Giants

Playoff decisions still loom for Bochy, Giants

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Playoff decisions still loom for Bochy, Giants

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Since the Giants are going all Hamlet on the subject of Melky Cabreras October plans, it might be time to help prod them on other players.

Say, like announcing that Matt Cain will be in the playoff rotation. Sure, that seems obvious, but it isnt official until the Giants say its official, right?

In fact, Cabrera has commanded remarkably little of Bruce Bochys thoughts down the stretch. He is the afterthoughts afterthought, a distant maybe-in-an-emergency-situation in a series the Giants have not qualified to play in yet. Apparently, we obsess so he doesnt have to.

No, he spends far more time on the rest of the jigsaw puzzle, and has spent more time on this playoff team than his five others, which when you consider the margin of divisional victory is a bit odd. More decisions should, well, make themselves.

No, this is different than the others, and not just because we clinched so early, he said after Cain shepherded the side to a 6-0 shutout of the Arizona Diamondbacks. There are a lot of things weve got to make our minds up on, and we havent made our minds up on a lot of things yet.
RECAP: Giants 6, D'backs 0

Bochy has a way of speaking in large groups that leaves great gaps between what he says and how it can be interpreted. For example, there is no guarantee that Aubrey Huff will be on the postseason roster at all, despite the assumptions of the past several days. Nor can you bank heavily on Tim Lincecum in a place of rotation honor because of his history. Nor can they say 11 pitchers or 12, or whether theyll use three catchers.

Brian and I and the staff met today, talking about different things and different ways to go, Bochy said. And were going to keep doing it in San Diego and L.A.

The biggest reason for all the meetings is that he isnt really sure of a lot of things this time. The infield is pretty well set, one would think, and with Cabreras absence the three outfield spots as well.

But the pitching staff, the strength of the team, the engine that moves the transmission, that is a profound muddle.

Cain and Madison Bumgarner will almost surely go in Games 1 and 2, no matter who the opponent might be. Theyre pretty similar teams, Bochy said of the Washingtons and Cincinnatis, so were going to go with what we think is our best rotation no matter what. The team we play wont factor in a lot, and neither will the ballpark.

But Lincecum, whose last outing Tuesday was thoroughly shambolic, is not guaranteed Game 3 just on reputation. His next start is going to be pretty important, is all Bochy would give up as information, but it says volumes in its own way.

And there is still the matter of Barry Zito v. Ryan Vogelsong, and who might be more prepared to pitch Game 4 and who might be more prepared pick up the pieces of the Lincecum start if needed. And, if Bochy doesnt have the full confidence of his rotation, whether hell need to use eight relievers against either the Nationals or the Redlegs.

In short, Bochys days are full, and not full of Melky Cabrera, either. His chances of participation, minimal though they might be, seem far more hinged to bad fortune for one of the other outfielders than it does his own eagerness to return and atone. Cabrera is our fixation, not his.

RELATED: Melky to be left off Giants' playoff roster

Besides, he has plenty of fixations already without worrying about someones fitness to play a series he cant even be sure theyll ever play.

This ones different, he says with a weary sigh, a brief profanity, and one more in a series of full face-rubs. Thats the international sign of a man who will win his division by 12 games and still looks like hes five games out with seven to play.

Baseballs a lot more fun when the decisions take care of themselves.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

Three teams chasing Giants in tight race for first overall pick

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USATI

Three teams chasing Giants in tight race for first overall pick

LOS ANGELES — The Giants have a pretty strong track record when picking in the top five of the MLB Draft. In 1985, they took Will Clark with the second overall selection, and Clark remains the highest-drafted player in franchise history. A year later, Matt Williams was taken third overall. Jason Grilli at No. 4 in 1997 is rather forgettable, but taking Buster Posey with the fifth pick in 2008 led to three titles. 

With a week of baseball remaining, the Giants are a lock to pick in the top four of next year’s draft. A few days ago, they looked like a pretty strong bet to pick first overall, but the standings — the bottom of them, at least — have tightened in recent days. Here’s a look at the contenders, so to speak … 

White Sox (63-92): No team went into tank mode this year quite like Chicago, with trades of just about every big piece on the roster. But a funny thing has happened … they’ve actually played decent baseball down the stretch. The White Sox are 11-12 in September after a blowout of the Royals on Sunday. They finish up with four against the Angels and three against the Indians, so they should get pretty close to 100 losses. 

Phillies (62-94): They have looked all along like the team to beat, but they hurt their top-pick chances by taking three of four from the Dodgers last week. They host the Nationals and Mets this week. 

Tigers (62-94): All of a sudden, they’re the biggest road block for the Giants. The Tigers have lost seven straight and they’re 4-20 in September. They finish up with three against the Royals and three against the Twins, and all six games are on the road. 

Giants (61-95): Can we stop for a moment and appreciate this. We’ve been talking about it for five months, but still, it’s pretty amazing that a $200 million team is headed into the final week with a very good shot at having the worst record in Major League Baseball. What an awful season this has been. Having said that, the Giants have not shown any signs of actually tanking, and manager Bruce Bochy said this weekend that he won’t shut any players down. So, it’s on to Phoenix, where the Giants have lost six of seven this season but the Diamondbacks might chill out a bit after clinching a postseason spot. They’ll face Zack Godley, Robbie Ray and Zack Greinke. The season ends with three at home against the Padres. The Giants have struggled against the Padres for the last year and a half, but they’ll have Matt Cain going in an emotional start and Madison Bumgarner will also get a game. 

Given another look at fastball, Williamson gets revenge against Kershaw

Given another look at fastball, Williamson gets revenge against Kershaw

LOS ANGELES — Mac Williamson was sent up to pinch-hit when the Giants faced Clayton Kershaw earlier this month, and on a two-strike count, he watched as Kershaw shook off five different signs as he stood on the mound. Kershaw then froze Williamson with a fastball. It was a good lesson for Williamson, a player still trying to find his footing at the big league level.

“He’s a guy you can’t really guess with,” Williamson said. 

The outfielder admits he tends to overthink things. “I’m a perfectionist,” he said Sunday. But given a start against Kershaw, Williamson let his talent — and a little luck — take over. Williamson’s first hit off Kershaw was a bleeder that resulted in an infield hit. His second bounced through the middle of the infield for a single. The third one was the highlight of the day for the Giants. 

Kershaw had a shutout going when he tried to sneak a first-pitch fastball past Williamson in the eighth. He blasted it to dead center. It was the only run for the Giants in a 3-1 loss to the Dodgers. 

“It’s good to see him get those swings off,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “That homer was to the big part of the park. It shows how strong he is.”

The Giants have always known Williamson has the strength and raw talent. He hasn’t stuck for a number of reasons, including injuries and that aforementioned tendency sometimes to overthink at the plate. It probably hasn’t helped, either, that the Giants tend to sit him for days at a time and then play him against the Kershaws and Zack Greinkes and Rich Hills of the world. 

Williamson took advantage of the tough assignment on Sunday, joining a small group of Giants who have three hits in a game off Kershaw. 

“Hunter was ahead of me,” he said, smiling. “He beat me to it.”

Pence also had three hits, giving the Giants six from the corners against the best pitcher in the game. It wasn’t enough, but for Williamson, it was something to build off as the offseason approaches. He said it’s a winter he doesn’t plan to take lightly. Williamson’s agents are working to line up a Winter Ball job in the Dominican Republic.