Bay Area Baseball

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April 21, 2013
Giant arms right the ship in weekend sweep of Padres

SAN FRANCISCO -- Before a pitch was thrown in this weekend's Giants-Padres series, manager Bruce Bochy was asked if too much was being made of his rotation's struggles during the prior road trip through Chicago and Milwaukee, when the starters combined for a 6.92 ERA in seven outings. Predictably, Bochy said of course there was, which now looks pretty smart from this end of the series.

The Giants polished off a sweep of the Padres this afternoon at AT&T Park behind seven shutout innings from Barry Zito, who has yet to allow a run in 21 innings at home on the season. The Giants shut out the Padres for the second day in a row, winning 5-0, and did not allow a run over the final 21 innings of the series.

Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Zito combined to give up two runs (both by Bumgarner) in 19 2/3 innings, and the bullpen chipped in 7 1/3 scoreless. All in all, a pretty successful weekend for a staff that was roughed up by the Brewers, before it shifts focus to the Arizona Diamondbacks starting tomorrow night.

"It's great," Zito said. "We definitely had a tough time in Milwaukee. But I think as a team we put that behind us and we came back and we were just ready to play."

That's basically what Zito said about himself as well, coming off his 2 2/3-inning, nine-run outing against the Brewers. After that game, he said he didn't feel like he had pitched badly. He said his off-speed command was better Sunday, as he held the Padres to five singles over seven innings, but that he changed little about his approach to hitters.

"You've got to have a short-term memory in this game," Zito said. "You let things bleed into the next one, that's when things kind of go bad."

Zito stayed around the zone, throwing 71 of 102 pitches for strikes and induced the kind of weak contact that makes him effective when he's on. The Padres didn't get a runner past second base after the second inning. It was Zito's third outing already this season of seven shutout innings. Last season he had four outings where he threw at least seven and didn't allow a run. In the three previous seasons combined, he had five such outings.

"He felt like he made good pitches last game and it didn't work out," Bochy said. "He had some bad luck in that game. And I think the worst thing a pitcher can do is change up something when things have been working for so long and you have one game where you're off and say, well, I have to do something different.

"Good for him that he didn't feel that way, and great job on Barry's part of bouncing back."

* Though with Zito dealing it amounted to little more than adding on, Sunday also saw Buster Posey hit his first home run of the season and first since Game 4 of last year's World Series in Detroit. Posey went homerless in spring training and the first 18 games of the season, and his breaking that streak is the subject of tomorrow's print story.

For now, suffice to say that while Posey acknowledged some relief getting the first one out of the way, nobody on the Giants was too worried about the reigning MVP.

"Every day's a grind in this game," said Zito, who has come to know that as well as just about anybody. "Pose, that's what he does. As long as we can relax and trust our talent, things are going to go all right, and Pose has a whole lot of talent."

* The Giants' three-run third inning began when Andres Torres, getting the start in left against the left-hander Stults, sliced a curveball into short right field and, running hard, legged out a double. After Brandon Crawford singled and Zito bunted Crawford over, Angel Pagan lined a 3-0 pitch into shallow center to drive in both runners -- and he too aggressively turned the hit into a double.

That came into play when Pagan tagged up on Marco Scutaro's fly ball to right field and then was able to score easily from third when Pablo Sandoval singled to center. That kind of aggressiveness on the basepaths has been stressed since spring, Bochy said.

"Speed can win games for you," he said. "Those two balls that they stretch into doubles, not many guys are going to get doubles on those balls. It starts when you come out of the box, and that has to be your mentality, your thinking once you hit the ball. Those guys did a great job there."

With the swing on 3-0, Pagan continued his early theme of delivering clutch hits. He now has seven go-ahead RBIs on the season, with the previous one coming on his walk-off hit Friday night. After that, he said he actively wanted to be "the guy" with the chance to end the game. He said he was thinking along the same lines when he swung 3-0.

"I was looking to put the ball somewhere in the outfield and it happened to be a line drive up the middle," Pagan said. "But that's the right attitude. I want the green light because I know that I want to get the job done."

Bochy credited Pagan with not trying to do too much on the swing, which gave him 11 RBIs on the year out of the leadoff spot.

* Torres, making his first start since April 13, went 2-for-3 with a single and double. The leadoff double was the second time in the series he made an impact with his speed -- after his failed sacrifice bunt attempt in the ninth inning Friday, he stole second before scoring the winning run on Pagan's single.

With both Torres (.281) and Gregor Blanco (.275) producing right now, Bochy said he feels the platoon strategy in left field is "working out great."

"You like the speed and the defense they give you out there and on the bases, but I like their at-bats," Bochy said.

"That was our hope, was that these two would complement each other well. And I'm comfortable really, righty or lefty, with either one. I'll try to get them playing time as much as I can."

The Giants are scheduled to face some left-handed starters in their upcoming series, which likely means more starts for Torres.

"But it's nice to have two guys that are similar in their style of play, and the fact that they're speed guys, good defenders," Bochy said. "And I like the way they're both swinging the bat right now."

* After sweeping the Padres, the Giants are now 8-1 in the N.L. West, having won eight straight since dropping their opening day game to Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers. It's early, but Bochy acknowledged it's important to bank these wins while you can. The Padres are 5-13, but four of their wins have come against the Dodgers. The Rockies were tied for the best record in the league today at 13-5, but were swept earlier this month by the Giants. The West team with the fewest games played in the division so far -- Arizona, which arrives in San Francisco tomorrow for a three-game set.

"I think it's fair to say you need to play some good baseball within your division," Bochy said. "It usually will determine what happens to you at the end of the year. We know that and we're in our division for a while (the next 12 games, including trips to San Diego and Arizona and a home series against the Dodgers).

"It's a tough division, and it's going to be important that we do play good baseball here."

It's Ryan Vogelsong (1-1, 5.89 ERA) against Wade Miley (2-0, 2.79) tomorrow night at AT&T Park. We'll be back then.

-- Matt Kawahara

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About Bay Area Baseball

Matt KawaharaMatt Kawahara was born in Sacramento and attended McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley, where he wrote for the independent student paper The Daily Californian. He graduated from Cal in 2010 and started at The Sacramento Bee as a summer intern. He joined The Bee’s sports staff in fall 2011.
Email: mkawahara@sacbee.com.
Phone: (916) 321-1015.
On Twitter: @matthewkawahara.

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