Giants

Notes: Span ends on high note; Giants honor Scully

Notes: Span ends on high note; Giants honor Scully

SAN FRANCISCO — Denard Span signed a three-year deal with the Giants in part to play in games like the three against the Dodgers. Through the first two games over the weekend, Span was mostly a spectator. 

The leadoff hitter and center fielder most of the season, Span didn’t start Friday and didn’t play at all Saturday. He did, however, make the most of Game 162. 

Span had three hits and scored three runs in the clincher, driving in a pair with a triple to right in the second. His run in that inning gave Matt Moore a 5-0 lead, and in the eighth an insurance run made it 6-1. Span also tracked down Joc Pederson’s threatening fourth-inning fly ball at the wall and he helped Sergio Romo through the ninth with a spectacular diving catch. 

“I woke up this morning locked in,” Span said on Sunday. “Obviously I’m fresh. I haven’t played in two days. I was just locked in.”

That freshness showed in the ninth. Statcast had Span reaching a top speed of 20.4 mph on the ninth-inning play, and he had a route efficiency of 98.2 percent on his way to the grab. As for the reason Span felt fresh, well, it’s clear that the playing time alteration hasn’t always been easy to swallow. 

“I haven’t been in a platoon situation in my career,” Span said. “It wasn’t easy, but I talked to (Bruce) Bochy about it and he told me he needs me to buy in and trust him.”

A few minutes earlier, Bochy had used the same phrase to describe Span’s performance: “He bought in to what we’re doing,” he said. 

Span is hitless in six at-bats against Noah Syndergaard, but it’s a good bet that he’ll be in the batter’s box for the right-hander’s first pitch Wednesday night. If the Giants advance, Bochy will be in for an interesting decision. Gorkys Hernandez became a fixture against left-handers down the stretch and he played well, and Jon Lester will start Game 1 for the Cubs.

That’s a topic for Thursday if the Giants advance. For now, before the wild card game, let’s put a bow on the regular season finale …

--- Span was one of several veteran players who went out of his way Sunday afternoon to compliment Ty Blach, Saturday’s star. Asked about the strong pitching over the final week, he went right to the rookie. “Ty Blach, nobody knew who the heck he was (before) yesterday,” he said, smiling. 

Blach is a household name for Giants fans now. He might have pitched his way onto a playoff roster, too. Remember how valuable Yusmeiro Petit was in the NLDS in 2014? You always need a long reliever. 

--- Several Giants reached out to Ryan Vogelsong on Saturday to provide some good-natured encouragement for the final day. Vogelsong’s help ultimately wasn’t needed, but he did his part anyway, ending his season in style by allowing five hits and one run over five innings. The Cardinals rallied after Vogelsong departed, winning 10-4. They fell a game short of hosting a Monday night tiebreaker. Jeff Samardzija would have pitched for the Giants. 

--- The always-quotable Sergio Romo, as beer dripped down his beard: “Now we get a chance to dance. We like our chances once we get in.”

--- Jake Peavy got the microphone after the game and represented his teammates. He told fans, “I know this season hasn't been what you thought it would be. That being said, we're in." Peavy also promised one more game at AT&T Park, noting that he was one of several free agents standing on the field. “I’m not done playing in this ballpark,” he said. 

--- Here’s my game story from the final game and a notebook leading with Conor Gillaspie’s spectacular catch. And here’s Ray Ratto, getting to the bottom of the best part of the clubhouse party: Some marketing firm probably got paid an absurd amount of money to come up with postseason t-shirt slogans and Bochy celebrated in a 2013 Cactus League shirt. 

--- Regular readers of my post-game “instant replay” stories know that I have taken a few shots at the sellout streak. The math on sellouts is fuzzy, but it just seems pointless to keep that number going (it’s nearing 500) when there were so many nights down the stretch where the ballpark was like 20 percent empty (and don’t get me started on the odd-year Septembers). 

But, credit where credit is due: The Giants handle most things the right way, and they absolutely knocked it out of the park with the Vin Scully tributes. Scully received about a half-dozen standing ovations and was honored with a plaque in the radio booth, presented by Willie Mays. He tapes a video introduction for every game at Dodger Stadium and the Giants showed a special version before Sunday’s game. Between innings, they showed highlights from Scully’s career and tributes from other broadcasting greats. 

Scully signed off for the final time right after 3 p.m. "I have said enough for a lifetime,” he said. “And for the last time, I wish you all a very pleasant good afternoon.”
 

Should Giants be finding more starts for slugging Pablo Sandoval?

Should Giants be finding more starts for slugging Pablo Sandoval?

SAN FRANCISCO -- Pablo Sandoval took fly balls in left field during the spring. He caught a bullpen session. A year after starting at second base, he tried to keep that option open, too. 

The Giants' switch-hitter has embraced versatility over the last year, or tried to, in order to get extra time on the field, but thus far his role has been as traditional as it gets. He has made two starts at third base and one at first, and in both games of this series, he was the designated hitter. Otherwise, Sandoval has 17 appearances off the bench. 

That's the role that was expected as the Giants broke camp, but Sandoval has put his own twist on things: He has been more dangerous than any Giants hitter through a month, making a strong case that he should be more of a fixture for one of the worst lineups in the majors. 

"There's no real good way to do it except give Longo the occasional day off," manager Bruce Bochy said before Wednesday's 4-0 win over the Blue Jays. "The thing that I like about Pablo is he's able to sit and maintain his swing and go up there and give you a good at-bat, so whether it's Belt or Longo taking a day, Pablo will start occasionally. If you're talking on a daily basis, it's just hard to do."

Perhaps the Giants need to find a way, though. 

Sandoval's homer Wednesday, his second in two games in Toronto, left the bat at 112 mph (he later had an out at 111 mph). It was the hardest-hit ball of the season by a Giant, and by the end of the day Sandoval had a .333 average and 1.027 OPS. He would easily lead the team in OPS if he qualified, and he currently leads the Giants in doubles (7) despite starting just five games. 

The problem is that Sandoval can't really be anything but an emergency option at any position but first and third. First baseman Brandon Belt is the team's best hitter overall and locked into the lineup, although perhaps the Giants will give him more time in left to clear some playing time. The staff has shown no inclination to give Sandoval more time at third, where Evan Longoria has a .655 OPS and three homers. 

Sandoval enjoyed two days as a starter in Toronto, picking up four hits. But it'll be back to the pinch-hitting role when the Giants return home Friday, and it's a role nobody is doing better right now. Sandoval leads the National League with six pinch-hits, five of which have been doubles. He has scored three runs and driven in two as a pinch-hitter, repeatedly kickstarting late-game rallies. 

[RELATED: Belt not a fan of robot umpires despite frustrations]

"A lot of Pablo's hits are coming off the bench, too, so that works," Bochy said. "It's nice to have a batter sitting on the bench and when you need a big hit, he's ready to go. A lot of those at-bats come with men on base and later in the game, and I've got a pretty nice weapon there."

Giants prospect Heliot Ramos reflects on recent hot streak with San Jose

Giants prospect Heliot Ramos reflects on recent hot streak with San Jose

Everything felt right. There wasn’t anything off with his swing, he wasn’t pressing mentally, and yet, he only had one hit in his first 17 at-bats. 

All it took was a home run on April 9 to get Heliot Ramos, the Giants’ No. 2 prospect, back on track. Since then, he's hitting .349 (15-for-43) with five home runs.

“I knew that I was doing everything right,” Ramos said on Tuesday’s Inside The San Jose Giants Podcast. “In my mind, everything was right. My confidence was good. My swing was good. I just needed the ball to get down. I just keep on swinging.” 

As he kept swinging, hits started to show up in the scorebook. What has been just as important, however, has been him not swinging. 

Ramos registered just 35 walks last season as a member of the Augusta GreenJackets and finished his first full season in the minor leagues with a lowly .313 on-base percentage. He worked all offseason tracking pitches longer and laying off breaking balls in the dirt while playing Winter Ball, and it has paid off big time. 

Through 18 games in High-A with the San Jose Giants, Ramos already has 14 walks and his on-base percentage is over 100 points higher than last season (.418).

“I can see the ball well right now,” Ramos said. “I feel good. I’ve been feeling good. I learned a lot from last year. I hope this is something that can keep going good for me.” 

Not only has Ramos shown improved patience at the plate, but the center fielder is also driving the ball all over the yard. He’s batting .262 with a .991 OPS, and 11 of his 16 hits have gone for extra bases. Despite being the fifth-youngest player in the California League at 19 years old, he’s second in home runs (5), fifth in slugging percentage (.574), fifth in on-base percentage, fourth in walks, and third in OPS. 

San Jose was supposed to be a preview of what’s to come for years in San Francisco this season with the duo of Ramos and top prospect Joey Bart. A fractured hand for Bart has derailed those plans, but it hasn’t slowed down the younger of the two. 

Ramos no longer has the protection of Bart hitting right behind him. The teenager is seeing more off-speed pitches and is now the primary threat offensively to opposing teams. And yet, he’s flourished at the plate. 

[RELATED: Heliot Ramos' advancement 'really encouraging to see']

Since Bart broke his hand on April 15, Ramos has gone 8-for-26 (.308) with two home runs, two doubles, three RBI, and four runs scored. He’s growing every game as a player, both mentally and in the box score, and it could all be thanks to a disappointing season where he hit .245 with 136 strikeouts in 124 games last year. 

“Stay positive,” Ramos said when asked what he learned from last season. “That was the main thing I learned. Stay positive and never give up. Keep working hard and everything’s going to be okay.”