Giants finish off sweep of Rockies with key contributors not available

Giants finish off sweep of Rockies with key contributors not available

DENVER -- There was a point earlier this season when Giants manager Bruce Bochy joked about pulling names out of a hat to form the lineup. There was no correct combination, no matter how much time Bochy spent thinking about the right order. 

These days, there's no wrong answer.

The Giants were without key starters and the back end of their bullpen while playing a fourth game at Coors Field in three days, but they easily pulled off the sweep, winning 11-8 to finish off a 6-1 road trip through Milwaukee and Denver. 

"Each guy, no matter what the situation is, is stepping in and doing what he's supposed to do," said reliever Derek Holland, who played a key role. "Every guy is doing something that's helping this team win. The rotation is feeding off each other, same with the bullpen. And the offense, it's contagious."

The team-wide attack has the Giants back in the thick of the Wild Card race. They've won 12 of their last 14 games and continue to leapfrog others in a muddled National League. And they're doing it by using every inch of a revamped and improved roster. 

After playing Tuesday night, Buster Posey got the traditional rest for the ensuing day game. Stephen Vogt stepped in and hit a homer for the second consecutive start.

"I came (to San Francisco) to help give Buster a break," Vogt said. "My No. 1 job is to catch well. Everything I can do on offense is great. That's my job, is every time I play to help Buster keep his feet up as long as possible."

Brandon Crawford, who carried the heaviest load in Monday's doubleheader, got a day to catch his breath. Donovan Solano started at short and tied a career-high with four hits. He also homered and doubled twice, scoring two runs and driving two in. With Alex Dickerson getting a scheduled day off, Austin Slater chipped in two hits and a run.

"We stayed away from using our big guys," Bochy said, "And that was huge."

Bochy said before the game that Will Smith, Sam Dyson and Tony Watson were not available because of recent overuse, but that was no problem. When Shaun Anderson was pulled in the fifth, Derek Holland came in for 1 2/3 shutout innings before handing the baton to Reyes Moronta, who pitched a scoreless seventh. Andrew Suarez, a starter called up Tuesday, recorded five outs before the Rockies started storming back in the ninth. Mark Melancon closed it out. 

Holland had the biggest contribution, continuing his hot stretch out of the bullpen. Bochy called him "invaluable" and noted how durable Holland has been despite being used quite often. 

[RELATED: Giants reportedly will sell, not buy at MLB trade deadline]

Holland was one of several players to mention Wednesday how excited the Giants are to return home. He said he's fired up to see the crowds, and casually dropped in the fact that the dugout wouldn't mind if 40,000 picked up on Dickerson's nickname and the team's favorite chant. 

That's how it used to be at Oracle Park. With the Giants all of a sudden playing good baseball again, that's what they hope to see. Winning brings fun, and the players are taking care of their end. 

"We have a really good team here," Vogt said. "And we're showing it."

How Giants manager Gabe Kapler plans to handle veteran core of lineup

How Giants manager Gabe Kapler plans to handle veteran core of lineup

SAN FRANCISCO -- Gabe Kapler spent the last month talking to Giants employees about why he would be the right fit for the job, and on Wednesday he spent nearly an hour on a podium discussing his past and future. But now Kapler plans to listen.

The new Giants manager is three months from the start of spring training and soon after that he'll have to start putting together lineups. On the Giants Insider Podcast, Kapler said he plans to talk to core players before revealing any preferences. 

"An executive in Los Angeles once said to me: 'Know where they've been, know where they are, know where they're going," Kapler said. "In order to know those three things, I need to be able to ask those questions and hear what's going on in their brains."

The arrival of Kapler -- and general manager Scott Harris -- should lead to big changes even if the Giants aren't able to trade any veterans. Bruce Bochy had too much respect for Buster Posey's past accomplishments to move him out of the heart of the order, but Kapler enters without that history.

Brandon Crawford is coming off a down year and could lose time to Mauricio Dubon or a newcomer. Brandon Belt didn't hit for much power last year, but Bochy hit him leadoff at times because of his ability to have good plate appearances, and Kapler complimented Belt during his press conference Wednesday. 

"I've thought a lot about Brandon Belt (and) how impressive it is to watch him take an at-bat, independent of the outcome of the at-bat," Kapler said. "He tends to look over pitches and make really good swing-or-don't-swing decisions."

It'll now be up to Kapler to figure out the best configuration. He said he already has started digging into his new options, and he's excited about meeting the longtime Giants. 

"In preparing for an interview like this, you start to learn the players: The areas where they've taken off since you might have seen them last, the areas where they might have regressed a little bit," he said. "Before any real lineup decisions are made or any strategic decisions are made, tactical decisions, you have conversations with the players. I think that's a really important part of the process that sometimes gets blown past.

"I don't think it makes any sense for me to come in here and say Brandon Belt is going to lead off for us and Evan Longoria will hit in this spot and Buster Posey is going to play 'X' amount of games. All of those things we have an idea and a feel for, but much more importantly, before I make any decision like that or suggest any decision like that, I'll have a conversation with Buster, have a conversation with Evan, find out where they've been."

The perception in some circles is that Kapler was brought in partly because he can have those conversations before taking lineup suggestions from Zaidi, a close friend. But Kapler said he had autonomy in Philadelphia and doesn't expect a change, although he's happy to have input from the front office.

[RELATED: Zaidi lands his guy in Kapler, who must prove he fits Giants]

"I see it as a plus and a positive that Farhan will be invested in what happens on the field," he said. "That's the way it should be. But it's also important to note that I have a fairly strong personality. I've always shared my opinions. I always will share my opinions. We'll just come to the best decisions that help the San Francisco Giants win baseball games."

For more of Kapler's thoughts on strategy, bullpen usage, developing top prospects, his reunion with Zaidi, and those ice cream urban legends, you can stream the Giants Insider Podcast here or download it on iTunes here.

Click here to watch the full Kapler interview

MLB rumors: Yankees interested in free agent pitcher Madison Bumgarner

MLB rumors: Yankees interested in free agent pitcher Madison Bumgarner

This isn’t exactly breaking news, but Madison Bumgarner will be a hot commodity in MLB free agency.

The Atlanta Braves reportedly are the favorites to land the three-time World Series champion, but now another title contender is hoping in adding Bumgarner's services in 2020, after his 11-year run with the Giants.

“I will definitely talk to Bumgarner’s agency,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman reportedly told The San Francisco Chronicle’s John Shea at the GM meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz. “I haven’t. But I will.”

The Yankees' interest is far from a surprise. Not only does the franchise have one of baseball’s most expansive payrolls, but it could use a pitcher who sports a series of dominant playoff performances, considering the Yankees haven’t participated in the Fall Classic since 2009, despite seven postseason appearances in that span.

[RELATED: How Kapler explained 'problem solving' in 2015 blog post]

It remains to be seen how aggressive the Giants will be in trying to re-sign Bumgarner, but it’s clear they won’t be the only ones after the left-hander this winter.