Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants are World Series champions

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Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants are World Series champions

BOX SCORE

DETROIT The Giants endured so many nights when the flags whipped, the icy wind chapped faces and the dreams were bigger than the attendance.

But it only felt like Candlestick Park on a chilly Sunday night. And the Giants are no longer dreaming.

They are a full-fledged powerhouse franchise now, using pitching and precision to stand alone as World Series champions for the second time in three seasons.

They did not have to wait another half-century for a follow-up to 2010. Survivors of six elimination games against the Reds and Cardinals, the Giants outlasted the stubborn Detroit Tigers with a combination of smart hitting, determined pitching and clean plays afield to seize a 4-3, 10-inning victory and a four-game sweep.

Marco Scutaro delivered the hit and the ring. He stroked a two-out single to center field off Phil Coke after Ryan Theriot, the player whose job Scutaro took in July, had reached on a hit and advanced on Brandon Crawfords sacrifice bunt.

Theriot slid across home plate as if crashing into a catcher who wasnt blocking his path. He popped up into a power-squat pose and roared as the Giants dugout tingled with anticipation.

Sergio Romo remained brilliant to the end, striking out the side in the 10th inning including a fearless, 89-mph two-seam fastball that froze AL Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera to kickstart a fist-pumping dance and a wild celebration on the mound.

After three games that didnt include a single lead change, Game 4 was a back-and-forth affair. Brandon Belts triple put the Giants in front in the second inning, but Cabrera and Delmon Young hit wind-aided home runs off Matt Cain that both erased leads. Buster Poseys home run preceded Youngs in the sixth inning.

The Giants had four shots to bring home this prize. The Tigers made them work for it. But if this team showed anything this season, its a will to compete till the last out.
They swept a Tigers club that had just pulled off a sweep of its own while dominating the New York Yankees in the ALCS.

Bruce Bochy became the first Giants manager to win two World Series titles since John McGraw (in 1905 and 1921-22).

Starting pitching report
In his only scheduled start of the World Series, and with 242 13 innings on his arm, Cain battled with less than his best stuff and only paid for two pitches.

It was apparent from the start that Cain didnt have the consistent put-away finish on his pitches. Quintin Berry battled him for a long at-bat in the first inning that included a fortuitous drive into the right field corner that thudded foul by a couple inches.

But Cain lost a 1-0 lead in the third inning thanks in part to the wind tunnel to right field, which Cabrera used to great effect when he hit a 1-1 changeup the opposite way and let the breeze do the rest. Hunter Pence, fully expecting to make a play, bumped against the right field wall as the ball soared over his head for a two-run home run.

It was Cabreras second career World Series home run; his previous one came in 2003 against Roger Clemens.

The shot gave the Tigers a 2-1 lead their first lead of any kind in the World Series. It ended the Tigers scoreless streak at 20 innings.

And for the first time in 57 innings, dating back to Game 4 of the NLCS, the Giants trailed.

The wind played a part when Cain squandered a second lead after Poseys two-run shot put the Giants ahead in the sixth. Cain made it through Cabrera and Prince Fielder in the bottom of the inning, but Young used the same wind tunnel to coax a first-pitch slider the opposite way and over the wall in right.

It was the sixth home run allowed by Cain in the postseason, one short of matching the major league record held by five pitchers (including former Giant Scott Garrelts in 1989).

Cain barely escaped the sixth, as he allowed a two-out single to Andy Dirks and needed Gregor Blanco to track down Jhonny Peraltas drive to the warning track in left field to get the Giants back in the dugout.

It was more than a bit curious when manager Bruce Bochy sent Cain back out for the seventh inning, but he got three quick outs and painted a 91 mph fastball on the outside corner on his last pitch of the night to strike out Austin Jackson and preserve the tie.

Cain made one last town-sheriff walk off the mound, likely his final act in a season that included a perfect game, a start for the NL All-Star team and victories in two winner-take-all postseason games against the Reds and Cardinals.

Bullpen report
Tim Lincecum isnt the only secret weapon in the Giants bullpen. Jeremy Affeldt has been a machine in the postseason, and because of Lincecums efforts in Game 3, Bochy was able to deploy Affeldt on the heart of the Tigers lineup in the eighth inning.

After a leadoff walk, Affeldt flung weapons-grade stuff to strike out Cabrera, Fielder and Young including a curve so nasty that it caused Fielder to recoil before fluttering over the plate for a strike. After striking out Andy Dirks to start the ninth, Affeldt survived a scare when Peralta once again had a deep drive knocked down by the wind. This one turned around Angel Pagan before the center fielder ran it down on the warning track.

Affeldt bent backwards in a display of relief. He has a perfect 0.00 ERA over 10 13 innings spanning 10 appearances.

Santiago Casilla hit Omar Infante with a pitch that fractured his left hand, as X-rays confirmed. But Casilla followed by getting Gerald Laird to ground into a fielders choice, sending the game to extra innings.

The Giants did not have Brian Wilsons bravado to throw the last pitch. But Romo never wavered in that role. He recorded his third save of this World Series in the 10th, and for the third time, he got the final out in a series-clinching victory.

At the plate
The Giants knew they wouldnt get much to hit from Max Scherzer, who matches a hard, running fastball with a plus slider and a decent changeup. Sure enough, Scherzer blazed through a first inning while throwing eight of 10 pitches for strikes.

But the Giants managed to barrel up twice in the second inning, when Hunter Pence hit a ground-rule double that skipped off the warning track in left-center. Belt followed by swinging at a first-pitch fastball down and in, yanking it into the right field corner. The drive struck the shortest portion of the wall, just a foot or two short of being a home run.

Belt raced around the bases for his second triple of the World Series and the Giants sixth of the postseason.

But the Tigers played their infield tight, Gregor Blancos ground ball to second base couldnt score Belt from third and the Giants had to be satisfied with the 1-0 lead.

Posey flied out in the third, stranding two runners when Scherzer threw a changeup off the end of his bat. But Posey didnt miss another changeup in the sixth inning, as the NL batting champ finally made his presence felt.

Posey was hitting .190 in the postseason, he hadnt scored a run in this World Series and he had just one RBI against the Tigers when he stepped to the plate following Scutaros single in the sixth.

But he sent a gasp through the crowd when he got the bat head out to a 1-0 changeup, sending it through the wind as it sailed two rows deep near the pole in left field, 363 feet away. Posey raised an index finger as he trotted through the drizzle, and for a player who always seems so composed, he nearly pulled a Mark McGwire and forgot to step on first base.

The shot gave the Giants a momentary 3-2 lead.

They needed one more rally, and one more clutch hit. It figured that Scutaro would provide it, as he waited for a 3-1 fastball he could handle and then did just enough with it, shooting the pitch to center field to give the Giants the lead that they would keep.

Pablo Sandoval had a single to finish with 24 hits this postseason, one away from matching the major league record. In deference to his three-homer performance in Game 1, he was named World Series MVP. He and Edgar Renteria are the only World Series MVPs in franchise history.

In field
Managers and coaches submitted their Gold Glove ballots in late September. If they bothered to watch Brandon Crawford in the postseason, they probably slapped their foreheads and said, Well, I screwed that one up.

Crawford was brilliant yet again as the Giants supported Cain with another solid defensive game. He fell down but stayed with a vicious, hooking one-hop smash off Prince Fielders bat in the third inning. Then he made a more spectacular play in the fifth after Cain deflected Quintin Berrys comebacker. Crawford changed direction, made a barehand pickup and threw to first base to nip the runner.

More infield defense saved Cain greater pain in the third, just before Cabrera hit his home run. Berry followed Austin Jacksons walk with a bunt to the left side, and Cain had to twist his body to avoid an onrushing Pablo Sandoval. The third baseman made a clean pickup and Brandon Belt scooped the skipping throw to record a very important out. Belt nearly picked off Jackson making a wide turn around second base, too.

Blancos catch on Peralta in the sixth was not an easy play, either, especially considering the windy conditions.

Attendance
The Tigers announced 42,152 paid to watch their team lose its seventh consecutive World Series game dating to 2006.

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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.”