Thursday, May 21, 2015

Sweet Sweep

I imagine the doggers are pretty tired of AT&T Park this season.   There are several reasons for this:
 1) It's cold,
 2) Most spectators are not supportive of their efforts,
 3) They don't score runs for like, 3 straight games,
 4) Madison Bumgarner hits home runs off of their ace, and
 5) They haven't won a single game.

That is, they haven't won a game in 6 tries at AT&T, for 7 - 2 record against LA half way through the season's match ups.  Madison Bumgarner was on the mound today, and sometimes, in the batter's box.  Can you say that a guy who throws a shutout struggled?  Madison was missing with his sliders and curve balls to start the game, he got the sliders to start working about the end of the 2nd inning, and it was until the 4th when his curve balls were consistent.  He walked 2 and gave up 7 hits, and an error put people on base when they should have been out of the fourth inning.  He threw 107 pitches and was out of the game with one out in the 7th inning.  Madison struck out 6.  Clayton Kershaw, of course, was matched up against Maddy, and he seemed a bit more comfortable on the mound, although he also gave up 7 hits and 2 runs and was responsible for the baserunners that scored the other 2, and was tagged for the loss.

About those runs:  Madison Bumgarner also hit the game-winning rbi, a rocket shot home run into the left field bleachers on the first pitch he saw from Kershaw in the 3rd inning.  That was reportedly the first home run Clayton Kershaw had ever given up to a pitcher.  Hunter Pence, who, for some reason, has a horrible track record against Kershaw, singled in Angel Pagan in the 4th.  In the 8th, after Buster Posey had finally solved Kershaw for a hit, sending Pagan to 3rd base and ending Kershaw's afternoon, Pence hit an rbi single to score Pagan, that, had not Chris Hatcher deflected the ball as it bounced over the mound, might have been a double play.  Brandon Crawford also singled in the 8th to score Posey.

Let us pause here to consider the bullpen.  During these three games, we have seen some great starting pitching, but also: Machi, Lopez, Romo, Casilla, Machi, Lopez, Affeldt, Kontos, Lopez, Romo, and Casilla.  6 1/3 innings, 0 runs allowed.  The doggers stranded 17 RISP.  The Giants have won 6 straight games and 7 of their last 9.  They are 14 - 5 in May.  Did I mention that Madison Bumgarner hit a home run?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Home Fog Advantage Tim

The only thing better than completely shutting down the first place doggers, is turning around and doing it again.  Tonight's version,  a 4-0 result, featured a fantastically effective Tim Lincecum, the usual tough bullpen, more than enough offense and a lovely foggy evening. The slightly wet home crowd even got treated to a massive Buster Posey homer when a close game erupted in the bottom of the seventh.  Life is good. Unless you are a dogger.

There was nothing foggy about our beloved Freak this night. Tim Lincecum came out throwing strikes and kept it up for seven strong innings, giving up three hits, NO RUNS, 2 walks and 4 strike outs (game score 73).  The highly regarded L.A. offense was totally muzzled once again.  Tim looked super tough, especially against Gonzalez.  On a wet and foggy night, Tim seemed very comfortable.

Key Moment: Grandal crushed a double (one of the only hard hit balls off Tim) and then went to third on a wild pitch. It seemed that Lincecum lost his focus and I feared the worst, but he got Ethier to groundout, Uribe to pop up - then he walked the pitcher, of course, because he wants us all to have strokes - and got the impressive Pederson to groundout.  That was really one of their only chances, as they finished 0-4 RISP.

Great game for Brandon Crawford AGAIN.  He looks ready to put together a great season at the plate.  Another RBI (#26) and three hits.  Isn't he the best SS around now? Or am I biased?

Round 3 : MadBum vs. Kershaw tomorrow.  SWEEEEEEEEEEEP!!!!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Giants Blank Dodgers

Tim Hudson held the line for 6-1/3 with his usual array of sinkers away and four Giants relievers combined to hold off the Dodgers the rest of the way for the team's sixth shutout. It was a nail-biter's dream as the potent LA lineup kept creating chances and their pitchers kept it close all night. Buster Posey poked a single to left to give the home town boys a 1-0 lead in the 3rd, driving in Joe Panik who was on base three times. That was the only scoring until the Dodgers defense gifted the Giants an insurance run in the 8th. Utility man Enrique Hernandez had pinch-run for Adrian Gonzalez and then went to left field on a double-switch where he couldn't handle Brandon Belt's deep fly to the track. It wound up a two-base error and Belt later scored on a wild pitch from Chris Hatcher. Starting LF Scott Van Slyke, moved to first base when A-Gon was taken out, had been picked off by Sergio Romo for the third out in the top of the inning, snuffing a potential rally. Beautiful stuff, man!

Huddy wasn't overpowering, but he kept the ball down and refused to give in and got lots of help from his big park and stellar fielders. He left after a one-out hit from Alex Guerrero. Jean Machi got his batter, Justin Turner, to hit a grounder but they couldn't turn two as Panik made a rare poor throw. Javier Lopez then walked both Joc Pederson and Jimmy Rollins to crank up the intensity but Sergio Romo got a comebacker from Howie Kendrick to end that threat. The Dodgers put two on in the 9th with two outs against Santiago Casilla but Rollins grounded out to Belt and the win was secured.

Tim Lincecum tomorrow night.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Winning Weekend

The Giants rack up another big number--this time it was nine--and close out the weekend with their third straight win. Chris Heston couldn't get out of the 3rd, but Yumseiro Petit kept enough of a lid on things to hand it over to the late-inning crew and they got it done. Jeremy Affeldt had a challenging time, but Santiago Casilla made up for it with an overpowering nine-pitch save. In the end the Giants scorching hot lineup scored on every Reds pitcher except Aroldis Chapman, and they created an opportunity against him with two hits. There were heroes up and down: three hits and three RBI from Aoki; three hits (including a clutch late homer!) and three runs scored from Belt; two hits and two RBI from Pence; two hits, three RBI, and a run from BCraw; a hit, walk, and a run from Blanco; and two hits and an RBI from Duffy. They needed every damn run today, that's for sure. I'm happy to see that the hitters can take advantage of a offense-friendly park and match up with these bandbox brigades. We know they can play their special brand of walk-off bad-bounce one-run win at home, but a great team has to win those slug-fests on the road now and again as well. A good club has lots of dimensions, and we saw that this weekend with thirty runs scored.

The Giants return to San Francisco for a quick three with their SoCal rivals the Los Angeles Dodgers before hitting the road again. Thursday we get to see Madison Bumgarner and Clayton Kershaw. The Tims man the other two starts.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

p.s. The Giants have now scored 145 runs which equals their 145 runs allowed.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

2nd Inning: 11-7

Reversing their 1st seasonal inning exactly the Giants fought their way back to .500 by Game 36. A spectacular 10-2 thumping of the Reds in Cincy behind Bum and some bombs brought the 2nd inning to a close at 11-7, flipping the 7-11 result from the 1st.

Despite a few recent surges, the Giants still don't score a hell of a lot of runs. Currently they are at 125 for the season, second from the bottom in the NL. At 3.47 rpg, the team is about half a run away from a competent attack--the current league average is 4.16 rpg. Here are the ugly numbers: 32 GIDP to top the NL and 279 LOB, also tops. That's a lot of blown chances. The flip side is that they are putting guys on base and putting the ball in play. Here are more numbers: sixth in hits with 323, fifth in walks with 113, and 249 strikeouts, the second-fewest. What's cool is the distribution of bases on balls: 16 apiece for Buster and Aoki, 14 for Panik, 13 for Craw, 11 for Belt, and 10 for Blanco. The Giants only have one great hitter, but they have a heap o'guys who do a lot of things well. The organization likes versatility and expects their players to man their position with aplomb and be able to get a hit, work a walk, move a runner over, lay down a bunt, steal a base, etc. It's the slow, steady, attritional work of carpenter ants and not the flash and bang of a demolition crew. Either way your house can fall down, am I right?

Reasons for optimism are plenty as the team has won as many games this month (9) as they did in all of April. They rate well enough in wOBA (.312, seventh), wRC+ (100, tied with two other teams for second), and OPS+ (97, seventh) to suggest that some of the low offensive numbers are park effects. If they can hit close to the middle of the pack all season long they will be fine. I like what we are seeing from Brandon Crawford and am not surprised by his improved hitting as he has gotten better every season with astonishing regularity. Who knows how high this guy can go? I'm happy Brandon Belt has had some recent success as now his numbers are closer to expectations. He reminds me a lot of Chili Davis--I remember him going in blazing stretches where he looked like Mickey Mantle and then matching those with total blindness for a week or more. Belt has that "now-you-see-him-now-you-don't" vibe going on, but in total he's a hell of a good player. Gregor Blanco is another under-appreciated fellow, right now he is fifth on the club in OPS, ahead of Pagan, Duffy, Aoki, Maxwell, and McGehee. Speaking of Casey Without A Bat, the poor man is a black hole at .191/.248/.287 for a .535 OPS. That's negative WAR territory. With Matt Duffy playing well maybe he can create some value as a quality backup and channel Edgar Renteria if they make the post-season. Hector Sanchez was the only one doing worse at the plate and he was optioned to AAA to make room for Hunter Pence.
 
The Giants have allowed 135 runs. That's ten more than they've scored and why they are a .500 team. That's the fifth-best in the NL, however. Only the Cardinals, Mets, Dodgers, and Pirates are better. It seems like the pitching is worse than it is. We know both Tim Hudson and Ryan Vogelsong have some ugly-looking numbers but we've seen that they can both still deliver strong outings. Tim Lincecum, Chris Heston, and Madison Bumgarner have been The Big Three so far. In the 'pen we've seen generally excellent work by the usual suspects. Sergio Romo perhaps embodies the feeling that things aren't 100% as he has 19 strikeouts in his 11 IP but also nine hits, five walks, and six runs. With a little more consistency from the whole squad we could see an uptick in results. Strikeouts are way low (7.0K/9, next-to-last) but walks allowed are good (2.8BB/9, fifth-best). as are hits (8.4H/9, fourth). FanGraphs saber-stats don't like the Giants much, ranking them in the middle of the pack mostly, but I think with the small sample size and the early struggles that's not a concern. There are some ugly box scores that have to get averaged out! With Jake Peavy and, we hope, Matt Cain in the wings the show will go on even if the cast changes a bit.

The 18-18 Giants find themselves 5-1/2 back of the 23-12 Los Angeles Dodgers who are killing it on both sides of the ball this month (84 RS, 44 RA, .714 win pct.) Their lineup is on a blistering home run pace (54 so far) and leading the league in OPS by 100 points. Their pitchers are leading the league in strikeouts (321) and have allowed the fewest hits (274). San Francisco has to keep pace and also has to fend off a challenge by the pesky San Diego Padres who are 19-18 and a half-game up. It's obviously very early in the season but teams can ride a hot start to a title as well the Giants know so it behooves them to avoid losing streaks and other long stretches of poor play. LA won 96 last year and it looks equally potent this year. They'll cool off naturally, all teams do. Let's hope the Giants are ready to streak past them when that time comes.

 Two more in Cincinnati and then home for three with the Dodgers after on off-day Monday.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Pick A Title For This Post

1) Giant Bats Heat Up Great American Ballpark
2) Maddy Cool, Cincy Smokin' Hot
3) Belt, Buster Set Cincy on Fire
4) Fireworks Come Early

What'dya think?

The Giants put up the most runs for a game this season with 10.  Brandon Belt, suddenly hot after suddenly being cold, got 3 hits, including a home run and a double and 5 rbi.  Buster Posey also homered for 2 rbi.  Gregor Blanco, leading off, and Joe Panik, batting second, each had two hits and each walked which is a great way to set up scoring.  Angel Pagan did not get a hit, but got an rbi on a ground-out, and Brandon Crawford, Justin Maxwell and Casey McGehee each got an rbi.  Piling on is never a bad idea, but it is an especially good idea in Cincinnati, where home runs happen.

Madison Bumgarner gave up a couple of those, a solo shot to Billy Hamilton and Zack Cozart.  That was it for the Reds' scoring, though as Madison threw 104 pitches in 7 innings, gave up 8 hits but no walks and struck out 4.  Yusmiero Petit finished the game, allowing 2 hits but no runs.

So, yeah, a giant smokestack set up for pyrotechnics out in center field caught fire during the game, and it was Fireworks Night.  I've seen games called on account of darkness, rain, snow, volcanic ash, earthquakes and social unrest, but never something quite like this.


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Stumbling Tim

Tim Lincecum's nifty streak of high quality starts came crashing to earth, much as Tim himself did a couple times, and the Giants lost a close one to the tough Cincinnati Reds, 4-3.   Marlon Byrd did most of the damage with a soft 2 RBI single that chased Lincecum in the fifth and an eigth inning game winning solo shot off Romo.  Sergio doesn't give up many homers to righties, so that really hurt. The amazing Chapman closed out the ninth with ease.  I sure hope we don't see that guy again this weekend.

A couple of the more memorable moments in tonight's nail-biter involved Tim literally falling off the mound as he delivered crucial pitches.  Both of his ridiculous stumbles were the result of muddy cleats and it is a bit surprising that he didn't hurt himself.  It was also surprising that Tim was able to actually get the ball to Buster as he was twisting into a heap on he ground.  They were ugly moments that seemed to capture Tim's almost complete lack of control.  Five walks, a HBP, a WP, and the two lovely flops mentioned above, were all jammed into 4.2 painful innings. He managed to wriggle out of a couple terrible innings, like the 31 pitch, 3 walk, first. However, it finally caught up to him on his 99th pitch as he lost the lead in the fifth and got yanked.  All in all, this was a real shame, mostly because it seems to derail Tim's previous trend of excellent control. I know that it caught me off guard; I very much expected another solid outing. I sure don't have the "new" Tim figured out.  Is there such a thing as consistently inconsistent? 

Let's just run this stumbling metaphor into the dirt (pun intended) and point out that all you can do after you fall is get up, brush yourself off and try again.  MadBum will get us back on track tomorrow, he is so tough on the road.  



Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Heston, Hitters Hammer Houston

The Giants smacked the ball all over the place tonight against the Astros and scored EIGHT runs for the first time in the season. In fact, it was the first time they'd scored seven. But the real story was the performance of Chris Heston in homer-happy Houston. Using a nasty curveball to complement his natural sinker, he had that free-swinging bunch swinging freely into TEN strikeouts, his career high. Heston was so tough that he recorded all 27 outs for a complete game, his first, retiring the final 22 in order. It was the first complete game for a Giants pitcher in 2015. Heston's first batter hit a single and his only other blemish was a two-out homer by catcher Jason Castro in the 2nd. All the rest went down after that. A dominating display, to be sure, especially on the road against a good club. Let's hope we get to see more of that stuff from Giants pitchers during this bandbox junket.

Matt Duffy had a career high FIVE runs batted in with his bases-loaded double in the 2nd and two-run single in the 5th, by the way. It's easy to forget the great show he put on with both the bat and the glove. Giants fielded superbly, in fact, and the Astros had a key misplay. With Duffy, Craw, Panik, and Belt, that's a homegrown infield, and with Posey and Heston it was all former farmhands. You have to like that.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Comeback Win Makes Moms Smile

Ryan Vogelsong was all lined up to get a proper Caining this afternoon in San Francisco but the lads rallied in the 9th and walked off as winners. Mat Latos was the other hard-luck no-decision recipient as he kept the Giants from stringing anything together for seven innings, matching Vogie's sterling effort. The Sunday lineup had Buster Posey, Angel Pagan, and Brandon Crawford all on the bench but each made a pinch-hit appearance later in the game. Starting shortstop Matt Duffy got the game-winning hit and starting catcher Andrew Susac started the game-winning rally. Pinch-runner Joaquin Arias got deked and held at third by Ichiro on Gregor Blanco's long blast to right field after Susac's hit. That double should have tied the game but the Marlins obliged with a bases-loaded walk to Nori Aoki, who had another good day, to make up for it. Duffy's coup de grĂ¢ce came quickly and the Giants got their 16th win to climb back to a .500 record.

Vogelstrong was the story once again and only an unfortunate sequence with Sergio Romo giving up the go-ahead run in the 8th marred the afternoon on the pitching side. Overall, on the 7-3 homestand, the Giants allowed 30 runs with 22 of those coming in three games. Otherwise it was four shutouts and two two-runs allowed games to get six of the seven wins. The first and final games were both walk-offs in the 9th. The Giants swept the Angels, took two of three from the Padres, and salvaged a split with the Marlins. Not a bad way to open the month of May. After an off-day tomorrow the team is on the road in Houston and Cincinnati and then back home for three with the Dodgers before hitting the road again.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

Good Guys Lose

All the way around.  G's lose to M's.  The Giants struggled with the surprisingly competent Florida Marlins and the Golden State Warriors got crunched by Memphis.  It's cold as hell and we're running out of water fast.

Madison Bumgarner was on the mound for the Giants.  He threw 99 pitches, and that netted him 10 strikeouts.  Unfortunately, the 3 runs in 5 innings was enough for an L as the Giants could only score 2.  The Giants put up 10 hits but could only net 2 runs, in contrast to the Marlins who could only put up 8 hits, but wound up with 6 runs.  Miami bunched their hits in the 4th off of Madison, and then bunched a few more in the 8th off of Jean Machi.  The Giants meanwhile, sprinkled their hit allotment throughout the lineup and across the game.  What can you say?  Madison had 10 strikeouts and only 5 hits, but they resulted in 3 runs.  After the other day's win, they were at .500 again, but now have to win today to split with the Marls and get back to even.