Instant Replay: Giants end four-game skid with win over rival Dodgers

Instant Replay: Giants end four-game skid with win over rival Dodgers


SAN FRANCISCO — There was a different buzz at AT&T Park on Monday night, which was expected. The Dodgers always bring the most energy out of the fan base and the surprise promotion of the organization’s top prospect added a little sizzle. 

For six innings, Matt Cain made sure the good vibes didn’t go to waste. By the seventh, he was dealing with his own set of problems.

Cain dominated the Dodgers but he was removed by trainer Anthony Reyes after throwing warm-up pitches in the top of the seventh. There was no immediate word on his condition. The Giants went on to win the opener of this four-game series 2-1, wrapping up a well-earned victory for their longest-tenured player. 

Cain has been looking for consistency for three years. When he was on the mound Monday, he was able to carry over the strides he made in his two previous starts. Cain sailed through six, allowing just two singles and a walk. 

He benefited from sparkling defense on the infield, and in the second, three infielders teamed up to give Cain the lead. Brandon Crawford hit a leadoff double and went to third when Christian Arroyo grounded one to the right side in his first career at-bat. Joe Panik’s deep sacrifice fly to center brought Crawford trotting home. 

Panik was in the middle of an insurance rally ion the seventh. He singled with one out, went to second on a walk, and scored on Hunter Pence’s bouncer up the middle. That run would immediately be needed. The Dodgers put runners on the corners with no outs in the eighth and got one back on a grounder. With two outs, Chris Taylor was gunned down by Buster Posey at second, with Corey Seager at the plate. He would probably like that decision back. 

Sergio Romo took the mound in the bottom of the inning. He walked Eduardo Nuñez, got Posey to fly out, gave up a single to Crawford, and struck out Arroyo to end the inning. 

Starting pitching report: Cain had a 5.13 ERA over the previous three seasons. Through four starts, he’s sitting at a staff-best 2.42. All of a sudden, his loss would be a huge one for the Giants. 

Bullpen report: Steven Okert hustled to replace Cain in the seventh. He retired Yasmani Grandal and Adrian Gonzalez.

At the plate: Arroyo grounded out to second in his first three at-bats and then struck out. 

In the field: Arroyo made a slick barehanded play to rob Grandal of an infield hit in the fourth and he kept going, picking Cain — who had been hit by the liner — up off the grass. They chest-bumped.

Attendance: The Giants announced a crowd of 41,399 human beings. There were no donkeys. The fans gave Romo a standing ovation after the first and Romo came out in front of the visiting dugout to tip his cap. He was wiping tears away as he returned to the dugout rail.

Up next: It was supposed to be Madison Bumgarner vs. Clayton Kershaw. Ty Blach vs. Clayton Kershaw is pretty fun, too.

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.”