Protection for Posey key to Giants' chances


Protection for Posey key to Giants' chances


Well, weve finally gotten the answer to the question that has nagged for nearly two weeks: Your Game Four and Five starters for the San Francisco Giants are . . .Not as important as we thought.Oh, sure, Tim Lincecum is important, and getting the ball for the Giants in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series creates with it a few tweaks to a lineup that needs all the tweaks its skin can endure. And Barry Zito is certainly an interesting notion for Game 5, insofar as it means that Madison Bumgarner is out, at least for the moment.In other words, Hector Sanchez catches, which means Buster Posey goes to first base, which means Brandon Belt sits and, more likely than not, Hunter Pence moves down a spot in the lineup to break out of what has become the teams most noticeable slump.But as Bruce Bochy picked at his food in the Managers office after Wednesdays rain-engorged 3-1 win by the St. Louis Cardinals, he knew what the real problem is. And though he couldnt say it aloud, he could think it.He doesnt have enough difference-making players.Melky Cabrera is being missed, not so much in left field but certainly in the three-hole in the batting order. And Pablo Sandoval isnt hurting the team all that much in the three-hole, but he is a better five-hole hitter. And Pence, who is a better sixth-place hitter, is stuck in the five-spot unless Bochy decides that semi-desperate times call for semi-desperate measures.This all matters because the Cardinals, unlike the Cincinnati Reds before them, have decided that Buster Posey is not to see a hittable pitch in this series. Period. And there is no second Posey in the order to make the Cardinals think otherwise.This is a long-standing Cardinal philosophy the other guys best player is not to be the instrument of your death. It was a staple of Tony La Russas managing and Dave Duncans pitching philosophies, and it remains so with Mike Matheny and Derek Lilliquist.They dont walk him outright, although he had two Wednesday night. But they give him so little to work with because (a) they have no fear of Pence, Belt or Gregor Blanco behind Posey, (b) the bases are not crowded when Posey bats, and (c) hes seen eight different pitchers in three games, none more than twice in situations where he was actually allowed to hit.In short, St. Louis is ahead in this series, two games to one, in significant part because they dont believe the Giants have enough hitting to force them to pitch to Posey.In Game 1, he batted once with a runner in scoring position and Joe Kelly walked him. In Game 2, he batted once with a runner scoring position again, in the bottom of the eighth with the Giants already ahead, 6-4, and was struck out by Marc Rzepcynski in a what-the-hell situation. And in Game 3, his one chance with a runner in scoring position ended in another walk, from Kyle Lohse.You may not remember it because, well, it was before the rain delay.The point is, in sum, that while we have exercised our mighty brains wondering about the level of Marco Scutaros health, the relative darkness of Matt Hollidays soul, the identities of the Giants fourth and fifth starters and the whereabouts of Pence, the Cardinals have been making the Giants beat them without their best hitter in play.And except for the fourth inning of Game 1, the fourth and eighth innings of Game 2 and the third inning Wednesday, they havent.So, while it is invigorating in some sense to know that Lincecum and Zito are pitching games Four and Five and Madison Bumgarner is being reduced to a role as the new Lincecum, the real issue is offense, and more specifically which player or combination of players is going to force the Cardinals to break programming and face Posey in a difficult situation.In other words, Lincecum can do a lot of things, but he cant win a game with Matt Cains run support levels, and neither can Zito for that matter. Pitching will not save the Giants if they cant solve the more fundamental problem. Losing 2-1, 6-1, or 11-1 is the same thing when youre the guy packing the 1.And while it seems like every day presents a different reason why Bochy picks at his postgame meal and curses the events of the day, so much of it has to do with one thing.The Cardinals have not been forced to face Buster Posey straight up. Until they are, all the other nuances of the series will be rendered moot.

Former Giants infielder replaces Dodgers' star shortstop on NLCS roster


Former Giants infielder replaces Dodgers' star shortstop on NLCS roster

LOS ANGELES — Shortstop Corey Seager has been left off the Los Angeles Dodgers' roster for the NL Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs.

The Dodgers announced Seager's surprise omission due to a back injury on Saturday, several hours before Game 1 at Dodger Stadium.

Los Angeles also dropped reliever Pedro Baez from its roster. Infielder Charlie Culberson and outfielder Joc Pederson were added.

Chicago made only one change from the last playoff round, adding reliever Hector Rondon and removing reliever Justin Wilson.

Seager complained of back soreness during the Dodgers' NL Division Series clincher in Arizona on Monday, and 2016 NL Rookie of the Year didn't participate in team workouts this week. Still, manager Dave Roberts said Friday that he was very optimistic that Seager would play in the NLCS.

Seager was an All-Star selection this season while batting .295 with 22 homers and 77 RBIs as a key part of the top of the Dodgers' lineup.

Kike Hernandez, Chris Taylor and Culberson all worked out at shortstop Friday for the Dodgers. The versatile Taylor was the Dodgers' center fielder during the NLDS, but he made 96 appearances in the outfield this season and 44 in the infield, including 14 games at shortstop.

Pederson is batting .071 with no homers since July, but the Dodgers could need him in center field if Taylor plays shortstop.

Culberson famously homered to clinch the Dodgers' NL West title in announcer Vin Scully's final home game last season, but the infielder spent most of this season at Triple-A, appearing in only 14 games for the Dodgers.

Rondon was the Cubs' closer in 2014 and 2015, but moved to a setup role last season after Aroldis Chapman's arrival. He appeared in 61 regular-season games this year, going 4-1 with a 4.24 ERA in an up-and-down campaign.

Chicago acquired Wilson in a trade with Detroit on July 31, adding a veteran left-handed reliever who had 13 saves for the Tigers this season. The Southern California native wasn't great in his two months with the Cubs, posting a 5.09 ERA with 19 walks in 23 appearances.

Manager Joe Maddon chose Wilson for the NLDS over Rondon, only to switch it up against the Dodgers.

Bochy, Giants issue statement following manager's heart procedure


Bochy, Giants issue statement following manager's heart procedure

Bruce Bochy's minor offseason heart procedure went as planned, the team announced Friday afternoon. 

In a message passed along to beat reporters, Bochy said "the procedure went extremely well and I'm feeling better. I'm grateful for the doctors and want to thank everyone who has reached out with well wishes."

Bochy, 62, had an ablation procedure to help him deal with heart issues that have plagued him in recent years. The operation was his second of the year, but it was considered minor enough that it could be pushed back to the end of the season.

Cleveland's Terry Francona had a similar procedure this year and returned to manage, and Bochy has left no doubt about his future. 

“I don’t want anyone to think this has an effect on my work, or ability to work,” Bochy said last week. “This is something that is not uncommon.”