Heath Hembree

Pence homers twice, Giants feeling good after two-hit shutout over Rockies

Madison Bumgarner San Francisco Giants 2014

Yesterday it hit me that the 2014 San Francisco Giants are looking pretty good right now. They’re loose yet energetic, supple yet radiant. Wait, scratch the last two.

We talked about the good vibes in Scottsdale with Alex Pavlovic (along with a lot of other Giants-related topics) this morning in our latest edition of BASGcast, and just a few hours later the Giants themselves started echoing those sentiments.

First, there was a game to play. The Giants won 4-0 over the Rockies, who have probably already seen enough of Madison Bumgarner and Hunter Pence to last the entire 2014 season.

Bumgarner struck out four and allowed two hits and a walk in five scoreless innings to drop his ERA this Spring to … 0.00. He also laced a run-scoring single to left to put him at 2-for-4 so far from the plate. Bruce Bochy said afterward that he hasn’t seen any noticeable change in Bumgarner since getting the Opening Day nod.

“He’s had the same attitude and that’s what you love about the kid. It doesn’t matter where’s he’s pitching, he’s going to give you all he’s got. He’s got that great concentration you love from your pitchers. Good day for him today,” said Bochy, who transitioned to praising the rest of the staff.

“Really, I like the way all the pitchers are throwing the ball. Now sure, we’ve got a ways to go, but for them to be as sharp as they are now is a great sign.”

The sharpest player on the field other than Bumgarner was Pence, who went 2-for-3.

  • First time up: home run to left-center
  • Second time up: home run to right-center (almost equidistant to his first, maybe a little further)
  • Third time up: 110-mph line drive caught by the third baseman

“I think he’s always ready,” said Bumgarner. “He’s locked in today.”

But according to Pence, he is not ready. At least, not for the opener against Arizona on March 31.

“I’ll be ready whenever it’s that day. Until then, I’m going to be working to get ready. If I felt like I was ready now, maybe I’ll lose some focus where I could get better somewhere,” said Pence, who when asked which home run was better today (he now has three in Cactus League play) had a perfectly Pencian responce.

“The pitching was the best today,” Pence said.

Okay, fair enough. It’s one of the laws of covering the Giants. Ask Pence a question about himself and he will refuse to take the bait.

That’s what you come to expect when covering this squad, and the Giants are playing the way you’d expect too. Better, even.

“I feel good about where we’re at as a team right now. Everybody seems to be kind of getting locked in for Opening Day,” said Bumgarner.

Pitching and hitting?

“Defense, everything,” Bumgarner said. “I feel good about where we’re at right now. I feel like everybody’s pretty well on schedule for where they want to be.”

Everyone from the manager on down is making sure to add the same caveat — it’s only Spring. But this team probably learned a lesson during last year’s disjointed Cactus League run, with the squad scattered throughout Arizona and other areas playing in the WBC. Nothing really clicked, and all they had was faith that things would work out, like they always seemed to in 2010 and 2012.

The team’s marketing campaign has been about togetherness for what, five years now? It probably just seems that long. But the Giants were never really together in a physical sense until the games started mattering last year. This year, at least so far, has brought more normalcy and togetherness.

“The effort and the attitude in this clubhouse is really good right now,” said Pence. “That’s the mindset right now, to get out there and go hard.”

Spring Training notes

— Photo of the day: the No. 3 and 4 hitters

Buster Posey Brandon Belt

— Injury updates: Angel Pagan (lower back tightness) could play as early as Sunday. Marco Scutaro (a far more serious back ailment) is slowly making progress.

“We have to get to the point where he feels comfortable letting the bat go and not feeling gingerly about it. If this continues with no setbacks, we’re looking at early next week, Tuesday, possibly Wednesday, where he could go to the minor leagues and play in a game,” Bochy said.

— The bullpen pitched four perfect innings, one each by Brett Bochy, Jeremy Affeldt, Heath Hembree and Jean Machi.

“(They’re) making it difficult on us. It’s good to see these guys rise to the occasion as far as competing. They try to go out there and outdo each other,” said Bochy, who had some praise for Affeldt in particular.

“Jeremy’s had a good spring. Had a setback with the hamstring. But every time out I’ve liked what he’s done. He just seems very determined to bounce back after last year.”

— The Rockies with runners in scoring position: 0-for-1. That’s what happens when a team finishes with two hits (one off Bumgarner’s glove) and a walk.

“We pitched the ball pretty  well, I think that was the true story of this game,” said Pence. “The pretty successful spring we’ve had has been in large part due to the pitching.”


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