Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I could have done without that one

Ryan Vogelsong, toughing it out against Chris Carpenter, and Jeremy Affeldt, throwing as well as he has all season, staked the Giants to a 3-1 lead after seven innings. They turned the ball over to Sergio Romo and Javier Lopez and the Cardinals scored three runs in the 8th to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Romo, after my effusive praise yesterday, threw only four pitches to give up his two runs. Lopez threw twelve pitches to five guys and one of them was an intentional walk, so that's eight pitches to four guys. Whatever those boys were throwing, the Cardinals were whacking for hits. It was not the usual way the Giants finish games.

The Giants end the month of May with a 16-12 record. Add that to March/April's 13-13 and you come up with the 29-25 they sit at now. Fifty-four games played means it is one-third of the way through the regular season. The Giants were 10-8 in their first inning of baseball, and 10-8 in the second as well. In the third inning--this last 18-game stretch--the Giants only managed a 9-9 record. Every 18 games is one-ninth of the season, three sets of 18 make 54, and thus you have three innings, or one-third, of the season completed. The Giants have played 33 road games and have 16 wins against 17 losses. They are 13-8 at home.

The Giants have scored 187 runs--second to last in the league. They have allowed 193 runs--third best in the league. The Phillies, by comparison, have allowed 192 runs in 54 games, but they have scored 227 and have five more wins. The Braves are the best, allowing only 185 runs in 56 games, but they have only one more win than the Giants despite scoring 215 runs. Neither of those teams can boast a potent offense. Philadelphia is squarely in the middle of the pack and Atlanta is a notch below that. Neither of those teams can hit like St. Louis. The Giants have done well to allow them only seven runs so far--they average almost five per game.


Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorable Memorial

I really like the way Madison Bumgarner got three outs in the 7th inning today: ball one, ground out to pitcher; called strike, ground out to pitcher; ball one, ball two, strike one, strike two, ball three, foul ball, ground out to shortstop. That finished his day at 104 pitches. MadBum seemed to have good command of his breaking pitches and got a lot of ground balls and called strikes. It was a big start in a tough park against a good team. That's what the Giants are about--shutting down the other guys. I know, it was a great day for the offense, and I'm still in a bit of a shock that the lads piled up SEVEN RUNS. Andres Torres was the star, and if there was ever a player that could "lead the way" and show the rest of the club how to get the big hit, it's him. MadBum helped out his own cause with a double and a run scored in the 3rd inning. He also walked in front of Torres' grand slam. He is starting to look like Hallowe'en MadBum, and that ought to strike fear into batters' hearts. Huge win today for a struggling team. It was nice to see Sergio Romo get the last three outs. Boy, he's good.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Don't look now . . .

. . . but the Arizona Diamondbacks are in first place.

Matt Cain has given up NINE runs in his last 12 innings of work. Today the first five guys in the Brewers lineup rapped out seven singles in the first three innings to go up 3-0 and put the Giants in a huge hole. Cain, from what I could see, didn't look bad, but he had some lousy luck and the Brewers hit good pitches. They are an excellent hitting club and the best team at home in the league. In the 6th, though, Cain gave up three hits with two outs and they tacked on two more runs. The pitch to Rickie Weeks was a clear mistake and got too much of the plate, and a hit to the pitcher (even though Gallardo is a good hitter) was inexcusable. It looked like Matt was going to put in six or maybe even seven with just the three runs, which would have been tolerable. But he let the game get blown open and that made any chance at a comeback impossible. Coming back from 3-0 would have been tough enough, and perhaps impossible today anyway. Yovani Gallardo did not break a sweat as he sliced neatly through a Giants "attack" that featured FOUR rookies. Emmanuel Burriss, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, and Chris Stewart all started. I suppose it is a stretch to call the 29-year old catcher now with his fifth big league club a rook, but the 37 AB in 2007 with Texas is his highest season total, and today was his only 27th career game. Santiago Casilla is back and worked a scoreless inning. Freddy Sanchez got his 1000th career hit, a nice milestone.

One year ago today Buster Posey was called up and started at first base at home against the last-place D-backs. He got three hits in a 12-1 victory. The Giants were 26-22 after that game, in third place 2-1/2 games behind the Padres, a half game back of LA, and a half game ahead of the Rockies. They'd scored 201 runs and given up 160. (This year's team has scored 177 and allowed 186.) The 2010 season is proof that there is a lot of baseball left after Memorial Day, but today's game was a depressing affair. I have the feeling this hard, cruel stretch will continue. There is some uncertainty and a bit of scrambling in the wake of The Collision. The pitching will continue to be tough. Matt Cain will get his groove back. But the starting eight will be a mess for a while, even when Pablo Sandoval returns. They had a great run of comebacks, walk-offs, and close victories, but those kinds of wins are too dependent on good bounces, close plays, and other lucky breaks. The next series--four in St. Louis--will be very tough. The Giants come home for ten games after that before their next off-day on June 13th.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

No bangs, just whimpers

The Giants looked like they'd rolled over and played dead for seven innings, then staged a rally of sorts in the 8th to tie the game and take Jonathan Sanchez off the hook. I say "of sorts" because relief pitcher Kameron Loe threw his sinkerball over and over and Giant hitters dutifully beat three balls in a row into the ground that all looked--off the bat--to be sure double plays. Fortunately the left side of the Milwaukee infield was not up to the task and the first two scored the two tying runs. They got it done with the third one, ending the threat with a double play. That was it for San Francisco. An excellent start and a dazzling half inning from Sergio Romo was not enough as Guillermo Mota gave up the winning run in the 9th on a bases-loaded squeeze bunt. I wondered why Mota was the one who got the call, but Ol' Boch was a bit hamstrung at that point. The southpaws were out as neither Jeremy Affeldt nor Javier Lopez have looked good lately, especially against right-handers, and Prince Fielder was the only lefty coming up in the inning. Ramon Ramirez did not look good on Friday night, almost blowing the game, and Santiago Casilla had only been reactivated today (Dan Runzler was optioned to Fresno). Being on the road he probably wanted to save Brian Wilson to protect a lead, which is hard to argue with. So it was Mota, and it didn't work out. Mostly, though, today was about a truly pathetic Giants lineup looking like it was in a contest to see who could make the quickest outs. The Brewers have Yovani Gallardo going tomorrow, another tough pitcher, and someone in the lineup is going to have to start producing, and soon. The Giants counter with Matt Cain who will probably have to match his mates with seven innings and no more than two or three runs allowed to give the team a chance to win the series. The pitching has been great, and when you keep games close you can scratch out wins, come from behind, and perhaps squeak past a good team. But it can't last. You have to start getting runs! Tuesday is the one-third mark in the season and the team has scored fewer runs than it has allowed. That is not an encouraging trend. You cannot expect the pitchers to do all the work--the hitters have to contribute. Let's hope they start to find a way to do that.


Friday, May 27, 2011

Overlooked Tim

When Tim Lincecum pitches, I get to post about him. That's how it works. He pitches, I gush about The Freak. He pitches, I spill out the Fun Tim Facts. Hell, quite often I fail to mention another friggin' member of the team! And to tell you the truth, sometimes he hardly needs them. Not on this night.

Brandon Crawford, in his first MLB game, carried the Giants to a much needed victory over the worthy Brewers. Repeating a feat accomplished by only five others ( including the incomparable Bobby Bonds ), Crawford drilled a grand slam into the Giants bullpen in the seventh inning. That sent the Giants ahead and gave the win to Lincecum (5-4) after a quality, yet flawed performance. Timmeh was pretty good (game score 57)

7 innings 6 hits 3 runs o walks 4 strikeouts

but he didn't seem to have the usual zip on his pitches. After hanging a lifeless slider to Weeks for a two run homer, I feared the worst. Down by three and I was thinking it may as well be a hundred. We seemed dead in the water.

Then, Ol' Bonehead got himself thrown out after arguing a close play at home. Maybe it meant nothing, but we did score 5 runs in the next two inning to grab the lead. This from a team that had not scored a single run since the you-know-what happened. Did it work? Can a managerial move "fire up" a justifiably dazed team?

Or was it just a fluke of nature named Brandon Crawford? Sure hope this particular fluke becomes the regular SS for the next decade or so. Stranger things have happened.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Dark Black Hole Of Despair . . . with some hope sprinkled in

The Giants played a baseball game today and lost 1-0.

That's all I have to say about that.

Lots of talk about Buster Posey. I've been trying to think of something to call that apocalyptic moment, and all I can come up with is The Collision. We've got The Freak, The Streak™, and The Panda, so The Collision works for me. It sure beats When The Season Turned Into A Dark Black Hole Of Despair. That one was a tad melodramatic.

Dave Cameron has an interesting piece on FanGraphs called It's Time to End Home Plate Collisons. Check it out. If you can stomach it, some of the commenters have intelligent counter-arguments. You'll get the usual collection of "it's part of the game, you pussies" but that's to be expected. I have to wonder whether those guys would still like to see beanballs and intentional spiking. Hell, batters used to be able to tell pitchers where they wanted the ball thrown! Home runs used to be freakish and unusual, and no one wore helmets. Baseball has evolved over the decades and will continue to change. Often incidents involving high-profile players precipitate those changes. I'm old enough to remember watching Ray Fosse get clobbered by Pete Rose in the All-Star Game. A lot has changed in 40 years--but not plays at the plate. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Here's something from Bruce Bochy (via Chris Haft):
"It's part of baseball," said Bochy, a former catcher. "I understand that guys run into catchers. I do think we need to consider changing the rules here a little bit because catchers are so vulnerable. ... Here's a guy [Posey] who's very popular in baseball. Fans want to see him play and now he's out for a while. So I'd like to see something considered where we can protect these guys a little bit more. They just don't have that protection to take a guy coming in full speed with that kind of force."
The good news is that despite the severity of the injury it is not impossible that Buster could return to action in a few months. Extra Baggs has an interview with Dave Groeschner, Giants head trainer. (They call them "physios" in the British sporting press!) AmyG tweeted that Ol' Boch thinks Buster will be back this season.


"Not good."

I was too tired to keep watching when it was 3-2 in the 8th. I figured the Giants might claw out a run in the 9th to send it to extras, but I wasn't going to stay up and watch. Hell, I work for a living. I get up at the crack of dawn. I decided to put baseball on the back burner for a night and feel fresh in the morning. The top of the 9th would have sent me to bed anyway, even if I had decided to stay up. A one-run deficit with a team that can't hit is one thing, a four-run deficit is quite another. Naturally, the Giants mounted one of their greatest-ever comebacks to force extras. And I missed it.

And then the worst possible thing happened. Well, not quite. Tim Lincecum getting hurt would be worse. Or Matt Cain. But Buster Posey getting hurt--seriously hurt--is damn close to the worst possible thing that could happen. After all, he's not just the Giants best hitter and one of their best fielders. He's their best player. And he's part of the pitching staff, the motor that runs this whole operation. Most of the position players on the club are perfectly replaceable. I know that sounds harsh, but in the cold, hard, early-morning light you and I both know that's true. Posey isn't. The Giants can't replace what he brings to the club. Sure, you can put the tools of ignorance on some guy and put him back there to catch pitches, but that's all he will do. He won't bring the rest of the skills--and the intangibles--that Posey brings to the game.

I'm glad I missed it. It would have kept me awake all night. It's already going to ruin my day, my week, and perhaps the whole season. It's worse for Buster, of course. He can't do what he's paid to do. Any time any athlete gets hurt they have to face the possibility that their livelihood is in jeopardy. I don't think it's that kind of injury, but you never know. All I can say, and wish for personally, is that he's OK. He's OK for his sake--I never like to see guys get hurt. Even guys I hate on teams I hate. That's not why I watch the game. I watch to see guys do shit that's impossible for me to do--I find that sort of thing most entertaining. And Buster is one to watch. His grace, sangfroid, and athleticism make an irresistible package. He's even good with a microphone and camera in his face. Hell, he's one of the best I've ever seen doing that media stuff--composed, articulate, relaxed. It's hard to believe he's only 24 years old.

This is a blow, a huge, huge blow to the club. It's going to require the rest of the team to pick up the slack. To paraphrase George Scott, the pitchers are going to have to pitch better, the fielders are going to have to field better, the hitters are going to have to hit better, the coaches are going to have to coach better, the manager is going to have to manage better, and the owners are going to have to own better.

Let's hope they do.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Streak snapped

Smoking hot Gaby Sanchez got the big hit off Matt Cain last night in the 3rd inning to seal the deal for the Marlins and end the Giants win streak. Cain could not convince home plate umpire Chad Fairchild that his pitches on the outside corner were strikes. He walked two guys with two outs in front of the Florida first baseman.
"That's my fault. That can't happen," Cain said. "That can't happen at all and that's the reason we lost. I didn't make the pitches to get him out and finish the inning." (ESPN article)
Yeah, that's about the size of it. The Giants have had a hard time scoring runs, and falling behind 3-0 to a good team is not a formula for success. Starter Ricky Nolasco nearly made it a shutout but a couple of hits in the 9th from Buster Posey and Cody Ross brought in closer Leo Nunez to finish it.

Cain was uncharacteristically expressive on the mound in the fateful 3rd inning. His frustration was obvious, and he kept asking Fairchild where the pitches were missing. Walking back to the dugout the camera caught him giving the ump a piece of his mind, and he shook his head at him with a look of disgust. The Marlins seemed determined to lay off the borderline pitches and forced Cain to come in to get strikes. Balls on the outside corner or up in the zone that would normally induce popups, weak flies, and grounders--the Matt Cain game plan--were just not tempting enough for the Florida hitters. The Marlins are 13-7 on the road, the Giants 13-6 at home. Madison Bumgarner goes tonight.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Just another walk-off winner

Nate Schierholtz saved the day in the 8th and The Bullets won it in the 11th. Darren Ford and Emmanuel Burriss put on a show of poise and speed to conjure up another walk-off win. The Giants gave up five runs in the series. That's some serious pitching, my friends. The A's have to feel snakebit--they have a good staff and only gave up ten runs over the three games. With any kind of offense that should have been good enough to avoid a sweep. The Giants like to live on the edge, and it seems to be working with 27 wins and a 3-1/2 game lead. It's just hard to imagine continuing this amazing run of good fortune in close contests. I suppose the hitting will come around and get a little better (the Giants are tied for last in runs scored in the NL) as the season goes on. In the meantime the pitchers will keep things close and give guys (like Nate, Darren, and Manny) chances to be heroes.

It was a great day for plays at the plate. Manny Burriss made a throw from left that almost got Coco Crisp in the 7th, and Ryan Sweeney nearly got Darren Ford at the end of the game. In both cases the ball was damn close but the catcher could not get a handle on it at the moment of contact. Speaking of catchers, Buster Posey took another shot to the face. Bruce Bochy acknowledged after the game that Posey was getting more than his share of dings. "He's taken more (shots to the head) than I've ever seen." That's not good. Maybe Eli Whiteside can get a start against Florida. The Marlins are without ├╝ber-ace Josh Johnson who was placed on the DL with a shoulder injury.

I'm looking forward to the off-day tomorrow. I can't take these four-hour grind-a-thons even if they are dramatic and beautiful wins. Hell, it is only May! I've got to make it all summer into the fall.

Go Giants! Keep the magic going!


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Rapturous Tim

Tim Lincecum (4-4) pitched like it was the last day of his life. Thank Jeebus, it wasn't and we were all treated to a masterful 3 hit shutout (#5 for his career)over the helpless A's. For a minute there, while Tim was throwing 96 mph heat in the ninth inning, I thought I saw god.

After allowing 15 baserunners in 5.2 last time out, the Freak gave up only three this time out. (Did any body reach second base?) Employing absolute command of all four of his pitches, Tim's numbers (game score 87) are elegantly dominating:

9 innings 3 hits (all singles) NO RUNS NO WALKS 6 strikeouts

Certainly his best work since last November 1st. At one point Lincecum retired twenty one batters in a row. It was like the A's were zombies, dutifully stepping up for a swift killing blow by the story's hero. Isn't it great to still be alive?

That's thirteen wins in the last seventeen games. Considering the injuries, I would say we are playing damn well. Kinda like defending World Champions, wouldn't you say?

(cool photo credit)

Was that Manny being Manny?

Emmanuel Burriss strode to the plate last night leading off the 10th inning and here's what happened: he took a pitch. Then he hit a foul ball and then he took another pitch. At this point, I was encouraged. Brian Fuentes looked like he was trying to throw balls rather than strikes, and Manny looked like he was trying to work a walk. Good for him, I thought. Don't try to hit it, I thought, just beg your way on base. Manny, being Manny, then waved at a ball that looked like it might get past the catcher for strike two. Then a foul ball. Then ball three. Then two more foul balls. He worked the count, I thought, good for him. I was then prepared for the next pitch to be swinging strike three. Then something happened. Manny reached down and whacked at a ball that was inside and sinking and it shot off the bat and hit the grass about six feet from the batter's box. And it kept bouncing merrily along and through the five-and-a-half hole and into left field for a clean single. That was the Giants fourth hit in ten innings. They got their fifth hit to end it three batters later. The long, slow grind that started three-and-one-half hours earlier was mercifully over and the Giants had a win.

Bruce Bochy told the media after the game that Manny had been "swinging the bat well down there" before the call-up. So I checked it out: how's .361/.432/.470 look for 97 PA in Fresno? And 16 of 19 in stolen bases? Those are some serious "How ya' like me now?" numbers, aren't they? Yes, they are. I say "Manny, just keep being Manny."

Highlights: another fine outing by Ryan Vogelsong, who matched up beautifully with the A's impressive youngster Trevor Cahill. Cahill was pulled for a pinch-hitter after six because this is the National League and that's how we roll, dawg. Otherwise I have no doubt he would have still been putting up zeroes in the 10th. The Giants looked damn feeble against him. Tremendous work by Nate Schierholtz in right, gunning down Josh Willingham at third in the 2nd inning, and making another nifty diving catch on a liner by Kevin Kouzmanoff in the 9th. A brilliant diving stop and throw to first by Freddy Sanchez on a grounder up the middle from Conor Jackson in the 7th saved a run. Just another ho-hum 4-3 in the box score, but it was a huge play. If you don't hit, you have to pitch, catch, and throw. The Giants can certainly do that.

The Freak goes today. Let's hope they score some runs and give us all a breather. This nail-biting grind is getting to me.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Nate Schierholtz saves the day

No disrespect meant to Madison Bumgarner, who was brilliant tonight, pitching his best game of the year. After 8-2/3 shutout innings, MadBum gave up a bloop hit to Rod Barajas. Ol' Boch let the youngster pitch to one more hitter and rookie Jerry Sands launched an RBI double to the wall in left-center. In came Brian Wilson who walked the next two guys and then gave up a sure hit to the extremely pesky Jamey Carroll. Fortunately the Giants not only had the outfielders drawn in, they had speedy, sure-handed Nate Schierholtz in right. He snared it with a nifty sliding catch and the drama was over. At normal depth, that's a game-tying hit. Wilson isn't filling anyone with confidence lately. Sergio Romo warmed up in the 8th, but MadBum was pitching so well that he wasn't needed.

The Giants wore down Chad Billingsley and worked up a 3-0 lead with single runs in the 2nd, 3rd, and 6th. Madison Bumgarner chipped in a double and a run scored along with pounding the strike zone all night long. And he got his all-important first "W" of the season. It looked, for a while, that Wilson would blow the game, and it looked, for a moment, that he had. That would have been tough to take. Fortunately the lads hung on for the win. The Giants are .500 (14-14) on the road and are 5-4 against the Dodgers, which is half the season series. They don't play LA again until after the ASB (July 18-20 in SF), with the final six (three home, three away) coming in September.


Cody Ross saves the day

There seemed to be a bit of desperate scrambling on the Giants bench last night. After Matt Cain battled through a tough 7th inning, Ol' Boch sent him out there for the 8th having already faced 27 batters and thrown 105 pitches. It was the top of the lineup and he gave up a single to Jamey Carroll but got Aaron Miles to pop out. Up strode Andre Ethier, in came Javier Lopez for the LOOGY moment, and the Dodger lefty whiffed looking. So far, so good. I didn't have a beef with Cain being stretched for another out or two after an excellent start. He can handle it. True to form, Sergio Romo came in to face righty Matt Kemp. The Giant-killer (.302/.366/.463 in 81 games) stroked a single up the middle on an 1-1 pitch. The next batter was Juan Uribe, so Bochy yanks Romo and puts in Brian Wilson to get a four-out save! That part didn't make any sense. Romo is just as capable of getting Uribe out as Wilson is. In fact, it is his job to get the big outs late in the game. It backfired--Uribe cleared the bases with a double and scored the tying run on a hit from James Loney. It was ugly. I don't normally whine about Bochy's managing, but that struck me as a bit of panicky over-managing. Maybe with the back-to-back losses--horrible losses, mind you--the skipper was jumpy and over-anxious. Hell, I was jumpy and over-anxious, but they don't pay me to be cool under fire. The Giants did indeed win the game, thanks to a three-run homer by Cody Ross in the 9th, and that's what matters the most.

Matt Cain (Game Score 64) out-pitched Clayton Kershaw (Game Score 42) and his teammates worked the old death-by-a-thousand-paper-cuts routine on the Dodger southpaw. Three singles in a row in the 3rd with two outs plated the first run. Matt Cain got his first hit of the year to start that mini-rally. Four singles in a row in the 4th, plus a walk and a sacrifice fly made it 4-0. Twelve of the Giants 13 hits were singles, Ross' bomb was the only one for extra bases. After Kemp's homer to lead off the 5th and break up Matt's perfect game, things got scary. Cain went walk, plunk, walk to load the bases with no outs. But he got a pop-up, fly out, and ground out to escape the jam and keep it at 4-1. A two-out rally in the 7th made it 4-2, but the Giants scratched out an insurance run in the 8th behind a walk and stolen base by the resurgent Ross. Miguel Tejada got the RBI in that spot, he had two hits and two batted in, let's hope he keeps that up.

Mark DeRosa re-injured his wrist during his plate appearance in the 4th. I get the feeling that this is it for DeRosa. He winced in pain starting his swing and had to come out. Wrist injuries are killers--you can't play baseball with a bad wrist. The Giants have some interesting decisions to make real soon. Boy, do I miss Pablo Sandoval! Aaron Rowand pulled up lame as well, thank goodness Andres Torres is back. Brian Wilson looked like he pulled a muscle pitching the 9th. To his credit he finished the game, but it did not look promising. We'll see. Perhaps Romo will get a few more opportunities in the meantime.

A win in LA is always huge. This was a classic Giants-Dodgers game. Lots of drama and and momentum swings and hair-pulling moments. Assuming the team can ride out the weird spate of injuries, you have to feel good about the grit and guile on display last night. The offense did a great job against a very tough starter, ending his run of shutout innings at 25-2/3 (2nd to Don Sutton in Dodger history vs. SF). Matt Cain was a beast, retiring the first 12 guys he faced, getting a hit, and battling through adversity late. It was all set up for a nice, neat win, but that's so 2010. This 2011 club is still working things out. Let's get 'em again today!


p.s. Cain made a sliding attempt on a foul pop in the 5th, during his desperate 5th inning jam. He crashed into the railing between home and the dugout, just ahead of the onrushing Miggy and Posey. It was a spectacular effort, and unusual. Mike Krukow said he'd "never seen it." The big fellow shook it off and went back to work. He pitched the rest of the game with a dirty uniform, not something you see on a pitcher very often.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Denvered again

You'd think the Giants of San Francisco were rich with wins. So bloated with wins that they like to toss a few away, just for sport. For the second straight day, the 2011 Giants took a perfectly wonderful 2010-like gem of a game and handed it over to the Rockies. Jonathan Sanchez shat upon his own beautiful creation with a Lincecumesque throw on a bunt and it all fell apart from there. The Colorado club gladly accepted the gift, mierda and all, proving they don't raise no dummies in Coors Field.

Matt Cain gets to break the losing streak against Clayton Kershaw tomorrow in LA.

Throw the ball good, lad.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Saboteur Tim

Tim Lincecum gave the game away. I certainly have never used that sentence before. I hope I never use it again.

In arguably his worst start ever, Tim Lincecum did something he hardly ever does...I don't mean the scary stats:

5.2 innings 9 hits 7 runs (3 earned) six walks 3 strikeouts

Although they are quite hideous (game score 20!), I was referring to the amazing fact that Lincecum is now 47 - 4 (.922) when the Giants give him at least three runs of support (76 starts). Tonight was only the fourth time ever that the Freak has pissed away that most precious commodity. And, boy howdy, he sure did have to work hard to give the game to the rookies. Terrible walks, a horrible error, and , finally the long ball barrage (shame on Bochy for the delayed hook!). I'm pretty sure that I've followed every Lincecum start and I don't recall a worse job. Not something I prefer to think about, so I won't do it now. It will be interesting to see how he responds. Failure is not something we have seen Tim have to deal with much. Especially, self inflicted failure.

Speaking of failure...Mark DeRosa at third? Really?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Let us all sing the Vogel-song

You have to love a guy who can throw six shutout innings in the rain and win a ballgame. That's just plain old orneriness. The Giants get a lovely RBI single from Buster Posey and a couple of sloppy-squirty goober-balls and turn it into a 3-0 win on a Candlestickian night in Chicago. Ryan Vogelsong struck out seven before everyone had enough, cementing his place in Giants lore. "You remember that fella with the funny name, Volksengruben or whateverthefuck, come back that one year and win them games? The story was he was a draft pick but got traded away and come back when that other fella got hurt and threw a short shutout in Chicago and . . .". Don't worry, I'll write something better for the 2011 Championship Season entry in The Big Book of Giants. The shockingly mortal bullpen of yesterday was spared an encore by the elements. Vogie gets a CG. The Giants win. Tim Lincecum pitches tomorrow. He probably never thinks about the offense. Grind on, you Giants!


How low can you go?

The Giants can really do the limbo, apparently, because they have gone lower than anyone in the league. That's fine in golf, where the lowest score wins, but not in baseball. The Giants have scored the fewest runs (132) in the National League. Even the San Diego Padres (134) and Pittsburgh Pirates (137) have scored more. The Giants OBP is .303, and only the Washington Nationals (.298) are worse. The Giants SLG is .367, better than only three teams. Can you guess those three? Yeah, they are the Nationals (.349), the Pirates (.347), and the Padres (.341). That's some piss-poor company, my friends.

So the question remains? How low can you go? We all know the Giants win with pitching, but you cannot win over the long haul with just pitching. You have to have at least a "league-average" or "damn-close-to league-average" offense. I get the whole Pythagorean notion that run prevention is better than run scoring. The 2010 Giants proved that. But the 2010 Giants scored 697 runs in 162 games, which is 4.30 rpg. The 2011 Giants are humming along at 3.47 rpg. If they sustain that pace they will score 563 runs which is a Padrean nightmare. The Phillies and the Braves are currently the two best staffs at preventing runs--both are giving up 3.27 rpg. The Giants are third at 3.67 rpg. Yes, that's right, they are giving up more runs than they are scoring! I may be a simple baseball blogger, but I can say for certain that that is not a winning formula. The Giants have had a nice run of wins in close, low-scoring games. And they will win a lot more of those games this season. But they will not win a title without getting some goddamn offense.


p.s. For the record, the 2009 Giants scored 657 runs, the 2008 Giants scored 640 runs, and the 2007 Giants scored 683 runs.

Grind, grind, grind

The Dr. Jonathan & Mr. Sanchez Traveling Act made an appearance last night in San Francisco, and I have to say it was pretty damn good. It gets a lot of bad reviews, something about too many walks. I don't know about that, there were only a couple last night. Not only that, I keep hearing about how nobody gets hits, but there were a bunch of those. Oh yeah, there were strikeouts. So, overall, it was a quality show. The other guys, the ones with the round pieces of wood and and the big leather hand puppets were amazing. The crowd really liked them.

The Giants have played two innings of baseball--36 games. In the first 18, they were 10-8. In the second 18, they were also 10-8. The team is 7-3 in the month of May. That's .700 ball for all you math-challenged types, and that's good. Five wins in a row is real nice. I have to say I love Andres Torres. That was a huge hit in the 6th and a huge play in the 9th. I like to think of him as the team talisman. I don't like seeing Buster Posey get dinged--again. He took a shot to the face on a foul ball in the top of the 7th and it rocked him hard. I hope he sits today.

Their are six teams in the NL with 20 or more wins, but only one in the West. There are five teams in the AL with 20 or more wins. So despite the injuries and the mediocre start for the club they are inching toward the top of the heap. The pitching is the story, of course. The Giants are 3rd in the NL in FIP (3.11) behind Philadelphia and Atlanta. They are 3rd in the NL in runs allowed (124), also behind the Phillies and Braves. They are 4th in ERA+ (122), just behind Colorado and the other two. Here's the scary part: the Giants have scored the fewest runs the NL (125), and are only ahead of woeful Minnesota (113) in the entire major leagues. I hope that improves.


Friday, May 13, 2011

At the mercy of the mega-corp

Blogger was down for almost a day. I get really upset when my free software from a worldwide corporate giant doesn't work perfectly every second. And I mean every second, even the seconds when I'm asleep and stuff. After all, it's my right to have a blog, and it is Google's job to protect the First Amendment. I was going to blog about it, but then Blogger wouldn't work. Just think--the Egyptians wouldn't have any freedom at all if it wasn't for Twitter. That's like Freedom of the Press. So, yeah, I was pretty cheesed about the whole "outage." Mainly I was disappointed that I didn't get to write about Matt Cain and his awesome start on Thursday. I missed the game (work), but got to see the Comcast replay that evening. Cain was a beast! He had killer breaking balls all day. He got hit by a pitch on the hand, stayed in the game, put down a perfect bunt, and then went back out to pitch. And whiffed the next guy. That's beastly. Grant Brisbee at McCovey Chronicles wrote an epic piece about Matt, you should check it out.

Did the Giants play today? I forget. Ah hell, get 'em tomorrow!


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Duelin' Tim

That famous "magic" that was inside last year obviously has not left the premises. The walk-off fun continued tonight as Cody Ross drove in the only run of the game and the Giants beat the Snakes. That's our fourth straight win, six of our last seven and, here's my favorite, that was our seventeenth straight game decided by 3 runs or fewer. For the year it is 29 out of 35 (83%) which leads the Majors. Hey, that was part of the formula last year (115, the most since 1983), so I'm OK with more close ones.

Needless to say, Tim Lincecum deserved a better fate. Who knew that he would face such a worthy opponent? Just kidding, we all knew. How many times have we seen the Giants turn an OK pitcher into a lethal weapon? This time the recipient of the "Giants bump" was Ian Kennedy. He and Tim matched zeroes for the first eight innings. In fact, Lincecum's numbers

8 innings 4 hits (all singles) ZERO RUNS 2 walks nine strikeouts

are almost exactly the same as Kennedy's. Tim had one less walk and one more K, so his game score 81, just beats out the equally impressive 79 for Kennedy.

A noteworthy event was the return of Andres Torres and Mark DeRosa to the starting lineup. Torres' presence was immediately felt with a hit, a walk and his usual excellent range in center. Clearly good things are in store with Andres. I wish I could say anything good about DeRosa's return. Each at bat was weak, just like they were before his most recent paid vacation. Can you tell I don't like the guy? Somebody help me out. I don't want to be a hater but the dude sucks. Why are we wasting a roster spot on him?

Giants Past and Present

The nice folks at MVP Books (now part of Quayside Publishing) recently sent me a copy of Dan Fost's new coffee-table book (9-1/2 x 11 inches) called Giants Past & Present. It's an organizational history from the earliest days of the Manhattan club in the 1880s all the way until the San Francisco 2010 World Series Champions. That's a lot to cover, and it is impossible to do any one of the many great Giants stories justice, but they are all there from Merkle's Boner to Juan Marichal clubbing John Roseboro. Mr. Fost organizes the book into chapters like "The General Managers" and "Rookies" and "Home Run Heroes" and gives a thumbnail chronology of the franchise and its characters in each one. It was a lot of fun to read, and the pictures are fantastic. I really enjoyed looking at the changes in the uniforms over the years, and I absolutely love the crowd shots from the old Polo Grounds where all the fans (mostly men) are in suits and wearing hats (not ball caps). And I never get tired of seeing some of the old fellows I used to root for like John Montefusco and Jack Clark. If you read this blog then you are a Giants fan. Not much reason to be here otherwise. I suggest you check out Giants Past & Present and add it to your collection soon. It should be on your couch next to the remote control. It will look good with salsa stains on the dust jacket--just try not to spill your beer on the beautiful photos.


Sunday, May 8, 2011


Early season excitement in San Francisco--the Giants sweep the Rockies behind Ryan Vogelsong and Cody Ross. Another tense, taut, well-played contest and another stirring Giants victory. Vogelsong pounded the strike zone all afternoon, flashing good breaking stuff and keeping the Rockies from making hard contact. He was perfect through five innings! Only a botched grounder by Mike Fontenot in the 7th gave him any real trouble, and Javier Lopez made short work of that, once again inducing a double play (3-6-1) to end an inning. Another superb effort by the bullpen as Brian Wilson made his third appearance in the series, this time getting the save instead of the win. Colorado goes 1-5 on their six-game road trip. I was happy to see Buster Posey get a spell at first base, and I was happy to see Ross look good and get some big hits. He sure likes to hit off lefties! But the real story was Vogelsong. He pitched magnificently (Game Score 74) and was backed up by some stellar plays in the field from Miguel Tejada, Freddy Sanchez, and the irrepressible Ross. Jorge de la Rosa walked four guys in the first two innings but allowed none of them to score. It gets really hard to watch the Giants offense throw away the few scoring chances they get. But today they kept at it and got the breakthroughs late in the game. The Giants (18-16) gain three games and sit in second place one game behind the Rockies (18-14). The Giants have played 22 road games (11-11) and 12 home games (7-5). It looks like it will be Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez, and Matt Cain against the Diamondbacks after the off-day tomorrow. Andres Torres is supposed to be back by Tuesday--I imagine they'll send down Darren Ford to open the roster spot.


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Way to go, Fontenot!

The Giants win another tense, hard fought, well played game against the first place Rockies. Three nights in a row the Colorado bullpen has allowed the tying or go-ahead runs in the 9th inning. Madison Bumgarner pitched brilliantly and was aided by three double plays. Unfortunately MadBum himself blew a sure double play in the 7th when he made a poor throw on a comebacker from Troy Tulowitzki. That led to a game-tying hit by Todd Helton and it ended his night. Ramon Ramirez saved the game by surviving the no out, runners on 1st and 3rd situation with a clean slate. That was a huge moment and he really looked good throwing that nasty-looking stuff he throws. Javier Lopez and Brian Wilson got their assigned outs, but both labored--Lopez loaded the bases and Wilson gave up a walk and a hit. That's back-to-back wins for Wilson in relief. Ramirez "picked up" his teammate as they like to say in baseball parlance, and it was some riveting, pennant-race drama. And it's May! Just think what agony awaits us in September!

Mike Fontenot continues to deliver for the Giants. You have to have depth--the reserves have to step up and play well when called upon. Number 14 has kicked some serious butt and "served notice." That's a huge asset for the team. Pablo Sandoval will be back, and he will play well, that I know. But it's also nice to know that a guy whose name rhymes with "way to go" can show us some big-league ball and help the team win some big games. Aaron Rowand deserves notice for two hits, a walk, and two runs including the game-winner. Freddy Sanchez as well for three hits. I really enjoyed Buster Posey throwing out Dexter Fowler trying to steal in the 4th inning.

Two beautiful wins in a row against the best club in the division. Does it feel good? Yeah, it feels great. The Giants can go for a sweep tomorrow behind Ryan Vogelsong. Colorado will counter with Jorge de la Rosa. I keep trying to be calm and realize that it is early and it is a long, long season, and the Giants are a short-handed, banged-up squad, and 17-16 and only two back is just fine, just fine, relax. Then I think about a sweep and I get all crazy and uptight and think about how awesome it would be to wax the Rockies and send them away wondering how it happened. I guess they'll just have to play a ball game and I'll just have to deal with it.



Friday, May 6, 2011

Both flaps down

Matt Cain went with the long pants look tonight, no high black socks showing like usual. Cody Ross and Nate Schierholtz did the same thing. Maybe it was the orange jerseys. They look pretty bad with the knee pants, I have to say, and for most of the game I was getting damn grumpy about those orange jerseys. Funny, Tim Lincecum always sported the both-flaps-down trouser thing, except Wednesday, when he went out there with knee-high hose in NYC and whiffed 12 guys. Hey, whatever works.

The Giants worked Ubaldo Jimenez early, and he threw a lot of pitches and walked five guys. But they could only manage two hits and it looked like the Rockies ace would be an easy winner. Matt Cain had a little trouble in the 3rd, giving up two runs to make it 3-0, and that deficit looked insurmountable. Mike Fontenot, hottest bat on the team, blasted a triple in the 6th and the Giants were able to scratch out a run off Jimenez. He was out after that (118 pitches), and Matt Lindstrom pitched the 7th. Rafael Betancourt could not hold the lead in the 8th as the Giants worked some magic and got big hits from Buster Posey, Pat Burrell, and Nate Schierholtz to tie it up. Cody Ross led off the bottom of the 9th with his first extra base hit of the season and Freddy Sanchez brought him home for the biggest win of the young season. Good pitching, good fielding, timely hitting. Like I said, whatever works.

The Willie Mays 80th birthday was a lot of fun, as least from what I could see on the telecast. Even the "Star Bangled Banner" performed by Mic Gillette on three different horns was fresh and lively. A good night all around.

Happy Birthday, Willie!


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Home at last, home at last, thank god almighty we are home at last.

My dad used to say stuff like "work is the curse of the drinking class." Naturally I though it was stupid when I was a kid, but I think about it every time the Giants play during my work hours. Today work seriously interfered with my ability to "enjoy" the game. Just as well. No Cinco de Mayo celebration for Los Gigantes. The Mets got a big hit from Carlos Beltran and managed to avoid a sweep. Jonathan Sanchez was his usual mysterious self. He walked six, struck out six, and had an RBI single. Hey, he's a package deal. You get a whole load of mysterious when you send Sanchez out there. He could strike out 11 and give up two hits and mesmerize the opposition. Or he could be mesmerized by his own inability to get a ball in the strike zone. You just never know. I say trade him for Jose Reyes. OK, never mind, don't trade him. I'm thinking about that no-hitter he threw once.

The Giants are hurting yet managed a .500 road trip. That's a moral victory. It's not fun seeing a 15-16 record, and it's not fun watching Buster Posey look lifeless at the plate. Is it me or is the poor guy getting the bejeezus beat out of him back there? He takes a goddamn pounding--foul balls, bats, pitches--and it worries me. The Giants cannot afford to have Buster go down or go into a protracted slump because he's all beat up from catching. He needs off days like today and few shots at first to keep him healthy and able to catch the bulk of the games.

Brandon Belt is playing the outfield in Fresno (mostly left). He's only played first base once in the 11 games he's been there. What's that tell you?


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Road Warrior Tim

Etching his name deeper into the history books and our hearts, Tim Lincecum (3-3) struck out 12 Mets and led the Giants to a 2-0 victory. The chilly, breezy conditions must have stirred something in Tim's soggy Pacific Northwest heart as he delivered 127 pitches tonight. This herculean effort (game score 76) :

7 innings 5 hits no runs 3 walks TWELVE STRIKEOUTS

marks the 29th time that our beloved Freak has racked up double digit K's, which sets an all-time franchise record. When you are breaking Christy Mathewson's records, you know you are doing something right.

Fun Tim Facts:
* Tim's five road starts have all been quality. Only 5 runs in 35.2 innings.
* In his last three games, Tim has received three runs of support.
* His 964 strikeouts put him 12th all time franchise and 6th for SF

Bochy must be having a boatload of fun with this bullpen. They sure make him look good. Tonight he used the three headed monster of Ramon Ramirez, Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo for the eighth. Then, the Bearded One for the ninth. Those guys added four more strikeouts, bringing the total to 16 for the night. Managers are geniuses when they have good bullpens. If Bruce Bochy ends up in the Hall of Fame, it will be because of Trevor Hoffman and Brian Wilson.

Oh yeah, I guess I should mention the offense. Hmmmmm. Fontenot sure is a good #3 hitter, huh?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Catastrophe. Catastrophe averted. Victory.

The Giants put the go-ahead run on 3rd with nobody out in the top of the 9th and could not score him. It matters not who the culprits were, but name them we shall: Aaron Rowand and Miguel Tejada. And Buster Posey as well, who swung at the first pitch after Mike Fontenot worked a walk off Francisco Rodriguez to load the bases. Ugh. That was the game story, right there in that miserable inning. Sure, there were 10 hits and 6 runs and all sorts of other highlights up to that point, but that wasted opportunity was a catastrophe. The camera showed Ol' Boch stomping his feet and cursing, just like me. Javier Lopez, with a little help from Emmanuel Burriss, loaded the bases in the bottom of the 9th with one out. All hope was lost. Then, not so much. Lopez got catcher Josh Thole to hit a little grounder right back to him. Lopez fired home and Posey went to Aubrey Huff at first to end the threat. 1-2-3 and on to the 10th. The swing in "win expectancy" got my saber-gland a-pumpin'. With two on and no outs in the 9th, the Giants WE was 73.1%. The Mets, with two on and one out in their half, had a WE of 83.5%. Whole lotta mo' swinging this way and that.

Huff, leading off the inning and sporting an oh-fer, launched a moon shot off Taylor Buchholz. It was a cathartic blast for the slumping lefty (.190/.254/.314) and turned the whole game around. Brian Wilson closed it, looking suitably difficult to hit. It was, for May, an epic struggle. It was a game the Giants needed to win after getting whipped in Washington. Starter Ryan Vogelsong got rocked, but the team battled back against knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. Great work by the 'pen and a big hit by a stone cold hitter added up to a victory. Grind on, you Giants.


Monday, May 2, 2011

Feeble Giants grind to a halt

Madison Bumgarner threw his best game of the young season but made the fatal mistake of giving up runs and the Giants went down to defeat in Washington. Credit is due to the Nationals for pitching well, fielding beautifully, and capitalizing on a late misplay by Miguel Tejada to wrap up the win and the series.

Tom Gorzelanny and Drew Storen combined on a three-hit shutout. Aaron Rowand led off the game with a double and the lineup's failure to bring him home was a harbinger of doom. The Giants have scored 99 runs on the season in 28 games but only 21 in the last 10. Not surprisingly, they are 3-7 in that span.

The bad starts that plagued them against Atlanta were not the issue in Washington. Jonathan Sanchez looked terrible, but only gave up one unearned run in 5 IP, and the Giants won that game. The final line (IP/R) for the three losses isn't bad: Tim 7/3, Cain 6/3, and MadBum 7/2. There ought to have been at least one more win out of that, all it would have required was the vaunted "league average" offense. It wasn't that long ago the team boasted a 4.33 per game run scoring rate. That was 10 games ago, the same 10 mentioned above with the 21 runs scored and the 3-7 record. It's ugly. The team needs Pablo Sandoval and Andres Torres. The team needs Aubrey Huff to start hitting. I was going to mention Tejada, but Miggy is at least over .200, something Huff needs to work on.

Brandon Belt is 11-for-24 at Fresno and rolling out a Bondsian .458/.594/.833 line.

Just sayin'.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Pesky Nats grind down Giants

Matt Cain did not have the pinpoint control we are used to seeing from him. Throw in a tight strike zone from home plate umpire John Drake and a patient Nationals offense and the outcome was all too familiar. It feels like 2008, fer chrissakes. If I remember correctly Matty was 5-24 with a 0.88 ERA that season. Cain had his best stretch in the 5th and 6th, when Jayson Werth lined a ball to right field that Nate Schierholtz let get by him for a lead off triple. He whiffed Laynce Nix, and then got Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond on weak pop flies to first baseman Aubrey Huff. He followed that with a three-up three-down 6th inning, salvaging a quality start. Matt threw 53 pitches in the 2nd and 3rd when the Washington lineup wore him down and tied the score. Also, there was the 39-year old catcher thing. Cain was not part of the 2003 club that Ivan Rodriguez killed in the NLDS, so he didn't realize that all outside pitches will be slashed into right field for soul-crushing RBI. I-Rod is death to San Francisco: so it is, so it shall ever be. Buster Posey had another good game, as did Mike Fontenot. Neither Aubrey Huff nor Miguel Tejada can hit, and the offense spirals inexorably toward Padre-ness. Cain gave up just one run too many. If he'd kept it at two they might have been able to pull it out. I guess he's just not the big time ace we are paying good money for. Damn these guys for not throwing shutouts!


p.s. Darren Ford was thrown out stealing again. This time it was you-know-who instead of the rookie. You know it is going bad when your specialist pinch runner with blazing speed gets thrown out two days in a row.