Giants blow four-run first-inning lead, beat Cubs on Posey's walk-off in 13th

Giants blow four-run first-inning lead, beat Cubs on Posey's walk-off in 13th


SAN FRANCISCO -- Derek Holland brought a small bottle of baby oil onto the field at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday morning in an effort to help get Brandon Belt into the All-Star Game. Many hours later, Holland upgraded to his walk-off Alhambra jug. 

Buster Posey smacked a long single off the bricks to give the Giants a 5-4 win over the Cubs in the 13th inning on Wednesday afternoon. The game-winner, the eighth walk-off of the season for the Giants, came after hours of frustration at the plate. 

The Giants scored four runs in the first and then shut it down. They had 10 baserunners from the third through the eighth, but did not score. In the meantime, the Cubs chipped away. A couple of homers in the middle innings tied the game. 

The Giants got the leadoff runner on again in the ninth but could not score, but they weren't burned, in large part because of Will Smith. The closer lowered his ERA to 0.95 with two scoreless innings and Dereck Rodriguez came out of the 'pen for three scoreless innings. In the 13th, the lineup finally broke through. 

Brandon Belt walked with two outs and Andrew McCutchen bounced a single into left. Posey, who handles high-velocity pitchers well, won it off hard-throwing rookie James Norwood, who was making his MLB debut. 

—- Johnny Cueto was sharper than in his return, but still struggled with his command at times and pitched without his usual velocity. In five innings, he gave up three earned on six hits and three walks. HIs fastball averaged 89.4 mph. 

—- Cueto appeared to hurt his right hand while taking a swing in the bottom of the fourth inning. He yelled out in pain as he left the batter’s box and was immediately checked by a trainer once he returned to the dugout. Cueto stayed in the game, but gave up a two-run homer in the top of the fifth and barely escaped. Bochy let him stay in after a four-pitch walk and rocket to the track from Javier Baez, and Cueto struck out Kyle Schwarber and got Addison Russell to line out to center. 

—- Making his second start in as many days, Chase d’Arnaud hit a leadoff homer against Mike Montgomery. The shot to left was his first as a Giant. Called up Saturday, d’Arnaud likely will see the majority of the starts at second base against left-handed pitchers. 

—- The Cubs tied it in the seventh when Baez took Tony Watson deep to center. Watson had not allowed a run in his previous 18 innings, the longest active streak in MLB. He had thrown 20 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings at home.

Should Giants be finding more starts for slugging Pablo Sandoval?

Should Giants be finding more starts for slugging Pablo Sandoval?

SAN FRANCISCO -- Pablo Sandoval took fly balls in left field during the spring. He caught a bullpen session. A year after starting at second base, he tried to keep that option open, too. 

The Giants' switch-hitter has embraced versatility over the last year, or tried to, in order to get extra time on the field, but thus far his role has been as traditional as it gets. He has made two starts at third base and one at first, and in both games of this series, he was the designated hitter. Otherwise, Sandoval has 17 appearances off the bench. 

That's the role that was expected as the Giants broke camp, but Sandoval has put his own twist on things: He has been more dangerous than any Giants hitter through a month, making a strong case that he should be more of a fixture for one of the worst lineups in the majors. 

"There's no real good way to do it except give Longo the occasional day off," manager Bruce Bochy said before Wednesday's 4-0 win over the Blue Jays. "The thing that I like about Pablo is he's able to sit and maintain his swing and go up there and give you a good at-bat, so whether it's Belt or Longo taking a day, Pablo will start occasionally. If you're talking on a daily basis, it's just hard to do."

Perhaps the Giants need to find a way, though. 

Sandoval's homer Wednesday, his second in two games in Toronto, left the bat at 112 mph (he later had an out at 111 mph). It was the hardest-hit ball of the season by a Giant, and by the end of the day Sandoval had a .333 average and 1.027 OPS. He would easily lead the team in OPS if he qualified, and he currently leads the Giants in doubles (7) despite starting just five games. 

The problem is that Sandoval can't really be anything but an emergency option at any position but first and third. First baseman Brandon Belt is the team's best hitter overall and locked into the lineup, although perhaps the Giants will give him more time in left to clear some playing time. The staff has shown no inclination to give Sandoval more time at third, where Evan Longoria has a .655 OPS and three homers. 

Sandoval enjoyed two days as a starter in Toronto, picking up four hits. But it'll be back to the pinch-hitting role when the Giants return home Friday, and it's a role nobody is doing better right now. Sandoval leads the National League with six pinch-hits, five of which have been doubles. He has scored three runs and driven in two as a pinch-hitter, repeatedly kickstarting late-game rallies. 

[RELATED: Belt not a fan of robot umpires despite frustrations]

"A lot of Pablo's hits are coming off the bench, too, so that works," Bochy said. "It's nice to have a batter sitting on the bench and when you need a big hit, he's ready to go. A lot of those at-bats come with men on base and later in the game, and I've got a pretty nice weapon there."

Giants prospect Heliot Ramos reflects on recent hot streak with San Jose

Giants prospect Heliot Ramos reflects on recent hot streak with San Jose

Everything felt right. There wasn’t anything off with his swing, he wasn’t pressing mentally, and yet, he only had one hit in his first 17 at-bats. 

All it took was a home run on April 9 to get Heliot Ramos, the Giants’ No. 2 prospect, back on track. Since then, he's hitting .349 (15-for-43) with five home runs.

“I knew that I was doing everything right,” Ramos said on Tuesday’s Inside The San Jose Giants Podcast. “In my mind, everything was right. My confidence was good. My swing was good. I just needed the ball to get down. I just keep on swinging.” 

As he kept swinging, hits started to show up in the scorebook. What has been just as important, however, has been him not swinging. 

Ramos registered just 35 walks last season as a member of the Augusta GreenJackets and finished his first full season in the minor leagues with a lowly .313 on-base percentage. He worked all offseason tracking pitches longer and laying off breaking balls in the dirt while playing Winter Ball, and it has paid off big time. 

Through 18 games in High-A with the San Jose Giants, Ramos already has 14 walks and his on-base percentage is over 100 points higher than last season (.418).

“I can see the ball well right now,” Ramos said. “I feel good. I’ve been feeling good. I learned a lot from last year. I hope this is something that can keep going good for me.” 

Not only has Ramos shown improved patience at the plate, but the center fielder is also driving the ball all over the yard. He’s batting .262 with a .991 OPS, and 11 of his 16 hits have gone for extra bases. Despite being the fifth-youngest player in the California League at 19 years old, he’s second in home runs (5), fifth in slugging percentage (.574), fifth in on-base percentage, fourth in walks, and third in OPS. 

San Jose was supposed to be a preview of what’s to come for years in San Francisco this season with the duo of Ramos and top prospect Joey Bart. A fractured hand for Bart has derailed those plans, but it hasn’t slowed down the younger of the two. 

Ramos no longer has the protection of Bart hitting right behind him. The teenager is seeing more off-speed pitches and is now the primary threat offensively to opposing teams. And yet, he’s flourished at the plate. 

[RELATED: Heliot Ramos' advancement 'really encouraging to see']

Since Bart broke his hand on April 15, Ramos has gone 8-for-26 (.308) with two home runs, two doubles, three RBI, and four runs scored. He’s growing every game as a player, both mentally and in the box score, and it could all be thanks to a disappointing season where he hit .245 with 136 strikeouts in 124 games last year. 

“Stay positive,” Ramos said when asked what he learned from last season. “That was the main thing I learned. Stay positive and never give up. Keep working hard and everything’s going to be okay.”