Evan Longoria's solo blast sends Giants into All-Star break on high note

Evan Longoria's solo blast sends Giants into All-Star break on high note

The early part of the season wasn't pretty for the Giants.

Manager Bruce Bochy's club struggled offensively for much of the first half and their rotation wasn't much better.

But things have been looking up of late, as the Giants entered Sunday's first-half finale against the St. Louis Cardinals at Oracle Park having won five of their last six games.

With the All-Star break on the horizon, the Giants' bats were held in check by Cardinals right-hander Jack Flaherty, as the young right-hander took a no-hitter into the seventh inning. He was matched pitch-for-pitch by Giants right-hander Jeff Samardzija, who tossed seven scoreless innings of his own to give San Francisco a chance to get the win. 

Shark's efforts paid off as Evan Longoria rewarded his pitcher in the bottom of the seventh when he hammered a hanging breaking ball over the left field wall to break up the no-hitter, shutout and scoreless tie.

That was all the Giants would need as Will Smith shut the door to give the Giants a 1-0 win and their seventh victory in nine games heading into the All-Star break.

After a solid last two weeks, the Giants find themselves just 5 1/2 games out of the wild-card picture, and Bochy is feeling good about the way his club is playing heading into the second half.

"I think you look at our play here recently, I mean there has to be excitement in this clubhouse and everywhere," Bochy said. "We're just playing better baseball. I mean we are doing good job on the pitching side, we are playing good defense, getting those timely hits, the long ball. We are doing some things to win ball games. That was missing in the early going. And like I said, that just brings a different feeling, a different vibe. It's like anything, your confidence grows with success and that's what's happening."

Samardzija, who tossed his second straight gem, can see the Giants making the second half interesting.

"We're playing good ball," Samardzija said. "Hopefully we can continue doing that. You know, July, August is when these old bodies start warming up, breaking up all the little things that are going on and get nice and loose. So hopefully, we keep playing hard and hitting the ball well, it's a lot of fun to watch this offense now."

[RELATED: Giants prospects Bart, Ramos to play in Futures Game]

The Giants will exit the All-Star break and head to Milwaukee to face the Brewers. A solid showing against the Brew Crew could give the team the even more confidence as they look to put together a second-half surge and stave off the trading of veteran players which seemed inevitable a few weeks ago.

If Giants, Dodgers never moved West, MLB might look very different now

If Giants, Dodgers never moved West, MLB might look very different now

Back in the mid 1950's, Major League Baseball hadn't conquered the West Coast.

But that changed in 1957 when the Giants and Dodgers were granted permission to move from New York to San Francisco and Los Angeles, respectively.

Both teams played their inaugural season in California in 1958.

Baseball hasn't been the same since, relocating or adding teams all over the West Coast.

But how would MLB look today if the Giants and Dodgers hadn't moved West? According to the MLB Cathedrals' Twitter account, the Dodgers wanted a new stadium in Brooklyn in 1957, but were denied, leading to the two teams moving.

So MLB Cathedrals ran through the hypothetical scenario with real-world info and some fan input to see what the league would look like today if the Dodgers had been allowed to stay in Brooklyn.

First, the San Francisco Giants in their current form wouldn't exist. The New York Giants would have moved to Minnesota in 1959.

In 1961, the Washington Senators moved to Los Angeles and became the Angels.

That same year, the American League adds two expansion teams: The San Francisco Seals and a new club in Washington, D.C. According to MLB Cathedrals, the Seals would play at Seals Stadium until a new ballpark could be built for them.

In 1962, the National League expands, adding teams in Houston and Los Angeles. Because the Dodgers stayed in Brooklyn, the Mets are never created. The new team in LA is called the Stars, meaning the Giants and Dodgers names never exist.

[RELATED: Inside Giants' 2012 WS sweep]

When MLB Cathedrals conducted the experiment Saturday, they had Oakland getting an expansion team, the Oaks. On Sunday, in a new version of the experiment with more info and fan polls, Oakland never gets a team.

Here's how the AL and NL look as of 1998, according to MLB Cathedrals.

Based on these projections, Major League Baseball and baseball in the Bay Area would look very, very different.

Giants' Mauricio Dubon shares hilarious story of meeting Hunter Pence

Giants' Mauricio Dubon shares hilarious story of meeting Hunter Pence

Mauricio Dubon is living the dream of every young Giants fan right now. 

Dubon moved to Sacramento when he was 15 years old to live with a host family -- leaving his family in Honduras -- in order chase his dreams of playing baseball. He attended his first Giants game as a teenager in 2010, sitting in the center field bleachers as Tim Lincecum pitched the Giants closer to a division title. As a young shortstop he idolized Brandon Crawford, and now is his teammate and will be Crawford's double-play partner on many occasions this season. 

When Dubon first made his Giants debut in late August after being acquired in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers, he certainly could feel his fandom come alive. The same can be said for when the team brought Hunter Pence back this offseason.

"The first time I saw Hunter at FanFest, I asked for a picture, actually," Dubon said on the latest episode of The Giants Insider Podcast. "I asked him for a picture, yeah. 2014, with the whole speech and everything -- as a fan, you kind of get excited. As a player, you get even more excited." 

Dubon said he had to get away from the Giants' veteran players last year when guys like Tim Lincecum, Angel Pagan and many others came back for Bruce Bochy's final game as San Francisco's manager. The young infielder simply couldn't help but get giddy seeing his childhood heroes. Dubon even used Pagan's salute celebration in high school. 

Now with Pence in the fold and Pablo Sandoval returning to San Francisco, Dubon doesn't see why the Giants couldn't shock the world again once the season returns amid baseball's suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.

[RELATED: How Dubon is staying ready after missing first Opening Day]

"I keep telling people that when were we favorites -- I say "we" as a fan -- when were we favorites to win a World Series in '10, '12 and '14? Never," Dubon said. "So why's it gonna change right now?

"We have the same veterans. Same hunger, probably even more. We got guys that are willing to do anything to win a game. I think we have a pretty good chance of [winning] the whole thing." 

Dubon is expected to be manager Gabe Kapler's do-it-all utility man up in the middle at second base, shortstop and center field this season to keep his athleticism in the lineup. And while his fandom always will live within him, he could be a major key to the Giants brining their next World Series trophy back to San Francisco.