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9:14AM

S.F. Examiner: Giants need to prove magic of spring isn’t lost in fog of summer

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

Bruce Bochy was telling the truth. A game in April is no less important — critical, was the word he used — as a game in August. But April is gone. So is the Giants’ lead. They are in second place now, behind the Dodgers, a team hailed and by some — Giants fans — hated.

A team against which San Francisco tonight begins a three-game series at Dodger Stadium.

Read the full story here.

©2016 The San Francisco Examiner

9:53AM

Bochy on Cueto: ‘This is why we wanted him here’

By Art Spander

It isn’t quite the sweet torture of a few seasons past. Oh, the Giants make you sweat, make their manager — the incomparable Bruce Bochy — wish it didn’t have to be as difficult as it seems to be. Yet, with that pitching staff, and Monday night Johnny Cueto was the man, there’s also a feeling the other team might never score.   

Now for two straight games, Sunday the awesome Cubs, Monday the not-so-awesome but very tenacious Padres, the other team hasn’t scored.

And finally the Giants did score. If barely. But when Cueto follows Madison Bumgarner, barely is plenty. Yes, consecutive games in which San Francisco could only score a run, Monday night when Hunter Pence, with a sore hamstring, pinch-hitting for Cueto, blooped a two-out ball to right in the ninth that Matt Kemp couldn’t reach.

Down went the ball, in ran Brandon Belt from first, and it was 1-0 Giants.     

Just as on Sunday it was 1-0 Giants, if against another team.

They’ve got the routine down. So exhale. And commend management for signing Cueto, a free agent, over the winter.

He is earning $130 million, a lot, but the long-held theory here is for cars, wine and ballplayers you almost always get what you pay for. Cueto is wonderful verification.

In his last four games, including this cold Monday night at AT&T Park, Cueto has allowed a total of three runs. The statement has been repeated often but perhaps not often enough: If the opponent doesn’t score, you can’t ever get worse than a 0-0 tie.

Which is what we had going into the bottom of the ninth. Now what the Giants have is a third straight win and 11 wins in the last 12 games. That ain’t bad.

“Pretty amazing what our pitching is doing,” said Bochy. Not really. It’s doing that it needs to do. What Cueto, 7-1, with a 1.93 earned run average (compared to Bumgarner’s 2.17) did was hold the Padres hitless the first 3 2/3 innings, give up only two hits total and pitch his second consecutive complete game after going nine in a 2-1 win against the Padres five days earlier in San Diego.

“This guy’s done it when he was with Cincinnati in that Great America Park,” said Bochy of a location as different as imaginable from spacious AT&T, a pitcher’s paradise. Cueto last year was traded from the Reds to Kansas City, where he was on a World Series champion. As a free agent he joined the Giants, where life is both beautiful and nerve-wracking.

“I’m enjoying it,” said Cueto, a Dominican, through translator Erwin Higueros. “I can handle these close games.” He understands the English questions well enough but is more comfortable giving the answers in Spanish. His fastballs and sliders speak a universal baseball language. Get out of here.

Cueto swings a mean bat, but he doesn’t always connect. In the bottom of the seventh, with two outs, Angel Pagan, who had walked — and subsequently reinjured his hamstring — was on second and Gregor Blanco, walked intentionally, was on first. Bochy may have considered a pinch hitter but not for long. Cueto had thrown only 78 pitches so he came to the plate — and struck out swinging.

“I was thankful that finally Pence came in to get a hit,” said Cueto.

So was Pence, who before the game was tentative about getting into the lineup. “But I felt fine,” said Pence, “when I went up there.”

Bochy was pleased with the ending but less so with the progress of the game. “We made it hard,” he said. “We had those two runners on in the first. We didn’t execute.”

Kelby Tomlinson and Matt Duffy had back-to-back one-out singles, Tomlinson going to third. But Duffy was caught attempting to steal second and Buster Posey struck out.

“Their guy did a great job too,” Bochy said of Padres lefthander Drew Pomeranz, who went seven shutout innings. “We thought it would be a close game.”

Isn’t it always when the Giants are involved? Sure, there are exceptions, such as Chicago’s 8-1 win on Friday night, but otherwise it was 2-1 and 3-1 over San Diego and then 1-0 and 1-0 over the Cubs and the Padres.

“That game Sunday,” said Bochy about the victory over Chicago “was one of the great baseball games. It had everything. Then we come back with this one.

“We had Johnny Cueto on our radar last year. This is why we wanted to bring him here.”

9:24AM

S.F. Examiner: Optimism escapes Bochy as Giants lose fifth-straight

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

He’s normally a man of silver linings and orange-and-black optimism. Bruce Bochy has spent a career believing everything’s not as grim as the rest of you would think. But there was a different Bochy after the Giants, his San Francisco’s Giants, were smacked around again Thursday by the Arizona Diamondbacks, a Bochy whose frustration could be sensed, whose disappointment could be heard.

Baseball, we’re told, is a game of ups and downs. There have been no ups for the Giants of late.

Read the full story here.

©2016 The San Francisco Examiner 

9:20AM

S.F. Examiner: Giants go from bad to worst

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

Bruce Bochy was alone at his desk, studying numbers that could only reinforce what he knew, what we knew — the Giants are a team in trouble. The scintilla of optimism that burst forth Saturday night like the reflection off the championship rings that had been awarded, and the victory that at last was achieved after eight straight defeats, had disappeared.

They’re not very good, these 2015 Giants, the defending World Series champions. They may in fact be very bad. The 5-1 victory by Arizona on Sunday set up what even Bochy, at his postgame news conference, agreed would be a critical few games against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Read the full story here.

© 2015 The San Francisco Examiner 

9:16AM

S.F. Examiner: It’s spring, so time to ease back into baseball

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

MESA, Ariz. — Winter hung in the air, one more brief shower for the Valley of the Sun. But on the field Tuesday unofficially it was spring, the Giants and the A’s in a game that while it didn’t mean anything, it conversely meant a great deal.

Ballplayers on the diamond, people in the stands, both delighted to be in the presence of the other.

Read the full story here.

© 2015 The San Francisco Examiner