April 17, 2014

SAN FRANCISCO -- The San Francisco Giants will take a four-game lead atop the National League West into their series finale against the second-place Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday.

But, clearly, the three-time champions since 2010 aren't satisfied.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy responded to Friday's 3-2 loss in the series opener by announcing two significant changes that will impact the look of his team moving forward.

With the Giants having scored just seven runs in the first three games of their current homestand, Bochy has decided to flip-flop two of his key hitters, Matt Duffy and Brandon Belt, in the batting order.

The move paid immediate dividends Saturday when Belt, hitting third, walked with two outs in the first inning and Duffy, slotted fifth, drove him in from second base with an RBI single after clean-up hitting Buster Posey also had walked.

Belt wound up getting on base three times in the game, which is exactly what Bochy is looking for from the guy in the spot ahead of Posey.

And Duffy had two RBIs, the type of production Bochy would like to see if and when teams pitch around the perennial All-Star.

The veteran skipper noted before the game that the move wasn't a one-day deal.

"We're going to see how it looks," he said. "We need to do something to score some more runs."

The veteran manager also announced more clearly defined roles for his bullpen, especially right-hander Cory Gearrin, who will assume injured Sergio Romo's job as chief set-up man for closer Santiago Casilla.

The moves were meant to take some pressure off Casilla, who has been brought into non-save situations in four of his last seven outings.

That role most often had fallen upon Romo in the past. But with the veteran injured, and no end of his rehabilitation from a strained right flexor in sight, Bochy felt he needed to put the rookie Gearrin on alert that those situations would be his for the foreseeable future.

"Part of it is me," Bochy said of recent bullpen issues. "They're going out there for a hitter at a time. A lot of these are young guys. I need to do a better job of letting them know what to expect."

Even after a gut-wrenching, 5-4 loss Saturday, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts wasn't planning any changes on the eve of the series finale.

"It felt like we had one taken away. It's a team we're chasing and we had a chance to gain ground," Roberts said of Saturday's 10-inning defeat. "But we've still got a chance to win the series, and that's our focus now."

Behind the scenes, Roberts' club was preparing for changes that could give the Dodgers a different look when they next see the Giants in August.

While the Dodgers were excited about 19-year-old Julio Urias getting the opportunity to get his feet wet in the rivalry on Sunday, matched up with Giants veteran Jake Peavy, the club had one eye on injury-rehab starts by more likely postseason starters Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-Jin Ryu in the minors.

Also with an eye on future personnel moves the team might make in the playoff race, the Dodgers cleared yet another spot on their 40-man roster by releasing veteran Jose Tabata on Saturday.

The move resulted in the Dodgers eating the remainder of the utility man's $4.5 million guaranteed contract for 2016, plus paying an additional $750,000 to buy out the remainder of his deal.

The Dodgers already had paid veterans Carl Crawford and Alex Guerrero a total of $44 million to terminate their deals earlier this season.

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