Nats' bats no match for deceptive, effective Bumgarner

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Nats' bats no match for deceptive, effective Bumgarner

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO Madison Bumgarner went the distance in theGiants 6-1 win Tuesday, and he did so againstsome serious competition.The Washington Nationals lead Major League Baseball with 72 wins, even afterthe loss. That whopping win total is a result of a 108 run differentialheading into the game, which was the best in the big leagues until the Giantsput a dent in it. Davey Johnsons squad is also fearless away from NationalsPark. Prior to Tuesdays loss, Washington was 40-22 on the road. Of course,that mark is the best in baseball as well. Since the All-Star break, Washingtonleads the National League in runs scored with 170, which includes the 14 runsthey scored in Mondays game on an AT&T Park-record 21 hits.But Bumgarner didnt buckle under the pressure of facing such a potent lineup,even with first place in the National League West on the line following aDodger win. He allowed just five hits and a walk and struck out six in the second complete game of his career, which included 108 pitches, 74 for strikes.Jayson Werth, who scored the lone run off Bumgarner after he tripled on a ballthat glanced off the outstretched glove of Hunter Pence in the alley, was veryreserved in his praise of the Giants young starter.Hes a good pitcher, Werth said. I think hes known forbeing a quality pitcher. Not surprising that he could have a game like that. Hemoves the ball around, throws strikes and changes speed real well. Hes adeceptive lefty.In the losing clubhouse, Werth was ready to move on and talk about theNationals chance at a series win in Wednesdays matinee marquee matchupbetween Tim Lincecum and Stephen Strasburg. However, his teammate Tyler Moorestill appeared frustrated by Bumgarners outing well after the last out. Afteroffering the normal praise of his cutter and command, Moore was asked toexplain Bumgarners dominance.I dont know that angle, Moore muttered under his breath after he went0-for-4 with a strikeout.Bumgarners helicopter delivery is certainly unique, especially when contrastedwith that of Jordan Zimmermann, who utilizes a more textbook technique.Zimmermann, who came into Tuesdays game with the best ERA among startersin the N.L. at 2.35 (only thanks to Ryan Vogelsongs ERA-inflating outingMonday), was impressed with his counterpart.He was mixing it up well tonight, Zimmermann said. Throwingthat cutter and then that fastball. You have to tip your cap to him. Hes beenthrowing the ball well and had another great game tonight.Bumgarners masterful pitching at AT&T Park has become the norm, as he ownsa N.L.-leading 1.88 ERA home ERA, but the Nationals have owned him in threeprior outings. On Independence Day 2012 in the nations capital, Bumgarnerallowed seven earned runs, including three long balls, in just five innings.For his career, Bumgarner was 1-2 with a 4.00 ERA against Washington headinginto Tuesdays game.Like Bumgarner, Lincecum has struggled throughout his career against theNationals to the tune of a 1-3 record and a 5.36 ERA. A day before Bumgarnerwas lit up in Washington earlier this season, the Nationals tagged Lincecum foreight runs, seven earned, in 3.1 innings.If Lincecum can follow in Bumgarners Carhartt bootprints on Wednesday, theGiants will earn a series win over baseballs hottest team. With the Dodgers ona roll, having won eight of their last 11 contests, the Giants could useanother dominant outing from a man with a similarly unique and deceptive delivery.

Giants Notes: Span feeling better, hopes to return to lineup Wednesday

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Giants Notes: Span feeling better, hopes to return to lineup Wednesday

CHICAGO -- Joe Panik's leadoff homer in the series opener was a jolt, but the Giants are a much more dangerous offense when Denard Span is clicking atop the lineup, a spot ahead of Panik, and they hope to have that duo going Wednesday. Span got treatment all day Tuesday and said he could return to the lineup against Kyle Hendricks. 

"The swelling has gone down," Span said of his sprained left thumb. "The thing to do is to come in tomorrow, test it out, and if it feels good, you strap it on."

Span said an X-ray came back clean, but he didn't grab a bat Tuesday to test the thumb, focusing instead on treatment. He is batting .326 in nine games since coming off the DL. His replacement in center this week, Gorkys Hernandez, was 0-for-3 against Jon Lester, lowering his average to .160. 

--- The main story from the second game of this series: Johnny Cueto is now dealing with a second blister, and you can see the lack of movement on his pitches. The Cubs took advantage. Lester didn't need much help while throwing a 99-pitch complete game in two hours and five minutes. 

"He threw a lot more changeups than we've seen in the past," Buster Posey said. "He's shown it in the past but tonight he had good command of it. It wasn't just a show-me pitch. He used it a lot and threw it to lefties as well.

Posey twice grounded short rollers in front of the plate.

--- Posey's throw to nab Javy Baez on Monday was one of the best of the year, and on Tuesday afternoon, Bruce Bochy said, "If he's given a chance, I don't think there's anyone better in the game." That might be true, but Willson Contreras is threatening to get into the conversation. He threw an 85 mph rocket to second in the fifth to nab Eduardo Nuñez. If you're wondering how Lester -- who flat-out has the yips about throwing to first base and doesn't do it -- has allowed just six stolen bases this season, look no further than his young catcher. Long-term, Contreras is the guy I would expect to compete with Posey for Gold Gloves. 

"Nuney, with his speed, can go," Bochy said. "Their catcher made a great throw. Put it right on the money."

--- From before Tuesday's game, what do the relievers think of the new hidden bullpen at Wrigley? And if you missed the Power Rankings the other day, the records are outdated, but there are updates in here on old friends Matt Duffy, Chris Heston, Tommy Joseph, Adalberto Mejia, Yusmeiro Petit and others. Petit in particular is incredible ... just keeps doing his thing. 

--- This play was made by the shortstop. That's good for the old UZR.

Now dealing with a second blister, Cueto gives up three homers to Cubs

Now dealing with a second blister, Cueto gives up three homers to Cubs

CHICAGO — Even after losses, Johnny Cueto tends to find a way to flash a smile or two in post-game interviews. He is as competitive as it gets between the lines, but off the field he embraces a relaxed attitude. 

There was none of that Tuesday night at Wrigley. Cueto wore a dour look while describing a 4-1 loss to the Cubs, perhaps because he is a man searching for answers. Cueto was already pitching with a blister for the first time in his career. On Tuesday, he admitted he’s now trying to make the ball dance while dealing with a second blister. 

The first, on his middle finger, popped up at the end of the spring and has bothered Cueto off and on. The second, on his index finger, formed in St. Louis last week. 

“It’s not an excuse,” Cueto said several times. “I was getting hit.”

The Cubs crushed three homers, including a 470-foot bomb from Kyle Schwarber. All three pitches leaked right over the heart of the plate, and Cueto admitted that he can't get that final twist on the ball as he normally does. A tad of his movement is missing, and hitters are taking advantage. 

“It’s just those pitches I left hanging,” Cueto said through interpreter Erwin Higueros. “When you leave pitches hanging or put them right in the middle of the plate, you’re going to pay the price.”

The homers — by Schwarber, Jason Heyward and Anthony Rizzo — represented 60 percent of the hits Cueto gave up. He struck out eight in six innings.

“It’s a little unlike Johnny to make mistakes like that,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “You like to think you could make a mistake and get away with it, but he didn’t tonight. A couple of fastballs he pulled over the heart of the plate and then one cutter.”

Catcher Buster Posey said the Cubs were on Cueto’s heater, so the duo tried to adjust. You can’t pitch without your fastball, though, and Cueto’s isn’t quite as explosive as it was in his first year with the Giants. The velocity is down a couple of ticks, but it’s unclear if that too is related to the blisters. 

What is clear is that Cueto is a different pitcher in his second season in San Francisco. He has a 4.64 ERA and opposing hitters are batting .253 with 11 homers. Through 10 starts last year, Cueto had a 2.83 ERA and was holding hitters to a .229 average. He had allowed just two homers. 

“Gosh, it’s just probably a few more mistakes than he made last year,” Bochy said. “He’s still competing so well and he gives you a chance to win every game.”

Cueto made it through six despite the long-ball issues, but that wasn’t enough against Jon Lester, who would have faced Cueto in Game 5 last October. Lester needed just 99 pitches to carve up the Giants for a complete game. He threw 70 strikes. 

That’s the type of efficient performance the Giants came to expect from Cueto last year. Cueto still expects it from himself, but his fingers aren’t cooperating. Asked if he would take a short stint on the DL to get right, Cueto said he can’t. He needs to keep pitching and have callouses form. Plus, any break without throwing would be a significant blow to a team trying desperately to stay within shouting distance of a playoff spot. 

“Basically, it makes no sense whatsoever,” to take a break, Cueto said.