Giants open new month with 'May flowers' and a win over Kershaw

Giants open new month with 'May flowers' and a win over Kershaw

LOS ANGELES — Hunter Pence walked into the visiting dugout at Dodger Stadium on Monday afternoon and starting asking reporters how they were doing. At the time, Pence’s stat line said that he had just one homer. The smile on his face said he wasn’t all that concerned. 

“April showers bring May flowers,” he said, beaming as he headed onto the field. 

The first day of May ended up bringing what felt like a hurricane of offense. 

Pence banged a Clayton Kershaw curveball over the wall for a two-run shot and Buster Posey later added a solo blast, his first in nearly a month, on a hanging slider. The Giants put eight hits and four runs on Kershaw’s line, both matching his career-highs against his rival. The early onslaught — and that’s what four runs is against Kershaw, especially in his home park — held up for a 4-3 win on the first day of May.

“We took good, aggressive swings,” Posey said. “We were able to work counts and foul off tough pitches. Any time you can do that against Kershaw, it’s a good night.”

The tough at-bats came up and down the lineup. Christian Arroyo saw 27 pitches in four plate appearances, and he had two hits off Kershaw, who gave up the first of Arroyo’s career last Tuesday. Joe Panik saw 24 pitches. Gorkys Hernandez put down a bunt, advanced on an error, and scored a needed insurance run on Arroyo’s second knock.

It all left Bruce Bochy grinning ear to ear. This is how he likes to manage. This is how it’s supposed to be for the 2017 Giants. The bullpen showed some depth, backing the lineup and Johnny Cueto, who was sharp through seven.

Cueto entered the night with a 5.10 ERA, but he finally revealed a minor ailment that team officials have been whispering about during the rough start. Cueto dealt with a blister during his last start of March and he said it never went away.

“I’ve been dealing with it for a month,” Cueto said through interpreter Erwin Higueros. “It’s nagging me.”

The blister flared up in the third inning Monday, but Cueto buckled down, as if annoyed by its presence. After Kershaw’s RBI single in the second, Cueto retired 13 straight. The run ended in the seventh, when an infield single, a slick bunt by rookie Cody Bellinger, and a pinch-hit single got the Dodgers within one. Bochy made the slow walk to the mound. Cueto was at 100 pitches, and Bochy needed to look not at his finger, but at his eyes. 

Bochy liked what he saw. Cueto got Andrew Toles to ground out to first, yelling as he walked back to the dugout. 

“I needed to go ahead and strap up my pants and start pitching,” Cueto said. 

Bochy will occasionally publicly tells his players to pull their Big Boy Pants on, and two young relievers did so on a night when the closer wasn’t available. Mark Melancon pitched four of five days to end the homestand, and five of seven overall. 

“He’s fine, but I talked to him,” Bochy said. “He wanted to be available. He threw four of five and that would have been five of six. We have a lot of baseball left.”

Melancon told the younger relievers that he was down for the night, and they responded. Steven Okert was the first out of the ‘pen and he got Corey Seager, Justin Turner and Yasmani Grandal in order in the eighth. He came out for the ninth as Derek Law warmed up, and down went lefties Adrian Gonzalez and Bellinger. 

“Oh my gosh, he pretty much saved the game for us,” Law said. “That’s a big turning point right there. To come in and shut them down like that, they pretty much had no chance.”

Yasiel Puig was the last chance for the Dodgers and Bochy called on Law. He threw five pitches, striking out Puig for his first save of the season. The fist-pump at the end capped a stirring night for the Giants, who hope beating Kershaw is the springboard for a big road trip. At the very least, it brought some laughs back to a clubhouse that suffered two brutal losses over the weekend. 

“He’s a good friend for letting me get that save,” Law said as Okert got dressed a few feet away.

Okert smiled.

“Great save,” he said to Law. “He went in there and did exactly what was needed.”


Why Mike Gerber, Levi Michael are Giants spring training cuts to keep eye on

Why Mike Gerber, Levi Michael are Giants spring training cuts to keep eye on

SAN FRANCISCO -- Early in camp, a Giants veteran looked at a group of young players sitting at a card table and joked that he didn't recognize half the guys in the room. That's no longer the case. 

The Giants, after two more rounds of cuts, are down to 39 players in big-league camp, and most of them are familiar to fans. We have hit the point of the spring where guys who were seriously fighting for jobs are seeing that dream end, so as we did last week, let's take a look at who got cut and who might return at some point ... 

March 14: Outfielder Austin Slater and switch-pitcher Pat Venditte optioned; right-hander Derek Law and infielder Zach Green reassigned to minor league camp.

It was a disappointing spring for both Slater and Venditte, who were in races for a backup outfield job and bullpen spot, respectively. 

Slater hit .185 in 12 spring appearances, with just one extra-base hit. The staff asked him to make some swing changes in the offseason to add more loft and hopefully tap into his raw power, but it continues to be a work in progress. More than just about anyone, Slater really could use an everyday role in Sacramento to try and continue to figure out the new swing. He's just 26, offers positional versatility, and could help balance the lineup from the right side, so a breakout would solve a lot of the big league roster's bench issues. 

Venditte was the first free agent signing of the Zaidi era, but he never got on track, allowing seven runs in six appearances. Even at 33, he had a minor league option remaining, so he seems a good bet to shuttle back and forth this season as the Giants embrace some of that Dodger way of handling a pitching staff. At the very least, the switch-pitching thing continues to be remarkable. 

Law was knocked off the 40-man just before camp, but came in optimistic about the way he was throwing. He made just four appearances, allowing a pair of runs. Law's future is murky. If he can get untracked and find that 2016 form, the Giants would be thrilled to add him to the mix. But he's off the 40-man now, so the road back will be a long one. 

Green, 25, was an interesting addition, and he had a nice month, posting an OPS over 1.100 in 23 plate appearances and hitting a couple of homers. It'll be fascinating to check Sacramento's box scores early in the season. Will Zaidi keep giving shots to guys like Slater and Ryder Jones who have been with the organization for a while, or will newcomers like Green jump the line? Green hit 20 homers in the high minors last season and could soon be the next man up at the corner infield spots. 

March 17: Outfielder Mike Gerber and infielder Levi Michael reassigned. 

Anonymous to most fans, these two are guys to keep an eye on.

Gerber was the first player Zaidi acquired for the Giants and they got him through waivers, and onto their Triple-A roster. He had eight hits in 19 spring at-bats, and might have had the plate appearance of the spring, shaking off a head-seeking fastball from a tough Rangers lefty to line a two-run triple into the gap as the Giants nearly pulled off a wild comeback a week ago. He's an outfielder who can play all three spots, and simply has good plate appearances, which is something lacking in this organization. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him get a shot in the outfield this summer. 

[RELATED: Giants top prospect Bart awarded for impressive spring]

Michael played three infield spots this spring and has handled the outfield in the minors. He has always been a high OBP guy in the minors, and reached at a .400 clip in limited action this spring. Does that sound like the type Zaidi might want on the roster? Yep. 

The Giants will carry 13 pitchers more often than not, and might need a third catcher at times. Anyone with versatility -- Michael, Breyvic Valera, Alen Hanson, etc. -- will have a leg up when decisions are made. 

San Francisco Mayor London Breed wants accountability in Larry Baer incident


San Francisco Mayor London Breed wants accountability in Larry Baer incident

San Francisco Mayor London Breed issued a statement Monday calling on Major League Baseball to issue sanctions on Giants CEO Larry Baer over a March 1 incident involving his wife, Pam.

“When the incident first occurred involving Larry Baer and his wife, the San Francisco Police Department immediately began an investigation,” Breed said in the statement posted on her website. "That investigation is ongoing, but regardless of the outcome, Major League Baseball needs to send a message that any and all acts of violence against women is unacceptable.

"The letter written by several respected women leaders in our domestic violence community echoes an all too familiar reality where incidents involving violence against women are not met with true accountability. While Mr. Baer has apologized and expressed remorse for his behavior, it does not excuse his actions and it does not erase what transpired. Mr. Baer’s actions were serious and wrong. We are a City that loves and supports our San Francisco Giants, and that means holding our organization and its leaders to the highest of standards.

“Every little girl, every woman should be able to attend a Giants game with a clear sense of the organization’s values. I share in the call to action by the women who have written the Commissioner calling for greater accountability. There must be a stronger public reaction and response to violence against women in our City and our country.”

The letter that Breed references in her statement came from a dozen San Francisco community leaders, who wrote to MLB that they’d like to see Baer disciplined. The San Francisco Chronicle cited portions of the letter, which told MLB their stance is about “… the responsibility that you, as well as the board and executive leadership of the Giants organization, have to fairly enforce MLB policy, as you would had it been a major league player in that video, rather than a high-profile CEO.”

MLB issued a statement on the day of the incident, saying: “Major League Baseball is aware of the incident and, just like any other situation like this, will immediately begin to gather the facts. We will have no further comment until this process is completed.” MLB has not commented since then.

The San Francisco district attorney’s office told the Chronicle on March 8 it hadn’t decided if charges should be filed and that police had been investigating the situation.