Giants

Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants 7, Cubs 5

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Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants 7, Cubs 5

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO The Giants have hit the fewest home runs in the major leagues. The wind was blowing in off Lake Michigan Sunday afternoon, too.

Good thing they can string hits together like Christmas lights.

Even without Melky Cabera, and a total lack of power from positions of traditional thump, the Giants keep finding ways to move the line along. Xavier Nady started all three of their scoring rallies, including a two-run sixth that tied the score and a two-run ninth that delivered a 7-5 victory over the Chicago Cubs.

Nady, who hit a bases-clearing double in his Giants debut Saturday, was an impact presence once again. He walked to start two innings, including a three-run third. His final act was to draw a walk from Carlos Marmol to begin the ninth. Pinch-runner Gregor Blanco stole a base and scored the tiebreaking run on Angel Pagans single to left field. Marco Scutaro followed with another RBI single as the Giants pulled out a series victory and concluded a highly successful 5-1 road trip.

The Giants are 10-2 in their last dozen road games and have won four consecutive series away from AT&T Park. They wont stray further from Denver the remainder of the season.

Starting pitching report
Matt Cain was cruising toward his 14th victory, which would have matched his career high. But Soriano dashed those plans with one swing in the fifth inning.

Cain knew immediately that his poorly located 1-0 fastball wasnt coming back unless thrown by a bleacher creature. He bent at the waist and slapped the mound as Soriano watched his three-run home run cut through the lake breeze.

Until then, Cain was having a very good day. He gave up a run in the third inning when No. 8 hitter Darwin Barney singled, advanced on a sacrifice and scored on David DeJesus line single.

The Cubs used the same combination Barney single, a sacrifice and a DeJesus line single to right field to score again in the fifth. But DeJesus didnt get an RBI this time because the third base coach had held Barney before right fielder Hunter Pence bobbled the ball. Pence was charged with an error for allowing Barney to score.

After a walk to Luis Valbuena and a fielders choice, Cain faced Soriano with two outs. Back in the third inning, Cain was able to get out of a two-on, two-out situation when he threw a pair of two-strike curveballs and got Soriano to swing through the last one.

But this time Cain fell behind, and his 1-0 pitch wasnt remotely close to Buster Poseys low-and-away target. The fastball ran up and tailed middle-in, right into Sorianos happy zone.

Cain retired the next hitter to end the fifth but the damage was done. The home run turned a 3-2 lead into a 5-3 deficit.

Bullpen report
The Giants dont win without near perfect work from their relievers. Jose Mijares, Jeremy Affeldt and Santiago Casilla navigated the sixth through the eighth.

Casilla began the ninth and yielded to left-hander Javier Lopez after giving up a one-out single.

At the plate
The Giants have done a credible job of scoring runs without the longball, and they did it again while grabbing a 3-0 lead in the third inning. Angel Pagan, Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey hit RBI singles in a four-batter span.

Nady set up the inning with a leadoff walk and Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo threw wide for an error as Cain reached after getting down a sacrifice bunt.

Nady also started the Giants two-run rally in the sixth with a double, and when the Cubs pulled left-hander Travis Wood for right-hander Manuel Corpas, Giants manager Bruce Bochy sent up Brandon Belt to pinch hit for first baseman Brett Pill. Belt tripled into the left field corner to score Nady.

Then Bochy sent pinch hitter Aubrey Huff to the plate for the first time since July 30 (and just the fourth at-bat since June 10). Considering the long layoff, Huff had an impressive at-bat. He fouled off a two-strike pitch to stay alive, then Belt scored the tying run on a wild breaking ball in the dirt.

Huff ended up hitting a deep out to right field.

In field
Soriano didnt merely frustrate Cain with his home run swing. The left fielder also denied Cain when he crashed against the ivy while catching the pitchers well-struck drive in the fourth.

Soriano returned to his more familiar fielding foibles glove in the sixth when he didnt look so smooth while failing to catch Belts triple in the left field corner.

Angel Pagan had a right to feel robbed. Third baseman Luis Valbuena made a diving stop of a hard-hit grounder to take away a single from Pagan in the fifth inning. And center fielder Brett Jackson charged before making a sliding catch of Pagans flare in the seventh.

Blanco made a huge contribution in the ninth when he caught Brett Jacksons leadoff shot against the ivy in left field. Plus there was Blancos stolen base, too. Hes the new Darren Ford on this team.

Attendance
The Cubs announced 39,760 paid. Olympic hockey legend Phil Esposito was the guest conductor for Take Me Out to the Ballgame. He believes in miracles, obviously. But the Cubs winning the World Series? You might need something stronger.

Up next
The Giants play their final 28 games against NL West teams, beginning with a Labor Day matinee against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday. Barry Zito (10-8, 4.42) will oppose left-hander Patrick Corbin (5.6, 3.93). Ryan Vogelsong is scheduled to pitch Tuesday against right-hander Ian Kennedy (12-11, 4.27) and Madison Bumgarner is due to pitch the series finale Wednesday against right-hander Trevor Cahill (9-11, 4.02). The Giants are 27-17 within the division thus far this season.

What the Giants' 2018 Opening Day lineup could look like

What the Giants' 2018 Opening Day lineup could look like

SAN FRANCISCO — The excitement could be heard in Bruce Bochy’s voice as he spoke on a conference call Tuesday afternoon, which was understandable. Bochy used 136 different lineups last season, largely because the Giants never found permanent solutions in the outfield or at third base. 

Since the final game of a 98-loss season, the front office has handed Bochy an everyday third baseman in Evan Longoria, a star in right field in Andrew McCutchen, and a versatile outfield option in Austin Jackson. With every new addition, Bochy has tinkered with the lineup bouncing around his head. He isn’t ready to reveal anything publicly, but he said the new-look staff is already discussing lineup options. 

“It’s going to be probably toward the end of spring training until we have this lineup down,” Bochy said. “It’s a different lineup, as you know. I’ll see or we will see what makes the most sense.”

In McCutchen and Longoria, the Giants added two guys used to hitting right in the heart of the order. After the Longoria deal, Bochy did say he would like to hit Longoria in front of Buster Posey and Brandon Belt. Since then, McCutchen has given him another option, and a lot more could still change. 

Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans would like to add one more center fielder, and it’s possible that player can lead off. Steven Duggar could win the job in camp, and with his speed and strong eye at the plate, he would be an ideal leadoff option. That is, however, a lot of pressure for a rookie, and Bochy mentioned McCutchen and Jackson as options atop the lineup. Both hit there quite a bit earlier in their careers, but McCutchen hasn’t been a leadoff hitter since 2011 and Jackson has just 56 starts there the last three years. Joe Panik and Hunter Pence also have experience leading off for Bochy, and it’s possible the top of the lineup could change depending on the opposing pitcher.  

“I’ve always liked to have the versatility or flexibility to mix it a little bit,” Bochy said. “Maybe it’s a matchup thing or lefty-righty.”

It will be a lefty, Clayton Kershaw, staring in at the Giants on opening day. So for now, here’s a guess at the group Bochy will send out there at Dodger Stadium … 

1. Andrew McCutchen RF
2. Joe Panik 2B
3. Evan Longoria 3B
4. Buster Posey C
5. Brandon Belt 1B
6. Hunter Pence LF
7. Brandon Crawford SS
8. Austin Jackson CF
9. Madison Bumgarner LHP

Jackson not necessarily Giants' everyday center fielder

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USATSI

Jackson not necessarily Giants' everyday center fielder

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants had a glaring hole in center field after the acquisition of Andrew McCutchen and his subsequent move to right field, so it stood out when a press release to announce the signing of Austin Jackson included the words “depth at all three outfield positions.”

A day later, team officials made it clear that Jackson is not necessarily the final piece of the puzzle, or even the solution in center field. After mentioning several times that it was a strategic signing, vice president of baseball operations Brian Sabean gave a blunt answer when asked about Jackson’s role. 

“Did we get him to be our everyday center fielder? Probably not,” Sabean said. “I don’t know that in his recent history he’s been able to go out there in that fashion.”

Jackson played just 54 games in 2016 and 85 last season for the Indians. The Giants see him as a complementary piece, someone who can handle plenty of time in center, spell McCutchen and Hunter Pence in the corners, and give them a dangerous bat against left-handed pitchers. 

It seemed that was a role that would mostly go to Austin Slater, but the Giants gave Jackson a two-year deal for $6 million, basically wiping out the rest of their room under the tax line. They will not be significantly involved in free agency from this point on, which leaves two options for one more outfield addition. 

Steven Duggar was mentioned over and over again on Tuesday’s conference call, and the Giants will give the prospect a chance to win a significant role this spring. It’s possible that Duggar and Jackson could form a platoon, but before committing to that, the front office will look to add a third offseason addition via trade. 

“There are still some fronts that we are pursuing with minimum-service type of players, which are low in salary,” Sabean said. “We’ll flush out other possibilities.”

Evans has spent months laying the groundwork for multiple deals, and the front office remains confident that one more outfielder can be added via trade. The player would have to be young and pre-arbitration to line up financially with the rest of the offseason work.

If that doesn’t end up happening, Bruce Bochy won’t be too upset. Bochy said he couldn’t be happier with the work Sabean and Evans have done to overhaul an outfield that was unfathomably bad on both sides of the ball last season. If Jackson is the final piece, Bochy is ready to make it work. 

“Right now, as we start the season, I think you’ll see Austin out in center field as much as anything,” he said. “We’ll see where we’re at when we break camp, but that’s a need for us out there in center. As we break camp, we’ll know where we’re at with other options, Gorkys (Hernandez) or Duggar. But center field is where (Jackson) will spend most of his time this spring.”