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11:22AM

Baseball gods, Longoria team to get Giants a win

By Art Spander

SAN FRANCISCO — This one goes to the baseball gods. And to Evan Longoria, who wouldn’t have been in the game if Pablo Sandoval, a switch hitter, hadn’t hurt his leg the day before and felt he couldn’t swing righthanded.

“Sometimes it works out,” Bruce Bochy, the Giants' manager agreed, “sometimes it doesn’t.”

In a convoluted sort of way it worked Monday night against the Dodgers, and for the Giants, who had lost three in a row, there could be nobody better against whom something would work.

It was Longoria, “Longo” as everyone calls him, who delivered what arguably was the biggest hit of the year and a month he’s been with the Giants, a bases-loaded double in the bottom of the seventh that scored all three runners and beat the Dodgers, 3-2.

“He needed that hit,” said Bochy. “We needed it.”

Let’s back up to the sixth inning, where the Dodgers scored their two runs in the top half — Cody Bellinger, naturally, drove in one, and his 37 RBI are the most before May in major league history.

In the bottom of the inning, Buster Posey doubled, and with Sandoval coming to the plate, the Dodgers brought in a new pitcher, Scott Alexander, a lefty, which wouldn’t have mattered it Pablo could swing righthanded comfortably.

But he couldn't, so Bochy pinch hit another righthanded batter, Longoria, who plays third base, as Sandoval has been doing in the game.

Longoria, struggling — he’s hitless in his previous 10 at bats — flied out to no one else but Bellinger, a.k.a. Superman. But at least Longo was in the game, and when he came up in the seventh he doubled off Dylan Florio.

Like that, the chants of “Dodgers, Dodgers,”  from what liberally might be called a crowd — only 32,212 fans at the place now called Oracle Park — were replaced by shouts of “Beat L.A.”

“I’ve been waiting for that hit in a Giants uniform,” said Longoria. “It’s been a year. It’s not for a lack of opportunity. I’ve been in situations. I was feeling good. I just haven’t been able to come through.”

Although he grew up in Southern California, Longoria had spent nine years with the Tampa Rays.

“Dodgers-Giants is a huge rivalry,” said Longoria, “but it’s new to me. It gives me chills when you’re out there and hear that kind of enthusiasm from the home crowd.”

Well, the temperature was in the high 50s and a Candlestick-type wind was blowing, but Longoria said that had nothing to do with the chills.

“I know my average is not good, but that doesn’t take away from my mentality in those situations. A bases-loaded double is cool.”

So, he said, is Sandoval starting at third, which is where Longoria normally is positioned.

“Pablo’s been swinging the bat good. I’m here to win. I’m ready off the bench. I’m happy to wait. I’m hitting .200 (actually .210). I can’t go into the office and ask why I’m not starting.”

What some of the media asked was why Bochy took out Giants starter Jeff Samardzija for a pinch hitter in the fifth inning of a 0-0 game. The manager had a quick response.

“We needed to score runs,” said Bochy.

They didn’t immediately, but Samardzija said he had no problem being pulled.

“After losing three in a row (to the Yankees) we needed to do anything to score runs. Another time I’ll go seven, eight innings. Anytime you win a close game, it’s awesome. It builds confidence.”

The Giants still are last in the National League West, hitting is poor and the pitching not what was expected — and now Derek Holland is on the injured list, Ty Blach having been called up from Sacramento.

“This is a game of momentum,” Samardzija said of baseball in general.

Whether the Giants have it is unclear, but they do have a victory over the Dodgers.

Something finally went right.

 

9:09PM

At the A’s, the talk was about the Giants — and Bryce Harper

By Art Spander
For Maven Sports

MESA, Ariz. — The game meant little. At least the game on the field. The other game, the battle for Bryce Harper, might mean a great deal. Then again...

Read the full story here.

Copyright 2019, The Maven

9:04PM

Giants ahead of last year — and ahead of the Dodgers

By Art Spander

SAN FRANCISCO — Bruce Bochy had his own vision. ”We’re not where we were hoping to be,” said the Giants manager. But they’re ahead of last year and ahead of the Dodgers, which isn’t all that bad.

Especially considering the start — two weeks ago, they had lost four more games than they had won. Especially considering the injuries — no Johnny Cueto or Jeff Samardzija for a while, and still no Madison Bumgarner.

But there they are after Sunday’s 4-2 win over the Dodgers, winners of three straight series, winners of six of 10 from Los Angeles — ridiculous that two teams play each other 10 times in April, even historical rivals — and at .500 for the season as May approaches.

Oh yeah, for those whose vocabulary consists of two words, “Beat L.A.,” a chant heard frequently among the sellout crowd of 42,020 at AT&T Park, although a sizeable percentage was heard cheering, “Let’s go Dodgers,” the Giants, supposed also-rans, are 14-14, compared to the 12-15 of the defending National League champion Dodgers.

It’s early. That’s the baseball mantra whether you’re off to a good start or a poor start. But this start has to be encouraging, with Evan Longoria doing what was needed when they got him in a trade over the winter, and Brandon Belt showing patience (that 21-pitch at bat against the Angels) and power (a run-scoring double Sunday and six home runs).

The Giants are getting the long ball. The Giants are getting solid pitching, Ty Blach going six innings, giving up six hits and two runs; then competent work by Sam Dyson and Tony Watson, and then Hunter Strickland, the closer, going 1-2-3 in the ninth.

That’s what the Giants couldn’t do a year ago, burst with a big home run, then cut off an opponent’s rally. You’ve got to hit the ball out of the park these days. You’ve always had to shut down the other team if you’ve had the lead in the ninth.

On Saturday, the Giants and Dodgers had a long day’s journey into night, a makeup of a rainout and then a scheduled game, a day-night doubleheader. And in the afternoon, the Giants gave up 15 runs for the second time in three games.

The argument could be made then that the win in the second game, a true nightcap as the announcers used to call them with play not starting until 7:30 p.m., was San Francisco’s biggest game of the spring.

Down early, the Giants won. They had a chance Sunday to get to .500, and they made good use of the opportunity. Being even is so much bigger psychologically than being one game below.

“Both teams were tired,” said Bochy of the Saturday marathon. “Longoria’s homer gave us a jump start. We wanted to get on the board first. You always want to score early. That home run was big.”

So was Blach, who had that opening-day shutout of the Dodgers, then lost to them and has now beat them again.

“One of those things,“ said Bochy of Blach’s effectiveness against L.A. “I’m sure he gets caught up in the tension. The fans get into it, here or down there. He just seems to pick it up against them. He’s getting back to who he is.”

So is Longoria, who was struggling, perhaps trying too hard to prove that the Giants made the right deal in acquiring him. He was fifth in the batting order Sunday, behind Buster Posey, who was third, and Belt. In the first inning, with two outs and nobody on, Posey doubled, Belt walked and Longoria hit his sixth homer of the young season.

“It’s always up to the heart of the order over the course of a season to drive in runs,” said Bochy. “That’s what they’re there for, what they’re paid to do. Sure the table-setters get on, but those guys ... you lean on those guys.”

Those guys give the other guys, the pitchers, the ability to throw the ball without worrying that every run will be critical, even thought with the Giants it’s usually the situation.

“When we have a lead, like we had, we can attack,” said Blach. “We don’t have to be as fine. A lot of guys are contributing. There’s depth in the lineup.”

And success, if minimal, on the field.

 

9:05AM

Only an exhibition game? Not Giants-Dodgers

By Art Spander

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Only an exhibition game? Not when the Giants play the Dodgers. Not with the image of Marichal and Roseboro still hovering in the mind. Not with the memories of Reggie Smith climbing into the stands at Candlestick to try and attack a fan. Not with the Dodgers finishing 40 games ahead of the Giants last season.

“You wake up,” said Giants first baseman Brandon Belt, “you know you’re playing the Dodgers and everything changes inside of you.”

What didn’t change was the Dodgers pummeling the Giants, 9-3. Wait, a week ago the Giants pummeled the Dodgers by the same score, 9-3. So that’s it. They end the Cactus League at 1-1. But in truth that’s not it.

Not when a century of history, beginning back when they were the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants, shadows them. Not when tales of Bobby Thomson’s pennant-winning home run, the “shot heard ‘round the world,’ are revived. Not when thoughts of the brawls and the boos never die.

Steven Duggar, the rookie centerfielder, who may or may not be on the roster when the Giants break camp, who Sunday, with Scottsdale Stadium packed to the extreme (12,141) hit his third homer of the spring, sensed that this was no ordinary exhibition.

“There was more buzz,” he said. “You could feel the vibe.”

Once they were in neighboring boroughs in New York City. Then they shifted to California, some 400 miles apart. But for spring training, ever since the Dodgers moved into their complex at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, the clubs are probably separated by only 25 miles.

And their fans are everywhere, attired in Giants black or Dodgers blue — and aren’t those two colors symbolic of the brawling between the teams, and unfortunately occasionally between the fans?

“Beat L.A.” is the normal chant from a Giants crowd. You didn’t hear that Sunday at Scottsdale. What you did hear were boos when Yasiel Puig’s name was announced and after he doubled in the first inning to drive in a run for the Dodgers, one of his two hits.

You also heard, “Let’s go Dodgers.” How did those people get in?  

How Chris Berman, the retired ESPN announcer, a professed Giants fan — you don’t have to be impartial in television — got in was through the Giants. He was invited by team management and even went out to the mound to change pitchers in the seventh inning

“A bit of levity,” said Bruce Bochy, the Giants’ manager.

After last season, the Giants can use some. Last place. The Dodgers in first, en route to the World Series. Spring games are not supposed to mean much — other than Giants vs. Dodgers — but a study of the starting lineups for each team indicates L.A. is far superior.

The heart of Dodgers' order, three through six, is Cody Bellinger (who Sunday had a hit); Puig (who had two hits and an RBI); Yasmani Grandal (who had a home run and two RBI); and Joc Pederson (who was hitless). Puig is batting .400.

The Giants' strength, if they have one, is pitching. Jeff Samardzija started Sunday for San Francisco and was decent for his third start. He did yell at home plate up Mark Ripperger in the second after a pitch was called a ball. The crowd picked up his displeasure and hooted a bit, but that was about it. Other than Samardija’s three walks in the inning.

Samardzija said he enjoyed the reactions of the crowd, which lifted the game from the ordinary. “They had a good turnout,” said Samardzija, of the Dodgers fans, “and we had a great turnout. It gives the game a little more excitement when the fans are into it more.”

Most spring games, Bochy is unconcerned with what occurs. He cared about this one. “We didn’t play that well,” he conceded.

“The rivalry? Look at the sellout. We wish we had played better, but we did beat them at their place. There’s always added interest when these two teams play, a lot of noise.”

Baseball as it should be. The games don’t show in the standings, but they certainly do to the fans.

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