Giants Go Deep To Steal Series Finale From Dodgers

By Shawn Whelchel

AP photo: San Francisco Giants Joe Panik hits for a double in the sixth inning of Sunday’s game versus the Los Angeles Dodgers

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.-The Giants entered Sunday’s series finale against the Dodgers just one home run short of leading the MLB. They used three of them to take three-of-four games from their rivals from down south over the weekend, completing yet another comeback with a 9-6 win.

Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Angel Pagan all went deep for the Giants on Sunday, leading to their fifth come-from-behind victory on the season that showcases the lineups old scrappiness with their newfangled depth throughout the order.

The 2016 are now the first team in franchise history to hit home runs in their first seven games, and the power surge has not gone unnoticed by skipper Bruce Bochy.

“It’s a team that’s gonna hit with more power. That doesn’t always mean home runs but I think if you look at the doubles, that’s gonna pick up, and throughout the lineup we have guys who can drive the ball. We’re not gonna rely on the long-ball but it certainly helps, particularly when you’re down five runs, it’s usually something that you need.”

Starter Johnny Cueto might have wished he was still in the confines of Miller Park after his second outing with his new team didn’t go over nearly as well as his first start of the season.

The quirky right-hander got knocked around for six runs on the day-including five in the first inning alone- but was picked up by his teammate’s at the plate. Despite his early struggles, Bochy kept faith in his new starter, and Cueto would rebound from a torrid start to give up just one more run over the next six innings before leaving with a chance at the win.

Although Bochy noted the tough first inning, the manager was ultimately impressed with Cueto’s resiliency and ability to bounce back after getting knocked around early.

“For him to end up going seven innings says a couple things. How tough he is, he’s a problem and he comes in there and gets a win after that. He was just a different pitcher after the first inning.”

Dodgers starter Scott Kazmir may not have given up runs in a bunch like Cueto, but the southpaw faired no better than Cueto, getting tagged for six runs over just four innings on seven hits. He was the first Dodgers pitcher to give up three home runs to San Francisco since 2004.

The Dodgers bats and the soggy AT&T turf dampened Cueto’s first start at home as a member of the Giants. After holding Los Angeles to 15 runs in eight career starts prior to Sunday’s game, the Dodgers tagged the 30-year old for five in the top of the frame.

Cueto allowed five hits, a walk and plunked one, while also slipping twice in the AT&T grass while attempting to field his position during that span.

But the Giants would showcase the power of their newfangled lineup, as they would erase Cueto’s miscues with the help of the longball.

Posey would kick things off in the third inning with a solo shot high into the left field bleachers to cut the Dodgers lead to just two. Two batters later, the newly-extended Brandon Belt would launch an equalizer of his own in the deep part of the yard, parking one over the center field wall near triples alley to tie the game.

Cueto, who had settled down after his wild first inning, would be tagged again by the Dodgers’ Corey Seager, whose ten game hitting streak would continue with a line drive single to plate Chase Utley in the top of the fourth to regain the lead for his club at 6-5.

The Giants would find an answer again, this time in the form of a blast from Pagan, whose ball would land just over the left field fence in the bottom half of the inning to notch things up again.

San Francisco’s bats stayed hot heading into the sixth, as Angel Pagan and Denard Span would reach base ahead of Joe Panik, whose seventh hit of the year was a two-rbi double that bounced on the center field warning track to give the Giants their first lead of the day at 8-6. Panik would come around to score on a deep sac-fly by Pence two batters leader to extend the margin.

Bochy’s continuing faith in his starter would be rewarded, as Cueto would settle in to strike out three batters while allowing just two hits and one walk over the next three innings. After escaping one last jam with a two-out liner to Pagan, Cueto would exit the game to a loud standing ovation from the AT&T Park crowd.

The Giants bullpen picked up where Cueto left off, with Sergio Romo and Josh Osich working a rather uneventful eighth inning before Santiago Casilla would down the heart of the Dodgers lineup in order to capture his second save on the season, giving his team a 9-6 final.

The win gives San Francisco sole possession of the NL West heading into a stint with the Colorado Rockies next week.

Michael Duca on A’s and Giants

by Michael Duca

OAKLAND–When it comes to Josh Donaldson he’s probably the best player the American League left off the All-Star roster and there’s little doubt that Donaldson has been pretty consistent and is number two in the A.L. in WAR which is one of those stats when you go to replace a player all year and that’s probably the best one or actually judging a player. He’s just about the best in the A.L. at providing victories for a team both offensively and defensively.
Donaldson has played an outstanding third base he would probably be the leading candidate for the gold glove if it weren’t for Mario Marchado in Baltimore and he is amongst the best offensive third baseman in the A.L. if it weren’t for the Miguel Cabrera guy in Detroit. He’s sort of the avis of third basemen in the A.L. second best defensively, second best offensively, probably best all around.
Donaldson in the playoffs:  To know how Josh Donaldson is going to do in the playoffs is something you can’t ask before the playoffs. How big of a role was the Giants Marco Scutaro last year? Nobody was expecting that, how big of a role was the former Giant Cody Ross in 2010? Nobody was expecting that. What happens in the playoffs was because teams have been scouted for weeks, weeks, and more weeks the key players tend to get shut down and the role players tend to play the biggest roles for the winning teams because if the role players who come and provide the offense allow a game to go far in the playoffs it’s the unexpected it’s the team tendators who show up out of nowhere.
Angel Pagan is carrying the Giants offense: People in the pressbox laugh when I say the Giants Angel Pagan has proved he’s the Most Valuable Player in the National League. By a real definition the term MVP he’s clearly the most valuable player to his team because they were in first place when he got hurt. Then the Giants played 20 games below .500 while he was gone and since his return they’ve climbed from the cellar back to third place.
There isn’t any question how important he is to the team, the best way to explain him is he gives the maximum effort and demands maximum effort and produces a higher level of energy within the clubhouse and on the field amongst their teammates. Who could ever forget last year watching the fast clap, the sunflower seed throwing, all of that stuff that outsiders think of is silly and a little boyish is really good how seriously good athletes manage to alleviate the pressure of playoffs.
It’s to revert to being little boyish, it’s to revert to going out and having fun when you perform and you relax and you let your talent to take over and that’s what Pagan did for the Giants last year and that’s what Hunter Pence did for them last year much like Juan Uribe did for them in 2010.
The way the Giants have played winning seven out of their last nine is their late September test against really good competition unless they had something to lose and I think the Giants will do really well to finish up the season. The Giants will be able to demonstrate a little bit more long ball power in the upcoming series at Yankee Stadium and the Giants pitching staff will probably do a good job in that ball park also because they throw a lot of ground balls.
The most important thing that’s going to come out of that series is the Giants are going to carry away with them forever the memory of being there for Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera’s last regular season home game and to see what the Yankees have planned for the future Hall of Famer.
Michael Duca does commentary each week for the Giants and A’s for Sportstalk