In first shot at former team, George Kontos plunked a longtime friend


In first shot at former team, George Kontos plunked a longtime friend

PITTSBURGH — George Kontos still speaks regularly to many of the Giants who became close friends during his six seasons in San Francisco, and after his Pirates won the opener of this series, the right-hander stopped by the visiting team’s hotel to catch up. One of the first people he saw was Brandon Crawford. 

A couple hours earlier, Crawford took Kontos’ second pitch off his front foot, turned and sent a joking glare back at the mound, and then jogged to first. It wasn’t exactly how Kontos drew it up when he thought about facing his former team. 

“I was like, ‘You really couldn’t have just gotten out of the way so we could have had an actual at-bat against each other?’” Kontos said a day later. “He goes, ‘I did move a foot. I just moved the wrong one.’”

Crawford joked that he should have rushed the mound. He also suggested a different pitch choice. 

“Throw a fastball, you have a six-run lead,” he said, laughing. “Don’t throw cutter-cutter.”

Kontos pitched the eighth inning of Pittsburgh’s 11-2 win in the opener. After hitting Crawford, he got a ground ball to first that Josh Bell threw away. Kontos struck out Austin Jackson and Nick Hundley before Gregor Blanco’s single loaded the bases for Andrew McCutchen, the story of the night. McCutchen grounded out to third. 

“There was a lot of adrenaline. My heart was pumping fast,” Kontos said. “I’ve made a lot of major league appearances but that was my first one against the Giants and against the guys that I’ve seen hit thousands of times and gone through a lot of stuff with throughout the years. It was definitely a lot of fun. It was exciting. 

“I wish the second pitch didn’t hit Crawford and it could have gone a little different. But it was fun, it was a lot of fun. To get Cutch with the bases loaded, a guy I was teammates with and we have some history in the past, it was definitely an eventful inning but it ended up being alright.” 

Kontos was sent to the Pirates last August after they claimed him to keep him away from the rival Cubs. He has thrived, finding a home in the eighth, between hard-throwers Michael Feliz and Felipe Vasquez. After years of being Bruce Bochy’s fireman in the middle innings, he has been a fixture late in games for a surprising Pirates team. All 18 of his appearances have come in the eighth inning or later, and he has five holds and a save for a club making noise in the NL Central. 

If the Pirates have another late lead in this series, there's a good chance Kontos will once again be called upon. It's something he's looking forward to, but Crawford said he doesn't necessarily feel the same way. He doesn't like facing Gerrit Cole, his brother in law, either. 

"I personally don't like facing guys I know that well," he said. "It's a little bit weird at first."

Giants, Marlins play beanball near end of dramatic season series

Giants, Marlins play beanball near end of dramatic season series

SAN FRANCISCO — On Tuesday morning, in Los Angeles, Evan Longoria had his fractured fifth metacarpal repaired. In the afternoon, in San Francisco, Hunter Strickland had a similar procedure. 

The metacarpal madness did not lead to any excess caution for a team that has dealt with injuries throughout. It was the opposite, in fact. The Giants sprinted headfirst into a beanball war with a team with nothing to lose. That led to a scary moment for Buster Posey, but ultimately the Giants came away unscathed, and with a win. 

Players and coaches predictably shied away from the drama in the moments following a 6-3 win. But manager Bruce Bochy repeatedly praised rookie Dereck Rodriguez for the way he handled himself — he drilled opposing rookie Lewis Brinson — and said this was just part of the game.

“It’s baseball,” Bochy said. “We’re men. This is what happens in baseball.”

The Giants say they were upset over a Dan Straily pitch last week that sent Longoria to the disabled list, and Bochy twice mentioned that Kelby Tomlinson was hit in Monday night’s game. This doesn’t quite hold up under scrutiny. If the Giants wanted to get revenge on behalf of Longoria, they would have hit a Marlin on Monday night. Or they could have waited for Straily’s at-bat in the top of the second inning Tuesday. No, this was about more than a couple of pitches that hit Giants players.

There was never much doubt that the Giants would retaliate against Brinson, and Rodriguez didn’t waste any time. His first pitch to Brinson, with two on and one out in the second, was a 92 mph fastball that drilled his hip. 

“Runners on second and third and less than two outs, you don’t want him to get a sacrifice fly,” Rodriguez said. “I was trying to go in. It got him. It happens.”

Brinson knew it was coming following Monday night’s theatrics. After a 95 mph fastball from Strickland shot up toward his head, he lined the game-tying single into right. Brinson, 24, hopped up and down as he headed toward first and turned and yelled something at Strickland. A few minutes later, Strickland’s night was done, and he walked near third base on his way to the dugout, exchanging words with Brinson. 

Rodriguez’s pitch a day later led to warnings for both sides, but the Marlins are headed for the top of the draft, and they didn’t much seem to care about losing their starting pitcher. Dan Straily drilled Posey on the arm in the bottom of the second and was immediately ejected. Retaliation?

“I don’t know,” Posey said. “I don’t know. It seemed that way.”

Bochy came out raging, and he later said that Marlins manager Don Mattingly had indicated payback was coming.

“I don’t know what happened there when he came out,” Bochy said. “I guess he was upset about the warnings. I guess they thought they have to do something. I guess there was fuzzy math going on when our third baseman is on the DL for eight weeks and we had a guy get hit in the back last night.”

The only math that ultimately mattered was 90 feet. Whether they were upset about Longoria, or about Brinson’s trip around the bases Monday night, the Giants decided to get into it at a time when they can’t afford another injury. The pitch to Posey rode up and in, and was near his hands, where metacarpals are all too easy to break, but he jogged the 90 feet down to first and chatted with Justin Bour. 

That would be it for the drama, but the Giants and Marlins may not be done, no matter what’s said behind closed doors. The visiting starter for the final matchup of the season between these two will be Jose Urena, who hit an MLB-leading 14 batters last year and three Cubs on opening day this year. 


Tensions boil over as Giants snap losing streak to Marlins

Tensions boil over as Giants snap losing streak to Marlins


SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants are apparently feuding with the Miami Marlins. At least this time the drama came with a win. 

Buster Posey homered and was hit on a fiery night at AT&T Park, when the bullpen finally allowed the offensive work hold up. The Giants won 6-3, beating the Marlins for the second time in six tries this season. Here are the details … 

--- A night after Hunter Strickland and Lewis Brinson exchanged words, Dereck Rodriguez's first pitch to Brinson was a 92 mph fastball to the hip. Both benches were warned, but the Marlins still retaliated. Dan Straily hit Posey on the arm in the bottom of the inning and was immediately ejected. Posey was uninjured. 

--- Gorkys Hernandez, who hit zero homers last year, crushed his eighth. The two-run blast put the Giants on top 3-0. Posey had a solo shot in the first. 

--- Dereck Rodriguez had one rough inning, but otherwise pitched well. He was charged with three earned in five innings, all of the damage coming in the fourth. He struck out six and walked none. 

—- Alen Hanson had a rough weekend in Los Angeles, but he bounced back with a huge night: a single and two doubles, including one that would have been a triple if not for iffy baserunning ahead of him. He also made a spectacular play at short to end the eighth. 

--- Will Smith pitched the eighth and started the ninth, but Sam Dyson came on with one out and one on. He got a game-ending double play.