Punchless Giants open series with Twins at AT&T


Punchless Giants open series with Twins at AT&T

June 21, 2011

MINNESOTA (31-39) vs.
GIANTS (39-33)

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

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- While the Minnesota Twins have barely climbed out of last place in the AL Central, they'll be feeling a whole lot better than the first-place San Francisco Giants when the teams meet for the first time in six years Tuesday night.

That's because the Twins (31-39) have begun to overcome a dismal start by winning 14 of 16 - including their last seven in a row. Drew Butera's RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning Sunday gave Minnesota a 5-4 victory to cap a three-game sweep of San Diego.

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"We're smiling, we're laughing. Winning's great," infielder Matt Tolbert said. "It's starting to feel like it did last year. We just need to keep the momentum."

That seems possible against San Francisco, which has matched a season worst by losing its last four games.

The Giants (39-33) have scored a total of seven runs while batting .180 during their skid - going 0 for 26 with runners in scoring position. They fell 2-1 at Oakland on Sunday, but kept a half-game lead over Arizona in the NL West because the Diamondbacks also lost.

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"No one is happy," first baseman Aubrey Huff said. "There is no doubt about it that no one is where he wants to be. We have to figure ways to score, and it's going to be no easy task. We have to start working counts, getting on and putting pressure on the other guys."

That doesn't figure to be easy the way Minnesota has been pitching lately. The Twins' 2.01 ERA in June is the best in the majors by a wide margin.

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Carl Pavano (4-5, 4.20 ERA) has thrown two complete games this month, going 2-0 with a 1.44 ERA in three starts. He could be fresh for Tuesday's start after needing only 96 pitches to go the distance in a 4-1 win over the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday.

"I feel like I'm settling in a little better as far as getting a little stronger and consistent with the things I'm trying to establish, and so is the team," said Pavano, whose last two interleague starts in 2010 were complete games - including a three-hit shutout against the New York Mets on June 26.

"There's a lot of guys who have stepped in, because we have a lot of injuries, and picked up a lot of guys."

Michael Cuddyer came up big on the Twins' recent homestand, going 14 for 30 (.467) with three homers and 10 RBIs in nine games.

Although Denard Span, Justin Morneau, Jason Kubel and Jim Thome remain out, Joe Mauer returned from the 60-day disabled list Friday. He went 1 for 11 against the Padres.

The Giants were hoping Pablo Sandoval could bolster their offense after returning from a broken hand last week, but he's 3 for 17 (.176) with no RBIs and five strikeouts during the losing streak.

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Madison Bumgarner (3-8, 3.21) has felt the strain of San Francisco's struggling bats all season, getting a team-low 2.8 runs of support per nine innings.

The 21-year-old left-hander hasn't needed much offense lately, though. He's allowed three or fewer runs while pitching at least six innings in each of his last 10 starts, posting a 2.03 ERA in that stretch.

Bumgarner started the Giants' last win, working six innings of a 5-2 victory at Arizona on Wednesday.

This will be the teams' first meeting since 2005, when the Giants took two of three in Minnesota. The Twins won two of three in San Francisco in 2003.

Giants Notes: Marrero hopes to be back; Posey faces Romo


Giants Notes: Marrero hopes to be back; Posey faces Romo

SAN FRANCISCO — About 45 minutes after the Giants announced that Chris Marrero had been designated for assignment, the left fielder walked up to the locker of one of the newcomers. Marrero patted Christian Arroyo on the back and shook his hand, congratulating him for his first call-up to the big leagues. 

“That’s my boy,” he said later. “I was really happy for him.”

The Arroyo promotion and the addition of Drew Stubbs signaled the end of Marrero’s April run in the lineup. He was cut and Aaron Hill was put on the disabled list, clearing two roster spots. Just as Arroyo forced his way up with three huge weeks in Triple-A, Marrero forced his way onto the opening day roster with a monster spring that included eight homers. He had just five hits in 38 at-bats before Monday’s moves.

“The team is struggling and we’ve got to make some moves,” Marrero said. “I believe in myself and I’ll go down and get back to how I felt in spring training. This is what I’ve worked for my whole life. I lost the feel that I had in the spring. Things were a little rushed. I came in and worked hard every day to try and find it. I’m going to keep working. I haven’t lost confidence in myself.”

Marrero was put in a bit of a tough spot. He played just about every day in Scottsdale because he was trying to win a job, and when he finally did make it, some Giants coaches felt he was a bit worn down. The team’s brutal start to the season put a glaring spotlight on left field, and this move became obvious over time.

Marrero said he likes it here, and that if he isn’t claimed, he will go to Triple-A Sacramento and try to find that spring swing and get back up here. Count Bruce Bochy among those hoping it goes down that way. 

“We thought a lot of him and still do,” Bochy said. “He’s a good hitter.”

--- Arroyo had a 4.4 GPA in high school, so the Giants knew he was smart. He’s savvy, too. There’s nothing like picking up the longest-tenured player on the team, literally. After snagging a ricochet in the fourth inning last night, Arroyo kept running and lifted Cain off the grass. They then chest-bumped. 

“That just kind of happened,” Arroyo said. “He hit it, I looked at Cain going down and saw the ball, went running and got it, instincts took over. I made a throw and got the guy. It was a fun play. In that moment, I was just pumped up. It’s one of those plays you get excited over.”

Arroyo said he heard Cain yelling and he thought he was hurt, so that’s why he ran over. Cain did have an X-ray on the foot that got hit but it came back negative. 

“Christian did a great job handling himself,” Cain said. “He picked me up big-time.”

The best part of the play came hours after it was made. As Cain talked to reporters, Brandon Crawford — who was in position to scoop the grounder in the fourth — was standing at his locker, a few feet away.

“Let it go through next time,” he said softly.

--- Denard Span was out on the field Monday afternoon, but he’ll miss another two to four days with that right shoulder injury. This will truly be a day-to-day situation. If at any point the Giants feel they need coverage, Span can be put on the 10-day DL. 

--- Hill apparently felt discomfort after playing long toss on the road trip. He can swing a bat but he was going to be kept from throwing for three to four days, so he was put on the DL.

--- This spring, Posey was asked about facing Sergio Romo. Here was his long tendencies-filled answer. Posey faced Romo in the eighth and flied out. 

"It was a little weird, I'm not going to lie," he said. "I caught him for so long. It's definitely interesting being in the batter's box instead of being the plate."

Was there a nod or "hey what's up" look between the two?

"I've caught him long enough to know you don't look at him," Posey said, smiling. 

--- If you missed it, the standing ovation for Romo was a very, very cool moment. Also, here's my story on Madison Bumgarner, who spoke for the first time since his injury. And here's the first story on Arroyo, with a fun anecdote about his mom. She'll be in the stands Tuesday. And finally, my game story from last night. 

Four takeaways from Warriors' first-round sweep of Blazers

Four takeaways from Warriors' first-round sweep of Blazers

PORTLAND -- Four games, four quarters to each and the Warriors are on to the next round of the postseason.

Here are four things we learned about these Warriors in the wake of their four-game sweep of the Trail Blazers in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

IT’S A TEAM THING: The Warriors lost All-Star forward Kevin Durant in Game 1, came back and won Game 2. They lost head coach Steve Kerr before Game 3, went out and fashioned one of the biggest comebacks in franchise postseason history. They are constructed in such a way that the collective is strong enough to overcome the loss of one man. They won this series in a walk despite being shorthanded for the last three games and without their head coach for the last two. This team and this staff are bigger than any individual.

JAVALE McGEE MATTERS: By last Sept. 16 the summer was all but gone and every coveted player NBA player had been accounted for. That’s when the Warriors signed McGee with the hope that he could provide some length and athleticism on the block, if only for a few minutes a night -- and, surely, some nights not at all. McGee was the last man to make the team, and here he was dominating a Trail Blazers team that, to be fair, lacked a healthy center. He was special in this series, and what he provides will be needed as the Warriors move forward.

DRAYMOND’S VALUE IS BEYOND MEASURE: There were so many examples during the regular season that illustrated Draymond Green’s significance to the Warriors. He topped them all in this series. He defended, at some point, every member of the Portland team. He rebounded. He made 3-pointers. He blocked 17 shots. The Blazers tried him early but quickly become discouraged at attacking whenever he was on the court. He disrupted their offense in more ways than they could have imagined. As a bonus, he avoided notable run-ins with officials.

SPLASHING NOT NEEDED: Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson were fabulous in the second half of Game 3 and Curry stood out in Game 4. But by the time the Splash Brothers found their offensive groove, the Warriors were up 2-0 in the series and rallying behind their defense en route to taking Game 3. The battle of the backcourts, logically deemed a critical factor in this series, was a virtual statistical standoff. Curry/Thompson combined for 192 points, while Damian Lillard 111 and CJ McCollum totaled 201. If it’s the numbers are that close, the Warriors will win every series, and probably sweep.