Sunday, May 31, 2015

May Ends With a Loss

It seems like a light switch flipped yesterday.  The Giants went from fantastic to mediocre, or worse.  I hope the regression-to-the-mean folks are happy.  I was hoping, after reading the comments two days ago, that I could use this post to point out that the mean for this season would add up to 100 wins.  Sigh, that was not to be.  The Giants lost today when it looked like they were about to come back with a win thanks to Joe Panik's 4th home run into the center-right field stands.

Madison Bumgarner started the game, and looked to be in cruise control for awhile.  The Brandons, batting consecutively, hit solo home runs in the 2nd inning.  Atlanta's starter, Julio Teheran, only allowed 3 hits through 6 innings, a Brandon Belt single in the 6th adding to the 2 home runs.  Madison Bumgarner also only allowed 2 hits through 6, both in the 5th to net Atlanta 1 run.  In the 7th, though, Madison walked Jonny Gomes and then gave up a home run to Juan Uribe (who stepped up his game with a home run yesterday).  2 singles later, and Madison was out of the game with a 3 - 2 deficit.  Madbum's line: 6 1/3 IP, 3 ER, 5 hits, 6 K and 1 BB.  In the bottom of the frame, Matt Duffy doubled and Teheran was replaced by Donnie Veal.  Blanco's single scored Duffy, to hang another earned run on Teheran and then Joe Panik homered, Giants 5, Atlanta 4.

After another hitless inning by Hunter Strickland, Santiago Casilla came in to close out the 9th.  After a one-pitch out by Juan Uribe, Freddie Freeman homered to left, 5 - 4 Giants.  A walk and a double play ball was.....................bobbled by Brandon Crawford.  Now there's a phrase you don't see often, thank goodness.  But today, it was the start of a collapse that ended at Atlanta 7, Giants 5.  Boo.

The Braves are not that good a team, posting a .500 record after two wins, but Pittsburgh is.  All that stuff you hear about shaking it off and coming in ready for the next game; this would be a good time to do just that.  Still, 21 - 9 this month.  Keep that up and things will be just fine.

WHIPped Tim

Sorry for the tardy post, but I figured everyone would understand since last night was clearly one of the worst losses of 2015. Some games are best quickly forgotten. If you wanted to read about this 8-0 shellacking by the Braves, which ended our nice winning streak and knocked us out of first place, then I seriously worry about your masochistic tendencies.  As some frozen chick once said, "Let It Go."

Of course, I can never let go of my worry over Tim Lincecum. I think it is fair to say that his strong start (which had many of us hoping for an All-Star selection) has morphed in to tough times. Tim had gone for 23 scoreless innings at home but last night he surrendered four runs and eight hits in a feeble 4 1/3 innings. (It seemed as they started with a runner on each inning! Is that legal?) One thing about the "New" Tim is that he sure has to work hard. Lots of base runners, working out of the stretch, and high pressure situations. In the old days, the stat that "captured" Tim, if you will, was K/9. That has been replaced by WHIP. To Lincecum's credit, he does damn well even when putting a ton of guys on. After all, he can still get a few strikeouts and he doesn't give up too many dingers. So do I think this start means that Lincecum's year is headed for the tank? No,no,no!  The Freak will bounce back again and have another nifty run real soon. 

And then he will have a terrible stretch.  Get used to it. The "New" Tim is consistently inconsistent. 


Friday, May 29, 2015

Giants Move Into First

The Dodgers got shut out in St. Louis this evening with that old Giants nemesis John Lackey delivering the goods for the Cardinals.  In San Francisco the old man of the staff, Tim Hudson, tired of the smack-talk here at RMC, kicked some ass of his own and led the Giants to another win against the Braves. Buster Posey was Mr. Clutch with the bat and the home team prevailed 4-2 over Atlanta. The Giants sit at 30-20 for a nice .600 win percentage and have a half game edge over the Dodgers who are 28-19 (.596), falling to 7-12 on the road with the loss tonight.

The Giants have now won five in a row. It's a looooooooong season my friends, we cruised past the one-quarter mark when LA was getting smoked three straight two weeks back. We are creeping up on the one-third mark (game 54) which I believe will be Tuesday the 2nd versus the Pirates. It has been terribly exciting to watch the ballclub do everything right consistently for several weeks now (they are 25-10 or .714 since 4/21), but we know these things are fleeting. They will play stretches of bad baseball in the remaining 112 games, this we know for sure. But damn if they don't look good! What a lineup--I'm not sure I can recall a batting order this tough from top to bottom. In the Bonds Era they had some serious offense, but did they have the one-through-eight we see with these guys?

Tim Lincecum gets the start tomorrow at 7:05 pm. I hate weekend night games--all weekend games should be played in the day time. Save the night games for Monday through Friday.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Fourth Straight Home Shutout

The Giants lead baseball in team shutouts with nine, just ahead of the Dodgers who have seven. Rookie Chris Heston bounced back with 7-1/3 scoreless, allowing only four hits and one walk. The closest thing the Braves had to a rally was Nick Markakis batting with runners on the corners and two outs in the 6th. Brandon Belt homered in the bottom of the 7th off a very tough Shelby Miller to make it 1-0 Giants. It looked to be another nail-biter until a six-run explosion in the 8th, one of those "hitting is contagious" events where the team batted around. The final was 7-0 and the Giants gain a half game on the idle Dodgers. That's the team's twentieth win in the month of May against only seven losses.

Heston gave up eleven runs in the two starts following his complete game gem in Houston. Tonight was the first time this season he has not allowed a run at all. The Giants beat Miller in Game Four of the NLCS last season when he was the starter for St. Louis. He also pitched in the 2012 NLCS against the Giants when he was only twenty-one. He went to the Braves as part of the Jason Heyward deal.

Tim Hudson tomorrow night. GO GIANTS!

--M.C.



p.s. Word on Jake Peavy is that he will require at least two more rehab starts.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Vogie and Giants Complete Sweep

That's 11 wins in their last 13 games if you are counting. The hirsute Ryan Vogelsong was a disaster, the de-whiskered version has been a beast. That's five consecutive starts of two runs allowed or fewer and five wins by the ballclub. Number 32 allowed 22 runs in his first five starts and only five since. One of those first five was a good one against the Dodgers, in the other four he failed to get past the 5th. If he can hit those spots low on the outside corner with his two-seamer he can get grounders instead of fly balls and it sets up his slow breaking stuff for swing-throughs. That worked well today--he got outs on the ground and key strikeouts as well. Walks have been a bugaboo but no freebies were issued this afternoon. That's three straight effective starts on the road in hitters parks. We know the Giants can keep the lid on things in their big yard so it's extra sweet to see them do it in the bandboxes. When Jake Peavy gets activated, I don't think he's going to bump Vogie.

Big blast today from Joe Panik right after the Brewers scored their only run. His two-run bomb came after Nori Aoki's leadoff single. Angel Pagan, hitting in the 7th spot, doubled and scored in the 9th for insurance. All the regulars, including Gregor Blanco, are positive WAR for the season and the lowest OPS of the bunch is Pagan's .728; the ML average is .709. The worst OBP in the lineup today was Matt Duffy's .333, he hit eighth (the ML average is .315).

Giants don't get a break until next Thursday--they come home for four against the Braves and three against the Pirates. Chris Heston gets the ball tomorrow night.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

p.s. Outstanding work, again, by the 'pen. My only concern is the usage--those guys are seriously racking up some innings! Let's hope Hunter Strickland can pick up some of the load. He looked good today and has done well (keeping fingers crossed!) since he was recalled to the bigs.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Sergio Romo Really Needs to Work on His Batting

Another win!  Another W for Madison Bumgarner, although, perhaps, not his best outing.  He went 6, 99 pitches worth, and threw 61 strikes.  Madison gave up 3 runs on 4 hits, uncharacteristically walking 2 and gave up a home run.   Madison also got a hit and scored a run.  After a solo home run in the 4th by Aramis Ramirez, the damage to Madison was done in the 6th.  George Kontos pitched the 7th, and Sergio Romo found the last out in that inning and then went through the 8th.   Santiago Casilla got a save for a 2 hit, 2 K 9th.

Nori Aoki had another fine night with 3 hits.  7 other hits were scattered throughout the lineup, with Matt Duffy delivering a 2 run homer and Brandon Belt adding a solo shot in the 7th to top off the score at 6 - 3.

In the 8th, Sergio Romo came to the plate.  No doubt Ron was apoplectic.  Sergio had a chance to tie Madison Bumgarner for home runs in 2015, but, as it turned out, he did not get a hit.  Nor did he hit into an out.  In fact, he struck out looking.  No matter, though, as he held the Brewers scoreless in the bottom of the 8th.  I personally believe the man has a hit in him somewhere, but perhaps tonight was just not the night for it.  Sergio will make it known when the time is ripe.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Well Supported Tim

Escaping last week's oppressive rains to shine again under Miller Park's shelter, the Giants dominated the Brewers 8-4 with plenty of offense and major contributions from Nori Aoki.  Lincecum picked up his 5th win of the season, benefiting from an outrageous bat-around, 7-run 6th inning. 

Tim Lincecum's performance was far from spectacular (5 
Innings, 5 hits, 4 runs, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts) and the noteworthy aspect of this win was probably not his favorite.  Until tonight, aggressive hitters had only claimed one home run in the 47 innings pitched since opening day, and tonight in 4 innings they bagged three; fortunately these were inconsequential.  Is it just the odds catching up with Tim, or a trend to be worried about? Only time will tell.

Game quirks:

Khris Davis was almost denied a home run due to celebrating with a "skip-step" which may have caused him to miss contact with home plate. The replay group in New York disagreed, but ultimately the home run didn't matter.  Curious. 

Nori Aoki had a  splendidly productive 4-4 game, inspired no doubt by my wife's recitations of the "Aoki Fight Song," which also made a guest appearance in Freshman English last week as an example of Japanese poetry in pop culture.  "Take your chances/Hit! Hit! Aoki!" Worked every time.  This same chipper cheerleader is ghost authoring today's Tim post, as our usual author is driving through our Golden State's parched Central Valley, partially dictating and musing about the game.

 All in all, a memorable Memorial Day victory. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Long and Rainy Road

Four games in three days and seven hours of rain delays nets the Giants a split in that chamber of horrors otherwise known as Coors Field. Friday night Ryan Vogelsong was in superb form, hurling six shutout frames, and the lineup went ape shit and scored eleven runs. A good thing as the bullpen gave up eight in their three innings. Nonetheless it was that rare of 2015 events, a win against the Rockies. The Giants made it eight straight wins the next day, taking the opener of the doubleheader by a 10-8 score. Again the lineup got the big numbers on the board early but a shaky Chris Heston and the 'pen made it a close affair. After that it was all Colorado. Yusmeiro Petit didn't pitch badly in the late game, but the offense was no help and they lost a close one, 5-3. Today Tim Hudson had nothing and got hammered and the bats didn't create any runs until the last inning. It finished 11-2, the only bright side to 11 runs is that Dodgers gave up 11 today as well and lost to the Padres.

It was a split in Colorado and that is generally a good thing. It's no fun to see the team, fresh off the three shutout wins at home against LA, give up 32 runs in a weekend. The fact that they won two of those games is a bit of good fortune. They scored 21 of their 26 runs in the first two, and that was enough.

It's an afternoon game for Memorial Day tomorrow in Milwaukee, 11:10 a.m. our time.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

Casey McGehee has been Designated for Assignment

Yesterday, Hunter Strickland was activated, and pitched in Saturday's first game.  The Giants and Rockies were allowed to add an extra person to the roster for the make-up double header.  Today, the Giants, needed to get back to a 25-man roster, so they designated internet whipping-boy Casey McGehee for assignment.  Because McGehee is a veteran, he has the option of becoming a free agent.  Or he can accept an assignment to the minor leagues or be traded (which seems unlikely because he kind of sucks).  The Giants retained Hunter Strickland.

So, the net as of right now is that, of the Giants' two off-season acquisitions, only Nori Aoki is still with the team.  It's only May.  I know that Matt Duffy has been doing a terrific job.  I know that Casey McGehee is batting .200 only because of a recent "surge."  I know that he managed to slide into home yesterday but not touch the plate (one of two dumb baserunning mistakes by the Giants in a 5 - 3 loss).  Still, I'm not so sure this is such a good idea.

Casey McGehee had 177 hits last year.  Were he to get to 170 hits last year, that would mean he would hit about .300 the rest of the season.  Matt Duffy might not continue hitting at his current torrid pace. He is, after all, a very young player.  That means that the Giants have 13 pitchers and 12 position players (besides the starters, that now include Duffy, that is Joaquin Arias, Andrew Susac, Gregor Blanco and Justin Maxwell.

My guess is that the Giants are gambling.  They have 10 games in the next 10 days after today's freak show in Coors.  3 in Milwaukee, then 7 at home against Atlanta (4) and Pittsburgh before their next day off June 4.  They may figure they need a pitcher more than a hitter just now and hope that McGehee is willing to accept an assignment to the minor leagues and still be there after that.  I'm guessing, of course.  Generally, though, going with the lunatic fringe's rant-du-jour is not the way to build long term success.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Sweet Sweep

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Home Fog Advantage Tim

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Giants Blank Dodgers

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

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

Tim Lincecum tomorrow night.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Winning Weekend

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

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

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

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

Saturday, May 16, 2015

2nd inning: 11-7

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

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

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

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

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

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Pick A Title For This Post

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

What'dya think?

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

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

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


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Stumbling Tim

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

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

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



Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Heston, Hitters Hammer Houston

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

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

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Comeback Win Makes Moms Smile

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

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

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

Good Guys Lose

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

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

Friday, May 8, 2015

Sactown Tim

I have to confess that I "followed" tonight's glorious victory while sitting in Sec.113 at Raley's Field.  Isn't modern technology wonderful?  As Tim Lincecum continued his very solid start to this season by tossing 6 scoreless innings and 8 strikeouts, the RiverCats (featuring the rehabing Hunter Pence) defeated the Albuquerque Isotopes.  Two nifty victories at the same time!  All captured in one post!  What a deal! 

First, the game I actually saw:   The RiverCats got two early runs ( the second one on a Pence sac fly ) and never really looked back as Ty Blach kept the Isotopes from ever mounting a threat.  He didn't over power them but still racked up several K's.  He looked very good.  Cordier struck out the side late in the game and looked very nasty doing it.  Adam Duvall put a lovely swing on a breaking ball and got yet another home run.  He looks like he is ready for another shot.  Of course, the reason we were there was Pence.  Sac fly, ground out and strike out into a double play.  No highlights but it was still wonderful to see his crazy on deck swing.  Golly, I love that guy. What's not to love?

Next, the game I probably should have been watching:  Tim Lincecum's solid pitching and Casey McGehee's grand slam propelled the Giants back into the win column with a convincing 6-0 thumping of the visiting Marlins.  The Freak wasn't as smooth as his last outing ( he needed 107 pitches
to make it through 6 innings ) but he sure wasn't easy to hit ( only a double and 2 singles ).  Timmeh has a nice trend going and if he can keep it up this could be quite the season indeed.  After the game he said the key to this year is repeatable mechanics.  Hell, I'll drink to that!

A couple other flashy things in the box score tonight:  A three inning save by Petit.  I love those and I love that guy.  Buster got on base FIVE times, the last three by walks.  He also caught Tim again and I bet we see a lot more of that.  Brandon Belt got 4 hits and has his average over .300.   He is red hot right now.  Keep it going Baby Giraffe!

All told it was a marvelous baseball night in the state capitol.  There were even fireworks! Too cool.
 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Vogetron Lives!

One could forgive Ryan Vogelsong for perhaps thinking he was pitching for his baseball life tonight. Not that the Giants have a lot of options, other than the inimitable Yusmeiro Petit, I mean the guys they got is the guys they got. And that means Vogie is getting the ball every fifth day, there is not a another Chris Heston in the minors ready to step in and be studly. A couple of fellows named Matt Cain and Jake Peavy are lurking just off stage, almost--we hope--ready to return to action. That's got to add a little heat to the sauce and to El Vogo's credit he stepped up with a huge effort against San Diego tonight. He channeled his inner bionic man, The Vogetron, and pounded the Padres with frisky fastballs early and slick sliders late and racked up seven zeroes. The infield kicked some serious ass with the bats and everyone made their plays and it added up to another excellent win. This is the kind of game we expect the team to play.

Giants are back over .500 for the first time since April 10th thanks to five wins in a row and eight straight at home. And speaking of rookie Chris Heston, he gets the ball tomorrow afternoon. Then the Marlins come in for four, they've won 10 of their last 13.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Giants Pitch Well

Madison Bumgarner threw 6 hitless innings tonight.  That was in spite of the fact that errors led to 2 baserunners to start an inning.   Madison picked up his 3rd win of the season, and the Giants picked up their 4th win in a row by a score of 2 - 1.   It is a good thing that the Giants did pitch well, because they didn't play defense particularly well, nor were they nails at the bat.

The Giants got a total of 8 hits to tally 2 runs.  The also committed 4 errors, 1 each by Belt, Crawford, McGehee, and Madbum.  4 errors against a tough San Diego team that has chewed up lefties, so it is a good thing that Madison, Romo and Casilla were sharp.  Madison threw 107 pitches in 7 1/3 innings, 72 of them strikes.  Madison struck out 6 and now has not allowed a run in 2 games.  Madison also got his first hit of the season, a solid single to left.  Romo struck out 2 to end the 8th and Casilla finished the 9th, but needed 4 outs to do it as he lobbed a comebacker over Belt's head, who missed it and was charged with the error.  Rbi's for Pagan and Maxwell.  Aoki and Pagan each stole a base.  The Giants have won 9 of their last 12 games.

The Giants are a .500 team at 13 - 13!!!!   That seems miraculous after an April 8 game losing streak.  They are 1/2 game back of the Pads, who are in second place.   Giants starters have allowed a total of 12 hits in their last 4 games.


Sunday, May 3, 2015

Hella Sweet Tim

Nowadays,Tim Lincecum always seems to keep his adoring fans on the edge of their seats , generally expecting an agonizing adventure.  Not  today, not even close.  In his fifth start of 2015, he delivered a commanding 8 inning performance (game score 79!!) that left no doubt as the Giants swept away the hapless Angels, 5-0.  It wasn't the blow them away god of yester year, more the cagey, ground ball artist hitting his spots.   Hell, he set down the last 9 men in order.  That is hella sweet!  Add to that 2 hits and a walk for his own cause and Timmeh must be feeling pretty good about now.

I can't recall seeing back to back lead off homers before.  Aoki and Panik poked a couple into the arcade before I could sip my game beer.  Truly a fun way to start a game.  It was amazing to see Weaver look so weak and hittable. Didn't he win 18 games last year? What happened? His fastball made Lincecum's look like Gibson.

We are 12-13 now, after that stanky start.  I really love May.  And I think we should only play teams from LA.

A Baseball Story

When Taylor Featherston was a young man, he was known around the minor leagues as a fast runner with a pretty good glove.  Not a great glove, but good enough to play any infield position.  Not super fast, either, but fast enough to be considered "speedy."  He as drafted by the Colorado Rockies, but bounced around the minor leagues for a few years until he realized that he would never be the star baseball player that he always envisioned when he was a boy.  What is generally not known is that Featherston, or Professor Featherston as he was known from 2024, after he completed his educational degree until his retirement from McMurry College in Abilene, Texas, also had a major league career.

It was one of those fluke circumstances.  He was in the California Angels' (or, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim before the California legislature outlawed moniker fraud) system, at age 25, still envisioning a chance for himself in the majors.  The Angels were generally healthy but for a couple of injuries.  The Angels called him up, as their returning utility man was one day short of coming off of the disabled list and they needed a replacement to fill out the roster.  Featherston knew that, still, if you get a call to the major leagues, you take it and don't think twice.  He as in Salt Lake, on the Bees, a quick plane ride from San Francisco where the Angels were to play the second of a three game set.  Featherston caught the 6 am flight Saturday morning, arriving at SFO and going straight to the Giants' ATT park, where a major league uniform awaited him.  

The Angels had a full compliment of starting players, his role was to be a back-up, but, you never know, maybe he could get in the game as a pinch hitter or late-inning defensive replacement.  Especially since the Angels had to play National League rules, which meant that the pitchers had to bat.  The Angels has lost the previous night, and, like every team, wanted to beat the 2014 World Champion Giants.  The Giants were starting Tim Hudson, a 40 year old pitcher that Featherston had seen, it seemed like forever, battling the Texas Rangers as an A and the Houston Astros as a Brave.  The stands filled, unlike anything he had seen in the minors - a sea of orange and black, and championship banners flapping in the cool breeze.    The Giants drew first blood with 2 runs in the second.  The Angels answered in the 4th with 1 on a Mike Trout home run, but the Giants added in the bottom of the 4th to keep the lead at 2.  Hudson was masterful, keeping the Angels down until he gave up a second solo home run in the 7th to Albert Pujols.  Watching these legends, Featherston had to remind himself to keep mentally ready, he could be called on at any minute.   Buster Posey added to the Giants' score in the bottom of the 7, the Angels were still 3 runs down.


Then, in the 9th, Tim Hudson walked the first batter pinch hitter Collin Cowgill, and Bruce Bochy, the Giants' manager, determined that it was time to go to the bullpen.  The second batter hit into a force out, leaving a runner at first for Mike Trout.  Trout promptly singled and Albert Pujols struck out, so the Angels were down to their last out with two on.  A pitching change brought in Jeremy Affeldt, who gave up a single to Kole Calhoun.  That was one run, 5 - 3 Giants with two on.  Another pitching change brought in Santiago Castilla, the Giants' closer.  David Freese singled to straight-away center, scoring Trout, and sending Calhoun to third base as the Angels drew within one.  Then, breaking his concentration, Manager Mike Scioscia barked at him to go in and pinch run for Freese.  The Angels were hitting the Giants' relievers and he was going to be a part of it!  The first base coach told him to be ready, that if Matt Joyce got wood on the ball, he was to run like there was no tomorrow.  There would be no double plays to break up, no trying to tag and run on a deep fly out.  There were two outs in the ninth! 

And with that, Joyce stung the ball up the middle and as Featherston sped toward second, he felt the ball bounce off of his leg.  He reached second, out of the corner of his eye, he saw Calhoun cross the plate, but something was wrong.  The umpires were signaling "out" and the Giants were walking off the field.  He had been hit by a batted ball for an out and it was the third out of the ninth inning.  The Giants had won.

The next day, Taylor Featheston was sent back to Salt Lake, but not before Mike Scioscia gave him a pep talk and told him to be ready to come back at any time.  That time never came.  When he retired from teaching in 2062, he was asked if he remembered the game.  "Remember it?" he said, "I haven't forgot a second."

Friday, May 1, 2015

Joe Cool Delivers

Pinch-hitting Joe Panik lined a single up the middle to score Gregor Blanco and win the game in the 9th. Giants have found the formula: play an LA-based team and conjure up 3-2 walk-offs. Chris Heston pitched another great game and that gave the home squad a chance and they found a way. That's the real formula: pitch well. Who figured Buster Posey would start the game-winning rally by beating out an infield hit?

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.