Baggs' Instant Replay: Nationals 6, Giants 5


Baggs' Instant Replay: Nationals 6, Giants 5

SAN FRANCISCO When the Giants stepped off the plane in the predawn, mid-Atlantic gloaming four days ago, they were a first-place team within a whisper of the best record in the National League.And if they could count on one thing, it was their ability to hold a big lead. They were 74-1 over the last two seasons whenever they gained an advantage of three runs or more.But the Washington Nationals exercised veto power. The Nats stamped themselves as the class of the Senior Circuit, roaring back from a three-run deficit for the second consecutive night. They staged a two-run rally against closer Santiago Casilla in the ninth to sweep the Giants with a 6-5 victory at Nationals Park.The Giants had a chance to send the game to extra innings when second baseman Ryan Theriot fielded a bases-loaded grounder from Adam LaRoche. But shortstop Brandon Crawford bounced the throw and Brandon Belt wasnt able to scoop it as the winning run scored.While blowing a 5-1 lead, the Giants were swept in a three-game series for the second time this season. They blew a 3-0 lead a night earlier.Starting pitching reportAlthough it probably wasnt at the forefront of his mind, Matt Cain took the mound with an opportunity to firm up his credentials to be named the NLs starting pitcher in the All-Star Game.He certainly beefed up his case in the first six innings while holding the Nationals to one run, which scored on a double-play grounder.But Cain was taxed in the sixth when he had a spirited, 10-pitch battle with talented 19-year-old Bryce Harper. The young center fielder kept flicking his bat at two-strike pitches before he finally grounded out on a two-seamer that Cain left over the heart of the plate.Impressively, Cain was able to generate power through the heat and humidity to throw an explosive, 93 mph fastball past Michael Morse to end the sixth.But perhaps he wore battle fatigue in the seventh, when Ian Desmond hammered an opposite-way home run and Danny Espinosa followed with another shot. Cain gave up a deep out to Jesus Flores at the warning track for the second out, ending his night.His line: 6 23 innings, six hits, three runs (all earned), one walk, four strikeouts, two homers allowed, 103 pitches, 62 for strikes.And he departed in line for his 10th victory. Cain wouldve joined Madison Bumgarner as the first pair of 10-win teammates in the NL this season. The Giants havent had two 10-game winners at the break since Cain and Tim Lincecum in 2009.Bullpen reportThe Giants havent played many torturous games in the late innings, but this one qualified.Left-hander Jeremy Affeldt replaced Cain with the bases empty and a 5-3 lead, but pinch hitter Mark DeRosa (remember him?) roped a double and Steve Lombardozzi hit a liner to the mound that Affeldt deflected for a single. Harper followed with a tremendous at-bat, patiently taking two tantalizing sliders to get ahead and then fisting a double that barely escaped left fielder Melky Cabreras running attempt. Harper hustled for a double as DeRosa scored to make it a one-run game.Sergio Romo pulled the escape hatch, getting a lineout from Ryan Zimmerman to strand two runners in scoring position.Romo needed to escape again in the eighth after Desmond blooped a two-out single and Espinosa was hit by a pitch. Flores followed with a fly ball to left field, and Cabrera practically waved his arm out of his socket to make sure Angel Pagan would yield to him as he made the catch.Casilla couldnt get the same breaks in the ninth. Tyler Moore led off with a pinch double and Casilla hurt himself when he bobbled a sacrifice bunt for an error that put runners at the corners. Harper followed with a hard-hit single through the left side that tied the game.An intentional walk loaded the bases and the Giants momentarily survived when Theriot fielded Michael Morses grounder and threw to the plate. Catcher Buster Posey barely kept his right foot on the plate to record the forceout.But the Giants came up short while trying to make one more defensive play.At the plateThe Giants created plenty of action against left-hander Ross Detwiler, just as manager Bruce Bochy envisioned when he loaded his lineup with right-handed bats. Detwiler entered the game having held lefty hitters to a .113 average.Justin Christian got a rare start at leadoff and made the most of it, tying his career high with three hits. Angel Pagan also had three hits just his second multiple-hit performance in his last 21 starts. And Melky Cabrera improved to 40-for-92 against left-handed pitchers (thats a .425 average) after going 2-for-3 with a run-scoring double and an RBI groundout against Detwiler.The Giants rapped out 11 hits in five innings against Washingtons starting pitcher. But they couldnt land anything stronger than jabs, and it was just a 3-1 game when the Nationals turned it over to their strong bullpen.The two most egregiously wasteful moments: A) Loading the bases with one out but failing to score in the first inning; B) Stranding Pagan after his RBI triple with no outs in the seventh.In fieldLaRoche essentially said, We dont need no stinking spray charts when he put down a perfect bunt to beat an exaggerated infield shift in the fourth inning. When LaRoche batted again to lead off the seventh, the Giants stationed their infielders in more traditional spots.The Nats had an outside chance at a triple play when Joaquin Arias grounded sharply to third base with runners at first and second in the fifth inning. But Ryan Zimmerman slipped a bit and bounced his throw to second base, resulting in the odd 5-4 fielders choicedouble play.AttendanceThe Nationals announced 29,819 paid. Any fans who wagered on Teddy Roosevelt in the presidents race deserved to be parted from their money.Up nextThe Giants finish the unofficial first half with a three-game series at Pittsburgh. Its actually the fourth consecutive series in which theyll face a first-place club; the Reds led the NL Central when they played at AT&T Park last weekend, but the Pirates occupy the top spot now. Itll be left-hander Barry Zito (6-6, 3.84) against left-hander Erik Bedard (4-9, 4.57) on Friday night. Ryan Vogelsong and Tim Lincecum have the following two assignments, when theyll face right-handers James McDonald and A.J. Burnett, respectively.

Hunter Pence changing positions to accommodate Andrew McCutchen

Hunter Pence changing positions to accommodate Andrew McCutchen

SAN FRANCISCO -- Andrew McCutchen has spent his entire career as a center fielder. With a new team comes a new position. 

Manager Bruce Bochy confirmed on Tuesday that McCutchen will move to right field for the Giants, with Hunter Pence sliding over from right to left. Bochy said he talked to McCutchen about the plan -- one the Giants had throughout the McCutchen chase -- after Monday's trade. 

"I'm looking forward to right field," McCutchen said. "That's one place people can't pick on me saying that my defensive metrics are so bad. I'm looking forward to playing right. I know there's a lot of room out there to run, so it's definitely going to be almost like playing center."

McCutchen said he's looking forward to picking Pence's brain about patrolling right field at AT&T Park. Bochy has already spoken to Pence and said his longtime right fielder is on board with the plan. 

"He's just so excited about getting Cutch on this club that he's good with anything or whatever is best for this club," Bochy said. "So that's the plan right now."

McCutchen has played 11,621 defensive innings in his career and all but 115 1/3 of them have been in center field. He briefly moved to right field last season but shifted back to center when Starling Marte was suspended for testing positive for a banned substance. McCutchen was a Gold Glove Award winner in 2012 but his defensive metrics tailed off in recent seasons. He was worth negative 28 Defensive Runs Saved in 2016 and was at negative 16 DRS last season. 

McCutchen had wanted to stay in center in Pittsburgh, but said it's a new case with a new team.

"I wasn’t too keen on (moving at first) because I felt that I had more there, that I could do something there (in center)," he said. "I honored (the Pirates) once they wanted me to play a little shallower and that backfired on me. I was basically asking for another shot but I didn’t get that chance or opportunity. But now that I’m going into the Giants organization and this is something they want me to do, I’m all for it.

"San Francisco has a huge field. It’s bigger than PNC Park. They’ve got Triples Alley and it’s called Triples Alley for a reason. For me, it’s another center field. I’m moving over a little and if it’s saving my legs and I can get more stolen bases, I’m all game and I’m all for it.”

Pirates front office raves about McCutchen after trading him to Giants


Pirates front office raves about McCutchen after trading him to Giants

SAN FRANCISCO — There was a sense of celebration within the Giants organization on Monday after the addition of Andrew McCutchen. He is easily their best outfielder, a potential solution atop the order, and a player who is known for being a tremendous presence in the clubhouse. 

If the Giants had any doubts, though, they surely felt better after seeing the quotes that came out of Pittsburgh. In a series of statements, Pirates officials made it clear this was a difficult trade to make, with chairman Bob Nutting calling it “one of the most emotionally agonizing decisions that we have had to make in my tenure.”

Nutting, in a statement, said that McCutchen’s smile and energy were infectious even as a teenager. Later, McCutchen got the Pirates to three straight postseason appearances. 

“He did so while always carrying himself with humility, dignity and grace,” Nutting said. 

Team president Frank Coonelly described the trade as painful. 

“(No) individual was more responsible for the success that we had from 2013 to 2015 than Cutch,” Coonelly said in a statement,” And no player was more disappointed than Andrew that we did not break through and win a World Series Championship for the City of Pittsburgh.”

McCutchen was Pittsburgh’s first-round selection in the 2005 draft and made his debut in 2009. In nine seasons with the Pirates, he was a five-time All-Star and a perennial MVP candidate. He won the award in 2013 and finished in the top five of voting for four consecutive seasons. 

General manager Neal Huntington said the decision to actually part with the franchise player was “incredibly difficult.”

“Watching Andrew patrol center field with grace, fly around the bases, drive the ball all around the ballpark, celebrate with his teammates or interact with his family, friends or fans has created lifelong memories for me and many, many others around the game of baseball,” he said.