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."

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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.

Giants, Madison Bumgarner's camp talking with Dodgers rumor swirling

Giants, Madison Bumgarner's camp talking with Dodgers rumor swirling

SAN FRANCISCO -- Sure they're the ones talking to agents in suites, discussing blockbuster trades, and spending millions on players, but at points of the MLB Winter Meetings, Giants executives are just like their fans. 

That was the case Tuesday night, when Gerrit Cole reportedly agreed a record contract and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic immediately reported that the Dodgers, a finalist for Cole, would turn their attention to Madison Bumgarner. Rosenthal's tweet instantly caught the attention of officials in the team's suite and some who were wandering the lobby. Those who had already left for dinner discussed the news after ordering their wine. 

The report startled the fan base. It did not shake the front office. You won't find many people who work for the team who are confident that Bumgarner will be pitching in San Francisco next season, but the Giants also do not believe he'll actually end up with the Dodgers. 

"A smart negotiation tactic," one source said, smiling. 

The Dodgers reportedly bid about $300 million on Cole and were in on Anthony Rendon, who reportedly got $245 million from the Angels, but they don't have a recent history of spending big on free agents. Cole and Rendon were special cases because they were at the very top of their respective markets. 

Bumgarner, per sources familiar with his thinking, is seeking a deal in excess of $100 million. It's unknown just how high the Giants would go and they're not thought to be at the forefront of discussions, but president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi met with Bumgarner's agents on Tuesday and said Wednesday night that the Giants are still engaged with Bumgarner's camp. 

Most in the organization are still preparing for Bumgarner's departure, and it's unlikely that the latest rumors will change that thinking. Zaidi isn't one to be bullied into a move by the possibility of a popular player signing with a rival. This will be a baseball decision for the Giants.

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"We are kind of going through the process with all free agents based on where we are as an organization, what our direction is going to be, and there's a lot of rumors and a lot of innuendo and a lot of noise," Zaidi said Wednesday night when the latest rumor was brought up. "We just have to go based on what we know and the conversations that we're having."

MLB rumors: Giants bringing in Oracle Park fences, but only slightly

MLB rumors: Giants bringing in Oracle Park fences, but only slightly

The Giants promised there would be changes to the dimensions of Oracle Park, and they evidently have lived up to their word.

The fences are coming in -- but not by a ton.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle's Hank Schulman, San Francisco reportedly has marginally shortened the distance to all fields.

What about Triples Alley, you ask? Surely there must be more drastic changes to that area of Oracle Park, right?

Not really.

Six feet doesn't sound like a lot, but then again, Brandon Belt might have doubled his home-run total from last season under those dimensions. The Giants are removing the bullpen mounds from the first and third-base sidelines, and they are expected to be relocated to the extra space now created in the outfield.

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So, it appears Oracle Park generally will maintain the same character, but likely will allow for more offense. Given the trouble the Giants have had in attracting free-agent hitters, perhaps the shortened dimensions will somewhat detract from its identity as a pitcher's haven.