Span, Crawford return, Giants respond with first three-game winning streak

Span, Crawford return, Giants respond with first three-game winning streak

SAN FRANCISCO — A couple of times over the past week, Bruce Bochy has referred to the three days the Giants spent in Cincinnati as “embarrassing.” Players don’t often want to admit they were shamed on the field, but the Giants did concede Sunday that a rematch at AT&T Park meant just a bit more than it normally would.

“After a while of playing like we did you start to take stuff personally,” first baseman Brandon Belt said. “We knew we were a better team than that, and with some of our guys back in the lineup, everyone is feeling more confident.”

It showed on both sides, as the Giants took three of four from the Reds after getting Denard Span back atop the lineup and Brandon Crawford at shortstop. The three-game winning streak, modest as it is, is the first of the season. 

Jeff Samardzija, who clinched the third win, called the day at the yard “fun” and “one of those days you can enjoy.” It’s likely nobody got a thrill more than Bochy, who joked earlier in the week that his team was messing with him by always threatening to give the lead back even on nights when the Giants won. This one was a laugher, with the Giants scoring seven in the first two innings and rolling to an 8-3 win. 

“It’s been a while since we’ve had a cushion like that,” Bochy said. “It’s nice to get an early lead and add on. The first couple of innings, it was good to see us put up some crooked numbers there.

“You look at what happened in Cincinnati — we got pummeled pretty good to the point where it was embarrassing. They came here and won the first game, and that’s four in a row, so to bounce back and win three in a row and to play the way we did and execute, it’s a good bounce back.”

The Giants believe this is somewhat sustainable, and they point to two players as their main pieces of evidence. Crawford was his usual self at short, teaming with Joe Panik to gobble up just about anything hit to second, short, shallow left, shallow right, behind the mound, and even down the third base line. Crawford added a two-run double Sunday, a sign that his swing is coming back after a DL stint. 

Span’s swing came back on the first night. He had four hits Thursday and seven in the series, raising his average 68 points. He scored four runs, including two on Sunday. Span flew to Arizona when the Giants headed to Cincinnati, taking extra batting practice and even taking swings off rehabbing right-hander Albert Suarez. 

“It wasn’t like I was in Cancun or Cabo, but all things happen for a reason,” he said of being well-rested. “It sucks being on the DL but I made sure my legs were fresh. I wanted to stay ready so that when I did come off the DL, it wouldn’t take me long to get into the swing of things.”

Span’s big return has Bochy ready to settle things down in the lineup. The Giants will be without Hunter Pence (hamstring) for at least a few days, but Bochy said he’ll have a regular group out there. Span and Panik are his guys atop the lineup, Belt looks comfortable back in the three-spot (he homered for the third time in the series), Posey is hitting cleanup again, and Crawford is back in the No. 5 spot. 

“I like the way it’s set up,” Bochy said. 

The players do, too.

“Getting everyone to where they’re set in a certain spot in the lineup helps, instead of constant mixing and matching,” Belt said. “We have our guys back and it lengthens the lineup.”

The starting pitchers took advantage against the Reds, showing their own length while combining for 29 innings. Samardzija went 6 1/3, picking up his first win of the season. He is not one who worries about statistics, but changing the tune of the record next to his name was a nice addition to his Sunday. 

Samardzija now will sit back and hope his fellow starters can keep it going in a huge series against the Dodgers. Matt Cain, Ty Blach and Johnny Cueto will take the ball, and the Giants are eager to get another crack at a team they’ve played well. This time, they’re pretty close to full strength, too.

"You get back your leadoff hitter and bring back a middle-of-the-order hitter," Panik said. "Hopefully now we can kind of start rolling with it."

A few longtime Giants could hit milestones this season


A few longtime Giants could hit milestones this season



SAN FRANCISCO -- It has been 10 years since we first saw Buster Posey take the field at Oracle Park. That emotional moment in Bruce Bochy's office when Brandon Belt found out he made the team? That was eight years ago. Brandon Crawford is about to begin his eighth season as the everyday shortstop. 

The core has been around a long time, which means some of these guys are moving up the franchise charts and coming up on statistical milestones. Here are some to keep an eye on in 2019: 

Posey: As a full-time big leaguer, Posey has only had two seasons where he wasn't worth at least four Wins Above Replacement -- and he had season-ending surgery both times. With another four-WAR season, Posey will move well into the top 10 on the franchise list, all the way up to seventh. He's currently 12th with 41.3 career WAR, per Baseball-Reference. He has a long, long way to catch franchise leader Willie Mays (154.8)

Crawford: It's been four years since the shortstop hit 21 homers and the Giants haven't had anyone reach 20 since. But Crawford needs just 13 this season to become the 31st player in franchise history to hit 100 homers with the Giants. He has 14 each of the past two seasons. 

Posey vs. Crawford: These longtime friends like to take good-natured shots at each other when it comes to stats (usually when stolen bases are involved) so we should point out that Crawford (58) is just three intentional walks behind Posey (61). Crawford needs two free passes this year to pass Matt Williams and move into 10th place on the franchise list. 

The Brandons: They like to tease each other, too, so we should also point out that Belt enters the season with 199 career doubles and Crawford is at 198. Game on. 

Madison Bumgarner: With 110 career wins, Bumgarner has surpassed former teammates Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. He needs 11 this season to move from 16th to 12th on the franchise's win list. Bumgarner will need an extension to get any higher than that. 

There's a nice round number at play, too. A couple of injury-marred years have bumped Bumgarner up to a 3.03 ERA. If he gets past 200 innings as he hopes and has an ERA in the 2.70 range, he would hit free agency with a career ERA that starts with the number two. That would surely please his agent. 

Bumgarner is eighth on the franchise list with 1,591 strikeouts and he could move all the way to fourth, just ahead of Lincecum, if he spends the whole season in San Francisco. The left-hander needs 104 strikeouts to pass Cain (currently fifth) and 114 to pass Lincecum. 

Gerardo Parra: The next time Parra throws a runner out, he'll reach 100 assists for his career. He has 47 career assists in left, 38 in right and 14 in center. If this feels to you like a rare arm on the Giants, you'd be correct. Over the last five seasons, the Giants rank 29th in the Majors with 103 outfield assists. Parra has 45 by himself during that time. 

Evan Longoria: If he matches last season's 54 RBI, Longoria will reach 1,000 for his career. He's 23 homers from 300. Hitting that mark would be huge for the Giants offense. 

Bruce Bochy: Finally, there's the man who already has said this will be his final season. Bochy needs 74 wins to become the 10th to reach 2,000 as a manager. If the Giants can shake off the last two seasons and finish with a winning record (82-80), Bochy would tie Leo Durocher for 10th all-time in wins. It would obviously be pretty cool for him if he could get sole possession of that 10th spot, and given the state of today's game, it's unlikely that any future manager would ever knock Bochy out of the top 10. 

Finally, there's a goal that seems highly improbable. If the Giants win 90 games, Bochy would walk away with an even .500 record (2,016-2,016), although if Bochy wins 90 games with this roster, Farhan Zaidi should probably talk him out of retirement. 


Bruce Bochy explains how Giants will utilize new catcher Erik Kratz

Bruce Bochy explains how Giants will utilize new catcher Erik Kratz

SAN FRANCISCO -- This is the second time Erik Kratz has been traded to a new organization in the week before the opener. He once got traded, got to the ballpark at six, and entered the game for a new team two hours later. 

So no, he is not sweating the fact that he has to learn a new pitching staff in time to potentially start a game for the Giants later this week. 

Kratz, acquired Sunday morning from the Brewers, will be the backup catcher, manager Bruce Bochy said. That means Kratz likely will start a game this weekend, as the Giants are hoping to ease Buster Posey into the regular season and they have four games in San Diego, followed by three in Los Angeles. 

"What are you going to do? It's part of the gig," Kratz said of the cram course. "It's not my first time."

The 38-year-old is happy for the opportunity regardless of the timing, because at the beginning of camp the Brewers told him he would not break with them. He spent six weeks auditioning for other teams, and he woke up Saturday thinking he was flying back home to Virginia to wait out the waiver process. Instead, he boarded a Sunday morning flight to the Bay Area, getting to the Coliseum in time to warm up two new teammates in the bullpen in the late innings. 

Kratz's arrival was not a surprise, really, given how many moves Farhan Zaidi has made this week. But it did certainly shake things up.

Bochy said the Giants are considering going with three catchers to start the year, allowing them to rest Posey more often and have Aramis Garcia's thump on the bench. 

"It's a pretty big bat," Bochy said of Garcia, "And he does a nice job wherever we put him (catcher or first base)."

That might be a luxury the Giants can't afford, though. They are leaning towards keeping 13 pitchers, which would mean just four bench spots. Kratz has one and Yangervis Solarte has one. Keeping Garcia would leave just one spot for Alen Hanson, Pablo Sandoval and the candidates vying for the fourth outfield job. 

[RELATED: Erik Kratz leaves his mark everywhere he goes]

"There are a lot of variables involved with this decision," Bochy said. 

More will be known Monday, when Bochy expects to announce his rotation (even though it seems set already). Perhaps the Giants will make yet another move, but for now, this much is certain: The Giants have their backup catcher, and a few days to figure out the rest.