Giants

Instant Replay: Bumgarner, Gillaspie lead Giants past Mets, into NLDS

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Instant Replay: Bumgarner, Gillaspie lead Giants past Mets, into NLDS

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NEW YORK — Back on the biggest stage, Madison Bumgarner did it again. 

Bumgarner threw a second shutout in a Wild Card Game and Conor Gillaspie came through with his Travis Ishikawa moment in the ninth, hitting a three-run shot off Mets closer Jeurys Familia that silenced Citi Field and finally put a lead in Bumgarner’s hands. On this night, as on most of his postseason nights, Bumgarner just needed one run. 

The 27-year-old came back out for the ninth and retired the side for a 3-0 victory. He gave up just four hits and struck out six while throwing 119 pitches. In two wild card games, Bumgarner has given up eight hits over 18 sparkling innings. He will take a 23-inning postseason scoreless streak into his NLDS start. 

The Giants advanced to play the 103-win Cubs. Johnny Cueto will face Jon Lester on Friday at Wrigley Field. Lester was one of three players to finish ahead of Bumgarner in ERA. To get to the next round, the Giants had to survive a stunning performance from one of the other two. 

Noah Syndergaard was brilliant, but he couldn’t quite keep up with Bumgarner, one of the best big-game pitchers the game has ever seen. The duel between two of the game’s best arms exceeded sky-high expectations. 

Syndergaard, the 6-foot-6 right-hander nicknamed “Thor,” strolled to the mound and warmed up to a thundering track from Trans-Siberian Orchestra. His first pitch was a 97 mph sinker to Denard Span. The Giants would see 14 more in the inning, including 10 fastballs, all at 97-99 mph. Brandon Belt and Buster Posey grounded out. 

Bumgarner entered the night with a 0.60 ERA in postseason road appearances, an MLB record. It’s a number built not on high octane, but on hitting spots and inducing weak contact. Bumgarner’s first pitch was 92 mph, slower than a slider Syndergaard threw Posey minutes before, but he retired the side on seven pitches. 

Terry Collins insisted that his team would be aggressive against Bumgarner, and the lefty was all too happy to take advantage. He followed the first seven-pitch inning with two more, erasing the only hit of the first three innings with a double play. Through three, Bumgarner was on pace for a 63-pitch shutout. Syndergaard, who struck out four straight between the second and third, was on track for a 111-pitch perfect game.

Span finally put a Giant on base with a leadoff walk in the fourth, and he quickly took off against Syndergaard, who allowed 48 stolen bases in the regular season. Span was called out on the field but the Giants challenged, and replays appeared to show he was safe. The dugout exploded when the call on the field stood. 

The Mets raised their level a couple of notches the second time through the order and Bumgarner needed 28 pitches to get through the fourth. He threw 20 more in the fifth, stranding a leadoff double. T.J. Rivera got the Mets going, but he was caught in a rundown when Rene Rivera hit a grounder right at Brandon Crawford. The older Rivera took the younger Rivera’s place at second, but he didn’t do any better. Bumgarner intentionally walked James Loney to face Syndergaard, and then he struck his counterpart out. 

The Giants didn’t have a hit through five, and Syndergaard carried his dominance deep into the sixth before the first sign of trouble. He struck out Conor Gillaspie and Bumgarner, becoming the youngest pitcher (24) to whiff 10 in a winner-take-all game. Span put an end to the no-hit bid with a single to left, and he stole second on another bang-bang play. A moment later, the Giants looked to have the lead. 

Belt launched a fastball to deep center and Span raced home, but Curtis Granderson hauled the ball in as he smacked face-first into the wall, 408 feet from the plate. Belt slammed his helmet off the dirt in disgust. 

Syndergaard started to tire in the seventh, but he stranded two before handing the ball over to the bullpen. Over 108 pitches, Syndergaard allowed just two hits, walked three, and struck out 10. He threw 48 times at 98 mph or above.  

Bumgarner kept cruising on the other side, and it looked like the lineup would reward him in the top of the eighth. Gillaspie hit a leadoff single off Addison Reed and Bumgarner bunted him to second. After a razor-thin walk of Belt and a passed ball, Posey was intentionally walked to load the bases. Pence swung through a fastball to end the inning. 

The Mets put a runner on second with two down in the bottom of the inning, but Bumgarner snagged a liner back to the mound. He pumped his fist and screamed as he walked off the mound with a streak of 22 consecutive scoreless innings in the postseason.  

Brandon Crawford doubled off Familia to lead off the ninth and Joe Panik walked two batters later. Gillaspie, playing only because of a hamstring injury to Eduardo Nuñez, crushed a sinker over the wall in right. In an instant, just as in Pittsburgh two years ago, the only sound that could be heard was the cheering from the visiting dugout. Just as in Pittsburgh, Bumgarner came out and finished it off.

New Giants catcher Erik Kratz leaves a presence everywhere he goes

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New Giants catcher Erik Kratz leaves a presence everywhere he goes

Death, taxes, and Giants transactions.

That appears to be the theme of the week.

A few transactions were made on Saturday, and on Sunday morning, the Giants acquired veteran Erik Kratz in a trade for minor league infielder, C.J. Hinojosa.

But this isn't an article about moves being made, or trades being implemented. This is about the 38-year-old catcher who leaves a presence behind with anyone he meets -- and he's met a lot of people.

Kratz coming to the Giants means this will be the eighth big-league team he will roster for and, in total, 11 organizations -- er, 12 now. 

Last season, during his time with the Brewers, he became the oldest position player to make his first postseason start since Lave Cross did in 1905.  

And how did he do during that debut? Well:

During Game 2 of the National League Division Series, he hit a two-run, eighth-inning single that gave the Brewers a 2-0 advantage in the eventual 4-0 win over the Rockies. And he was beyond thankful for the opportunity as he told MLB.com's Adam McCalvy last year.

"If you told me 16 years ago that I'd be here today I wouldn't have changed the path that I took," Kratz said. "I never gave up. I've been blessed every day to be in this situation."

His friends had surprised him during the postseason -- and each one of them sported one of his jerseys from each of the teams he played on. And when he was asked about what they would think about seeing him on the big stage, they would probably ask about his "nasty facial hair" and say he "looks fat on TV."

I spoke to Robert Murray who is the Brewers' beat writer for The Athletic. Through the phone, you could hear his excitement at the opportunity to talk all things Kratz.

"This is right up my alley," Murray told NBC Sports Bay Area. "I love Kratz."

Then Murray told me a story about him. One that made Murray a little sad Kratz would no longer sport a Milwaukee uniform.

"I had asked Josh Fields if he knew anyone in the Brewers' clubhouse besides Yasmani Grandal when I heard Kratz say in the background, 'Robert, that's a stupid question." After the interview, I asked him what made the question stupid when he replied, 'You should know by now that basically everybody in baseball has played baseball with Erik Kratz." Even in the toughest of situations, knowing on Feb. 1, that he wouldn't make the Brewers, he was a true professional and kept a strong sense of humor."

Murray said that is what he will remember about Kratz.

Don't worry, I didn't rub it in his face too much the Giants had gained a great human, but I will say it got me excited to see what he can add to that team, to that clubhouse, to that organization.

For those of you who say, "I don't care, give me his stats." This isn't one of those articles.

You know where to find his numbers.

Giants acquire veteran catcher Erik Kratz in trade with Brewers

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Giants acquire veteran catcher Erik Kratz in trade with Brewers

SAN FRANCISCO -- A day after they made a seemingly endless series of transactions, the Giants got going with an early morning trade. 

Catcher Erik Kratz was acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers, with minor league infielder C.J. Hinojosa headed the other way. The deal was made a day after the Giants released Rene Rivera, a similar veteran who appeared in line for an Opening Day job. 

When Rivera was let go, Aramis Garcia looked to be in line for the backup job. But Kratz is a right-handed-hitting veteran who is out of options, so the Giants may keep him instead. Kratz, 38, will be playing for his eighth big league team. He hit .236 for the Brewers last year with six homers and six doubles in 203 at-bats. 

Kratz was a surprise contributor in the postseason, hitting .292 in 26 plate appearances. He is known for doing good work defensively and is a strong clubhouse presence. 

It's unclear why the Giants elected to go with Kratz over Rivera, who worked with their pitchers all camp. Or why they may be shying away from sticking with Garcia, who had a good spring and also knows the pitching staff well. Those questions will be answered in the next four days, and the Giants figure to make many more moves before the dust settles. 

[RELATED: Giants trade Matt Joyce after three days with team]

Hinojosa was once viewed as a future utility man at the big league level, but he was suspended 50 games last season for a positive test for a drug of abuse. When he returned, he posted a .689 OPS. 

To clear a 40-man spot for Kratz, the Giants DFA'd pitcher Jose Lopez, acquired at the start of the spring from the Reds.