment after finishing up his postgame duties with the press corps."It beats the heck out of losing," the Pittsburgh skipper said with a smile.His Pirates were winners again, for a night anyway. They pitched. They played solid defense. They produced the timely hits that had been missing during this skid.And they did it against the defending World Series champions with a sellout crowd cheering against them.Charlie Morton and Jose Veras combined on a six-hitter, Ryan Ludwick hit a pair of RBI singles and Pittsburgh snapped a 10-game losing streak with a 5-0 win over the slumping San Francisco Giants on Monday night.
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"All in all, it was one of the better games we've had the last couple weeks," Hurdle said. "It's a good start. It's all we could do tonight to go play a complete ballgame."Garrett Jones doubled among his four hits and scored twice to help back Morton (9-6), who improved to 6-2 on the road this season.The Pirates battered Giants All-Star Ryan Vogelsong (9-2), who lost for the first time in 13 starts since May 26. His only other loss came the day after San Francisco lost its catcher and reigning NL rookie of the year Buster Posey to a season-ending broken leg on May 25.The reigning champs are mired in their own funk of late, losing for the ninth time in 11 games with another night of missed chances on offense.Still, San Francisco stayed a half-game ahead of Arizona in the NL West after the Diamondbacks lost 9-1 at home to Houston.Morton pitched eight sharp innings and Veras finished Pittsburgh's ninth shutout and sixth on the road."We were feeling a little pressure when you have a losing streak like that," Morton said.The Giants - held to two or fewer runs for the eighth time in 10 games - were blanked for the third time in nine games and 10th overall.Nate Schierholtz hit a double and two singles for San Francisco playing in place of the injured Carlos Beltran, who had an MRI exam before the game that showed a strain in his right hand and wrist.There weren't many other highlights from the home team."It's frustrating," catcher Eli Whiteside said. "When you're not scoring any runs, it's tough on the pitching staff, too. Trying to throw a shutout every night is tough. It's tough on the starters, it's tough on the bullpen. We just have to relax."
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Vogelsong struck out cleanup hitter Derek Lee three times but Ludwick did damage in the No. 5 hole coming off two hitless games. Neil Walker added an RBI double batting third.It sure was good timing for Pittsburgh, which exactly two weeks earlier won at Atlanta and sat in first place in the NL Central. Before Monday's win, the Pirates had gone 1-12 since to fall into fourth in the division and 10 games behind the first-place Brewers.The skid was the club's longest since dropping 12 in a row from June 6-18 last year."It definitely feels good to get a win, and a win like this with Charlie getting a shutout against a good team, to turn things around," Jones said. "We were in a little rut. You have to remember to just have fun and play our game. We did that."Vogelsong, the improbable All-Star and steady starter who replaced 126 million lefty Barry Zito in the rotation, had his career-best winning streak snapped at six straight decisions. He stayed put as the National League ERA leader - just barely. Vogelsong owns a 2.48 mark, while Phillies ace Roy Halladay lowered his ERA to 2.51 in an outing against the Dodgers.Vogelsong was tagged for five runs on nine hits in five innings. He matched his season high with eight strikeouts, which he also did in his first start of the season - against the Pirates in Pittsburgh on April 28.He didn't get much help from the hitters. San Francisco squandered chances yet again, going 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position and grounding into inning-ending double plays in the fourth and fifth.The Giants avoided a four-game sweep by the Phillies with a 3-1 win Sunday, but managed only three runs on 13 hits. They are batting .161 (20 for 124) over their last 18 games with runners in scoring position."It was pretty flat out there tonight. I don't know why. When you don't get a big hit to knock in a run occasionally, it makes it tougher," manager Bruce Bochy said. "This has been going on for a while and we need to do something about. It's not going to happen until we do come through with some clutch hitting."Giants ace Tim Lincecum reported no problems a day after Chase Utley's flying bat hit him in the right knee."Just a little bruise," the two-time NL Cy Young Award winner said.Notes: The Pirates have won the opener in nine of their 10 road trips so far. ... Zito allowed three runs on seven hits, struck out seven and walked two in 7 2-3 innings of a rehab outing for Class-A San Jose. He threw 99 pitches, 70 for strikes. ... San Francisco RHP Ramon Ramirez and Whiteside received only fines for their part in Friday night's benches-clearing brawl. Phillies CF Shane Victorino was suspended three games. ... LHP Madison Bumgarner (6-11, 3.71 ERA) makes his second career appearance vs. the Pirates on Tuesday night. He allowed one run on five hits over six innings April 27 in Pittsburgh. ... Pirates RHP James McDonald (7-5, 4.23) tries to keep his strong second half going Tuesday. McDonald is 2-1 with a 3.42 ERA in four starts since the All-Star break. He has a team-high 102 strikeouts. ... The Pirates are 49-0 when leading after eight innings.

Pence chases Span home in win over Phillies: 'That's Hunter being Hunter'

Pence chases Span home in win over Phillies: 'That's Hunter being Hunter'

SAN FRANCISCO — Denard Span has played enough center field at AT&T Park that he knew not to assume anything when Jarrett Parker crushed a ball to dead center. Span, standing on second, held up for a second to make sure the ball got over Nick Williams. Hunter Pence, standing on first, had a better view, and he took off with the crack of the bat. As Pence approached Span, he tried to yell over the crowd. 

“Go!” Pence yelled.

Span didn’t hear him. 

“I just felt him,” he said later, smiling. 

Span raced around third and Pence roared up on his back like the third sprinter in a 4x100 relay trying to hand off a baton. Span crossed first and Pence was inches behind him, stretching the lead to three runs. 

“It’s one of those plays that’s a little weird but it worked out,” Pence said. 

Jeff Samardzija, the pitcher of record in a 5-4 win over the Phillies, said Pence “was on a mission.” Span said simply, “That’s Hunter being Hunter.”

“I knew he was right on my heels,” he said. “I was trying to run as fast as I could. In my defense, he had a running start. It was fun, though, it was fun. I’ve never had anyone chasing me like that on the bases.”

The moment brought some levity to a season that’s been lacking it. Span laughed as he crossed the plate and the dugout was full of smiles and jokes as the two returned. But on a grander scale, it was a reminder of what Pence has been and what the Giants need him to be if they are to recover from this season. Pence is signed for 2018 at a hefty price. The odds are good that he'll be in right field, so it’s been a relief for coaches and team officials to see Pence pick it up in recent weeks. 

Pence had a hit and two walks on Thursday, scoring two runs and driving in another. He is batting .346 in August. 

“He has just been making more consistent contact and staying in the strike zone more,” manager Bruce Bochy said. 

That has led to better results at the plate, and Pence has provided reminders that the physical skills are still there. After going 0-for-AT&T Park in the first half he hit a couple of homers on the last homestand. Statcast’s Sprint Speed shows that Pence is actually running faster at his top speed than in the past couple of years, when he battled injuries. Pence is at 28.2 feet per second this year, a tick up from 28.1 each of the past two seasons. 

“Baseball goes in waves,” he said. “I’ve had some tough stretches, but right now I’m in a stretch where I’m going better and I’m still trying to improve.”

On Thursday, he pushed a teammate to run just a little faster. But perhaps Pence’s good friend deserves some credit for Span’s speed, too. After stealing his fifth base a few days back, Buster Posey started needling Span. The leadoff hitter has three stolen bases in seven games since that point, getting to eight for the year. 

“He was just talking too much trash,” Span said of Posey. 

Span said Posey mentioned their equal stolen base totals two or three times. He didn’t respond because he couldn’t. Now, he has bragging rights again, and he’s enjoying it. 

“Check the tapes,” Span said as reporters started to walk away from his locker. “I think I’ve got a stolen base off of him.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as Giants fight off Phillies for victory

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as Giants fight off Phillies for victory


SAN FRANCISCO — In a battle of the National League’s two worst teams, the Giants struck first. 

The lineup jumped out to an early lead and the new-look bullpen took it home in a 5-4 win over the visiting Phillies. The Giants scored five runs off budding ace Aaron Nola, and Mark Melancon, Hunter Strickland and Sam Dyson shut it down in the final three innings, in that (new) order. 

What a recipe for a victory. They should try that more often, in my opinion. Anyway, here are five things you should know … 

—- Hunter Pence and Denard Span combined for a funny moment in the three-run fifth. Span held up on Jarrett Parker’s ball off the wall and then took off from second; Pence had been on first, and he ran right up Span’s back as they approached the plate. Span heard him coming. He was laughing as he scored. 

—- With those runs, the Giants became the first team since June 16 to score more than two runs off Nola. The 2017 Giants are weird. 

—- Span stole second before scoring in the fifth. He has three stolen bases in seven games since Buster Posey’s mini run-of-speed. Posey had been talking trash to the leadoff hitter. 

—- Jeff Samardzija got the win, but this wasn’t one he’ll remember fondly. He needed a slick Tomlinson-Crawford double play to help get through the sixth. Samardzija was charged with four earned on eight hits.

—- Cameron Rupp flipped his bat when he hit a rocket off Samardzija in the fifth. It for sure looked like a premature bat-flip, but the ball kept carrying and landed in the arcade section above Triples Alley. Cameron Rupp is right-handed. That’s an absolute blast for a right-hander in a night game at AT&T Park. I don’t know where he would play but the Giants should trade for him.