EXTRA BAGGS: Pagan helping Giants' cause, and his own


EXTRA BAGGS: Pagan helping Giants' cause, and his own

LOS ANGELES Angel Pagan moved back into the leadoff spoton Aug. 3.

In 18 games since then, he has a .343 average and a .424on-base percentage. He has hit two home runs, six doubles and three triples. Hehas scored 20 runs and knocked in 12.

RELATED: Angel Pagan career stats 2012 game logs
And he, along with the rest of the Giants, have beenbetrayed by Melky Cabrera.

Its a bit misleading to say Pagan has responded toCabreras 50-game drug suspension by playing his best ball of the season. Paganalready had begun to blister the baseball before the news broke last week.

But this much is true: he hasnt let the controversy surrounding his formerlocker mate distract him.

Pagan is playing with edge and intensity, and his performancein Tuesday nights 4-1 victory at Dodger Stadium might have been his bestall-around effort of the season. He hustled to avoid the tag on a ground ballto first base. He turned a ground single up the middle into a double. And hethrew out a runner at home plate.

We all know how important these games are, Pagan said.Youre playing the guys
who want to take your spot. Im just going out thereto play hard, play hard for my teammates, and try to win some ballgames.

Said Bruce Bochy: Since hes assumed the leadoff role, hesreally turned up his game a notch. Hes just playing great baseball on bothsides. He has his ups and downs, but he deals with them and hes playing asgood ball as anyone right now.

Those downs, particularly through July, made it seem as ifPagans stay in San Francisco would be brief. He will be a free agent after theseason. So will Cabrera, who had won over everyone with his relentlessly greatplay. The Hunter Pence trade, and his impending salary in arbitration, seemedto make it official: The Giants couldnt bring back all three outfielders. Pagan would go somewhere else.

But things change quickly in this game. Cabrera almost certainly will neverbe a Giant again, his level of deception too deep to forgive. And Pagan isplaying inspired baseball again.

Its still far from a guarantee Pagan will be back in 2013. Itmight be something less than a coin flip. But say this: its a far greater possibility thanit was eight days ago.

Most importantly, Pagan appears driven by the here and now,and this pennant race.

Ive been feeling awesome, said Pagan, who credited themove to leadoff with helping him hit his stride. Thats helped my approach andits helped my confidence. So far, I feel the best I have the whole season.

I just hope to keep getting on base and scoring early runs,because thats going to be so important for us, for our pitching staff.

Pagan is not known for his arm, but his throw to the platein the fifth inning had enough on it and a little luck to nail A.J. Ellisat the plate.

Pagan said he just wanted to keep the throw true so that itdeither be cut off, possibly leading to one of the back-end runners being hungout to dry, or the ball would make it cleanly to catcher Hector Sanchez so the otherrunners couldnt advance.

Just make sure we get one out or we keep the double play inorder, he said. I was just trying to clear the mound, not have it bounceaway.

It hit the mound in the perfect spot on the downslope and that allowed it to pick up speed. Sanchez did the rest by blocking theplate, and first baseman Buster Posey made the decision to let the throw gothrough.

I dont know if you guys saw me, said Tim Lincecum, but Iscreamed my head off when he made that play.

Sanchez had an eventful night. He lost track of the outs in the second inning,making a dash for the dugout after Ellis struck out. The odd thing is thatLincecum only faced two batters in the inning, and struck them both out. So it's hard to fathom how Sanchez got confused.

Lincecum had to laugh.

Because Ive been in a similar situation, he said,smiling.

Sanchez said he'll survive the embarrassment. But he's bracing for the unavoidable roastthat awaits him on Kevin Millars Intentional Talk show on the MLB Network.

Im going to predict a big game soon for Pablo Sandoval. Hehit two line drives that seemed to be rising as Matt Kemp caught them in centerfield. They were both absolutely scorched.

He told me hes really encouraged and he is seeing the ballthe best he has all season.

Hunter Pence was 0 for 4, dropping his average to .200 inhis first 20 games as a Giant. But its not panic time. Hes putting the ballin play in RBI situations and getting runs in, which is what the Giants signedhim to do. Hes not striking out in big spots, which has been a problem for somany others this season.

After getting Andre Ethier to ground out on a sinker to endMondays game, Javier Lopez said he would have to invent something new toretire the Dodgers All-Star outfielder the following day.

Well, the following day arrived, and Lopez was summoned toface Ethier again. He got a ground-ball double play to end the game.

On asinker.

What happened to all that invention talk? Was that the seedhe wanted to plant?

Well, yes, Lopez said, in jest. Exactly right.

Actually, Lopez mixed sequences and went for astrikeout with a two-strike slider. When Ethier didnt bite

Just try to go down in the zone, Lopez said. Im aground-ball pitcher. Thats always what Im looking for. I was fortunate andgot ahead yesterday, and got ahead again today.

And tomorrow: eephus.

Or another sinker.

Hard to tell what was a better sign for the bullpen: JoseMijares striking out Ethier to strand two of Lincecums runners in the sixth orSantiago Casilla needing 19 pitches to get six quick outs in the seventh andeighth.

Having Mijares is big for the Giants because they can saveLopez for a spot later in the game, and keep Jeremy Affeldt in more of aone-inning role.

But I'll go with Casilla. He was such a force in the first half. Getting himback on the beam could be the key to this whole committee thing having a chanceat working.

Some national columnists are already boiling down the NL MVPvote to Andrew McCutchen and Buster Posey. Im sure Major League Baseballofficials are just hoping both of them stay hot to the finish.

RELATED: Buster Posey 2012 game logs Andrew McCutchen 2012 game logs

McCutchens average is down to .350 barely ahead of thedisgraced Melky Cabrera, who was at .346 when the league handed down its suspension.

Cabrera was one plate appearance short of qualifying for the batting title, butplayers who fall a few at-bats short can have them added to their total. Iftheir adjusted average is still higher than anyone else, as was the case once withTony Gwynn, then they are considered the batting champ.

Remember, this is not some award that can be taken away. Its based on an officialstatistic, and Cabreras average is in the books. When you add one extraat-bat, hes still hitting .346.

As for Posey? Hes third in the NL, with a .327 average.

Bud Selig had his hands in his pockets when Barry Bonds hithis 755th home run. Youd
better believe he is rooting for McCutchento stay above .350, and for Posey to get there, too.

The other day I mentioned that Madison Bumgarner and ClaytonKershaw had faced each other just one other time before Monday night on April12, 2011.

Last season, in other words.

As a side note, here are the six batters atop the Giantslineup that day: Miguel Tejada, Freddy Sanchez, Aubrey Huff, Buster Posey, PatBurrell and Aaron Rowand.

Five guys who are done, if you count Huff. And then you havePosey.

It always amazes me how quickly things turn over in thisgame and how good you must be to endure.

No Indians first pitch for 'Wild Thing' in World Series


No Indians first pitch for 'Wild Thing' in World Series

CLEVELAND -- Wild Thing will have to stay in the bullpen during the World Series.

While actor Charlie Sheen, who played Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn in the movie "Major League" offered to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before one of this year's World Series games, Major League Baseball said the choices have already been made.

A spokesman told the AP on Friday that MLB has worked with the Indians to identify "former franchise greats" to throw out the first pitch for the games in Cleveland. An announcement is expected early next week.

The Indians host Games 1 and 2 on Tuesday and Wednesday. If necessary, Cleveland will host Games 6 and 7 on Nov. 1-2.

There had been a movement by fans on social media for Sheen to throw the first pitch and be part of the pregame festivities.

Sheen got wind of the buzz and responded on Twitter, posting a photo of himself as Vaughn in his Indians uniform and wrote, "Major League continues to be the gift that keeps on giving! if called upon, I'd be honored."

Sheen made an appearance during the playoffs at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday when the Chicago Cubs beat Los Angeles in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series.

Released in 1989, "Major League" is a fictional account of the Indians finishing in first place with an unconventional group of players including Vaughn, who struggled to find the strike zone and warmed up to "Wild Thing," a No. 1 hit song in 1966 by The Troggs.

The real Cleveland Indians, who overcame injuries to win the AL Central, before knocking off Boston and Toronto in the playoffs, took a page from "Major League" this season.

Slugger Mike Napoli and second baseman Jason Kipnis constructed a shrine in an empty clubhouse stall between their lockers like one in the movie. In the film, character Pedro Cerrano practices Voodoo and prays to an idol named, "Jobu" to help him hit curveballs.

Like Cerrano, Napoli and Kipnis have their own "Jobu" and have left gifts, including small bottles of rum and cigars, to keep them out of hitting slumps.

Cubs homer twice in win over Dodgers; tie NLCS 2-2


Cubs homer twice in win over Dodgers; tie NLCS 2-2


LOS ANGELES -- Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell and the rest of the Chicago Cubs' bats broke out in a big way.

Rizzo homered and ended a postseason slump with three RBIs, Russell's two-run drive highlighted a four-run fourth that stopped Chicago's 21-inning scoreless streak, and the Cubs routed the Los Angeles Dodgers 10-2 on Wednesday to even the NL Championship Series at 2-all.

Kenta Maeda is set to pitch for the Dodgers in Game 5 on Thursday against Jon Lester. Before the game, manager Dave Roberts said he will not start Clayton Kershaw on short rest after the Los Angeles ace threw a bullpen session Wednesday.

Chicago ensured the NLCS will return to Wrigley Field for Game 6 Saturday.

To break out of his prolonged slump, Rizzo used teammate Matt Szczur's bat.

"I know Szczur's bat has a lot of hits in it," Rizzo said. "I've done it a few times this year, just switching up the bat, switching up the mindset."

Following consecutive shutout losses, the Cubs rapped out 13 hits on an 80-degree night with the warm Santa Ana winds fluttering the flags in center field.

Rizzo and Russell had three hits each. Chicago's 3-4-5 hitters - a combined 2 for 32 in the first three games - busted out. Every Cubs starter got at least one hit except Kris Bryant, who walked twice.

"Today was a must-win for us," Ben Zobrist said.

Los Angeles was limited to six hits and made four errors in a game that dragged on for 3 hours, 58 minutes.

Mike Montgomery won in relief of John Lackey, who was chased after consecutive walks opening the fifth. Four days shy of his 38th birthday, Lackey allowed two runs, three hits and three walks.

Julio Urias, at 20 years, 68 days the youngest postseason starting pitcher in major league history, gave up four runs and four hits in 3 2/3 innings. He was the third consecutive left-hander to start the series for Los Angeles.

Chicago rattled off three straight hits to open the fourth, sparked by Zobrist's leadoff bunt single to third.

"With the way that our bats were swinging it at the beginning of the game, we just had to do anything we could. That was my thought process," Zobrist said. "I felt like if he threw a strike, I could get one down in a good spot and was able to do it.

He took second on Javier Baez's single to left, and Willson Contreras followed with a single to nearly the same spot in shallow left, scoring Zobrist.

Baez moved up to third and Contreras took second on left fielder Andrew Toles' errant throw to the plate that skidded all the way to the backstop.

Jayson Heyward hit a run-scoring groundout, and Russell followed with his first extra-base hit since Sept. 30 and his first homer since Sept. 19. He jubilantly pumped an arm as he rounded the bases on his two-run drive, which put the Cubs ahead 4-0.

Rizzo homered off Pedro Baez leading off the fifth, snapping his 0-for-11 skid in the series. Rizzo had entered 2 for 26 in the postseason.

Los Angeles closed to 5-2 in the fifth. With the bases loaded and one out, Justin Turner's likely double-play grounder caromed off Montgomery's outstretched glove and Russell, who scrambled on all fours at shortstop as the ball went into left-center field for a two-run single.

Chicago tacked on five runs in the sixth off relievers Ross Stripling and Luis Avilan. Dexter Fowler singled in the first run, Rizzo added two more on a bases-loaded single and Javier Baez hit a sacrifice fly, with a second run scoring on an error by center fielder Joc Pederson.


Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez was tagged out at home to end the second. A sliding Gonzalez stretched his left hand toward the tip of the plate as catcher Contreras applied the tag with his left hand near Gonzalez's upper left arm.

The Dodgers challenged Angel Hernandez's call, which was upheld on video review. That drew online scorn from Washington star Bryce Harper.

"He was safe! Replay system still broke..Same thing all year long! (hashtag)DontMessItUp," Harper tweeted.


Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully will attend Thursday's game, his first time back at Dodger Stadium since calling his last home game on Sept. 25. The 88-year-old ended his 67-year career this month with the regular-season finale at San Francisco.


Cubs reliever Carl Edwards Jr. left in the seventh because of left hamstring tightness.


Ashton Kutcher and wife Mila Kunis announced the Dodgers' starting lineup. Also on hand were Rob Lowe, Charlie Sheen, George Lopez, Larry King and Mary Hart.


Lester allowed one run in six innings of Game 1 in the series, getting a no-decision in Chicago's 8-4 victory. ... Maeda has a 9.00 ERA in two postseason appearances. He allowed three runs and four hits in four innings of the NLCS opener and didn't factor in the decision.