Giants shut down the Dodgers, anticipate their rivals making the biggest moves at the trade deadline

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–The Padres have the flashiest moves, reportedly those will include a deadline deal for Max Scherzer within the next 24 hours.

The Dodgers are the current World Champions, talented, and looking to add a piece or two to keep them on top.

The Giants aren’t saying or doing much, but they’ve got the most wins, the most remaining home games, and after Thursday’s reaffirming 5-0 win, the respect of the Dodgers.

“We have so much respect for those guys. Obviously, that’s a very good ballclub,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “They’ve earned this right now, up to this point. And they played better the last seven games, clearly. All we can do is turn the page, get ready for Arizona and try to play good baseball. That’s the only focus right now that we have. We’ve still got a ways to go.”

A ways to go is down to 60 remaining games in 2021, only three of those against the Dodgers. The third-place Padres are six games behind the Giants and they have 10 of their final 19 games against the division leaders. How do you handicap this race? Quite obviously, credible cases can be made for each of the two challengers, Los Angeles and San Diego, especially with the Giants more an more likely to stand pat at the deadline.

Could the Giants surprise with their lineup of champs a half decade removed along with aging wonders Johnny Cueto, Evan Longoria, Darin Ruf? More and more, it feels like we’re about to find out.

First place is a good position to be in,” Brandon Crawford answered when asked what should the Giants do next. “We could always add pieces, there are some guys that are available that could probably help us. But we have the best record in baseball so we’re doing things pretty also. If we add, great. If we don’t, great.” 

The Giants did what they needed to do Thursday. Leveling the season series with the Dodgers at 8-8 after losing the first four, and six of the first nine is huge. The Giants jumped out quick with Crawford coming off the injured list and driving in two runs in his first at-bat. The opening rally was pure opportunism, and the Giants drew three walks from Dodgers’ starter David Price then saw Crawford bounce a winner down the third base line as he clearly looked to take advantage of the defensive shift that conceded the third base line with Justin Turner playing in the shortstop hole.

“Walking three guys in that first inning, that puts myself in a tough spot, puts our team in a tough spot as well,” Price said. “Crawford did a good job of staying inside that fastball. He shot it down the third-base line. That was a big hit for them.”

The theme of striking with two outs continued for the Giants as they added single runs in the second and fourth innings. In the seventh, Lamonte Wade Jr. gave the Giants their third RBI double to cap the scoring and send the Dodgers to San Francisco International Airport post haste.

From a pitching perspective, Cueto gave the Giants all the remaining momentum they needed by pitching into the sixth inning and not allowing any runs. Cueto went the entire month of July until Thursday without a win. That put the veteran on the spot as potential spot in the rotation to upgrade. But Cueto’s response was emphatic. The veteran shut the Dodgers down with a greater percentage of fastballs, better performance the first time through the order, which had been an issue. And to top it off, and in support of a blueprint going forward, the 35-year old threw fewer than 80 pitches before he was lifted which maybe the path for him to follow allowing him to ramp up his pitches earlier in starts and not worry about getting as deep in ballgames.

“I kept telling myself that I needed to be very aggressive against these hitters because they’re difficult and hard hitters,” Cueto said after the game through his interpreter.

The Dodgers one shot to make things interesting came and went with Cody Bellinger’s at-bat in the sixth inning with the bases loaded and two outs. But reliever Jarlin Garcia–a name gaining prominence in the team’s pecking order–came on struck out the Dodgers’ slugger on three pitches.

The Giants gave catcher Buster Posey the day off as anticipated, but also did not rule out their iconic player’s return on Friday night against the Astros with his early exit on Wednesday not being ruled due to a concussion. The team said the move was precautionary, and they got good news when that belief was confirmed Thursday.

Kevin Gausman gets the start on Friday against the Astros in a matchup with Framber Valdez.

Bonds-ian: Giants flash that 2001 look in 6-1 romp over the Angels

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–The typical Giants hitter is nearly 31 years old–more than two and a half years older than the MLB average–has an injury history, and maintains a healthy appetite for hitting home runs. They’re discerning at the plate, draw walks at a high rate, and they rake when a pitch arrives they think can drive.

Sound like 2001 Barry Bonds? Well, yeah it does.

The Giants put it on the Angels, winning 6-1 on Memorial Day while hitting three home runs in the process, and achieving a feat that hadn’t been done by the franchise since 2001. The Giants hit multiple home runs for a sixth straight game, something that was last done by the 2001 club that had 36-year old Bonds hit 73 homers and draw 177 walks… and win 90 ballgames.

On Monday, it was 35-year old Evan Longoria hitting a two-run shot in the fourth to give the Giants the lead 2-1 which they would never relinquish with starter Johnny Cueto dipping and dealing in front of the home crowd. Mauricio Dubon and Lemonte Wade Jr. would add solo shots in the fifth and sixth innings to expand the lead.

Ironically, Longoria and Wade connected on first pitch sinkers delivered by Dylan Bundy. Dubon–improving as a hitter deep in counts–delivered on a slider six pitches into his at-bat. All three pitches left Bundy in a deeper funk as he fell to 0-6 with a 6.49 ERA on the season. One year after allowing five homers all season, Bundy has allowed 12.

“None of them were technically where you want them,” Bundy said of the three pitches that were launched. “You got to throw everything on the edges nowadays, so none of them were where I wanted them.”

Bundy wasn’t awful, but he made mistakes. After cruising through the first three innings, he appeared to be in a groove. But the Giants were playing their patient role to perfection, and when mistakes were made, they pounced. That put the home team in their wheel house from an offensive perspective. They finished the afternoon with six walks induced, the three homers, just seven hits, but six runs scored. Their 78 home runs over the season’s first 54 ballgames is the second best total in Major League Baseball behind the Braves’ 80.

The Giants (34-20) have suddenly won four straight and regained the top spot in the NL West with the Padres falling to the Cubs on Monday. After dealing with the menace of the World Champion Dodgers, the Giants appear ready to regain their winning ways. Manager Gabe Kaplan said he sees signs pointing in that direction.

“I thought this was a really important win for us because of the emotion and energy we spent to try to win the Dodgers series,” Kapler said. “We knew that Bundy would come out and throw a lot of strikes and force us to put the ball in play, which he did. I feel like it’s important because there can be an emotional letdown after a series like the Dodgers [series]. We know that the Angels are a great team, and we weren’t going to let that happen.”

Cueto improved his record to 4-1 on the season, going seven innings, allowing five hits and no walks. The crowd gave the veteran a nice ovation, and Cueto reciprocated, saying he enjoys the interaction, which has missing for more than a season now.

“It got me excited and emotional to see the fans getting behind me,” Cueto said.

The only negative on the afternoon involved Longoria, who departed after five innings with a sore muscle in his side. The veteran will have an MRI on Tuesday and miss at least one game.

The Giants conclude their brief two-game set with the Angels on Tuesday with Alex Wood attempting to break his two-game losing streak in a match up with the Angels’ Andrew Heaney.

San Francisco Giants day off report: Cueto and Yastrzemski expected to return this weekend

San Francisco Giants pitcher Johnny Cueto throws against the Cincinnati Reds line up on Apr 14, 2021 is expected to return to the Giants pitching rotation by this weekend against the San Diego Padres (AP News photo)

By Jessica Kwong

The San Francisco Giants had Thursday off before they start a three-game series against the San Diego Padres on Friday.

After falling to the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday and losing the series, the Giants could use some good news, and they got it.

Manager Gabe Kapler said Johnny Cueto, who has not pitched since April 14 due to a minor lat injury, will be back in the rotation this weekend. Cueto will start on Sunday against the Padres, which will be his fourth start of the season.

In the three games he’s pitched so far this year, Cueto has a 1.80 ERA, a 1.91 FIP and 18 strikeouts to four walks in only 20 innings on the mound. Cueto will replace Logan Webb, who struck out five and walked three in just 3 2/3 innings in Wednesday’s 6-5 loss to the Rockies at Coors Field.

Additionally, who has been out since April 25, is expected to return this weekend.

Kapler hopes that Buster Posey, who left the game on Wednesday with a sore hamstring, benefited from the day off and will be back in action this weekend.

After the game on Wednesday, the Giants optioned catcher Joey Bart back out to Triple-A Sacramento, where he will start the River Cats season.

Perhaps the biggest news on the Giants’ day off was celebrating the 90th birthday of legendary center fielder Willie Mays. The Say Hey Kid spent nearly all of his 22 seasons in Major League Baseball with the Giants. The Giants filled their Twitter account with birthday messages and retweets honoring the Hall of Famer,

In addition, the Giants Community Fund introduced the Willie Mays Scholars, a program dedicated to addressing racial and educational inequities by providing black youth in San Francisco with scholarships of up to $20,000 and academic support.

Multifaceted Giants better than high-powered Reds again, win 3-0

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–Johnny Cueto left early, but the Giants’ bullpen made sure their veteran starter was covered late in their 3-0 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday.

The win capped a 5-1 homestand for the Giants, with their surprising relievers getting the better of the Reds’ high-powered offense in high leverage situations for the second, straight day.

Cueto pitched into the sixth inning, but motioned to catcher Curt Casali that he couldn’t continue after striking out Nick Castellanos. Prior to that moment, Cueto cruised, allowing three hits and no walks with four strikeouts. The 35-year old veteran was diagnosed with tightness in his lat, and examined after the game to determine if he’ll miss any starts.

“It felt like he was doing fine,” Casali said of Cueto. “He might have maybe tweaked something compensating for another part of his body. You never want to see that, especially when he’s cruising like that. Hopefully he doesn’t have to miss a start, and if he does, hopefully it’s not too, too long.”

“We all had visions in the dugout of that being another deep-into-the-game Johnny Cueto start,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “He just looked outstanding and totally in control.”  

The Reds, however, saw more than enough of Cueto, who picked up the win, and shutdown the best offense in baseball through the season’s first two weeks in the process.

I’m confident that we’re not going to have too many games like that with our offense,” Reds manager David Bell said. “At the same time, you have to give credit to Johnny Cueto. We’ve all seen him for a long time. I thought he was outstanding.”

Austin Slater doubled home Brandon Crawford in the fifth inning, then took third on a passed ball. Casali’s sharply hit ground ball was fielded cleanly by Eugenio Suarez, but his throw to plate was too late to catch the sliding Slater.

In the eighth, the Giants added on with Maurice Dubon’s RBI single which was actually a catchable pop fly that bounced out of Jonathan India’s glove allowing Evan Longoria to score from second base.

The Reds homered twice in Monday’s series opener, and twice more in the first inning on Tuesday, but Giants’ pitching shut them down after that with the bullpen coming up big both days.

In the eighth, after Jonathan India drew a leadoff walk, Tyler Rogers induced a double play ground ball from Tyler Stephenson. And in the ninth, closer Jake McGee allowed a base hit to Joey Votto, but struck out Eugenio Suarez on three pitches to end it while picking up his Major League-leading sixth save.

The Giants travel back east on Thursday before opening a three-game series in Miami on Friday night. Anthony DeSclafani will start for the Giants, while the Marlins have yet to name a starter for the 4:10pm start.

Giants’ playoff push starts off with a nudge in 7-2 loss to the Rockies

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–The Giants couldn’t afford to take a night off. But they took one anyway.

The final week of the regular season placed the Giants right where they need to be: at home in Oracle Park where they’ve won 13 of 16. But with starter Johnny Cueto clearly off his game, the Giants fell quietly to the Rockies, 7-2.

The silver lining, if one exists? The Cardinals, Marlins, Phillies and Brewers–the majority of the quintet of clubs the Giants are competing against for the last two National League playoff spots–all lost as well giving all parties a 24-hour reprieve in what figures to be a furious finish that may not be completely decided by Sunday.

Tonight’s lone winner? The Reds, who beat the Brewers, 6-3, winning for the eight time in nine games. The Reds are over .500 for the first time since winning their first game of the season, and currently occupy the seventh seed.

Had the Giants won Monday, they could have moved into the sixth slot. Instead, their back below .500 and a half-game behind a pair of teams that currently hold tiebreakers against them.

Cueto hadn’t pitched since September 13 due to a sore hip, and he didn’t appear healed after allowing a pair of runs in the first, a home run to Kevin Pillar in the third, and balking in a run in the fourth. Cueto’s outing marked the third time in five starts that the veteran has allowed at least six runs. On Monday, he allowed seven runs on eight hits and couldn’t finish the sixth inning.

 

Giants have modest two-game win streak after thumping the Angels 7-2

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–It’s official: The Giants’ embarassing weekend is over.

After three days of being used like a doormat by the more talented A’s, the Giants have bounced back, winning a second straight over the Angels Wednesday night, 7-2.

Of course, the response against the struggling Angels won’t generate the headlines that getting embarrassed by the rival A’s did, but the Giants are back to their process. Just get better, one day at at a time.

Wilmer Flores came through with a two-strike, two-out, three-run homer, and Austin Slater hit a two-run shot to back Giants’ starter Johnny Cueto. The veteran pitcher won for the 128th time in his career, and moved to 2-0 on the season, pitching 5 2/3 innings, allowing four hits and two runs.

“Johnny pitched great and he was able to go deeper into the game for us,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We asked a lot of him and he gave us a lot of pitches. We were able to hand the ball over to the bullpen and they did a nice job for us.”

While Kapler has walked on eggshells in regards to how he utilizes his pitching staff, penciling in his offensive lineup has been a comparative joy. Donovan Solano and Mike Yastrzemski have parked themselves among the league leaders in several offensive categories. The Giants are slighty above MLB average in home runs, triples and RBI. It’s a start for now, and it appears to be picking up steam. In the last eight games, the Giants have hit 13 homers while hitting .295 with runners in scoring position.

When Kapler was forming Wednesday’s lineup against left-hander Patrick Sandoval, Slater with his impressive numbers against lefties had to be penciled in as the DH batting leadoff. Flores or Belt at first base was a tougher call, but only because both are swinging the bat well. This time, Flores got the nod.

“You’re trying to give everyone an opportunity and stay sensitive to the fact that guys are making adjustments and trying to get better,” Kapler said. “This was one of those days. This was one of those lineups.”

Flores rewarded with two hits and four RBI while his batting average climbed to .301. Yastrzemski had a pair of knocks to lift his average to. 318. And Slater’s home run, single and a walk got his OBP to a team-best .453.

That’s progress for a club that at 10-16 is taking its lumps, but showing up everyday and playing for a new manager under unique circumstances.

Meanwhile, the Angels have had little go right in the last week outside of taking advantage of Trevor Gott on Monday for their only win of the stretch. At 8-17, they’re experiencing their worst 25-game start to a season in franchise history.

When the lineup, includes superstar Mike Trout, World Series MVP Anthony Rendon, high-priced import Shohei Ohtani, and future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols, that’s not pretty. Manager Joe Maddon, also in his first year, has been through plenty, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

“These are the moments when you just really, you do have to dig down deeply and you do have to fight through them and you do have to keep pushing to come out the other side,” Maddon said. “In our game, the thing that we have to do consistently well, and I’m not banging on the pitching, we just have to pitch more consistently.”

On Thursday, the Giants and starter Kevin Gausman will face lefty Jose Suarez in his season debut for the Angels.

Giants’ rally in the ninth comes up just short in 7-6 loss to the Rockies

By Morris Phillips

The Giants offense has gone from feeble to fantastic in less than a week, led by early MVP candidates Donovan Solano and Mike Yastrzemski. 

Now if only the Giants’ pitching and defense could make the same dramatic leap.

Currently, the Colorado Rockies are serving up the NL West’s best combination of the critical, baseball elements, the latest example their come-from-behind, 7-6 win over the Giants at Coors Field on Monday.

The Giants jumped out to 4-1 lead in the fifth inning behind Johnny Cueto only to see the Rockies explode for five runs in the sixth to seize control. Colorado added a run in the eighth, then held on when the Giants rallied for a pair of runs in the ninth, leaving the tying run stranded at third base.

In the end, the Giants could only blame themselves and their inability to record big outs, along with less than stellar defense.

“It’s really important we tighten up our play, we play catch and make the plays, particularly in one-run games at a Coors Field,” manager Gabe Kapler said.

Nolan Arenado homered with Charlie Blackmon aboard to cut the Giants lead to 4-3 which ended Cueto’s evening two batters into the sixth. Despite the hiccup, Cueto proved again to be the master of the huge park and its mile high elevation. At that point, Cueto had done his part in a potential sixth team win in his seven starts as a Giant at Coors.

Reliever Wandy Peralta allowed Ryan McMahon’s drive to right that Alex Dickerson bobbled and dropped on the warning track for a triple. Matt Kemp’s single tied it, and subsequent base hits by Chris Owings and David Dahl gave the Rockies a two-run cushion.

Dickerson again contributed to the Rockies’ rally with an errant throw that forced catcher Chadwick Tromp to vacate his position as Kemp and Owings crossed the plate on Dahl’s hit. Kapler penciled in Dickerson for only his second start as a right fielder only to see the decision backfire with the miscues.

“Honestly I bet Dick makes that (catch) 19 out of 20 times,” Kapler said. “The throw, I bet he makes almost every time. There’s no question.”

Home runs by Tromp, Yastrzemski and Dickerson were squandered in the loss. The Giants have hit 10 home runs in their last six ballgames, a stretch in which the team has gone 3-3.

Pitcher Andrew Suarez was recalled before the game, and Andrew Triggs, who had a rough outing on Sunday, was optioned. The Giants have not announced a starter for any of the three, remaining games in Denver, the start of a 10-game, three-city, road trip that continues to Los Angeles and Houston.

Longtime KNBR talk host Ralph Barbieri passed away Monday after a long battle with Parkinson’s. The 74-year old Barbieri spent 28 years at KNBR, the last 15 with co-host Tom Tolbert, and was well known for his razor-sharp wit.

San Francisco Giants podcast with Michael Duca: Can Cueto stay healthy for 2020; Will Bart be the starting catcher this season?

sfchronicle.com photo: San Francisco Giants pitcher Johnny Cueto (72) talks with infield coach Kai Correa (50) during a spring training game Wednesday at Scottsdale AZ

On the Giants podcast with Michael:

#1 Talk about Johnny Cueto is he back healthy again he says he ready to come back, can he stay the test of time for a whole baseball season?

#2 Cueto pitched for 2 2/3 innings on Wednesday then gave up four runs but Cueto said he was happy to get 49 pitches in.

#3 The Giants catcher Joey Bart ranked number seven on ESPN’s 100 prospect list and Giants TV analyst Mike Krukow said Bart should not be brought up to the show just to sit on the bench.

#4 The Giants pitcher Tyler Beede had an MRI on Tuesday and it revealed that he had a flexor sprain and UCL sprain and he could be considered for Tommy John surgery.

#5 What’s up with Yapson Gomez’s delivery in relief for the Giants he has that hesitation delivery and moves the suspended leg and then delivers.

On the Giants podcast with Michael on http://www.sportsradioservice.com

San Francisco Giants podcast with Michael Duca: Belt, Posey expected back in the lineup tonight in Arizona

Photo credit: @mercnews

On the Giants podcast with Michael:

#1 Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he kept first baseman Brandon Belt out of the lineup due to his inflamed knee Bochy says Belt is listed as day-to-day.

#2 Belt has had two knee surgeries. He went 0-3 with a walk on Tuesday night against the Toronto Blue Jays. Did his 0-for-3 have something to do with his knee being inflamed?

#3 The bobblehead for Pablo Sandoval reads “Let Pablo pitch” but someday the bobblehead for Giants pitcher Shaun Anderson will read “Let Shaun hit” because two hits in his first MLB game and some solid hitting would make only teammate Madison Bumgarner proud.

#4 Buster Posey is expected to be in the lineup on Friday night to open up the series with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was out with a concussion for seven days. How cautious will the Giants and Posey be about his return?

#5 Giants pitcher Johnny Cueto is doing a 40-pitch bullpen session as he catches up with the team in Arizona. Bochy said he’s not sure if Cueto will be back this season after having Tommy John surgery, but he wants to see how and where Cueto is at in these bullpen sessions.

Join Miguel for the Giants podcasts each Friday at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

Cueto’s injury-marred season is finally over

Photo credit: @BR_MLB

By Jeremy Harness

Johnny Cueto’s season could not have gotten off to a better start.

He started the year by winning his first three decisions with an earned-run average of under 1.00. Then he started feeling tightness in his pitching elbow, and it never really went away.

It has come to a point where Cueto had to make a decision to scrap this season in order to save the rest of his career. He has elected to have season-ending Tommy John surgery, which he is scheduled to have Thursday in Los Angeles by Dr. Neal ElAttrache, according to multiple reports.

Tommy John surgery has a recovery time of a full year, and due to that, Cueto is expected to be out until late in the 2019 season.

This is obviously a big blow to a Giants pitching staff that has been struggling to get back on track after injuries to Madison Bumgarner as well as Cueto, and it certainly limits their ability to make up much ground against a Los Angeles Dodgers team that is surging and made a couple of big moves before the trading deadline.

While Cueto is getting operated on, the Giants will be kicking off a four-game series in Arizona that night against the Diamondbacks. Bumgarner will take the hill on Thursday opposite D-Backs righty Zack Greinke.

Bumgarner (3-4) has won two of his last three decisions, but he dropped his latest outing last Friday, a 3-1 home loss against the Milwaukee Brewers, a game that saw him go eight innings and give up three runs on six hits.

Greinke, meanwhile, has been rolling. He has amassed an eye-popping mark of 12-5 and has won eight of his last nine decisions, including each of his last seven. His latest appearance came in a 6-2 win at san Diego, during which he surrendered only a run on six hits over seven solid innings.