Giants have to fix Madison Bumgarner before Game 5

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The Giants entered the postseason with Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner in the rotation and no certainties after that. Following Bumgarner’s latest shaky outing against the Cardinals in Game 1 of the NLCS, they have to be wondering whether they can afford to pencil the lefty in for his expected Game 5 start.

Bumgarner was pounded for six runs in 3 2/3 innings by the Cardinals in Sunday’s defeat. He also gave up four runs in 4 1/3 innings in his Game 2 loss to the Reds in the NLDS. Dating back to the regular season, he’s allowed four runs in seven of his last nine starts. He’s turned in just one quality start during that span.

As of Aug. 20, Bumgarner was 14-7 with a 2.83 ERA for the season. Since that date, he’s struggled with his location and demonstrated less fastball velocity. He has a 37/19 K/BB ratio in 44 2/3 innings in his last nine starts. Before that, he had a 160/32 K/BB ratio in 171 2/3 innings.

Unless they can go the next three games without using Tim Lincecum, the Giants aren’t going to be in a position in which they can afford to replace Bumgarner. That seems like a long shot, since it’d likely involve Barry Zito going deep into Game 4. Most likely, they’ll take their chances again with Bumgarner in Game 5, but keep him on a very short leash in the process. They’ll almost certainly need more from him then if they’re going to reach the World Series for the second time in three years.

Bryce Harper to Little League players: “No participation trophies, first place only”

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Nationals’ star outfielder Bryce Harper had some words of advice for a local Little League team on Saturday, telling a crowd of young players and their parents that winning matters far more than any participation trophies they might receive for their efforts on the field.

“As much as they might tell you, ‘Oh, it’s okay, you guys lost…’ No, Johnny, no,” Harper explained. “No participation trophies, okay? First place only. Come on.”

The panic over participation trophy culture has swelled over the last few years as studies continue to suggest that children are happier when they’re praised for their accomplishments, rather than rewarded for simply trying their best. The general idea is that kids aren’t motivated to succeed when they know they’ll receive a ribbon or medal celebrating their efforts at the end of the day — regardless of whether they win or lose. (Granted, it stands to reason that every kid can feel the difference between winning a championship trophy and receiving a participation ribbon.) Some have taken the idea to an extreme, claiming that when a child receives too many accolades for mediocre or poor performances, it can warp the way they view the world by generating a sense of undeserved entitlement.

Harper kept his tone light during the Q&A session, however, drawing cheers and applause from the majority of parents and a few of the kids. The 2015 NL MVP has routinely taken his own advice over the years, earning Rookie of the Year honors, four All-Star nominations and a Silver Slugger award since he broke into the major leagues in 2012. Next on his list? A World Series championship.

Indians to move Danny Salazar to the bullpen

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MLB.com’s William Kosileski reports that Indians starter Danny Salazar is being moved to the bullpen and will be available as soon as Wednesday or Thursday. The Indians will go on a five-game road strip starting on June 2, and manager Terry Francona said that Salazar could get a start during that trip.

Salazar, 27, has struggled to a 5.50 ERA over his first 10 starts this season. While none of those starts were absolute disasters, he failed to finish the sixth inning in seven of those 10 starts. It’s a far cry from his performance over the last two seasons, when he finished with a 3.45 ERA and 3.87 ERA.

Salazar’s walk rate is up to a career-high 11.9 percent, per FanGraphs, and he’s allowing many more line drives at the expense of ground balls. Compared to 2016, his line drive rate is up 8.9 percent and his ground ball rate is down 10.4 percent. All of that could explain Salazar’s struggles to some extent.