Baggs' Instant Replay: Mets 2, Giants 1

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Baggs' Instant Replay: Mets 2, Giants 1

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SAN FRANCISCO The New York Mets couldnt have blown more chances to break open Wednesday nights game if they were Olympic badminton players.They loaded the bases four times with two outs or less against Matt Cain and a sloppy Giants bullpen, yet strangely, pathetically, found themselves clinging to just a 2-1 lead in the ninth inning.But the Giants committed the greater sin. They didnt make the Mets pay.Hunter Pence was held hitless in his Giants debut and his teammates mustered only two other hits besides Buster Poseys solo home run in a 2-1 loss at AT&T Park.The Giants lost for the sixth time in seven games yet retained their one-game edge in the NL West courtesy of Arizona's sweep at Dodger Stadium. The Diamondbacks are now just 2 12 games back, though.Starting pitching reportIts rare to see Cain (10-4) fight himself on the mound and throw pitches all over the place. Its just as rare to see the bullpen break into activity in the third inning of a Cain start.It was that kind of night. Ruben Tejada homered on the second pitch of the game and Cain pitched through SIG alerts in each of the first three innings while stranding five runners.But Cain somehow kept the Mets from busting the game open. The Mets loaded the bases with one out in the third but Cain only allowed one run to score on a fielders choice.Cain struck out David Wright to end the threat, but not before nearly hitting him with a curveball -- flashback to the scary pitch a few years ago that struck Wrights helmet and sent him to the hospital in New York.The bullpen got active after Cain walked the first two batters in the third inning, but after a visit from pitching coach Dave Righetti, the right-hander struck out Jason Bay and got a strikeout-double play when Buster Posey threw out a runner at third base.Posey threw out another runner to get Cain out of the fifth inning. But the biggest defensive play was from center fielder Gregor Blanco, who laid out in spectacular fashion to take an RBI double away from Jordany Valdespin in the fourth.The catch was every bit as good as Blancos unforgettable grab that preserved Cains perfect game June 13.Bullpen reportGeorge Kontos threw a scoreless sixth inning but needed help in the seventh after the Mets loaded the bases on two walks and second baseman Ryan Theriots error on a potential double-play ball.Left-hander Javier Lopez entered and conveniently punched up another double-play grounder, and shortstop Brandon Crawford adeptly started the twin killing.Lopez has stranded 40 of 45 inherited runners this season.The Mets blew another chance to take command in the eighth, and it got ridiculous. Clay Hensley was all over the place as he loaded the bases on two walks and a hit batter. But Josh Thole grounded into one of the oddest double plays youll ever see. First baseman Brett Pill threw home for the forceout at the plate, and Thole was ruled inside the baseline when catcher Buster Poseys throw glanced off his shoulder and bounced into right field.Hensley issued another walk to load the bases again, but Theriot atoned for his earlier error by making a diving stop and throw from his knees to retire Tejada and end the inning.Would you believe the Mets loaded them again in the ninth against Brad Penny? This time the Giants escaped when Penny snared Jason Bays line drive, threw to first base to double off the runner and roundhouse-punched the air.At the platePence was just 3 for 20 in his career against lefty Jonathon Niese, who threw a fire blanket on the right fielders enthusiastically received debut game.Niese threw a curveball that Pence popped up in foul ground, stranding two runners in the first inning. Pence reached in the fourth, but only while striking out on a wild pitch.Posey took Niese deep in the sixth inning to cut the Mets lead in half. It was just the 17th home run by a Giant in 52 games at AT&T Park this season; Arizonas Jason Kubel owns that many by himself at Chase Field.Pence couldnt follow up by putting another in the bleachers, though. He grounded out to end the inning.Angel Pagan, who missed two games after bruising his hand in a fit of frustration, lined out as a pinch hitter.Pence had one last chance in the ninth but struck out on a borderline outside pitch.In fieldSure, the Mets wasted chances. But the Giants also made the plays to end innings. Blancos catch was the best of them, but Theriots diving stop in the eighth and Pennys snare in the ninth were impressive, too.AttendanceThe Giants announced 42,188 paid on Jerry Garcias birthday. It was also Madison Bumgarners birthday. San Francisco legends, kindred spirits.Up nextThe Giants complete their disappointing, 10-game homestand and their four-game series with the Mets on Thursday afternoon. Left-hander Barry Zito (8-7, 3.89) opposes Mets right-hander Chris Young (2-5, 4.58).

Giants spring training day 8: Melancon, Hundley go way back

Giants spring training day 8: Melancon, Hundley go way back

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — A couple of days before he signed a four-year deal, Mark Melancon fired off a midnight text to Nick Hundley. 

“Call me,” Melancon wrote.

When Hundley called, he found out his college teammate had chosen the Giants, ending a free agency process the two spoke about often. Two months later, it was Hundley’s turn to reach out. 

“I asked him if he wanted to play together again,” Hundley said. “He said, ‘You better not be messing with me.’”

The Giants signed just two free agents who are guaranteed of being on the opening day roster. In an odd twist, the new closer and new backup catcher have known each other for over a decade. Hundley was a second-round pick in 2005 out of the University of Arizona. A year later, his college teammate Melancon was a ninth-round pick. The two have stayed close throughout the pro ball journey. They were groomsmen in each other’s weddings and their wives and children hang out together. 

“We always talked about playing together,” Hundley said, adding that the odds were long in a 30-team sport.

The friends have crossed off a good chunk of them. Melancon has played for the Yankees, Astros, Red Sox, Pirates and Nationals. Hundley has played for the Padres, Orioles and Rockies. Finally, the two have hooked on to the same team, and the Giants are excited to have them both. Hundley will be the veteran catcher the team has missed in recent years, and the Giants are hopeful that he’s a pinch-hit threat, too. Melancon, of course, was brought in to fix the glaring problem in the ninth. Hundley is confident he’ll do it.

“I’ve caught him since 2005,” he said smiling, “And he’s always been nasty.”

NEW FACE: It’s hard to take much away from drills, but Orlando Calixte certainly impressed. As the Giants worked out on the field for the first time in three days, I asked GM Bobby Evans what Calixte showed the team’s scouts. “Just his athleticism, his tools, they stand out,” Evans said. They certainly do. Calixte is smooth out there, and he showed quickness at short that might differentiate him from the pack of infield options. 

Calixte has also played second, third and the outfield in the minors, and while the Giants intend on keeping five outfielders, that versatility could come into play. The Giants plucked Calixte from Kansas City’s system and put him on the 40-man roster when it became apparent that other offers were out there. They thought he could provide more versatility than Ehire Adrianza, and it helps that he has an option remaining. Calixte has to beat out a bunch of guys to win a roster spot, but given his glove and his status on the 40-man, it would be a surprise if we don’t see him at some point this season. 

ICYMI: Bruce Bochy said he’ll call Johnny Cueto to talk about his preparation for the World Baseball Classic. 

POSITION BATTLE: Matt Cain, the clear frontrunner for the No. 5 spot, faced hitters on the main field. Bochy liked what he saw. “He’s gotten more time away from that surgery and he’s throwing the ball well,” Bochy said. “Buster said the same thing. It’s coming out good.”

NOTEWORTHY: The Giants are serious about making Trevor Brown a more versatile option. He fielded grounders at short today and also spent plenty of time at second. 

QUOTABLE: “Just a good day. We (the coaches) were talking about how it’s changed a little bit. We’re not even in March yet and guys are letting it go.” — Bochy on the first day of live BP sessions. The pitchers were certainly well ahead of the hitters today. 

Will Cueto be ready for the WBC? 'That’s the question we have to answer'

Will Cueto be ready for the WBC? 'That’s the question we have to answer'

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Jeff Samardzija whirled and fired a strike to Eduardo Nuñez shortly after 11:30 a.m. on Monday. With that, the Giants took another step back toward actual baseball.

Monday was the first day of live batting practice sessions, but the most important one took place thousands of miles east of Scottsdale Stadium. Johnny Cueto faced teenage prospects at the club’s facility in Santo Domingo, and Bruce Bochy said he would call Cueto to check in on his progress. 

The Giants are not concerned that Cueto — who is tending to his ill father — is missing so much of spring training. They know him well enough by now to know that Cueto paces himself and takes care of his body. They are, however, starting to get a little concerned about Cueto missing so much camp and then going straight to the World Baseball Classic. 

“The spring started early so he’s got plenty of time to get ready for (opening day),” manager Bruce Bochy said. “The question will be will he be ready for the WBC. That’s the question we have to answer.”

Bochy said he would like to see Cueto in the 50-60 pitch range before he goes off to compete for the Dominican Republic. The Dominican team opens play March 9 at Marlins Park. 

“We’re going to talk about a lot of things,” Bochy said. “We’ll see where he’s at, see where he’s at mentally, and see how his father is doing.”

Bochy noted that Nolan Ryan used to show up to camp on March 1 and throw 80 mph, working his way up from there. The Giants view Cueto the same way, but at some point there will be a breaking point where the WBC participation becomes a real concern. At the very least, Bochy said, Cueto might be asked to join the DR team later in the tournament.