Giants

Giants' Pablo Sandoval is playing like an All-Star in short amount of time

Giants' Pablo Sandoval is playing like an All-Star in short amount of time

PHOENIX -- Pablo Sandoval didn’t walk around the clubhouse on Sunday morning. He bounced.

Sandoval went from one group of teammates to the next, his voice booming through the room as he cracked jokes. At one point he joined a group of relievers watching a long drive contest on a clubhouse TV. “Swing harder, bro!” he yelled at the golfer on the screen.

Then he found a group of reporters. One asked why he blew a kiss to the camera after his homer on Saturday night. Sandoval said it was his son’s birthday, and he knew he was watching. Sandoval went and grabbed his phone and came back with a video of his family watching his pinch-hit blast. 

“I always have a good game on his birthday,” he said.

It was pointed out that Sandoval also hit a homer on Mother’s Day.

“I always have a good game on Mother’s Day,” he quickly replied. 

Right now, Sandoval seems to have a good game every day. 

He came off the bench for another pinch-hit homer, this one a 10th-inning blast that gave the Giants a thrilling 3-2 win over the Diamondbacks. With two pinch-hit homers in less than 24 hours, Sandoval doubled his previous career total. 

“You expect good things to happen, that’s how good he has been,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “And it happened again today.”

Sandoval has been a breath of fresh air, a constant source of life and production. And at this point, it’s worth asking if he has been more. Has he been an All-Star? 

The Giants, even in a season like this, must have one, and so far Sandoval has been as good a choice as any. He has easily been the team’s best hitter, posting a 1.001 OPS for a lineup that has just one other player (Brandon Belt, .848) above .800. Sandoval and Belt are tied for the team lead in homers with seven, and Sandoval entered the day leading the Giants with 1.1 Wins Above Replacement. 

The most likely choice at this point is closer Will Smith, who picked up his 12th save in as many opportunities. But Sandoval is making a run for it, largely on the strength of his pinch-hit work, which may be an issue for some, but really shouldn’t hurt a player who does so much damage in the National League. 

He is 9-for-24 as a pinch-hitter with two homers, six runs scored and four RBI. Sandoval leads the Majors in pinch-hits, and Sunday’s was yet another with two strikes. He got a fastball on the outer half from Yoshihisa Hirano and spun it out to left. 

“I was getting ready for one moment,” Sandoval said. “You have to be ready for everything. Bochy gave me an opportunity in the 10th and I got a great swing and a good pitch to hit. 

“I calmed myself down, used my hands a little bit more. Don’t jump at the ball. That’s what I’ve been doing this season. Try to get a good pitch to hit — it can be low, it can be high. If I put the barrel on the ball with a good swing, there’s going to be damage.”

[RELATED: Johnny Cueto impresses Bochy]

Sandoval got his chance because of another substitute. Brandon Crawford came off the bench and robbed Adam Jones of a walk-off single in the ninth, diving to stop a hard shot with a runner on third. 

“That was the key to the game,” Sandoval said. “It wasn’t my bat. It was that play. That’s why that guy wins a Gold Glove every time he has an opportunity. He made that play to save the game.”
 

MLB rumors: Giants-Twins Madison Bumgarner trade chatter ‘premature’

MLB rumors: Giants-Twins Madison Bumgarner trade chatter ‘premature’

It's possible that Madison Bumgarner made his last start for the Giants on Saturday at Oracle Park.

Charley Walters, a columnist for The Pioneer Press in Minnesota, reported that the Twins are "moving closer to a trade with the Giants for left-handed starter Madison Bumgarner."

Don't get too worked up just yet.

Darren Wolfson, a sports reporter for KSTP-TV in Minnesota, isn't ready to say a deal between the Giants and the Twins is close.

Bumgarner is the Giants' biggest trade chip, and he's expected to fetch them a haul of prospects before the July 31 trade deadline. A deal this far away from that deadline would be a surprise, though, as the team might want to wait longer for more suitors and richer offers.

The Twins aren’t one of the eight teams on Bumgarner's no-trade list, so that would make it easier for the Giants to facilitate a trade with Minnesota, which has surprised everyone this season and owned the best record in baseball through Saturday.

In 14 starts this season, 29-year-old Bumgarner has a 3.83 ERA and struck out 84 batters in 87 innings.

[RELATED: Will Smith remains focused as trade rumors swirl]

With the Giants in last place in the NL West, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi could start trading off his valuable pieces to restock the farm system. Along with Bumgarner, you can expect veteran relievers Will Smith, Tony Watson and Sam Dyson to be traded by the deadline.

Stephen Vogt's speed vs. Brewers leads Giants to fourth straight win

Stephen Vogt's speed vs. Brewers leads Giants to fourth straight win

SAN FRANCISCO -- Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey first worked together in the minors, and for a decade in the big leagues, more often than not, Posey has been in the squat when Bumgarner digs in and looks in at the plate in the first inning. Posey has caught nearly 80 percent of Bumgarner's big league starts, a number that would be much higher if not for a couple of season-ending injuries.

But when Giants manager Bruce Bochy sat down this week to plan out playing time, he made an interesting decision. With a day game Saturday, Bochy knew Posey, coming off a hamstring injury, would catch just one of the first two against the Brewers. He chose Friday, pairing Posey with Drew Pomeranz. That meant Stephen Vogt caught Bumgarner for a third straight start, and the left-hander didn't mind one bit. 

"That's definitely the fastest and easiest transition I've had with another catcher besides Buster," Bumgarner said. "The first game, it just clicked."

Perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise that the partnership found smooth waters so quickly. Vogt is apparently all about speed these days. 

The 34-year-old catcher had two triples and an infield single Saturday, providing much of the energy in an exciting 8-7 win over the Brewers that was the fourth straight for the Giants. Vogt, popular in every big league stop, has quickly become a favorite of longtime Giants, including Bumgarner. 

"The guy's a ballplayer," Bumgarner said. "He's fun to watch. He gives it all he's got. Everybody really appreciates that. He's a guy that's easy to pull for."

The two triples got most the attention, but Vogt's most impactful sprint may have been the one he made in the bottom of the eighth. With runners on the corners and two outs, Vogt hit a slow roller up the middle and beat Orlando Arcia's throw to first, reaching 27.6 feet per second, his second-fastest sprint of the season. 

"I like to joke that the fastest human being on the planet is a baseball player that smells a hit," Vogt said, smiling. 

All kidding aside, those four and a half seconds told the Giants a lot about their backup catcher. After being in the squat for nearly three hours, Vogt busted it down the line, providing a necessary insurance run. Will Smith would give up a solo shot to Christian Yelich in the ninth but held on when Mike Yastrzemski made a diving catch for the final out. 

"It ended up being a huge run," Bochy said of Vogt's final hit. "In the eighth inning, for a catcher to get down there like that, that's impressive."

Vogt's day was historic in a way. He became the first Giants catcher since Steve Nicosia in 1984 to record two triples in one game and just the third catcher in the last eight years to do it. The Giants had not had a two-triple game from any player in three years. 

Vogt's first triple, just the 10th of his career, came when he lined a 2-0 fastball from former teammate and friend Jimmy Nelson off the fourth archway. The ball would have been a home run in 18 ballparks, but it ricocheted into center field and Vogt cruised into third, his helmet flying off, as Yelich chased it down. With a sprint speed of 26.4 feet per second, Vogt reached third in 12.4 seconds, a tenth of a second faster than the MLB average this season. He would score on Kevin Pillar's single. 

The second triple was a bit more traditional by the ballpark's standards, as Vogt lined a Junior Guerra splitter into Triples Alley and hustled into the bag in 12.14 seconds. Again, he scored on a Pillar single. Afterward, Vogt briefly took on a serious tone when noting that he hopes the ball won't be able to roll that far in the future. Vogt joined the chorus of players who want the bullpens moved off the field and into Triples Alley. He said it's a safety issue, pointing out that Chris Taylor toppled over a mound earlier this homestand. 

"If that's how we have to get that done, let's do it," he said. 

[RELATED: Will Smith focused despite trade rumors]

That's a conversation for the future. In the present, the Giants are just trying to put a positive stretch together. They remain eight games under .500, but this is their best run of the season, and on Sunday they have a chance to sweep a contender. 

"That's a big win," Vogt said. "A big win for us."