Bay Area Baseball

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July 20, 2013
Bullpen pitches in behind Cain as Giants beat Arizona, 4-3

SAN FRANCISCO -- Bruce Bochy said on Friday he didn't want his players thinking in big-picture terms like "series" or "homestand" to start the second half, and instead focus on the game at hand. And in two wins against the Diamondbacks to start the half, Bochy has managed that way. In Saturday night's 4-3 win, after Matt Cain departed in the sixth, Bochy used seven relievers to get the final 12 outs, preserving the win for Cain as the Giants trimmed their deficit in the N.L. West to 4 ½ games.

He might not have drawn it up like that if given the choice. Jeremy Affeldt faced just two hitters in the sixth before leaving with what the Giants announced is a strained left groin. Affeldt hurt himself throwing a 3-1 pitch to A.J. Pollock and left without attempting a warm-up pitch. Bochy said Affeldt had an MRI with results expected back Sunday.

"That's never a good area," Bochy said. "So it's a possible DL."

Jose Mijares came in from the dugout, warmed up on the mound and threw a ball to walk Pollock and load the bases with two outs in a 4-2 game. But Mijares got Adam Eaton to strike out swinging on a 2-2 slider and leave the bases loaded for the second inning in a row. Cain also stranded three runners in the fifth by getting Giant killer Paul Goldschmidt to ground out to third. The Diamondbacks stranded 13 runners overall.

The Giants' trainers wore out the path between the dugout and mound. Sandy Rosario also got a visit after trying to field a single with his bare hand in the eighth. Bochy said Rosario underwent X-rays that came back negative and should be available tomorrow. Sergio Romo also got a visit in the ninth after Goldschmidt's comebacker appeared to strike him, though Romo said it hit off his glove and the trainer's trip wasn't necessary.

Regardless, Bochy ran out nearly the full complement from his bullpen -- the only pitcher not used was rookie Jake Dunning -- to lock this game down after the Giants took a 4-1 lead into the sixth behind Cain. Arizona put multiple runners on in the final three innings but scored only once on Martin Prado's RBI single off Romo in the ninth, which snapped Romo's streak of 29 consecutive scoreless innings against the Diamondbacks.

"We made a couple mistakes in that game," Bochy said, citing two errors and a missed opportunity in the fourth to blow the game open with the bases loaded and nobody out. "But the pitchers did a really good job of keeping their focus and picking us up."

Mijares' outing was big, as was Javier Lopez getting Gerardo Parra to ground out to end the eighth with runners on the corners. Romo, who said he wasn't aware of the scoreless streak before Prado singled to drive in Goldschmidt with two outs, retired Cody Ross on a fly ball to center to end a game he described as "teetering" for the final few innings.

"It seemed like one hit either way could have opened up the game," Romo said.

Instead, the pair of two-out, run-scoring hits the Giants did get ended up being the difference. Pablo Sandoval doubled to drive in Marco Scutaro in the first, and Buster Posey hit a two-run homer off Josh Collmenter in the fifth to put the Giants up 4-1.

They're the type of hits that the Giants weren't getting in June and early July, when they struggled so mightily to score runs. As Bochy said later, "that's what wins ballgames for you -- timely hitting, two-out hits, those things."

Posey said the past two games have been more reflective of the Giants' winning formula -- good pitching and enough timely hitting. As a result, they're in a position to sweep the division leaders Sunday behind All-Star Madison Bumgarner. If they can do that, Bochy should be OK with his players talking in terms of a successful series.

* Tomorrow's print story focuses on Matt Cain in his first outing since he lasted 2/3 of an inning against the Mets on July 10. Cain needed 102 pitches to get through five-plus, but he left with the lead and earned his first win since June 13.

"I thought Matt looked good," Bochy said. "He ended up throwing a lot of pitches there, probably caught up with him. We made a mistake there that made him work a lot harder, helped the pitch count get up there. But he felt great, looked great. Thought he had good stuff tonight."

The mistake was Tony Abreu's throwing error in the fifth that allowed the Diamondbacks to score their first run. Cain had mostly cruised through the first four innings, allowing one hit and retiring nine in a row at one point. That included striking out Goldschmidt on a 93 mph fastball -- an indication along with his pitch count that Cain is physically well.

Some questioned whether Cain was hurt or fatigued after the start against the Mets, the shortest outing of his career and the second start in a row where he failed to get out of the third. Cain said he "took it easy" over the All-Star Break and probably benefited from the rest, but was adamant when asked if he was dealing with anything more: "No problems."

"You go out there and you can't make it through an inning, that's not very fun," he said. "But you've got to put it past you. You have to turn the page and you have to let things go. You can't sit there and dwell on it."

The Giants won behind Cain for the first time since June 18. Though he needed to work for it with the pitch count, Cain looked more like himself in this start with his velocity and the movement on his breaking pitches. Posey, who started at first base with a day game Sunday, said he nonetheless thought Cain "looked pretty crisp."

"It was definitely good to see," Posey said.

* Brandon Crawford didn't start due to his foot still being sore where Heath Bell stepped on it Friday night, but pinch hit in the sixth inning and stayed in to play shortstop. Expect him back in the lineup Sunday against right-hander Randall Delgado.

* Romo said he didn't know about his scoreless streak against the Diamondbacks until a reporter brought it up. He added: "I got an out after that, so I guess I started a new one."

* An encouraging sign for the Giants and their troubled offense: While Posey keeps on hitting (2-for-4 on Saturday and 12-for-28 in his last seven games), Sandoval is also showing signs of heating up, going 12-for-35 with six extra-base hits in his last nine.

"When he gets going he's extremely dangerous," Posey said of Sandoval, who hit behind him in the cleanup spot again Saturday. "He looks like he's been more comfortable at the plate over the past seven games or so."

* Marco Scutaro is on the board in the stolen base department. He swiped second in the eighth inning for his first of the year.

* It's Bumgarner (10-5, 3.02) against Delgado (1-3, 3.92) in the series finale tomorrow at 1:05 p.m. The Giants haven't swept a series since May 10-12 at home against Atlanta, at which point they were eight games over .500 and in first place. How things can change.

-- 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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