Thursday, June 30, 2011

Things go bad in the 13th

The Cubs were down to their last strike on successive batters in the final inning but still managed to put a four-spot on Ramon Ramirez to take the getaway game. It was a bitter pill after another brilliant start, this one from Matt Cain (Game Score 74), whose six strikeouts pushed him to 1001 for his career, only the fifth SF Giant to get a K of Ks. Can you name the other four? That's an easy one--who are the four best pitchers in the San Francisco club's history? That's right: Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry, Jason Schmidt, and Tim Lincecum. Matt Cain was drafted in 2002 and pitched in the Arizona League with the Rookie Giants. That season ran from June 22nd to August 30th, so you have to figure he made his professional debut just about nine years ago (he signed on June 26th). When he made his big-league debut on August 29th in 2005, he was the youngest player in the majors, only 20 years old. Now he is the longest-serving Giant. What lucky fans we are to watch him pitch!

I hate wasted starts. Tim and Matt threw 14 innings and gave up one run but the Giants lost both games. That's a lack of offense, of course, despite the blown saves. But I don't really want to talk about the lousy offense. It is what it is and it will only get better if guys like Aubrey Huff and Andres Torres find their 2010 magic. Two walks, a hit, and two stellar and nearly-identical great plays at second by Emmanuel Burriss created some excitement. A shoulda-coulda homer by Pablo Sandoval was the other excitement. The Giants got seven walks but also went hitless for 10 innings. There I go again with the lousy offense stuff. Hey, how about that Matt Cain?


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Real Tim

Reality has returned. It hurts today, but it is what we are.

Today's version was yet another thrilling pitcher's duel, albeit a heart-breaking loss, 2-1 to the Cubbies. Tim Lincecum and Ryan Dempster matched zeroes for six quick innings. The Freak had nasty stuff (game score 70) but some trouble spotting his fastball, so his pitch count soared. Meanwhile, Dempster was getting a taste of that special offense thing we know, when we all try to make the easiest, quickest outs imaginable. I swear there was an inning ( or three)that the crafty vet threw two pitches to get three outs. I didn't think that was possible, but with an offense like ours, the impossible happens regularly. Anyway, Tim's numbers are once again sweet:

7 innings 5 hits one run two walks nine strikeouts

His best moment came in the fifth when that ass-hole Blake DeWitt doubled to lead off and went to third on a wild pitch. In classic Lincecum fashion, Tim broke down Alfonso Soriano on a swing he learned from Pedro Feliz, he froze Reed Johnson with heat on the paint, and (after an intentional walk) blew away Dempster. Tim's worst moments were any time DeWitt came to the plate. The scrawny dweeb owns Tim. Go figure.

We almost got the miracle finish again - too bad Burriss didn't just run and not think. I was surprised to see him so worried about getting back to second. Don't try to tag, try to score. Oh well, we'll get them tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sweeping to seven

Barry Zito out-pitched Ryan Vogelsong and the Giants got 30 hits and scored 19 runs to sweep the Cubs and win their seventh game in a row. It wasn't long ago I was gnashing my teeth in the midst of a five game losing streak. Now they are the hottest team in the league and have surged to a three-game lead. At 46-34, the Giants are second only to the Phillies (50-30) in the NL. In the AL, the Yankees (46-31) and the Red Sox (45-33) are the two best teams and the only ones with a better win percentage (the Sawx by only .002). That's select company--the 2010 champs, the 2009 champs, the 2008 champs, and the 2007 champs.

I was really impressed tonight with Zito's last two innings. He seemed to get command of all his pitches as he went deeper in the game. I kept saying to his HD image: "You're a major league pitcher. You can get major league hitters out!" It seemed to work. If Barry Zito is your worst pitcher, then you have a hell of a staff. Ryan Vogelsong gave up six runs (three earned) in five innings in the first game. Who knew he would get 11 runs of support? Here's Vogelsong's 12 starts by Game Score: 59, 30, 74, 64, 65. 64, 52, 76, 51, 57, 67, 39. Only two stinkers in the bunch, both wins. The Giants are 16-5 against left-handed starters.


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sixteen strikeout sweep

Madison Bumgarner made history last week when he gave up hits to the first eight guys he faced. Today he made a little history as well with a career-high eleven strikeouts. Seven of his final nine outs (the 6th, 7th, and 8th innings) were by strikeout. It was a great show by the young lefty. The old lefty, Jeremy Affeldt, then struck out five of the six batters he faced in his perfect two-inning save. That's 16 strikeouts for the hapless Indians today, and only four runs scored in the series. The Giants plated a whopping eight runs in the three games, let's hope they saved some of this month's allotment for the upcoming road trip.

The doubleheader in Chicago on Tuesday will feature the return of Barry Zito. Erstwhile number two man Jonathan Sanchez has been DL'd for some official medical reason but it seems more likely to be a brief mental health holiday for the mercurial southpaw. The Giants seem to use the disabled list as a way to avoid roster decisions, which is fine by me as the Zito quandary will take some time to sort out. I'd like to see him get in a couple of quality starts and put the pressure on Sanchez for a roster spot. I suppose the odd man out is Guillermo Mota if both Sanchez and Zito perform. Either one could work out of the 'pen and give the team a lot of flexibility. I'd miss Mota, actually. He endeared himself to me with those gritty long relief appearances and general willingness to take the ball in any situation and do what needs doing. He's pitched in almost 700 games in his 13 years, all in relief.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

All Hail Balkin' Bob!

Mike Krukow always calls umpire Bob Davidson (who was at home plate today) "Balkin' Bob" and always talks about how he is more likely to call a balk than any of the other Men in Blue working the bigs. Sure enough, Mr. Davidson called a balk on Indians reliever Tony Sipp with the bases loaded and the Giants scored the only run of the game and won 1-0 over what must be a dismayed Indians squad. They come to San Francisco and get two excellent performances from their starters but lose both games, mostly because of poor play in the field and lack of execution on the basepaths. And Shin-Soo Choo has his hand broken by an errant Jonathan Sanchez pitch, to boot! No, they have to be unhappy with the results in this series. They've had to swallow a bitter pill of très bizarre Giants baseball, where one-run balk-offs are bread & butter. Yeah, I know, it wasn't a walk-off, but the way the bullpen is dealing these days it feels like one when they get a late lead. It was a little dicey in the 8th today, when Javier Lopez looked like he might blow Matt Cain's great start, but they wriggled out of it. Brian Wilson got the final three, the last one a ridiculous catch by Andres Torres who nabbed a deep fly ball while falling down on the track. He was sprinting to the fence but turning his face away from the ball as the sun was blinding him but still made the play. It is impossible not to love that guy. The Giants got a great play from Emmanuel Burriss as well, who grabbed a grounder far to his left in short right field and threw out Orlando Cabrera in the 7th to get the first out. It all started with great pitching, naturally, and Matt Cain racked up a Game Score of 74, even better than his last outing. A giddy Mike Krukow said "hey, just toss it on the pile" when the game was over. In 77 games played the Giants have 33 one-run decisions. They've won 22 of them.


Friday, June 24, 2011

Shades of Orange

Tonight's fabulous Orange Friday victory over the Indians showed off two things that I truly love about the defending World Champions:

#1 The Bullpen. They are clearly the factor that make this team tough to beat, even more so than our starters so far this year. Tonight it was 4.1 innings ( 13 outs needed due to another Jonathan Sanchez walk-fest!) and they ( specifically Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt, Sergio Romo and Brian Wilson ) gave up one lousy walk. THAT WAS IT...ONE WALK! And that guy was picked off by a stellar throw from Chris Stewart.

#2 Andres Torres. What's not to love about this guy? Even though this year has been tough for him, I love to watch him play. Tonight he reminded everyone of what an offensive force he can be: 3 for 4, 2 runs scored, with a homer to get us on the board in the first place. It looks like Bochy's idea of resting Andres a little was a wise one. If he can regain last year's form our run-scoring prognosis goes from grave to critical. Wish I could give a better outlook, but this is one sick puppy we are talking about.

I really feel like this post needs a good Carlos Santana joke - the dude had a major impact on the game with a clutch hit and two huge errors - however I just can't think of one, so I'll leave that chore to the heckling crowd.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Rubber Tim

Just when you think we are done (2 days ago), we bounce back in your face!

For the fifth time out of six chances, the Giants captured the rubber game, this time against the red hot Twins. Our resilient boys were led once again by Tim Lincecum delivering exactly what was needed: Timmy being Timmy. After a bad stretch, the Freak has bounced back with some classic Big Time Timmy Jim numbers:

7 innings 3 hits (one double) NO RUNS 2 walks and ..... 12 STRIKEOUTS
This commanding 109 pitch performance earned Tim a blistering 81 game score. Particularly noteworthy was Tim's unmerciful abuse of the bottom of the Twins line-up (#5-9): 0 - 16 with 12 strikeouts. Combine that with the continuing mastery of Javier Lopez and the unrelenting torture of Brian Wilson; you got yourself yet another Giants series victory. After that ridiculous first inning against Madison Bumgarner, reality set in and the Twins sure got a taste of true Giants baseball.

I don't want to make a habit of mentioning our "offense," but I must say I LOVE ME THOSE INSURANCE RUNS. Great job in the bottom of the eighth: Aubrey Huff double followed by a Cody Ross RBI single. Honorable mention to the Emmanuel Burriss slide which was incorrectly called out at home on a safety squeeze.

BTW: We now have a 15-7-3 (W-L-S) series record. Shockingly good for a team with our injuries and MIA offense, don't you think?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


I really wanted to be at the yard tonight chanting "Vogie, Vogie, Vogie." He dominated a red-hot Minnesota club to snap the skid and lead the team to win number 40. It was another impressive outing by the Giants diamond-in-the-rough righthander who has given up two or fewer runs in nine of his ten starts. He leads the team in both ERA and FIP, which ought to make both traditionalists and saberists happy. His 7th inning was a brilliant clutch display, getting two strikeouts after back-to-back hits before yielding a run on a weak grounder that Brandon Crawford bobbled. Righetti came out for a chat and Vogelsong got pinch-hitter Matt Tolbert to fly out harmlessly. Eli Whiteside was the hitting star with two hits (one a triple!) and three RBI. The Lopez-Romo-Wilson triumvirate did the rest, although Sergio appeared to injure himself after striking out Michael Cuddyer in the 8th. Nate Schierholtz had two walks and a hit to crack the .300 OBP line. He's getting his chance to play, let's hope he can be consistent and make fewer outs as the season goes on.

I know it is only ten starts--most regulars have 15 at this point in the season--but Ryan Vogelsong is making a case for being on the NL All-Star team. What do you think? Should Ol' Boch pick Vogie?

A big win tonight. You have to think that these guys can't really lose more than five in a row. Once through the rotation, sure, but twice? I don't think so. Tim Lincecum gets the rubber match tomorrow afternoon. With the Diamondbacks keeping the heat on, the Giants could sure use a dose of Timmy being Timmy.


MadBum gets no run support, loses again

The Giants offense continued to struggle, this time against Carl Pavano. Manny Burriss broke up the 0-31 RISP streak with a line drive up the middle in the 8th, scoring Miguel Tejada. Eli Whiteside broke up the shutout with a solo homer in the 7th.

Weird shit happens in baseball. That was some weird shit in the 1st inning last night. Grant Brisbee at McChronic gives a nice blow-by-blow breakdown for those of you who missed it. Strap on your punishment leathers before diving in. Watching it was mind-numbing: I had no emotional response. I just sat with my mouth hanging open, unable to feel. I suppose gobbling Xanax would have produced the same result, just with worse side effects.

Giants lose their fifth straight and fall out of first place.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

If We Don't Make Some Moves (Soon), I Will Scream!

We moan & moan about the Giants' offense for very good reason. To put things in perspective, position by position, let's compare 2011 in mid-June to 2010 in mid-June:

C - Obviously, we are in much worse shape & are not inserting a recently-called up future Hall-of-Fame Catcher into our lineup. In fact, we are in worse shape than when we had B. Molina playing every day.

1B - With Huff under-performing, we are in worse shape.

2B - With F. Sanchez out, we are in worse shape.

3B - Sandoval is not doing much right now, & that really worries me. However, relative to last year, this one's about a toss-up.

SS - We are getting no offense out of this position - a few promising signs from Crawford, but not much lately. With Uribe/Renteria last year, we were in better shape.

OF - Burrell & Rowand are contributing virtually nothing. Torres is not doing much. Ross is solid, but I think that we pretty much know his ceiling - he has been fairly consistent throughout his career. Schierholtz has done well.

Bench - Nothing much happening there. Tejada gives us some punch, now that he's mostly a reserve.

Overall - We are quite a bit worse this year than last. Even if Huff starts to hit, the overall prognosis is not good.

Conclusion - We need to do something, even if it means giving up a prospect or 2. We need a C, a SS, & a left-handed utility OF. And, I don't think that we can wait until the end of July. We need to do something now.

Monday, June 20, 2011


Matt Cain managed a Game Score of 72 in game number 72, but it wasn't enough. He needed to throw a complete game shutout in order for the team to win. Alas, he gave up a run in the 6th and Jeremy Affeldt gave up a run in the 8th and the Giants lost 2-1. After four innings of baseball this season, the Giants are still in first place. They managed to go 10-8 over their last 18 games even with the four losses in a row. After 10-8, 10-8, and 9-9 in their first three innings they sit at 39-33, which is the fifth-best record in the NL. With their pitching, that should be a lot better. Only Atlanta and Philadelphia have allowed fewer runs than the Giants. The problem of course is the anemic offense, which has scored only six more runs than the last-place San Diego Padres. There's not much to be done about that at this point. Sure, the team could "make a move" but I don't see much happening. The Giants will be reluctant to part with their pitching talent and they should be. They are building a club for the next decade of baseball which from all we can see looks like a pitching-dominated time. Being overstocked on that kind of talent is not a bad thing. And it does not necessarily demand that some of that overstock be traded away. After all, shit happens--guys get injured or underperform--and having a surplus of arms helps keeps the staff going at the highest level. I'm sure Sabean will pull off some waiver-wire magic, and round up a reject or two that could help down the stretch. But it seems increasingly likely there will be no Sanchez-for-Reyes blockbuster stuff and that the team will be what the team is for the duration of 2011. That means guys will have to start performing if they expect to nail down the division and go into the playoffs as a real threat. The Giants are, and should be, the favorites to repeat in the West. But they won't run away with anything if they hit like San Diego. If they put together some 0-26 w/ RISP lines in a key series or two in August or September a dark horse club like Arizona could sneak past and the Giants could find themselves looking up instead of down. This lineup will never impress anyone, but it ought to be reasonably competent. Right now it is a joke, and the pile of wasted starts it is leaving behind is infuriating. I like a little magic and enjoy the old "boy they sure know how to win" story line now and again, but I'd much rather see extra-base hits with men on base and RS > RA.


Saturday, June 18, 2011


Friggin' A's.
Really, Aaron Rowand as a DH against a right handed pitcher???
Ugly night for a struggling Panda: 0-5, 2 strikeouts, game ending GIDP.
Sanchez is not supposed to be easy to hit, but he got pummeled by dweebs.
Thank Jeebus the snakes lost too.
Really, Aaron Rowand as a DH against a human pitcher???
All the runs scored in the 5th inning. Why did I listen to the others?
The bullpen is sooo good.
It is such a waste sometimes.
Not tonight...again.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Better Sucky Tim

Tim Lincecum (5-6) was better than in his previous June starts, but not good enough as the A's took the first of three in Oakland. When you pitch for a team that routinely transforms mediocre opposing pitchers ( like...oh, let's say a rookie making their second start ) into dominant hurlers with almost total command of the game, you better be prepared to bring it.

Given Tim's history against the A's ( 5-0, 1.17 ERA before tonight; a 3 hit shutout earlier this year), it was easy to expect great things. However, because this June has us all remembering last August, it was also easy to have some trepidation. The Freak's performance (game score 54) landed squarely in the middle of those extreme expectations:

6 + innings 5 hits (only one double) 2 earned runs 5 walks 7 strikeouts

Not totally sucky but when all your teammates can muster during their 0-6 RISP evening is a Cody Ross homer, it means you drop below .500 again.

And the snakes are back to a .5 game behind... I can feel their reptilian breath...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

This time it goes the other way

The Giants held the Diamondbacks to ten runs in three games. This is a club that hits as well as any in the league in a hitting-friendly park. They've scored 326 runs--that's 83 more than Giants. They average about 14 runs scored every three games. The Giants did well to keep them off the board and managed two wins because of it. Ryan Vogelsong got MadBum's Matt Cain treatment, but the team took him off the hook with a pesky comeback in the 9th off closer J.J. Putz. That was a rousing bit of team magic, but it didn't stay in the container very long. Some must have spilled in the Arizona dugout because they got a walk-off bomb from Justin Upton to win in the 10th. One-run wins and walk-off wins are all part of the 2011 magic, but with great magic comes great responsibility. One has to keep the cap on the bottle.


p.s. That was Upton's fourth walk-off RBI, most in the majors. (H/T Baseball Musings)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Kelly Johnson was on first base in the bottom of the 8th inning with two outs when Chris Young hit a screamer into the left field corner off Sergio Romo. The ball took a funny hop, spitting itself out like a watermelon seed, right at the chin of streaking Aaron Rowand. Unfazed, he snatched it out of the air barehanded, pivoted, and threw a line drive to cutoff man Miguel Tejada. The shortstop promptly spun and threw a strike to catcher Eli Whiteside, who had time to set himself before tagging the hapless Johnson. A child could have called that play. But my word, what a lovely play! Rowand-to-Tejada-to-Whiteside may not have much romance to it, but it sure turned out a to be a thing of beauty. It was one of those perfectly timed, expertly executed events that happen all the time in baseball games but still make you sit up and holler "yeah!". The play saved a run and preserved the 3-2 lead for Madison Bumgarner, who delivered yet another quality start, his TENTH in a row. What a year this kid is having! Forget "wins" and "losses." Anyone with half a fookin' brain knows it's a goddamn TEAM GAME. Pitching may be the most important part, but it is not the only part. You have to hit and catch and throw and run and all the rest. The lefty has not had the support his efforts have deserved. Tonight though, the lads were tough and resourceful and worked the Arizonans for FIVE big ones which turned out to be more than enough. New man Bill Hall got a big hit, and as did Newly Risen Pat Burrell. Mostly, though, this was about MadBum. When the going got tough in the bottom of the 6th, two on with only one out, he struck out both Stephen Drew and Xavier Nady to end it. Another impressive win by the Giants!

Ryan Vogelsong gets his shot tomorrow.


Southwest showdown

Matt Cain must be glad Madison Bumgarner is around. The young lefty has been the best pitcher on the staff this season and has eight losses to show for his efforts. The big righty, the very embodiment of the "tough luck" starter, so much so that "getting Cained" is part of every Giants fan's baseball lexicon, racked up his team-high sixth win of the year after giving up five runs in Arizona. The Giants, fortunately, scored six runs, and with all the changes to the game over the years it is reassuring to know that six is still more than five and you still win when you get more than the other guy. A three-rum bomb by smoking hot Miguel Montero in the 6th and too many booming fly balls to the outfield in the 7th finally chased Cain. Jeremy Affeldt ended the threat and superb relief work from Javier Lopez set it up for Brian Wilson, who struck out Stephen Drew to end it. He had to walk two guys and wild-pitch them to second and third before getting the final out, but I suppose that's just how the dude rolls. It was a team effort--everyone in the starting eight got a hit, and Cain chipped in an RBI sacrifice bunt. Cody Ross was the big star with the bat, and some outstanding glove work by Andres Torres and Emmanuel Burriss (I understand he wants to be called "Manny") kept things from getting out of hand. The Diamondbacks can sure hit the ball hard and that park plays like an AL bandbox. Arizona had won 22 of 30 before last night. That was a big win and it just goes to show that when you bitch long enough and hard enough about the offense they will finally listen and deliver the goods. My favorite play was the 2-4-3-6 rundown of Brandon Crawford that let Ross score from third, and my second favorite play was the RBI double by Nate Schierholtz off reliever Aaron Heilman. Nate had been blind against Joshua Collmenter, striking out twice and hitting a weak pop fly. The rookie righty had only allowed four runs in his previous six starts.

MadBum gets his chance tonight against lefty Joe Saunders. The Giants love to face southpaws--they are 13-5 against them. The Giants are 6-1 against Arizona and 19-10 against the NL West. Pablo Sandoval got a nice line drive RBI single in the first inning to get things going. Welcome back, Panda.


p.s. It is The Franchise's 27th birthday today! Happy Birthday, Timmy. Thank you for being a Giant and leading us to The Promised Land. Get your Freak on, lads!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Four runs is a lot

I was really happy to see (a) Jonathan Sanchez hold it together, (b) Nate Schierholtz have a big game, (c) Aubrey Huff go the other way to finally get a friggin' hit, and (d) Cody Ross make a huge play in the field (wow, poor baserunning by Edinson Volquez, you'd think he'd just look at the coach and do what he says). That was fun. Oh, and did I mention the bullpen? Wow, that was some great work. A "formula" Giants win, really. But four runs--sheesh--I don't know if that's sustainable!! :-)


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Worst Ever Tim?

Here's some facts, you decide.
1. fewest ever swing throughs (2)
2. worst ever percentage of strikes (45%)
3. tied for the most earned runs ever (7)

His last four starts have been crap. The injuries are bad enough, but a medocre Tim will mean the end of contention.
Yuck, good thing they play again tomorrow

Changes and Remains the Same

First, the "same":

* Yet another walk-off win!! (#9 this season) This time it was Nate Schierholtz in the bottom of the ninth over the Reds, 3-2.

* Ryan Vogelsong continues to impress with a quality start (game score 51). His streak of six games giving up one or less runs was broken, but just barely. He labored sure, but he did everything he needed. Remember, the Reds have a very above average offense.

* Another injury to a key player: Freddy Sanchez. Freddy dislocated his shoulder on a dive in the fifth. This one really "hurts" since Sanchez has been fielding at a Gold Glove level to go along with some of his best hitting as a Giant. I hate to say it, but INJURIES are turning out to be the key to 2011.

The "changes":

* To replace Sanchez, the Giants purchased Bill Hall, a savvy veteran recently jettisoned by the Astros. I seem to remember him as pesky but not a game changer. I fear that one of the worst things about this situation is it means Miguel Tejada will stay as a Giant for awhile longer. Which brings me to...

* Tejada appears to be a new batter in the last couple days. Isn't that 4 doubles? Take a look at his career stats and you will see the guy sure knows how to hit doubles. At least he used to....maybe, he will rise to this newest challenge.

Friday, June 10, 2011

That was bad

Watching the Giants "offense" is like . . .

Yeah, I couldn't think of anything either.


Another Not-About-The-Game Post

I've been listening to a lot of Dubstep this season. You might say that it's my personal theme music of the 2011 Giants. It is a very grinding, repetitive type of music; generally very enjoyable but sometimes hard to take. Definitely not for everyone, for example, I can almost guarantee that M.C. O'Connor, the #1 RMC author, would not be a big fan. Why, you may ask, this cultural digression?
The 2011 Giants have become a Dubstep Team, if that were possible. They are very modern, patch-work consolidations, driven by a high quality and relentless bassline. However, they tend to be rather repetitive, sometimes to the point of irritation. Can you see all those qualities in last night's loss to the Reds? Madison Bumgarner, although bringing his NINTH CONSECUTIVE QUALITY START, was once again vicitimized by his teammates' all-consuming need to make easy outs. Have we heard that song before? A very good bassline, betrayed by a flimsy "high end."
A couple other ridiculous comparisons (can you tell I don't want to talk about the game?):
* Dubstep will often throw a big profanity at you, out of the blue. (Makes it hard to play at your classroom desk.) It can be a bit shocking....kind of like Aubrey Huff swinging at crap in order to strand a runner at third...
* Bottom line: This shit is good. It will grind you down. It doesn't always work, but wait a minute and another version of basically the same thing will beat you tomorrow. Er, I mean "win you over" tomorrow.

Here's some examples of dubstep, in case you haven't had the pleasue yet:

"Kill Everybody" by DJ Skrillex
"Cockney Thug" by DJ Rusko (perfect for last night's game, explicit lyrics included)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Matt Cain is a BEAST!!!!

Fortunate circumstances allowed me to take a road trip to the Bay and meet Zo at the Ballpark today. The Mystic One scored some simply outstanding seats (sec 108 row 31) and we got an up-close-and-personal look at Matt Cain's dominant start against Washington. The big fella was absolutely poppin' the glove with the heater and working the corners with his usual aplomb, befuddling the Nationals and leading the Giants to a 3-1 win. What a treat! Matty was as good as he can be and added an RBI double as well. I was particularly impressed by the three strikeouts of Michael Morse who is running out a .301/.343/.518 line these days and also had a hit, a stolen base, and scored his team's only run. Imagine what the Giants lineup could do with that guy! Speaking of the Giants lineup, I got damn discouraged by the feeble display of quick outs against Yunesky Maya who threw only 67 pitches in his six innings of four-hit ball. Yikes! Thank goodness their bullpen has some weaknesses or we might still be there in a 1-1 deadlock. Brandon Crawford continues to impress with the glove and the bat. Miguel Tejada is going to have to sit when Pablo Sandoval comes back. Even if the kid starts hitting like a minor-leaguer I don't think the Giants can afford to give up his defense. He made a great stop to save a run in the 7th and even Bochy acknowledged that the team hasn't seen that kind of range and skill at shortstop in some time.

Cain had a season-high 11 strikeouts, walked one, and gave up only a bunt single in the first five innings. He threw his breaking pitches for strikes all day long and got some pretty swing-throughs with the changeup as well. He got two strikeouts in the 9th including one to end the game. Second baseman Danny Espinosa was actually hit by the last pitch but the umpire correctly ruled that he had swung at it and thus it was strike three. (I thought he'd fouled it off.) The complete game was the 13th of his career and his first of 2011. Cain gave credit to his catcher, as he always does, and Eli Whiteside did indeed have a great game with two big hits, an RBI, and a run scored.

Dusty Baker and the defending NL Central champs come to town for four games. The Reds lead the league with 312 runs scored but have struggled to find consistent pitching, allowing 294, the third-worst (Astros and Cubs are both over 300). I complain a lot about the Giants offense, and it will have to get better if they expect to win down the stretch, but I'd rather have that problem than Cincinnati's. You can usually find a bat or two to help out in crunch time, last season is proof of that. But building and maintaining a great pitching staff is the hardest thing to do in the game, and the Giants are certainly blessed with an array of tremendous arms. Matt Cain may not get the headlines, but he's aces in my book, and Giants fans certainly know what a valuable player he is.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

No Magic Show Tonight!

Just a real boring one run loss to the Nationals.
I know that one run games shouldn't be boring but that is what it has come to. Tonight, we got a triple and a double to score once in the second. Then ZIPPO, ZILCH, NADA. Not another runner in scoring position. Boring.
Oh yeah, we pitched pretty well. Jonathan Sanchez walked every other batter and threw 500 pitches by the fifth, but somehow only gave up two runs. You know, the usual. Boring.
Tomorrow's matinee better have the magic back. I guess one night off this week is OK, but any thing else will get all the math nerds babbling about regression again. When it comes to Giants baseball, magic is way better than regression to the mean.

Kilo Tim

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy Time continues at Mays Field in 2011 as the Giants celebrate their EIGHTH walk-off victory, this time a 5-4 win in 13 innings over the Nationals. Even the most jaded sabrematician has to wonder at this team's ability to win the close one. Perhaps most impressive is our ability to overcome the few low quality starts we get (yes, Lincecum pretty much sucked chowder in this one) and find a new conquering hero (Freddy Sanchez, Nate Schierholtz, and a bunch of relievers as tonight's examples).

The one thing that Tim Lincecum did well yesterday was reach the ONE THOUSAND CAREER STRIKEOUT milestone. He seemed quite dedicated to joining the tiny list of strikeout artists that hit the magic number within their first five fact, he struck out the needed fifth batter in the second inning. But by then Tim was already showing signs of mediocrity ( a mammoth HR to a RH ) and things got bad in a hurry as he struggled through a 101 pitch uglyfest (game score 43):

5 innings, 4 runs, 5 hits, 3 walk, 5 strike outs
Tim has a poor track record against Washington and this did nothing to help. Go figure. Luck for us WE WON!! End of analysis.

So that means we can ponder silly milestones. Not that Tim's achievement is silly, but you must admit they can get rather goofy. Like....
How many more thousands of AB's until Miguel Tejada gets an extra base hit?
On what date will Bochy make his One Millionth perfectly predictable pitching change?
Can Aaron Rowand go an entire career missing that foot outside slider?

photo credit its worth $10

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Reciprocity is a Bitch

The Giants, buoyed by another stellar Ryan Vogelsong performance, defeated the helpless Rockies today in a near mirror image of yesterday's game. Baseball payback, Giants style. Each game was a nail-biting 2-1 affair in which the losing team could only muster a solo homer. Quite a bookend of pitcher's duels. Colorado came into our house and tried to play our type of ball. They actually did a good job, holding us to 6 runs in 3 games. You would think that would be good enough to take the series, perhaps even sweep it. But we have a secret weapon...Ryan Vogelsong.

The best story of 2011 so far is clearly Zito's replacement. Today's masterpiece ( game score 76 ) was eight innings of 4 hit, 7 strikeout dominance. This is his sixth straight super ( one run or less ) outing!! That's something Tim Lincecum can't claim ( although Matt Cain has done better! ) ( Thanks to McCovey Chronicles for that nifty factoid.) Not only was his pitching still outstanding ( lots of swing throughs! ), he also delivered a clutch bunt when everyone knew it was coming. You gotta love that!

In the same post referenced above, Grant suggested that Barry Zito start taking ground balls at short. That could very well be his best bet to ever play for us again.

Feeble Offense Denies Quality MadBum

For the eighth straight time, Madison Bumgarner gave the Giants a quality start. That ties him with Tim Lincecum (8) and leaves him right behind Matt Cain (9) for the team lead. Sure is a pity that in Bizarro GiantsWorld, that kind of pitching excellence has little or nothing to do with winning. Ask Matt Cain. And now MadBum is getting his full education. Case in point: last night's loss to Colorado, 2-1, which drops us back to second in the division.
MadBum's great strength always seems to stem from his tremendous control. Last night he only had one walk to go against 6 strikeouts. He looked absolutely dominant early (game score 62)and was never really hit hard ( 7 hits, all singles). However, one more walk, specifically to Troy Tulowitzki with a base open, could have been the difference. Why on earth let that guy beat you? I really doubt he wanted to find SO MUCH of the plate, but with his type of control it is probably HARD TO THROW A BALL SOMETIMES. I bet money next time the same situation arises, MadBum will be ready. Well actually, I bet that Bochy calls for the intentional walk from the bench. But maybe the time after that.
Too bad it had to come down to such small stuff, but we all know that's how the Giants roll.

Something to look out for: FATIGUE. We are currently on the longest consecutive game stretch of the season (20, next off day June 13). Right now we are 5-6, but last night we sure looked like zombies.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Cain again

Dave Flemming made the point on the post-game wrap that we've been watching Matt Cain do the same thing for five years, namely, pitch out of tough spots. It often just feels like good luck or "dodging a bullet." But as Flemm pointed out, when it happens over and over again in a career spanning almost 1200 innings, it can't be that. It has to be good pitching. Matt Cain proved once again that he's a good pitcher. Despite, for him, lackluster numbers (103 ERA+, 1.226 WHIP), he delivered another excellent effort and put his team in position to win. Bruce Bochy was asked after the game if he saw "anything different" from Cain than in his last two starts where he gave up 17 hits and nine runs in 12 IP. Bochy, as usual, scowled, grimaced, and scratched his head, then said "no, not really." He went on to say that it's about "avoiding mistakes" and "that's the key for Matt." I have to agree. It looked like Cain could not throw his curveball and slider for strikes early on, relying entirely on the fastball and a few changeups, but then all four pitches started working and he dispatched the final seven guys effortlessly. Cain isn't deceptive and doesn't have the magic "swing-through" pitch that his counterparts Tim Lincecum and Jonathan Sanchez possess. Guys know what's coming--they've seen his repertoire and they know how they are going to get pitched. But they still make outs! They make outs because Matt can put the fastball anywhere, he can bring out the changeup in fastball counts, he can snap off killer breaking balls on the corners and out of the zone. Mike Krukow said he thinks Cain "understands the fastball and how to use it better than anyone in the league." A bit of hometown hyperbole, to be sure, but a fair point. Because he has such great command of his fastball and knows he can get strikes and induce weak contact with it, it sets up the other pitches and allows him to keep hitters off balance. Whatever it is that makes Matt Cain good may be beyond my limited understanding of major-league pitching, and may confound sabermetricians and the like, but it is sure great for San Francisco Giants fans. A big win after a tough and impressive road trip has the Giants back in first place. Special mention to Javier Lopez for an awesome 8th inning and to Cody Ross for smoking the ball all over the field. He's posting a 119 OPS+ right now!


p.s. I have a critical family situation happening these days and it will take me away from home and away from my favorite pastime of following the Giants. So you will likely not hear much from me in the next week, or perhaps longer. No worries--stuff needs doing and I'm ready to do it. I just may have to take a hiatus from RMC. My mate JC says he'll be chipping in more often and maybe the rest of the boys can help out, too. GO GIANTS!

Friday, June 3, 2011

A puff for Huff

How's about a couple of nice, fat puros for Aubrey "Don't call me Aaron" Huff, eh? Give that man a cheroot! Pass out the cigars! Smoke 'em if ya got 'em! The ice-cold Thongman stopped his descent into Rowandia with a three-homer night and the Giants whipped the Cardinals. Whipped them in the game, whipped them in the series, whipped themselves back into first place. The St. Louis club has some serious thump in their lineup even with the loss of Matt Holliday, but their pitching looks a little suspect. They elected not to throw Jaime Garcia last night and it cost them as the Giants beat up on Lance Lynn, Trever Miller, Maikel Cleto, and Brian Tallet. Giants starter Jonathan Sanchez did another one of those weird two-baserunners-per-inning things but managed to keep it all from coming apart after Santiago Casilla bailed him out in the 6th. Guillermo Mota gave us a scare but a resurgent Jeremy Affeldt closed it out, actually earning a save. A huge win in a huge series for the Giants, who looked like a rudderless ship after The Collision. It's going to take a bit of re-inventing and re-arranging but the Giants can still put together the vaunted league-average offense I so desperately seek. Case in point: even after a three-strikeout night Cody Ross is laying out a .267/.348/.417 line. Hey, I'll take it. Add in a little more pop and that's a solid corner OF. Freddy Sanchez is delivering the goods and flirting with .300, Andres Torres looks completely healthy, and Pablo Sandoval is re-habbing in San Jose this very day. If Brandon Crawford can hit better than Miguel Tejada (.211/.237/.271, I'm not making that up) the rest of the way then the team is hugely improved. Hell, he's an upgrade even if he doesn't. Show 'em what you got, kid!

Matt Cain opens the homestand tonight against Colorado. A big shut down win for The Tennessee Stud would be a lot of fun and erase the memory of his last two below-par efforts, don't you think?



Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Pinched Tim

In a weirdly wonderful victory, the usual freak did not show up. Tim Lincecum was distinctly human while failing to hold a lead, but the oft-maligned offense more than compensated with a season high sixteen hits as the Giants beat the Cards, 7-5 in eleven innings.
His numbers aren't too bad (game score 42)

6.1 innings 10 hits 5 runs no walks 9 strikeouts

and maybe the heat got to him, but Timmeh absolutely fell apart in the the seventh inning. He gave up a couple runs early on singles and strike out pitches that Whiteside couldn't handle, but generally he had good stuff. And when Huff finally delivered a big hit to give him a lead late, I thought we had it made. Then: triple (by a guy from my hometown!), homer (the first ever by a pinch-hitter off Tim, by a guy from my alma mater), single, single, showers. That is NOT your typical Lincecum last inning. I was, shall we say....despondent.
But Nate Schierholtz (with not one but TWO huge RBI's), Cody Ross (with four hits), Freddie Sanchez ( with three hits), even frigging Aubrey Huff (with a homer and a HUGE two out walk in the ninth) all conspired to outslug the mighty Cardinals. How could I stay sad? Is it my imagination or is Brandon Crawford stirring the offensive pot? We sure seem a bit more capable at turning double plays as well. Its getting clear that Miguel Tejada (0-6 tonight although a couple were hard hit) will be left behind soon.
A road win against a good team when your ace lets you down is a rare and precious thing. Let us savor it.

OK, done? Good. Now, let's go kick their ass tomorrow!