Sunday, October 31, 2010
The Rangers aren't done, but they are damn close. They send Cliff Lee out against Tim Lincecum tomorrow. It should be epic.
WIN ONE MORE!
Saturday, October 30, 2010
GO GIANTS!! TWO MORE WINS!!
Your 2010 National League Champion San Francisco Giants
F. Sanchez, 2B
C. Ross, RF
+ J. Sanchez, P
M. Young, 3B
J. Hamilton, CF
V. Guerrero, DH
N. Cruz, LF
B. Molina, C
M. Moreland, 1B
+ C. Lewis, P
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Then all the weird shit happened. The Giants scored SEVEN runs after two were out in the 8th. The Texas bullpen had an epic meltdown, walking in two runs and then giving up a single, a triple, and a double to make it a 9-0 game. It's hardly comprehensible, even as I sit here and re-imagine it. I'm not capable of describing it accurately. It was both the weirdest and the most wonderful inning in Giants history. A taut, tight, dramatic game ended as a laugher after an excruciating display of poor pitching and probably worse managing. It was so bad that the Giants were able to use last man Guillermo Mota to finish the game, and he did so with relaxed ease.
The Giants find themselves up 2-0 in the World Series after once again demonstrating remarkable poise and patience at the plate, flashing some absolutely stellar leather, and pounding the strike zone with nasty shit batter after batter, inning after inning. Matt Cain stepped up and delivered another string of zeroes, continuing his remarkable post-season run. For all the craziness tonight, and all the contributions from the lineup and the bench guys, it all started with Cain retiring the first seven guys he saw and 12 of his first 13. It was a huge performance and a well-deserved win for the man who rarely gets the run support he should. The Texas Rangers had only been shut out five times in the regular season, and were 14-4 in inter-league play. I hope they enjoyed their trip to San Francisco.
GO GIANTS! WIN!! WIN!!
UPDATE (0707 Friday): Take a look at Baseball Musings. David Pinto does a nice graphic look at Matt's pitch locations. He says the pitch to Kinsler was a good one, it was just a case of a good hitter getting a good rip in. OK, I'll buy it. It looked like it caught too much of the plate when I saw it live, but that happened in the blink of an eye (and I'm not known for my eyesight!). I also think that when my boy Matty gives up a bomb it's because he missed his spot and not because the other guy is good. Great visuals and a fun way to bask in Cain's awesomeness.
UPDATE (1128 Saturday): Speaking of basking in Matt Cain's awesomeness, Peter Gammons has this to say about our guy:
But in many ways the face of this series is Matt Cain. He has no pretense of having an "it" factor. In the last two years, he's 27-19 with a 3.02 ERA and the lowest run support on his staff. He's thrown 441 innings in those two seasons, hasn't missed a start, has failed to finish the fifth inning three times and finished the eighth and/or the ninth 26 times.
He has thrown 21 1/3 innings in three starts in this postseason against the Braves, Phillies and Rangers and has not allowed an earned run. He has allowed one hit in 15 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
M. Young, 3B
J. Hamilton, CF
N. Cruz, RF
D. Murphy, LF
M. Moreland, 1B
C. Wilson, P
Your 2010 National League Champion San Francisco Giants
F. Sanchez, 2B
C. Ross, RF
She even creates the illusion of a beard, although I'll have to tell her that the colors are reversed. Wait a minute ... maybe, next season Brian Wilson, Sergio Romo, & the others will go with the orange beard.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
M. Young, 3B
J. Hamilton, CF
V. Guerrero, RF
N. Cruz, LF
B. Molina, C
M. Moreland, 1B
Cl. Lee, P
Your 2010 National League Champion San Francisco Giants
F. Sanchez, 2B
C. Ross, RF
WIN! WIN! WIN! WIN!
Monday, October 25, 2010
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Matt Cain, Brian Wilson, Sergio Romo, Jonathan Sanchez, Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey, Nate Schierholtz, and Travis Ishikawa. That's quite a haul. Throw in the 2003 amateur free agent signing of a 17-year old from Venezuela (Pablo Sandoval), and there's the homegrown nucleus of a championship club. John Bowker, drafted in the 3rd round in 2004, was traded with 2005 12th round pick Joe Martinez for the invaluable Javier Lopez. Freddy Sanchez was acquired by trading 2007 1st rounder (no. 22 overall) Tim Alderson. Righty Daniel Turpen was drafted in the 8th round that same year, he was traded for Ramon Ramirez. The 9th round of the 2009 draft brought OF Evan Crawford, he was traded for Mike Fontenot. It should also be noted that Buster Posey's coach in Fresno--Steve Decker--was drafted by the Giants in the 21st round in 1988.
Andres Torres, Aaron Rowand, Pat Burrell, Juan Uribe, Edgar Renteria, Aubrey Huff, Eli Whiteside, Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla, and Guillermo Mota were all signed as free agents. NLCS MVP Cody Ross was claimed off waivers. That's the 25 guys on the post-season roster.
I want to work something up on the Front Office and the behind-the-scenes types, perhaps tomorrow. Today the baseball gods command you to bask in the glory of the National League Pennant. By the way, that line-out double-play in the 8th (Wilson to Ruiz to Huff to Renteria) ought to convince you that such gods exist. Gracious me, but the Giants are the Champions of the National League.
In a move that I disagreed with, Mastermind Bruce Bochy used Tim Lincecum as the set-up man in the eighth inning of NLCS Game #6. I have a pet peeve with managers doing weird things in the post-season. These types of moves smack of desperation and knock players out of the routines that the sport demands. It makes great news and allows them to feel involved, but, the bottom line is they don't often work. In this case, Tim got the twenty second out of this huge game by striking out the amazing Jayson Werth on a change up way out of the zone. Unfortunately, Shane Victorino fought off not one, but two beautiful pitches, before singling. That seemed to deflate Tim as his last pitch was very fat and resulted in an Ibanez single. End of set-up man experiment. Results?
Time for pre World Series analysis (what a beautiful phrase!). Let's get right to the question at the heart of this post.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
The Giants need zeroes from the bullpen. And they will need some clutch hits.
UPDATE: Giants waste a great opportunity in the 5th--Oswalt gets both Huff and Posey with two on to keep it 2-2. MadBum takes the hill and gives up a hit to Rollins.
UPDATE: The intentional walk to Werth to load the bases works as Victorino grounds out to end the inning. Bullet dodged.
UPDATE: Giants blow another great scoring chance. Oswalt gets the double play.
UPDATE: MadBum survives the leadoff double, combining with Affeldt for four scoreless. Oswalt is out of the game. Time for the Giants to get it going and get a goddamn clutch hit.
UPDATE: Madson is again the Giants nemesis. Still 2-2 in the middle of the 7th.
UPDATE: Lopez is unhittable again. Giants need to score.
UPDATE: Finally finally finally finally finally the Giants get THE BIG HIT they've been desperately needing!!! Juan Uribe goes deep off Madson to make it 3-2 San Francisco.
UPDATE: In a bold move, Bochy goes to Tim Lincecum in the 8th. He gets a strikeout but puts two on. Bochy goes to Wilson. I can't argue with the Lincecum move--I'd have done the same thing. It didn't quite work, but I'd rather have Tim than Romo, Ramirez, or Casilla in that spot.
UPDATE: Holy shit! Wilson gives up a line drive to Carlos Ruiz but it's RIGHT AT Aubrey Huff and they turn two. Giants are three outs from the World Series.
UPDATE: Bottom of the 9th. Start the TortureClock™.
THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!
THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!
THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!
THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!
THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!
But I like the way my team has handled everything thrown at them and they'll go out there and give it their all. And that's all you can ask.I like the Giants chances. Two games to win one? I'll take it. Sure, it would have been nice if Big Time Timmy Jim could have ended it at home on Thursday, but it didn't happen. The Phils are a good club and they won the game. But "I'm a believer in Giants Fever" so I say the boys in black & orange are going to get it done this weekend and open the World Series in San Francisco on Wednesday.
Friday, October 22, 2010
The '87 NLCS between the Giants and the Cardinals became the Jeffrey Leonard show.
During the seven game-long series against the St. Louis Cardinals, Leonard had five runs, ten hits, four home runs, five runs batted in, a batting average of .417, and a slugging percentage of .917. For his performance, Leonard was awarded the 1987 NLCS Most Valuable Player Award.
This spectacular offensive performance was all the more exciting due to his cool arrogant "One Flap Down" home run trot, as he circled the bases with an arm hanging straight down at his side.
In April of '86 one of the greatest Giants ever made his debut and famously homered off Nolan Ryan in his first AB.
William Nuschler Clark, from Mississippi State University, was the best first basemen in the NL for many years, and was largely responsible for the team's success in '87 and again in '89.
Clark hit a career-best 35 homers in '87 to go with 91 RBI and a .307 average.
In most fans minds Clark will forever be paired with second baseman Robby Thompson, who made his ML debut at the same time as Clark, and was an outstanding contributor to some good Giants teams.
Between 1971 and 1987 the Giants were a mostly bad team, with records over .500 only 4 times and of course never qualifying for post-season play.
The era was notable for Bob Lurie's purchase of the team in '76, saving it from being moved to Toronto, and the hiring of Frank Robinson in '81 to be the first black NL manager. Fans could only settle for random feel-good moments, such as Joe Morgan's last game homer against LA in '82, and no-hitters by Halicki in '75 and Montefusco in '76.
This was the era in which all the primary contributors to this blog became hardcore Candlestick bleacher bums.
The team bottomed out in the mid 80s, going 66-96 in '84 then 62-100 in '85.
Then Al Rosen was hired as general manager, followed by Roger Craig being named as manager.
From 1986 to 1992, Craig was the manager of the San Francisco Giants. In Craig's first five full seasons with the Giants 1986–1990, they never finished with a losing record. Prior to coming to San Francisco, Craig served as a pitching coach for the 1984 World Champion Detroit Tigers and as manager of the San Diego Padres (the Tigers' opponent in the 1984 World Series) from 1978–1979. From 1969–1984, he had become one of the better-known pitching coaches in Major League Baseball, working for the Padres (1969–1972; 1976–1978), Houston Astros (1974–1975) and Tigers (1980–1984), with a knack for teaching the split-finger fastball to his charges.Under Craig (who along the way, instilled the unique motto and rallying cry "Humm Baby", the Giants won the National League Western Division title in 1987. The original term of "Humm Baby" was given to the roster's third catcher for the 1986 season, Brad Gulden, who was on his way out of baseball but he managed to squeeze onto the roster for the 1986 season. Craig felt that Gulden didn't really have the talent but he had the heart so he called him the "Humm Baby"
Thursday, October 21, 2010
First Tim; then the shit. Tim threw 6 freakishly good innings and one nightmare frame. His overall numbers are quite solid and out pace Halladay (game scores: Freak 65 Doc 55)...umm, except for the "W."
After a bloop hit by Ibanez and the Ruiz HBP, things started to get ugly. In the box score summary it says, " R Halladay sacrificed to catcher, R Ibanez to third, C Ruiz to second. " Doesn't really do it justice does it? Hard to believe the ump blew such a easy call, but the painful part was watching the graceless Sandoval flail helplessly for the bag. Damn, that should have been a double play...good hustle by Ibanez, but the Panda's lack of mobility really cost us there. I'm pretty sure it was my screaming at the television from 400 hundred miles away that got him off his butt to throw out the befuddled Halladay. Just a good old fashioned 2-5-3 sacrifice bunt. A three run rally sparked by a foul ball. Shit. Then, the Big Shit: Aubrey Huff's horrendous error that brought both runners in and moved the hitter to second (which was huge as it turned out). It seems quite possible that Huff had a play at the plate if he handled the hot smash cleanly. Sigh, that is a play that I wish I had seen. Oh well, maybe we will never have to think of that third inning again. Like when we lock it up this weekend. Oh please, don't let me ever think of that third inning again.
I suppose you think I'm going to mention all the failed scoring opportunities (they started in the first!) as part of my "shit list." Hell no. That ain't shit, that's how we roll. If you aren't used to it by now, I doubt you will be in the couple weeks we have left.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
OK, maybe not ever, but damn close. I'm exhausted and exhilarated by this extraordinary game, an epic 6-5 slugfest that featured seven doubles but no home runs. Where 11 pitchers gave up 11 runs. Where the Giants scored in five different innings. Where Pablo Sandoval had the biggest hit of his life and then hit into a double play on his very next at-bat. Where Juan Uribe bested Roy Oswalt with a gutty, gritty, gigantic walk-off winner.
And where Buster Posey had a game for the ages, seizing his own page out of the Big Book of Giants Lore with a 4-hit, 2-RBI night and a highlight-reel play at the plate to save a run.
Charlie Manuel said after the game: "They found a way." Yes they did. The Giants found a way to win. MadBum looked good early, striking out 6 of the first 12 batters he faced, but ran into a Phillies buzz saw in the 5th. Santiago Casilla made it worse, and the Giants found themselves down by two runs, a seemingly impossible task. They clawed back with a run from Aubrey Huff and Andres Torres in the bottom of the inning, and got another shot in the 6th with a leadoff walk from Pat the Bat. Cody Ross plunked a ball over third base that he turned into a double with some heads-up baserunning, and that set the stage for the Panda's heroics. He stroked a ball down the right-field line that was probably fair, but called foul, and looked for all the world like he'd whiff in short order. Instead he blasted a high fastball from Chad Durbin into left-center and the Giants had the lead back. Naturally, the home squad failed to score another run. Sandoval on 2nd, no outs, zip. Next inning? Bases loaded, one out, zip. I was beside myself with anguish--I knew, I just knew that the Giants would pay for those lapses, and they did. Jayson Werth drove in Ryan Howard (a big run off Lopez-Romo) to tie it up in the 8th and crank the TortureKnob™ to 11. Fortunately the local lads didn't panic. They knew they could win a Battle of the Bullpens. With Bochy wisely going to his big stud Brian Wilson in the 9th, the Phils countered with Game Two star Roy Oswalt. It's not that it was a bad move--the Phils have some issues with their relief corps and needed a stud. But Aubrey Huff spoiled things with a single to right with one out. Up came Posey, the young superstar who turned the season around for the Giants, and he delivered a memorable at-bat and a huge hit to put the winning run at third base. Juan Uribe, oozing veteran savvy clutchness, somehow roped a low, outside, off-speed pitch deep into left field for the game-winning sacrifice fly, and the magic that's been inside all season long spilled all over Mays Field. Huff crossed the plate to a wild celebration, and the Giants had a victory, a remarkable, improbable victory that puts them one win from the World Series.
Tomorrow the Giants send out their best with a chance to win the pennant at home. The Freak. The Franchise. Big Time Timmy Jim. This is it. The lads have shown the champs that they can hang with them.
Now they have to show the champs they can beat them.
Get it done! GO GIANTS!!
Chart from FanGraphs.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Cole Hamels was perfect through three innings, but Edgar Renteria, leading off in a juggled lineup, singled to open the 4th and came home on a two-out single by none other than Mr. Mid-October Cody Ross. Aubrey Huff followed that with a single to right that beat the shift and Utley's reach. Utley allowed another run on a ball hit by Freddy Sanchez in the 5th that came up short on him. It drove in Aaron Rowand, subbing in center for the struggling Andres Torres, who'd led off with a double. The bench guys came through big time against the very tough Hamels. You have to hand it to Ol' Boch, he pulled the right strings today.
Javier Lopez pitched an overpowering 8th, obliterating Utley, Polanco, and Howard on only nine pitches. Brian Wilson got a double-play grounder to seal the deal in the 9th and put the Giants up two games to one. A tremendous start by Matt Cain, a gritty effort by the batsmen, and a clean slate for the fielders added up to a huge, huge win.
Let's keep it rolling! GO GIANTS!!
Sunday, October 17, 2010
If you had asked me on Friday if I would have been happy with a split over the weekend I would have given you a resounding "yes." Tonight's loss was deflating, though, as the team looked over-matched. It started out "no fun" and finished "no fun." And I don't like seeing stone-cold guys like Rollins getting their stroke back. Fortunately everyone gets a day off tomorrow and things resume in San Francisco on Tuesday. Work will likely cause me to miss most of Matt Cain's start as it is a day game. Let's hope he brings his good stuff and the bats wake up enough to help him out.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Somebody else who was obviously having fun was Cody Ross. What a great way to get an entire fan base to adore you. I'm pretty sure that I'm changing my dog's name to Cody. Not sure how the wife is going to like that. Oh well, it's all OK because
Friday, October 15, 2010
The Giants met the Pirates in 1971 in their first ever NLCS. It was just best 3 out of 5 then. The Giants took the first game 5-4 but the Pirates won the next three 9-4, 2-1 and 9-5, then went on to beat the Orioles in the World Series. The Pirates' stars were Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell. The Giants had a roster full of future hall of famers; Mays, McCovey, Marichal and Perry, as well as many other fine players such as Bobby Bonds, Dave Kingman, Chris Speier and Tito Fuentes.
I was there at Candlestick for game two, Sunday, October 3rd, and got to see fucking Bob Robertson hit three homers.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
I think that their excellent pitching and a unique home field get the Giants one more win than the Dodgers got in either of the last two seasons, but I'm not going to believe an NL team can take the Phillies out until I see it. PHILLIES IN SIX.The Phils are the champs and they remain the champs until someone delivers the KO. Philadelphia's core from their 2008 World Series win is mostly intact, a mix of stars and solid players: 1B Ryan Howard, 2B Chase Utley, SS Jimmy Rollins, CF Shane Victorino, RF Jayson Werth, C Carlos Ruiz, lefty Cole Hamels, righty Joe Blanton, and closer Brad Lidge. The 2009 NL champs replaced LF Pat Burrell with Raul Ibanez and the 2010 team replaced 3B Pedro Feliz with Placido Polanco. The 2009 club featured the indomitable Cliff Lee but it wasn't enough to overcome the Yankees in the Series as Hamels and the aging Pedro Martinez were ineffective. This year the Phils swapped out Roy Halladay for Lee and grabbed Roy Oswalt to bolster the rotation. There seems to be a consensus that this is the best 1-2-3 punch in baseball.
Hey, sure, it's a good one. No argument. But the best? Giants pitchers gave up 50 runs in September. That's 26 games, my friends. FIFTY runs. That's ridiculous. At what point do you say one team has a better rotation than another team? The Phils were 21-6 in September, scoring a whopping 142 runs and giving up 94. Now 94 is damn good. Most teams would love to give up only 3.48 rpg. But 94 ain't as good as 50. It just ain't. So forgive me if I call "bullshit" and say the San Francisco Giants have the best starting pitching in baseball. I'll take the Giants 1-2-3 as at the very least even against them and our 1-2-3-4 is superior. Throw in the better bullpen and you are talking about the best staff in the majors.
The problem with the Giants, as we all know, is their lack of offensive firepower. They hit a lot of homers, especially late in the year, but they just don't put enough guys on base and don't sustain rallies, hitting into an average of one double play per game. The Phils are known for offense and they thrive in their bandbox park. So, how does a one-armed fighter win a match against a guy throwing combinations? For starters, you never let him land a punch. If the Giants want to win, they have to avoid mistakes. They have to make their pitches and field their positions. They absolutely cannot give away runs. The longer the games go without scoring, the longer the series goes toward seven games, the more the odds will swing in the Giants favor. The Giants win this series by a long, slow, attritional grind. They can't slug it out, especially on the road. They have to wait for their opportunities and they have to seize them with the grace and sangfroid of a cat burglar.
The Giants have no expectations. The Phillies are thinking "dynasty." The pressure is all on them. If we get to Game Four and it's 2-2, all the pundits will be talking about will be Philadelphia's failures and Philadelphia's problems. No one will notice the Giants. Hey--this is a 92 win club. A division champion, not some AAA team. The rest of baseball seems to think it doesn't matter who plays the NLCS, the Phils will win. And that's exactly how to beat the mighty Phillies--play baseball. Encapsulate the game--one pitch, one at-bat, one out, one inning at a time. Be relaxed and don't play tight, nervous, "oh-my-god-they're-so-good" baseball. They have the weight of being the favorites. The Giants can relish the underdog role. The tortoise beat the hare after all, and David beat Goliath. Remember that. And if anyone asks you if the Giants can beat the Phils you say:
"YES WE CAN."
Monday, October 11, 2010
The Giants punched their tickets to the City of Brotherly Love with a 3-2 win over the Braves in Atlanta. Madison Bumgarner is the first story--six impressive pressure-packed innings by the rookie southpaw, giving up only two runs, both off the bat of the outstanding Brian McCann. The next is mid-season acquisition Cody Ross, a 29-year old journeyman outfielder with his fifth club in seven seasons, who roped not only the game-tying homer off Derek Lowe (to break up the no-hit shutout in the 6th), but also the go-ahead single in the very next inning. The final story is the bullpen trio of Santiago Casilla (1-2/3, 1 hit, 2 K, no runs), Javier Lopez (4-pitch whiff of Jason Heyward), and Brian Wilson (9th inning save--an agonizing, tortuous save, but still a save). They got the outs they had to get. Casilla was particularly impressive, working in two innings and throwing 23 nasty-looking pitches (17 strikes) to six batters.
Derek Lowe made the Giants look really feeble for five innings (he faced the minimum) by working fast and throwing that ridiculous slider-sinker thing. Finally, Ross got his breakthrough hit and the dormant Giants had life. McCann's blast in the bottom half was a deflating, but Lowe finally ran out of steam in the 7th, walking Aubrey Huff with one out. Buster Posey hit a 30-footer into no-man's land that third baseman Troy Glaus couldn't make a play on and suddenly the Giants had a rally. Bobby Cox came out to talk to his pitcher, one cagey old vet to another, and the squinty-eyed pitcher told his squintier-eyed manager "this here mound ain't big enough for the two of us." The Ancient One waddled back to the dugout and watched his gunslinger shoot blanks, walking Pat Burrell. Waddling Cox waddled back out and that was Lowe's night. He was not happy, dropping an obvious f-bomb for the nation's lip readers. I was happy, however. Getting Lowe out was our chance, I figured. Juan Uribe hit a double-play grounder off Peter Moylan that was NOT a double-play. In fact, it was nothing at all. Huff scored on the play to tie the game once again. Aaron Rowand struck out against Jonny Venters, but Cody Ross hit a ground ball in the "five-and-a-half-hole" and the Giants were a run up. Pat Burrell was thrown out at the plate on the play. He should have been substituted for once he reached base, or certainly after Huff scored the tying run. Nate Schierholtz was coming in for defense anyway, and would have scampered home easily on Ross' hit. It's not like we needed extra runs or anything.
Like the win against San Diego to clinch on the last day of the regular season, the Giants did just enough to get through. It was a terrifying 9th inning, with Wilson walking two guys with one out, but the gang hung on for the win. The Braves were a banged-up, short-handed outfit, but they had some fight left and made the Giants work like hell. The Giants came from behind in back-to-back games on the road to win a playoff series. That bears repeating. The Giants came from behind in back-to-back games on the road to win a playoff series.That's one hell of an accomplishment! It's even more amazing when you consider they scored only 11 runs. Thanks to some extraordinary pitching (only 9 runs allowed) and some help from the porous Braves defense, the Giants prevailed.
Philadelphia, here we come!
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Agony and ecstasy in Atlanta today. Fortunately for the Giants the Braves have some key injuries and those were the weak links. The offense was terrible from the get-go, consistently making outs when hits were needed, but managed to pull it off (with a little help) when the game was on the line. I was confident JSanchez would pitch well, and he was outstanding, I was also sure that Mike Fontenot would get a big hit, and his triple off Heyward's glove was huge.
Madison Bumgarner gets his chance tomorrow. Giants starters have been terrific--only two runs (one earned) in 23 innings. Let's get some runs for the youngster and save Tim for the Phillies, whaddya say?
p.s. Amazing, improbable, ridiculous. Tortuous. Infuriating. Dramatic. Your 2010 San Francisco Giants!
Saturday, October 9, 2010
Matt Cain gave the Giants a steady 6-2/3 with one unearned run on 7 hits, 2 walks, and 6 strikeouts (Game Score 62). He even supplied an RBI single! It wasn't Freak-azoid dominance, but it was classic Matt, solid and dependable, a return to what we are used to after that forgettable start a week ago against the Padres. After a 102 pitches and two-out single in the 7th by Omar Infante, Ol' Boch pulled him for sizzling southpaw Javier Lopez, who promptly struck out lefty phenom Jason Heyward. Surging Sergio Romo started the 8th, and immediately surrendered two ropes to Derek Lee and Brian McCann. That's the first chink to appear in the bullpen armor in a long time! Ol' Boch, surprisingly, went straight to Brian Wilson. After an error by Pablo Sandoval that led to a run, Alex Gonzalez crushed a long double and just like that the game was tied. Much has been made of Bonehead's decision to use Wilson for six outs (see Only Baseball Matters and El Lefty Malo for opposing views), but that wasn't the game-decider for me. Wilson was well-rested and had an off-day coming, he should have been able to get out of the inning. The error hurt, but Alex Gonzalez is only a short step up from Edgar Renteria. Getting beat by him in that situation really stung.
The Giants had a man on 2nd with 2 outs in the 6th and failed to score. They had men on 1st and 3rd in the 7th with only one out and failed to score. They had the bases loaded in the 10th, again with only one out, and failed to score. Giving away easy 1-2-3 innings and not converting scoring chances will come back to haunt you. The pitching can't always be perfect (sorry, Tim, but there's a reason people call you The Freak). The bullpen breakdown was a shocker, no doubt, but it's not like it was outside the realm of possibility. Atlanta is a good club. They fought back and got some big hits. Last night's sucker-punch loss isn't just about relief pitching. It's also about our criminally inadequate offense. I suppose it is foolish to expect anything else but nail-biting, tortuous, one-run affairs, but goddamn they get old! The Yankees have scored 11 runs in two games. The Rangers have scored 11 runs in two games. The Phillies have scored 11 runs in two games. The Giants have scored 5 runs in two games, and only 14 runs in their last FIVE games! Do we want to play with the Big Boys or not?
The Braves have seized the home-field advantage, but the Giants will throw a very tough young left-hander tomorrow. Jonathan Sanchez has already flashed some big-game credentials, and when he's got his good stuff going he's a very hard man to beat. There's no reason why the Giants can't nut-up and get cracking. The hitters have had their drought, the 'pen has had its hiccup, the time is now to put it all together and get a big win. We'll worry about Game Four later.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
The Freak had it all tonight, as the ridiculous 96 game score (a new personal high!) indicates. Two doubles ruin the comparisons with Halladay's gem, but not by fucking much!
The Braves and their fans probably don't know what hit them. One blown call by an ump (congrats on your first ever stolen base, Buster) and a grounder that squeaks through (way to go Cody Ross) and, BOOM, you lose! Welcome to my world, all you Braves fans. Hope you are prepared for it to happen two more times.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
On paper, this is an even series. Both teams needed 162 games to beat the Padres and the rest of the NL to qualify for the playoffs. The Giants were hot (18-8) in September, the Braves not (13-14), though they did have to play the Phillies six times, winning only once. The Braves were a 1st-half club, going 52-36 before the ASB, while the Giants were a 2nd-half team, going 45-29.
Six months of baseball will get settled in a five game series. As we well know, anything can happen. But I like the Giants chances for two reasons--one is the home field advantage. The Braves are great in Atlanta (56-25), but only average on the road (35-46). The Giants play .605 ball at home (49-32), so you have to like the fact that we could play three in San Francisco. The second is injuries--the Braves will be without Martin Prado and Chipper Jones. That's got to hurt them. I also think we have great bullpen depth, and we can do a Padres-style shorten-the-game-to-six-innings-thing, which as we know is hard to beat. If Tim and Matt can "hold serve" in SF, the Braves will have a tough time coming back. My fears? Ground balls to the left side and line drives to left field will give our slow, fat guys fits. And our penchant for double-play balls brings joy to the hearts of sinker-ball pitchers like Derek Lowe and Tim Hudson.
It should be a great series, and the 1-0 crowd might get their wish and see a few of them. I think the Giants are peaking at the right time, though, so I think we'll take 'em. I'm looking forward to seeing our young arms get their first shot at post-season glory. Show' em what you got, lads!
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Monday, October 4, 2010
Two things happened, ironic for team that's enjoyed a run of remarkable good health: Mark DeRosa and Aaron Rowand got hurt. L'Affaire DeRosa was entirely predictable. A 35-year old guy coming off wrist surgery was expected to make a large contribution, but cruel reality set in and he wound up having to miss the entire season. Aaron Rowand, on the other hand, was destined to give us 500-600 PAs of below-average production, and there seemed no way to overcome that $60 million dollar handicap. Fate intervened--he was beaned by Vicente Padilla on the 16th of April. That is not something I would wish on any ballplayer, but it happened, and the Giants discovered something they didn't know they had, a 6 WAR player. Everyone liked Andres Torres, he was a speedy glove man with good skills who could spot start and come off the bench and really help the club, but I'll venture 1 in 100 Giants fans thought he had the ability to play All-Star caliber baseball for an entire season. Nonetheless, the injuries to Rowand and DeRosa enabled Torres to play regularly and he showed all of baseball what he could do. Rowand, to his credit, actually had a good stretch in the first half of May after returning to the lineup, but Torres took his leadoff job and centerfield position by the end of the month and never looked back.
Thankfully, the Sabean & Co. were smarter than I gave them credit for. Signing Aubrey Huff looked like another re-tread desperation move in the off-season, but he responded by being the best free agent acquisition of the year. After a slow start, he started raking NL pitching and became a fixture on the leaderboards. His versatility, personality, and performance won over the fans and he emerged as something of a team spokesman as more and more microphones were shoved in his face. Despite the surprising emergence of the Torres-Huff duo, it was pretty clear the Giants still needed offensive help, and the bosses could see that, too. Fishing for cast-offs once more, Sabes & Co. nabbed Pat Burrell after he was released by Tampa Bay. Pat the Bat, despite my skepticism, still had something left and still had something to prove, and suddenly the Giants had another real threat in the lineup. With John Bowker, Travis Ishikawa, and Nate Schierholtz unable to hit consistently, and the Giants relying on Bengie Molina for leadership and production, the offense still demanded an upgrade. That came at the end of May in the person of Buster Posey. The front office then did the biggest and boldest move of the year at the end of June--they traded Molina away and installed Posey at catcher. He's been as good as advertised, in fact, he's been one of the best players in baseball. Suddenly The Missing Bat we'd been screaming for all last year, all off-season, and all this spring was in the lineup every day. Not only that, his glove work and pitching smarts were off the charts, and he emerged at the team's clear MVP. (You think not? Would a 52-33 team record since July 1st change your mind?) Not bad for a rookie. August pick-ups Jose Guillen and Cody Ross weren't game-changers, but they were reasonably competent major-leaguers who could contribute. Suddenly we had a damn-close-to-average offense! What a thing to get excited about! Freddy Sanchez got healthy in the middle of May and started flashing primo leather immediately. His late-season surge with the bat, after a horrid July, turned him into a very valuable player. He's the poster boy for everything that infuriates me about Sabean (old, injured, expensive), so it was fitting he'd get the biggest hit of the year in Game 162! Take that, O'Connor! Juan Uribe, just like last year, was another unsung hero of the lineup, playing multiple positions and hitting career-highs in both homers and bases on balls. Pablo Sandoval, counted on to be a star, had a discouraging drop in performance, but has recently shown signs of rediscovering his stroke. The Giants "quantity over quality" haul of players was able to paper over the Panda void until he began to contribute again.
"It's all about the pitching" was my mate JC's constant admonition to me whenever I bemoaned our team's fortunes. We all knew the pitching was special. When your ace is 9th in the league in FIP, 1st in strikeouts, and worth 5+ WAR on an "off" year, you know you've got a great player. Tim Lincecum is, indeed, The Franchise. He's a genuine superstar, admirably filling the massive void left by the departure of Barry Bonds. Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez, who could be aces on some ML teams and certainly match up favorably with any second and third starters anywhere, round out a young, powerful trio that forms the nucleus of the club. Madison Bumgarner, much like Buster Posey, got a mid-season shot at being a star and responded brilliantly. In 18 starts he threw only a couple of stinkers, and showed that he belonged in the bigs with the rest of the studs. Credit the Brian Trust for finding and developing another outstanding arm. Billion Dollar Boy Barry Zito delivered some quality starts, and threw almost 200 innings, but continued to deliver only league-average (at best) performance. What will the Giants do with him going forward? The Giants still had work to do, though, as the bullpen--other than the awesome Brian Wilson--was terribly inconsistent in the early going. The front office responded to the crisis by picking up Javier Lopez, Ramon Ramirez, and Santiago Casilla, who've been absolutely lights-out. Sergio Romo, after some early struggles, really came on in the stretch run to emerge as a reliable set-up man. The team put together an historic run of pitching excellence in September, and goes into the playoffs with the best staff in the majors.
The Giants overcame an opponent, who, like them, lacked the offense to adequately complement their great pitching. The Padres finally ran out of steam at the end of the season as their young arms couldn't carry the whole load. It reminded me of what happened last year to the Giants. The offense the Giants assembled throughout the season was obviously capable of winning the West, thus changing my description of them from inadequate to barely adequate to adequate. Wow, high praise! Entering the post-season, it is clear the team will be challenged to score. Lacking firepower, they can't fall behind against good teams. The pitching will have to lead the way, and any drop-off by key guys could be catastrophic to their chances. Then again, anything can happen in a short series, as we know, and if they get hot they could make a run and win the 11 games they need for The Big Prize. Having strikeout pitchers and power hitters are the big keys to playoff success. The Giants, believe it or not, led the NL in homers in September.
The Giants are the NL West champions for 2010. What a thing to say! What a thing to savor! Man, it has been a crazy, crazy season. The madness of the post-season doesn't start until Thursday, so we can all rest up and relax before the shit hits the fan. Fortunately, the Giants have the home-field in the first round, and that has to help as the Braves are not as tough on the road (.432 win percentage). The Freak--Big Time Timmer Jim--will get the ball for Game One and that alone gives the team a huge edge.
ENJOY! GO GIANTS!! WIN!!!
Sunday, October 3, 2010
Congratulations to the San Francisco Giants, the 2010 NL West Champions!
WHAT A GREAT DAY!
UPDATE: Geoff Young at The Hardball Times has a blow-by-blow account of the game.
Check it out!
Saturday, October 2, 2010
The Giants can't seem to find the right combination against the Padres this season, just like last season. We pitch well against good-hitting clubs, just like them, but pitch poorly against them. We hit on the same spectrum, from lousy to adequate, but we don't hit against them. They are younger, faster, and more athletic in the field and on the bases, but that doesn't account for the pitching dominance and our inability to match up. If you can tell me what the magic ingredient is--the SD X-Factor--I'd appreciate it.
Tomorrow's game is huge. I can't think about Tim having to pitch Monday for all the marbles. I can't allow thoughts of losing four in a row. I just have to let go of today and think the best for tomorrow.
C'mon Giants, get it together! Win this fucking thing!
Friday, October 1, 2010
But storybooks have twists and turns, and unexpected outcomes, don't they? Improbabilities abound in tales of adversity overcome and triumph achieved. And the Giants, down 6-0 in the 5th, looked all but done. The win expectancy chart said the home team had a 2.3% chance after David Eckstein scored on a wild pitch. But then Freddy Sanchez got an RBI hit, Aaron Rowand hit an unlikely 2-run bomb, and Andres Torres pushed a run across with a 20-foot dribbler. Suddenly it was 6-4 and the Giants had life. Clayton Richard--who the Giants should have lit up in the first two innings--was out of the game and the Padre bullpen looked like it might finally crack. Alas, Luke Gregerson was summoned and he silenced the meat of the order in the 7th. In the 8th, a screamer by Mike Fontenot off Mike Adams bounced out of Gonzalez' mitt and we had the tying run come to the plate. All of Giants fandom willed Juan Uribe and Pablo Sandoval to hit game-tying homers, but the best we could do was a two-out hit by Cody Ross. Willie Mac-Man Andres Torres then had to hit against Heath Bell, and his hard grounder was turned into the final out. The Giants went to the 9th still down by two. Freddy Sanchez, though, opened the inning superbly, refusing to swing at Bell's breaking ball and working a walk. Aubrey Huff smoked a liner into the right field corner, raising everyone's hopes, but Will Venable was in the right spot and ran it down easily. FSanchez, catastrophically, was doubled up on the play (what was he thinking?). Buster's grounder ended it.
Matt Cain kept his hand firmly on the tiller in August when the rest of the staff was floundering, and kept it up in September, joining his mates on a historic run of excellence. Alas, the calendar flipped to October and no. 18's magic wore off. Give the Padres credit, they played like a team facing elimination, not like one rolling over for the mercy blow. I thought the Giants would come out hitting, and it sure looked like we'd get some early runs against Richard. That could have been enough to survive the bad start and keep us in the game, especially considering the late scoring chances. The Padres improve to 11-5 against the Giants and move to within one game.
We knew it wasn't going to be easy. We knew--the odds were--that it would be torture. Sure, I thought we'd come out smoking and control the game, but we didn't. What the Giants have to do now is they have to "man up" and play again tomorrow. No loss is so horrible that you can't move past it and get it done the next day. It was a disappointing game, mostly because Cain's performance was such a let down, but also because we had real chances ourselves to rack up 6 or 7 runs. The Giants have relied on the long ball more and more as the season has gone on, but it was the opponents who got the big blasts tonight. Cain finishes the season with 223-1/3 IP, 181 H, 84 R, 22 HR, 61 BB, 177 SO, 1.08 WHIP, 3.14 ERA, 13 W and 11 L. Tonight it was 6 runs, 9 hits and 1 walk in 4-plus, 21 batters, 88 pitches,with a Game Score of 23. Ain't no way around it, it was ugly.
The 2010 season has been miraculous. And it is still going on. If it takes 163 goddamn games, then that's what it takes. I don't believe it will. I believe the Giants got a bruising in the first round, but that's all. The Giants can take it a few licks and they can counter punch. I expect they'll come out tomorrow ready to take the fight to the Padres. Let's hope Barry Zito can keep us in it and the bats can deliver the big hits.
p.s. (a.m. update) I meant to say the Pads were "two" back not one, and that the Giants can "take a few licks" not "take it a few licks." Late night typos, sorry!
If the Giants beat the Padres tonight on Orange Friday, they win the West. I want that storybook ending--Cain wins on his birthday, capping his finest season with his biggest win. As JC said to me yesterday: "if that happens, you know the baseball gods are smiling on us." Too true. I'm a Giants fan, so I know the wrath of the baseball gods far better than I know their largess. And I've learned to expect nothing from them, those cruel and petty beings who mock me season after season. Nonetheless, I feel good about tonight. The team is smoking, our opponents are reeling, and Matt is pitching at the top of his game. The prize is there, me bucko, go out and get it!
I want to thank Mr. and Mrs. Cain for raising their lovely little boy and giving him to the world. I want to thank Brian Sabean & Co. for finding this thick-bodied country boy with the mighty fastball and making him a Giant.
And I want to thank you, my friends, for sticking with me and me mates as we've blogged the tortuous landscape of the 2010 season.
GO GIANTS!! KICK SOME FUCKING PADRE ASS TONIGHT!!!