Giants

Three teams chasing Giants in tight race for first overall pick

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USATI

Three teams chasing Giants in tight race for first overall pick

LOS ANGELES — The Giants have a pretty strong track record when picking in the top five of the MLB Draft. In 1985, they took Will Clark with the second overall selection, and Clark remains the highest-drafted player in franchise history. A year later, Matt Williams was taken third overall. Jason Grilli at No. 4 in 1997 is rather forgettable, but taking Buster Posey with the fifth pick in 2008 led to three titles. 

With a week of baseball remaining, the Giants are a lock to pick in the top four of next year’s draft. A few days ago, they looked like a pretty strong bet to pick first overall, but the standings — the bottom of them, at least — have tightened in recent days. Here’s a look at the contenders, so to speak … 

White Sox (63-92): No team went into tank mode this year quite like Chicago, with trades of just about every big piece on the roster. But a funny thing has happened … they’ve actually played decent baseball down the stretch. The White Sox are 11-12 in September after a blowout of the Royals on Sunday. They finish up with four against the Angels and three against the Indians, so they should get pretty close to 100 losses. 

Phillies (62-94): They have looked all along like the team to beat, but they hurt their top-pick chances by taking three of four from the Dodgers last week. They host the Nationals and Mets this week. 

Tigers (62-94): All of a sudden, they’re the biggest road block for the Giants. The Tigers have lost seven straight and they’re 4-20 in September. They finish up with three against the Royals and three against the Twins, and all six games are on the road. 

Giants (61-95): Can we stop for a moment and appreciate this. We’ve been talking about it for five months, but still, it’s pretty amazing that a $200 million team is headed into the final week with a very good shot at having the worst record in Major League Baseball. What an awful season this has been. Having said that, the Giants have not shown any signs of actually tanking, and manager Bruce Bochy said this weekend that he won’t shut any players down. So, it’s on to Phoenix, where the Giants have lost six of seven this season but the Diamondbacks might chill out a bit after clinching a postseason spot. They’ll face Zack Godley, Robbie Ray and Zack Greinke. The season ends with three at home against the Padres. The Giants have struggled against the Padres for the last year and a half, but they’ll have Matt Cain going in an emotional start and Madison Bumgarner will also get a game. 

Giants notes: On hot night in LA, McCutchen gets enough carry to tie the game

Giants notes: On hot night in LA, McCutchen gets enough carry to tie the game

LOS ANGELES -- Andrew McCutchen claims he's never really up at the plate looking for a home run. Even in the situation Wednesday, with the Giants trailing by three and two on ahead of him, he was just thinking about having a good at-bat. This one turned into a great one. 

The Giants fell 4-3 in extra innings, but McCutchen was the one who made sure this night got extended. He had one of his best moments as a Giant, smoking a three-run shot to center off Caleb Ferguson to tie the game in the eighth. The homer was McCutchen's 14th. He said he briefly thought it might be just a long fly ball. 

"I've played in San Francisco all year," he said. "You hit the ball pretty good sometimes and it doesn't go out. I was hoping it would carry out."

On a hot night at Dodger Stadium, this ball did, providing one of two big highlights on an otherwise sour night. The other came from Gorkys Hernandez, who threw Brian Dozier out at the plate with a 94.9 mph strike from center field. Dozier was initially ruled safe. 

"I saw Buster point to the dugout to try to review the play," Hernandez said. "When I saw the umpires go right to the side to see the replay, I said, we're going to have a good chance."

The Giants usually have it right in those situations. They're now 17-for-22 on replays, the best mark in the league. 

--- Here, in the game story, I wrote on a missed opportunity. 

--- If you're keeping track at home, the Giants are at .500 for the 23rd time. They have spent 72 days this season either .500, or one game above or below. 

--- In five second-half starts, Derek Holland has a 2.96 ERA, with 27 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings. At some point, the focus will turn to bringing him back next season.

With a clean look at a sweep of Dodgers, Giants lineup comes up short

With a clean look at a sweep of Dodgers, Giants lineup comes up short

LOS ANGELES — About three hours before Wednesday’s game, Kenley Jansen jogged in from the visiting bullpen at a silent Dodger Stadium. He threw a simulated inning, the first step in his attempt to return from a heart scare. In the late innings, Jansen, for some reason, showed up on the steps of the press box, joking with team officials and local beat writers. 

Both times, his presence was a reminder of what the Dodgers were missing. Their closer, perhaps the best in the game, is on the sidelines, and their bullpen had no answers for three fascinating games with the Giants. The visitors took advantage twice, but on Wednesday, they fell short. 

The Dodgers once again tried to blow it, giving up three runs in the eighth, but in the 12th they prevailed on a sacrifice fly. After a 4-3 loss, Bruce Bochy turned to one of his favorite truisms. 

“Sure, you like to get greedy,” Bochy said.

The Giants very nearly finished off what would have been a standings-rattling sweep. On a night when the first-place Diamondbacks were idle and the second-place Rockies lost, they failed to pick up ground on all three teams ahead of them. Instead, for the 23rd time this season, they found the .500 mark. At 61-61, they are 5 1/2 games behind the Diamondbacks and four behind the Rockies and Dodgers. 

Bochy spun the 72 hours here as a positive, not so much because the Giants took two of three, but because of how they did it.

“The comebacks we had, the way we played, I’m good with it,” he said. 

The latest comeback came courtesy of Andrew McCutchen. He got a hanging curveball in the eighth and hit a high homer to dead center, erasing a three-run deficit with one swing. But on this night, McCutchen was just about alone in the production department. 

The Giants keep playing tense games in part because they have an inability to put opponents away early. Even a would-be blowout on Friday night ended with Will Smith in the game. Against Hyun-jin Ryu and a parade of Dodgers relievers, the lineup had just six hits in 41 at-bats. The 3-4-5 hitters — Evan Longoria, Buster Posey and Gorkys Hernandez — went a combined 0-for-15. The Brandons, together in the lineup for the first time in three weeks, had two hits in 10 at-bats. Hunter Pence had three hits, McCutchen the bomb. Otherwise, it was silent. 

Perhaps that will change in Cincinnati. McCutchen, the longtime Pirate, smiled as he talked of his many games at “the Great American SmallPark.” It’s a soft landing spot for hitters, and the Giants will need to take advantage. This was a road trip where they needed to make up ground, and while there was progress in Los Angeles, there’s still a long way to go. 

“We did what we were trying to do,” starter Derek Holland said. “We’re trying to gain some ground and being able to take two out of three is good. We’ve got momentum and we’ll try to take that to Cincinnati … this road trip can be big for us, so we’ll try to win as many games as we can and hope that these (other) guys beat up on each other.”

The Giants had a chance to strike one final blow on their way out of town, but other than one swing, they came up short.