Entries in Evan Longoria (3)


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.



Bochy has a new view of McCutchen and Longoria

By Art Spander

SAN FRANCISCO — The thinking last year, misled as it might have been, was that the Giants would sign Giancarlo Stanton, the free agent with the big bat. But of course he went to the Yankees, so San Francisco ended up trading for Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen, who, well, aren’t Giancarlo Stanton.

But as Giants manager Bruce Bochy explained, they have attributes that, from the opposing dugout, were not as apparent as they have turned out to be.

Numbers were only part of the equation, said Bochy on a Monday night when the Giants returned from an awful road trip — they were almost zero for Pennsylvania — and, in un-Giants-like style, got home runs, doubles and a 10-7 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

McCutchen, obtained from Pittsburgh, had a couple of those doubles, his 1,499th and 1,500th hits in the majors. Longoria, who came from Tampa Bay, had the other and a single.

After the victory that pushed the Giants back to .500 (21-21), Bochy gave a baseball man’s observations about skills that a fan or journalist may not understand.

“When you watch those great players with tremendous talent, from the other side,” said Bochy, “you are hoping they don’t hurt you and beat you in some way. But you do appreciate the talent they have. Until you have a chance to see them on an everyday basis, to work with them, you don’t appreciate how good they are.

“Five-tool players (hit, run, throw, field, hit with power). The ball (McCutchen) hit in center would have been out of every other ballpark. He’s got speed. Doing a great job in right field. You watch those guys every day and have a basis on how good they are.”

They had company. In the eighth inning of a game that would feature 27 hits, Brandon Belt hit his seventh home run of the season. Earlier shortstop Brandon Crawford, who would have been rested if so many infielders weren’t injured, had two doubles and drove in two runs.

The evening was unusual. The small crowd (36,156 announced) seemed just as interested — maybe more interested — in the Warriors' playoff victory over the Houston Rockets.

A 3.5 earthquake centered across the bay in Oakland was felt in the stands. And the Giants, after losing six in a row at Philly and Pittsburgh, won their second in a row.

“We played well tonight,” affirmed Bochy, who was less happy with the performances on the road. “It’s tough travel coming back from Pittsburgh. But we were ready to play. I just loved the energy.”

And the runs. Every time it appeared the Giants would break things open, going in front 6-1 in the third, then 10-4 in the eighth, the Reds, who were on a six-game win streak and had swept the Dodgers in L.A., got close — if never in front.

“It was important we got those runs,” said Bochy. “Important to start a home stand this way.”

Chris Stratton was the Giants' starter, but he came out after five innings, having been battered for two homers and four runs.

“We’re fortunate we hit tonight,” said Bochy, “because they were scoring runs too. Those are the things that win ballgames, clutch hitting. Really through our lineup, we have professional hitters who know how to drive in runs. They have a nose for an RBI.”

On the 4-6 trip (which started with three wins in Atlanta, followed by four losses in Philly and two more in Pittsburgh), the Giants had a nose for the strikeout. Then Sunday, they beat the Pirates 5-0. Exhale.

Everything that went wrong suddenly went right. On Monday, catcher Buster Posey threw out Rosell Herrera trying to steal in the sixth, halting a Reds rally.

“To me, that was on one of the turning points of the game,” said Bochy. “That was a beautiful throw.”


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.