Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants 7, Padres 5


Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants 7, Padres 5

SAN DIEGO The Giants have problems as they approach the postseason, and Tim Lincecum is just one of them.But a couple of well-timed home runs can cover up a multitude of sins.Xavier Nadys pinch homer in the ninth inning tied the game and rescued Lincecum from a 16th loss, then Hunter Pence cranked a two-run shot as the Giants stormed back to take a 7-5 victory over the San Diego Padres at Petco Park.The Giants scored five runs over the last two innings to take two of three in San Diego and keep their road series streak intact. They havent dropped a series away from AT&T Park since July 6-8 at Pittsburgh, posting a series record of 10-0-1 since then.Starting pitching reportLincecum finished the season with a 10-15 record and 5.18 ERA the highest among all 47 NL pitchers with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title.That is not what anyone expected. Even more stunning, it took a much-improved second half just to help Lincecum arrive where he did.He did not end on a good note, though.Allowing three home runs at Petco Park is alarming in any context. Before Lincecum surrendered three jacks in his final regular-season start, it had been done just one other time by a Giants pitcher (Noah Lowry in 2006) in 83 games at the Padres spacious home.That wasnt the only way the Padres kicked sand in Lincecums face. Everth Cabrera stole four bases on him, including once on a pitchout.The combination of homers and stolen bases undid what otherwise could have been a solid start. Lincecum allowed just one other hit besides the home runs and stayed around the zone with his slider and curveball while throwing a relatively efficient 90 pitches in six innings.But he missed his spot on a 3-2 fastball to Logan Forsythe for a two-run home run in the third inning that gave the Padres a one-run lead. Yasmani Grandal hit a 2-2 changeup in the fourth inning and Chase Headley tagged a first-pitch slider in the sixth as Lincecum surrendered his homers on three different pitches a sign he still lacks consistency in just about every area.Lincecum finished with 186 innings in 33 starts his lowest innings output since his rookie year. He still managed to strike out more than a batter per inning, but his 190 strikeouts ended a streak of four consecutive seasons topping the 200 mark.Lincecums struggles were acute on the road, especially before the All-Star break. He finished 6-7 with a 6.43 ERA away from AT&T Park. He remains the presumptive No. 3 starter in the playoff rotation, thoughBullpen reportAs is usually the case in any comeback victory, the bullpen gave the Giants a chance to rally. Dan Runzler and Shane Loux each tossed a scoreless inning, and Sergio Romo pitched around a two-out single in the ninth to record his 13th save in 14 opportunities.At the platePrior to the game, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he wanted his club to tighten up a few things. His club responded by making a series of mistakes early in the game, especially on the basepaths.They managed just two runs despite 10 baserunners in four innings against Edinson Volquez, who was exceptionally wild at times and had to come out at the start of the fifth.In the second inning, Gregor Blanco made the mistake of swinging at a 2-0 pitch after Volquez had walked Lincecum to load the bases. Blanco missed and ended up striking out to end the inning.The Giants gave Volquez an even bigger reprieve in the fourth. Brandon Belt and Hector Sanchez both singled, including a nicely executed hit-and-run play, to put runners at the corners. But Belt got a truly terrible read on Joaquin Arias single to right field, racing back to tag up under the assumption it would be caught. Right fielder Chris Denorfia threw out Belt at the plate.Lincecum walked to load the bases and this time Blanco showed better patience while drawing a bases-loaded walk to tie the game. But Ryan Theriot hit a tapper and Volquez left his feet while making a throw to the plate that forced Arias by a hair to end the inning.The Giants were quiet until the eighth, when they used a walk, three singles and a sacrifice fly to score a pair of runs and cut the Padres lead to 5-4. Belt contributed the RBI hit and Brandon Crawford hit the sacrifice fly to complete a rally that Aubrey Huff began with a walk.They completed the comeback in the ninth against Huston Street when Nady hit the sixth pinch homer of his career, sending it over the wall to dead center and yes, beyond the reach of Cameron Maybin, who had reached over the fence to rob him a day earlier.Francisco Peguero, who had entered as a pinch runner for Huff in the eighth, followed with a single and Hunter Pence connected for his 24th homer of the season. The right fielder finished the day with 104 RBIs, including 45 in 56 games as a Giant.In fieldIt was another tough game for catcher Hector Sanchez, who couldnt throw out Cabrera on a pitchout because he bounced his throw. Sanchez also made an errant throw to third base on another stolen-base attempt, allowing Cabrera to trot home in the fifth.Bochy has insisted that its his preference that Sanchez, and not Buster Posey, has continued to catch Lincecum. Draw your own conclusions, gentle reader.Arias and Huff combined on two nice stretches to record an out on a chopper in the third inning. Peguero went to the wall to make a running catch in the eighth.AttendanceThe Padres announced 33,407 paid in the final game at Petco Park of 2012. Now the Padres jet to Milwaukee for a three-game series to end the season, including a night game in the finale. What did they do to tick off the schedule makers?Up nextThe Giants bus north to finish the regular season with three games at Dodger Stadium, aware that one more loss will knock out their archrivals from playoff contention. Matt Cain (16-5, 2.77) will face right-hander Aaron Harang (10-10, 3.68) on Monday, with Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong to follow in the next two games. The Dodgers finish the season with lefties Chris Capuano and Clayton Kershaw, although that might change if they are eliminated.

Giants spring training Day 7: Rule change should help Bochy

Giants spring training Day 7: Rule change should help Bochy

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — On one of the many nights last season when his bullpen imploded, Bruce Bochy nearly put a catcher on the mound. Trevor Brown ended up playing an inning of third base on June 28 as the Giants gave up eight runs over the final two innings in a brutal loss to the A’s, and he said this week that he was told he was the next man up on the mound. 

That night was an odd one, as a tired bullpen was waiting for Sergio Romo to get activated off a rehab assignment and trying to get by without long reliever Chris Stratton, who had thrown 57 pitches out of the ‘pen the night before. The bench was also short because Joe Panik was about to be put on the concussion DL.

Bochy hopes he doesn’t have to deal with such a situation this season, and not just because the bullpen should be much improved. The disabled list lasts 10 days now, not 15, and Bochy is thrilled with the new rule.

“The DL thing, I really like it,” he said. “You get caught in that gray area so often.” 

Bochy met with league officials on Saturday to go over some of the rule changes. DL stints can now be made retroactive just three days, but it’s still a vast improvement overall. 

“With (position) players and pitchers it’s going to make it easier to DL guys,” Bochy said. “If you’re looking at (starting) pitchers, they could miss just one start.”

The Giants have often played a man or more short, trying to get by day-by-day to give a position player or starter time to heal. Around camp, this could be called the Angel Pagan Rule, as the former Giants outfielder often missed a week or so before officially going on the DL. At times, Bochy has been patient with players like Buster Posey and Hunter Pence, knowing that even if they missed a week, keeping them off the DL could still earn the Giants seven or eight games with a big bat back in the lineup. If a future diagnosis is that a player will miss a week, it’ll be much easier to swallow putting him on the 10-day DL than it was for the 15-day. Likewise, the Giants will take advantage of the change if a pitcher will have to miss a start. 

Bochy has said often that he would like every reliever to go on the DL during the season to freshen up. That’ll make more sense now, and it should keep the Giants from having to play as many games where the bullpen is gassed and a backup catcher is preparing to pitch. For guys like Stratton — a versatile pitcher on the 40-man roster — it should also lead to increased trips up to the big leagues to fill gaps. 

INJURY UPDATE: Pence (side muscle) took 25 swings during a live BP session in the cage and Bochy said he’s doing much better. That was about the only significant activity Sunday. Once again, the workout was rained out. Bochy said the Giants have enough time to get guys ready for the Cactus League opener on Feb. 24, but they’ll likely hold some big-name pitchers out of the early games. Brandon Crawford and Posey will get plenty of early starts to prepare for the WBC. 

PROSPECT WATCH: If the early games are turned over to prospects, Dan Slania will be an interesting guy to watch. Slania is listed at 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, so he always had the look of an imposing reliever. But his greatest success last season came after a surprise move to the rotation. 

Slania, a 2013 fifth-round pick out of Notre Dame, got a call on his 24th birthday telling him to prepare to start because of an injury in Richmond’s rotation. He had not started a game since high school, but his four-pitch mix worked. He had a 5.32 ERA out of the bullpen but it dropped to 1.48 in 10 starts for the Flying Squirrels. In two Triple-A starts, he struck out 14 over 13 innings while allowing just eight hits and two runs. The Giants put him on their 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. 

“He had a great year last year,” Bochy said. “He’s in camp for a reason. He’s got great stuff and a good makeup.”

RULE CHANGE: One more thing that came out of that rules meeting: Managers who are out of challenges now have to wait until the eighth inning to ask an umpire to look at a play.

QUOTABLE: “We know he’s better off taking some days. We talked about it (with him). He agrees that it’ll help him.” Bochy on Pence’s workload. The right fielder is coming off two injury-marred seasons, and the Giants have no intention of even trying to get him back to his Iron Man days. 

Tomlinson still a fit as Giants put bench together

Tomlinson still a fit as Giants put bench together

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The “options game” can be a cruel one. It can also be one of the most important parts of spring training. 

If two players are relatively even at the end of camp but only one can be optioned to the minors, he’s usually the man left out. Giants officials have already made reference to this several times in discussing left field, where Jarrett Parker — who is out of options — would surely be claimed off waivers if the Giants try to sneak him back to the minors before Opening Day. Mac Williamson, on the other hand, can be shuttled back and forth. 

The same holds true for Kelby Tomlinson, and while it was easy during the first week of camp to see him as the odd man out, manager Bruce Bochy said that’s not the case. What do all the veteran infielders mean for the young one already in-house?

“It hasn’t affected anything for Kelby, really,” Bochy said. “It’s all about competition for spots on this team.”

Tomlinson played 54 games in 2015 and 52 a year ago, but the Giants put a clear emphasis this offseason on finding backup infielders. Jimmy Rollins, Jae-gyun Hwang, Orlando Calixte and Gordon Beckham were among those brought in before camp, and Aaron Hill arrived on the fourth day. Sure, Ehire Adrianza — who was seemingly perpetually out of options — is no longer around, but if the Giants carry just two backup infielders, one of them will almost certainly be Conor Gillaspie. 

Tomlinson isn’t bothered by the offseason of additions. He said he can take knowledge away from six weeks spent with guys he grew up watching.

“Rollins’ prime was right in my later high school years,” he said, smiling. “I’ve got a lot of guys to learn from and watch. It’s a little of both (a competition and learning experience). We’re all fighting for the same job, but we’re still on the same team and we’re all trying to learn from each other and help each other.”

Tomlinson is the incumbent, and the Giants certainly know all about his speed and ability to play all over the field (he continued to take fly balls this winter, just in case). They also now know that Tomlinson adds something that’s needed on any bench. Last season, he emerged as one of Bochy’s most reliable pinch-hitters. 

Tomlinson’s seven pinch-hits were tied for second on the team after Gillaspie’s 11. He was 7-for-17 in a pinch, adding three walks. Tomlinson’s simple swing and up-the-middle approach have proven perfect for important spots. He’s a .315 career hitter with runners in scoring position, a .373 hitter in situations baseball-reference deems “late and close,” and a .367 hitter in “high leverage” spots.

“I’m just trying to compete up there every at-bat, especially in that pinch-hitting role,” Tomlinson said. “It’s a grind, but that makes it fun when you give the team a quality at-bat. Even if it’s not a hit, you go up there and try to see five pitches and have a good at-bat.”

Tomlinson has given the Giants plenty of them over parts of two seasons. With Brandon Crawford headed for the World Baseball Classic, he is sure to see increased time this spring, and while the options game or non-roster list might catch up to him, the Giants haven’t forgotten what they already have. 

“He gives us versatility,” Bochy said, “So he’s in the mix, too.”