Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Lost Weekend

I was expecting a little more after the stirring walk-off win Friday night. But the St. Louis Cardinals had other plans and delivered a weekend ass-kicking over the Giants in San Francisco. Out-pitched and out-hit the team was behind right away in both games and never managed to get the game-tying or go-ahead blow. Ryan Vogelsong and Chris Heston were both sub-par and the 'pen failed to stop the bleeding. With the Dodgers winning last night the Giants fall to four back. LA takes on the Cubs in the finale tonight. There are only 32 dances left on the card--the Giants have put themselves in a spot where they really need to win the big showdown series in SoCal this week. At least it is the "A-Team" of Jake Peavy, Madison Bumgarner, and Mike Leake. The team has to play five games better than their chief foe over the final month. It's possible, of course, but it's just stretching the probabilities at this point. The Giants need more than a hot month, they need at least a mini-meltdown from the other guys. At least they have seven chances to take matters into their own hands, the first one at seven o'clock tomorrow night.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Bum Was Bum Today*

* Quote from Bruce Bochy, post game show, in answer to the question, "How good was Madison Bumgarner today?"  I'm not sure why they have the post game show.  It would be generous to call the questions from the reporters 'softballs', nerf-balls is more like it.  Cotton balls.  Cotton candy balls.  I'm sure it has to be trying on Bruce to think of ways to state the obvious.

Madison Bumgarner was effin'-a good.  6 IP (and that was simply to give him a bit of a rest), 98 pitches, 12 K, 2 BB and 2 hits.  Those hits were back to back in the 2nd inning, to Rizzo who went to 2nd on a wild pitch, and then to Castro for a run.  Madison then struck out a cub, walked one and struck out 2 more, and then did not give up another hit.   George Kontos, Mike Broadway and Josh Osich finished the afternoon.

The Giants won this game, 9 - 1.  Juan Perez, starting in center, answered the cubbies sole run with an rbi double in the bottom of the 2nd to score Kelby Tomlinson.  In the 3rd, Matt Duffy put the Giants ahead with an rbi single that scored Nori Aoki, who singled, stole second and advanced to 3rd on a throwing error by the rookie catcher, Kyle Schwarber.  Brandon Belt walked, and Marlon Byrd hit a 3 run shot to make it 5 - 1 Giants.

That wasn't all, though as additional thrills were in store on a warm San Francisco afternoon.  In the 8th, the bulk of the Giants remaining power was up.  Brandon Belt walked and Buster Posey doubled to put 2 RISP.  Marlon Byrd was intentionally walked to load the bases.  FNGlasses guy Kelby Tomlinson fought off about 9 pitches, and put one in the left field seats for his first major league home run, a grand slam.  He tried to be stoic when he took the field, but couldn't help but break into a grin.  Me, too.

The Giants put a line-up on the field that had 3 of the 8 position players they opened the season with.  The news on Brandon Crawford and Gregor Blanco is good, though, and Angel Pagan is close to ready to come back also.   Hudson could probably pitch if needed.  News from the smog suckers victory over the Reds today was that Gonzales hit a ball into his knee and Puig had a hammie issue.  But the guy that I want to mention is Buster Posey.   Buster had 2 hits today, and one was a double, as was yesterday's go-ahead rbi hit.  Buster Posey's recent little slump-inducing mechanical flaw, which he seems to have corrected, coincided exactly with the Giants' struggles, and now we are winning again when he is hitting.  Yeah, he carries the team.

Also, I think Jon should post for Leake.  Or any pitcher whose name starts with an L.  If we somehow wind up with a rotation of Leake, Locke, Lincecum, Latos and Lohse, Jon should do all the posting.

And finally, the media seems to have given up on the wild card because the Giants are 5.5 back.  What they are forgetting, is that the contending teams, Pittsburgh and the Cubs have to play each other the last month of the season when baseball is back to playing intra-divsion.  The cubbies have to play Pittsburgh and St. Louis each 6 times.  A lot can happen.  Like for instance, beating the Cardinals while the wonderful cubs beat up on LA. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

7th inning: 8-10

Boxscore
The Giants beat the Cubs tonight for the first time this season. Jake Peavy was gritty after a rocky 1st and might have made it through the 7th if Nori Aoki hadn't lost a ball in the lights. The team needed a win to keep pace with the Dodgers and a fine effort from the 'pen sealed the deal. Neither Brandon Crawford nor Gregor Blanco were available to play so the short-handed squad needed to step up. Let's hope both are back soon, this team is beat up enough.

The Giants 8-10 record in the 7th seasonal inning is in keeping with their up-an-down performance in 2015. Here's what we have:

1st inning: 7-11
2nd inning: 11-7
3rd inning: 12-6
4th inning: 8-10
5th inning: 9-9
6th inning: 12-6
7th inning: 8-10

67-59, .532 win pct., 2-1/2 games behind Los Angeles with 36 (two innings) to play.

Month-by-month it looks like this:

April: 9-13
May: 21-9
June: 12-14
July: 14-10
August: 11-14

The Giants are 21-16 since the Break, a .568 clip. Maintaining that will put them at 87-88 wins. To get to 90 they'll have to go 23-13 or a blistering .639 pace. They'll have to get healthy and string good starts together. The expanded rosters are just around the corner but there are five tough games against quality foes before then. Ace Madison Bumgarner will close out the series with the Cubs tomorrow and then the Cardinals have the weekend for three. Mike Leake and Ryan Vogelsong are penciled in for the first two and it's TBD for Sunday. Then they hit the road on Monday the 31st for a massive showdown against the Dodgers. If the rotation holds we'll see Peavy, MadBum, and Leake in LA.

At this point in the season every little thing matters. It looked like Matt Duffy might have hurt himself tonight but he stayed in the game. No more casualties, lads. I've thought all along that this thing--the West race--will get decided in the final week at home with four against the Dodgers and three against the Rockies. If they can right the ship a bit here in San Francisco before those ten away games to start the final month I'll feel a lot better. I'm sure they will, too.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

Cubs Stomp Giants

Boxscore
I had to drink myself into a stupor after that debacle. I like a little George Dickel No. 12 when Matt Cain pitches, some Tennessee whisky for the Tennessee Stud. Lately these nips have been anesthetic rather than celebratory as Matty has played the Tennessee Dud instead. And the worse it got last night, the more I got. By the time he was done, so was I. Think about Tim Lincecum for a second. We watched him throw more and more breaking balls as he could not throw his fastball for strikes. Matt Cain is throwing more breaking balls for the opposite reason--he always throws his fastball for strikes. Unfortunately those fastballs are right down the pipe. In the wheelhouse. On a platter. Batting practice. T-ball location. Yikes, it's ugly. The Giants don't know what to do. They figure it's only a matter of time before he figures it out. After all, he's got a brand new elbow and has to learn to throw all over again. The problem is there is no time left. It's a pennant race and it's increasingly likely that the only way the Giants make the post-season is to win the West. So, what to do with Matt Cain? Like I said the Giants don't know. So I sure as hell don't. I do know that it's painful to watch him struggle.

Speaking of things that leave me speechless: Jeremy Affeldt.

Home cooking is supposed to be better for you, right? So let's see some championship ball from the home squad instead of from the NL Central.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Bucs Burn Giants

Boxscore
In the top of the 7th the Giants were trailing 4-2 with two outs and one on when Brandon Crawford hit a ball over the head of centerfielder Andrew McCutcheon, a feat in itself. It looked like a homer off the bat and when it bounced on the track it was at least a run and likely a triple. Alas, the ball went over the fence and into the stands and Andrew Susac, on first via a walk, had to turn around and go back to third base, taking a run off the board. Brandon Belt made the last out, stranding both runners. It seemed, at the time, emblematic of the game and the road trip. It finished 5-2 Pirates. I don't think the game was as close as the score--both Giants runs were gifted by poor fielding. Ryan Vogelsong got pulled in the 4th having allowed 11 baserunners. The three runs he gave up in the 1st were enough as the lineup could not get the big hit once again, and even when BCraw did it wasn't enough. Give Pittsburgh credit for being a good team and taking it to the defending champs.

Fortunately the Dodgers helped things out by losing again in Houston and the deficit is at 1-1/2 games. The Giants, mercifully, have an off-day tomorrow and open a home series, thankfully, against the Cubs and Cardinals on Tuesday. Matt Cain gets the call.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Byrd is the Word

Marlon Byrd.  I have to admit, I was less than impressed when I saw the news of the Giants' trade for Marlon Byrd.  I am more impressed now.   Madison Bumgarner was on the hill tonight in Pittsburgh.  He struggled for the first couple of innings - 50 pitches in the first 2, but then settled down.  The pitch count got to him, though, and he surrendered the hill with 1 out into the 7th.

Madison's line: 6 1/3 IP, 109 pitches, 6 hits, 3 runs, all earned, 1 BB.  Sergio Romo gave us 1 1/3 and allowed the 4th run, Osich an out, and Santiago Casilla, after a tense walk, got a 4 - 6 - 3 ground ball double play and the final out for a 6 - 4 Giants' victory.

Marlon Byrd made an immediate positive impression with a 1st inning, hitting a home run with Matt Duffy on board for the 2nd and 3rd run of the game.  Buster Posey tallied the 1st rbi with a sac fly to score Nori Aoki.  Byrd, batting 5th, had a 3 hit night.  Nori Aoki, in the lead-off spot had a 3 hit night.  Giants chalked up 14 hits, most of them (11) against Pittsburgh starter Jeff Locke, who was responsible for all of the Giants' 6 runs.  Brandon Belt and Gregor Blanco both had 2 hits, and Belt had an rbi.  And, oh yeah, Madison Bumgarner hit a 2 run home run.

So the Giants could actually put together a winning record on this 7 game swing to the midwest, but they will have to win tomorrow and Sunday to do it.  Then LA (who is, by the way, sans-hit in Houston with only 3 outs left.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Busch Blues

It was an epic series in St. Louis topped by a great game tonight. The home crowd got the thrills with the series win, capped by Yadier Molina's 100th career homer. The Giants battled back from a 2-0 deficit to take a 3-2 lead in the top of the 7th but the Cardinals beat the youngsters in the Giants bullpen to prevail by a 4-3 score. Just when we gushed enthusiastically about lefty Josh Osich and righty Hunter Strickland they gave up the tying and go-ahead runs in consecutive innings. Welcome to the big leagues, lads. The Giants had plenty of chances and fought hard but couldn't quite pull it off. They scored 1, 2, and 3 runs in the three games. The Cardinals scored 2, 0, and 4 runs. I think you can do the math. It was frustrating in the end because the A's beat the Dodgers again in Oakland. The deficit stays at two games.

Two things were notable tonight. The first was the play by Juan Perez to take a home run away from Stephen Piscotty. It had to be one of the best catches of the year. Hell, as good a catch as a guy can make. He caught a ball that would have hit the top of the fence and gone out except that his glove was there before it came down. It wasn't just the long run, leaping climb up the wall, and two-handed basket catch. No, it was the effortless self-possession. He just knew he was going to make the play. It looked like he had worked on it before the game. "Hey Bam-Bam, hit me a few off the top of the right-centerfield wall, OK? I gotta work on my spectacular catches." Perez knew exactly where that ball was going and what he'd have to do to make the play and he executed it with grace and style. Way to go, Juan! It saved a run. Which brings us to notable item number two, Matt Cain. He got hammered in the first three innings and could have been behind by a lot more but he found a groove in the final three to conjure up a strong start. Matty even drove in the Giants first run with a long sacrifice fly to centerfield. That kind of result (6 IP, 2 R, 1 BB, 6K) is what we need to see the rest of the way.

Tough series coming up in Pittsburgh: four games starting tomorrow and spanning the weekend. Off-day Monday.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

VSC FTW

Boxscore
Ryan Vogelsong was Veteran Savvy Clutchness personified tonight in St. Louis. Struggling from the opening bell with a 30-pitch first inning torture-fest he dug deep into his reservoir of grit and got through it unscathed. He then added five scoreless frames after that and finished with an impressive 6  2  0  0  1  5 line (Game Score 72) to stymie the best team in baseball. Josh Osich and Sergio Romo were perfect in the 7th and 8th, Romo whiffing all three he faced. Javier Lopez' walk of Matt Carpenter to open the bottom of the 9th broke a streak of 15 consecutive batters retired by Giants pitchers. Beleaguered closer Santiago Casilla got the three outs he needed, two via the strikeout, to secure the save. He needed a strong outing and we fans certainly needed to see one from him. The Giants turned the tables on the Cardinals after a tough loss last night. It sets up an interesting rubber match tomorrow as the struggling Matt Cain is the listed starter.

With Hunter Pence ailing rookie Ryan Lollis got the start in left field and he delivered a two-out hit in the 8th--his very first--after a hit by fellow newbie Kelby Tomlinson. Only six hits on the night for the Giants, so way to go, FNGs! Long road to the bigs for Lollis. He's 28 and was a 37th-round pick in 2009. Cardinals starter Lance Lynn had some gnarly-looking stuff but was ultimately undone by his wildness. He walked six in 6-2/3 and three of those walks kept rallies going. With two on in the 5th Buster Posey walked and Brandon Crawford drove in the first run with a squibber that wasn't hit hard enough for a double play. In the 7th Madison Bumgarner pinch-hit for Vogie and naturally roped a single to left. What can't that man do? Gregor Blanco and Matt Duffy walked and Brandon Belt was hit by a pitch to score Bum and make it 2-0 and that's how it finished. It was a small-ball night!

That was the team's 16th shutout. They bump their August record to 9-8, their road record to 30-30, and are 19-11 (.633) since the Break.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sa-sa-sa-saWeeeeep!

The Giants finished off a 4 game sweep of the struggling Nationals today at PhoneCo Park today, 5 - 0.  The Giants and Nats came into the series in the same boat, trying to catch a first place team.  The difference was that the Nats were heavily favored to win the east and the National League while the Giants were, as usual, slated to finish behind LA.  Only one of the teams could make a meaningful move, or neither could, but the Giants did it.  The Giants look great lately - like it is the time in the season to make a move and they are ready to do it.  What's more, they overcame a 0 - 3 record in 2015 against Washington after a disastrous July series there and won the match-up, 4 games to 3.  Also, going back to that more recently disastrous 3 - 7 road trip that started July 31, they are at .500.  A  5 - 1 home stand.  The Giants only tallied 7 hits, but that included a Hunter Pence 3 run home run and a solo shot from (who else?) Madison Bumgarner.  The Giants seem to be hitting a lot of doubles and triples lately.  Doubles today for Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford and Madbum.  Remember when the meme was that the Giants won on the road but not at home?

Let's talk about Madison Bumgarner, shall we?  Today's line: 9 IP, 3 hits, 1 BB (what's up with that?), 0 runs, 112 pitches and 14 K.  Madbum was 2 for 3 at the plate, with 2 rbi, including the solo shot home run.  That is his 4th home run of the year.  In 53 at bats.  Project that out to a full season as a regular batter and you can put him down for 40 hr.  His OPS today was a crisp 2.000.  He has passed Jason Schmidt on the list of San Francisco strikeout leaders (in order: Juan Marichal, Tim Lincecum, Gaylord Perry, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner).  He is the only SF Giant player besides Juan Marichal to hit a home run and strike out 10 players in the same game.  It was his 5th double-digit K game of the season.  Madison Bumgarner just turned 26 on August 1.   The Nationals beat the Madison Bumgarner last October for their only win of the 5 game series, then knocked him out of the box with 6 runs after 5 innings on July 4.  So, yeah, he wanted it.  Bryce Harper went 0 - 4 against Madison, with 3 strikeouts.  Make no mistake though. Harper is a beast.  I was hoping, when he flied out to deep, deep center in the 7th, that he wouldn't get another chance, but he came up in the 9th for his 3rd K of the game. 

The Nats are struggling, and as has been noted, Matt Williams may not last long as their manager.  He has been criticized for his pitching moves (or lack of moves) and as being too much by-the-book.  Some of the blame has to go to some of their hitters.  Ian Desmond looked good this weekend, but he is carrying a .225 average, Rendon is at .247 and Zimmerman is at .219.  Their pitchers, so good at the start of the season, were chased early and often by the Giants this weekend, and that chews up a bullpen.  Sound familiar?  And kharma-wise, Jonathan Papelbon cannot help a team.

But enough about them.  The Giants are 6 games into a home-and-away 13 game stretch before an off day.  They are heading to St. Louis for 3 and Pittsburgh for 4.  Madison Bumgarner just bookended the home stand with complete games.   Peavy gave us 5 2/3, Cain 4 2/3, Vogie 5 and Heston 6 1/3.  In the past 7 days, Kontos has thrown 3 1/3 innings in 3 games, Petit 2 innings, Affeldt 1 inning, Romo 2 1/3 innings in 3 games (and looked damn good doing it), Hunter 2 innings, Casilla 1 innings, Lopez 2/3 innings in 2 games and Osich 1 1/3 innings in 2 games.  That is, considering last Monday's off day, 13 1/3 innings in a week.  Leake is expected to be start Tuesday, which frees up Vogie to spell Matt Cain, if necessary, or pitch long relief.  Let's take some of this magic on the road and tamp down on some Cardinal and Pirate dreams!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Giants Wear Out Nats Again

Boxscore
The Washington Nationals pounded out ten hits including two doubles, a triple, and two homers and put six runs on the board. The San Francisco Giants responded with 13 hits including five doubles and a triple and piled up twelve runs to take the third game of the series. Gio Gonzalez got the Max Scherzer treatment and was out of the game in the 3rd inning. Jake Peavy couldn't get out of the 6th but it was enough as the lineup kept adding on and the 'pen (George Kontos and Yusmeiro Petit) closed the door. The win tonight brings the home squad's August record to .500 (7-7), evens up the season series (3-3), and pushes the away team's seasonal record to .500 (58-58). Not how the pundits predicted things would go for the talent-rich DCers. Pitching coach Steve McCatty got tossed for talking smack to the homeplate umpire and I thought manager Matt Williams might jump in and get the heave-ho as well but he played it cool and stuck around. I wonder if he'll be around much longer if his team continues to disappoint.

Gregor Blanco and Matt Duffy combined for five hits, five runs, and five runs batted in. I think I like those two at the top of the lineup. Tomorrow Madison Bumgarner takes the ball as the Giants go for the sweep. Rookie Joe Ross gets the call for the Nats. He's a Berkeley kid who went to Bishop O'Dowd and was a first-round pick for the Padres in 2011. His is the younger brother of San Diego's Tyson Ross. None of these games have stuck to the script and it has been a weird series. Not that I'm complaining--the outcomes have been great. It's just that it makes me think tomorrow's game might go differently than we expect.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.