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World Series Game 2: Still no Heyward, Super Kluber, lineup changes

Wed, 26 Oct 2016 21:12:24 UT

The last time the Giants saw Jason Heyward in a regular-season game, it was Sept. 4, and he had three run-scoring hits (including a walkoff single in the 13th) in a 3-2 Cubs win at Wrigley Field. Cubs manager Joe Maddon posted his lineup for Game 2 of the World Series and omitted Heyward for the second straight night. The lefty-swinging Heyward is 2-for-28 in the postseason, having gone 1-for-12 against the Giants in the Division Series and 1-for-16 against the Dodgers in the NLCS. After signing with the Cubs last winter for $184 million, he hit .230 with seven homers and 49 RBIs and posted a .631 OPS, by far the worst in his career. Kyle Schwarber is the DH again, and Willson Contreras is catching instead of Miguel Montero, who has caught many of Jake Arrieta’s starts (including both in the postseason), and David Ross. The strong-armed Contreras will try to offset Cleveland’s running game. The Cubs have six players 24 or younger in the lineup, which is a postseason first, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. An old-school way of conducting business, but perhaps necessary with the Indians’ beaten-up rotation. Cleveland leadoff man Rajai Davis was replaced by switch-hitting DH Carlos Santana, who moved up from fifth in the lineup.

World Series Game 1: running on Lester, setting rosters and lineups

Tue, 25 Oct 2016 21:58:47 UT

World Series Game 1: running on Lester, setting rosters and lineups Everyone who knows that Lester is a major-league pitcher and is employed by the Chicago Cubs knows he doesn’t throw to first base with a runner aboard. The Dodgers knew it but did nothing about it except act like a dysfunctional youth team with meaningless big leads, silly dance moves and fake bunts, which did little but prompt Lester to glare into the Dodgers’ dugout. Nothing Mickey Mouse about their approach to the running game. Game 1 of the 112th World Series is Tuesday night, and the Indians plan to take advantage of Lester’s insecurity with his pickoff move. Lester’s World Series ERA is 0.43, third best among pitchers with at least 20 innings, behind Madison Bumgarner (0.25) and Jack Billingham (0.36). [...] if the Indians reach base, it’s game on. The entire Dodgers’ roster stole 45, fourth fewest in the majors. The Indians’ 134 steals ranked fourth in baseball, first in the American League. Kyle Schwarber, fresh out of the Arizona Fall League, will be the Cubs’ designated hitter in Game 1 and face big-league pitching for the first time since his April knee surgery to fix two ligaments. [...] Chris Coghlan, who played briefly for the A’s this season, is in right field for slumping Jason Heyward, who has a $184 million contract but is 2-for-28 in the postseason. Guess who’s the Cubs’ all-time postseason home run leader? Tuesday, he’ll be the first DH in Cubs postseason history. The Indians included pitcher Danny Salazar on their World Series roster, as expected, though he missed the first two rounds of the playoffs and much of September with a forearm injury. The tentative plan is for Salazar to be limited to four innings and 70 pitches. Fowler ‘speechless’: As the leadoff hitter on the visiting team, Dexter Fowler will be the first African-American to appear in a Cubs World Series. Jackie Robinson broke the color line two years after the Cubs’ last World Series appearance. Cubs lineup: CF Fowler, 3B Bryant, 1B Rizzo, LF Zobriost, DH Schwarber, 2B Baez, RF Coghlan, SS Russell, C Ross. Indians lineup: CF Davis, 2B Kipnis, SS Lindor, 1B Napoli, DH Santana, 3B Ramirez, LF Guyer, RF Chisenhall, C Perez.

Believe it: Cubs in the World Series

Sun, 23 Oct 2016 04:49:04 UT

For the first time in 71 years, the National League pennant belongs to the team everyone identified as the lovable losers. [...] . The Cubs got to this position because they beat the Dodgers 5-0 in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series on Saturday night. Because they pooh-poohed the Killer B curses: billy goats, black cats and Bartman. Oh, Kershaw is better than anyone in the regular season, considering his four ERA titles, three Cy Young Awards and MVP trophy. [...] in the postseason, Kershaw is no match for Bumgarner, the Giants’ ace whose postseason ERA is 2.11 — 0.25 in five World Series games. Kershaw got all the pub coming in, but the baseball world seemed to forget about Hendricks, the closest thing to the Greg Maddux of his era who was passed over by teams his entire life because he lacked a power arm. Fast forward to 2016, and Hendricks won an ERA title and the Cubs’ biggest game in decades, the game that clinched a date in the World Series with the Indians, who have their own celebrated drought, titleless since 1948. A once-hapless sports town, Cleveland is four wins from becoming Title Town, the Indians hoping to stand side by side with LeBron James’ Cavaliers. In 2004, the Red Sox lifted the Curse of the Bambino, and now the Cubs will try to lift the Curse of the Billy Goat. Suddenly, Steve Bartman is off the hook — the poor guy in the front row whose reach knocked a ball from Moises Alou’s grasp the previous time the Cubs were in an NLCS Game 6 (2003), somehow turning momentum in the favor of the Marlins, who overcame a three-run deficit and won the series, then the World Series. With five outs remaining Saturday, Joe Maddon got booed for pulling Hendricks, who gave up singles on his first and final pitches and nothing in between. Aroldis Chapman induced a double-play grounder and breezed through the ninth, and a wild and wacky Wrigleyville nearly drowned itself in tears because the Cubs are going to the World Series.

Bullpen fails in Giants’ season finale

Wed, 12 Oct 2016 08:15:20 UT

Bullpen fails in Giants’ season finale The Giants’ season ended Tuesday night because a 5-2 lead in the ninth inning was wasted. All wasted along with the three-run lead the bullpen inherited from Moore. “How do you explain any of the blown games we’ve had with this bullpen?” asked rookie Derek Law, a talented 26-year-old whose emotions and towel waving served as a rallying cry in Game 3. In the biggest inning of the season, Bochy used five relievers, and all failed. All contributed to the Cubs turning China Basin into Wrigleyville, a party in the visitors’ clubhouse and a party among the hundreds of blue-clad fans who lingered and chanted behind the Cubs’ dugout long after the game. Romo was Bochy’s third reliever, a day after the right-hander coughed up Kris Bryant’s two-run, ninth-inning homer that tied the score and prompted extra innings. If Bochy had full faith in Romo or any reliever to complete a full inning, he would have had a different Game 4 strategy. [...] the manager started the ninth with Law, and Bryant beat the Giants’ shift with a grounder through the left side, where the shortstop normally plays. Romo faced just one batter, and Ben Zobrist smoked an RBI double down the line in right. When Cubs manager Joe Maddon called for pinch-hitter Chris Coghlan, Bochy countered with lefty Will Smith, and Maddon countered with Willson Conteras, who singled through the middle for two RBIs and a tie game. Jason Heyward bunted into a fielder’s choice, but shortstop Brandon Crawford’s second throwing error of the night permitted Heyward to advance to second. Bochy summoned his final reliever, Hunter Strickland, and Javier Baez singled in the deciding run. Crawford’s error set up the winning run, but it’s tough to blame a Gold Glove shortstop who saved the team countless times over the years. A three-run lead and three outs shouldn’t be a problem for a playoff team that has been in these situations three other years and prevailed.

Game 4 Eavesdrops: Draymond Green’s day at the yard

Wed, 12 Oct 2016 03:58:30 UT

Before throwing the ceremonial first pitch, Draymond Green met Giants legends Willie McCovey and Willie Mays. While serving a suspension, he missed Game 5 of the NBA Finals and wasn’t allowed in Oracle Arena, so he spent the time in a private suite next door at the Coliseum during an A’s-Rangers game. [...] the Giants sent out this tweet: “They can’t keep you from coming here” and accompanied a picture of a ticket envelope with his name on it. The Oct. 3 Shot Heard Round the World eliminated the Dodgers and sent the Giants to the World Series. There were some raised eyebrows among baseball officials after the Braves hired Ron Washington away from the A’s without a promotion. The Braves received permission from the A’s to interview Washington to manage, not coach.

Draymond Green throws first pitch, meets Willie McCovey, Willie Mays

Wed, 12 Oct 2016 00:57:57 UT

Draymond Green, moments before throwing out the Game 4 ceremonial first pitch, met Hall of Fame first baseman Willie McCovey. Green had an opportunity to throw a ceremonial pitch before an A’s game in June but declined. “I just didn’t think it would be the right thing,” Green said of turning down the A’s invitation to throw the first pitch. [...] the Giants sent out this tweet: “They can’t keep you from coming here” and accompanied a picture of a ticket envelope with his name on it. Four months later, Green said he actually reached out to the Giants to throw a first pitch, through Warriors PR man Raymond Ridder, who contacted the team. “They were down 3-0, and I’m like, ‘Ahh,’ ” Green said of Monday’s thriller in which the Giants won 6-5 in 13 innings. Green said he played baseball from T-ball through ninth grade - “I was a very good hitter” -- before it got in the way of basketball.

Bruce Bochy: ‘One of the best, most exciting games I’ve ever been involved in’

Tue, 11 Oct 2016 08:23:56 UT

Sergio Romo coughing up Kris Bryant’s two-run homer in the ninth inning for the Giants’ 31st blown save opportunity of the season. Bochy will manage a Game 4 in the Division Series because the Giants beat the Cubs 6-5 in a game that took 13 innings and triggered a million emotions. Bochy had to make a late lineup change because Angel Pagan was scratched with back spasms (Gregor Blanco played left field), and the manager had to make a ton of bullpen decisions — watching only one backfire. Except for Romo’s ninth-inning blues, the bullpen was exceptional. Derek Law was summoned after Madison Bumgarner’s five innings and turned into the most emotional man in China Basin after each of his two scoreless innings, dancing off the mound and pounding his chest on the way to the dugout, where he continued his exuberance with an orange rally towel. Hunter Strickland worked the eighth, and Bochy kept him in even with lefty Jason Heyward at the plate and a runner aboard, sticking with Strickland’s heat rather than Javier Lopez’s deception. Lopez stood on the bullpen mound as Strickland struck out Heyward to end the inning. Romo earned the closer’s role in the final weeks after Bochy tried other candidates in the wake of Santiago Casilla’s repeated meltdowns. The Giants led the majors in blown saves in both the regular season (30) and September (nine), a major reason for their second-half struggles. Gillaspie hit .500 on the final homestand, swatted a three-run homer Wednesday in New York that sent the Giants to the Division Series and cracked a two-run triple in the eighth Monday that gave the Giants the lead. [...] Bochy joined the Giants’ celebration after Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik hit consecutive doubles to end the night and secure another game. Romo, you give up a two-run homer to tie the game, and that can unravel you, but you end up getting six straight outs.

Game 3 Eavesdrops: Learning from Bill Walsh, visiting with Willie Mays

Tue, 11 Oct 2016 06:45:44 UT

“He sort of imagined he was standing behind a window on the sidelines to stay away from the emotion of the game,” the Cubs’ manager said. When Maddon played for the Salinas Angels of the California League in the ’70s, Fonzi worked for KSBW in Salinas. Michael Zagaris, noted cool guy and longtime A’s and 49ers photographer, is shooting for the Cubs this series and wearing a Cubs cap. In 1965, Sandy Koufax chose not to pitch Game 1 of the World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur but wound up pitching Games 2, 5 and 7, throwing shutouts his last two starts. [...] we imagine the Giants’ CEO would make it to Game 5 in Chicago, if it’s played. Brandon Belt is the latest among Giants with long-term contracts planning to settle in the Bay Area year-round.

Eavesdrops: Smith makes Giants pitch, Maddon lived in ‘closet’

Sun, 9 Oct 2016 05:32:05 UT

Smith makes Giants pitch, Maddon lived in ‘closet’ The buzz from Saturday night’s Game 2 of the National League Division Series at Wrigley Field: Smith, a Giants roving pitching instructor, was asked which team he was pulling for, and he said, Who you think I’m pulling for. [...] yeah, he was a bit torn over throwing a first pitch at Wrigley but accepted the invitation two weeks ago. “Shane Turner will fire me,” he said of the Giants’ director of player development. Cubs manager Joe Maddon’s four-year professional playing career included two seasons with the Salinas Angels of the California League and ended in 1979 with the Santa Clara Padres. Asked about living in a Salinas “closet,” Maddon said, “Not really proud of that moment, although that’s when I really fell in love with ‘Bat Out of Hell’ by Meat Loaf.”

Giants’ Shawon Dunston recalls ’89, Madison Bumgarner clears ivy

Sat, 8 Oct 2016 03:52:12 UT

Shawon Dunston, the Giants’ video-review coordinator who doubles as a coach, was asked about the series and said, “I hope it’s a repeat of ’89.” During batting practice, one after another, the Giants’ starting pitchers were hitting balls over the outfield ivy. A Spanish-speaking reporter opened an interview with Gorkys Hernandez referencing the magnitude of leading off in the Division Series opener after playing just 26 regular-season games. Best T-shirt of the day: the one with the words “I ain’t afraid of no goat,” worn by Bill Murray. Panik’s from New York and probably left a bunch of tickets for his buddies at Wednesday’s wild-card game at Citi Field, right? “Not one person asked me,” Panik said. Long ago, Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward had bragging rights over Buster Posey. Heyward’s Henry County High won the Georgia state championship in a best-of-three series over Posey’s Lee County High. Heyward’s kid brother, Jacob, hit .330 this season in the low levels of the Giants’ farm system.

Johnny Cueto, others give Giants’ rotation heft

Fri, 7 Oct 2016 17:37:30 UT

Johnny Cueto, others give Giants’ rotation heft CHICAGO — This time, Madison Bumgarner has help. When the Giants last were in a postseason series, Bumgarner was both a one-man rotation and five-inning closer, and he probably would have piloted the Giants’ flight back to San Francisco if given a chance. By the time the Giants reached the 2014 World Series, Bumgarner was the lone effective pitcher in the rotation, so manager Bruce Bochy used him as much as possible, and the lefty got 63 of 108 outs in the four wins over the Royals. Bochy used him all nine innings in Wednesday’s wild-card game and still can open the Division Series on Friday night with the man who started the All-Star Game, Johnny Cueto. [...] the fact we used our guy to get here and that we have Johnny, that’s a nice luxury. Bochy didn’t have a Cueto-type in the ’14 Series. To review, the three starters not named Bumgarner posted a combined ERA of 9.92. Bumgarner’s was 0.43, one run in 21 innings. [...] he’s surrounded by Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and Matt Moore, and no wonder Bumgarner keeps saying he likes the Giants’ chances to get deep into October. Cueto will pitch on seven days’ rest and make his first postseason start since his two-hitter in last fall’s World Series, with the Royals. The Cubs are starting Jon Lester. With baseball’s best dreadlocks and a laundry list of deceiving windups, Cueto went 18-5 with a 2.79 ERA in the regular season, finishing with a 4-0 record and 1.78 ERA in five September starts. After the loss, the Giants’ third in the four-game series, Cueto seemed determined to see the Cubs in the postseason, saying, “I hope to God we do.” The quote made the social-media rounds, and Cueto was reminded about it Thursday. “I just felt that when you get to this stage,” he said, you have to actually show up and you have to win the games. After arriving at Wrigley on Thursday afternoon following hours of delays in both New York and Chicago, including brutal traffic from O’Hare, Bochy wasn’t prepared to name a Game 2 starter — it’ll be either Samardzija or Moore with Bumgarner likely going in Game 3 in San Francisco on Monday. The Cubs’ starters are, in order, Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta and John Lackey. Good matchups across the board, especially Cueto-Lester and Bumgarner-Arrieta. “Both teams have deep rotations,” Cueto said. Whoever executes better and plays better is the winner. A one-man wrecking crew might not be needed as it was two years ago when the rest of the World Series rotation was Jake Peavy, Tim Hudson and Ryan Vogelsong, who gave up 18 earned runs in 161/3 innings over five starts. Hudson lasted 28 pitches in Game 7, which featured Bumgarner coming out of the bullpen for five scoreless innings. To be fair to Peavy, Hudson and Vogelsong, the Giants might not have escaped the Nationals in the Division Series without their work. Bumgarner took the only loss. By the National League Championship Series, a five-game triumph over St. Louis, it was becoming a one-sided rotation with Bumgarner at the helm, and he treated the World Series like his personal showcase. The Giants weren’t about to roll the rotation dice again and invested $220 million last winter in Cueto and Samardzija, then obtained Moore at the Aug. 1 trade deadline, building a foursome that compares favorably with any other in the majors, including the Cubs’. Samardzija’s ERA since Aug. 10 is 2.45, and Moore has had big games, including Sunday’s playoff clincher in which he beat the Dodgers by yielding one run in eight innings. “It’s good,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of the Giants’ rotation. Look at Cueto’s numbers. Maddon suggested it’s usually an advantage playing a wild-card team in a Div[...]

How will Giants’ bullpen respond for Bochy?

Thu, 6 Oct 2016 00:09:06 UT

A day after Buck Showalter made his stunning and costly non-move, failing to use celebrated reliever Zach Britton in Baltimore’s 10-inning loss to Toronto, the Giants’ bullpen will be on stage Wednesday night in New York. Unless, that is, Madison Bumgarner pitches all nine innings, as he did in Pittsburgh the last time the Giants were in one of these wild-card face-offs. The Giants won World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014 in large part because of how Bochy pulled the strings on his pitching staff. The Giants blew nine save opportunities in September, tops in the majors, but the relievers were far more reliable in the final week as the team won five of six. When the Giants play their final game of the year, whether it’s Wednesday or in the World Series or somewhere in between, it’ll be the Giant finale for several players. “You’re right,” Lopez said Sunday after the Giants clinched a playoff spot, there are a lot of us going to be free agents, but I don’t think that was any more of a motivator to make it here. Bumgarner has appeared in two elimination games, pitched a total of 14 innings and didn’t surrender a run — the nine innings in Pittsburgh and five more out of the bullpen in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series.

Giants toast Vin Scully’s finale: ‘I have said enough for a lifetime’

Mon, 3 Oct 2016 05:51:30 UT

Eighty years to the day after the little red-headed kid, as Scully refers to himself as a youth, got hooked on the Giants, he signed off for the last time and thanked his listeners for being his friends, suggesting he needed them more than they needed him. Let’s pick up Scully’s final call, with Sergio Romo on the mound at AT&T Park, Rob Segedin at the plate and 40,000-plus standing and anticipating the end of a playoff-clinching victory for the Giants. Romo out of his stretch and the 2-2 pitch on the way, Sergio deals, slider, hit in the air to left-center, coming over is Pagan. Scully had a quick wrapup, acknowledged the umpiring crew waving goodbye to him and offered the final words after his final inning on the air. With that, the 88-year-old legend walked out of the booth and into the press elevator before a cart whisked him through a throng of delighted fans who cheered him in his final exit. The Dodgers and Giants are heading to the playoffs, but Scully is heading to family time with his wife, Sandi, and all his kids, grandkids and great grandkids, apparently taking a break to pull for the Giants in Wednesday’s game in New York, the birthplace of the rivalry he masterfully chronicled for 67 years. At age 8, noticing the Giants got pounded in a World Series game on Oct. 2, 1936 — 18-4, Yankees — Scully felt sorry for the losing side, becoming an instant fan. [...] the attention he was receiving from fans, family members, the Giants and Willie Mays himself got him emotional, and he finally dropped the R-word in the sixth inning. Mays visited Scully for a second straight day, this time with Giants CEO Larry Baer to unveil a plaque that will forever hang in the visitors’ TV booth acknowledging Scully’s final broadcast. Scully also was presented a framed picture of Giants great Mel Ott accompanied by a game ticket from the day Ott hit his 500th home run. “He’s one of my favorite players because he tries so hard,” Scully said of Pence, adding he’s constantly in motion. “I was thinking sitting in the booth talking to Willie,” Scully said, who would ever have thought that little red-headed kid with a tear in his pants, shirttail hanging out, playing stickball in the streets of New York with a tennis ball and a broom handle would wind up sitting here, 67 years of broadcasting, and with my arm around one of the greatest players I ever saw, the great Willie Mays?

Hanging with Willie Mays and Vin Scully: it’s the greatest

Sun, 2 Oct 2016 03:18:56 UT

The coolest thing in the world happened before Saturday’s Giants-Dodgers game. Willie Mays dropped by Vin Scully’s broadcast booth, and the two icons discussed baseball and life. “My favorite, Willie Mays,” said Scully when introducing the Say Hey Kid to his wife, Sandra, as a dozen people looked on in the booth. Scully, who will call his final game Sunday at AT&T Park, has never hesitated when saying the best player he ever saw was Mays, who played for the rival Giants for 21 of Scully’s 67 years behind the microphone. Scully told Mays, “I always thought you could play every position on the field,” and Mays said he actually played shortstop a couple of times, once in a 23-inning game against the Mets in 1964. Scully: “I always remember Eddie Grant’s monument at the foot of the clubhouse (in center field) was 483 (feet from the plate).” Mays: “I tell everybody it’s not the catch so much, it’s the situation, getting the ball back to the infield.” To me,” Scully said, “I tell people, ‘The best one he ever made was the line drive by Bobby Morgan at Ebbets Field.’

Giants’ Eduardo Nuñez questionable for L.A. series

Thu, 29 Sep 2016 17:50:13 UT

Giants’ Eduardo Nuñez questionable for L.A. series The hot corner was a hot topic Wednesday night, not just because former Giants third baseman Matt Duffy was in the house. Duffy stopped by the clubhouse to visit his old teammates and wish them well in their bid for a playoff spot. Meantime, Duffy’s replacement at third, Eduardo Nuñez, missed another game with a strained right hamstring, and manager Bruce Bochy declared Nuñez questionable for the season-ending series against the Dodgers. Conor Gillaspie played third on Wednesday, but Bochy said newcomer Gordon Beckham could get starts at the position, especially against L.A. lefties Rich Hill and Clayton Kershaw. Beckham, acquired from Atlanta in a Monday trade, arrived during the series opener and watched the Giants rack up 12 runs, a rarity for this team. The way I look at it,” he said, “we’re hot. Duffy, who was shipped to Tampa Bay at the Aug. 1 trade deadline, is recovering from Achilles surgery and walked in a protective boot Wednesday, the first day he was able to ditch his crutches. Duffy likes the Giants’ chances. “Once you get in, anything can happen,” he said. For the most part, you’ve got three (starters). The intensity ramps up. Guys who can keep calm in those situations are the guys that come out on top. John Shea is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Back on mound: Johnny Cueto, recovering from a groin strain, will pitch Thursday on eight days’ rest, his final regular-season start.