CINCINNATI The Giants are hitting .121 in three games of this NL Division Series and they still havent received an out from a starting pitcher in the sixth inning.Yet somehowThey will attempt to hold onto their improbable playoff lives by putting their faith in a most improbable left-handed pitcher. Yes, Barry Zito is their champion today.Here are some key matchups as we approach Game 4 at Great American Ball Park:--Less than five hours before the first pitch Wednesday, the Reds officially received permission from Major League Baseball to replace injured Game 1 starter Johnny Cueto with right-hander Mike Leake.Leake will start Game 4 and Mat Latos would take the mound if the Giants can force a winner-take-all Game 5 on Thursday.--For a last-minute replacement, the Reds could do worse than Leake to oppose Zito.Leake, 24, was 8-9 with a 4.58 ERA but threw a complete game the last time he faced the Giants June 29 at AT&T Park. Leake allowed nine hits and just one run, when Pablo Sandoval took him deep in the ninth, to beat Matt Cain.Sandoval also doubled in that game and is 7 for 10 with two homers and two doubles in his career against the Arizona State product. Hunter Pence is 8 for 16 (.333) with two doubles and a homer. Ryan Theriot is the only other Giant with more than 10 at-bats against him.Leake is a control pitcher once compared to Greg Maddux, and not just by anyone. Doug Mapson, the current Giants special assistant and former Cubs scout who signed Maddux, said hes compared the future Hall of Famer to one amateur player in all the reports hes written over the years. Yep, it was Leake.Still, the right-hander has allowed 201 hits in 179 innings. So hes far from untouchable. Hes 4-5 with a 5.54 Era, .313 opponents average and whopping 17 home runs allowed in 16 starts at Cincinnati this season. Amazingly, Leake has allowed more homers than walks (15) at Great American Ball Park this season.Leake had a 4.01 ERA prior to the All-Star break and a 5.27 ERA after it. That's why he had been left off the Reds' NLDS roster.--MLB medical officials approved the Reds roster move after reviewing statements from Reds trainers, who maintained that Cuetos strained oblique would limit him to one start, maximum, in the NLCS should Cincinnati advance. Cueto, who exited after eight pitches in Game 1, would be ineligible to return to the Reds active roster until the World Series.--Barry Zito has pitched against the Reds 12 times in his career (11 starts) and his 6.25 ERA is his highest against any NL opponent.But its been a different outcome this season in two starts against them. He had nearly identical outings April 25 on the road and June 30 at home, both times holding Cincinnati to a run in six innings.The Reds were patient while drawing six walks against Zito in his last start against them, but the left-hander wasnt missing by much.--Zito is expected to throw to Buster Posey as Giants manager Bruce Bochy seeks to keep his regulars together and his best defensive alignment on the field.Zito threw to Posey in just seven of his 32 starts and was 2-1 with a 4.86 ERA as the Giants posted a 5-2 record. The left-hander spent most of the season throwing to backup Hector Sanchez, a pairing partly designed in the spring because coaches knew Posey would require regular rest as he recovered from last years horrific leg injury. Zito was 13-7 with a 3.97 ERA in starts with Sanchez as the Giants posted a 16-9 record.--Is there any Giants starter that Brandon Phillips doesnt have numbers against? The Reds second baseman is 8 for 19 (.421) with three doubles, five walks and zero strikeouts in his career against Zito.Center fielder Drew Stubbs is 5 for 13 (.385) and even lefty-hitting right fielder Jay Bruce is 5 for 14 (.357) with a home run. But Joey Votto is just 3 for 18 (.167) with no extra-base hits and just two walks in his career against the finesse lefty. If it were a regular-season game, Votto might be getting a day off.Although Ryan Ludwick has mashed lefties this season, hes just a .231 hitter (6 for 26) with a home run against Zito.Scott Rolen was the only Reds player to homer off Zito in two starts against Cincinnati this season.--If youve forgotten, the Giants are 11-0 in the last 11 games with Zito on the mound. Thats the longest stretch for a Giants starter since Bill Swift in 1992.
SAN FRANCISCO — It was revealed Thursday night that Giancarlo Stanton is this year’s National League Most Valuable Player. The rest of the MVP ballot shows why the Giants are chasing Stanton so hard this offseason.
Led by Stanton, 22 different players were listed on NL MVP ballots, which have 10 spots. Two of the top five finishers — Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon — were Rockies. Four different Diamondbacks got votes, led by third-place finisher Paul Goldschmidt. The Dodgers had five players listed on ballots, including rookie Cody Bellinger, who arrived a couple of days after Christian Arroyo and finished ninth in MVP voting.
The Giants? They didn't have a single player receive an MVP vote, continuing a theme during awards season.
The team built around pitching did not have any players listed on the five-person Cy Young Award ballots (full disclosure: I had a vote). There were no Rookie of the Year candidates, either, and Bruce Bochy was out of the Manager of the Year running sometime in early May. The 2017 season was the first since 2007 in which the Giants didn’t have a single player listed for any of the four major awards voted on by the Baseball Writers Association of America.
The lack of award-season love is a reminder of how deep the hole is, but it’s also a sign of how much help the Giants need from their stars in order to dig out of this hole. This isn’t as simple as fixing the center field defense and upgrading the bullpen.
Buster Posey had a good season, but his 12 homers, 67 RBI, .861 OPS and 4.3 WAR (ranked 17th in the NL) didn’t get any love at the end of a 98-loss year. Posey had been listed on at least one MVP ballot every season since 2012, when he won the award. This is the first year since 2007 that the Giants did not have a player listed on an MVP ballot.
The organization has had similar success in the Cy Young balloting, with Tim Lincecum winning twice and Madison Bumgarner finishing in the top 10 in each of the previous four seasons. A dirt bike accident cost Bumgarner any shot of getting votes this year, and also likely cost him a third Silver Slugger Award in a season that started with two homers on Opening Day. Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto finished fourth and sixth in the Cy Young voting last season, but Cueto had a similarly forgettable season.
Houston Astros dynamo Jose Altuve won the American League MVP award on Thursday, towering over New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge by a wide margin.
The 5-foot-6 Altuve drew 27 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
Altuve batted a major league-best .346. He hit 24 home runs with 81 RBIs, scored 112 times, stole 32 bases and showed a sharp glove at second base.
The 6-foot-7 Judge won the AL Rookie of the Year award Monday. He set a rookie record with 52 home runs.
Jose Ramirez of the Cleveland Indians finished third.
Altuve helped lead the Astros to their first World Series championship. Voting for these honors was completed before the postseason began.
Altuve was the second Houston player to win an MVP — Jeff Bagwell earned the 1994 NL award.
Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton won the NL MVP, barely edging Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds.
In the closest MVP vote since 1979, Stanton became only the sixth player to win from a losing team.
Stanton led the big leagues with 59 home runs and 132 RBIs. His highlight-reel homer total was the most in the majors since 2001, when Barry Bonds hit a record 73 and Sammy Sosa had 64.
Stanton got 10 first-place votes and 302 points. Votto, who led the majors with a .454 on-base percentage, also got 10 firsts and had 300 points. Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt was third.
The last time an MVP race was so close, Willie Stargell and Keith Hernandez tied for the NL prize in 1979. Stanton became the first Marlins player to win the award.
The Marlins went 77-85 this season, and new team executive Derek Jeter says the club is listening to trade offers for Stanton. The 28-year-old outfielder is owed $295 million over the final decade of his record $325 million, 13-year contract.