Buster Posey, Giants' vets spark wild win over Pirates

Buster Posey, Giants' vets spark wild win over Pirates

SAN FRANCISCO — A few minutes after his team stayed quiet at the trade deadline, vice president of baseball operations Brian Sabean dropped a well-worn line on reporters.

“Not being flip, but the more you’ve been around the game, it’s not how good you are, it’s how well you play,” Sabean said. 

That’s what the Giants had to hold onto at the time, and that’s still the hope they have. With all their injuries, they can’t go man-to-man with the teams atop the division. They simply have to play better, which is what made the first game of this series so discouraging. Coming off two brutal losses, the Giants tanked Thursday night, pitching and hitting poorly and playing awful defense. 

It was the kind of performance that makes one want to wave the white flag, and perhaps some of that was going on. Manager Bruce Bochy was more than a half hour late to his pre-game media session because he was in a long meeting with team officials.

“We talked about the club and ways we can get better,” was all Bochy would offer once he finally settled into the dugout. 

The Giants certainly were a bit better a few hours later, beating the Pirates 13-10 in a game that was far closer than it should have been. This wasn’t all about how well they played, though. Sometimes it really is about how good you are.

This team was not built for depth, although there is more of it in some spots than we thought. It was built around stars, Face of the Franchise types, and in recent days Bochy has grouped them together in a desperate bid to get going. That meant Andrew McCutchen, Buster Posey, Evan Longoria and Brandon Crawford hit atop the lineup. Bochy was telling his veterans to lead the way, and on Friday they did. 

McCutchen got it going with a leadoff homer, his first in 19 at-bats this season against his former team. Posey followed with a rare infield single, and that was just the beginning. His first hit helped the Giants score two more in the first. In the second, Posey singled again. In the third, he singled in two more runs as part of a four-run frame. In the fourth, he singled yet again, capping a three-run inning. 

“He’s been swinging the bat a lot better,” Bochy said. “That’s the kind of hitter he is.”

Through four innings, Posey had raised his average seven points. That’s extremely difficult to do in August. He was pulled after grounding out in the sixth of what was then a blowout. 

McCutchen had a homer and four walks. Longoria reached base twice and drove in a run. Crawford had two walks and a double. 

A night after the four All-Stars at the top combined to go 1-for-14, they reached base 14 times, scored six runs and drove in five. 

"They had good at-bats and got in hitters' counts and took advantage of it," Bochy said. "They had some good pitches there and were letting it go. It's good to see them have some success. They've been due for a game like this where we break it open."

The Giants would need every bit of the production. Derek Holland was hit around and Pierce Johnson cashed in two of his runs while giving up a grand slam in the seventh. Even Tony Watson couldn’t stop the bleeding. He gave up two runs in the eighth and Josh Bell came a couple feet short of cutting the deficit to one. 

In a game he led 11-3 after six, Bochy used his closer in the ninth. Will Smith gave up a run, but finally ended a long night. 

"We had to keep tacking on," Bochy said. "These guys did a nice job of it."

Brawl notes: Giants confused by Hundley's ejection, umpire explanation

Brawl notes: Giants confused by Hundley's ejection, umpire explanation

LOS ANGELES — When Major League Baseball eventually comes for the umpires, replacing them with pitch-tracking technology, perhaps they’ll explain the switch with a simple phrase.

“Watch the tape.”

That’s about all Eric Cooper had to say late Tuesday night when a pool reporter asked why Nick Hundley had been ejected despite not throwing any punches at Yasiel Puig. 

“Watch the tape,” Cooper said. “You’ll see why he had to be ejected.”

Well, not really. First of all, Hundley was wearing a catcher’s mask, so it was hard to tell what he was saying to Puig. Hundley and Puig went face-to-face, but it was Puig who twice shoved Hundley, with the catcher reaching out both times to block the move. The Giants were baffled that Hundley was ejected after a long conversation between the umpires. 

“I don’t get it, either, to be honest,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “We’ll see what the (umpires) report says. You’re going to defend yourself.”

Hundley said he’s not concerned about any discipline from the league.

“I was defending myself. He was defending himself. I don’t see why it should go any further than that,” he said. 

--- This fight escalated quickly but there wasn’t actually much action, with one exception. As Hundley was being held back, Puig ran back in, threw a few teammates out of the way, and tried to punch Hundley. He ended up slapping his mask with an open hand as Hundley was being held back. 

“I saw him coming,” Hundley said. “Unfortunately I wasn’t able to defend myself in that spot, being tangled up with someone else. The league will look at that. That’s something that’s up to the league to discipline somebody. That’s not my job to enforce any behavioral things.”

--- Hundley was held back, and essentially tackled, by first base coach George Lombard. He later came out onto the top step of the dugout and had a brief conversation with Lombard. Hundley said he was checking to make sure Lombard didn’t get hurt in the altercation. 

--- Lost in all that, Andrew Suarez had his best start in over a month. Suarez gave up some loud contact, but threw six shutout innings. He got all four strikeouts with his fastball and said that was the plan. 

“I’ve noticed a lot of teams are spitting on my sliders lately,” he said. 

Suarez went heavy with the heater in two-strike counts and had a big night. He also won bragging rights. Suarez and Manny Machado have been playing on the same fields since they were eight, and while Machado hit the ball hard twice, he didn’t get a hit off Suarez.

Hundley fights Puig in another heated chapter of Giants-Dodgers rivalry

Hundley fights Puig in another heated chapter of Giants-Dodgers rivalry

LOS ANGELES — About 30 minutes before every game he starts, Nick Hundley goes out onto the field by himself, his uniform already on underneath a black hoodie. He walks out to the nearest foul line and then takes off on a dead sprint, legs and arms pumping as he heads towards the center field wall. 

It’s Hundley’s way of getting the juices flowing, getting his muscles and mind ready for the night ahead. He’s locking in, transforming from the mild-mannered, humorous, humble teammate into the man who will control most of the action. 

On the surface, Hundley is just about the last Giant you would ever expect to get into an on-field altercation. But watch him sprint towards the wall and you’ll see the intensity that has carried him this deep into his career. It takes a special breed to be a catcher, and in the seventh inning Tuesday, Hundley showed that fire that’s so tucked away before and after starts. 

Yasiel Puig fouled a pitch off that he felt he should have crushed. As he does, Puig reacted angrily. He flipped the bat in the air and grabbed it emphatically, showing all 46,000 at Dodger Stadium that he felt he should have tied the game. Hundley wasn’t pleased, and let Puig know that he should dig back into the box. The two came face-to-face, and then shoves were exchanged. This rivalry had another heated chapter, with both benches and bullpens clearing and Puig getting in one open-handed shot to Hundley’s mask before order was restored. 

Afterward, in a clubhouse buzzing over the mini-brawl and 2-1 win over the Dodgers, Hundley was as calm as could be. He said it was a good game between rivals, one chasing the other in the standings. He said it was not a big deal. He would not say what he said to set Puig off. 

"That's stuff that's said on the field and that'll be left out there,” Hundley said. 

Here, once again, Puig disagreed with the Giants. It was not hard to see that Hundley took offense to Puig’s reaction to missing a Tony Watson pitch down the middle. Puig confirmed it.

“I knew that was the best pitch that Watson was going to throw me, so I was a little upset,” he told reporters. “He told me to stop complaining and get back in the box. When I got in his face, he told me to get out of his face, so that’s when I got upset with him. I didn’t like that he was telling me what to do, and then he said some words to me in English that I really can’t repeat.”

This is not the first time the Giants and Puig have gotten into it. It likely won’t be the last. But this disagreement came with a twist. Puig and Hundley were ejected, setting off a chain of events that helped the Giants win the game after Sam Dyson gave a run back in the eighth. 

Buster Posey moved from first to catcher to replace Hundley. Brandon Belt, fresh off the disabled list, took Posey’s spot at first. Two innings later, Belt singled off Kenta Maeda and came around on Alen Hanson’s single, scoring the winning run.

Fifty-five minutes after Puig shoved Hundley, the Giants streamed out onto the field for handshakes. A few minutes later, they were celebrating in the clubhouse. This was as loud as it’s been after a game all season long for a team that improved to 61-60, got within three of the Dodgers, and stayed five back of the Diamondbacks. 

“That should bring us even closer together,” Hundley said. “This is a tight-knit group. We’ll feed off that. What a great win.”

It started with six strong innings from rookie Andrew Suarez. When the field cleared and Hundley and Puig headed back to their respective clubhouses, the Dodgers rallied and tied it on Manny Machado’s single. For a second straight night, the Giants beat a Dodgers reliever in the ninth. This time it was Kenta Maeda, supposedly the solution for the Dodgers’ woes. Hanson smoked a single up the middle and Belt, who just missed 17 games with a hyperextended knee, rumbled home. Kiké Hernandez has a strong arm in center, and Hanson admitted later that he was worried when he saw Hernandez scoop the ball on one bounce. 

“I noticed Belt rounding third when the throw was coming in,” Hanson said through interpreter Erwin Higueros. “Luckily for us, he made a bad throw.”

The throw was high and Yasmani Grandal couldn’t glove it. Belt slid in safely. He said later that he felt like he was running underwater in his first game back. He also insisted that his knee feels fine. 

“I wasn’t moving fast enough to make it hurt anyway,” Belt said. 

With that, he headed for the bus. The clubhouse was still energetic and players smiled as they walked past Hundley’s locker. The Giants came here with a very realistic shot of being permanently banished from the NL West race. Instead, they’re right back within striking distance, and they got to get their juices flowing, too. 

“Two very good games, great games, to come in here and get a couple of wins,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “I couldn’t be prouder of them.”