A familiar story: Kershaw brings an end to Giants' winning streak

A familiar story: Kershaw brings an end to Giants' winning streak

SAN FRANCISCO — Johnny Cueto and Yasmani Grandal started jawing at each other at the end of the top of the third inning Wednesday, and as they do, the benches cleared. As coaches tried to calm the two and players glared at the other side, Clayton Kershaw burst from the visiting dugout. He did not join the fray.

Kershaw pounded his fist into his glove as he crossed onto the grass. He split the crowds and went straight to the mound, where he started warming up as players filed off the field. He wasn’t here to argue. He was here to end a winning streak.

The Giants, winners of five straight, ran into a familiar buzzsaw. There’s nothing you can do when Kershaw is on his game, and with Cueto off his, this one was over early. Kershaw threw seven shutout innings in a 6-1 Dodgers win. He lowered his career ERA against the Giants to 1.62.

“I think pretty good might be an understatement,” catcher Buster Posey said of Kershaw's day. 

The Giants had three hits — all singles — before Eduardo Nuñez took old friend Sergio Romo deep in the ninth. This one was over long before that. Given the way Kershaw pitched, it was just about decided when Grandal smoked a two-run double in the first. 

Cueto gave up a single and double with one out. He got Cody Bellinger swinging with a good changeup and he went down in the zone again with two strikes on Grandal. As Buster Posey spread his legs out and got ready to block a scud, Grandal found a way to turn on the slider and knock it off the wall.

“It was a good pitch,” Cueto said. “Grandal beat me on that one. I didn’t think he was going to be able to hit that ball.”

The two were in the middle of most of Wednesday’s drama. When Grandal came up in the third, a fastball flew up and in for a run-scoring wild pitch. Cueto said the ball slipped, but the two exchanged words after Grandal’s flyout.  

“I explained that the pitch slipped,” Cueto said through interpreter Erwin Higueros. “I told him I wasn’t trying to throw at his head. I told him that if I’m going to hit him, I’ll do it low.”

The two spoke during Cueto’s first at-bat, and all was fine. They were sorry for the misunderstanding, Cueto said. There was one other aspect of the incident where there was no misunderstanding for Cueto. Asked if he might have been annoyed with the Dodgers for stealing signs, he paused. 

“What I’ll say is not to use that as an excuse, but they were relaying signs (from second),” he said. 

To do that, you need a runner on second, and the Giants never made Kershaw sweat. The win was his 20th over the Giants. 

“He was right on today,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Very tough. We had mostly right-handed bats out there but he had great stuff. We couldn’t put any pressure on him.”

The Giants have gotten used to these games. It was a bit easier to take because of what happened on the rest of the homestand. The Giants went 5-2, taking series from the Reds and Dodgers. They’re 17-25, which is nowhere near good, but they finally feel headed in the right direction. 

“We’ve got to be happy with it,” Posey said. “Obviously we would have liked to win today, but you have to be happy going into the off day.”

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.”