Bumgarner: 'Everybody knows what kind of spot we’re in'

Bumgarner: 'Everybody knows what kind of spot we’re in'

SAN FRANCISCO — In the darkest times, the Giants turn to, “We’ve been here before.”

As the second half spun out of control, they found calmness in the fact that Madison Bumgarner would throw a Wild Card game, and it ultimately worked out. Now down 0-2 to the Cubs in the NLDS, they are pulling confidence from a series from four years ago, a similar deficit that was overcome on the road in Cincinnati. 

This time, the Giants are returning home. They have Bumgarner lined up for the first winner-take-all game, followed by Matt Moore and Johnny Cueto. Bumgarner and Cueto were on different sides of that 2012 turnaround. Despite the current situation, it’s not something that has come up often since a 5-2 loss Saturday night. 

“There hasn’t been a whole lot of talk because everybody knows what kind of spot we’re in,” Bumgarner said. “The only thing we can do is come in and win tomorrow. That’s it. Win or go home.”

Bruce Bochy thinks that’s the best type of situation for his club. The Giants have repeatedly shown that they pull their best when the chips are down, and despite the second half slide, Bochy took confidence into the postseason because the Giants won four straight the final week when they absolutely had to. It was the only four-game winning streak after the All-Star break. The Giants had just two three-game runs during that time, and they’ll now need one against the best team in baseball. Otherwise, it’s time for the golf course.

Buster Posey, a key figure in that 2012 comeback, said the key to doing it again is to “compartmentalize as much as you can.”

“There’s no need to look further than Monday,” Posey said. “We’ve been able to do that. We caught a break in that Game 3 at Cincinnati. Hopefully, maybe we’ll catch another break and see what happens.”

The break four years ago came when Scott Rolen, a third baseman with sure hands, bobbled a Joaquin Arias grounder in extra innings. Before that game, Hunter Pence gave his famous speech. Bochy spoke to the team, too, but he said he’s not sure if he’ll pull a motivational tactic out of the book Monday afternoon. 

“I kind of try to read, try to get the feel, the pulse of the club and where we’re at,” Bochy said. “We have had meetings in the postseason, going back to Cincinnati. We had a couple meetings there when we got in that situation.

“Now, this club has a history -- that’s what you like about what’s going on now -- of finding a way to win that game they had to win and moving on. That experience, that’s so vital to draw on. If you don’t have that, they may not have that belief that you can do it. Well, they know that they have done it.”

--- Bochy said Eduardo Nuñez could be ready to start as soon as Game 4, if the Giants extend the series. He is apparently feeling much better. 

--- Javy Baez had an interesting Game 2, showing the highs and lows of a budding superstar. He was good defensively, and the read he got on Kyle Hendricks’ single was one of the best you’ll ever see. Joe Maddon said of Baez's instincts, “Either you’ve got it or you don’t. Either you come with the bells and whistles or you don’t.”

Baez also showed the swagger that has gotten him into trouble. In Game 1, he very nearly bat-flipped a deep out. In Game 2, he was thrown out at second after strutting out of the box on another smash to left. Maddon said he didn’t need to have a conversation with Baez. 

“I gave him a fist bump and looked him in the eye,” Maddon said. “He knew what that was all about. Like all of us, we know when we screw up.” Maddon didn’t seem bothered that the Giants were bothered. “The pitch inside from (Hunter) Strickland probably had a little bit of a post-it on it,” he said. 

--- There has been a lot of talk over the last month about the 0-for-62 (now 0-for-64) record when the Giants trail heading into the ninth. On the flip side, the Cubs are 8-53 when trailing after eight innings. They went 92-1 in the regular season when leading after eight innings. The Giants went 71-9 when leading after eight. 

--- After the first round of BP, players always make one (usually lazy) trip around the bases to get loose. Munenori Kawasaki, a Hall-of-Fame clubhouse character, is the first player I’ve seen slide into bases during BP.

--- Only four or five Giants took the field for the afternoon workout. It appeared Conor Gillaspie, the grinder, was the only one to hit. 

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

PEORIA — Jeff Samardzija spent a couple minutes after Thursday’s start talking to reporters about how deep he thinks the Giants lineup can be. It’ll be a hell of a lot deeper if Hunter Pence keeps hitting like this. 

After a slow start to the spring, Pence is charging. He had three hits against the Padres: a triple that bounced off the top of the wall in right-center, a hard single up the middle, and a double to center. The more encouraging plays for the Giants happened in left field. Pence chased down a drive to the line in the third inning, leaving the bases loaded. He opened the fourth by going the other direction and gloving a fly ball to left-center. 

"A good game for Hunter, both ways," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's getting more comfortable out there. You can see it with the jumps he's getting right now. It takes a little while when you change positions, but I think he's going to be fine out there."

The Giants appear set to have Austin Jackson and Pence atop the lineup against left-handed starters, and that duo could see plenty of time early. Seven of the first nine games are against the Dodgers, who have four lefty starters. 

--- Evan Longoria had a double off the right-center wall on Wednesday after missing a week with a sore ankle. He had a single the same way in his second at-bat Thursday. More than the at-bats, Longoria has impressed with his soft hands and steady arm at third. The ankle looks fine, too. 

“My ankle feels pretty good,” Longoria said. “I don’t think it’s going to be an issue going forward.”

--- It’s been a quiet spring for Andrew McCutchen, but we saw the wheels tonight. McCutchen easily stole second after a two-run single in the fifth. When Evan Longoria bounced one to the left side, shortstop Freddy Galvis tried to go to third for the lead out, but McCutchen beat that throw, too. He got up and put his hands on his hips, as if to say, "Why'd you even try that?"

--- Samardzija allowed three homers in a six-batter span in the third. He allowed three homers in an inning in his previous start, too, but he said he’s not concerned. Samardzija deemed it a sequencing issue. He’s working in a new changeup and threw it in situations he normally wouldn’t; Eric Hosmer took advantage of a floating one, crushing it to deep, deep right for the third homer. 

--- With a runner on, Brandon Belt put down a perfect bunt to foil the shift. Belt does that every spring, particularly against NL West teams, but rarely during the regular season. Maybe this will be the year?

Belt later crushed a homer to deep right. That had to feel good for a number of reasons. Belt is fighting a cold and he learned earlier in the day that his college coach, Augie Garrido, had passed away.

Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential


Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For most pitchers, spring training is a time to experiment and add a pitch or two. Josh Osich is using this month to go the other direction. 

Osich spent the offseason watching film of his 2015 season, when he looked like he might one day be the closer in San Francisco, and decided that he needed to get back to his roots. That means the curveball, which he tried so hard to mix in last year, is now far back in the cupboard. The four-seam and two-seam fastballs are once again the focus, with an emphasis on changing eye levels more than he did a year ago. The changeup and cutter will round out his arsenal for the most part. 

Osich’s raw stuff is still as good as just about any lefty reliever in the league, and he hopes to take advantage of that while putting a rough 2017 season in his rearview mirror. He had a 6.23 ERA last season and 1.73 WHIP.

“It’s just one of those learning years,” Osich said. “I tried to live at the bottom of the zone and I was, but I was actually below the zone. So then I would fall behind and need to throw a strike and that’s when guys would hit me.”

Osich, 29, had a 2.20 ERA and 1.12 WHIP during that 2015 season that he keeps going back to. He walked eight batters in 28 2/3 innings, a far cry from the 27 he walked in 43 1/3 last year. While watching the 2015 version of himself, Osich saw that his hands were higher, and that’s something he’s working to replicate. He’s also trying to slow his pace to the plate. So far, the results are nothing but encouraging. Osich allowed one hit and struck out one in a 2 1/3 inning appearance on Wednesday night. Manager Bruce Bochy let him extend himself to keep the good vibes going. 

In six appearances this spring, Osich has allowed just four hits over seven scoreless innings. He has seven strikeouts and one walk. 

“O, it just seems like he’s got confidence,” Bochy said. “He’s kept it simple, he’s not tinkering with different pitches. He’s throwing more strikes, and more than anything he’s just trying to pound the strike zone now with quality strikes. That’s all he has to do. You look at him and he’s hitting 95 with a couple of good off-speed pitches. That works here.”