Giants

Giants must forget the past, focus on Bochy's magic 2013 shirt

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Giants must forget the past, focus on Bochy's magic 2013 shirt

The eleventh celebration of the decade for the San Francisco Giants was surprisingly long in duration and exuberant by volume of alcohol dripping off the ceiling and trod into the clubhouse carpet. They did not act, to be sure, “like they’d been there before.”

But all history starts with the immediate, and given the circumstances, they could be forgiven for thinking that this wild-card berth felt a lot like any of their World Series.

That’s the beauty of exhaustion fueled by relief, though. Life in the minefield doesn’t seem so bad the moment you’re on the other side of danger, safe and with all your limbs where they started.

Of course, choosing to forget about the minefield immediately is another way to do it.

While the Giants players, coaches, executives and staff and ancillary family members all celebrated the Giants’ return to the postseason, proudly wore the latest MLB wear-this-under-pain-of-death giveaway, an industrial strength gray T-shirt that said “BACK TO OCTOBER,” Bruce Bochy sat in his office wearing a weary smile and his own beer-sozzled shirt -- one that proudly read “2013 SPRING TRAINING” in red and gold letters that looked like he’d bought it at an Iowa State rummage sale.

“I wore it the other day against Colorado,” he said almost sheepishly as he basked in the mutant-green glow of Sunday’s 7-1 win over the Los Angeles Scullys, and the upcoming Wednesday do-or-golf play-in game in New York. “And I’ve been wearing it ever since.”

Hey, anyone can wear a new freebie, but only the most skilled people in closest contact with the occult can feel the magic in an old, generic, off-brand freebie from the bottom of the locker.

Bochy had watched Matt Moore make his job easy Sunday, just as he had watched Ty Blach do the same thing a day ago, and Madison Bumgarner the day before that, and Johnny Cueto the day before that. He watched hit follow hit as a belated and refreshing change, and nine multiple-run innings in the last 32, after 10 in the previous 90. He watched Sergio Romo bolt down a seemingly rusted-out bullpen.

He watched, frankly, 2012 compressed into four desperate days. And he remembered how it felt to be the master of his surroundings again.

“It’s hard to think of what the hardest one was,” he said when asked if making the play-in game Wednesday against the Mets was the toughest hill his platoon has had to climb. “But all the fighting we had to do to survive, all the struggles, knowing we couldn’t afford to lose any of these games . . . I guess they just needed to feel their backs against the wall.”

No, the Giants didn’t save their best for last in sweeping the Dodgers during Vin-A-Palooza. They actually used their best in the first 90 games of the season, and all the math shows it. These last four wins (including the last game against Colorado) were, in fact, their first and only four-game win streak of the second half.

You know who had more? Every other team, save San Diego and Miami.

On the other hand, they failed to become the first team ever to have the best record before the All-Star Break and the worst after it – they passed Minnesota, Philadelphia and the Padres in the last week. So they blew that narrative, too.

Which brings us to the resident sage, Grandmaster Sabes. The general manager emeritus, Brian Sabean, stood in the hallway, away from the damp and musty madness, and looked at the season as he had never had the luxury to do before – from afar.

“You know what people don’t get?” he said, priming exactly the kind of rhetorical question he used to loathe when they were being asked of him. “They don’t get the power of the grind, and how hard it gets. They don’t get how the longer you’re in it, a season is actually one long game, that yesterday’s game affects today’s game and today’s game affects tomorrow’s game. It’s like life. Eventually, the past doesn’t matter.”

Especially when the past was as bad as the last two months.

“It was kind of weird the way we could never get any traction in the second half until right at the end,” catcher Buster Posey said. “We’d win a big one, and the next day we couldn’t do a thing. We’d win a couple but we couldn’t get the third one to build off.

“That’s why this is different than two years ago (when the Giants had to go to Pittsburgh to beat the Pirates in a play-in game behind Bumgarner). That time, we knew we were pretty much in it for the last week. This time, it came down to the end, and so that was different. I guess we’ll see if that was better or worse.”

Actually, it can’t be better than winning it all, but it could tie, which the Giants would cheerfully take.

Mostly, though, we will now see if the Giants can ignore the first half, which was full of false positives, the second half, which was full of frightening negatives, and even the last four games, when they did everything they wanted to do whenever they wanted. They even have to forget 2010, 2012 and 2014, because history doesn’t get them past Noah Syndergaard or the Chicago Cubs or Washington Nationals or the Fightin’ Scullys of whatever the American League tosses out in the World Series. Only the actual baseball does that.

They need, in short, to forget all of the past – except, of course, the improbable spring training of 2013, when nothing much happened of note except that elves, pixies and sprites combined to make one magic t-shirt and threw it in Bruce Bochy’s travel bag – perhaps for just this eventuality.

As they head home for long stretch, Giants get a solid win over Dodgers

As they head home for long stretch, Giants get a solid win over Dodgers

LOS ANGELES — While dealing with multiple concussions, Brandon Belt was often forced to sit peacefully in a dark room to avoid noise and light. This latest DL stint also included some sitting in a room, but this time the focus was on visualization. 

Belt said he sat down and repeatedly told himself that he would be fine physically when he returned from an appendectomy. He needed to trust his body and his approach, and in his first at-bat back, he got validation. Belt flied out to the track in the second inning Saturday night. A day later, he cleared the wall, giving Chris Stratton insurance that would hold up in a 4-1 win over the Dodgers. 

The homer was Belt’s 12th of the season and 110th in the big leagues. It was his first without an appendix, and it came after no rehab games. 

“I knew I felt alright,” he said.”I didn’t need (rehab games). I guess there’s always a concern when you come back and try to be up to speed, but the way I felt in the cage, I figured I would be alright.”

Belt’s blast was the second of just three hits for the Giants, but they didn’t need any more than that. Nick Hundley had a two-run shot himself and Stratton battled without his best stuff, throwing six innings for a staff that needed a boost in the worst way. 

For the third time on this trip, the Giants won before taking a flight. This one is a short one and will get them back home, where they are 19-11 this season. The winning clubhouse was full of players and coaches eager to get away from hotels. 

“It’s awesome,” Belt said. “We’re through our toughest part of the schedule, I believe.”

The Giants have played 42 games on the road, the most in the majors. They’re just 16-26 away from home, and Bruce Bochy has said repeatedly that the team needs to play better on the road to have a chance at the postseason. But thats a goal the Giants can focus on in a couple of weeks. For now, they’re starting a stretch where they’ll play 20 of 26 at home. Those six road games are nearby — in Phoenix and Denver — and the three “road” games after this 26-game run are in Oakland. 

The Giants will spend just six nights away from their home beds from now until July 23. In other words, it’s go time. Despite their issues, they are just 4 1/2 games out in the National League West. This upcoming stretch will determine if they are a real contender, and could determine whether or not the front office is selling at the deadline. 

“We have a very, very good home field advantage with our fans and how well we’ve played at AT&T Park,” Hundley said. “If we’re going to win the division, we have to win at home. We know that, and we expect to win at AT&T Park and we’ll carry that confidence over to the next series.”

Belt, Hundley power Giants past Dodgers to avoid sweep in LA

Belt, Hundley power Giants past Dodgers to avoid sweep in LA

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES — The Giants sure know how to clinch a happy flight. 

This was a road trip that should have been better, but at the very least, the players made sure they didn’t have any depressing travel experiences. They beat Max Scherzer on getaway day in Washington D.C. and won a 16-inning game on the final day in Miami. Before flying back to San Francisco for a 10-game homestand, they toppled the Dodgers 4-1 to avoid a sweep and finish the trip at 5-5. 

After scoring two-or-fewer runs in 11 consecutive games at Dodger Stadium, the Giants got to four in the first three innings Sunday. Here’s how it all went down … 

—The Giants had just two hits in five innings against lefty Caleb Ferguson. Luckily, one was a two-run homer from Nick Hundley and the other was a two-run homer from Brandon Belt. Hundley’s homer was his eighth, giving him twice as many as Buster Posey. Belt’s homer was his team-leading 12th, and first since having his appendix removed. 

— Chris Stratton gave up plenty of loud outs, but got through it. He ended up allowing just one run on three hits in six innings. The Giants have won six of Stratton’s last seven starts. 

— Quietly, Will Smith has been outstanding. He lowered his ERA to 0.96 after striking out Cody Bellinger and Yasmani Grandal and getting Yasiel Puig to fly out to right.