Baseball Report

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The Major League Baseball season is a grind, and if a team sticks it out, they just might reap the rewards. No team knows that better than the San Francisco Giants, who clinched the NL West title on the final day of last season before going on to win the World Series.

How the Giants use that experience as they attempt to defend their title this year will be a key.

“I have a very humble group here,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “We had a special year here last year and we know how difficult it is to repeat. Just to have the opportunity is what they look forward to. They know how tough it is — you become a so-called target. And they’ve done a great job of it to stay focused and try to win a ball game every day.”

San Francisco began this season slowly, going 1-4. They warmed up by winning four straight and six of seven before losing four in a row. Then the Giants won six consecutive games to move into first place in the NL West and had won seven of their last nine after opening a series at Colorado with a loss.

“The most important thing when you start the season is to try to get into the postseason and then take the next step,” Bochy said. “I was proud of how these guys showed up in spring training. They came in good shape and weren’t too full of themselves after having a great year.

“What’s important is that these guys understand how tough it is and what a long journey it is. When we look back, it went down to the last game of the season to get to the postseason. They remember that and how hard it is. They’ve got a great mind set to work hard.”

Once again, the Giants’ pitching is near the top of the class. Early this week, the staff was fourth in the majors with a 3.31 ERA; third in strikeouts with 332 and was limiting opponents to a .229 batting average, which was second in baseball.

Ryan Vogelsong (3-0) has been a pleasant surprise. He lowered his ERA to 2.36 after a rain-shortened, 3-0 win at Chicago on Saturday. In his previous start, Vogelsong allowed one hit in a 3-0 victory over the Rockies. Over those two starts, he gave up eight hits while striking out 11 and walking two in 12.1 innings pitched.

The Giants hard-luck pitcher has been Madison Bumgarner (0-6). Going into last Friday’s game against the Cubs, he had received no runs of support in four of his six starts.

Despite pitching well recently with an ERA of 2.60 over his last five starts, Bumgarner was still looking for the win column going into his scheduled start on Thursday at Los Angeles.

“The wins and losses are not something I’m going to concern myself with, I just want to go out there and keep us in the game, give us a chance to win,” Bumgarner said after retiring the last 11 Cubs he faced in last week’s loss. I just try to take it one start at a time and one inning at a time.”

San Francisco, which ranked in about the middle offensively last season, is even lower this year. The Giants are 29th in runs scored, 23rd in batting, 27th in on-base percentage and 23rd in slugging.

“We just have to keep believing that they’ll get back to being who they are,” Bochy said of his players. “Meanwhile we’ll try to do little things to try to get runs across the board. We’ve got some good hitters here. I might have jinxed us by saying we have a better offense than at this point last year.”

Buster Posey, who carried the team offensively in the second half last year, saw his average dip to .241 on May 8. But he brought it up to .264 with a five-game hitting streak through Monday.

Posey agrees with his manager that doing the little things matter.

“I think it’s going to take just stringing together some good at-bats whether it’s getting some walks, moving runners over,” Posey said. “Our pitching’s so good that if we do that, we’re going to win some ball games.”

Quotable: “We’ve got too much talent to be swept by anybody at Yankee Stadium, even if we’re playing the ‘27 Yankees.” — Yankees’ owner Hank Steinbrenner, after his club was swept by the Red Sox over the weekend.

Diamond Notes: After New York Yankees’ DH Jorge Posada took himself out of Saturday’s game against Boston because he felt disrespected, the team considered releasing him immediately, ESPN’s Buster Olney reported. Posada, hitting just .165, was dropped to the ninth spot in the batting order…Kansas City pitcher Vin Mazzaro became the first reliever since 1942 to allow 14 earned runs in a game in the Royals 19-1 loss to Cleveland on Monday…The Dodgers have had only two home games with attendance of at least 40,000 since the opening-season series against the Giants.

Copyright © 2011 Bob Hurst. All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Hurst Sports Media.

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