Matt Duffy was spectacular Sunday, finishing a single shy of a cycle. The rookie third baseman has filled a huge hole for the Giants after Casey McGehee struggled. (George Nikitin/AP)

Matt Duffy was spectacular Sunday, finishing a single shy of a cycle. The rookie third baseman has filled a huge hole for the Giants after Casey McGehee struggled. (George Nikitin/AP)

Duffy is the cat’s meow

You know that Matt Duffy and the Giants are on a roll when the guy nearly hits for the cycle on Hello Kitty giveaway day at AT&T Park.

“I guess it’s kinda fitting,” Duffy agreed on Sunday, when he clubbed a double, triple and home run in a 6-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies.

See, Duffy has three family cats, including a ginormous one named Skeeter, which is almost as popular and heavy as its owner. In fact, at 35 pounds, Skeeter is so big that it could be named Sandoval. When Skeeter doesn’t steal food in the kitchen, it likes to play video games.

Almost lost in the kitty talk was that Duffy could be the third baseman that the Champs thought they had in free agent Casey McGehee last offseason. The temptation is to think the 172-pound rookie is too scrawny to play regularly at a power position, but his eight home runs suggest otherwise.

As manager Bruce Bochy observed, “He’s stronger than you think — wiry strong.”
Duffy said he is eight-to-nine pounds heavier than last season. He also worked to improve the balance in his lower body at the plate, which in turn boosted his leverage.

“Duffy, he’s fun to watch,” teammate Madison Bumgarner said. “He’s a ballplayer. He’s a grinder.”
And at 24, Duffy will never become a fat cat if Skeeter can help it.

HELP ON THE WAY?: Bumgarner pitched seven-plus innings of two-run ball, recorded his 1,00th career strikeout and slugged his eighth career home run, which almost made you think he could will the Champs to the World Series again. But at some point, one has to think Paul Bunyan will need a partner at some point.

“We’ve been working him so hard,” said Bochy, who was quick to add, “We know how hard we worked him last year.”

So who might that No. 2 guy be? Chris Heston is a possibility, but it may be too much to expect of a rookie to step up in the postseason. Tim Lincecum? Ryan Vogelsong? Tim Hudson? Jake Peavy? Matt Cain, anyone?

Cain has had no setbacks in his rehab assignment and is a candidate to replace Lincecum in the rotation this week. The three-time All-Star hasn’t been his self the last two-plus seasons, but at 30, he’s still close enough to his prime to turn back the clock.

Before the season, Balls predicted Cain would have a lot to say about the Giants season one way or another, and it’s stickin’ to it.

ANYWHERE BUT HERE: For the record, Bumgarner changed his walk-up song to “Bad Company” by Five Finger Death Punch. Coupled with Duffy’s cat, he was led to say, “I guess things are going pretty good if we’re talking about that.”

NO DEFENSE FOR PANDA: In our latest episode of Panda Holds Up Boston, we find out that Pablo Sandoval isn’t all that he’s cracked up to be in the field, either. In fact, he may be the worst third baseman in the major leagues.

According to FanGraphs, a popular advanced metrics site, Sandoval has the worst Ultimate Zone Rating (-8.6) in the big leagues. His number is in the below average-to-poor range.

Sandoval also has a -9.5 Def rating, which also is the worst among regulars in the major leagues. Def is defined as Fielding Runs Above Average plus positional adjustment.

Part of the problem is that Sandoval likes to play on or near the grass area. That limits his ability to field hard-hit balls to either side, which his manager Jon Farrell has pointed out more than once this season.

AND ANOTHER THING: Sandoval took a .145 batting average against left-handers and a .224 batting average on the road into Sunday’s game.

OH, SWEET IRONY: Remember the name Chris Shaw. Because if he turns out to be the real deal, Sandoval will be remembered at AT&T Park for years to come.

The Giants drafted Shaw as compensation for the loss of Sandoval as a free agent last fall. In a pre-draft workout, the 6-foot-3 first baseman cleared the arcade in batting practice at AT&T Park. He aspires to become another Anthony Rizzo, the Chicago Cubs first baseman.

Another reason to like the kid: He played hockey in high school.

Wait — the story gets even better.

Shaw is a Boston College product who grew a Red Sox fan. His favorite player was David Ortiz, the guy who convinced Sandoval to reject the Giants’ $15.3-million qualifying offer. Now Shaw could replace Sandoval in the middle of the line-up before long.

PETA WOULDN’T LIKE THIS: The Athletics brought back a relative of Charlie-O the Mule in their 1965 tribute last weekend. That was the year team owner Charles Finley had the mule bring in relievers from the bullpen.

Try that in this day and age of endless parades to the mound, and 20-mule teams would have to make a comeback, too.

SURE SOX TO BE BAD: According to Baseball Prospectus, the A’s have the worst chance (7.1 percent) to reach the playoffs of any American League team that doesn’t have Sox in its nickname.

JOINED AT THE HIP: There were some tense moments at the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on Sunday. Strange, but witnesses said only ex-Giant Barry Bonds and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger seemed to be on pins and needles.

IN OTHER NEWS: Alex Rodriguez recorded his 3,000 career hit the other day, to which Balls had a one-word response.


Got an opinion? A gripe? A compliment? (A compliment?!?) Send them to and you may get your name in the paper one day.Bruce BochyChris HestonMadison BumgarnerMatt CainMatt DuffySan Francisco Giants

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