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.

Top prospect Shaw not feeling pressure of potential call-up


Top prospect Shaw not feeling pressure of potential call-up

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants do not like to set timetables for their top prospects, instead encouraging them to force their way into promotions. Christian Arroyo did that in April and Ryder Jones followed over the summer, and both should be in position to compete for the third base job next spring. 

One of those two could ultimately fill a gaping hole in the lineup. When it comes to left field, one of their current River Cats teammates hopes to do the same. Chris Shaw is the organization’s top prospects on some lists, and on all lists, he is their top power-hitting prospect. 

The 23-year-old has 16 homers and 23 doubles across two levels this season, good for a .503 slugging percentage that’s right in line with his mark (.502) over 269 professional games. Shaw is on the fast track, and he became more intriguing when the Giants — with Brandon Belt signed long-term at first — moved him to left full-time this season. 

Shaw is doing what was asked of him. Earlier this week, I asked him if that has him thinking about a promotion. 

“It’s my motivation obviously to get to the big leagues, that’s why you work so hard in the offseason is to put yourself in that position to be knocking on the door,” he said. “But now, in season, you kind of put all your work in up to this point and everything else is a result of all your hard work up to this point. I don’t necessarily put any extra pressure on myself because right now I just go out and play and whatever happens, happens.

“I can’t dictate what falls and what doesn’t fall and what my batting average is going to look like a month from now, and ultimately what the front office wants to do. I’m fully aware they don’t have to add me this year. I trust in the front office in promoting me when they feel I’m ready developmentally.”

The big problem for Shaw at the moment is that the Giants do not need to add him to the 40-man roster until after the 2018 season. They are big on inventory, and not keen on DFA’ing another player this year and taking up a winter roster spot over the offseason for a prospect who currently is not in the opening day plans for 2018. That’s the paperwork side of this. On the field, Shaw is blocked by Gorkys Hernandez (who is now playing everyday), Jarrett Parker (who will finish his rehab assignment soon), Mac Williamson, and others. It remains a bit of a long shot that Shaw gets a September cameo, and when I checked in with team officials a week ago, the word was that it’s not currently in the plans. 

Having said that, the last-place Giants could certainly use some excitement and a glimpse of power. Shaw has some time left to change the front office's September plans. In the meantime, he’s the latest guest on our Giants Insider podcast. The quote above is from the podcast, which you can stream here or download on iTunes here. We talked promotions, his move to left, his power, his post-deadline tweet last year, and more. 

Former Stanford star scores winning goal for USA in Gold Cup victory


Former Stanford star scores winning goal for USA in Gold Cup victory

SANTA CLARA -- As the victorious American players bounced so hard the podium shook, medals round their necks, a beaming Bruce Arena in the back raised his arms to the air right along with them as gold confetti began to fall.

The U.S. resurgence is off to an impressive start since Arena returned late last year. Another CONCACAF Gold Cup crown, and now on to more important business: qualifying for next year's World Cup.

Former Stanford star Jordan Morris scored a tiebreaking goal in the 88th minute, and the United States beat Jamaica 2-1 on Wednesday night for its sixth Gold Cup title and first since 2013.

Jozy Altidore's goal on a 28-yard free kick in the 45th minute beat backup goalkeeper Dwayne Miller after Jamaica captain Andre Blake left early with a hand injury.

Je-Vaughn Watson tied the score when he got away from Morris for a 4-yard volley off Kemar Lawrence's 50th-minute corner kick.

Morris, who left nearby Stanford in his junior year, has won the 2015 NCAA title, the 2016 MLS championship with Seattle and now the 2017 Gold Cup. He got the breakthrough goal with a 14-yard right-footed shot after Gyasi Zardes crossed.

"I was nervous. It was my guy that scored on the goal, so I was trying to make up for it any way that I could," Morris said. "Obviously. I take responsibility for that. But luckily I could put one in the back of the net."

Jermaine Taylor tried to clear with a header and the ball was knocked by Clint Dempsey with a leg back to Morris. It was the fifth international goal for the 22-year-old Morris, who tied 16-year-old Canadian Alphonso Davies for the tournament lead with three goals.

"That was like a dagger in the heart," Jamaica coach Theodore Whitmore said.

The U.S. extended its unbeaten streak to 14 games (9-0-5) under Arena, who became the first coach to win three Gold Cup titles.

"Bruce brought in a new energy," goalkeeper Tim Howard said. "He just gave us a tremendous lift."

U.S. captain Michael Bradley earned the Golden Ball at the tournament's top player.

The Americans had a chance in the 19th minute when Altidore's swerving 30-yard shot was parried by Blake, who dived left and then beat Kellyn Acosta to the rebound at the 6-yard box. Acosta collided with Blake and appeared to kick the keeper's right hand before Jamaica's Damion Lowe cleared. Blake's hand was wrapped but he couldn't continue and was replaced by Miller four minutes later. As Blake left the field, he acknowledged the cheering fans with a wave of his left hand, then later emerged for the medal ceremony with his hand bandaged after receiving seven stitches. Nothing was broken.

"It was a very unfortunate situation. What to say? Very sad situation," Whitmore said.

Altidore put the U.S. ahead with a curling shot past Miller's outstretched right hand into the upper corner of the net just beneath the crossbar, his 39th goal in 108 appearances.

Lawrence, who scored in a 1-0 semifinal win Sunday against Mexico, took another corner kick in the 75th minute moments after Alvas Powell's shot from close range deflected off Graham Zusi - a sequence that had Howard yelling at the defense.

Using a lineup with about half its regular starters - the rest are in preseason with European clubs - the U.S. reached its record 10th final. The Reggae Boyz were a surprising final opponent after they stunned Mexico in a semifinal Sunday to reach the title match for a second straight time.

With 18 of 22 starters from Major League Soccer, this was a rematch of the 2015 Gold Cup semifinal won 2-1 by Jamaica at Atlanta. For the first time since replacing Jurgen Klinsmann in November, Arena kept his lineup unchanged. He inserted the 34-year-old Dempsey in the 55th minute.

Chunks of turf came loose yet again at Levi's Stadium, the $1.2 billion, 3-year-old home of the NFL San Francisco 49ers. The field has been an ongoing issue.

The Americans hope for momentum built during this run as they prepare to resume World Cup qualifying. The U.S faces Costa Rica in a rematch of the Gold Cup semifinal on Sept. 1 at Harrison, New Jersey, and play four days later at Honduras. The hex concludes against Panama on Oct. 6 in Orlando, Florida, and at Trinidad and Tobago four days after.

"We're not worried one bit about World Cup qualifying today. I can promise you that," Bradley said. "This was about a group of guys winning a trophy and that's been the only goal."

Arena already was looking ahead.

"We're a long way from qualifying for a World Cup, and that's the objective, for sure," he said.