Defending champ Giants get on roll while facing contenders
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Washington. St. Louis. Pittsburgh.
In one quirky scheduling stretch, the San Francisco Giants are playing each of the three National League opponents they beat on the way to winning an NL pennant and eventually another World Series last fall.
After an impressive four-game sweep against the Nationals in a rematch of the division series, San Francisco hits the road for three games at St. Louis in what has emerged as a rivalry from the NLCS in 2012 and `14, then four more games at Pittsburgh after the Giants beat the Pirates in the one-game wild card.
San Francisco returned from being swept in four games by the Cubs at Wrigley Field from Aug. 6-9 by splitting a two-game series with Houston then outscoring the Nationals 28-12. The NL West might come down to the wire.
''There's a lot of baseball left to be played, but facing the Astros who are a good team, the Nationals this series a good team, then we've got St. Louis and Pittsburgh and then we come back and have St. Louis and Chicago,'' catcher Buster Posey said. ''It's a lot of teams right at the top of their division. It should be some good baseball.''
The Giants have gained some momentum despite being without injured outfielders Nori Aoki and Angel Pagan and second baseman Joe Panik.
''This is the character we know that lives here, no matter how bad the tough stretches are,'' right-hander Jake Peavy said. ''This ballclub's not going to quit, it's not going to go away. We're going to grind out our 162 games and let the chips fall where they may. We'll take the field with anybody. We did that a lot in the postseason last year. We lost so many key guys down the stretch and next guy up, we altered our roster and positions and won a world championship that way. We've just got to play our style of baseball and every day is win day from here on out.''
OH, SEPTEMBER: A.J. Hinch might be 11 years removed from his final major league season as a player, yet September baseball still hits close for Houston's first-year manager.
Especially with his Astros back in the playoff chase, at last. Leading the AL West by 3 1/2 games, Houston will likely add six to eight September call-ups, Hinch said in San Francisco.
''It's always an anxious time when you get to September,'' Hinch said. ''If you're in the minor leagues, you're holding your breath. Aug. 15 to Sept. 1 is about as agonizing as it gets. Time in the big leagues is pretty cool.''
This season has even more meaning as the Astros chase their first playoff berth since being swept by the White Sox in the 2005 World Series. It would be Houston's first since moving to the American League in 2013, too.
''I do like September baseball when you're in it,'' Hinch said. ''When you're out of it, it's a tough month.''
After four games to begin the week at home against Tampa Bay, the Astros will host the other West division leader with three games against the Dodgers at Minute Maid Park.
HARPER'S HOMERS: Washington manager Matt Williams is thrilled to see Bryce Harper reach the 30-home run milestone for the first time in his career - in mid-August, no less.
The Nationals slugger hit his 30th with a three-run clout at San Francisco on Friday.
Williams only hopes Harper keeps it going during the stretch run and deep into October.
''I don't know what it means for him, particularly. In the grand scheme of it, it means that he's had a good year. We're in August, it's not like we're at the end of September and it's just become 30. So there's a long way to go. To get to this point at this stage in the season, you've had to have a very good start, which he had. And most of all I think for Bryce is he's been healthy. That's probably the biggest factor. If he can stay healthy, then can do the things that we've seen him doing.''
Boston's two highest-scoring performances of the year came on back-to-back days when the Red Sox beat Seattle 15-1 on Friday and 22-10 on Saturday. The second offensive outburst came against Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, whose ERA jumped from 3.11 to 3.65 when he allowed 10 runs in 2 1/3 innings.
Miami outfielder Christian Yelich went on the disabled left because of a bruised right knee, but the Marlins called up outfielder Marcell Ozuna from Triple-A. Ozuna was considered a promising fantasy option after hitting 23 homers in 2014, and although he was batting only .249 when he was sent down in early July, he still has a lot of potential at age 24.
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Hisashi Iwakuma's no-hitter against Baltimore on Wednesday was also the first complete game of his career. The Seattle right-hander walked three and struck out seven in that 3-0 win, and his 116 pitches were the second-most of his career. He threw 118 in his previous start, against Texas on Aug. 7.
AP Baseball Writer Noah Trister in Detroit contributed to this report.