Postseason on the line as Giants open with D'backs

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Postseason on the line as Giants open with D'backs

Sept. 2, 2011

GIANTS (72-65) vs.
ARIZONA (78-59)

Coverage begins at 6:30 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) A series that for so long has been billed as an early September showdown between division rivals has suddenly turned into San Francisco's last stand.

If the reigning World Series champion Giants want to keep any hopes alive of defending their title, they had better show up - and score runs - in this weekend's crucial matchup with the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks.

The D-backs (78-59) hold a six-game lead in the NL West race with 25 to go for each club and are riding a nine-game winning streak. Both teams had the day off Thursday to rest up for what most certainly will be an intense, entertaining three days at sold-out AT&T Park.

Even the Giants acknowledge this very well could be make-or-break.

"I don't see how it couldn't be," outfielder Pat Burrell said. "I think this team responds better when all the chips are out on the table. There's no secret, these guys are coming in and they've proven they deserve to be where they're at. And we've slipped, no doubt about it. But it isn't over. We're going to fight this thing out."

URBAN: Giants on the brink vs. Diamondbacks
General manager Brian Sabean shook things up Wednesday when he designated for assignment veterans Aaron Rowand and Miguel Tejada. Promising shortstop Brandon Crawford is among the reinforcements expected to arrive Friday as September callups for the reeling Giants.

San Francisco swept a three-game home series against Arizona from May 10-12 with three one-run wins, then the D-backs took two of three here Aug. 1-3 by beating All-Star aces Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum.

"Playing there is always really exciting," Arizona 17-game winner Ian Kennedy said. "Their pitching staff, you know they're going to throw well there. It's kind of like a playoff atmosphere. I think this time is going to be a little more interesting because it's flipped around. We were chasing them the last time there, now they're chasing us."

As always, Arizona skipper Kirk Gibson insists his team is sticking to its mantra: handling business that's within the D-backs' control, not worrying about what the Giants might be doing to tweak their roster and make a last-ditch run.

Even if that's been challenging to do lately.

"It's tough to not look at the Giants every day and what they're doing, but I'm sure they're doing the same thing, watching us," Arizona center fielder Chris Young said. "We have a lot of tough games coming up and we have to prepare for those. And I feel like if we can do that, we'll be all right."

Nobody expects this division to be won just yet.

But Arizona has surprised the skeptics with its staying power and exceptional pitching under first-year general manager Kevin Towers. The banged-up Giants haven't helped themselves by stumbling since the All-Star break, either.

"We're pushing a big rock uphill," Sabean said. "We know that we're running out of games. But we've all been involved in seasons that have turned on the dime - 1998 was an example, last year was an example. You never know what's going to happen in the last month of the season. Strange things happen, so there's still hope."

San Francisco clinched its first NL West crown and playoff berth since 2003 on the final day of the 2010 regular season against San Diego. Then, the club made an improbable run through the Braves and favored Phillies on the way to capturing its first World Series championship since moving West from New York in 1958.

The Giants got a big boost from Madison Bumgarner in Wednesday's 4-0 win over the Cubs, which snapped a three-game losing streak and avoided a three-game sweep.

RELATED: Insider gallery: Giants defeat Cubs

Manager Bruce Bochy can only hope the strong day by his hitters will "send some confidence throughout the lineup."

Bumgarner did his part, and now San Francisco has its top three pitchers lined up to face the D-backs: Cain on Friday night, then Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong.

"It's going to be close, maybe not make-or-break but it's the biggest series we've got so far," Bumgarner said.

Arizona wrapped up a three-game sweep of the Rockies with a 4-2 win Wednesday night.

Gibson surely will stick with what has been working.

"Whoever we put out there, whoever we put at a position, I think we have a belief that we expect to win," he said. "Not that we will every day, but we understand that our competitors have to respect us. There's no overconfidence, but an expectation. The preparation has been excellent. They've been on board with every different thing that we've tried in preparing, and it's worked out well."

For the Giants, it has been a different story.

Many of those "castoffs and misfits" - as Bochy so fondly called them - who won over the fans last September have faltered: Aubrey Huff, NLCS MVP Cody Ross, Mike Fontenot. Burrell just returned from a strained right foot that sidelined him for 43 games.

This year, Carlos Beltran came aboard at the trading deadline from the Mets and he has been a disappointment. He spent time on the DL with a wrist and hand injury.

San Francisco lost reigning NL Rookie of the Year catcher Buster Posey to a season-ending broken leg after a May 25 home-plate collision with Florida's Scott Cousins. Then, sure-handed second baseman Freddy Sanchez was done for the year after labrum surgery on his right shoulder last month.

During the club's recent 4-6 road trip, San Francisco placed five players on the DL and six others missed time with injuries.

That has made for a lot of mixing and matching by Bochy to piece his lineup together each day.

"The one trait that all these guys have that I really appreciate, especially this year even though it's been a haywire year, is they come in wanting to play," Sabean said. "They try to get ready to play. They put their work in. It's not an easy situation. The juggling act has been very difficult, maybe because we've been moving pieces or maybe because nobody's been good enough to hold onto a job or stay consistent enough to be established in the lineup."

On some days, they flat out can't score. There are missed chances with runners in scoring position, or else costly mistakes.

The Giants managed only 78 runs in August, their lowest monthly total since scoring 77 in April 2009, and their 11-18 record marked the club's fewest wins in a month since getting 10 victories in April 2009.

San Francisco plays at Arizona during the season's final week - but those games might not matter.

"I see it as the glass (half-full)," Mark DeRosa said. "Six games is not insurmountable. We've played as poorly as we can play the last month. We've definitely got our work cut out for us, but we've been in this position before. We're going to fight."

'The Kid' Arroyo continues wildly impressive first week with Giants

'The Kid' Arroyo continues wildly impressive first week with Giants

SAN FRANCISCO — In a quiet moment in the dugout Friday, manager Bruce Bochy tried to figure out a nickname for his new budding star. During a week where Christian Arroyo has made the game look so easy, this has turned out to be the most difficult part. 

Bochy briefly settled on “Yo” before that was scuttled because the team’s video coordinator is Yo Miyamoto. Joe Panik said some players have tried C.A. or YoYo, but admitted that neither is all that good. The team’s Twitter account spent a few days trying to make Boss Baby a thing, but Arroyo wasn’t thrilled with that one and the experiment appears to be over. In a back room of the clubhouse, there’s a printout showing Arroyo and Buzz from “Home Alone,” but that comparison is much better made with Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman. 

Perhaps the answer is as simple as the path Arroyo’s bat takes to a fastball. As he watched Arroyo field grounders during batting practice, Dick Tidrow was asked about the 21-year-old. Tidrow, the team’s senior VP of player personnel, has seen and worked with Arroyo since he was drafted. 

“We always just called him The Kid,” Tidrow said. “He would turn around when I called him Kid.”

The Kid is growing up quickly. Arroyo’s second homer of the week was the game-winner Friday, an eighth-inning blast that put a lead in Mark Melancon’s hands. The new closer made sure the new third baseman’s homer didn’t go to waste, clinching a 4-3 win that got the Giants out of the National League West’s cellar. 

The homer might have surprised Arroyo as much as anyone. He came here with a reputation as a mature and talented hitter, but power is not his calling card. 

“I’m not trying to hit a homer there,” he said. “Get the head out, see a pitch over the plate, barrel something, just keep the line moving. I got a good pitch, elevated it, and fortunately it went out.”

Arroyo already speaks like a hitting coach, but he is not afraid to admit that there are things he doesn’t know. It’s easy to get film on opposing starters, but there’s little a rookie can do to prepare for late-inning pitching changes. Arroyo consulted Buster Posey and Conor Gillaspie before facing Ryan Buchter, who has been in the division for two years. Gillaspie told him Buchter’s fastball has some late life and gets on a hitter. 

“I wanted to see it and the first pitch was a little low so I got a good read on them,” Arroyo said. 

The second one was right at the belt and Arroyo pulled it down the line for his second big league homer. He had just three last year in Double-A, but the Giants felt the 36 doubles showed that power was on the way. 

“He’s got pop,” Bochy said. “He’s not a guy trying to hit homers. He tries to put a good swing on it. But he drives balls and you saw it tonight. We see him more as a gap guy, but he’ll get more power as he gets older. We’re not asking him to hit homers, trust me, but it’s good to see him letting it go.”

The homer secured a win on a night when a lot went right. Jeff Samardzija was sharp, paying for one pitch to Ryan Schimpf that left the park but otherwise pitching seven strong. Panik and Brandon Belt ignited the offense early and Michael Morse came through with a game-tying sacrifice fly in the fifth. Derek Law and Mark Melancon closed it out, with Melancon getting help from Panik, who made a spectacular tumbling catch on a flare to shallow right-center. It was a big first out given that Melancon was pitching for the third straight day. 

“It was going to be in no man’s land,” Panik said. “You give it everything you’ve got. Fortunately the ball stayed in the glove.”

When it was over, the youngest Giant was in for another round of interviews to cap a hectic week. On Monday he made his debut and on Tuesday he picked up his first hit. Wednesday brought the first homer and Thursday was the first multi-hit game. What will the weekend include? Maybe a real nickname? 

For now, the Giants are fine with leaning on The Kid, because many of them didn’t even know how young the star of the week was until he was a couple of days into his big league career.

“I was thinking he was 23 or 24,” Samardzija said. “This has been really impressive.”

Vanderdoes out to 'prove people wrong,' show Raiders his very best

Vanderdoes out to 'prove people wrong,' show Raiders his very best

ALAMEDA – Eddie Vanderdoes knows his UCLA game tape is inconsistent. The powerful defensive tackle admits he wasn’t always at his best, especially after tearing his ACL in 2015. Before that, he was difficult to stop. Afterward, he wasn’t the same player. He doesn’t blame the knee.

He struggled with ankle injuries and weight issues in 2016, a lackluster campaign by his own standard. Since that season ended, Vanderdoes has returned to 100 percent. His ankles are fine. His knee is great. And he lost 40 pounds heading into the NFL scouting combine, preparing for a return to his old self.

The Raiders see great potential in the former Bruin and made him their third-round pick on Friday evening. The Auburn native was excited by the prospect, and believes the Raiders will get his absolute best. His voice was passionate, his determination clear even on a conference call with local press.

“I am going to be the player I was earlier in my career,” Vanderdoes said. “I had a bad season. That wasn’t me. That’s not the person that I am. That’s not the character that I hold. I’m definitely going to bring that to the Raiders’ defensive line. I’m going to bring that energy and I’m really happy to be an Oakland Raider.”

The Raiders will be thrilled if that’s true. They liked what he showed at the Senior Bowl and the NFL scouting combine, where he showed traits that should translate to NFL production.

“I am definitely back 100 percent, very confident with the combine, the Senior Bowl,” Vanderdoes said. “I got my explosiveness back. I got my speed back, my athleticism back. I am definitely at the top of shape right now, so I’m ready to get back to work and show them the player that they saw on the film and the player that they wanted to draft and I’m also looking to turn even more heads and do things that some people might expect that I couldn’t do.”

That includes rushing the passer, being a consistent three-down tackle in the Raiders scheme. He might be a rotational player first, filling the void created when Stacy McGee left in free agency.

“He’s a good, active defensive lineman that we think his best football is in front of him,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “He had an ACL (injury) a couple of years ago. His weight has been up and down. We expect him to come in here and be a real professional and work hard with (head strength and conditioning coach) Joe Gomes and the strength staff and get himself ready to roll. He needs to come in here and add depth to our defensive line and give us a little interior push.”

Vanderdoes believes he can do more than that if he does things right. If his weight stays down, strength stays up and he learns the system well, he wants to compete for a significant role as a rookie.

“I’m coming in expecting to contribute and play right away,” Vanderdoes said. “That’s the mindset that I’ve always had. I’ve came with that mindset that I need to be the guy to step in and do what I do and dominate. I definitely think people slept on me a little bit this past offseason.

“I love the fact that (the NFL) slept on me, I think that’s what motivated me every morning waking up, knowing that I get to prove people wrong. I think I’ve done a good job so far of that, and I’m going to keep doing as well being an Oakland Raider because I know I’m at the bottom again. I have to work my way back up.”