Sandoval's cycle carries Giants to win over Rox

538547.jpg

Sandoval's cycle carries Giants to win over Rox

Sept. 15, 2011BOX SCORE GIANTS VIDEOMLB PAGE MLB SCOREBOARDDENVER (AP) -- When Pablo Sandoval saw Carlos Gonzalez crash into the wall he knew he had a chance at history, so he turned on his afterburners."When I saw him fall down, that's when I started running hard," Sandoval said. "Halfway between first and second that's when I thought I had a chance to make it."Sandoval slid headfirst into third base with a triple to complete the first cycle of his career and the San Francisco Giants beat the Colorado Rockies 8-5 on Thursday night to keep their slim postseason hopes alive.The Giants have won five straight and prevented Arizona from moving closer to clinching the NL West. The Diamondbacks lead the Giants by seven games with 12 to play."We've got a chance," Sandoval said. "You never know what's going to happen."Sandoval did his part to keep the Giants alive with his career night. He homered in the first, doubled in the second and singled in the fifth. He said he wasn't thinking about the cycle when San Francisco came to bat in the sixth.The rest of the team knew what he needed."I was rubbing his legs saying, 'Hey, I've got to get these things loose for a triple,'" manager Bruce Bochy said. "He said, 'Nah, I'm not even thinking about it.' Sure enough he hit the perfect ball. It's a great game for Pablo. It's quite a feat."Sandoval is the 25th Giant to hit for the cycle and the first since Fred Lewis accomplished the feat May 13, 2007, also at Coors Field. It is the 10th cycle recorded at Coors Field.The four hits all came against starter Jhoulys Chacin (11-12)."He hit everything I threw," Chacin said. "He hit a homer with a fastball, the base hit was a changeup. (The double) was off the plate and down and he just put the bat on it and he hit it to the other side. It was his night."It was all starter Ryan Vogelsong needed to end a personal five-game losing streak. Vogelsong pitched effectively into the sixth inning and had two hits."I wouldn't get too excited about those two hits, but I'll take them," he said.The Giants gave him an early lead to work with thanks to Sandoval's bat and poor fielding by the Rockies.San Francisco went ahead 2-0 in the first when Carlos Beltran singled with two outs and Sandoval homered into the second deck in right, his 20th.The Giants used two Colorado errors to extend the lead in the second. Brandon Crawford scored on a throwing error by shortstop Tommy Field. Jeff Keppinger hit a sacrifice fly and Jordan Pacheco misplayed Beltran's grounder at first, allowing Cody Ross to score from second to make it 5-0.The Rockies got one back in the third when Chacin scored from third on Mark Ellis' single. Pacheco made it 5-2 when he led off the fourth with his second home run.San Francisco made it 7-2 in the sixth on an RBI double by Ross, who scored on a double play grounder by Beltran."It was great to jump on top like that," Vogelsong said. "Definitely takes some of the pressure off."Vogelsong (11-7) allowed two runs and four hits, walked four and struck out eight in 5 2-3 innings.Santiago Casilla pitched the ninth for his fourth save.Colorado scored three runs in the seventh on Chris Iannetta's 13th homer and RBI doubles by Chris Nelson and Eric Young Jr.Brandon Belt led off the ninth with his sixth homer to make it 8-5.Chacin gave up seven runs - four earned - and nine hits, walked four and struck out one in 5 2-3 innings.Notes: Sandoval is the second player to hit for the cycle this season. Milwaukee catcher George Kottaras did it against Houston on Sept. 3. ... Gonzalez left the game in the seventh after aggravating his right wrist on Sandoval's triple. ... Rockies SS Troy Tulowitzki (hip) and 1B Todd Helton (back tightness) missed their second straight game. ... Giants closer Brian Wilson (right elbow strain) threw a side session Thursday. ... Left-hander Madison Bumgarner will face Colorado rookie right-hander Alex White on Friday in the second game of the four-game series. Bumgarner is 0-3 in five starts against the Rockies while White has never faced the Giants.

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

csnpost.jpg

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.