SAN FRANCISCO -- It's difficult for a reliever to maintain consistency when he doesn't face a lot of batters. Somehow, Javier Lopez has overcome this challenge.Lopez has functioned more this season as a left-handed specialist than ever, making 70 appearances yet pitching only 36 innings and facing 153 batters. Lopez also made 70 appearances last year, but by contrast he worked 53 innings and faced 222 hitters. He faced one batter in seven of his last eight regular-season outings and 12 of his final 17. The difference in activity didn't affect Lopez's performance. He allowed just two runs in his last 32 appearances. "I focus on fastball command a little bit more than I have in the past because I know I need to get a strike early," Lopez said. Lopez could be called upon quite frequently during the Division Series against the Reds, since their two biggest hitters, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, bat left-handed. Votto is hitless in five career at-bats against Lopez, while Bruce is 2-for-10.
Bochy prefers clinching postseason trip earlier
SAN FRANCISCO -- Heading into the final regular-season series of 2010 against the Padres, the Giants needed to win one of three games to qualify for the postseason.
The Giants lost the first two before gaining entry into the postseason with a victory on the final day of the season, a victory that essentially catapulted them toward much bigger and better things -- none bigger than the World Series title they won weeks later.
This season, though, the Giants clinched the National League West Division with 10 games left in the regular season.
So, Giants manager Bruce Bochy, which is better -- clinching early or gaining entry into the postseason party late with momentum on your side?
"I'll be honest, I like this clinching early thing," Bochy said Friday, flashing a big smile. "It does give you a chance to relax a little bit and set things up, give guys days [off] if you need it.
"There is talk about you want to keep the momentum going. It's better to clinch the last couple of days because you have to keep going hard."
The Giants went 5-5 in the 10 games that were played after they clinched, winning series against the Padres and the D-backs. Bochy said he was proud of his players with the way they handled themselves after they clinched.
"They wanted to play, they wanted to stay sharp out there," Bochy said. "But again, my preference is to get it done early."
Giants go with lefty Blanco in lineup vs. Cueto
SAN FRANCISCO -- With little fanfare, and without listing players one through nine, manager Bruce Bochy named the Giants' lineup for Saturday's Division Series opener against Cincinnati.Bochy said that there would be "no changes" to the batting order that San Francisco has used against right-handed pitchers. He also opted for left-handed-batting Gregor Blanco in left field instead of right-handed-swinging Xavier Nady, who's 5-for-8 lifetime off Reds right-hander and Game 1 starter Johnny Cueto. Hence, the Giants lineup will consist of center fielder Angel Pagan, second baseman Marco Scutaro, third baseman Pablo Sandoval, catcher Buster Posey, right fielder Hunter Pence, first baseman Brandon Belt, left fielder Blanco, shortstop Brandon Crawford and right-hander Matt Cain.