Giants

EXTRAS: Six-game East Coast road trip remix, etc.

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EXTRAS: Six-game East Coast road trip remix, etc.

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO -- Between two six-game East Coast road trips, the Giants were gifted a break for the All-Star Game and a home series with the Houston Astros. They did what they had to and went 4-0, clinching home field advantage in the World Series and drop kicking the Astros down to San Diego with their 13th consecutive loss away from home.

RECAP: Instant Replay -- Giants 3, Astros 2

Coupled with a pair of weekend losses for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Giants moved into first place in the N.L. West. But they'll need to remain focused for all 73 remaining games; it's a race that everyone in the clubhouse is expecting to go down to the wire.

"We have to show we can play on the East Coast," Bochy said. "We got slammed pretty good on the last one."

Slammed to the tune of a 1-5 record, yes they did.

"Those were two really hot teams," Affeldt said of the Pirates and Nationals, without consciously bringing the warm weather into the conversation.

Their upcoming trip pits them against equally hot, and traditionally more dangerous, Atlanta and Philadelphia.

The Braves are riding a seven-game winning streak that has seen them outscore opponents 43-22. And they'll be well rested, on the heels of a day off.

RELATED: Bullpen bails out Cain, sets tone for road trip

The Phillies, while they are scuffling through their worst season in recent memory -- playing the N.L. East doormat -- just took two of three in Colorado and could get a boost from the return of Cy Young pitcher Roy Halladay on Tuesday.

"This is a big road trip coming up," Buster Posey said.

Against such foes, Bochy knows the team will need more than the three-run outputs with ten-plus runners left on base, as they have achieved in each of their last two wins against Houston.

"We're going to have to turn it up a notch with this offense, to get this done."

Hoping on Huff

After alluding to an imminent activation before Sunday's game, Bochy backtracked on Aubrey Huff's progress.

"I just felt he needs a few more games," Bochy said. "I want to make sure he's ready. When players come back, they need to be ready -- fully ready. There's not a break-in period.

"Aubrey agreed. A few more games playing first base would benefit him. And it should benefit us in the long run."

From the sound of it, it appears Bochy has every intention of bringing Huff back and playing him at first base.

While Belt seemed to make Huff -- and Brett Pill -- expendable during his torrential 11-game hitting streak from June 12-23, the young first baseman is just 8-for-his-last-46 (.173) since.

The plan is for Huff to report to Triple-A Fresno on Monday, after going 4-for-16 (.250) in five rehab games with Single-A San Jose. After a few more games playing in the field, when Huff is "fully ready," he'll be back.

Aaand, stay out

AT&T Park has not been kind to Houston Astros with Bay Area ties this year, and there are a number of them.

Marin county native Bud Norris faced the Giants in each of the Astros' two AT&T Park series. His first outing lasted just 3 13 innings when he was forced out of the game -- and onto the DL -- with a sprained knee. Sunday, Norris made it through six innings but was again tagged with the loss.

Castro Valley native and former Stanford Cardinal Jason Castro went 1-for-8 with and RBI in the first series, and missed this series with an injury.

Jed Lowrie, who also played collegiately at Stanford, went 0-for-10 with a run in the first series. He was 1-for-5 in this series before Gregor Blanco slid into his ankle at second base -- on a clean play -- and dropped Lowrie in writhing pain.

Castro and Lowrie were each placed on the disabled list Sunday.

First baseman Brett Wallace, who grew up in Sonoma, was sent down after he went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts in Matt Cain's perfect game and hasn't made it back to the majors yet.

Gary Brown never recovered on the field from 2015 DFA: ‘Hurt me to my core’

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AP

Gary Brown never recovered on the field from 2015 DFA: ‘Hurt me to my core’

There was a time when Gary Brown was considered the Giants’ top prospect – their center fielder of the future. Hype was never higher than in 2011, when the fleet-footed 22-year-old set a franchise record with 188 hits in 131 games, earning California League Rookie of the Year honors with the San Jose Giants in his first full minor league campaign.

But six seasons and seven major league at-bats later, Brown’s professional baseball career ended at 28 years old.

“I feel like I let my emotions get the best of me in the years after that (2011 season),” Brown told NBC Sports Bay Area in an exclusive phone interview. “I think I started to believe the hype that everyone started to give to me.”

Brown never matched his magical .336-season in High-A ball with 14 home runs plus 53 stolen bases, and then struggled finding a routine with the rigors of the Pacific Coast League’s travel schedule once he reached Triple-A. Despite three hits in his seven at-bats as a September call-up with the Giants in 2014, Brown was designated for assignment on March 31, 2015.

Brown’s career spiraled playing the draining waiver game. Unsuccessful stints with the Cardinals and Angels sent Brown to the land of the last chance: Independent ball in the Atlantic League.

“It was not fun for me for quite a few years. I wasn’t a very happy person,” Brown said. “After I got DFA'd by the Giants, that really took a toll on me. I never really recovered from that, so I was kind of stuck in the past and things kind of just got away from me. 

“I was kind of heartbroken to be honest. I mean, it hurt me to my core.”

Through tumultuous career turns, the Southern California native never turned on the team that drafted him 24th overall in 2010.

“I'm thankful for the opportunity the Giants gave me. No matter how big or small mine was, I am very thankful” Brown said emphatically. “I definitely wish I could have shown what I feel like my true potential was, but it didn't work out that way. 

“I still root for the Giants. All my friends with the Giants, I'm still pulling for them. They run that organization so well. I have no ill intentions or anything bad to say about the Giants organization.” 

Far removed from his days with the Giants, Brown found new life with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs in 2016. Brown batted .249 and returned to the team in 2017. He started strong with a .298 batting average in 31 games while having fun for the first time in years, but injuries struck at an inopportune time.

Chronic aches in his hip joints and intense back spasms, in addition to a frustrating lack of interest from MLB teams and the fact he and his wife had twins on the way, spurred Brown to retirement in the middle of the season on July 5.

“Retirement has nothing to do with the lack of competitiveness (of the Atlantic League). It was the distance and the time away, matching the minor league salary,” Brown said. “Going back to that makes it really hard on the family and when you get older it really becomes about what you value more.”

The player he once was is gone, but the person he is has only grown. There’s one piece of advice which goes beyond the diamond that Brown was sure to pass on to the next wave of future top Giants prospects.

“Never stop making adjustments,” Brown said ruefully.

Days away from turning 29 on Sept. 28 and out of baseball for the first time in his life, Brown is certainly making his own.

***

Part 2 of our interview with Gary Brown focusing on where he is now in his life will be released Friday on NBCSportsBayArea.com.

Matt Moore blanks Rockies, continues late-season surge

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AP

Matt Moore blanks Rockies, continues late-season surge

SAN FRANCISCO — Matt Moore knew there was something different about his final home start at AT&T Park this season, and not just the fact that he received a loud ovation as he walked off the mound in the seventh. Moore noted later that the outing was the first shutout he has been a part of this year. In fact, it was the first time in 30 starts that he walked off the mound without having allowed a run. 

“I guess it’s better late than never,” he said. 

The Giants are hoping it’s actually a preview of things to come. They counted on Moore to be a big part of their 2017 push, but instead, he likely will finish with the worst ERA of any full-time starter in the National League. Still, general manager Bobby Evans has informed Moore that his 2018 option will be picked up, something that Moore appreciated given the time of year. 

“I always pictured myself here,” he said. 

Whether coincidence or some kind of “weight off the shoulders” situation, Moore’s first start since the public revealing of the decision was his most encouraging of the year. Facing a good lineup, and a team that needed a win desperately, he pitched six shutout innings. The Giants beat the Rockies 4-0. 

Moore was already showing signs of life, with a 3.76 ERA over his seven previous appearances. Bruce Bochy viewed this as another step forward. 

“It’s been getting better and better with each start,” he said. “What he did really well today was on the arm side. He had good balance to both sides of the plate.”

Moore peppered the outside corner with fastballs, and he credited catcher Nick Hundley with stealing a few strikes. The plan allowed Moore to put hitters away in big spots, one of three points of emphasis he brought into the second half. The other two: limiting lefties and getting ahead of hitters.

That’s Moore’s roadmap back to being the player the Giants acquired. For the team as a whole, the roadmap back to relevance is similar to Wednesday’s plan. This is not a home-run hitting lineup, but the Giants are 47-21 when scoring four runs, and Wednesday was a reminder of the different paths to that magical number. 

Brandon Crawford had a solo homer, but the first two runs came on sacrifice flies and the fourth on a walk-wild pitch-single combination. Bochy said he liked “the brand of ball” his team played.

“They executed so well today,” he said. “It’s just good baseball, and that’s what I felt good about.”