Giants

In Game 2, Giants looked like ... the Giants

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In Game 2, Giants looked like ... the Giants

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SAN FRANCISCO -- The Bizarro Series settled down Monday night, to the great relief of all San Francisco Giants, most of all Bruce Bochy and Dave Righetti.

And they can pin all their newfound zen on Ryan Vogelsong, who in guiding them to a stunningly routine 7-1 win over St. Louis in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series, reminded them what Giant starting pitchers used to do back in the olden days.

Specifically:

Throw 100 pitches (106, to be precise).
Throw at least six innings (seven, to be pedantic).
Minimize hits and walks (four of one, two of the other).
Allow the defense to carry its end of the piano, most of all the often undertaxed infield (eight ground ball outs, which is high for any Giants pitcher).
Change the course of a series by stabilizing the bullpen (only Jeremy Affeldt and Sergio Romo pitched, and Guillermo Mota heated up once).
Make the Giants seem more like . . . well, more like the Giants.

Yes, Vogelsong did all this, simply by not running out of petrol too early, or getting spooked by the size of the stage. He controlled all facets of the Cardinal offense, save Chris Carpenter and Carlos Beltran, and he protected a 5-1 lead as Giant pitchers used to when they had an ultra-reliable rotation.

What they have now, of course, is two wings and a bunch of prayers. Or if you must, Vogelsong, Cain and pray for rain, to steal the old 1948 poem from Boston Post writer Gerald Hern, back in the days when poetry could be found in the sports section, and the Boston Braves were driving for pennant behind pitchers Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain:

First we'll use Spahn,
Then we'll use Sain,
Then an off day followed by rain,
Back will come Spahn,
Followed by Sain,
And followed, we hope, by two days of rain.

By the way, rain is in the forecast in St. Louis for Wednesday, in case your dj runs to that sort of vu.

In the interim, Vogelsong found the light and stood right in its midst for what he considered his finest start ever.

I think it was in the third right after Beltran hit that leadoff double, and something just clicked in mechanically. I threw a pitch (to the Cardinals villain du jour, Matt Holliday) and I went, That was it right there. I was able to run with that feeling right there and keep it going.

For sure, this is the best Ive probably thrown in a big league game after the third inning for sure. One thing clicked and I was able to sustain it.

His fastball, which topped at 94, rarely dipped below 92 (the RBI double he allowed to Carpenter was 89 and hittable, but an exception to the rule), and after relying mostly on the fastball early, he spent the rest of the night mixing in curve balls, sliders and changeups.

I just kept trying to mix it up, Vogelsong said. Theyre obviously a strong offensive team, and their numbers speak for themselves, so I kept trying to mix things up depending on the hitter, and tried to bounce the ball around the zone like I normally do.

The result of all this was that the Giants go to St. Louis with their bullpen rested in all the places that it needed rest, worked where it needed work (specifically, Romo, who would have been idle for five days had he not mopped up in the ninth), and in order for not only the Cain start in Game 3, but the chaos to follow.

With the series guaranteed to go at least five games now, manager Bochy will have to tackle his back-end starting pitching issues head-on for Games 4 and 5, where the conundrum of Madison Bumgarner has left Game 5 a muddle. Bumgarners mechanics have gone astray, as Vogelsongs had in early September, and it isnt widely believed that he can solve them before Saturday.

In short, the new question is whether Tim Lincecum starts Game 4 and Barry Zito or Bumgarner Game 5, or Zito starts 4 and Lincecum 5. And Bochy, an old campaigner when hes working with a two-man rotation, is going to make a jigsaw puzzle that cant possibly fit, fit.

More immediately pressing, though, is the hip injury to second baseman Marco Scutaro after a hard and tardy slide from Holliday in the top of the first. Scutaro injured his left hip and went to the hospital for tests and delicious food . . . well, okay, for tests.

NEWS: Scutaro leaves with hip injury, X-rays negative

But as is the Giants way in the postseason, they wont have an announcement on Scutaro until Tuesday at the earliest, and maybe not until Game 3 Wednesday in St. Louis. True, they have Ryan Theriot, who closed the game at the position, but Scutaro is plainly preferable, as his two-run single in the pivotal fourth inning indicated. By the time he left the game in the sixth, the result was safe, but his short-term future was murky.

The X-rays were negative, Bochy fumed, but were going to do an MRI on him tomorrow, I believe. And once we get to St. Louis, well see how hes doing and where hes at.

Bochy was unhappy with Hollidays slide, but there was little to do about it except what the Giants did, which was focus on the greater task getting out of California with a split.

Now comes the bigger picture, though. Cain and rain, the mystery starters in Four and Five, and the growing realization that the Giants from top to bottom are the hardest thing it is to be in a short series.

Day to day.

Five mistakes that will haunt Giants after 77th loss of 2017

Five mistakes that will haunt Giants after 77th loss of 2017

SAN FRANCISCO — If the Giants were in a different situation, Tuesday night’s loss was the kind that really would sting for a few days. As is, it was simply loss No. 77 in a stunningly bad season. 

The Giants went down 4-3 in somewhat familiar fashion, with their offense failing to break through and their bullpen coming up short. But this loss, No. 77, was also about small mistakes, both mental and physical. Let’s count down some of the ways the Giants went down:

--- Gorkys Hernandez, a late addition to the lineup because Hunter Pence has a tight hamstring, dropped a fly ball in deep right in the fourth inning. That cost Jeff Samardzija a run and a few more pitches. Bruce Bochy said Pence likely will be off Wednesday and then return Friday in Arizona. 

--- Bochy pulled Samardzija after just 89 pitches, and it was certainly peculiar in the moment. The thing is, the intention fit in with the reality of this season. Samardzija has carried a heavy load and Bochy was trying to protect his arm a bit. 

“The inning before, he logged some pitches,” Bochy said. “I’ve worked him pretty hard and I’m really looking after him as much as anything. We’re trying to give some guys a break and it didn’t work out. We had some guys lined up in the seventh, eighth, ninth — it just didn’t work out in the seventh.”

--- You can’t really argue with protecting a big-money pitcher in a down year. But Bochy probably wishes he had chosen someone other than Albert Suarez, who was fresher than others but has now given up runs in six of seven appearances. Suarez turned a one-run lead into a one-run deficit. It was more glaring when Kyle Crick entered and pitched 1 1/3 sharp innings. 

--- The Giants still had a chance — it helped that the Brewers took a dominant Josh Hader out of the game just because he’s a lefty and Nick Hundley bats right-handed — and they put two on in the eighth. Denard Span hit a soft single to right and Phil Nevin waved Hundley, who has catcher’s legs. He was out by a mile. Bochy said he was fine with forcing the issue there, although that’s a call Nevin probably wants back. 

Another twist on the play: Bochy could have put speedy Orlando Calixte in for Hundley and then moved Pablo Sandoval over to first in the next inning, with Calixte at third. He didn’t second-guess that decision.

“He was out pretty easily,” Bochy said. “I don’t know if a little more speed would have helped out.”

--- In the bottom of the ninth, Kelby Tomlinson singled. He was promptly caught stealing second with the heart of the order coming up. Again, a decision that went the visiting team’s way. 

Those moments could be defended or second-guessed. On another night, maybe they all work out and the Giants win 3-2, or 6-4. On this night, it was simply a familiar script, and loss No. 77.

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' 4-3 loss to Brewers

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Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' 4-3 loss to Brewers

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SAN FRANCISCO — Just when it seemed the Giants were starting to find some continuity in their bullpen, they have taken a couple of steps back. 

Two days after Hunter Strickland imploded late, Albert Suarez gave up the lead. The Giants lost 4-3 to the Brewers in a game that dragged. The Brewers did open the window a bit in the bottom of the eighth and Denard Span bounced a single to right with two outs and two on. Phil Nevin waved Nick Hundley all the way around third and Hundley was thrown out by 10 feet to end the inning. 

Anyway, here are five other things to know … 

—- Just one of Jeff Samardzija’s six innings went 1-2-3, and Bruce Bochy turned to the bullpen after just 89 pitches. Samardzija was charged with two runs, one of them earned. It was a little odd that he came out so early. 

—- Suarez entered in the seventh with a one-run lead and gave up two runs before being lifted. He has allowed a run in six of his last seven appearances. 

—- Brandon Crawford momentarily gave the Giants the lead with a two-run homer, his 11th. He is definitely starting to hit his stride. Crawford has four extra base hits and six RBI on the homestand. 

—- Why is it so hard for the Giants to sign power bats? Well, just ask Eric Thames. He hit a 433-foot blast to lead off the third but ended up with just a triple when it bounced off the top of the bricks in right-center. Per Statcast data, Thames is the first player in the last three years to hit a ball more than 430 feet and not get a homer. He was stranded at third. 

—- Over in Sacramento, a couple of rehab appearances went as planned. Johnny Cueto threw three scoreless innings for the River Cats; he will make at least one more minor league start. Joe Panik was 0-for-2 in five innings; he will join the San Jose Giants on Wednesday for another rehab game.