Giants

Joe Panik's walk-off aided by slow Giants alertly stealing two bases

Joe Panik's walk-off aided by slow Giants alertly stealing two bases

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants have the slowest roster in the big leagues, but they won a game Tuesday night with some speed. Or rather, by mixing some smarts with some speed. 

Braves closer Luke Jackson showed zero interest in checking on runners in the ninth and Kevin Pillar and Mac Williamson took advantage, twice stealing second before Joe Panik’s single brought them both home in a 4-3 win. The late rally came in drips, but it led to a thrilling win on a night when the Giants were absolutely flat for eight innings. 

Jackson seemed to be having issues with the signs, repeatedly asking catcher Brian McCann to run through them again. He was deliberate, and Pillar took advantage first, a few moments after his RBI single with two outs brought Brandon Crawford screaming home and cut the deficit to one. Jackson never checked on Pillar with Pablo Sandoval at the plate and he took off, sliding in just ahead of McCann's throw. 

Sandoval ended up with his 10th pinch-hit of the year, but with Pillar at first, Josh Donaldson's diving stop at third would have led to a game-ending force. Instead, Pillar eased into third as Sandoval raced to first with no throw, reaching on an infield single. Sandoval was replaced by Williamson, who also received no interest from Jackson. On an 0-2 pitch to Panik, he stole second without a throw. 

"That was huge," manager Bruce Bochy said. "Kevin, he's a basestealer and that was a huge base. Once Mac got it, now you realize it just takes a hit to win the game. That's a big base."

Panik's eyes got wide once Williamson touched second. 

"I don't have to hit a double to win the game," Panik said. "I can stay within myself, stay in the middle of the field, and you can win the game with a single."

Panik did, ending a great at-bat by pulling a curveball into right, a few feet past a diving Ozzie Albies. The only speed Panik needed was to get away from a rush of teammates waiting with kidney punches and turkey taps. But before that, he took advantage of tendencies, too. 

Panik has been as locked-in as an Giants hitter the last three weeks, and he fouled off three pitches while getting to 2-2. When Jackson threw a fastball that never threatened the plate, Panik thought back to the scouting report. 

"I thought it was a setup pitch for his breaking ball," he said.

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It was. Jackson went to his curve on 3-2 and the game was over a few seconds later. 

"That's a great comeback," Bochy said. "We looked pretty flat. We just couldn't get going offensively. Their guy (starter Julio Teheran) did a great job on us. That's a huge win.

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. 

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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."