Friday, July 31, 2015

Lousy Way to Start a Road Trip, Guys

You put your ace on the hill and he blows chow.  This was a lousy game.  The defense was responsible for 2 of the runs, but really, Madison owns this.  To be fair, the home runs from Andrus and Beltre appeared to be at their eyeballs, but they were obviously hit-able.

The game was over before I could finish my martini, and I hate that.  It was over in the second inning, and the Giants made it a quick one by stringing together a series of wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am innings for Texas against Nick Mediocre, a Martinez pitcher if there ever was one.  The Giants added a score to make it 6 - 3 in the 9th, but really, that was pointless.  The announcing team tried to make a point about how it is hard to go to a place where it was hot, but I'm not buying it for a second.  They had this game lost before they could work up a sweat.

Madison's pissy act whenever someone looks at him, or whatever, is wearing thin.  Pitch like a stud and then work up a hissy-fit.  You were a turd tonight.

Welcome, Mike Leake!

He's not Cole Hamels or David Price but he is an upgrade.  We've seen him pitch and we know he is tough. Not overpowering, but accurate and consistent and his game should benefit from moving to our offense-suppressing park. Not to mention the Giants excellent fielders behind him!

He's 27, a California boy (Fallbrook), Arizona State alum, and former 1st-round pick (2009, two spots after Zack Wheeler). It should be noted that Mike Trout was the 25th pick that day.

The Giants parted with slugger Adam Duvall and right-hander Keury Mella. Mella is only 21 and is at San Jose (A+) but has a good reputation and is seen as a real up-and-comer. I can see parting with Duvall, he probably doesn't have the positional flexibility to crack the 25-man roster. His skills will play well in a hitter-friendly park. I could see him making it as a backup corner infielder and power bat off the bench. Mella projects higher, but he's so young and far enough away that the risk of parting with him is worth it. TINSTAAPP, right?

The Giants spent some significant minor-league capital for a short-term rental (Leake is a free agent at the end of the season). The cost should tell you what it would have taken for a superstar like Price or Hamels.

Looks like the odd man out is Tim Hudson. That's not surprising, he's one of the oldest players in the big leagues! I like the deal. Leake is a good pitcher and should be a solid addition. His xFIP runs in the 3.5-3.9 range, he's a steady 2-WAR producer who had 200+ innings and 20 quality starts last season, and his game score average this season (55) is his career-best. If he can give the team what Jake Peavy gave the team last season, which I think is quite likely, then it's winning move. It's a good counter to the Dodgers acquisition of Mat Latos and Alex Wood.



Wednesday, July 29, 2015

14th Team Shutout

Jake Peavy pitched a strong game with six scoreless frames and got some help from Hunter Pence in right field. The gangly one made a terrific running grab in the 3rd to turn a triple into an out and save a run and also pulled off a superb catch-and-throw in the 4th to nail a runner, this time Jonathan Lucroy at third base. Great fielding once again by the entire squad--that sort of thing just sucks the life out of other teams.

Peavy's day ended after a clutch strikeout of Ryan Braun with two on to end the 6th and preserve the shutout. Milwaukee starter Mike Fiers had a gem of his own going with only two hits allowed through six, but lightning struck in the 7th with the heart of the Giants order. Matt Duffy, looking like he had a plan, roped the first pitch to right-center for a single. Not to be outdone, Hunter Pence hit the second pitch he saw for a double to left-center and Duffy scored all the way from first. It was a thrilling sequence and it seemed to energize the team. Four hits, two sac flies, one walk, and two relief pitchers later it was 5-0 and Duffy was batting again. He made the last out and that was the final score.

Hunter Strickland and Sergio Romo added a little drama to their innings but got the requisite six outs without damage; both guys can throw some nasty-looking stuff when they really need to. Javier Lopez had an easy 9th to put the win in the books. A superb victory today to take the series! The Giants go on the road for ten tough ones and face a daunting August schedule after that. Should be some exciting baseball.



p.s. The Dodgers lead the majors with 15 team shutouts, the A's are third with 13, and the Cubs fourth with 12.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Brewers Even It Up

Matt Cain encountered a determined foe tonight as it looked like the Brewers had a plan against the big righty. He gave up eight hits and four runs in his six innings of work, and they were all kinds of hits: opposite-field doubles, grounders through the hole, blasts off the wall, etc. Milwaukee was led by that paragon of peskines Gerardo Parra, and got a big start from the flamethrowing Wily Peralta. It wasn't the Giants night and their sparkling six-game win streak comes to an end. The final was 5-2 but it never felt that close. The Brewers get their first win against the Giants this season. The Dodgers lead stays at a half game as they were shut out at home 2-0 by Sonny Gray and the Athletics.

Jake Peavy tomorrow afternoon. Go Giants!


Monday, July 27, 2015

Heston, BCraw Rock the House

Chris Heston put his infield to work tonight and they delivered of course, turning three double plays. Brandon Crawford put the hurt into one for the game-breaking bomb, and the 'pen did the rest for another Giants win. They gained a half game on the idle Dodgers with the 4-2 victory. Hest-o was neat-o again, and just like our man carmot said he is up there with the league's elites. What a treat to watch--did you see those two strikeouts in the 7th? BCraw also walked later and scored on a clutch pinch-double by Gregor Blanco to earn hitter's honors for the evening. Blanco was batting for Heston. Hunter Strickland looked deadly in the 8th, and Sergio Romo took the 9th, giving the regular man a break.

Matt Cain tomorrow. Go Giants!


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Duffy Delivers, Giants Sweep

Another tense contest in San Francisco and another one-run victory for the surging Giants who are now only a game back of the Dodgers. Tim Hudson hung on for dear life and made it through five with a lead that held up thanks to some great work from George Kontos and Javier Lopez. We even got to see the slick lefty lay down a bunt for the first time in more than a decade (it was only his 13th career plate appearance). Santiago Casilla looked a little shaky out there, again, today he was helped out by a caught stealing on a weird play, I suppose he'll just have to work out the kinks and find that lost command. Jeremy Affeldt has that "I need an oil change" look as well, let's hope he can find his groove soon. Otherwise it was the young stud at the hot corner who supplied the thump, launching a two-run blast to left-center and roping a run-scoring single to right in his first two at-bats. He had three RBI in the 4-3 win.

The Milwaukee Brewers come to town for three starting tomorrow night. Chris Heston, Matt Cain, and Jake Peavy.



Saturday, July 25, 2015

Madistrongman Bumgarnergrander

As the commercial says, when Madison Bumgarner is on the mound, you've got to like the Giants' chances.  That is especially true when he can give you offense equal what he gives up.  Which is a good thing, as the hits did not come thick and fast like they have been for the Giants lately.  In fact, the Giants had a total of 6 hits on the day.  The 2nd of those 6 happened when Madison went deep in the 3rd inning with no one on base for the first run of the game.  Oakland scored 1 to tie the game in the 4th on a Josh Phegly rbi double (ed note: Who?).  The 4th hit was a double by Joe Panik in the 6th.  A single by Matt Duffy scored Joe for the 2nd Giants run, and the final run of the game.  Final 2 - 1 Giants.  Now that's more like what we're used to.  2 hits for Joe Panik, 1 each for Matt Duffy, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford, in addition to Madison.  Ben Zobrist of the A's had 3 hits himself, out of a total of 6 for Oakland.

Madison also pitched.  He was not very sharp for the first 4 innings, then breezed through the last 3 in 30 pitches.  Total: 101 pitches, 65 of which were strikes.  He gave up 5 hits, 1 run, walked 2, and struck out 7.  Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla pitched the 8th and 9th.  They each walked a batter and Santiago gave up a hit but no runs were allowed.   As I write this, the doggers are losing to the Mets 5 - 0 in the fifth.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Cain and Giants Whip Padres

Matt Cain made a 3-2 mistake in the 2nd to Jed Gyorko and he jerked it out for a 1-0 lead. Padres starter James Shields looked like he might make that stand up for an old-fahioned Caining but the boys wore him down and he was pulled after five. Perhaps manager Pat Murphy didn't like the 96-pitch total, or had more faith in his 'pen, but it seemed weird since Shields had only allowed three hits, three walks and no runs. Regardless, it worked out well for the Giants as reliever Marcos Mateo gave up a solo shot to Brandon Belt in the 6th that tied up the game. Belt looked like he'd taken call strike three the pitch before, and Mateo had turned toward the home dugout, but the umpire said "ball three" and he had to throw another one. This one Belt belted to end his homer drought. In the 7th the Giants benefited from another friendly call that saved Matt Duffy from his fourth strikeout and he walked to set it up for Buster Posey who, naturally, delivered the game-breaking double. The margins between defeat and victory are small.

The Giants padded things with three more in the 8th off Dale Thayer to make it 7-1 and that's how it finished. Cain went six, with five hits and one walk allowed, and six strikeouts, a strong effort overall especially in a rubber match against a pesky division foe. The Giants now have a winning record against the Padres and a winning record for the month of July. They won five of six on the road trip and open a six-game homestand Friday with the first of three against Oakland.

Everyone in the lineup today had at least one hit, except Cain, and Justin Maxwell added a pinch-hit from the pitcher's spot in the 8th inning. Six different guys scored a run. Jeremy Affeldt is back, he looked a little ragged, but it's good to see him out there. Nori Aoki joins the team in San Francisco. Let's get the whole band back together for the stretch run, eh?



Tuesday, July 21, 2015

2-1/2 Back

The Giants win big in San Diego behind another suffocating start from Chris Heston who went 7-1/3 and allowed only one hit. Josh Osich was tagged with all the runs in the 9-3 win, the young lefty has looked terrific in his cup of coffee, he's sure got a live arm, but I imagine he'll get the axe when Jeremy Affeldt returns this weekend. Another body will have to be hacked from the roster when Nori Aoki is activated--that's supposed to happen Friday. Meanwhile the Giants send Matt Cain out tomorrow afternoon for the rubber match. Tonight they battered their erstwhile nemesis, Odrisamer Despaigne, with seven hits and six runs including a big bomb apiece from Hunter Pence and Brandon Crawford. Hector Sanchez, god bless him, delivered a grand slam is his first start off reliever Dale Thayer to make it a laugher. If we can get some solid play from the backup backstop while Andrew Susac is out that would be a big help. Buster Posey sat out tonight--the Giants need their superstar to be rested and healthy for the stretch run.

The Dodgers lost in Atlanta and the Giants closed the gap to 2-1/2 games with their 50th win. They have the 11th-best record in baseball.



Sunday, July 19, 2015

Giants Sweep Snakes

After 30 hits in the first two games this weekend, the Giants won today in Arizona, 2 -1 on only 5 hits.  A Justin Maxwell solo shot and a Hunter Pence double to score Joe Panik did the trick.  The Giants were out-hit by the dbacks, who tallied 9, but held on to win and complete the sweep.  It is their 6th win in a row going back to before the All-Star break.  The Giants had a few more well hit balls, including a Brandon Belt double off of the wall and about 4 more long outs from Panik, Duffy, Buster and Maxwell that probably added up to 2000 feet.  It as an extremely entertaining weekend to watch Pagan, Panik, Duffy and Buster smack the ball around.

Madison Bumgarner was on the hill and was not nearly as sharp as he can be.  He threw 93 pitches, 59 of them strikes.  He was pulled after 5 innings.  This appeared to have been by design, I'm guessing that Bruce Bochy hoped he would get six, but was going to pull Madison nevertheless.  He did work in the All-Star game.  George Kontos threw 2 scoreless, then Hunter Strickland blanked the snakes for the 8th and Santiago Casilla picked up his 24th save.

The Giants are now #1 in batting average in the major leagues and #1 in on base percentage, according to the TV.  That's pretty good, and it suggests that they are not in first place due to pitching struggles.  A quick glance at the pitching stats for the team confirms this:  Among the relievers, 6 pitchers have L's hung on them: Romo (4), Affeldt (2), Casilla (2), and Kontos, Petit, Strickland (1 each).  And of course, Hudson has a losing record.  He may be able to make progress towards correcting that tomorrow in San Diego.  Among the relievers, though, Romo has looked pretty good this weekend, Affeldt hopefully will be much improved when he returns from the DL, and Kontos and Strickland have also looked good after the break.  On to San Diego!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

5th inning: 9-9

The Giants played game number 90 last night and that marathon win marked the end of the fifth seasonal inning. Here's the season so far:

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

That brings the club to 47-43 (.522) with 72 games to play. If they maintain that pace they'll finish with 85 wins which probably won't get them a playoff spot. To get to 90 wins they'll have to go 43-29 which is .597 ball. So they have to be, within a game or two, a .600 team the rest of the way. Can they win 3 of every 5 games they play from here on out?

Last night Matt Cain got battered in his five innings of work and NINE relievers did the rest, allowing only one run in the final seven frames. The Giants had 16 hits but were only 2-19 with runners in scoring position. They stranded 15 guys! Cain looked like he couldn't hit his spots but he didn't walk a man. They had better luck hacking away--he gave up eight hits, five for extra bases, but did strike out five. The Giants will go as far as Matty goes, that is, if he can return to form and be the starter we know he can be then the team will have a strong second half. I don't think, short of some miraculous pitching acquisition for the stretch run, the team can make a go of it without a big contribution from Cain. Think about what Jake Peavy (who goes today) did in his twelve starts (78-2/3 IP, 3.03 FIP, 2.1 WAR) last year. That's the kind of thing the team will need--will Matty be that guy?

Giants have only won four of their eleven games against the Diamondbacks. They've got two more in Arizona this weekend and another three-game series there in September with three more to follow at home before the last road trip. That's what I call "opportunity for payback."

Andrew Baggarly brought up what is becoming an increasing concern: Angel Pagan's play in center. At least two of those deep flies last night would have been caught by Gregor Blanco. Sure, they were bombs, but that's what The White Shark does--turns hits into outs. Pagan's isn't hitting well, either, and perhaps a little outfield shake-up will be necessary when Nori Aoki returns.



Monday, July 13, 2015

This is Not a Book About Bases on Balls

This is a book by Bruce Bochy, manager of the 2015 National League All Stars.  He likes to take walks, by himself after a tough loss, with his wife in San Francisco and to get to the ball park.  The book describes some of those walks.  Not just here, but in Arizona and Cincinnati and other places.  The book reads like Bruce talking, you can almost hear the southern drawl.  And since there is a couple of days with no real baseball.......

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Rookies Take Care of Business

Chris Heston pitched well and Josh Osich came in to get four big outs and the Giants prevailed over the Phillies, 4-1. Andrew Susac's three-run homer was the back-breaking hit--he and Osich were teammates at Oregon State. Veterans Angel Pagan and Buster Posey were the rest of the offense with six hits between them. It was a good day at the yard. I like what I've seen from the flamethrowing southpaw. The 'pen can use a lift from a lefty with Jeremy Affeldt on the DL. The Dodgers got a late homer to fuel a comeback win in Milwaukee and close out the first half 4-1/2 games up on the Giants, that was the only blemish on the day.

Last night I went to a boxing match for the first time in forty years. Locals, all pros, we saw seven fights: two KOs, two TKOs, two unanimous decisions, and one split decision. Something for everyone. It takes some cojones to stand within arm's length of another fellow knowing he is going to hit you and try to put you down with blows. I had to admire their guts. In the end, if the fighters were even, the one with more stamina--more heart--prevailed. I kept thinking about the Giants. Our boys have shown tremendous resilience and determination in their championship campaigns. If they hope to prevail in the second half they will have to play their best ball. They've got 73 games left and the team ahead of them is on a pace for 92 wins. That means the 46-43 Giants will have to play .630, 46-27, to tie. Win as many games in the second half as the first. That's a tall order. Certainly the Dodgers could fade and fall like a glass-jawed amateur, but you can't count on that. No, the Giants will have to get in close and counter-punch. And no, I haven't forgotten how well that second wild-card worked out last season.

Enjoy the All-Star Break, everyone!


Saturday, July 11, 2015

How 'bout a little offense?

That's more like it. Let's see some more of that, lads.



Wednesday, July 8, 2015


I was sure the Giants were going to win today. I felt good about Jake Peavy and expected a strong outing from him. I liked the vibe from last night's win. So much for momentum. Brandon Crawford made a crucial error, a bad throw that cost a run when he should have held the ball in the 6th, that broke the scoreless streak. Peavy, who'd been excellent, then got burned by Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom on a hit-and-run in the 7th which led to another run. That was enough as deGrom overpowered the Giants with big-time heat, allowing only two hits and whiffing ten in his eight innings. I can't fault the lineup too much as the 2014 Rookie of the Year looks like the real deal. No sophomore slump for this guy, he's emerging as one of the best in the league. Jean Machi let things get out of hand in the 9th after good work from rookie southpaw Josh Osich in the 8th and it went to the 9th 4-0. Joe Panik and Hunter Pence conjured up a run for the home squad off reliever Bobby Parnell, but it was the Mets all the way today.

I hate the team being at .500 and I want to see them string together some goddamn wins.



Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Cain, Pence Lead Giants

Things went a little better for Matt Cain this time around as the big righty managed six scoreless with only two hits allowed and seven whiffs. He got some help from surprise starter Hunter Pence who contributed a sterling defensive sequence in the 6th to get Curtis Granderson at home to preserve the shutout. That's the league-leading thirteenth, by the way. The 'pen gave up two hits and two walks in the final three but kept the score sheet clean. Giants had ten hits, all singles, and were helped by sloppy fielding from the Mets. Pence delivered a clutch hit to go along with his clutch catch-and-throw, and Gregor Blanco and Joe Panik had five hits and all three runs scored between them.

The Giants end the losing streak, finally, after seven games. The Dodgers lose in Philadelphia and lead the West by four games. The gap was only half a game on June 20th, but 5-10 tailspin took care of that. Jake Peavy gets the start tomorrow afternoon. Let's hope he shows the same form he had last time out.



p.s. On the pre-game Papa asked Laskey for his 'key to the game' and he said "Hunter Pence." When Vida got the same question, he said "Matt Cain."

Sunday, July 5, 2015

0-fer-July so far

The Giants continue their slide toward baseball Gomorrah, aka .500, with another loss on the road (0-6 on the trip, 0-5 for the month). I remember thinking before last year's NLCS that the Nationals matched up well against the orange-and-black, that they certainly did not lack for personnel. They had the guys to win the series. Like the Pirates earlier this season the Nats had an axe to grind against the defending champs and served notice on national TV that they were loaded and ready for the showdown. The local fans got their money's worth. Us, not so much. The Giants looked lifeless, and weird stuff happened like Joe Panik made an error. And Ryan Vogelsong and Bruce Bochy got ejected. Ballplayers have short memories--they forget about their last performance and look forward. We fans need to learn that trick.

San Francisco falls to four back of Los Angeles. Chris Heston gets the call against the Mets tomorrow night at AT&T.



Opponents Hit More Homers and Giants Lose Again

This headline works well for every recent game.
The Saturday morning game was especially disgusting.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

HRs Sink Giants

The Marlins hit three three-run home runs in the series and won all three games. Rookie Justin Bour feasted on Giants pitching and notched the death blow in today's game off Matt Cain mere hours after his dramatic walk-off against Santiago Casilla last night. I'm happy the Giants are leaving Miami. I'm happy Matt Cain is alive and well. Only time will tell if he is pain-free and cured of his physical maladies. He looked a lot like Matt Cain despite the lousy outcome in his comeback from surgery. He hit 91 mph on the radar gun and looked good at the end of the 4th inning inducing a double play to end a threat. He unfortunately got hammered in the 5th with the long balls from pitcher Jose Fernandez (who hits like MadBum and was making a comeback from surgery as well) and the aforementioned Bour. I could live with the fat one to Fernandez, sometimes you have to bring the gas and see what the guy can do with it. The pitch to Bour was a clear mistake, missing the inside target and right over the middle of the plate. I would have happily walked the lefty there and pitched to the righty Marcell Ozuna with the bases loaded and a chance for a DP. And I thought Rags told Cain to pitch around Bour, but he didn't execute. Clearly that pitch was meant to be a ball and in on the hands--they got him that way on a pop-up in the previous at-bat.

Bit of a disappointment this morning after all the anticipation of Matty's return. Buster Posey hit another home run and Gregor Blanco launched a massive bomb (off Fernandez) as well. I thought the Giants looked good against the flame-throwing phenom, at least the lefties did, Panik, Crawford, and Belt all notching hits. But it was a crappy series, especially with the spectacular blown save last night. They should have come out of that game with a win, and they had a real shot today jumping out to an early lead. A rusty Matt Cain with a few command issues (four walks in his five innings) is still Matt Cain. If he is indeed healthy again I am sure he will start to string together lots of quality innings.

One thing I've learned watching this club is that they are resilient. This three-game tailspin is ugly, but they have a short collective memory and don't let poor performances cast a pall over their next game or series. Jake Peavy makes his own comeback tomorrow in D.C.



Wednesday, July 1, 2015

On to July

Ryan Vogelsong wasn't sharp and the Giants got Latos-ed in Miami. They had a chance to un-swoon their June with a win: they finish the month 12-14. This team likes to tease us by inching ever closer to first place and then falling back. The Dodgers win instead and they hike their lead to 1-1/2 games. I say it all the time, but I'll say it again, if you had told me in March that the Giants would be within a few games of LA on the first of July I'd have been happy.

Buster Posey who homered in the 3rd, had a great sequence in the 6th when he hit a ball in the gap and went for two, much to the surprise of the outfielders. It took a spectacular head-first hook slide from our lumbering catcher to avoid the diving tag from second baseman Dee Gordon. Posey went to third on an out and then with beautiful anticipation dashed home on a wild pitch, just sliding under Latos' tag. He looked positively nimble there! It made a 4-2 game 4-3, giving hope, but that was all she wrote for SF. Just a reminder what a great ballplayer Buster is, as if we needed reminding. I was surprised Gordon's inside-the-park homer was his first. That guy should get one of those every month.


Go Giants!