Sandoval capitalizes on Giants' dominant pitching, walks off Cubs

Sandoval capitalizes on Giants' dominant pitching, walks off Cubs

SAN FRANCISCO — After a series of moves, the Cubs chose not to face All-Star starter Brandon Crawford in the bottom of the 11th inning on Monday night. Pablo Sandoval made them pay. 

Sandoval lined a single to left with the bases loaded, clinching a 2-1 win over the Cubs on an exciting first night of a three-game series. The walk-off win was the seventh of the season for the Giants, who had one of their best all-around pitching nights of the season.  

Andrew Suarez was sharp and Kyle Hendricks threw it back to his Cy Young push, but this one would be decided by the bullpens. The Giants looked to be in control when Hunter Pence hit a one-out triple in the bottom of the 10th, but Chase d’Arnaud and Steven Duggar struck out. An inning later, Andrew McCutchen and Brandon Belt got the lineup in gear, and Sandoval won it after an intentional walk of Crawford. 

Here’s what else you need to know… 

—- Alen Hanson scored from first on a wild pickoff throw. Yes, that sentence is correct. Hendricks’ throw to first in the fifth inning went down past the visiting bullpens and Hanson cruised into third base. He hesitated as he passed the bag and Javier Baez, perhaps the game’s most exciting runner, paused for a second. That was all it took. Hanson broke for home and just barely beat the throw, diving in with a headfirst slide. 

—- Suarez was without his normal command, but allowed just one run over six innings. He has a 2.00 ERA over his last six starts and hasn’t allowed more than one run since June 18.

—- Suarez was hitless in 26 big league at-bats before bouncing a single up the middle in the third inning. Hendricks left a 1-0 slider across the plate and Suarez hit it into center as his fellow pitchers, lined up on the dugout rail, went nuts. Suarez appeared to possibly maybe crack the slightest hint of a smile. 

—- Duggar had a sprint speed of 30.2 feet/second on a fielder’s choice. That’s the ninth-fastest recorded time by a Giant this season. 

Giants' Brandon Crawford confident knee issue won't linger

Giants' Brandon Crawford confident knee issue won't linger

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants have lost their starting catcher, first baseman and center fielder for the year due to injuries that have required or will require surgery. Two of their top three starting pitchers coming into the season are on the 60-day disabled list, along with their top bench bat. 

The injury updates this season have ranged from bad to catastrophic, but when it comes to the starting shortstop, the recent developments have been positive. After sitting out five games in eight days because of left knee discomfort, Brandon Crawford believes he has turned a corner. He’s confident that this is not something that will plague him long-term or next season, comparing it to right shoulder soreness that popped up four years ago but has been managed with proactive rehab. 

“Cartilage doesn’t grow back, but as long as I stay on top of it like the shoulder stuff, it shouldn’t be an issue,” Crawford said of his knee. 

The pain Crawford has been dealing with throughout the second half is under the kneecap, but the training staff has found some traction strengthening his quad muscle and doing other rehab work that loosens the IT band. The work Crawford has been doing is similar to what you would do during a DL stint, but Crawford never felt he could take that much time, even as his numbers cratered after an All-Star first half. 

“I probably should have spoken up about how much it bothered me, but I wanted to be out there every day,” he said. “We were trying to make the playoffs.”

Now, the Giants are simply trying to keep others out of the playoffs. Manager Bruce Bochy gave Crawford a night off Tuesday, but expects him in the lineup for all three games against the contending Cardinals this weekend. You can bet that a Bay Area native who grew up learning how to dislike the Dodgers will be in the lineup all three games next weekend, too. 

Crawford wants more than to just be in the lineup, of course. He was the hottest hitter in the National League for a long stretch in the first half and was batting .338 at his peak. The knee injury has kept him from utilizing his normal approach and sitting on his back knee. He was drifting with his swing, but in recent games the results have been better. Crawford had three hits Wednesday and has four multi-hit games in his last nine starts.  

Crawford’s numbers won’t end up anywhere near where they might have had he stayed healthy. Asked Wednesday if the knowledge he now has about his knee makes that easier or more difficult to swallow, he paused. 

“I guess in a way I’m glad there’s a reason for it and it’s not just that I forgot how to hit,” he said, smiling. “It’s something that I didn’t realize was affecting me this much until it was too late.”

Giants' draft fate hasn't been significantly altered by September swoon

Giants' draft fate hasn't been significantly altered by September swoon

SAN DIEGO — A year ago at this time, the Giants were in a race for the top pick in the draft. Finishing second worked out pretty well, given what catcher Joey Bart did in his pro debut for Salem-Keizer, and the product on the field has been slightly improved a season later. 

The step forward hasn’t been what the Giants had hoped, though, and as they lost 11 straight earlier this month, it was easy for some fans to once again start dreaming about a top prospect. But there’s been something weird about this late-season collapse. The Giants have lost 13 of their last 17, but they haven’t improved their draft stock much.

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On the first day of the month, the Giants were 68-69 and in position to pick 14th in the draft. Currently, they are in position to pick 12th. There are three teams — the Twins, Mets and Blue Jays — right ahead of them in the overall standings, but it’s unlikely the Giants will move much in either direction over the final nine games. 

So what would a 12th overall pick mean? It’s still another significant chance for the Giants to add top-end talent. The recent history of No. 12 picks isn’t strong, but the early teens have provided plenty of stars. The last No. 12 pick to really become a good player was Yasmani Grandal in 2010, and before that it was Jay Bruce in 2005. The Giants have never had the 12th pick in the draft, although they’ve picked in that general vicinity a few times. Tyler Beede was taken 14th overall and Heliot Ramos and Phil Bickford were also taken in the teens. 

Perhaps the real key is to end up with the No. 10 pick. The Giants took Tim Lincecum 10th overall in 2006 and a year later grabbed Madison Bumgarner with the same pick.