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With chance to gain ground in West, Giants fall short

Pence's homer kicks off ninth-inning rally; SF remains 3 1/2 back

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SAN DIEGO -- Reporters were not the first postgame guests welcomed into Giants manager Bruce Bochy's office Saturday. General manager Brian Sabean beat everybody to Bochy's quarters for a brief, private yet doubtlessly intense meeting after the Giants' 3-2 loss Saturday night to the San Diego Padres. Suffice it to say that they weren't discussing the postseason pitching rotation.

While losing the series' first two games to the Padres, the Giants have gained a fresh set of concerns. They know that Angel Pagan and Michael Morse might be sidelined for the upcoming Dodgers series with their respective injuries. Their absences leave the Giants scrambling for replacements at the leadoff spot and in the middle of the batting order. This makes them even more susceptible than usual to imposing pitchers such as San Diego's Andrew Cashner, who was three outs away from completing his second straight shutout until the Giants staged a ninth-inning rally.

Bochy returned Hunter Pence to the leadoff spot Saturday, which weakened the heart of the order. Pence bashed his 20th homer to begin the Giants' late surge. However, Brandon Belt went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts while occupying the No. 5 position that Pence vacated. In fairness to Belt, he started just his second game since recovering from the aftereffects of a concussion.

Nevertheless, Bochy sounded vaguely dissatisfied. Asked if Pence would remain at the top of the order, Bochy said, "I don't know. We may switch it back. We'll see."

The Giants' fifth defeat in seven games prevented them from gaining a game in the division standings on first-place Los Angeles, which leads them by 3 1/2 games. Should the Dodgers (88-67) win only three of their remaining seven games -- a stretch that includes the three-game series against San Francisco beginning Monday at Los Angeles -- the Giants (84-70) would have to finish 7-1 just to forge a first-place tie. That would force a one-game playoff for the division title.

The Giants maintained a decent chance of reaching the postseason through the Wild Card. Due to Pittsburgh's 1-0 loss to Milwaukee, San Francisco still leads the Pirates by one game for the first of two Wild Card berths, though Milwaukee trails the Bucs by just 3 1/2 games.

Cashner, one of baseball's best pitchers despite performing in virtual anonymity, surrendered nothing more than two singles by Buster Posey and entered the ninth with a 3-0 lead until Pence homered. Joe Panik singled, prompting reliever Kevin Quackenbush's arrival.

Posey flied out to the right-field warning track before Pablo Sandoval singled. Belt struck out looking, but Gregor Blanco singled home Panik while moving pinch-runner Chris Dominguez to third base. Crawford connected solidly but his drive traveled directly toward left fielder Seth Smith.

"It's good to see the fellas come to life," Bochy said.

Giants starter Yusmeiro Petit (5-5) kept up with Cashner until San Diego pushed across an unearned run in the third inning. With runners on first and second and one out, second baseman Panik ranged to his left to make a nice stop on Yangervis Solarte's grounder. But Panik's relay to shortstop Crawford at second base was wide, resulting in a throwing error that enabled Will Venable to score.

"I didn't have the right grip on it," Panik said. "I guess I forced [the throw]."

The Padres added a pair of runs in the sixth. With Yasmani Grandal on second base and one out, Bochy ordered Smith intentionally walked. That brought up Rene Rivera, who was 0-for-2 and struck out awkwardly in his previous plate appearance. This time, however, Rivera drove a double to left field, scoring two runs and finishing Petit.

"The ball ran a little bit toward the middle of the plate," Petit said of his delivery to Rivera. This typified Petit's inconsistency on a night when his streak of consecutive batters faced without going to a three-ball count ended at 70.

Naturally, the batter who victimized Petit was Cashner, who drew a third-inning walk. Cashner proceeded to demonstrate his athleticism by collecting a fifth-inning triple and a sixth-inning bunt single.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Pagan, Morse likely out vs. Dodgers

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SAN DIEGO -- Giants manager Bruce Bochy rated the playing status of center fielder Angel Pagan and first baseman-left fielder Michael Morse as "questionable," due to their respective injuries, for the upcoming series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The likely absence of the two regulars leaves San Francisco with a thin roster for the three-game showdown beginning Monday.

"You'd like to be healthy and at full strength down the stretch," Bochy said Saturday. "But we have to focus forward. That's all you can do."

Bochy said Pagan, who started Friday against San Diego after sitting out the three-game series at Arizona with back stiffness, "was pretty sore." Bochy retained hope that the Giants and Pagan might get an encouraging report from team orthopedist Ken Akizuki, who was scheduled to examine the switch-hitter around gametime Saturday.

Bochy acknowledged that Pagan probably will be sidelined for a few days.

"But you know what? We could get good news," Bochy said.

Juan Perez replaced Pagan in center field Saturday night against San Diego. But Bochy hinted that rookie Gary Brown, San Francisco's No. 1 selection in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, might receive an opportunity to play if Perez continues to struggle offensively. Perez entered Saturday hitless in his last 12 at-bats.

Morse, who missed 15 consecutive games with an strained left oblique, pinch-hit Friday and played two innings in the Giants' 5-0 loss to the Padres before aggravating the injury. Saturday, Gregor Blanco again replaced Morse in left field, while Brandon Belt started his second game in a row at first base.

Bochy mentioned that he and his staff discussed the possibility of playing Belt in left field while two outfield openings exist. However, Belt has not started a Major League game in left field since Sept. 30, 2012.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Giants look for turnaround behind Vogelsong

Kennedy starts for San Diego as Padres go for sweep

Giants look for turnaround behind Vogelsong play video for Giants look for turnaround behind Vogelsong

The bad news Saturday for the Giants was that they lost. The good news, however, was that the Dodgers and Pirates also lost.

So, entering Sunday, the Giants remained 3 1/2 games behind the Dodgers in the National League West and one game ahead of the Pirates for the NL's first Wild Card spot.

After being shut down Friday and Saturday, they'll look to avoid a sweep by the Padres on Sunday. To do so, they'll likely need a strong outing from Ryan Vogelsong.

Vogelsong is 4-4 with a 5.63 ERA in 16 career appearances (eight starts) against the Padres. He has not faced San Diego this season.

He has struggled in his career at Petco Park, posting a 1-3 record with a 9.37 ERA (17 earned runs, 16 1/3 innings) and .368 (28-for-76) opponents' average against in five games (four starts).

He'll be opposed by righty Ian Kennedy, who will look to continue the dominance displayed the last two days by San Diego's staff.

The month of September hasn't been kind to Kennedy, though, as he has a 5.19 ERA in three starts. He was tagged for four earned runs on nine hits in 6 1/3 innings June 25, his lone start against the Giants this season.

He's closing in on 200 strikeouts (196) for the first time in his career.

Giants: Lineup shorthanded
Manager Bruce Bochy rated the playing status of center fielder Angel Pagan and first baseman-left fielder Michael Morse as out for the rest of the weekend and "questionable," due to their respective injuries, for the upcoming series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The likely absence of the two regulars leaves San Francisco with a thin roster for the three-game showdown beginning Monday.

"You'd like to be healthy and at full strength down the stretch," Bochy said Saturday. "But we have to focus forward. That's all you can do."

Juan Perez started in center Saturday, but Bochy said former first-round pick Gary Brown may see playing time if Perez doesn't improve at the plate.

Bochy mentioned that he and his staff discussed the possibility of playing Brandon Belt in left field while two outfield openings exist. However, Belt has not started a Major League game in left field since Sept. 30, 2012.

Padres: Still need a cycle
After finishing last Tuesday's game with a single, a double and a home run, Alexi Amarista fell just a triple shy of hitting for the cycle, the 358th time a Padres player has been one hit shy of the cycle and the 255th time a Padres player has been a triple shy of the cycle.

The Padres have been a hit shy of the cycle seven times this season. Four times a triple was needed, twice a single was needed and once a home run was needed.

The Padres and the Marlins are the only two teams in Major League Baseball to have never hit for a cycle.

Worth noting
• The season series between these two teams is tied at seven wins apiece.

• The Giants are 62-17 when they score the game's first run.

Ryan Hood is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ryanhood19. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Rocky start docks Giants' case in NL races

Hudson struggles as SF's lead for top Wild Card takes hit

Rocky start docks Giants' case in NL races play video for Rocky start docks Giants' case in NL races

SAN DIEGO -- With four losses in their last six games, including Friday's 5-0 setback administered by the Padres, the Giants resemble anything but a likely postseason qualifier.

San Francisco's magic number for clinching a National League Wild Card spot shrank to four with Milwaukee's 4-2 loss to Pittsburgh. But that same result trimmed the Giants' edge against Pittsburgh in the Wild Card standings to one game. San Francisco also fell to 3 1/2 games behind first-place Los Angeles in the NL West.

Should San Francisco continue slumping and the Pirates keep surging, the Giants likely would squander home-field advantage in the Wild Card Game. That would force them to travel to Pittsburgh for an Oct. 1 showdown, with the opportunity to advance to the Division Series at stake.

The Giants have nine games remaining to tighten up their collective performance. Their list of shortcomings is short, yet substantial.

Tim Hudson's nagging vulnerability is one issue. Is he the Cy Young Award candidate who posted a 7-2 record with a 1.81 ERA in his first 13 starts? Or does he fit the profile of a fading veteran, having gone 2-10 with a 5.13 ERA in 17 outings since?

Hudson has particularly struggled in his last four performances, a span in which he's 0-3 with a 9.92 ERA. Coming off the worst outing of his otherwise excellent career -- six runs and eight hits allowed over one-plus innings in last Saturday's infamous 17-0 loss to the Dodgers -- Hudson improved marginally against the Padres. He yielded four first-inning runs on Alexi Amarista's two-run double and Cameron Maybin's two-run single, both with two outs. The right-hander ultimately lasted 4 1/3 innings, surrendering five runs (four earned) and seven hits.

"Obviously I'm not making the kind of pitches that I need to make to get out of some jams," Hudson said. "Innings are not going the way I want them to, especially early. You have to grind it out and try to make some adjustments and make some better pitches."

Hudson (9-12) maintained that his confidence isn't lacking, though he admitted that he has a "little bit of a delivery thing" to address before his next scheduled start, Wednesday against Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers.

Whether Hudson will make that start could be up for discussion among the Giants' braintrust. Deposed starter Tim Lincecum threw two perfect innings of relief, providing a bright spot. Asked if Lincecum could replace Hudson, manager Bruce Bochy said, "We'll talk about it. I'm not going to talk about it now." Later, asked whether Lincecum could be another starting option, Bochy said, "Sure, Timmy always is an alternative to that."

The Giants' subpar pitching has obscured their problems at the plate. They're batting .207 with 10 runs scored in this uninspiring six-game stretch. "We're sputtering," Bochy said. "There's no question about it."

San Francisco remained helpless against Padres right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne, who limited them to two hits in seven innings. Despaigne, who's 4-7 with a 3.36 ERA overall, is 2-0, 0.45 in three starts against the Giants. who have scored one run in 20 innings against him.

Interestingly, Padres manager Bud Black critiqued Despaigne harshly. "There were a lot of 3-2 and 2-0 counts and the ball-strike ratio wasn't great [59 strikes, 39 balls]. You can tell they [Giants] were off-balanced. He did enough to keep them thinking all the time."

Injuries again hampered the Giants, though center fielder Angel Pagan and first baseman Brandon Belt rejoined the lineup and first baseman-left fielder Michael Morse came off the bench. Pagan's back, which forced him to miss San Francisco's previous series at Arizona, stiffened during the game and prompted his departure in the sixth inning. Belt played the entire game but went 0-for-3. Morse pinch-hit and stayed in the game, but increasing soreness in his left oblique limited his activity to two innings.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Giants icon McCovey hospitalized for infection

Club says Hall of Famer's 'recovery is progressing every day' in statement

Giants icon McCovey hospitalized for infection play video for Giants icon McCovey hospitalized for infection

SAN DIEGO -- The Giants confirmed Friday in a statement that Hall of Fame first baseman Willie McCovey was hospitalized in the Bay Area last week for complications from an infection.

"His recovery is progressing every day," the statement said. "The Giants remain in close contact with Willie and his family and urge all fans to keep Willie in their thoughts as he recovers."

Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti, who grew up in San Jose rooting for the Giants, summarized the enduring significance of McCovey and fellow franchise legend Willie Mays. Both former sluggers continue to attend nearly every home game.

"Any time we don't see either Mac or Mays for a while, we wonder what's going on and are they doing OK. That's just a general feeling you always get because you're so used to seeing them," Righetti said. "Hopefully everything's going OK [for McCovey] and it's just a minor setback. They're icons. They're the symbols of the San Francisco Giants and always will be. Those guys are the pillars. Anytime they're not doing well, we're not doing well."

McCovey, 76, retired during the 1980 season with 521 career home runs, which at that juncture tied him for eighth all-time with Ted Williams. McCovey's total of 18 grand slams remains a National League record.

Fans intending to send get-well messages to McCovey can do so via email to williemac@sfgiants.com or via mail to Willie McCovey c/o San Francisco Giants, San Francisco, CA, 94107.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Barry M. Bloom

Timmy offers tested option to scuffling rotation

With Hudson fading down stretch, Giants have to consider Lincecum

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SAN DIEGO -- By virtue of Friday night's 5-0 loss to the Padres, it has become increasingly obvious that Giants manager Bruce Bochy and his staff have to consider replacing Tim Hudson in the rotation. Bochy might have found an alternative, and a tried and true one at that, in Tim Lincecum.

"I'd love the opportunity if it presents itself," Lincecum said after pitching two flawless innings in relief of the shaky Hudson on Friday night at Petco Park. "If people are pitching well enough, I'm not going to just try to sneak back in there. I feel like that's up to [Bochy], but I feel like I've got to deserve it as well."

Hudson certainly isn't pitching well enough. For the second consecutive start, the veteran right-hander imploded in the first inning. Six days after the Dodgers shellacked Hudson with six first-inning runs in what turned out to be a 17-0 loss, the Padres dinged him for four runs on four hits and a walk. The game was over just like that.

This time, Bochy let Hudson pitch into the fifth, but when Yasmani Grandal doubled with one out, Bochy went to the bullpen for Javier Lopez and Hudson was gone after 76 pitches. Lincecum worked the sixth and seventh, whiffing Cameron Maybin and Jake Goebbert to open the sixth.

Bochy said after the game he wasn't about to make any immediate decisions about the rotation.

"We'll talk about it, but we're not going to talk about it now," Bochy said. "It's always an alternative with Timmy. He was our starter for most of the year. He would be an option. Right now I just want to get him out there as much as I can so he can get his confidence back. He did a nice job those two innings and he should feel good about that."

Actually, save for a stint in the bullpen during the 2012 postseason, Lincecum has spent his eight-year career starting for the Giants, as 246 of his 252 appearances as a starter attest. During that span, Lincecum has pitched two no-hitters, won two National League Cy Young Awards and the Giants have won the World Series twice. That's quite a resume.

No question, he has struggled with a lack of velocity and command for much of the past two seasons. He was taken out of the rotation this year after winning only once in eight starts after the All-Star break and hasn't made a start since losing to the Nationals on Aug. 23. He's been stuck on 99 career wins since defeating the Phillies six days earlier. The last time out, Lincecum followed Hudson in relief as the Dodgers continued their pummeling and the righty allowed five runs on seven hits in three innings.

In any event, the instant success on Friday night proved to be a big confidence builder for Lincecum. One has to figure that the Giants aren't committed to paying him $17 million for this season and $18 million next year to be lost in the netherland of middle relief.

"It felt good," Lincecum said. "It's nice to go in after a rough outing in L.A. and remind myself that I can still get outs. You get to that area of doubt where you wonder if you can still get outs. It just felt better, like I knew I was going to go out there and do something good."

The performance by the always likable and still boyish-looking Lincecum -- even at 30 -- couldn't have come for the Giants at a more propitious time. Though Bochy continues to say he's still going day to day, there are only nine games remaining and it is becoming increasingly likely the Giants will be playing in the NL Wild Card Game on Oct. 1.

Bochy will soon have set up his rotation accordingly, starting his ace, Madison Bumgarner, in that single-elimination tussle. That will skew the rest of the rotation if they ascend to a Division Series. In that best-of-five round, they'll need four starters, with Bumgarner unavailable until either Game 3 or 4. The opener would go to Jake Peavy, currently the second best starter on the staff. Ryan Vogelsong would probably get Game 2. That would leave one of the next two starts either to Hudson, Lincecum or Yusmeiro Petit, who has pitched well since replacing Lincecum in the rotation.

There had been some talk that Lincecum might be left off the postseason roster, a la Barry Zito in 2010. But with Hudson suffering through a hip issue and having been pelted for 30 hits and 20 runs -- 18 of them earned -- in 16 1/3 innings during his last four starts, that talk has surely passed.

If the Giants make it that far, they're going to need every healthy, able-bodied arm they can get.

"He did a good job," Bochy said about Lincecum. "It was good to see Timmy go out there and pitch well."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"event":["prospect" ] }

Rookie in name only, Panik has it under control

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Associating Joe Panik with Willie McCovey would seem to be a huge stretch, but there is a bond connecting the San Francisco Giants' young second baseman and their legendary slugger.

Like McCovey, who set the gold standard for first seasons in 1959, Panik has made the most of a limited debut campaign, thrusting his name into the conversation for the National League Rookie of the Year Award.

McCovey needed only 52 games to claim the honor in 1959, batting .354 with 13 homers and 38 RBIs. Panik, who debuted on May 22, is batting .300 through 64 games.

The Reds' ultra-swift Billy Hamilton and Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom appear to have a leg up on the rookie competition, but Panik has made positive contributions to a contender down the stretch. Settling into the No. 2 spot in the order, he has helped drive the Giants to within two games of the Dodgers in a spirited NL West race that's destined for a wild finish.

"It's kind of crazy how quick the whole process has gone," Panik, 23, said. "I was drafted in '11, and I've been preparing myself for this opportunity. When things happen, an injury or two, you have to be ready to take advantage of it."

Marco Scutaro's misfortune in the form of a lower back ailment opened the door. Panik has stepped through with a cool, confident attitude that brought him immediate acceptance from teammates.

"He's really easygoing," said shortstop Brandon Crawford, whose four hits on Wednesday against the D-backs were critical in a 4-2 victory that has the Giants breathing down the Dodgers' necks. "He has a calm demeanor, no matter what's going on.

"I played with him in the 2011 [Arizona] Fall League, his first year playing second base. I could see the skills were there. He's athletic enough, and he had a real good approach to the game."

A left-handed hitter who drives to the gaps and uses the whole field, Panik has a .344 on-base percentage and a .370 slugging mark to go with his .300 batting average. He has had a five-hit game and a pair of four-hit efforts.

A shortstop at St. John's University when the Giants took him with their first-round choice (No. 29 overall) in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, Panik has made a seamless transition to second base.

Panik's adaptability comes as no surprise to John Barr. San Francisco's scouting director weighed character heavily in evaluations that drew Panik to the likes of Buster Posey, Crawford, Brandon Belt and Andrew Susac, position players whom the Giants have drafted in recent seasons.

"Work ethic is one thing you can't teach," Barr said. "That might be the hardest thing to find out about a young player. There are things you can look at, like how much he improves from his freshman year in college, but you have to trust your instincts.

"If a guy has ability and a good work ethic, there's a good chance he'll be able to become what you expect -- if not more. When you have that combination, you have a winning player."

San Francisco scouted Panik extensively at St. John's, with area scout John DiCarlo presenting a glowing endorsement.

"Everybody who ever saw him -- I think we had 20-some reports on him -- said basically the same thing: 'He can hit,'" Barr said. "We felt he could stay in the middle of the infield, play second, if not short.

"I saw him hit like 15 times over the course of three games, and 10 or 11 times he hit the ball hard. He has a good feel for the barrel of the bat, with a simple swing."

Panik appreciates Barr's confidence in his ability to handle this challenge.

"He's the big dog," Panik said, grinning. "John's always had faith in me from Day 1, through the ups and downs. When somebody in his position has your back, it means a lot."

Susac, the Giants' second-round pick in that 2011 group of draftees, also is playing a significant role as Posey's backup behind the plate when the 2012 NL MVP plays first.

"Susac is another hard worker who really wants to be good," Barr said. "He's done a nice job for us."

Matt Duffy, an 18th-round pick in 2012, is paying dividends as well. It was Duffy's two-run pinch-hit single in the ninth that delivered the go-ahead runs on Wednesday.

The Pipeline churning out quality prospects has enabled San Francisco to keep the payroll reasonable, while manager Bruce Bochy has steered the club to World Series titles in 2010 and '12 -- with a shot at a third championship in five years.

"He's not a guy whose tools jump out at you," Bochy said of Panik, "but he knows how to play. He's done a heck of a job for us."

Panik was born in Yonkers, N.Y., and grew up about an hour north of New York City in Hopewell Junction. He was a Yankees fan almost out of the crib, developing a special attachment to -- that's right -- Derek Jeter.

"I remember my first game at Yankee Stadium," Panik said. "I was 3 years old, and the Yankees were playing Oakland. Jeter was my guy."

As the great one's career winds down to its final days, the kid who admired him is just getting started.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Giants align with Sacramento for new Triple-A affiliate

SAN FRANCISCO -- The San Francisco Giants entered into a two-year Player Development Contract with the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats, the club announced Thursday afternoon. A press conference is scheduled for Friday at 10 a.m. PT at Raley Field.

The move will begin in the 2015 season. The Giants' current Triple-A affiliate is the Fresno Grizzlies.

"First and foremost, the Giants want to express our sincere appreciation to the Fresno community, in particular to Mayor Ashley Swearengin, the Grizzlies ownership and the fans, for their longtime support of our club," Giants President and Chief Executive Officer Larry Baer said in a press release. "It was a difficult decision to move our affiliate, but ultimately we felt that the proximity of the River Cats to San Francisco was critical to the development of our players. We look forward to working with the River Cats organization to continue to deliver a top baseball experience to our players and the fans."

During their first 15 years in Sacramento, the River Cats were affiliated with the Oakland Athletics, during which time they won 11 division titles, four Pacific Coast League titles, and two Triple-A championships. Though the River Cats have missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time in franchise history, the club led the Pacific Coast League in attendance in 2014, and has welcomed more fans through their gates than any other Minor League organization since 2000.

"We appreciate the 15 successful years we've had with the Oakland Athletics," said River Cats President Jeff Savage, "and we're grateful for the tremendous support that the region has shown us. Our mission here at Raley Field has always been, and always will be, giving the Sacramento community the best fan experience possible. We're extremely excited to join the Giants family, and can't wait for our 2015 home opener on April 9."

Sacramento joins the Giants' Minor League system that includes the Richmond Flying Squirrels (Double-A), San Jose Giants (Single-A Advanced), Augusta GreenJackets (Single-A), and the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (Short Season).

"Sacramento is a great baseball town and the area has traditionally produced top baseball talent for the Major Leagues," Giants Senior Vice President and General Manager Brian Sabean said in the release. "Our affiliation with the River Cats provides us with an outstanding player development environment, and we are excited about the opportunity to work with our young players at Raley Field."

Ryan Hood is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ryanhood19. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Duffy's ninth-inning knock cuts into NL West deficit

Dodgers' loss brings Giants closer after go-ahead pinch-hit single

Duffy's ninth-inning knock cuts into NL West deficit play video for Duffy's ninth-inning knock cuts into NL West deficit

PHOENIX -- The more Giants who step forward to excel for the team, the better off they'll be as this season approaches what could be an exciting conclusion. Matt Duffy added his name to the list of key performers Wednesday.

Duffy's two-run pinch-hit single broke a ninth-inning tie and lifted the Giants to a 4-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks. The decision trimmed the Giants' deficit in the National League West standings to two games, coupled with the 16-2 shellacking first-place Los Angeles absorbed at Colorado.

Contributions such as Duffy's have helped the Giants weather the frequent absences of regulars Brandon Belt, Michael Morse and Angel Pagan. "That's what it takes, everybody doing something," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

The Giants struggled with their collaborative efforts for most of the afternoon at Chase Field. Madison Bumgarner registered one perfect inning among the six he worked.

"I felt like there were runners in scoring position the entire time," the left-hander said. Meanwhile, San Francisco mustered three hits in six innings against D-backs left-hander Andrew Chafin, who made his second Major League start.

The Giants were locked in a 2-2 tie with Arizona when Pablo Sandoval began their ninth-inning uprising by drawing a walk from D-backs reliever Addison Reed (1-6). Brandon Crawford, who went 4-for-4, lined a one-out single to accelerate the rally. Belt, who hadn't played since Aug. 6 due to concussion symptoms, pinch-hit for Juan Perez and walked on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases.

Up came Duffy, who rapped another full-count pitch to center field, delivering Sandoval and Crawford.

"If he doesn't get that hit right there, who knows what happens," Crawford said. "He laid off some really tough pitches."

The 23-year-old rookie improved to 4-for-10 as a pinch-hitter, a role that's typically more suitable for veterans or ex-regulars who possess experience, as well as a sweet swing. But Duffy owns the latter trait, and his hitting aptitude helps him compensate for his lack of the former attribute.

The positive attitude that Duffy derives from being called upon by Bochy also helps.

"When he shows confidence in you, it gives you confidence in yourself," Duffy said.

As the count inched to 3-2, Duffy employed common sense as he tried to think along with Reed. "I knew he had to come in with a strike," he said.

Crawford, who rose from Class A Advanced San Jose to the Majors in 2011, can relate to the challenges facing Duffy. "The game can really speed up on you," Crawford said. "You really just try to keep it simple and remember it's the same game."

With 21 hits in his last 49 at-bats (.429) and 13 RBIs in his last 15 games, Crawford has been following his own advice. Aside from him and Duffy, the only other Giants player to hit safely on Wednesday was Bumgarner, who lined a third-inning single.

But once the Giants forged ahead, they were safe. Sergio Romo (6-4) pitched a scoreless eighth to earn the decision before Santiago Casilla recorded his 17th save and second in two days. Bochy took this opportunity to praise Romo for making the transition from closer to setup specialist.

"Romo, to his credit, really has put aside his ego," Bochy said. "He's done whatever we've asked."

Duffy was asked to dress in a faux cowboy outfit that was colored largely in pink, despite his feats on the field. This happened to be the day when rookies don garish costumes for the team's flight to the next city. No exceptions.

Grateful to be in the Majors, Duffy didn't care.

"They can dress me any way they want," Duffy said.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["clemente_award" ] }

Romo humbled to be Clemente Award nominee

Giants reliever cites youth influences for inspiring community involvement

Romo humbled to be Clemente Award nominee play video for Romo humbled to be Clemente Award nominee

PHOENIX -- Engaging in selfless endeavors came almost naturally to Giants reliever Sergio Romo. He was recognized for his generosity of spirit and with his time Tuesday, when he was named the Giants' nominee for this year's Roberto Clemente Award.

The honor is bestowed annually upon a Major Leaguer who best represents the game of baseball through positive contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement. Clemente, the Hall of Fame outfielder who spent his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, perished on New Year's Eve 1972 while trying to deliver supplies to earthquake-stricken Nicaragua.

Merely being nominated for the award overwhelmed Romo.

"It's very humbling. Actually, beyond humbling," he said.

Beginning Wednesday, Roberto Clemente Day, fans are encouraged to participate in the process of selecting the national Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet recipient by visiting ChevyBaseball.com to vote for one of the 30 club nominees. Voting ends Oct. 6 and participating fans will be automatically registered for a chance to win a trip to the 2014 World Series, where the national winner of the award will be announced.

Two of Romo's primary inspirational figures in baseball taught him lessons that eclipsed swinging a bat and gripping a fastball.

Romo, 31, grew up watching his father, Francisco, volunteer to help with local baseball camps, high school programs and various traveling teams.

"To see the respect he garners, I'm proud of that," Romo said.

Seeing former big league right-hander Rudy Seanez, who hailed from Romo's hometown of Brawley, Calif., continue his community involvement by building ballfields and other sports facilities after establishing himself as a Major Leaguer also left an impression.

Romo has followed these examples of giving back. He works with the Athletes In Math Succeed Program, Mission Graduates, the Greater Bay Area Make-A-Wish Foundation, the San Francisco Challenger Clinic and the Junior Giants.

Romo feels passionate about all these causes. But his personal background has led him to identify strongly with AIMS, which was created to inspire minority male students to challenge themselves academically, act as role models for elementary school children and prepare for college.

"I was an athlete in high school, and math was my best subject," Romo said.

Since establishing himself with the Giants, Romo was motivated toward civic-minded pursuits by having left-handers Barry Zito and Jeremy Affeldt, former Clemente Award nominees, as teammates. Zito founded Strikeouts For Troops, which helped unite wounded soldiers with their families, and Affeldt has devoted himself for years to fighting hunger and human trafficking.

"I didn't know I could be mentioned in the same breath with Roberto Clemente and my own teammates," Romo said.

The Giants will honor Romo before their Sept. 25 game against San Diego in a home-plate ceremony at AT&T Park. Romo will make a $7,500 donation to AIMS on behalf of Chevrolet and Major League Baseball.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["clemente_award" ] }
{"content":["replay" ] }

Call stands as D-backs double up Pence

Bochy's challenge unsuccessful on close play at first base

Call stands as D-backs double up Pence play video for Call stands as D-backs double up Pence

PHOENIX -- Giants manager Bruce Bochy unsuccessfully challenged a sixth-inning call during Wednesday's game against the D-backs that resulted in Hunter Pence grounding into a double play.

Pence, who hit a ground ball to shortstop Nick Ahmed which forced out Buster Posey at second base, believed that he beat Chris Owings' relay to first. But after a review of videotaped replays, the play stood as called by the umpiring crew.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["replay" ] }
{"content":["replay" ] }

Peavy's gem helps Giants gain ground on LA

Veteran allows one run in 7 2/3 innings; West deficit at three games

Peavy's gem helps Giants gain ground on LA play video for Peavy's gem helps Giants gain ground on LA

PHOENIX -- Somebody slipped truth serum into the Giants' water supply Tuesday. After San Francisco's taut 2-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks, a couple of Giants who were instrumental in ending the team's three-game losing streak confessed to scoreboard-watching and contemplating a Wild Card playoff -- activities that players insist they avoid.

Shortstop Brandon Crawford delivered a seventh-inning sacrifice fly that broke a 1-1 tie, denied Arizona a ninth-inning leadoff single by ranging up the middle to snare Mark Trumbo's grounder, then displayed refreshing candor. Asked if he monitored the score of the division-leading Dodgers' game at Colorado, Crawford said, "I may have peeked."

Jake Peavy, who worked 7 2/3 innings to win his sixth game in seven starts, articulated why capturing the National League West would be preferable to securing a Wild Card berth for a one-game playoff against Pittsburgh.

"Nobody wants to play a Game 7 right off the bat [and face] a Francisco Liriano [or] a Gerrit Cole," Peavy said.

Peavy, who's scheduled to start Monday's series opener at Dodger Stadium, revealed his preoccupation with winning.

"I won't lie. I was just in the shower thinking about Dee Gordon and how I'm going to get him out," he said. "Isn't that crazy? Isn't that unbelievable?"

Combined with Los Angeles' 10-4 setback at Colorado, the Giants trimmed their NL West deficit to three games behind the first-place Dodgers. San Francisco also remained 2 1/2 games ahead of Pittsburgh and four games up on Milwaukee for the league's top Wild Card berth.

Mostly silenced by Arizona starter Josh Collmenter (10-8), the Giants opened the scoring on Buster Posey's fourth-inning homer, his 21st of the season. Collmenter's straight overhand delivery befuddles many hitters, but Posey's an exception. The Giants catcher owns a lifetime .611 average (11-for-18) off Collmenter with three homers and eight RBIs.

"Who knows? It's just one of those baseball oddities, I guess," Posey said.

Arizona pulled even in the sixth as Chris Owings tripled and came home on A.J. Pollock's single. The Giants inched ahead in the seventh as Hunter Pence singled leading off, sped to third on Travis Ishikawa's single and scored on Crawford's fly to center.

That sufficed for Peavy, who has recorded a 1.34 ERA during his seven-start surge.

"You get a good feeling when he steps on the mound," Posey said.

Peavy was as much of a watchmaker as he was a pitcher. He exercised precision, walking one while yielding five hits, and turned back the clock to his heyday with the Padres, when he ranked among the Majors' best. The 33-year-old departed with runners on first and second in the eighth inning, but Sergio Romo ended the threat by coaxing Pollock's fly to right field.

Varying the elevation of his pitches, a ploy he learned from the superb reliever Trevor Hoffman when they were San Diego teammates, has helped Peavy thrive. This strategy is commonly referred to as changing eye levels.

"East and west is not as key as up and down," Peavy said.

D-backs manager Kirk Gibson comprehended Peavy's mastery, noting that many of the right-hander's deliveries "finished right at the top of the zone."

Santiago Casilla pitched a perfect ninth for his 16th save, but the first out was the toughest. Trumbo's bouncer appeared destined for center field until Crawford corralled it behind second base and made an off-balance but accurate throw to first from the outfield grass.

"He hit it into the ground a little bit, so I knew I had a chance," said Crawford, who made the play despite playing Trumbo to pull the ball. "He's a big power hitter, and that's what you do with big power hitters,"

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Barry M. Bloom

Peavy everything Bochy expected him to be

Reunited with former manager, veteran shining in Giants' playoff chase

Peavy everything Bochy expected him to be play video for Peavy everything Bochy expected him to be

PHOENIX -- When the Giants' braintrust sat down in July to discuss the possible acquisition of Jake Peavy from the Red Sox, Bruce Bochy was asked about his previous experience managing the right-hander as a youngster when the two were together with the Padres.

"We had a roundtable about our need, and Jake was available," Bochy said Tuesday night. "They knew I was all in on it, based on my experience with Jake."

The July 26 trade has paid dividends, particularly after the way Peavy handled the D-backs on Tuesday, the first time he'd pitched at Chase Field in more than five years. Just when the Giants needed a gutty performance, Peavy threw 7 2/3 innings of five-hit, one-run ball. Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla combined to set down the final four batters in a 2-1 win, snapping a three-game club losing streak.

With the Dodgers losing big to the Rockies in Colorado and the Pirates and Brewers winning, the Giants pulled back within three games of first-place Los Angeles in the National League West, and they maintained their four-game Wild Card lead on Milwaukee with only 11 games left to play.

Peavy earned his sixth victory and fourth in a row in 10 starts since the trade with Boston. Already, with Tuesday night's game just freshly in the books, he was thinking about his next start Monday night in Los Angeles.

"It excites me," said Peavy, who is so intense he doesn't need much help to give him a boost. "L.A. is a really good team, a really good team at home, so I have to go in there with my 'A' game. I'm going to have to come up with a good game plan. I'm not going to lie to you. I was just in the shower and my mind -- I was thinking about Dee Gordon, to be honest with you. Isn't that crazy? Isn't that unbelievable? I was. I was taking a shower thinking, 'How do we get Dee Gordon out?'"

Peavy has been an ace in the hole before. He was brought over at the Trade Deadline last year to help the Red Sox get to the playoffs. They did that and won the World Series over the Cardinals in six games. Peavy was the projected Game 7 starter at Fenway Park if Boston hadn't wrapped it up that night. They won and he didn't have to pitch.

Similarly, the last time Bochy and Peavy were together on the Padres in 2006, they were looking down the gullet at a loss to the same Cards in an NL Division Series. Kevin Towers was the general manager, and he asked Bochy to replace veteran Woody Williams with Peavy to start a crucial Game 4 in St. Louis.

Bochy demurred and called a meeting among the three in his Busch Stadium office. Peavy was nursing a sore right shoulder and said he needed the extra days to prepare to pitch a possible Game 5 back at Petco Park. Both Bochy and Peavy believed the start belonged to Williams. Of course, that Game 5 never happened. Williams lost and it turned out to be Bochy's last game as Padres manager. He left after that postseason for San Francisco.

"That was as tough of a spot as I've ever been in professionally because of us having to win two games," Peavy recalled Tuesday night. "As you know, K.T. was on one side of the ball and Boch was on the other side of the ball. Woody had beaten Chris Carpenter, had beaten Brandon Webb down the stretch here. We had to win."

Roll the video forward almost eight seasons and the pair are back together as the Giants are making another run at a World Series title. They have won twice in the past four years, and right now Peavy is their second-best starter behind Madison Bumgarner, who is scheduled to take the ball in the series closer against Arizona on Wednesday.

It's those kinds of things that bind a player to a manager. Bochy knows that Peavy will think of the team over his own self-interest.

"Oh, he'll be honest," Bochy said.

It made it easy for Bochy to go to the mound with a runner on base and two out in the eighth inning Tuesday night, look Peavy in the eye and leave him in the game.

At that point, Peavy had thrown an uncharacteristic and efficient 92 pitches. Peavy slipped two quick strikes to Chris Owings and then hit him with a pitch. Bochy quickly went back to the mound and brought Romo into the game.

"I felt that I had enough left to get Owings out," Peavy said. "Unfortunate. I hate that I put the team in that situation there. I just didn't want to miss over the plate. We were going in. I thought that was the right pitch. I just let it get away from me."

Bochy hardly cared. For one night, anyway, it all worked out. Plus, he has the incredible joy of working again with one of his favorite players. Peavy was only 21 years old when he was brought up to the Padres in 2002. They've known each other for a long time.

"Oh, it's great to be reunited with Jake," Bochy said. "I've always thought so much of Jake, how he competes. I enjoy watching him out there. It's been quite a few years, but to get him back and help us out in this race here, it's been a treat for me just to get a chance to spend more time with him."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Grand slam costly to Giants' playoff chase

SF falls four back in West race, loses half-game off Wild Card lead

Grand slam costly to Giants' playoff chase play video for Grand slam costly to Giants' playoff chase

PHOENIX -- Suddenly, margin for error is something the Giants possess in shrinking supply, particularly after their 6-2 loss Monday to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Mark Trumbo's third-inning grand slam off Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong essentially shaped the evening for the Giants, who have not lost a series at Chase Field since April 6-8, 2012.

The Giants have dropped three consecutive games, a streak that has slowed their momentum in both the National League West and Wild Card races. They not only fell four games behind Los Angeles in the division standings, but also lost some of their Wild Card bulge. San Francisco owns a 2 1/2-game lead over Pittsburgh, which the Giants would meet in a one-game showdown to advance to the Division Series if the season ended now, and a four-game edge over Milwaukee.

The standings still indicate that the Giants will return to the postseason. Yet now is not the time for a prolonged slump, particulary when the schedule has pitted the Giants against below-.500 teams in three of its final four series.

Offense, or lack of it, suddenly has become an issue for the Giants. The league's top scoring and hitting team since the All-Star break has mustered four runs in its last three games. This can be attributed at least partially to an outbreak of injuries. Center fielder Angel Pagan (back) was scratched Monday, first baseman-left fielder Michael Morse (left oblique) might not return until this weekend's series at San Diego and third baseman Pablo Sandoval (right hip) is doggedly playing through soreness.

Sandoval was fit enough to line a single off the top of the right-field fence in the eighth inning. Had the ball cleared the barrier for a home run, as its trajectory suggested before topspin took over, the Giants would have trailed 6-4 and posed more of a threat to Arizona.

"That might have changed the game a little bit," manager Bruce Bochy said.

Granted, the Giants have faced some formidable starting pitching in this stretch, most notably Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw of Los Angeles. In this opener of a three-city, nine-game trip, they confronted Arizona's Wade Miley, runner-up in the 2012 NL Rookie of the Year balloting. Miley also entered the game with an ERA that ballooned to 4.28 when he survived only two innings and yielded three runs last Tuesday to the Giants at AT&T Park.

This time Miley (8-11) blanked the Giants until the seventh, which Joaquin Arias christened with his third single of the game. Arias advanced to third base on Gregor Blanco's ground-rule double and scored on Brandon Crawford's groundout. The potential for a more productive inning fizzled, mirrored in the Giants' 2-for-10 hitting with runners in scoring position.

"You always want to end the damage, no matter what the score is or when the situation is. But yeah, it was good that we were able to limit them to one right there," Miley said.

Vogelsong (8-11) pitched capably, but his lone lapse also reflected the Giants' dwindling room for error. With no score in the third inning, Vogelsong surrendered a one-out single to Miley, a .137 hitter. Chris Owings' two-out single prolonged the inning before A.J. Pollock walked on a full-count pitch. Umpires ruled that Pollock checked his swing. The Giants didn't necessarily agree.

"It's obvious that we would have loved to have that call," Bochy said.

Said Vogelsong, "From my vantage point, I thought it was a swing. But it was quick."

Trumbo then cleared the right-center-field fence with Vogelsong's 0-1 cutter.

"It didn't do anything," Vogelsong said. "It just sat there."

Until then, Vogelsong never had yielded a grand slam in 230 Major League appearances, a nugget of trivia that had eluded him.

Vogelsong, who allowed four runs and six hits in 5 2/3 innings, fell to 0-3 with a 7.65 ERA in his last four road appearances.

"You take away that pitch," said Bochy, referring to the one Trumbo belted, "and it's a pretty good outing."

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["injury" ] }

Feeling 'really good,' Belt comes off disabled list

Feeling 'really good,' Belt comes off disabled list play video for Feeling 'really good,' Belt comes off disabled list

PHOENIX -- After appearing on the brink of activation for about a week, Giants first baseman Brandon Belt finally was reinstated from the disabled list Monday.

From the Giants' perspective, Belt looked sharp enough to face Major League competition when he took extra batting practice Monday afternoon against bullpen coach Mark Gardner.

"He's pretty nasty, especially from 45 feet away," said Belt, who overcame the aftereffects of a concussion. Overall, he added, "I feel really good, and I feel ready to get in a game to help the team."

That's fine with manager Bruce Bochy, who welcomed Belt's presence as a left-handed hitter off the bench. Bochy did not suggest that Belt, San Francisco's Opening Night first baseman, would soon return to the lineup. But Bochy did say that he would try to install Belt in situations when he might be able to receive multiple at-bats.

First baseman-outfielder Michael Morse took batting practice with Belt off Gardner and, in Bochy's view, remains "a day or two away" from being able to play. Morse has missed San Francisco's last 13 games with a strained left oblique.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["injury" ] }

MLB.com Columnist

Barry M. Bloom

Giants' fortunes riding on Pagan's iffy health

Center fielder's back problems resurface at inopportune time

Giants' fortunes riding on Pagan's iffy health play video for Giants' fortunes riding on Pagan's iffy health

PHOENIX -- The bad news for the Giants came just before the start of Monday night's game against the D-backs at Chase Field. Center fielder Angel Pagan could barely make it through batting practice, and after consulting with manager Bruce Bochy and head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner, he was scratched from the lineup because of a stiff back.

"It's been worse the last couple of three days," Pagan said. "It's been pretty sore. It was tight, really tight. I've just been battling. There was nothing more that I could do."

It has been the tale of two very distinct seasons for the Giants -- with and without Pagan in the lineup -- and that pattern held fast as San Francisco's hopes of winning the National League West continued to fade with a 6-2 loss.

The Giants are 56-34 (.672) with Pagan in the lineup and 26-34 (.433) without him. And so, here we are with 12 games left to play.

"He makes a big difference, the numbers show that," Bochy said. "If you look at the evidence, we miss him when he's not in the lineup. We're a different club. He's our leadoff hitter. He's our catalyst. He's the guy who kind of makes things go. When he's not in there, we've had a tough time, tougher than you would think, actually. But for some reason, the numbers are a lot different when he's not in our lineup."

To that point, Pagan missed 44 games earlier in the season because of the back problems and the Giants squandered a huge lead over the Dodgers. They led by as many as 10 games on June 8 and now find themselves trailing the Blue Boys -- who won big in Colorado on Monday night -- by four games. Even a spot in the NL Wild Card Game is hardly secure.

Despite the loss, the Giants still own the top NL Wild Card slot and have a 2 1/2-game lead over the Pirates. The Brewers are 1 1/2 games behind the Bucs, four behind the Lads.

The Giants, who pulled within one game of the Dodgers with a 9-0 home win over them Friday night, have suddenly lost three in a row at a most inauspicious time of the season.

With Brandon Belt having come off the disabled list before Monday night's game, the question is how long it will take Pagan to return. Bochy said that with a day of rest and treatment, he hoped Pagan might be ready to go Tuesday night. Pagan, who wore a packaged heating pad around his waist and under his shirt as he left the clubhouse, wasn't so sure.

"Do I feel better after treatment? No," Pagan said. "It's tough to say tonight, but let's see how I feel tomorrow. Tomorrow I hope to have a better answer for you."

San Francisco has two games remaining here before heading off for three-game sets in San Diego and Los Angeles, and at this juncture, it's imperative the Giants win those games. For a number of reasons, they have a much better shot at it if Pagan is playing.

For example, San Francisco is 11-6 against Arizona this season and Pagan has been a major component of that success. The switch-hitter has hit safely in all 10 games he's played against the D-backs, soaring along at .488 (21-for-43) with 11 runs scored. Pagan is 8-for-19 (.421) in four games this season at Chase Field, three victories in a season-opening series here from March 31-April 3. In contrast, late replacement Juan Perez went 0-for-5 in the leadoff spot Monday night.

Pagan knows the score, but right now he says he's trying not to be frustrated about it.

"Oh, there's nothing you can do when you can't play," Pagan said. "I always try to go out there and do my best, but today it was just one of those days when I needed a break. Not only is your body tight, but your mind gets drained when you're playing for so long like this. I go out there and play hard. What you see is what you get."

It's not as if the Giants haven't been down this road before. In 2012, after signing Pagan as a free agent, he played in 154 games and was the catalyst as San Francisco won the World Series for the second time in three years. Last season, replete with a new four-year, $40 million contract, Pagan was able to play in only 71 games because of a hamstring injury. The Giants finished 10 games under .500 and 16 games behind the division-winning Dodgers.

The Giants are 82-68 right now, with no chance of that piece of history repeating itself. But they obviously need Pagan, who has had a major impact on the team's success, to complete the route back to the postseason.

"Well, he does have that kind of impact," Bochy said. "That's why we signed him to this deal because of the talent that he is and what he brings to our club. He's a great leadoff hitter and a clutch hitter. Losing your leadoff hitter is one of the tougher ones to make a adjustment to. You hate to miss any of your players. It's no point, really, to think about what's going to happen. We have to overcome it."

They have less than two weeks to do so.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["injury" ] }

Cain on track to resume throwing in December

Giants right-hander recovering well from elbow surgery

Cain on track to resume throwing in December play video for Cain on track to resume throwing in December

PHOENIX -- Forced into the role of spectator, Matt Cain visited his teammates in the Chase Field visitors' clubhouse Monday and reported that he remains on course to rejoin them in Spring Training as planned.

Cain, who had season-ending surgery to remove bone chips and bone spurs from his right elbow last month, said he will begin a throwing program in December, which will put him on pace to be ready for camp in mid-February.

Immediately following the surgery, Cain joined the Giants in the dugout during home games. But since Cain resides in nearby Paradise Valley, it's convenient for him to rehabilitate his arm at the Giants' Scottsdale training headquarters.

Cain said that constantly watching games instead of participating in them is "definitely different." He added, "You're done for the year, so it's like you're one of the fans."

Watching Giants telecasts has given Cain, 29, a fresh perspective on baseball.

"You learn really quick that it's really hard," he said.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["injury" ] }

Giants not panicking despite series loss to LA

San Francisco falls three games behind NL West-leading Dodgers

Giants not panicking despite series loss to LA play video for Giants not panicking despite series loss to LA

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants are assured of a rematch with the Dodgers, which is scheduled for Sept. 22-24. But because of their less-than-ideal performance in this weekend's showdown, which concluded Sunday with Los Angeles' 4-2 triumph, the Giants don't know what significance their return engagement will bear.

The Dodgers' second victory in the three-game set increased their National League West lead over the second-place Giants to three games. It's extremely possible that the rivals will arm-wrestle each other for the division title during their upcoming meeting at Dodger Stadium, where the Giants will conclude a three-city, nine-game trip. But the Giants could find themselves striving to secure a Wild Card postseason berth if the Dodgers continue to gain ground on them. The Giants lead Pittsburgh by three games in the race for the league's top Wild Card spot.

With two weeks remaining in the regular season, it's permissible to raise the subject of the Dodgers' magic number, which is 11. Any combination of Dodgers wins and Giants defeats adding up to 11 will seal the division title for Los Angeles.

Such calculation is premature, in the Giants' opinion.

"Sure, you hate to lose a series to the team in front of you," manager Bruce Bochy said. "But there's a lot of baseball left."

"I don't think anybody's panicking," left-hander Jeremy Affeldt said. "A lot can happen between now and two weeks from now."

However, the Giants realize that they can't let Los Angeles stray too far from them in the standings. Asked if the club must close the gap between themselves and the Dodgers before their next series, catcher-first baseman Buster Posey said, "It'd be nice."

At Dodger Stadium, the Giants must face the pair of starting pitchers who defeated them here: Zack Greinke, who pitched six innings in Saturday's 17-0 rout, and Clayton Kershaw, who maintained his typical dominance of San Francisco in Sunday's finale.

Kershaw (19-3) allowed two runs and seven hits in eight innings as he recorded his 16th consecutive quality start against the Giants -- the longest streak by any pitcher since the legendary Bob Gibson also sustained a 16-game streak from 1968-72. Kershaw improved to 13-5 lifetime against San Francisco, including 8-2 at AT&T Park.

Giants starter Yusmeiro Petit (5-4) worked seven innings, allowing all of Los Angeles' runs (one unearned) as well as eight hits. But a pair of throwing errors, including one he committed, helped the Dodgers score twice in the second inning. One inning later, Posey was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double, a decision that could have been deemed questionable.

With one out in the second inning and Hanley Ramirez on first base via an infield single, Juan Uribe smashed a ground-ball single to right field. Hunter Pence attempted to throw out Ramirez at third base, but his wide toss eluded Pablo Sandoval. Petit, backing up the play, pounced on the ball and made an accurate throw home. But it grazed the sliding Ramirez and bounced away. Uribe advanced to third base and scored on A.J. Ellis' sacrifice fly. Pence and Petit received errors on the play.

The Giants halved the difference in the third but squandered a chance for a more fruitful inning. Kershaw lapsed by walking Petit, an .050 hitter, with one out. Joe Panik prolonged the inning with a two-out single. Up came Posey, who collected his 26th RBI in 22 games with his hit to left-center field. Unfortunately for the Giants, Posey proceeded toward second base and was thrown out by center fielder Yasiel Puig.

Other than mentioning that Posey lost track of the ball, Bochy declined to criticize his effort: "Sure, that's something you'd like to have back, but he's going all-out. Give them credit. They made a good throw to get him."

Said Posey, "Running to first, I didn't pick [the ball] up great. But he made a good play on it. I don't feel like it was a terrible mistake. I think if the throw's off-line a little bit, I'm safe."

Matt Kemp's two-run homer with one out in the sixth inning lengthened Los Angeles' lead to 4-1. Petit, who has issued one walk in his last 10 appearances, fell behind on the count to Kemp, 2-0, before the Dodgers slugger connected with a hanging slider.

The Giants shaved a run off their deficit on pinch-hitter Matt Duffy's two-out bloop single to center field in the seventh. But Kershaw and closer Kenley Jansen set down the final seven Giants batters.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Review overturns Giants' pickoff of Gordon

Dodgers win challenge of out call at second base

Review overturns Giants' pickoff of Gordon play video for Review overturns Giants' pickoff of Gordon

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Dodgers won a manager's challenge in the first inning of Sunday's game with the Giants.

Dee Gordon was called out at second base by umpire Cory Blaser on a pickoff throw from pitcher Yusmeiro Petit to shortstop Joaquin Arias, who reached around and tagged Gordon on the back of the left leg while Gordon tried to get his toe on the bag.

But manager Don Mattingly challenged and the call was overturned. Gordon ended up stranded at second as Petit struck out the next three batters.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Giants pounded as Dodgers even series

Hudson, Lincecum rocked early; SF falls two games back in division

Giants pounded as Dodgers even series play video for Giants pounded as Dodgers even series

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants received an emphatic reminder Saturday night of why they're a second-place team. As if to re-establish superiority over their National League West pursuers, the Los Angeles Dodgers thoroughly dominated Saturday night's rematch with San Francisco by romping to a 17-0 triumph.

The Giants, who captured Friday's series opener, 9-0, were vastly outperformed by Los Angeles, which leads them by two games in the division race. San Francisco remained atop the Wild Card standings, four games ahead of Pittsburgh.

"Two different games," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "They punched back. We got knocked out early."

Mimicking San Francisco's efforts 24 hours earlier, the Dodgers scored four runs in the first inning off Giants starter Tim Hudson. They added four more runs in the second inning off Hudson and Tim Lincecum. In fact, the Giants didn't hold Los Angeles scoreless until the fifth inning and were scored upon in six of the first seven innings.

The rout reached historic proportions, as the Dodgers set an AT&T Park record for runs by an opponent, eclipsing the Marlins' mark of 16 established on July 23, 2005. Los Angeles' total of 24 hits was the highest amassed by any team, home or visitor, in the ballpark's 15-year history. The Giants' margin of defeat was their largest against the Dodgers since the franchises moved West in 1958, exceeding the previous worst by one run.

"With that score, you're glad it's only one loss," Bochy said.

Each Dodgers starter hit safely and scored at least once as Los Angeles established season highs for runs and hits. Moreover, everyone in the lineup drove in at least one run except for Yasiel Puig, who amassed three hits and three runs.

Having outscored opponents 67-14 while winning their 10 previous games at AT&T Park, the Giants sustained neither their streak nor their offense against Zack Greinke (15-8). The right-hander earned the distinction of shackling Hunter Pence, ending his 29-game streak of reaching base safely. Greinke cruised through six innings, allowing four hits, walking none and striking out five. He also produced at the plate, lining a double in the fourth inning and a two-run homer in the sixth.

The Giants did generate one feel-good story: the Major League debut of right-hander Brett Bochy, the manager's younger son who worked 1 1/3 innings as San Francisco's third reliever of the evening. Brett Bochy worked an eventful seventh inning, fanning Puig for his first strikeout before Scott Van Slyke clobbered the next pitch for a homer.

Bochy, 27, called the experience "awesome." Asked who felt more nervous, Bruce Bochy said, "I'm sure I was." He added, "It was a very, very proud moment for me."

Hudson (9-11) endured the indignity of lasting just one inning (as well as two batters into the second inning), the briefest outing among his 455 career regular-season starts. He yielded eight hits and was charged with six runs.

The 39-year-old denied feeling fatigued and credited the Dodgers' skilled hitting.

"I thought I did get some pitches that were in a pretty good location," Hudson said. "They got on a little roll in the first inning and it was challenging for me to get that third out."

Making only his third appearance since being reassigned to the bullpen Aug. 25, Lincecum surrendered five runs and seven hits in three innings. Left-hander Mike Kickham fared no better, allowing four runs and six hits in 1 2/3 innings.

If such a lopsided affair could be said to include a crucial juncture, the first inning was it. Puig began the Dodgers' uprising by hustling out a double on a hit that center fielder Angel Pagan appeared to play routinely. Pagan also hesitated before chasing a ball struck by A.J. Ellis that fell for a run-scoring single.

Pagan atoned in the Giants' half of the inning with a leadoff double. At that point, the Giants needed baserunners, not runs. However, Pagan was beckoned home by third-base coach Tim Flannery on Buster Posey's single and was thrown out by Matt Kemp. The Dodgers right fielder found the play so unchallenging that he found the opportunity to blow a gum bubble while releasing his throw.

"I don't know if that changed the game," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "But it kind of kicked the momentum back to us."

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Bochy gives son MLB debut in tough spot

Pitcher enters first big league game with bases loaded during rout

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SAN FRANCISCO -- The schedule of a Major League manager isn't exactly the most family-friendly, so aside from a handful of his college games, Giants manager Bruce Bochy didn't get to watch son Brett progress from Little Leaguer to MLB Draft pick.

No postgame phone calls or videos were required for father to watch son pitch Saturday night, though.

In the top of the sixth inning, Bruce Bochy made history when he became the first father to hand his son the ball in a Major League game when he brought Brett Bochy in with the bases loaded. With that, the Bochys became the eighth father-son manager-player combo in Major League history.

Entering a 14-0 game isn't how either Bochy envisioned Brett making his debut, but it ensured both would have fond memories of the 17-0 drubbing the Giants were given by the Dodgers.

"It's a little emotional, but at the same time, when he came out there, I said 'I'm sorry to put you in this situation,'" Bruce Bochy said. "You're making your debut in the Major Leagues, and here you've got the bases loaded and a good hitter up there; he's a tough kid and he can handle it."

After all, it's not the first time father inserted son into a bases-loaded situation -- the same thing once happened in a Spring Training game.

"He has a habit of doing that to me, doesn't he?" Brett Bochy joked. "It was awesome getting out there and it was special that he was there for it.

"My adrenaline was rushing and it was a lot of fun out there. It was great that I got to share this moment with him."

That's what mattered most to his dad, though the elder Bochy was having a hard time comprehending what transpired in the sixth inning.

"It's kind of surreal, really," the manager said. "Here's your son, and you're bringing him into the big leagues. It's a moment that -- you're nervous, but at the same time, you're very proud. I was real glad to see him out there."

He saw a little bit of everything, results-wise. Brett Bochy recorded his first career strikeout with a fastball away to Yasiel Puig, though he also gave up his first career walk and first career home run when Scott Van Slyke launched a two-run moonshot deep into the left-field bleachers to give the Dodgers a 17-0 lead.

Bochy and Van Slyke, son of former All-Star Andy Van Slyke, were two of three players in Saturday night's game with Major League genes, along with Dee Gordon, son of Tom Gordon, who scored on Van Slyke's homer. Bochy's final stat line was a pair of earned runs allowed on one hit in 1 1/3 innings. Chris Heston also made his Major League debut in the ninth for the Giants.

"I'm sure he was," said the skipper when asked which Bochy was more nervous. "I was proud, I was. He did fine. He hasn't pitched in quite a while, and this was a tough game to pitch in. They had their hitting shoes on over there. This was a very proud moment for me."

Brett Bochy was just happy to have his dad there to see it.

"He wasn't there to watch me, but he was always available after any game that I threw to be on the call or send video to and give me the feedback that I needed," Bochy said of his father's absences from his childhood games. "That's what made tonight so special. He didn't get to see a lot of my games growing up, and here I am, pitching for him."

Ryan Hood is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ryanhood19. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Key connections: Star-Spangled Banner, baseball forever linked

Verses that became National anthem celebrates 200 years, is part of baseball's fabric

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Francis Scott Key never got to see a big league baseball game. He died in 1843, some 26 years before the first professional team was established. But you can imagine his joy if he did get that chance. These days, he'd probably sit in a shiny bleacher seat, waiting for a batting-practice homer with a soft, weathered glove raised high ... in his non-writing hand. Maybe he'd inhale a hot dog while jotting down a few pretty lines for his next song. That would come about an hour before he'd hear the iconic bars of his first one, which, contrary to American lore, does not end with the words, "Play Ball." Odds are he'd be pretty happy at the twilight's last gleaming.

This weekend, the celebration of the 200th anniversary of our national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner," is on, and Key's memory is being rightly feted for his poetic description from the "dawn's early light" of Sept. 14, 1814, at the height of the War of 1812.

Hours after being stuck on a ship in Baltimore Harbor as the British pounded Fort McHenry in the Battle of Baltimore, Key saw the skies clear from the smoke and the indelible image that "our flag was still there."

The verses were called "The Defence of Fort M'Henry," and it was put to the tune of "To Anacreon in Heaven," a British drinking song purportedly written by John Stafford Smith that had been composed more than 30 years earlier and served as the theme of the Anacreontic Society of London, a men's club of amateur musicians.

Soon after Key wrote the words, a local newspaper gave it the title "The Star-Spangled Banner," and in 1931, it became our official anthem. All the while, another grand tradition steeped in collective nostalgia and American togetherness -- the game of baseball -- was steaming along, gaining prominence in our country's conscience.

Not surprisingly, the national anthem and the National Pastime became stitched together forever, like red laces in white horsehide.

According to John Thorn, the official historian of Major League Baseball, the playing of the national anthem before big league games did not become an everyday tradition until 1942. Taking that into account (and including a slight margin of error based on the lack of documentation regarding split doubleheaders in the earlier days), the Star-Spangled Banner has been heard right before the first pitch of at least the last 121,000 games. Oh, say can you see, indeed.

So with that in mind, 200 years after the night a 35-year-old Washington, D.C.-based attorney known to friends as Frank found himself under a war-torn sky, with honor in his heart and a pen in his hand, we go around the horn with nine things to know about "The Star-Spangled Banner" and its now-eternal link to the national pastime.

1. A first for everything
The first time the song was played at a baseball game was May 15, 1862, at William Cammeyer's Union Grounds park in Brooklyn. It had been converted from an ice skating venue into a field for summer sports, including what, at the time, was known as "base ball." In the midst of the Civil War, a band played "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The first big league Opening Day to feature the eventual anthem took place in Philadelphia on April 22, 1897. The New York Tribune newspaper included a brief and lyrical account of the game: "Opening Day here was a great success. The weather was delightful and the attendance numbered 17,074. The players paraded across the field, company front, and then raised the new flag, while the band played 'The Star Spangled Banner.' "

In spite of all the pageantry, there had to be some accounting for the four errors that led the Phillies to a 5-1 victory over the Giants at the Baker Bowl.

"The game was rather dull and long-drawn out," the article read, "and on the part of the New-Yorkers was somewhat unsteadily played."

2. An unforgettable rendition
The first national anthem played at a World Series game occurred on Sept. 5, 1918, during World War I, when Major League players were in the midst of being drafted into service. The regular season was ordered by the government to be completed by Labor Day, hence the Fall Classic that year was played in September.

The Cubs borrowed Comiskey Park from the White Sox to take advantage of the larger seating capacity, but things got quiet in Game 1, a 1-0 shutout by Red Sox pitcher Babe Ruth. But that game will be forever remembered for what occurred in the seventh inning.

That was when the military band on hand struck up "The Star-Spangled Banner," and the song took on a different meaning. Red Sox third baseman Fred Thomas, for example, was on furlough from the Navy, and he saluted the flag during the playing of the song.

And then the crowd caught on. The New York Times opened its account of the game by writing, "Far different from any incident that has ever occurred in the history of baseball was the great moment of the first world's series game between the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox, which came at Comiskey Park this afternoon during the seventh-inning stretch" and then continued with the play-by-play … of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

"First the song was taken up by a few, then others joined, and when the final notes came, a great volume of melody rolled across the field. It was at the very end that the onlookers exploded into thunderous applause and rent the air with a cheer that marked the highest point of the day's enthusiasm."

The Cubs and Red Sox repeated the tradition for the rest of the Series.

3. Making it official
Even though the Secretary of the Navy in 1889 had designated "The Star-Spangled Banner" as the official song to be played at the raising of the flag, and even though President Woodrow Wilson, a huge baseball fan himself, treated it and referred to it as our national anthem, it had failed to stick in Congress after numerous attempts in the 1920s.

Baseball's increased use of the song prior to games, a petition with millions of signatures, and a nice little push from noted composer John Philip Sousa helped finally get the job done on March 3, 1931, when President Herbert Hoover signed into law the establishment of the song as the official national anthem of the United States of America.

4. A lasting tradition
"The Star-Spangled Banner" still wasn't being played before every baseball game in 1941, but on April 26, 1941, the ball got rolling in the Bronx. As The New York Times reported, "With more war new in the making, president Ed Barrow of the Yankees ordered that 'The Star-Spangled Banner' be played before all games at the Stadium.

"Meanwhile, all continued to go well for the Yankees and [Joe] DiMaggio. He singled home a run in the first and scored twice as New York beat Washington 8-3 for its fourth straight victory."

By the following year, with the country deep in World War II, the anthem became the daily staple of baseball that we know today.

And DiMaggio was still hitting.

5. Controversy hits the field
It was October 1968, and the country was fighting in Vietnam and had already lived through the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. that year. Protests were boiling over in the streets at home, and the Detroit Tigers were hosting the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.

Jose Feliciano was a 23-year-old blind folk singer from Puerto Rico who had scored a hit on the U.S. charts with a cover of The Doors' "Light My Fire," and Tigers radio legend Ernie Harwell invited him to sing the national anthem at Tiger Stadium prior to Game 5.

Feliciano was accompanied in left field by his acoustic guitar and his guide dog, Trudy, and he launched into an emotional, heartfelt, and, well, different version of "The Star-Spangled Banner." He strummed the guitar in a slightly syncopated, Latin-influenced rhythm, careened back and forth from the traditional vocal melody to something more adventurous, and offered the finishing flourish of "Yeah, yeah."

It was bold and innovative and fresh, but it was also many years ahead of its time. Feliciano was booed heartily by the crowd and caused a public uproar that took years to live down.

"Back then, when the anthem was done at ballgames, people couldn't wait for it to be over," Feliciano told The Guardian last month. "And I wanted to make them sit up and take notice and respect the song. I was shocked when I was booed. I felt, 'God, what have I done wrong?' All I was trying to do was create a soulful rendition. I never in my wildest dreams thought I was going to have the country against me, radio stations stop playing me.

"But in part, it was good -- because I ended up meeting my wife. She couldn't understand the injustice and started a fan club, even though we'd never met. We fell in love and the rest is history."

On Oct. 14, 2012, prior to Game 1 of the National League Championship Series at AT&T Park in San Francisco, the same stylized, heartfelt version of the national anthem was performed by Feliciano on his acoustic guitar.

This time the crowd roared.

6. "O"-dience participation
The anthem itself is a tradition, and at Oriole Park in Camden Yards in Baltimore, there's a tradition baked into the tradition. When the song rounds third base and heads for home with, "O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave," the crowd screams the "O" together, celebrating their beloved O's.

This started at the old Memorial Stadium in the club's pennant-winning season of 1979. Out in Section 34 of the upper deck, Orioles superfan Wild Bill Hagy would lead fans in chants of O-R-I-O-L-E-S, with the emphasis on the "O." Mary Powers sat nearby and took the inspiration to another level.

"We would accentuate the 'O' in any word that would have an 'O,' and one night when they were playing the anthem, I thought, 'There's an 'O!' in this song,' and the first time I did it, I remember people turning around and looking like, 'Oh, my God, I can't believe she just did that,' " Powers recently told WBAL-TV.

"Well, Wild Bill had a little grin on his face, so the next night, he did it with me, and once he put his blessing on it, everybody started to do it."

Orioles fans still do it -- loudly -- and will likely be doing it in October this year.

7. Setting the (low) Barr
We all know now that Feliciano's rendition was eventually respected, if not appreciated. We all also know now that the version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" performed by comedian Roseanne Barr before a Padres-Reds doubleheader at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego on July 25, 1990, was not.

Barr screeched a fast, off-key rendition of the anthem that drew loud boos midway through, and when she was finished, she grabbed her crotch and spit, as if to mimic a ballplayer. The joke bombed, she was lambasted all over TV and in the newspapers, and she inspired President George H. W. Bush to call the whole act "disgraceful."

Bush's comment was met with bipartisan approval.

8. A hymn of healing
The horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001, changed the United States forever, but not only in tragic ways. The courage, brotherhood and human decency shown that day in New York, Washington, D.C., and on a hijacked airplane that would crash in a Pennsylvania field showed our country's strength and will to persevere.

The emotion was palpable 10 days later when the Mets played the Braves at Shea Stadium in the first professional sporting event in New York City since the attacks. Marc Anthony delivered a somber rendition without musical accompaniment and the game was played quietly until the eighth inning, when Piazza's two-run home run gave the Mets the lead and got the crowd going again.

"I remember standing on the line during the national anthem -- actually when the bagpipes and band came out -- I said to myself, 'Please, God, give me the strength to get through this,' " Piazza told the New York Daily News in 2008. "I was fortunate to find the strength to hit a home run in that situation. I'm flattered, I'm honored that people put that moment as a time where it helped the city at least have a little bit of joy in a really tough week."

9. 200 and many more
Every year now, we're treated to incredible musical talent on the baseball field. From the seasoned operatic pipes of longtime Yankees national anthem singer Robert Merrill to commercial acts James Taylor, Paul Simon, Sammy Davis Jr., John Legend, Lyle Lovett, the Grateful Dead, Slash from Guns N' Roses, Mary J. Blige, Billy Joel, Idina Menzel, Kelly Clarkson and countless others, it's now a grand American tradition to bring out the best in the business to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the biggest baseball games.

But Sunday, the song itself will shine.

At Fort McHenry in Baltimore, a real-time anniversary program will kick off, with artillery salutes, a reading of the song's four stanzas and a replica 15-star, 15-stripe flag raising at precisely 9 a.m. to commemorate the history that Key had witnessed.

And MLB teams playing at home will show a special video montage of "The Star-Spangled Banner." In conjunction with the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and the program Great Performances, Maryland Public Television has provided the montage originally seen in the PBS production Star-Spangled Banner: The Bicentennial of our National Anthem to the ballparks and to MLB.com and all 30 club websites and official MLB social media channels.

Fittingly, the last game on Sunday will be played at Camden Yards, about three miles away from Fort McHenry, and fittingly, the Orioles will play the Yankees.

We all know what song we'll hear right before the first pitch.

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Belt, Morse could return by end of week

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Not much has gone wrong of late for the resurgent Giants, who are inching closer and closer to being back at full strength, health-wise.

Prior to Saturday night's game with the Dodgers, manager Bruce Bochy provided injury updates on Brandon Belt and Michael Morse. Neither is ready to return just yet, but both should be back within a week.

Bochy said Belt, who was cleared to resume baseball activities Thursday after passing concussion tests, will take live batting practice Monday in Arizona and could be activated from the disabled list by the end of next week.

Belt was accidentally struck in the face by a thrown ball during batting practice in Miami on July 19 and missed the next 12 games with a concussion.

He appeared in five games after an early August return, but he was forced to the disabled list again with a recurrence of concussion-like symptoms. On the season, he's hitting .237 with 11 home runs and 24 RBIs in 51 games.

Morse hasn't played since Aug. 31, thanks to a strained left oblique. Bochy said Morse will hopefully start taking batting practice Monday or Tuesday. Morse is hitting .280 with 16 home runs and 61 RBIs on the season.

Ryan Hood is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ryanhood19. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Giants honor Lincecum's no-no with plaque

Righty gets second History Walk acknowledgement for feat

Giants honor Lincecum's no-no with plaque

SAN FRANCISCO -- Once again, Tim Lincecum literally cemented his place in Giants lore Saturday as a plaque commemorating his June 25 no-hitter against San Diego was unveiled on the club's History Walk.

Lincecum's plaque joined an assortment of 22 others on the portwalk beyond the right-field wall, including one dedicated to his 14-strikeout, 1-0 victory over Atlanta in Game 1 of the 2010 Division Series. Each plaque is devoted to a singular achievement occurring at AT&T Park. Lincecum also no-hit the Padres on July 13, 2013, at San Diego.

Hector Sanchez, who caught Lincecum's second no-hitter, helped Lincecum unveil the plaque as teammates, coaches, manager Bruce Bochy and a gathering of fans witnessed the brief ceremony.

Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow, who served as master of ceremonies, cited Lincecum's immense popularity with teammates.

"Tim is one of the best guys to walk through [longtime equipment manager] Mike Murphy's clubhouse," Krukow said.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Challenge awards Crawford infield hit in rout

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SAN FRANCISCO -- The Dodgers won a manager's challenge in the sixth inning of Saturday night's game with the Giants.

With the Dodgers enjoying a 13-run lead, Carl Crawford was called out at first base by umpire Doug Eddings on an infield grounder to shortstop Matt Duffy.

Crawford pleaded with the Dodgers dugout for a challenge, and Don Mattingly complied, the call being overturned. Crawford was awarded an infield single, the 21st hit of the game for the Dodgers.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MadBum, Giants cruise to move one game back of LA

Four-run first, lefty's seven shutout innings cut NL West deficit in half

MadBum, Giants cruise to move one game back of LA play video for MadBum, Giants cruise to move one game back of LA

SAN FRANCISCO -- While awaiting Clayton Kershaw's appearance for the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday, connoisseurs of left-handed pitching received a worthy opening act Friday from the Giants' Madison Bumgarner. Not that it came as a surprise.

If Kershaw ranks as the planet's best left-hander, Bumgarner at least deserves his own satellite. The Giants' ace delivered another soaring performance in the opener of a critical three-game series against the Dodgers, limiting them to three hits in seven innings as San Francisco tightened the National League West race with a 9-0 triumph.

The decision trimmed first-place Los Angeles' NL West lead to one game over the Giants, who remained the league's hottest team with a 13-3 record since Aug. 26. Facing a Dodgers squad that entered the game with the Majors' best road record (43-28), San Francisco lengthened its AT&T Park winning streak to 10 games, one short of the standard set in July 2003.

Asked to describe the Giants' current confidence level, Bumgarner said, "I feel like it's as good as it can be. It's been that way for a while now. ... We've got a lot of guys who have been here and done this before, so they know what to expect and what it's like, coming up to finish off September and hopefully the postseason."

The Giants sustained the offense that has characterized their surge, illustrated by their 67-14 edge in scoring during their home winning streak. They scored four first-inning runs off Dodgers left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu (14-7), who then departed with a sore throwing shoulder. Joe Panik's one-out double preceded Buster Posey's RBI double and Hunter Pence's run-scoring single. With two outs, Joaquin Arias grounded an RBI single to right field before Gregor Blanco's walk prolonged the inning for Brandon Crawford's run-scoring double.

Crawford added a two-run homer in the fifth inning, ending a stretch of 147 at-bats without a longball. Pinch-hitter Travis Ishikawa made the score truly lopsided with a three-run "Splash Hit" in the seventh inning off former Giants right-hander Kevin Correia.

"It took me eight years to finally do it," said Ishikawa, who's in his second tour of duty with San Francisco.

It all provided Bumgarner (18-9) with ample support as he tied Kershaw, Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto and St. Louis' Adam Wainwright for the Major League lead in victories. The 25-year-old Bumgarner, who's younger than each of the Giants' 10 September callups, struck out nine batters to hike his season total to 208. That's the most by a Giants left-hander since the franchise moved to San Francisco in 1958.

"It's a nice accomplishment," said Bumgarner, who eclipsed Ray Sadecki (206 strikeouts in 1968). "This team's been around for a long time. They've had a lot of really good players and talent come through. It's hard to believe, really."

It wasn't so remarkable for Bumgarner's teammates, who watched him handle the bulk of the Giants' ninth shutout victory at home.

"There are a lot of good pitchers in the National League this year, but I think he should be up there in the Cy Young voting," Crawford said. "He's done this all season."

Bumgarner repelled the Dodgers' most serious scoring threat in the fifth inning, which he generated by walking Justin Turner to load the bases with two outs. Turner had an admirable plate appearance, forcing Bumgarner to throw 12 pitches. By contrast, Bumgarner needed just three pitches to retire Adrian Gonzalez, representing the potential tying run, on a fly ball to center field.

San Francisco's subsequent offensive outburst dashed the Dodgers' lingering hopes for a comeback and left them contemplating their fluctuating fortunes. Not since Aug. 4 have they led the Giants in the West standings by only one game.

On Saturday night, the Giants' Tim Hudson will oppose L.A.'s Zack Greinke.

"Now it's like a mini one-game playoff," Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said. "You're only as good as the next day's starting pitcher."

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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