Samardzija sends 'start fast' message to new-look Giants


Samardzija sends 'start fast' message to new-look Giants

SAN FRANCISCO — At some point this month, Bruce Bochy will stand in front of his players in the home clubhouse at Scottsdale Stadium and deliver a motto for the season. Jeff Samardzija already knows what it should be. 

“The words coming out of my mouth all spring will be ‘start fast,’” Samardzija said during an appearance on The Giants Insider Podcast. “You can’t win it in the first month but you want to be right there for a good summer run and then a late fall run, too.”

The Giants got a reminder of that reality last season. They were 10 games out of first by May 9, and before the weather ever got warm they had been buried by the Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Rockies. Some would look at last year’s NL West standings and see a problem for 2018. Samardzija watched three division rivals make the postseason and saw an opportunity. He remembers how hard the Giants had to grind physically and mentally to make it to the NLDS the year before. 

“We know we’ve got three playoff teams coming into the season in our division, but (those are) three teams that had long seasons, you know, and battled and left a lot out there,” he said. “Hopefully we can pick it up early and get off to a fast start and see where we’re at.”

To make sure this April follows a different path, the Giants brought in Evan Longoria, Andrew McCutchen and Austin Jackson. Samardzija is very familiar with McCutchen, having faced him 40 times over the years, mostly while both were in the NL Central. He already has run into Longoria at the Scottsdale facility, and he certainly will benefit from the addition of Jackson, who will help shore up an outfield defense that hurt Samardzija more than any Giants pitcher. 

Samardzija said the group is already bonding and they have found common ground in a trait that outsiders view as their potential downfall. The Giants have added three 30-somethings to an already old team, but the 33-year-old Samardzija said that has become a rallying cry.

“(We’re) joking around about our ages. That’s the cool thing about having a bunch of veteran guys,” he said. “Everyone has thick skin and has been there and is able to take things with a grain of salt. Everyone understands that the stories will be written after the 162 games are played and that’s when it matters.”

For more from the interview, including Samardzija’s thoughts on what makes McCutchen such a special player, stream the Giants Insider Podcast here or download it on iTunes here.

Giants notes: Crawford in concussion protocol after collision in outfield

Giants notes: Crawford in concussion protocol after collision in outfield

LOS ANGELES — When the Giants got Evan Longoria back last month, they immediately found themselves without Brandon Belt. They’re hoping not to repeat that process.

Belt could be back Tuesday, but it’s unclear if he’ll be taking throws from his usual shortstop. Brandon Crawford collided with Gorkys Hernandez in a nasty fifth-inning collision and was put in the concussion protocol. Manager Bruce Bochy said Crawford was feeling much better after the game, but the Giants know all too well that these things can be unpredictable. 

“It rattled him pretty good,” Bochy said. “For precaution reasons, he came out. He’s in the concussion protocol but he feels pretty good. We’re hoping for the best. We’ll re-evaluate him, but right now it looks pretty good, I’ll say that.”

The Giants have had three players go into the concussion protocol in the last nine days. Buster Posey and Nick Hundley avoided the concussion DL after taking foul tips off the mask. Crawford took a thigh to the face as he chased Clayton Kershaw’s pop-up down the left field line. He went down but quickly popped back up, and at first it looked like Hernandez was in more pain. The left fielder jammed his wrist but stayed in the game. Bochy said Crawford looked shaken as he came off the field. 

Crawford is the club’s most irreplaceable player, so any ability to go on a run here may depend on Tuesday’s evaluation. Alen Hanson took over at short and later gave way to Chase d’Arnaud. 

--- Belt was 1-for-3 with a double in his second rehab game for Triple-A Sacramento. Team officials will now decide if he needs one more game there, or if he’ll face Alex Wood on Tuesday. 

--- It’s been a while since a Bumgarner-Puig showdown, and there wasn’t any drama Monday. Puig flied out in his first at-bat and angrily batted his bat down as he left the box, but Bumgarner simply smiled and shook his head. After Puig popped up in the sixth, the two came close to crossing paths on the infield, but they never looked at each other. 

--- Hundley was the hero tonight. He’s 5-for-12 this season as a pinch-hitter, with a homer and six RBI. 

--- Jeff Samardzija threw a short simulated game and likely will do that one more time before starting a rehab assignment. Samardzija said he feels great. Of course, he said that the last time, too, but there seems to be more confidence with team officials this time that the shoulder is healed. 

--- Tip of the cap to d'Arnaud and his infield coaches. He was out taking grounders at short on the homestand and said it was because you never know when you'll be needed at a new spot. When Hundley pinch-hit for Hanson, d'Arnaud was needed. He moved from second to short and Joe Panik entered as the second baseman.

With Dodgers bullpen searching, Giants come through with stunning win: 'That was sick'

With Dodgers bullpen searching, Giants come through with stunning win: 'That was sick'

LOS ANGELES — About 15 minutes after his club’s best win of the year, Bruce Bochy crinkled his face as a local reporter asked a long and odd question. The man wanted to know if Bochy felt sorry for the Dodgers, who are without their closer, Kenley Jansen. 

“Excuse me?” Bochy said, a bewildered look on his face. “With the injuries we’ve had?”

The Giants would not feel sorry for the Dodgers under just about any circumstance. That’s not how this rivalry works. They especially will not feel sorry for a team that has lost its closer, not when Bochy's original choice has been limited for two seasons and his backup, as the manager calmly pointed out, put his fist through a door. 

This is cruel game, and you take advantage when you can. The Giants did Monday, stunning a team that already was reeling because of bullpen issues. Nick Hundley’s two-run single flipped the score in the ninth and the Giants held on for a 5-2 win, the final out coming from a man who was their fourth choice to be closer this year. 

The win, which got the Giants within four games of the Dodgers and five of the first-place Diamondbacks, came after eight spectacular innings from Clayton Kershaw. Madison Bumgarner kept pace for six, and the Giants stayed within striking distance. They exploded in the ninth, a rarity. They had been 2-51 when trailing after eight innings. 

“We’ve got to win games like this to get to where we want to be,” Bumgarner said. 

That destination is still a long shot, but these things can change in a hurry, and the Giants all of a sudden find themselves chasing a team that has a familiar problem. The Dodgers simply can’t close opponents out with Jansen sidelined by a heart issue, and it may cost them a postseason spot. Two years ago, Kershaw likely would have closed this one out himself. But that’s not baseball in 2018. In a matchup of left-handed aces, Bumgarner was pulled after 97 pitches. Kershaw struck out two in the eighth, but he was done after 110 pitches. It was the logical choice given his injury problems in recent years, but it still left the home crowd salty. When the Giants loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth, Dodgers fans started to boil. When Hundley roped a single into right-center, the boos started. They got louder and louder until Dave Roberts finally pulled the plug on Scott Alexander, the Giants having turned a one-run deficit into a three-run lead.

The Giants did not feel sorry for anyone on the field. As the Dodgers tried to make sense of what had happened, Hundley returned to the dugout and spent 30 seconds exchanging hard back slaps, high-fives and hugs. 

“I’m just pumped for Hundo, man,” rookie Steven Duggar said. “That was sick.”

Hundley has been around long enough to see the strategy of this sport change. The complete game is a lost art. The Giants don’t have one, and the Dodgers don’t either. So in the ninth, with Kershaw on the bench, Hundley kept a close eye on the visiting bullpen. Alexander, a lefty with a good sinker, never had any backup. He was left out there to try and get through the ninth, so Hundley knew he would get his shot. 

“I got a good pitch to hit early and I found a spot where nobody was playing,” he said, practically shrugging. “With Jansen down, they’ve used a lot of different guys. When (Alexander) came in the game I knew I would hit. It’s just about making sure you’re prepared.”

There might not be a backup catcher in the game more prepared for Hundley, who still goes through his business every day as if he is a starter. Sometimes that leads to big days in place of Buster Posey. Sometimes it leads to late-game heroics. 

Hundley’s latest big hit got the Giants back to 60-60. The computers say they have a less than five percent chance of making the playoffs. The standings say there are plenty of teams still ahead of them, and this was just one game. But it was a hell of a way to start the most important road trip of the year. 

The Giants brought Madison Bumgarner into Dodger Stadium to face Clayton Kershaw. In the end, they walked away with a big win. 

“The best in the world are playing,” Hundley said. “It’s fun to come out on top.”