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Urban: Giants' five differences from 2010

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Urban: Giants' five differences from 2010

July 25, 2011

URBAN ARCHIVE
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Mychael Urban
CSNBayArea.com

SAN FRANCISCO -- The easiest answer to what's different about the Giants in 2011 is a kidney shot at the Phillies: They wear 2010 World Series rings to dinner these days.Eschewing the petty, junior-high route in favor of fairly serious baseball analysis, however, henceforth are presented five ways in which the Giants of 2011 can be easily distinguished from the 2010 version that stunned the baseball world by beating the Phillies in last fall's National League Championship Series on the way to setting off the biggest party that the City by the Bay has ever seen.

1) No Buster Posey: One of the two most pure hitters on the team, even as a rookie last season, is out for the season after suffering horrific injuries in a controversial collision at home plate that still sparks high emotion in San Francisco. Against all odds, the Giants have actually hit better and compiled a better winning percentage without Posey this season than with, but there's no question they miss his steady presence behind the plate and his steady production in the middle of the order.2) No Freddy Sanchez: The Giants' second baseman is as pure -- if not as powerful -- as Posey at the plate, and as he recovered from surgery on his right shoulder with an optimistic eye toward returning for the stretch run, Sanchez, there was a revolving door of far less gifted fielders at his position until the recent arrival of Jeff Keppinger via trade. While the Giants clearly miss his bat control and professional approach at the plate, they miss his rock-steady glove work every bit as much.3) Ryan Vogelsong: Although the Phillies aren't expected to see San Francisco's unexpected breakthrough pitcher, Vogelsong's ascent from non-roster camp invitee to National League All-Star has forced at least a touch of reconsideration among those who, prior to the start of the season, considered the Phillies' rotation the best in the league by a long shot. Vogelsong's emergence has further infused the Giants with the confidence that they'll send out a starter with a tremendous shot at winning every single game.4) An utter lack of fear: Winning the World Series does wonders for any club's confidence, and the Giants are no exception. They're convinced they can beat anyone, any time. But that sense stems not solely from winning their rings. It stems from having proved, time and again, that they are among the best -- if not the best -- in the game at winning tight, pressure-packed games, often overcoming late-game deficits with contributions from up and down the roster. Two down in the eighth? Even on the road, the Giants feel right at home.5) A better bullpen: That might be difficult to fathom for Philly fans who watched the parade of relievers who prevented Game 6 of the 2010 NLCS in Philly from spinning out of control after Jonathan Sanchez's early struggles, leading the a riveting comeback and the series-clinching win, but it's true. Lefty Jeremy Affeldt is back to his 2009 form, lefty Javier Lopez has proven he can get righties out, too, giving manager Bruce Bochy incredible flexibility in terms of matchups, and righty Sergio Romo has ramped up his game. That trio, combined with closer Brian Wilson's standard excellence, is a huge reason why those close games for which the Giants have a penchant for playing have become so winnable.

After Stratton leads way in Giants' shutout, what does his future hold?

After Stratton leads way in Giants' shutout, what does his future hold?

SAN FRANCISCO — After the final out Monday night, a round table was carried into the corner of the home clubhouse at AT&T Park and surrounded by chairs. Eleven players were sitting, eating, drinking and laughing as Chris Stratton prepared to address the media. 

It was a rare sight for the Giants these days, a very rare sight. But then, so was Monday’s result. Stratton led the way in a 2-0 win over the Brewers that was the first home shutout of the season and motivated the joyous post-game scene. 

The shutout was just the second of the season for the staff. Ty Blach went the distance in the other one and Stratton, a fellow rookie, did the heavy lifting Monday, throwing six strong innings before giving way to the bullpen. Matt Cain pitched the seventh, Mark Melancon pitched the eighth while going back-to-back for the first time in three months, and Sam Dyson closed it out quickly. 

There’s a chance that Stratton joins that group in a few days. Johnny Cueto is scheduled to make a rehab start on Tuesday night in Sacramento and that could put him on track to return to the rotation a turn later. That would line up with Stratton’s next start, but Bruce Bochy wasn’t ready to kick the young righty out of the rotation, not after back-to-back scoreless starts against two of the better lineups in the league. A few days after striking out 10 Washington Nationals, Stratton cut through the Brewers. He has 12 2/3 scoreless innings over his past two appearances. 

“For how we’re using him, he’s really handled it well,” Bochy said. “We skipped him, moved him back three or four days, but he doesn’t let it faze him. This is an important time for these young players coming up, whether it’s (Ryder) Jones or (Jarrett) Parker or Stratton. They’re trying to show they belong in the Major Leagues.

“You’re hoping these guys show they’re ready to play here and we don’t have to do something else because we can do it internally.”

Bochy said he could use a six-man rotation when Cueto returns, or a starter could be skipped. That will all sort itself, but the manager made one thing clear. 

“We’d like to pitch him as much as we can,” Bochy said of Stratton.

That’s the same thing Bochy used to say of another right-hander, one he compared Stratton to before Monday’s game. Bochy was asked about Yusmeiro Petit, and he smiled and fondly stated, “He was so good. So good.” The Giants see some Petit in Stratton. He is unaffected by long layoffs and he’s capable of starting, relieving, or even pumping his fastball up a couple ticks for short outings. 

Petit was a mainstay in San Francisco for years, a key cog in a championship team. Bochy has been looking for that piece since Petit departed in free agency, and Stratton seems like he might be suited for the role. He will want more, of course, because all pitchers do. The Giants will give him five more weeks here to try and earn that. 

For the moment, Stratton’s focus is elsewhere. He turns 27 on Monday and the celebration started early. As Stratton answered questions, veterans at the table heckled him about striking out just one Brewer. 

“I left all the strikeouts in Washington, I guess,” Stratton said. 

Nick Hundley walked up with a TV remote and held it up between the cameras. 

“What was your thought on the punchout?” he asked. 

“I’m glad he swung,” Stratton said, smiling. “It was a ball.”

“Did you think about getting any more?” Hundley asked. 

With that, he smiled and ducked back behind the cameras to return to the celebration in the corner. A few minutes later, Stratton joined him.

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' first home shutout of 2017

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' first home shutout of 2017

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — Ty Blach has been a bright spot in this losing season, giving the Giants a young, cost-controlled lefty who can potentially fill a huge role next season. Chris Stratton is trying to do the same thing from the right side. 

The 26-year-old continued his August surge, throwing six dominant innings against the Brewers in a 2-0 win that was the staff's first shutout at AT&T Park this season. 

It was the kind of night that's been so familiar over the years. The Giants had six home shutouts last season. Here are five things to know from this year's first ... 

—- The Brewers are first in the league in homers and the Nationals are third, so Stratton had his work cut out for him the last two times out. His results: 12 2/3 innings, 9 hits, 0 runs, 3 walks, 11 strikeouts. That’s quite the statement. Stratton’s scoreless streak is the longest by a Giants rookie starter since Chris Heston threw 16 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings in July of 2015. 

—- Matt Cain was used as a short reliever to protect a two-run lead in the seventh. He had a 1-2-3 inning that ended with a strikeout. 

—- Mark Melancon pitched back-to-back games for the first time since May 19-20. He struck out Neil Walker and Ryan Braun in a perfect inning. 

—- Jarrett Parker reached base his first three times up. He’s hitting .385 at home this season but he’s just 4-for-35 (.114) on the road. Weird splits for a Giant slugger. 

—- Brandon Crawford is finally finding some traction. His double in the fourth was the big hit in a two-run frame that gave Stratton a lead to work with. Crawford is 7-for-17 on the home stand with three extra-base hits and four RBI.