Giants 3, Dodgers 2 (12 inn.): Real hero of Giants’ late-night victory was not on the field

stayback

WP: Yusmeiro Petit (1-0)
HR: None

BOX SCORE

Sorry about the mid-afternoon blog post on Tuesday’s game. But it was a late night.

The night might have ended sooner — and with a much less happy result for the Giants — if not for the heroic efforts of one person in AT&T Park.

And he wasn’t wearing the No. 42. And every player Tuesday was wearing the No. 42.

No, instead it was the fan down the left-field line, who held back at least one person in the stands to prevent someone from possible interfering with Brandon Belt’s game-tying double in the ninth inning.

He was making the rounds as “Stand-Back Man” on Twitter. He could also be called the Anti-Bartman.

Here’s the situation: with one out and Angel Pagan on first base, Belt slaps a ball down the left-field line. The ball kicked off the wall along the stands. One fan held back another to keep from going after the ball in play. Pagan raced around the bases and scored the tying run of Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen.

Had a fan touched the ball in play, it would have been ruled a ground-rule double and Pagan would have been forced to return to third base.

Considering that Pablo Sandoval would strike out, Buster Posey would walk and Hunter Pence would fly out, it’s very likely that had a fan interfered with the ball, the Giants would have lost while leaving the bases loaded.

Well played, sir, well played.

LOADED PROBLEMS

Considering the Giants’ issues with the bases loaded, maybe the Dodgers should have walked Hector Sanchez and Angel Pagan to load the bases in the 12th.

The Giants loaded the bases in the fourth, but Michael Morse struck out and Brandon Crawford grounded out.

They loaded the bases in the fifth, but Posey flied to center.

They loaded the bases in the 10th, but Pagan popped out and Belt flied to left.

In the 12th, Crawford singled, went to second on a fielder’s choice and to third on a wild pitch.

Sanchez delivered a single off the glove of second baseman Justin Turner for the win.

BENCH TO THE RESCUE

Before Gregor Blanco’s triple on Sunday (when he was thrown out at the plate), the Giants’ bench of Blanco, Joaquin Arias, Ehire Adrianza, Juan Perez and Sanchez were 5 for 66 (.076).

Starting with Blanco’s triple, those five players have gone 4 for 7 with two walks.

That’s an encouraging sign.

Tuesday’s game was the Giants’ fifth consecutive one-run game. Three of those games went extra innings.

It was also the Giants’ second consecutive walk-off win.

If the Giants are going to continue to play tight games like that they are going to need two things: Solid production out of the bullpen and the bench.

They’ve received the production from the pen. They need more out of the bench.

WEDNESDAY

Ryan Vogelsong faces Paul Maholm in Game 2 of the series at 7:15 p.m. The Giants pounced on Maholm in his first start of the season. Vogelsong had better results in his most recent start after a sloppy debut in L.A.

On further review, don’t scrap MLB replay system, just make these fixes

First base umpire Bob Davidson tosses out Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell who objected to MLB's ruling of a an overturned fourth-inning force out at first base in a baseball game against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium in New York, Sunday, April 13, 2014.  The Yankees Brian McCann scored on the play. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

First base umpire Bob Davidson tosses out Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell who objected to MLB’s ruling of a an overturned fourth-inning force out at first base in a baseball game against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium in New York, Sunday, April 13, 2014. The Yankees Brian McCann scored on the play. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Two weeks into the season, and verdict is in.

Majore League Baseball’s new replay challenge system has its flaws. But compared to no system at all, it’s better than nothing.

The replay system was back in the news over the weekend after it failed to overturn a call in the Red Sox-Yankees game even though a replay clearly showed it should have been overturned.

The problem was that the replay official in New York didn’t have access to the replay that showed the umpire’s call was wrong. That sent Red Sox manager John Farrell into a tizzy.

The next night, when the Yankees won a replay challenge even though Farrell thought the replay was not conclusive, Farrell came out to argue. That earned him an automatic ejection.

Farrell then wondered if the system can’t get every call right, then what’s the point of having a system at all.

That kind of logic is borne out of Farrell’s well-warranted frustration. But it’s like saying if the police can’t catch every criminal, why have a police department at all.

Through Sunday this season, according to the website closecalls.com, there have been 84 replay challenges, of which 40 calls have been confirmed (including Saturday’s incorrect confirmation in New York), 28 calls have been overturned and 16 more calls have been allowed to stand because of inconclusive video evidence.

So that’s 28 botched calls that got corrected. That’s progress. The next step is to get almost all botched calls corrected. I’m not sure perfection is attainable.

And while the replay challenges have brought delays, they have eliminated most of the on-field arguments, which also delay games. We just never knew they delayed games because they were more entertaining to watch than watching umpires put on headphones and stand around for 2-3 minutes.

In 2013, according to closecalls.com, there were 180 ejections of players, coaches and managers. That averages out to about 1.0 per day.

In 2014 through Sunday, there have been five in the first two weeks of the season, or 0.36 per day — a decrease of more than 60 percent. And actually, four of those five occurred on Sunday. So through Saturday, there percentage was more like 0.08 per day.

Four of the five ejections were over balls/strike calls, which are not replay reviewable — nor should they be.

So that means more players are staying in the game, and managers too, which we can assume is making the game better.

Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said he thought replay would be a good thing for the game when the season started. Now, he’s not so sure.

One point that we do agree with McClendon on is he’s frustrated with the edict that MLB will not review the replay challenge system until after the season is over.

So here are suggestions that we’d make to improve the replay system.

1. All scoring plays are reviewable. Baseball needs to learn from the NFL’s scoring plays on replay. The NFL reviews all scoring plays. Baseball should do the same. Scoring plays are the most important plays in the game. Let’s make sure we get them right.

2. Umpires need to make everyone aware if a call was confirmed, overturned or allowed to stand because of inconclusive video evidence. This is an important distinction and will factor into other changes we propose. Again, the NFL does this. Officials will make a distinction betwen a call that was confirmed or allowed to stand. So if a player was called safe on the field and the umpire signals out after the replay, then clearly the call was overturned. But if the umpire signals safe, then we know the call was confirmed. But if the umpire makes another signal — perhaps pointing to the base or pointing to the ground — then signals safe, that would let everyone know the replay was inconclusive and the call will stand.

3. If call is not overturned because of inconclusive video evidence, the manager does not lose the right to make a second challenge later in the game. If a replay cannot prove that the umpire’s call was right, the manager should not be penalized for challenging the call.

4. There should be a three-minute time limit on reviews. If a decision to overturn or confirm can’t be reached in that time, then it’s inconclusive and they play stands.

5. There should be a three-person review panel, each watching the replays independently. Each then decides to vote to overturn or confirm. If two vote to overturn, it’s overturned. If two vote to confirm, it’s confirmed. However, if within the three-minute period, neither one of those things happen, it becomes inconclusive and play stands.

These suggestions might not solve all the issues with replays. But they would make the system better. And that’s what we need to get to … and we need to do it now.

Giants 5, Rockies 4 (10 inn.): Some fun facts about the game-winning Splash Hit by Brandon Crawford

San Francisco Giants' Brandon Crawford hits a walk-off home run to beat the Colorado Rockies during the 10th inning of a baseball game on Sunday, April 13, 2014, in San Francisco. San Francisco won 5-4. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

San Francisco Giants’ Brandon Crawford hits a walk-off home run to beat the Colorado Rockies during the 10th inning of a baseball game on Sunday, April 13, 2014, in San Francisco. San Francisco won 5-4. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

 

  • WP: Sergio Romo (1-0)
  • HR: Pablo Sandoval (2), Brandon Crawford (1)

BOX SCORE

Sunday was almost a GREAT day for Splash Hits.

Nah, come to think of it, it was a great day for Splash Hits.

Brandon Crawford led off the bottom of the 10th inning by hitting his first Splash Hit, shooting a pitch off Rex Brothers (a left-hander no less) into McCovey Cove right down the right-field line to lift the Giants over the Rockies 5-4.

It was the first Splash Hit since Pablo Sandoval put one in the water on May 12, 2013.

Sandoval almost made it two Splash Hits in the same game in the sixth inning.

Sandoval’s shot to over the No. 3 archway was well on its way to the Bay, but the ball actually hit one of the flag poles that rise high above the Willie Mays Wall in right and bounced back.

If Sandoval had reached the water, it would have been a first — it would have been the first time two different Giants hit Splash Hits in the same game.

Barry Bonds twice hit a pair of Splash Hits in the same game — on May 10, 2000 vs. the Cardinals (Nos. 2 and 3 Splash Hits overall); and May 18, 2002 vs. the Marlins (Nos. 19 and 20).

Crawford’s home run was the 64th Splash Hit at AT&T/SBC/Pacific Bell Park. He became the 17th different player to record at Splash Hit. (Remember: Splash Hits are home runs on the fly into the bay hit by Giants hitters).

It was also the second walk-off Splash Hit. Barry Bonds had the other on Aug. 19, 2003.

So Barry Bonds hit 35 career Splash Hits.

Barry Bonds spent time this spring working with Brandon Crawford.

Brandon Crawford hits his first Splash Hit.

Hmmmm. Coincidence?

Here’s the list of Splash Hitters

  1. Barry Bonds 35
  2. Pablo Sandoval 7
  3. Brandon Belt 3
  4. Felipe Crespo 2
  5. Ryan Klesko 2
  6. Michael Tucker 2
  7. Andres Torres 2
  8. Aubrey Huff 2
  9. JT Snow 1
  10. Jose Cruz Jr 1
  11. AJ Pierzynski 1
  12. Randy Winn 1
  13. Fred Lewis 1
  14. John Bowker 1
  15. Nate Schierholtz 1
  16. Carlos Beltran 1
  17. Brandon Crawford 1

NEXT UP

After an off day, Tim Lincecum faces Josh Beckett as the Giants and Dodgers open a three-game series at AT&T Park at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday.

Rockies 1, Giants 0: Giants’ weakest link not enough to support Matt Cain

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Matt Cain throws to the Colorado Rockies during the first inning of a baseball game on Saturday, April 12, 2014, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Matt Cain throws to the Colorado Rockies during the first inning of a baseball game on Saturday, April 12, 2014, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • LP: Matt Cain (0-2)

BOX SCORE

There is a saying: “You’re only as strong as your weakest link.”

Well, if that’s the case, the Giants’ hopes for a successful season is looking pretty flimsy right about now.

With Brandon Hicks getting the bulk of the starts at 2B, the Giants’ bench looks like this:

  • C Hector Sanchez
  • IF Joaquin Arias
  • IF Ehire Adrianza
  • OF Gregor Blanco
  • OF Juan Perez

People were talking about the struggles at the top of the order Saturday — Hunter Pence was in the No. 2 hole and batting .167, Pablo Sandoval in the No. 3 hole and batting .152 — but it’s really the struggles on the bench that are much worse.

Those five bench players listed above are hitting a combined 5 for 66 (.076).

By comparison, Giants pitchers this season are 4 for 20 (.200).

As manager Bruce Bochy is trying to find days off to rest his starters — Angel Pagan and Buster Posey got one on Friday; Brandon Belt got his first rest on Saturday — it means starting players who are recording outs at an alarming rate.

And the only way that Bochy knows to try to get these guys started is to give them at-bats.

He can’t send them down to Fresno to find their hitting stroke. Arias, Blanco and Adrianza are out of options, meaning they’d have to clear waivers before getting a demotion.

Sanchez could be sent down, but the call-up options are much better. Andrew Susac is hitting .370 in Fresno, which is great. But the Giants don’t want Susac to get called up and make one start a week. They want him to getting playing time and continue to progress. They have a veteran backup in Fresno in Guillermo Quiroz, but he’s hitting .154 … IN FRESNO. And everyone hits in Fresno.

The same thing is at play in the outfield. Yeah, they could demote Juan Perez, but who do you get to replace him?

Prospect Gary Brown is hitting .317. But, again, the Giants want Brown to get ABs, and that won’t happen with the Giants. The veteran OF option is Tyler Colvin, who is hitting .194 in Fresno.

CAIN LOOKED BETTER

The silver lining from Saturday’s game is Matt Cain looked the best he’s looked so far this season.

Cain gave up one run on four hits and three walks over seven innings in a 116-pitch outing. He struck out eight.

Despite the solid outing, Cain tried to take the blame for the loss, pointing to a double steal set up Troy Tulowitzki’s sacrifice fly that accounted for the game’s only run.

“You make a leadoff walk and I did a bad job of paying attention to him on second,” Cain said. “That’s what cost us.”

Nice try, Matt. But you can’t win a game if you don’t score a run.

It was the sixth time in Cain’s career that he was saddled with a loss despite only allowing one run, and the first time in four seasons.

SUNDAY

Tyler Chatwood is expected to be activated off the DL (hamstring) and make his first start of the season for the Rockies on Sunday. The Giants will counter with Tim Hudson. Chatwood gave up one earned run in 11.2 innings against the Giants last season. Sunday’s game start at 1:05 p.m.

Giants 6, Rockies 5: Madison Bumgarner makes history with grand slam

San Francisco Giants' Madison Bumgarner hits a grand slam off Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Jorge De La Rosa during the fourth inning of a baseball game Friday, April 11, 2014, in San Francisco. At left is Colorado Rockies catcher Jordan Pacheco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

San Francisco Giants’ Madison Bumgarner hits a grand slam off Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Jorge De La Rosa during the fourth inning of a baseball game Friday, April 11, 2014, in San Francisco. At left is Colorado Rockies catcher Jordan Pacheco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

 

  • WP: Madison Bumgarner (2-0)
  • HR: Madison Bumgarner (1)

BOX SCORE

Giants manager Bruce Bochy was looking for a good opportunity to give Buster Posey and Angel Pagan a rest.

With Madison Bumgarner on the mound, Bochy figured the Giants could still win without their two hottest hitters.

And that’s how it worked out, although not in the manner that Bochy was probably thinking.

Bumgarner drove in five runs, including four on a fourth-inning grand slam as the Giants beat the Rockies in the first Orange Friday of the season.

When Bumgarner took Jorge De La Rosa deep to right for his third career home run, Bumgarner became the second San Francisco Giants pitcher to hit a grand slam, joining Shawn Estes who did it May 24, 2000 against the Montreal Expos.

In winning, the Giants erased an early 3-0 deficit. The Rockies dinked and dunked Bumgarner, except for the rocket Carlos Gonzalez hit into the bay in the top of the third for a two-run home run.

Brandon Crawford opened the bottom of the third with a triple and scored when Bumgarner hit a sacrifice fly to deep left field.

In the bottom of the fourth, things got odd.

Pablo Sandoval opened the inning with a single, followed by a Michael Morse walk. Hector Sanchez flied out, and Brandon Belt struck out.

The Giants looked like they caught a bad break when Brandon Hicks was hit on the foot with a pitch that appeared destined to the backstop, which would have allowed Sandoval to score from third. Instead, the bases were loaded.

But the Giants got that run when Brandon Crawford walked.

Then came Bumgarner, who jumped on a De La Rosa fast ball and drove it deep into the left-field bleachers for a grand slam and a 6-3 lead.

The Giants wasted scoring chances later in the game, but Sergio Romo struck out the side in the ninth to seal the win.

WOEFUL BENCH

In addition to giving Pagan and Posey a rest, Bochy was also looking to get some of his bench players some at-bats to get them out of their early season funk.

Juan Perez started in center and went 0 for 4. Hector Sanchez started at catcher and went 0 for 3 and was hit by a pitch. Add in Ehire Adrianza’s out in a pinch-hit spot (oddly pinch-hitting for Bumgarner), and the Giants usual bench players of Perez, Sanchez, Adrianza, Gregor Blanco and Joaquin Arias are hitting a combined 5 for 59 (.085).

Perez did have a nice throw to double off Jordan Pacheco at first to end the eighth.

SANDOVAL TO BENCH LATE

As he did Thursday night, Pablo Sandoval threw the ball away on a play when he was better off to just hold the ball.

Nolan Arenado bunted to third with Sandoval playing back. Sandoval charged the ball, and did not have a chance to get Arenado. But he threw anyway, and the throw went into the stands.

That allowed Arenado to take second, which allowed him to score on Charlie Blackmon’s bloop single.

In the top of the ninth, Sandoval was sent to the bench in favor of Joaquin Arias.

That’s not supposed to happen for a player who wants a $90 million contract. Especially one hitting .143.

MORE TWO-OUT MAGIC

Five of the six runs the Giants scored on Friday came with two outs. That makes 41 of 61 runs this season coming with two outs.

SATURDAY

Matt Cain, who has enjoyed success against the Rockies, takes the mound against the former A’s pitcher Brett Anderson. Anderson is 0-2 this season, but he’s had two quality starts (both exactly 6 IP with 3 ERs for a 4.50 ERA). But that’s two more quality starts than what Cain has enjoyed this season. Game time is 1:05 p.m. and the game will be aired on MLB Network.

Diamondbacks 6, Giants 5 (10): Sandoval’s error costs Giants a victory

Arizona Diamondbacks' Gerardo Parra (8) is tagged out by San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval after a ground ball hit by Diamondbacks' Randall Delgado during the second inning of a baseball game on Thursday, April 10, 2014, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Arizona Diamondbacks’ Gerardo Parra (8) is tagged out by San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval after a ground ball hit by Diamondbacks’ Randall Delgado during the second inning of a baseball game on Thursday, April 10, 2014, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

 

  • LP: Yusmeiro Petit (0-1)
  • HR: None

BOX SCORE

It’s a little thing we like to call “situational baseball.”

Here’s the situation:

Runners at first and second, two outs, your team is up by a run.

A speedy left-handed hitter is at the plate. He hits a slow chopper to third.

Here are your options if you’re the third baseman:

  • A) Charge the ball, grab the ball and make a strong, accurate throw to first to make an amazing out at first.
  • B) Charge the ball, grab the ball, make a strong, accurate throw to first. But the runner beats it out. Bases loaded, two outs.
  • C) Charge the ball, grab the ball, make a strong, but inaccurate throw to first and allow the tying run to score.
  • D) Charge the ball, grab the ball, realize the odds of either B or C happening far, far, FAR outweigh the odds of A happening, so you eat the ball and go after the next hitter.

Which option do you think Pablo Sandoval took in the eighth inning on Thursday night?

If you said “C”, you made the right call.

And Sandoval made the wrong decision.

Sandoval’s error allowed Gerardo Parra score the tying run on a slow chopper hit by Tony Campana in the eighth.

The Giants failed to take the lead back in the bottom of the eighth when Brandon Belt flied to shallow left with the bases loaded and one out. Sandoval’s fly to deep right ended the inning.

Arizona took the lead in the 10th for the win.

ROMO IS OK

Sergio Romo gave up a hit in the ninth inning. But after finishing the scoreless inning, he left the field in clear discomfort.

Manager Bruce Bochy said Romo had stomach cramps, a by-product of Romo battling the flu.

VOGELSONG ALSO ‘OK’

Ryan Vogelsong left after one batter in the sixth with a 5-4 lead.

He gave up four runs on seven hits and one walk to five-plus innings. He gave up two runs in the second and third innings, creating  a situation in which he had given up two runs in four of his previous five innings extending back to his outing Friday in Los Angeles.

But he rebounded with scoreless fourth and fifth innings. So the night was OK for Vogelsong. Not great, but OK.

Vogelsong has sort of become this year’s version of Barry Zito. If he’s still pitching in the sixth inning, it’s a good outing.

SOLID STARTERS, THIN BENCH

The Giants offense has gotten off to a solid start. With the exception of Sandoval (.132) and Hunter Pence (.146), the other six Giants starters on Thursday are hitting well: Angel Pagan (.442), Brandon Belt (.295), Buster Posey (.351), Michael Morse (.400), Brandon Crawford (.300) and Brandon Hicks (.333).

That’s the good news. The bad news is the bench is NOT off to a good start.

  • Hector Sanchez is 2 for 8
  • Joaquin Arias is 2 for 14
  • Ehire Adrianza is 1 for 15
  • Gregor Blanco is 0 for 10
  • Juan Perez is 0 for 4

Put it all together and you get 5 for 51. That’s an .098 average to you and me.

But don’t worry. The Giants’ bench batting average will take a huge jump Saturday when Buster sits for his day of rest.

FRIDAY

Friday is win day for the Giants. Madison Bumgarner (1-0, 1.74 ERA) takes the mound, coming off his solid outing against the Dodgers. He’ll face Jorge De La Rosa (0-1, 8.31 ERA) as the Giants open a three-game series against the Rockies at 7:15 p.m.

Diamondbacks 7, Giants 3: Tim Lincecum gets snakebit again by Paul Goldschmidt

San Francisco Giants' Tim Lincecum works against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

San Francisco Giants’ Tim Lincecum works against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

  • LP: Tim Lincecum (0-1)
  • HR: Michael Morse (2), Buster Posey (3)

BOX SCORE

Here’s the good news for Tim Lincecum:

He won’t have to face Paul Goldschmidt and the Arizona Diamondbacks until late June, at the earliest.

The Giants face Arizona in a three-game set June 20-22. And with two off days in the preceding four of that series, Giants manager Bruce Bochy should get creative with his rotation to avoid Lincecum pitching against the Snakes.

Heading into Wednesday’s game, Goldschmidt was 12 for 23 (.522) with six home runs in 26 plate appearances against Lincecum. Lincecum has only walked him twice.

In the words of Giants color man Mike Krukow, that’s ownage.

And it continued Wednesday when Goldschmidt hit his seventh home run off Lincecum in the first inning. And to make matters worse, if that’s even possible, Goldschmidt took Lincecum out to right field.

After giving up a two-run home run to Goldschmidt last week in Arizona, Lincecum was looking for advice on how to get out the Diamondbacks first baseman.

We’ll assume he didn’t find it.

Actually, Lincecum did get Goldschmidt out in his second plate appearance on Wednesday, getting him to fly out to right. But that was a sacrifice fly.

Lincecum has given up 11 runs in 10 innings of work this season. Six of those runs were driven in by Goldschmidt.

So take Goldschmidt out of the equation, and Lincecum’s ERA might … MIGHT … be 4.50. That’s still not great.

Lincecum got himself in trouble by failing to get the batters out ahead of Goldschmidt.

He started the game by giving up a triple to Gerardo Parra, then walking Martin Prado — his only walk Wednesday.

After regrouping to set down six in a row after Goldschmidt’s home run, Lincecum gave up back-to-back singles to Parra and Prado ahead of Goldschmidt’s sac fly scored Arizona’s fourth run. An Eric Chavez triple made gave Arizona its fifth run.

In the fourth, after giving up a single to pitcher Bronson Arroyo, Lincecum gave up a two-run home run to Parra.

When Lincecum reported to camp this spring, he talked about taking a fresh approach to pitching. He said he wanted to pitch for “crappy contact.” In other words, we’d see a different Lincecum, one who would strike out fewer strikeouts, and also walk fewer, while getting hitters out with weak contact.

But through two games, Lincecum has struck out 12 batters in 10 innings, while giving up 15 hits that include three two-run homers, a three-run homer, a double and two triples.

That’s a lot of uncrappy contact.

The end result is Lincecum’s second-worst start to the season after two starts. His current 9.90 ERA is only surpassed by the 12.91 ERA he had after two starts in his very ugly 2012 season.

Next up for Lincecum is a start next Tuesday at home against the Dodgers, then Easter Sunday at San Diego.

And if he doesn’t get this “new-and-improved” Timmy figured out soon, Giants fans won’t be talking about “crappy contact.”

They’ll be talking about “crappy contract” — as in two years for $35 million.

THURSDAY

The Giants send Ryan Vogelsong, who has been working on correcting a flaw in his mechanics, against Randall Delgado in the series finale at 7:15 p.m. Neither pitcher was able to get through five innings of work in their first start of the season.

Giants 7, Diamondbacks 3: Brandon Belt’s hot start could be harbinger of things to come

San Francisco Giants' Brandon Belt, left, is congratulated by Angel Pagan after hitting a two-run home run off of Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Trevor Cahill that scored Pagan during the first inning of an opening day baseball game in San Francisco, Tuesday, April 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

San Francisco Giants’ Brandon Belt, left, is congratulated by Angel Pagan after hitting a two-run home run off of Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Trevor Cahill that scored Pagan during the first inning of an opening day baseball game in San Francisco, Tuesday, April 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

  • WP: Tim Hudson (2-0)
  • HR: Brandon Belt (5)

BOX SCORE

Brandon Belt is off to a hot start, and that’s a good thing on many levels.

For one, it’s showing that the adjustments he made last season, when he finished the season with eight home runs, 28 RBI and hitting .346 in the final two months of the season, are still producing results.

And it’s gotten Belt, who has been plagued by poor Aprils in his young Giants career, off to a good start to the season.

In his first three big league seasons, Belt has hit .214 with three home runs and 20 RBI in the month of April (and March, too).

This season, through eight games, he has five home runs, nine RBI and is hitting .343.

Belt smacked his fifth home run of the season in the first inning Tuesday as the Giants beat the Diamondbacks in their home opener.

In doing so, Belt became the sixth San Francisco Giant to hit five or more home runs in the first eight games of the season, joining some nice company.

  • Willie Mays in 1964 (6)
  • Orlando Cepeda in 1959 (5)
  • Kevin Mitchell in 1989 (5)
  • Barry Bonds in 2002 (5)
  • Jose Cruz Jr. in 2003 (5)

That’s two Hall of Famers (and a third who should be) and two players who would go on to win the NL MVP award.

In four of the five previous seasons in which a Giant hit five homers in the first eight games, the Giants would win 90 or more games.

In the last three seasons a Giant accomplished the feat, the Giants would go on to advance to the World Series.

Mays, Mitchell and Bonds would go on to hit 46 or more home runs for the season.

All good signs for Belt.

HOME SWEET HOME OPENERS

Tuesday’s win was the Giants sixth consecutive win in their home opener.

FINE IN SUNSHINE

The Giants improved to 4-0 this season when playing in the daylight. The Giants are averaging 7.5 runs in those four day games.

WEDNESDAY

The Giants will send Tim Lincecum to the mound against the Diamondbacks and Bronson Arroyo at 7:15 p.m. in a pitching rematch of last Thursday’s game that the Giants won 8-5.

Dodgers 6, Giants 2: Uh oh … here we go again with Matt Cain and home runs?

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Matt Cain throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first inning of a baseball game Sunday, April 6, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Matt Cain throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first inning of a baseball game Sunday, April 6, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

 

  • LP: Matt Cain (0-1)
  • HR: Brandon Belt (4), Hunter Pence (1)

BOX SCORE

Sunday’s series final in Los Angeles gave Giants fans a severe case of deja vu.

Has Matt Cain come down with another case of dingeritis?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Cain gave up three home runs in six innings, giving up long balls to Matt Kemp twice and Hanley Ramirez once, in a 6-2 loss to the Dodgers.

Home runs have always been a part of Cain’s game.

Yes, Cain gave up a career-high 23 home runs last year. But Cain gave up 21 home runs in 2012 and 22 home runs in both 2009 and 2010.

Cain went 16-5 with a career-best 2.79 ERA in 2012 despite giving up 21 home runs.

So when Cain is going good, he’s giving up home runs. And when he’s going not so good, he’s giving up home runs.

That was the case in 2013 when he went 8-10 with 4.00 ERA.

And really, Cain’s problems with the long ball really stung him during on stretch of seven starts from April 12 to May 16.

In that stretch he gave up 13 home runs, accounting for 22 of the 25 earned runs Cain allowed over that stetch.

Sunday night’s game with the ninth time in Cain’s career that he’s allowed three or more home runs in a game.

He had five from 2006-2012, and never more than one in any season.

But last year, he had three games with 3+ home runs allowed. All three occurred in that seven start stretch.

Cain didn’t allow any home runs in his first start in Arizona. So it’s difficult to say if Sunday’s outing was a harbinger of things to come with Cain or not.

Let’s hope not.

HOME RUNS BY GIANTS

The Giants hit two home runs themselves. Both came in the sixth inning, one by Brandon Belt and one by Hunter Pence.

Belt’s home run was his fourth of the season.

Belt joked that he planned to hit 74 home runs this season.

Well, he’s on pace to hit 93 right now.

When Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs in 2001, he didn’t hit his fourth of the season until his 10th game.

So………

A GOOD START

All things consider, that was a pretty good opening road trip.

  • The Giants took 2 of 3 from the Dodgers. We’ll take that.
  • They went 5-2 on the opening road trip, all against division foes. We’ll take that.
  • The Giants lead the National League in home runs. You know we’ll take that.

NEXT UP

Monday is an off day before the Giants play their home opener at 1:35 p.m. Tuesday against the Diamondbacks. Tim Hudson, coming off his stellar Giants debut against Arizona last week, will take the hill for the Giants against Trevor Cahill. It’s the same pitching matchup when the Giants beat the Diamondbacks 2-0 last Wednesday.

Giants 7, Dodgers 2: Three bombs and a Bum

San Francisco Giants' Pablo Sandoval, center, celebrates with his Madison Bumgarner  (40) after he hits a three-run home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fifth inning of a baseball game on Saturday, April 5, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

San Francisco Giants’ Pablo Sandoval, center, celebrates with his Madison Bumgarner (40) after he hits a three-run home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fifth inning of a baseball game on Saturday, April 5, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

  • WP: Madison Bumgarner (1-0)
  • HR: Michael Morse (1), Pablo Sandoval (1), Buster Posey (2)

BOX SCORE

Second day in Dodger Stadium. Second win. And this time it came with no qualifications.

Michael Morse, Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey all belted home runs, which was more than enough for Madison Bumgarner as the Giants beat the Dodgers 7-2.

Bumgarner bounced back nicely after an abbreviated Opening Day start. He limited the Dodgers to two runs on eight hits and one walk over 6.1 innings of work. He struck out 10.

Morse hit his first home run as a Giant when he hit a Paul Maholm pitch halfway up the left field pavillion in the fourth inning, giving the Giants a 2-1 lead.

Bumgarner led off the fifth with a single, and Angel Pagan followed with another hit. One out later, Sandoval belted a three-run homer for a 5-1 lead. Buster Posey greeted reliever Juan Dominguez with a solo home run to left, as the Giants showed they could go back-to-back, too.

Every Giant starter reached base safely.

  • Angel Pagan 2-4, 2B, BB
  • Hunter Pence 2-5, 2 2B
  • Pablo Sandoval 1-3, HR, 2 BB
  • Buster Posey 2-5, HR
  • Michael Morse 1-2, HR, BB
  • Brandon Belt 1-5
  • Brandon Hicks 1-4
  • Brandon Crawford 0-2, 2 BB
  • Madison Bumgarner 1-2

MORSE REPLACEMENT

One quirk from Saturday’s game. Giants manager Bruce Bochy replaced Morse with Juan Perez in left field in the bottom of the fifth.

Bochy said he was going to replace Morse for defensive reasons. But the fifth inning?

Yeah, the Giants were up 6-1 at the time. And Bumgarner was rolling.

But the fifth inning?

PENCE HEATS UP

Hunter Pence, who entered the game 1 for 20, hit two doubles. And he recorded his third outfield assist of the season when he threw out Scott Van Slyke in the seventh.

SUNDAY

Matt Cain takes on Zach Greinke in the series finale at 5 p.m. The game is on ESPN. The Giants go for the sweep. But worst-case scenario: The Giants will play home opener in first place in the NL West.

Giants 8, Dodgers 4: A great start on Opening Day in Dodger Stadium

Los Angeles Dodgers' Juan Uribe, right, reacts while being tagged by San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey after he struck out during the eighth inning of a baseball game on Friday, April 4, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Los Angeles Dodgers’ Juan Uribe, right, reacts while being tagged by San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey after he struck out during the eighth inning of a baseball game on Friday, April 4, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • WP: David Huff (1-0)
  • HR: None

BOX SCORE

Well, we can say one thing for certain on Friday: Opening Day at Dodger Stadium is a lot more fun for the Giants when Clayton Kershaw is not on the mound.

For the third time in four years, the Giants were the opponent for the Dodgers’ home opener. But this time the Giants got the jump on Big Blue and pitcher Hyung Jin-Ryu for an 8-4 victory.

With Kershaw on the mound, the Dodgers beat the Giants 2-1 and 4-0 on Opening Day in 2011 and 2013 respectively.

But 2014 was different as the Giants tallied six runs in the first and two more in the second for an 8-0 lead.

After that, Kershaw might as well have been on the mound because the Giants didn’t muster another yet after Joaquin Arias’ RBI single in the second inning.

But they were able to hang onto the win, and that’s all that matters.

The day started quietly enough for the Giants as Ryu recorded two quick outs.

After a walk to Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey laced a double to left, then Michael Morse lined a single to center to score two. Matt Kemp’s error allowed Morse to take second, and it was 2-0 Giants.

Then Brandon Belt blooped a single into right to score Morse.

Brandon Hicks hit what appeared to be an inning-ending infield pop-up. But Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon lost the ball in the sun, and when teammates Adrian Gonzalez and Andre Ethier could not bail him out, it went for a double.

Arias was walked to load the bases and get to pitcher Ryan Vogelsong. But Vogelsong, who managed just two hits in 36 plate appearances last season, blooped a single to left-center to score two more.

“I really couldn’t call it a knock,” Vogelsong said. “It was more like a sand wedge. But you take them any way you can get them.”

After Angel Pagan added another RBI single, it was 6-0 Giants.

In the second inning, Posey lead off by reaching on Hanley Ramirez’s error. Then with two outs, Hicks got an RBI double and Arias added an RBI single.

All eight runs were scored with two outs. Twenty-three of the Giants’ 31 runs so far this season have been scored with two outs.

DR. VOGELSONG/MR. RUN-AND-HIDE

Ryan Vogelsong called his outing a 50-50 performance.

He seemed to breeze through the first three innings, giving up one hit and two walks.

But he opened the fourth by giving up back-to-back home runs to Adrian Gonzalez and Andre Ethier. Juan Uribe darn near made in three in a row when his drive to center hit off the wall. Vogey was able to limit that inning to those two early runs.

The Dodgers greeted Vogelsong in the fifth with a single by Carl Crawford, and an RBI double by Kemp. When Hanley Ramirez’s single put runners on first and third and no outs, manager Bruce Bochy yanked Vogelsong.

“I hated to get him, but it looked like he hit a wall,” Bochy said. ”For three innings he was right on with his delivery and command. He had good stuff. His velocity was real sharp. He started running into some deep counts and it caught up with him.”

Vogelsong said it wasn’t fatigue. It was bad mechanics, which he plans on fixing.

“It’s the same thing I started to get into last year,” he said. “It’s a bad habit. I got a little loose with my mechanics. That caused my drop in velocity and I was showing the ball to the hitters more, and I lose the whole deal.”

BULLPEN TO THE RESCUE

While the Giants managed only a walk and no hits over the final seven innings against the Dodgers’ bullpen (striking out 10 times), the Giants bullpen was almost as good.

David Huff, JC Gutierrez, Jean Machi and Javier Lopez allowed no runs, three hits and no walks over five innings of work.

POSITIVE REVIEW

After the Giants’ first experience with the replay challenge went awry in Arizona, Bochy scored a positive result on Friday.

After Ramirez led off the seventh with a single, he tried to steal second.

He was called safe at first, and Arias quickly protested. Bochy came out and challenged the call of second base umpire Mary Foster and it was reversed.

GIANTS BREAK SKID IN RAVINE

Friday’s win was the first time since 2007 that the Giants won their first game of the year in Chavez Ravine.

SATURDAY

It’s another afternoon game at the Ravine. Madison Bumgarner faces Paul Maholm in a 1:10 p.m. start. The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1.

Giants 8, Diamondbacks 5: Giants perform some two-out magic in Arizona

San Francisco Giants' Angel Pagan follows through on a three-run home run against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the eighth inning of an baseball game on Thursday, April 3, 2014, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

San Francisco Giants’ Angel Pagan follows through on a three-run home run against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the eighth inning of an baseball game on Thursday, April 3, 2014, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

WP: Jean Machi (2-0)
HR: Brandon Belt (3), Brandon Hicks (1), Angel Pagan (1)

BOX SCORE

The Giants dialed up some more two-out magic to rally past the Diamondbacks and take three games in the season-opening four-game series.

With two out in the eighth inning, pinch-hitter Michael Morse slapped a single up the middle to score Juan Perez to tie the game 5-5.

Then Angel Pagan delivered a three-run home run into the pool area in right-center to give the Giants an 8-5 victory.

“We’re just trying to be patient, not panicking when we’re trailing on the scoreboard,” Pagan said. “And it’s been working. Everybody’s putting the best at-bat possible for the next guy to get the job done. It happened to me in that at-bat.”

So far this season, 16 of the 23 runs scored by the Giants have come with two outs. One of those seven “other” runs was scored on a play in which the second out was recorded.

The season is only four days old, but the Giants have shown some early ability to score in the clutch.

TIMMY’S DEBUT

Tim Lincecum’s 2014 debut was a mixed bag.

Unlike Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain, Lincecum was able to pitch into the sixth inning.

He struck out seven and walked none. It was only the 17th time in 221 career starts that Lincecum has not issued a walk.

That was the good news.

The bad news? A two-run home run to Paul Goldschmidt in the first inning, and two-run home run by Mike Trumbo in the sixth inning. Both blasts went to deep center field.

Lincecum was unsure what he’ll do next again Goldschmidt, who has belted six home runs in 24 career at-bats against Lincecum.

“I’m going to start throwing underhand to him,” Lincecum said. “I don’t know, I’ve just got to figure out something.”

But, on the whole, I’d say a good start for The Freak.

BELTED, AGAIN

Brandon Belt became the fifth San Francisco Giant to hit three home runs in the first four games of a season when he took Bronson Arroyo deep in the first inning. Willie Mays accomplished the feat four times. Kevin Mitchell did once (1989) as did Barry Bonds (2003).

“I said before the season I would hit 74 home runs,” he quipped. “So we’ll see what happens.”

Three of Belt’s six hits this season have been home runs. He also has six strikeouts in 18 at-bats.

Belt is on pace to hit 121 home runs this season.

NO SAVE FOR SANTI

Mean ol’ Bruce Bochy!

Santiago Casilla was one out from recording a six-out save. He retired all five batters he faced, two by strikeouts.

But with left-hander Eric Chavez set to bat with two out and no one on in the night, the Giants manager brought in Javier Lopez to get the final out, which he did.

No save for Santiago.

FRIDAY

Ryan Vogelsong takes the mound as the Dodgers open a three-game series in Los Angeles. As it is the Dodgers’ home opener, first pitch is at 1:05 p.m. Hyun-jin Ryu will start for the Dodgers.

 

Diamondbacks 5, Giants 4: Giants find first experience with replay challenge very unappealing

Arizona Diamondbacks center fielder A.J. Pollock (11) is tagged by Matt Cain (18) at home plate in the fourth inning. Pollock was ruled safe. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Arizona Diamondbacks center fielder A.J. Pollock (11) is tagged by Matt Cain (18) at home plate in the fourth inning. Pollock was ruled safe. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • LP: Juan Guiterrez (0-1)
    HR: Brandon Belt (2)

BOX SCORE

So the rule that was supposed to keep the umpires from sticking it to the Giants didn’t keep the umpires from sticking it to the Giants.

The Giants’ first experience with a replay challenge didn’t go the Giants’ way, and they ended up losing because of it.

With A.J. Pollock on first base in the fourth inning, Matt Cain appeared to catch Pollock leaning and picked him off. Umpire Chris Guccione called him safe.

It didn’t take long for manager Bruce Bochy to bounce out of the dugout to challenge the call via a replay.

However, it took the replay umpire 3 minutes and 45 seconds to come to a decision.

CSN Bay Area showed three different angles of the play. On one angle, you can’t tell when Pollack’s hand touched the bag because the bag blocks the view.

On another angle, Brandon Belt’s size 15 gunboats block the view of Pollock’s hand for a moment. But you can see when Pollock’s hand touches the base and when he’s tagged.

The third angle, from the outfield, you can’t see when Belt’s tag makes contact.

I don’t know if one angle provided a definitive angle, and maybe that’s what the replay ump was looking for — one definitive replay. But when you put all three replays together, you can clearly tell when the tag occurs and where Pollock’s hand was. And it was not on the bag yet.

He was out. But the replay umpire apparently didn’t see it that way. Pollock was allowed to stay at first.

A couple of batters later, Buster Posey had a pitch pop out of his mitt and roll away. Pollock, now on third, charged for home, as did Cain. Cain caught the ball from Posey, but slipped as he went to tag Pollock.

Still, Cain was able to clip Pollock’s heel before his foot touched the plate. However, home plate umpire Eric Cooper called Pollock safe.

This time, you only needed one look at the replay to see the ump got it wrong.

However, having exhausted his only unsuccessful review, Bochy could not appeal.

The Giants went on to lose by one run.

With this replay system, what MLB is trying to avoid is having managers challenge every reasonably close play. So they want some kind of penalty for an unsuccessful challenge.

But the whole purpose of the replay system is to ensure that bad calls don’t decide games, like they did Tuesday.

So there needs to be a better solution.

Here’s an idea:

A manager makes his first challenge in the first six innings. The call is upheld on review.

The manager challenges a second call in the first six innings. This call is again upheld.

Now the team can challenge no more plays in the first six innings, and the manager is tossed from the game.

Wednesday: Tim Hudson makes his Giants debut as the Giants face the Diamondbacks and Trevor Cahill at 6:40 p.m.

Baseball’s next rule change should be eliminating the takeout slide

San Francisco Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro grimaces as his leg is caught under a sliding St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Holliday on a double play attempt during the first inning of Game 2 of baseball's National League championship series Monday, Oct. 15, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

San Francisco Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro grimaces as his leg is caught under a sliding St. Louis Cardinals’ Matt Holliday on a double play attempt during the first inning of Game 2 of baseball’s National League championship series Monday, Oct. 15, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Baseball’s two newest rule changes made their debuts on Opening Day.

The rule on limiting home-plate collision was a non-issue on Monday, as we predicted it would be most days during the season.

The rule allowing replay challenges of close calls was used five times in MLB on Monday, with two of the calls being overturned.

The Giants didn’t have any replay challenges in their game with the Diamondbacks, although there was one play when it could have been used.

In the fifth inning, second baseman Joaquin Arias fielded a ball in the hole between first and second, spun and threw to second. However, it was ruled that Arias’ throw drew Brandon Crawford off the bag and all runners were safe.

The replay showed that it was a very, very close play. Crawford’s foot wasn’t ON the bag, but it may have been up against the bag.

A replay challenge may not have been conclusive enough to overturn the call, but it brought up an interesting discussion on the replay rule.

One play that is not reviewable for replays is the play at second base on double plays. In other words, the “neighborhood” play.

The neighborhood play is one of those unwritten rules of baseball in which umpires will allow middle infielder to not actually be on the bag when receiving a throw to complete a double play. They simply need to be in the neighborhood of the base. It is intended to protect infielders from potential injury from a takeout slide at second.

But if you’re concerned about protecting infielders, why not just put a rule in the book that prohibits the takeout slide.

Oh wait! There’s already a rule. It’s called Rule 7.09(d), which reads …

“Any batter or runner who has just been put out hinders or impedes any following play being made on a runner. Such runner shall be declared out for the interference of his teammate;”

That seems pretty clear. How is it that takeout slides are permitting at all with a rule that is so clear?

Well, it comes from the interpretation of the comment after rule 7.09(d), which reads:

“If the batter or a runner continues to advance after he has been put out, he shall not by that act alone be considered as confusing, hindering or impeding the fielders.”

It’s a very, very broad interpretation of this comment that has led to the takeout slide.

What this comment is saying that if the momentum created by a runner trying to reach a base safely causes him to come in contact with a fielder after the runner has been put out, that contact, in itself, is not considered interference.

But what this broad interpretation has created is that any contact between the runner and fielder is OK as long as the runner can show that he could be in contact with the base at some point during his “slide.”

But the comment is really just talking about incidental contact. So maybe what we need is a rule that talks about willful or deliberate action of the runner.

Oh wait! We already have one. It’s called rule 7.09(e).

“If, in the judgment of the umpire, a base runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead. The umpire shall call the runner out for interference and also call out the batter-runner because of the action of his teammate. In no event may bases be run or runs scored because of such action by a runner.”

Well, that seems pretty clear.

One thing the critics of the new home-plate collision rule have complained about is how these rules are making the game softer.

But this really isn’t about making the game softer. It’s really not about protecting infielders or even runners (Bryce Harper took a knee to the head on his takeout slide on Monday).

What this is really about is the simple point that a runner who has been eliminated from the play should not be allowed to impact the play after he’s been eliminated.

And we don’t even need a new rule to make sure that happens.

We just need to enforce the rules that are already written.

Giants 9, Diamondbacks 8: Giants give skid in season openers the boot

  • San Francisco Giants' Sergio Romo celebrates the final out against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the ninth inning of an opening day baseball game, Monday, March 31, 2014, in Phoenix.  The Giants defeated the Diamondbacks 9-8. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

    San Francisco Giants’ Sergio Romo celebrates the final out against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the ninth inning of an opening day baseball game, Monday, March 31, 2014, in Phoenix. The Giants defeated the Diamondbacks 9-8. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

  • WP: Jean Machi (1-0)
  • Save: Sergio Romo (1)
  • HR: Brandon Belt (1), Buster Posey (1)

BOX SCORE

Hey, it wasn’t pretty. But it’s a win.

And in the end, that’s all that matters.

The Giants rallied from four runs down to beat the Diamondbacks 9-8 for their first season-opening win in four years.

Due in part to sloppy defense, the Giants trailed 6-2 after five innings and 7-3 after six.

But the Giants tallied four runs in the seventh to tie the game, with all four runs scoring with two outs.

With Joaquin Arias on first, rookie Ehire Adrianza came in to hit for reliever Yusmeiro Petit and delivered a double to right, scoring Arias.

After Oliver Perez relieved starter Brandon McCarthy, Angel Pagan shot a double to left off the glove of Martin Prado, scoring Adrianza.

After a Brandon Belt single moved Pagan to third, the Giants caught a break. With a pitch headed to his right shoulder, Pablo Sandoval with a part check-swing, part trying to avoid being hit, made contact with the ball and blooped into shallow center off the glove of shortstop Chris Owings, scoring Pagan.

After a Buster Posey single loaded the bases, Hunter Pence walked to tie the game.

Then in the top of the ninth, again with two outs, Buster Posey delivered a huge two-run home run to left to give the Giants a 9-7.

Despite giving up a solo home run to Miguel Montero, Sergio Romo was able to close out the game for the win.

The box score says the Giants made two errors. But really there should have four or five or more.

“They let an intern do it for the first game,” Giants announcer Duane Kuiper said on Monday’s official scorer.

Let’s look at them.

Leading off the fourth, Mark Trumbo reached when Brandon Belt could handle his grounder for Error No. 1.

The next batter, Miguel Montero, hit a chopper to short that Sandoval cut over to field. But he dropped the ball for Error No. 2.

Two batters later, Gerardo Parra singled home Trumbo, but Miguel Montero was called out on Pence’s throw home and Posey’s sweep tag. Except for one thing, Posey dropped the throw. Non-error No. 1.

In the fifth inning, Joaqin Arias fielding a grounder but his throw to second drew Brandon Crawford off the bag. It was ruled a fielder’s choice. Non-error No. 2.

The next batter, McCarthy hit a grounder that should have been a 4-2-3 double play. But Arias’ throw short-hopped Posey at the plate, and the Giants only got the force at home. You can’t presume a double play, so non-error No. 3.

Luckily, neither of Arias’ gaffes cost the Giants any runs.

That wasn’t the case with Belt in the sixth inning. Petit had Paul Goldschmidt picked off as Belt started the run down. Then Belt somehow lost focus and allowed Goldschmidt to slip into second. He then scored on Trumbo’s single. Non-error No. 4.

In the eighth, Aaron Hill hit a slow roller to Sandoval, who fielded the ball but his throw to first sailed over the head of Belt. Luckily, it bounced off some plexiglass the protects the photographer’s well, so Hill could advance no further. The play was scored a single, but we’ll call it non-error No. 5.

In the ninth, Chris Owings tried for a bunt single to Sandoval, who had enough time to field the ball and get Owings. But Sandoval did not come up with the ball cleanly. It was ruled a hit, but we’ll call it non-error No. 6.

Not pretty. But the bats rescued the Giants on Opening Night.

Tuesday: Matt Cain takes the mound for the Giants against Wade Miley. First pitch is 6:40 p.m.

Shocking development: We actually found people NOT picking Dodgers to win NL West

gintdodg

Browsing through presason prognosticators for the 2014 season was not all that exciting for Giants fans.

Dodgers, Dodgers, Dodgers, Dodgers Dodgers, Dodgers.

It seems like everybody and their Aunt Jemima is picking the Dodgers to win the NL West in 2014 … or worse.

Yeah, the Almighty Dollar is the sexy pick for 2014.

If there is a consolation for Giants fans, it’s two-fold.

1, Of those folks picking the Dodgers to take the NL West, many — if not a majority — are also predicting the Giants to secure a wild-card spot.

2, When the Giants won World Series titles in 2010 and 2012, there weren’t a lot of people picking them to NL West in those seasons.

But not everyone is being seduced by the Dodgers’ bling.

Here’s a sampling of the prognosticators who are actually picking the Giants to take the NL West in 2014.

  • Phil Rogers of MLB.com
  • Kevin Millar of MLB Network
  • Pedro Gomez of ESPN
  • Jeremy Lundblad of ESPN Stats and Info
  • Peter Pascarelli of ESPN Radio
  • Joe Sheehan of SI.com
  • Matt Fisher of Fansided.com
  • Mike Cardillo of thebiglead.com
  • Jason McIntyre of thebiglead.com

My wish for Opening Day: a win for the San Francisco Giants

atat

In baseball, everything is amplified on Opening Day.

Fans sometimes forget that the season is 162 games long on Opening Day.

Wins seem bigger. And so do losses.

With that in mind, here’s a stat for San Francisco Giants fans.

The Giants have won two World Series championships since the last time they won on Opening Day.

Yes, it’s been four years since the Giants won on Opening Day. That came on Opening Day 2010 when Tim Lincecum and the Giants beat the Astros 5-2.

Since then, the Giants have lost to the Dodgers (2-1 in 2011), Diamondbacks (5-4 in 2012) and Dodgers (4-0 in 2013) — all on the road.

Since moving into AT&T Park (nee SBC Park, nee Pacific Bell Park), the Giants have opened 10 of 14 seasons on the road.

That is by design. The Giants prefer to delay their home games to get better weather days later in the season. This season, that appears to be a good call as rain in the forecast for the Bay Area Monday and Tuesday.

But that decision has led to some unhappy Opening Days for Giants fans. The Giants have lost five of their last six Opening Days on the road.

By comparison, the Giants have won their last five home openers. The Giants are 11-3 in home openers at their ballpark by the bay.

Yes, we know the weather is yucky on opening week this year. But when you’ve sold out your last 246 home games, does it really matter when you play your home game.

So for next year, Giants, please, would you think about requesting a home game on Opening Day? It would be nice, especially if the Giants win another championship. It is an even-number year.

In the meantime, we’d like a win in Arizona on Opening Day 2014. It’s been a long time since the Giants had a 1.000 winning percentage.

A couple of surprises as San Francisco Giants lock down opening day roster

San Francisco Giants' Brandon Crawford is projected to sit when facing left-handed pitchers this season.

San Francisco Giants’ Brandon Crawford is projected to sit when facing left-handed pitchers this season.

Marco Scutaro is on the DL.

So is Jeremy Affeldt.

Ehire Adrianza makes the club.

So does Brandon Hicks.

So long, Roger Kieschnick.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy announced his team’s 25-man roster for opening day, and there weren’t a lot of surprises.

Juan Gutierrez beat out Derek Law for the last spot in the bullpen, with Law being sent down to Double-A Richmond.

Juan Perez beat out Tyler Colvin for the last outfield spot, with Colvin heading to Triple-A Fresno.

With Tony Abreu being placed on waivers (then clearing them and re-signing with team) and Scutaro on the DL, Adrianza and Hicks were locks to make the game.

The Giants designated OF Roger Kieschnick for assignment to make room for Hicks on the 40-man roster. Kieschnick was an outfielder prospect with the Giants who battled injuries in the minors. He made his big-league debut last season, but appeared overmatched in the bigs. He hit .202 with 0 HR, 5 RBI and 29 Ks in 95 PAs.

Bochy announced the Brandon Belt will hit in the No. 2 hole in Monday’s opener against the Diamondbacks and Brandon McCarthy. It looks as if Belt will be Bochy’s No. 2 hitter of choice against righties, and Pence will take the spot against lefties. His lineup for Monday’s game is as follows.

CF Angel Pagan
1B Brandon Belt
3B Pablo Sandoval
C Buster Posey
RF Hunter Pence
LF Michael Morse
2B Joaquin Arias
SS Brandon Crawford
P Madison Bumgarner

One surprise that came out of Saturday’s announcement: Bochy plans to sit Brandon Crawford against lefties. In those cases, Arias would move to short and Hicks would start at 2B.

Last season, Crawford had a slash line of .269/.333/.394 against righties. Against southpaws, it went .199/.258/.288.

Against the Diamdonbacks, that means Crawford will sit Game 2 of the series against Wade Miley, but start the other three games (presuming Bronson Arroyo is healthy enough to start Game 4).

Here’s the 25-man roster:

STARTING PITCHERS

  • LH Madison Bumgarner
  • RH Matt Cain
  • RH Tim Hudson
  • RH Tim Lincecum
  • RH Ryan Vogelsong

BULLPEN

  • RH Sergio Romo
  • RH Santiago Casilla
  • LH Javier Lopez
  • RH Yusmeiro Petit
  • LH David Huff
  • RH Jean Machi
  • RH Juan Gutierrez

CATCHERS

  • Buster Posey
  • Hector Sanchez

INFIELDERS

  • Brandon Belt
  • Joaquin Arias
  • Brandon Crawford
  • Pablo Sandoval
  • Ehire Adrianza
  • Brandon Hicks

OUTFIELDERS

  • Mike Morse
  • Angel Pagan
  • Hunter Pence
  • Gregor Blanco
  • Juan Perez

DISABLED LIST

  • 2B Marco Scutaro
  • LHP Jeremy Affeldt

 

San Francisco Giants’ No. 2 hitter is …. Hunter Pence?

San Francisco Giants' Hunter Pence singles against the Colorado Rockies in the ninth inning of the Giants' 5-2 victory in a baseball game in Denver on Sunday, June 30, 2013. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

San Francisco Giants’ Hunter Pence singles against the Colorado Rockies in the ninth inning of the Giants’ 5-2 victory in a baseball game in Denver on Sunday, June 30, 2013. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy unveiled a lineup Thursday night against the A’s that he said could be the Giants’ opening day lineup.

It went like this:

  1. CF Angel Pagan
  2. RF Hunter Pence
  3. 3B Brandon Belt
  4. C Buster Posey
  5. 3B Pablo Sandoval
  6. LF Mike Morse
  7. 2B Joaquin Arias
  8. SS Brandon Crawford

You’ll notice the player Bochy plugged into the No. 2 spot normally occupied by 2B Marco Scutaro, who will open the season on the DL.

Now a lot gets talked about batting order. Sabermatricians will tell you that batting order does matter, but only slightly.

However, the stat geeks will also tell you the best batting order is one that is based on descending order of on-base percentage or OPS.

But what numbers do you use to open the season? Spring training numbers or last year’s numbers?

Here is what the Giants’ lineup would look like based on decreasing OBP from spring training:

  1. C Buster Posey
  2. RF Hunter Pence
  3. LF Mike Morse
  4. 1B Brandon Belt
  5. 2B Joaquin Arias
  6. 3B Pablo Sandoval
  7. CF Angel Pagan
  8. SS Brandon Crawford

Now on decreasing OBP from 2013:

  1. C Buster Posey
  2. 1B Brandon Belt
  3. 3B Pablo Sandoval
  4. RF Hunter Pence
  5. CF Angel Pagan
  6. SS Brandon Crawford
  7. 2B Joaquin Arias
  8. LF Mike Morse

OK, we can agree that Bochy is nowhere near going to a strictly sabermetric lineup. So let’s look at conventional wisdom when putting together lineup.

Conventional wisdom says your leadoff hitter brings a combination of a good OBP and speed (sometimes speed seems to win out).

You’re No. 2 hitter should be patient and selective (allowing for leadoff runner to steal second — provided he even arrived on first base in the first place), should not strikeout much, have good bat control and if he has speed, that’s a bonus.

Your No. 3 hitter is generally the best overall hitter in your lineup.

Your No. 4 hitter is your best power threat. No. 5 is your second-best power threat. Nos. 6-8 basically based on descending quality of hitter.

Scutaro fit well in the No. 2 hole because he sees a lot of pitches (3.89 per PA, third-best on team) and he has an excellent contact rate (94.3 pct, tops on team).

Pence saw 3.77 pitches per AB (just under league average). His contact rate of 75.5 percent is also below league average.

But looking at the lineup, there weren’t a lot of better options, using those two measurements.

Brandon Belt saw 3.98 pitches per PA, but his contact rate was 77.3. His strikeout percentage of 21.9 made him the only regular to whiff above league average. Brandown Crawford saw 3.76 pitches per PA. Joaquin Arias 3.17.

So while conventional wisdom says Pence should be the Giants’ cleanup hitter, Bochy’s willingness to put him No. 2 shows that’s he’s willing to break with conventional wisdom.

“He does give you speed, plus he’s a guy who can hit the ball out of the ballpark, too,” Bochy said of Pence, who went 2 for 4 on Thursday. “That’s not a bad thing to have at the top of the order.”

Pence, who batted No. 2 for 45 games in his rookie season with the Astros (hitting .296), says likes the idea of batting second.

But he added: “I’m probably not going to be bunting.”

Jeremy’s broken: San Francisco Giants put Affeldt back on the disabled list

Jeremy Affeldt went to the DL with a strained MCL

Jeremy Affeldt went to the DL with a strained MCL

The San Francisco Giants were hoping to escape Arizona without having to put anyone on the disabled list.

That hope ended Tuesday when Marco Scutaro revealed he would open the season on the DL after a trip to the doctor didn’t help resolved his lingering back issue.

Then on Wednesday, as the rest of the team headed north for the Bay Bridge Series, Jeremy Affeldt was placed on the DL with a strained medial collateral ligament in his right knee.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Affeldt felt discomfort in his knee last Saturday when he gave up four runs against the White Sox.

Bochy seemed frustrated by his left-handed reliever.

“He didn’t have his brace on,” Bochy said.

It’s the brace that Affeldt has been wearing — or supposed to be wearing — ever since hurting his knee way back in May 2012. You’ll recall that’s when Affeldt hurt his knee when his then-four-year-old son jumped into his arms after Affeldt arrived home from a game.

That leaves three pitchers to compete for two spots left in the bullpen, as Yusmeiro Petit and David Huff appear locks as long relievers.

Jean Machi is on the 40-man roster and is out of options, but he has struggled this spring. Non-roster invitees Derek Law and Juan Gutierrez have impressed this spring. But to put them on the opening day roster would require opening a spot on the 40-man roster.

The Giants have one spot open currently, but that is expected to be filled by another non-roster invitee, infielder Brandon Hicks. Hicks is expected to make the team as infield help with Scutaro opening the season on the shelf.

Three other pitchers — Dan Runzler, Heath Hembree and Erik Cordier — will make the trip north with the team this weekend, but Bochy does not view them as candidates to make the opening-day roster.

So the Giants head north, having avoided major injuries like the Tommy John surgeries facing the likes of the Braves’ Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy or the Diamondbacks’ Patrick Corbin. Even Clayton Kershaw had an MRI on his back and will miss his start Sunday.

So by comparison, the Giants are getting off light.

They hope to have Affeldt back by the middle of April. Scutaro’s return date is far less certain. Buster Posey sat out Wednesday with a tight hamstring, and Pablo Sandoval has a sore hand that will sideline him for some of this weekend’s games.

Otherwise, the Giants are marching ahead toward the 2014 season.

Can you really believe anything Pablo Sandoval’s agent says?

San Francisco Giants' Pablo Sandoval (48) hits a solo home run against Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Kris Medlen (54) during the third inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Sunday, May 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

San Francisco Giants’ Pablo Sandoval (48) hits a solo home run against Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Kris Medlen (54) during the third inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Sunday, May 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

There’s a reason people think sports agents are weasels.

Pablo Sandoval’s agent, Gustavo Vazquez, spoke with the media on Sunday to discuss how far apart Sandoval’s camp is with the Giants concerning a contract extension for the 2012 World Series MVP.

And he sounded like an idiot.

Vazquez said Sandoval’s weight issues are a thing of the past and should not be a factor in contract negotiations.

What?!?

That’s like a pitcher with chronic elbow problems over the past five years saying his elbow issues are in the past because he hasn’t had a flare up in six months.

Sandoval’s weight has been an issue since he first dawned a XXXL Giants uniform. And it’s gone up and down over the years, mostly up.

Finally, last summer, Sandoval found Jesus, so to speak. Or maybe Jenny Craig.

Starting last summer, he put himself on a diet. Then he spent the offseason getting in shape. And he looks good.

Could it be that someone finally got to him, saying that no team would give him a big contract when he became a free agent after the 2014 season if he didn’t get his weight under control?

Well, we’ve seen this act before. What assurances do we have that once Sandoval’s motivation is taken away in the form of a long, lucrative contract that he won’t return to his chubby ways?

“The weight issues he had before, you’ll never see that again,” Vasquez said. “He will have his trainer with him until he retires.”

Oh, OK. So if the Giants offer Sandoval a five-year contract that includes a clause which would allow the Giants to void the contract if Sandoval’s weight climbs above a certain point, Vazquez would agree to that?

Sure, he would.

Vazquez would have been better off to say that Sandoval is committed to this lifestyle change, the result of which will be a monster season in 2014, just as he heads out to free agency.

Instead, he throws out the ludicrous remark that the Panda’s weight is a non-issue.

It really makes you question anything that comes out of Vazquez’s mouth.

Sandoval’s camp wants the discussion to start in the area of the five-year, $90 million deal the Giants gave to Hunter Pence at the end of the 2013 season.

The Giants countered with a three-year deal worth $40 million. Of course, that’s according to Vazquez.

When I first heard that deal, it didn’t make any sense to me. When you make an offer to a player entering his free agent season, generally the offer needs to be something that knocks off the player’s socks.

Three years at $13.3 million per doesn’t do the trick.

Sandoval is practically guaranteed almost $15 million for the 2015 season. That’s where the qualifying offer likely will be approaching next offseason. As long as Sandoval doesn’t have some big injury this season, the Giants will certainly offer him the qualifying deal.

So I wonder if Vazquez is telling the truth or not.

Perhaps the three-year, $40 million deal is a base deal with a lot of incentive clauses or possibly option years added on, with escalating salaries that kick in if benchmarks are reached.

Here’s one clue that Vazquez wasn’t telling the whole story.

Vazquez said he doubts a deal will be done by opening day saying “I don’t think in 24 hours they’ll jump from three years to five or six.”

No mention of money. Just years. No mention that the Giants “offer” is for $13.3 million per season and the Sandoval camp is looking for a deal in the neighborhood of $18 million a year.

It does make sense that the Giants would offer a shorter deal. It also makes sense for Sandoval’s camp to wait for a five-year deal.

The free agent class of 2015 is pretty lean.

So what happens next? If the two sides don’t agree to a deal by opening day, will they continue to talk during the season. Vazquez didn’t say.

But he did say “I know for sure that after the All-Star break, if nothing happens, then it’s on to free agency.”

In other words, no deal at the end of the season, like the one Pence signed.

But, of course, can you believe anything Vazquez says?

Tony Abreu placed on waivers, other San Francisco Giants moves clear roster picture

San Francisco Giants' Ehire Adrianza, right, forces out Los Angeles Angels' David Freese (6) at second base in the fourth inning of a spring training baseball game, Monday, March 17, 2014, in Tempe, Ariz.  The Angels won 8-7. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

San Francisco Giants’ Ehire Adrianza, right, forces out Los Angeles Angels’ David Freese (6) at second base in the fourth inning of a spring training baseball game, Monday, March 17, 2014, in Tempe, Ariz. The Angels won 8-7. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Last Friday, there were 13 players fighting for the final five spots on the San Francisco Giants’ opening day roster.

Now, there are nine.

  • RHP Kameron Loe was given his release on Saturday.
  • IF Tony Abreu was placed on release Waivers on Sunday.
  • RHP Georgoe Kontos was optioned to Triple-A Fresno.
  • LHP Dan Runzler was reassigned to minor league camp.

That leaves four position players competing for two roster spots: IF Ehire Adrianza, IF Brandon Hicks, OF Juan Perez and OF Tyler Colvin.

With Abreu’s release, it seems almost certain that Adrianza will make the club. Hicks will be on the opening day roster if 2B Marco Scutaro opens the season on the DL (as expected).

That leaves Perez and Colvin to compete for the fifth outfielder job.

There are three major reasons why it appears Perez will win that spot.

  1. Spring production: Perez had hit .315 with a .403 OBP along with 2 HR and 6 RBI. Colvin has hit .160 with 1 HR and 5 RBI.
  2. Health: Colvin has battled a sore back all spring. He returned to the field last week largely because he knew if he didn’t, he’d have no chance of making the club.
  3. Roster: Perez is on the Giants’ 40-man roster. Colvin is not. If Scutaro opens the season on the DL, that means Hicks will need to be added to the 40-man roster, and someone will need to be cut to create room. The Giants won’t be keen on having to make more room for Colvin.

The Giants have until Sunday to make a final decision on Colvin, and chances are they’ll take all that time as protection against any injuries that might pop up in the final week of spring training. With some luck, Colvin may just accept a minor-league assignment to Fresno to get healthy and find his swing.,

In the bullpen, it looks as if the last three spots will go to RHP Yusmeiro Petit, LHP David Huff and RHP Jean Machi.

Rookie RH Derek Law and LH J.C. Gutierrez, a non-roster invitee, remain in camp but don’t figure to be the big league cup. Don’t be surprised if roster moves involving Law and Gutierrez come before the Giants break camp on Wednesday.

Giants release Kameron Loe: Best of luck, big guy, and thanks for the memory

loepants

And then there were 32 … players left in the San Francisco Giants’ camp.

Pitcher Kameron Loe requested — and was granted — his release by the Giants on Saturday.

Loe signed with the Giants after a solid performance in winter league. Despite his 2-0 record and 3.38 spring ERA, it became evident that Loe was not going to dislodge Yusmeiro Petit and David Huff in the battle for the long-relief job in the Giants’ bullpen.

As part of his deal, Loe could opt-out of his contract to seek opportunities elsewhere by Monday. He decided to get started on that pursuit early.

MoreSplashHits always liked Loe. Maybe it was because he was born in our hometown of Simi Valley, Calif.

Or maybe it was because he hails from the same alma mater, Cal State Northridge. Go Matadors!

Or maybe it was because Loe provided one of the more memorable, if not more disturbing, images of the spring, when the 6-foot-8, 245-pound Loe switched uniforms for the day with the 5-foot-11, 170-pound Tim Lincecum.

So as Loe looks for greener pastures, we leave you with one of the best tweets of the spring.

Best of luck Kam.

loesnip

Next round of cuts help San Francisco Giants 2014 roster take shape

With Marco Scutaro looking more and more like he's headed to the DL to open season, it opens up roster spots for others.

With Marco Scutaro looking more and more like he’s headed to the DL to open season, it opens up roster spots for others.

The Giants made what can be considered the penultimate round of roster cuts on Friday, sending down seven players to the minors.

Sent down were RHP Heath Hembree, RHP Erik Cordier, RHP Jake Dunning, RHP Brett Bochy, RHP Adam Reifer, C Guillermo Quiroz and 1B Mark Minicozzi.

The only surprising player among that group was Hembree, who was thought to be among the favorites to make the big-league club.

But the Giants felt he needed to work more on his off-speed pitches, and that he could do that with a more consistent workload at Fresno than spotting appearances in middle relief with the big club.

It leaves 33 players in camp battling for 25 roster spots.

Twenty of the 25 roster spots are more or less locked in, leaving 13 players in camp for the final five spots.

Five of the remaining players are position players for two open bench spots

  • OF Juan Perez
  • OF Tyler Colvin
  • IF Tony Abreu
  • IF Ehire Adrianza
  • IF Brandon Hicks

Perez and Hicks, while having solid springs, can be sent to Fresno. The other three players would need to first pass through waivers or would be able to opt-out of their contracts (Colvin) if they don’t make the big-league club.

If Scutaro opens the season on the DL (which is looking more and more like a possibility after he received a cortisone shot in his troublesome back Thursday), it would create three open roster spots.

In the bullpen, there eight candidates left for three open jobs.

  • RH Yusmeiro Petit
  • LH David Huff
  • RH Kameron Loe
  • RH J.C. Gutierrez
  • RH George Kontos
  • RH Jean Machi
  • RH Derek Law
  • LH Dan Runzler

Petit and Huff were thought to battling for the role of long reliever, along with Loe. Petit seemed to get an edge Friday with solid outing against the A’s. But as Petit and Huff are out of options, the Giants could decide to keep both.

If they did that, Machi would seem to be the frontrunner to secure the final roster spot. Gutierrez and Law appear to be the long shots.

“This is the best group of young pitchers I’ve had since I’ve been here,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “We have some tough decisions to make here. We’ve got a little over a week to finalize these spots and it’s been competitive. It’s going to go down to the last couple games.”

Sometimes, these final decisions don’t come down to who had the best spring. It comes down to the safest play.

The safe play is to keep players who are out of options. That way if they struggle or get hurt, you could always recall the players you sent to the minors.

You make the other decision, then those players out of options likely won’t be around to call on.

With that in mind, here is what MoreSplashHits is projecting how the opening roster will look like:

POSITION PLAYERS

Starters

  • C Buster Posey
  • 1B Brandon Belt
  • 2B Joaquin Arias
  • SS Brandon Crawford
  • 3B Pablo Sandoval
  • LF Michael Morse
  • CF Angel Pagan
  • RF Hunter Pence

Bench

  • C Hector Sanchez
  • IF Tony Abreu
  • IF Ehire Adrianza
  • OF Gregor Blaco
  • OF Tyler Colvin

Starting pitchers

  • LH Madison Bumgarner
  • RH Matt Cain
  • RH Tim Lincecum
  • RH Tim Hudson
  • RH Ryan Vogelson

Bullpen

  • RH Sergio Romo
  • RH Santiago Casilla
  • LH Jeremy Affeldt
  • LH Javier Lopez
  • RH Jean Machi
  • RH Yusmeiro Petit
  • LH David Huff

Disabled list

  • 2B Marco Scutaro

It’s been a long time, but Barry Bonds is back in San Francisco Giants camp

San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy, left, listens as former player Barry Bonds speaks at a news conference before a spring training baseball game in Scottsdale, Ariz., Monday, March 10, 2014. Bonds starts a seven day coaching stint today. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy, left, listens as former player Barry Bonds speaks at a news conference before a spring training baseball game in Scottsdale, Ariz., Monday, March 10, 2014. Bonds starts a seven day coaching stint today. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

It’s been seven years since Barry Bonds wore a San Francisco Giants uniform as a player.

It’s been so long, it took me a while to remember if Bonds ever played for manager Bruce Bochy. He did for one season in 2007.

There are only three players on the current roster who were teammates of Bonds — Tim Lincecum (2007), Ryan Vogelsong (who played in four games with Giants in 2000) and Matt Cain (2005-07).

For Cain, the arrival of Bonds to camp, and the accompanying media throng, brought a familiar feel.

“It just became a zoo like normal,” Cain said. “Same as before. If you want to get some TV time, go near him.”

It’s a scene that was long overdue in Giants camp. The team has a long history of bringing back veteran stars to share knowledge with their current players in the spring.

Bochy said the timing was just right for this. And Bonds is just one of several former players to make appearances in Scottsdale this spring.

“Jeff Kent just left (coincidence?),” Bochy said. “J.T. Snow is here, Rich Aurilia is here, Randy Winn is here. Will Clark is coming in later.”

Bonds is in Giants camp for seven days. He intimated that he’d like it be longer, that perhaps this visit could grow into something more.

“But I’m just here for seven days,” Bonds then cautioned. “I don’t even know if I’m good at this.”

Bonds has had some experience with tutoring hitters like Ryan Howard, and this past offseason, Dexter Fowler.

With his legal issues behind him, Bonds has his focus on the future, deflecting most of the media’s queries about his playing days and PED connections.

“I’m not the focal point anymore,” he said. “I’m here for the team.”

Bonds said he recently moved back to the Bay Area from Southern California “because it’s my home, and I love it and I belong (there).”

When asked if he thinks he’s worthy for election in the the Hall of Fame, Bonds answered: “Without a doubt.”

But he wouldn’t offer reasons to the media on why they should elect him to the Hall. “You guys are all adults. I have no advice for you.”

Bonds was a more warm and fuzzy version on Monday than the grumpy, cocky person he was in his playing days. The constant questions and criticism he faced late in his career amplified that personality in him.

“I was a different character when I playing,” Bonds said. “I needed to be that guy to play. But it’s not who I am now. … I’m the same person, just a different character. I can still be crazy, but I’ve toned it down.”

Then he directed a comment to the media.

“The only regret I have is that I wish we all had a better relationship,” he added.

As far as how he can help the Giants, he said these next seven days will reveal that.

“The one thing I know I can do is I can help you do a little better than you are doing now,” he said. “But I don’t know how much I can help. That’s what I’m here to find out.”

Transformation of Giants’ Tim Lincecum into finesse pitcher takes another good turn

San Francisco Giants' Tim Lincecum pitches to the Kansas City Royals in the second inning of a spring training baseball game, Friday, March 7, 2014, in Surprise, Ariz. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

San Francisco Giants’ Tim Lincecum pitches to the Kansas City Royals in the second inning of a spring training baseball game, Friday, March 7, 2014, in Surprise, Ariz. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Tim Lincecum kept the impressive spring going by the Giants starting rotation.

Lincecum tossed three scoreless in a 5-0 win Friday against the Royals. Combined with Tim Hudson’s three scoreless innings on Thursday in a 3-2 win over the Angels, it gives the Giants’ rotation a 0.39 ERA for the spring (23 IP, 1 ER, 13 hits).

Lincecum gave up two hits with no walks or strikeouts (he did hit one batter). He fastball clocked at 89-91 mph.

“I’m not really too worried about trying to get it up or where it is at,” Lincecum said. “It’s all about placement. I know if I set my sights low in the zone I’ll be better off.”

It’s all part of Lincecum learning to become more of a finesse pitcher. He was efficient on Friday, throwing 35 pitches, 26 for strikes.

As Lincecum put it, he’s pitching for more “crappy contact” and worrying less about strikeouts.

“I just wanted to pound the zone a little bit more than I did,” Lincecum said. “My last game I had a batter where I threw four straight balls and I was really trying not to let that happen and attack the zone. Even if I was behind to hitters, come back and make really good pitches. That’s where my mindset was at.”

Here’s how Lincecum’s outing went Friday:

FIRST INNING

  • Norichika Aoki doubles down left-field line
  • Lorenzo Cain pops to first
  • With Alex Gordon batting, Aoki caught stealing third
  • Gordon singles to center
  • Billy Butler flies to right

SECOND INNING

  • Danny Valencia flies to right
  • Justin Maxwell flies to center
  • Brett Hayes hit by pitch
  • Alcides Escobar grounds to third

THIRD INNING

  • Christian Colon grounds to short
  • Aoki groundsto short
  • Cain pops to second

Looks like lots of crappy contact there.

Lincecum has now allowed three hits and one walk in five scoreless innings this spring. For a guy with a career spring ERA of 5.51 (10.57 last spring), that’s worth noting.

To ready more on the Freak’s approach this spring, read Andrew Baggarly’s post here.

 

New home plate collision rule: We’re predicting you won’t miss them

Florida Marlins' Scott Cousins, top, collides with San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey (28) on a fly ball from Emilio Bonifacio during the 12th inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Wednesday, May 25, 2011. Cousins was safe for the go ahead run and Florida won 7-6.  (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Florida Marlins’ Scott Cousins, top, collides with San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey (28) on a fly ball from Emilio Bonifacio during the 12th inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Wednesday, May 25, 2011. Cousins was safe for the go ahead run and Florida won 7-6. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Major League Baseball and the players association agreed to implement a provisional rule that would limit home plate collisions.

It can’t be called a home plate collision ban, thanks to a compromised made by both sides.

MLB wanted to make the rule simple: Runners would be required to slide into home plate; catchers would not be allowed to impede the runner in any way.

But the players association contended that years of conditioning of big-league catchers could not be undone in one spring training (which MoreSplashHits believes is silly, but OK).

So MLB added the following provision to the rule:

“The catcher, without the ball in his possession, has no right to block the pathway of the runner attempting to score. The base line belongs to the runner and the catcher should be there only when he is fielding a ball or when he already has the ball in his hand.”

This provision would seem to indicate that catchers can still block the plate if they have the ball in hand. This has led some players to deduce that a rule intended on protecting the catcher is now putting the runner in danger.

And they have a point. Also, it created some gray area that is confusing to some.

“Yesterday, we were thoroughly confused, trying to figure out ways to do it,” the Brewers’ Jonathan Lucroy said. “There were so many issues as far as, ‘Will this be legal? Would that be legal?’”

Now if catchers are spending this spring trying to figure ways that they can still be allowed to block the plate, then there will be issues.

But if teams spend this spring instructing their catchers to position themselves in a way that will avoid most contact, then there will be few issues.

That’s what Giants fans have learned over the past couple of years.

Ever since Buster Posey had his 2011 season ended by a collision with the Marlins’ Scott Cousins — and even before that, Posey says — Giants catchers have been taught to position themselves to receive the ball out in front of home plate (i.e. between home plate and the mound). Then catch the ball and turn to tag out the runner with a sweep tag.

This technique is nothing new. Carlton Fisk decided early in his career that he would rather have a long and prosperous career than turn himself into a human baracade at the plate. So he used the sweep tag, which allowed him to make the Hall of Fame.

So Giants fans haven’t seen many home plate collisions in the past few years. And they haven’t missed them.

As someone who has covered high school baseball for a quarter century — home plate collisions are not allowed in prep baseball, or the college game for that matter — I can tell you that you don’t really miss them.

What you will notice is that any runner to can get to the plate before the ball arrives will be safe. Those that don’t will be out.

Just like every other base.

Will there still be collisions from time to time? Sure. Just like there are when pitchers and runners sometimes collide when a pitcher is covering first. Or when a wide throw carries first basemen into the path of oncoming runners.

But these plays will be left to the judgment of umpires to decide if the contact was incidental or intentional, and rule accordingly.

MoreSplashHits believes after the 2014 season, this experimental rule will become permanent, with the potential elimination of the aformentioned provision which allows catchers to block the plate if they have the ball.

And there will still be exciting plays at the plate, like this one from the 2012 World Series.

Spring training: Giants 3, Angels 2 — Cain keeps strong pitching going

San Francisco Giants' Matt Cain throws before an exhibition spring training baseball game last season. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

San Francisco Giants’ Matt Cain throws before an exhibition spring training baseball game last season. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Matt Cain continued the stellar start to the spring by the quintet of pitchers who will make up the Giants’ starting rotation this season.

Cain gave up just one hit in three scoreless innings, walking none and striking out two in a 3-2 win over the Angels. It was Cain’s first spring training start as his previous start last Saturday was rained out, forcing him to throw a bullpen session indoors.

None of the Giants’ starting rotation pitchers have allowed a run this spring when starting spring training games. The only run allowed by a Giants rotation pitcher was by Ryan Vogelsong pitching in relief of Madison Bumgarner.

Yusmeiro Petit, who is fighting for a job as a long relief man, has made the other start this spring for the Giants.

Here are how the pitchers in the Giants starting rotation have fared this spring:

  • Madison Bumgarner — 2 games, 1-0, 5 IP, 0 R, 5 H, 0 BB, 3 K 0.00 ERA
  • Tim Lincecum — 1 G, 0-0, 2 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 1 BB, 1 K, 0.00 ERA
  • Tim Hudson — 1 G, 0-0, 2 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 BB, 1 K, 0.00 ERA
  • Ryan Vogelsong 2 G, 1-0, 5 IP, 1 R, 4 H, 0 BB, 2 K, 1.80 ERA

Put that all together, and the Giants projected starting rotation has allowed one run on 11 hits, one walk and nine strikeouts in 17 innings of work (0.53 ERA).

As we always say in the spring “It’s just spring training.” But it’s a good sign to see the starters getting good results, especially Tim Lincecum who has a track record of ugly numbers in the spring.

Now, the Giants’ hitters haven’t been nearly as impressive this spring.

Wednesday’s win pushed the Giants’ spring record to 4-3. But the Giants have scored more than three runs in a game in their last three outings.

Other highlights

  • Pablo Sandoval had a pair of RBI singles in three at-bats.
  • Mike Morse drove in the other Giant run with a double, and he had a walk.
  • Minor league 1B Mark Minicozzi went 2 for 4.
  • Heath Hembree pitched a 1-2-3 ninth with one strikeout to earn the save.

Thursday

Tim Hudson takes the mound as the Giants host the Reds at 12:05 p.m.

Spring training: Giants 3, Rockies 2

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner pitches to a Colorado Rockies batter during the first inning of an exhibition spring training baseball game Tuesday, March 4, 2014, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner pitches to a Colorado Rockies batter during the first inning of an exhibition spring training baseball game Tuesday, March 4, 2014, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

OK, it’s March 4. So it’s time we start blogging about the Giants.

MoreSplashHits has emerged from its winter hibernation to check in on what’s going on with the Giants down in Scottsdale

On Tuesday, Giants starting pitching continued its strong spring with solid outings against the Rockies by Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong.

Bumgarner, slated to be the Giants’ opening day starter, gave up just two hits in three shutout innings of work. He struck out. This was MadBum’s second spring start and he has yet to allow a run.

“My command was better,” Bumgarner said. “The pitches I made from the stretch felt better than they did last time. There still were balls that I left up, but nothing on a regular basis.”

Ryan Vogelsong, the No. 5 starter, gave up one run on three hits in three innings of work. He has a spring ERA of 1.80.

Another point of interest for both starters and relievers is throwing strikes. Bases on balls were a big problem for Giants pitchers in 2013.

On Tuesday, five Giants pitchers allowed just one walk, that coming from Edwin Escobar. George Kontos and Jake Dunning also pitched Tuesday.

Other highlights

  • Brandon Belt, who has been battling a stiff neck, returned to the lineup and went 2 for 3 with a double.
  • Tyler Colvin, looking to make the team as a utility reserve, went 1 for 2 with an RBI double.
  • Former top prospect Gary Brown had an RBI single.

Wednesday

Matt Cain takes the hill for the first time in exhibition play when the Giants face the Angels at 12:05 p.m. Cain’s previous start was rained out, so he threw a bullpen session indoors.

Giants open spring training without a lot a drama

San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy (15) looks on as a group of mostly catchers return during spring training baseball practice on Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy (15) looks on as a group of mostly catchers return during spring training baseball practice on Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

The offseason wasn’t as exciting as many Giants fans would have liked.

The Giants spent most of the offseason locking up their own free agents: Hunter Pence, 5 years (done before end of regular season), Tim Lincecum, 2 years; Javier Lopez, 2 years; Ryan Vogelsong, 1 year.

So the 2014 Giants are going to look a lot like the 2013 Giants.

The two significant changes will be Tim Hudson (2-year deal) in place of Barry Zito, and Michael Morse (1-year deal) getting the bulk of the LF starts instead of Gregor Blanco.

The former addition will be a marked improvement. The latter remains to be scene. If nothing else, it gives them better depth.

So the two basic questions heading into spring training is the final bench spot and the final two bullpen spots.

Here is what the 25-man roster likely will look like.

STARTING LINEUP

  • C-Buster Posey
  • 1B-Brandon Belt
  • 2B-Marcus Scutaro
  • SS-Brandon Crawford
  • 3B-Pablo Sandoval
  • LF-Michael Morse
  • CF-Angel Pagan
  • RF-Hunter Pence

BENCH

  • C-Hector Sanchez
  • IF-Tony Abreu
  • IF-Joaquin Arias
  • OF-Gregor Blanco
  • OF-TBD

STARTING ROTATION

  • RH-Matt Cain
  • LH-Madison Bumgarner
  • RH-Tim Lincecum
  • RH-Tim Hudson
  • RH-Ryan Vogelsong

BULLPEN

  • RH-Sergio Romo
  • RH-Santiago Casilla
  • LH-Jeremy Affeldt
  • LH-Javier Lopez
  • RH-Yusmeiro Petit
  • TBD
  • TBD

The final bench spot appears to be between Juan Perez and Roger Kieschnick. I was surprised the Giants didn’t bring in another veteran outfielder as a non-roster invitee. Infielder Ehire Adrianza, a former top prospect, is out of options, so he could also figure in this mix.

Petit appears a lock for the long-man role in the bullpen, and the emergency starter should someone in the rotation get hurt.

Pitchers in the mix for the remaining two bullpen spots are RH Jake Dunning, RH Heath Hembree, LH David Huff (acquired recently in a trade with the Yankees), RH George Kontos and RH Jean Machi.

Hunter Pence, San Francisco Giants agree to new five-year deal for … wow, just wow!

San Francisco Giants right fielder Hunter Pence, right, gestures while speaking after being announced as the 2013 winner of the Wille Mac Award, named after former Giant Willie McCovey, seated left, before a baseball game against the San Diego Padres in San Francisco, Friday, Sept. 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

San Francisco Giants right fielder Hunter Pence, right, gestures while speaking after being announced as the 2013 winner of the Wille Mac Award, named after former Giant Willie McCovey, seated left, before a baseball game against the San Diego Padres in San Francisco, Friday, Sept. 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

One of the biggest questions for the Giants heading into the postseason was answered Saturday: Hunter Pence will remain a Giant.

There were two schools of thought regarding Pence’s future in San Francisco.

The first says it would be great to re-sign Pence … if the price was right.

The other school of thought was that the Giants had to re-sign Pence. They HAD to. They could not go into the offseason trying to replace their left fielder AND their right fielder.

The money really didn’t matter. The market would determine the money. Considering the options, the Giants had to re-sign Pence.

Ray Woodson on KNBR Friday night, I thought, correctly stated when he said the discussion would need to start at four years, $60 million.

So when the first reports said the deal the Giants and Pence agreed to was five years, I thought “OK, I guess it took five years to get the deal done now.”

Then the number came in: $90 million. Five years, $90 million. $18 million a year.

Wow. Just wow.

If you had asked me to project where Pence’s number would come in, I would not have come anywhere near five years, $90 million.

During his press conference Friday, Giants general manager Brian Sabaen must have used the word “budget” a dozen times.

He must have been talking about the budget AFTER giving Pence $90 million.

So the good news is Pence will return in 2014. That leaves one question mark in the starting lineup: left field.

But how much money is in the coffers to spend on a quality improvement for a left-fielder?

One possible solution is recent Cuba defector Jose Abreu. Abreu, 26, is a power-hitting, right-handed first baseman who will soon hit the international free-agent market.

The Giants are reportedly to be most interested in Abreu, among teams that include the Red Sox, Pirates, Orioles and maybe even the Mets.

Of course signing a first basemen means Brandon Belt would have to move to left field. It’s a move that Belt says his willing to make and he’s shown ability in brief stints in the outfield.

Another question the Pence deal brings is how does it impact the efforts to re-sign Tim Lincecum.

Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Giants reported the Giants, having secured Pence, have moved their efforts to agreeing to a new deal with Lincecum.

If a deal can’t be reached before the start of the offseason, the Giants are expected to make a qualifying offer to Lincecum for one year, around $14 million, putting them in position for a compensatory first-round pick if he signs elsewhere.

It also decreases the chances of the Giants signing a free agent who has been offered a qualifying offer, which would cost the Giants’ first-round pick next June. The Giants likely will pick anywhere from No. 11 to 14.

If true, you can scratch Shin-Soo Choo, Jacob Ellsbury, Nelson Cruz and maybe even Ervin Santana from your wish list.

A look at potential September call-ups for San Francisco Giants

Kensuke Tanaka was sent down to minor league camp on Thursday.

Kensuke Tanaka was sent down to minor league camp on Thursday.

It’s September, so it’s time to look at prospects.

From Sept. 1 through the end of the regular seaso, any player on the 40-man roster is eligible to play in an official regular season game. Many young players make their Major League debuts in this way, as “September call-ups.”

The Giants in the past few seasons have not called up a ton of minor leaguers in September. But in the past few seasons, they’ve been in contention for the postseason.

Not this season, so it’s time to take a look at the youngsters. So we’ll start with players who are on the 40-man roster, but not on the current 25-man roster or on the DL

RHP Jake Dunning

Pitched well in his first stint in the majors, posting a 2.84 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 19 innings before being sent down in late July. He’s gone 1-2 with 1.37 ERA in 46 innings at Fresno. He’ll surely get a call-up.

LHP Edwin Escobar

Escobar started the year at High-A San Jose, going 3-4 with 2.89 ERA and 1.138 WHIP in 16 games (14 starts). His numbers got better since his promotion to Double-A Richmond — 5-3, 2.59 ERA, 1.068 WHIP in nine starts. But at 21, and a starting pitching prospect, he’s likely not to get call this September.

RHP George Kontos

A key contributor in the bullpen in 2012, Kontos struggled with the big club in 2013, posting a 5.05 ERA and 1.49 WHIP in 46.1 innings. He’s pitched well at Fresno (3-1, 3.74 ERA and 0.88 WHIP in 21.2 innings), so he’ll get a call.

LHP Dan Runzler

After losing most of the 2012 season to injury, Runzler was visibly upset when he was sent to minor-league in spring training. But things have not gone well at Triple-A for the lefty (5.79 ERA and 1.83 WHIP in 51.1 innings). But at 28 years old, it’s time for the Giants to see what they’ve got in Runzler as they make offseason roster decisions.

LHP Eric Surkamp

After losing the 2012 season to Tommy John surgery, necessity forced the Giants to call on Surkamp a little earlier than they should have. The result was an ugly start in July vs. the Reds. But he’s been very good in Triple-A (7-1, 2.54 ERA, 0.90 WHIP in 10 starts), and he’s been especially good since being sent back after his one ugly start in the bigs (5-1, 1.47 ERA in six starts). So he deserves another look with the Giants and could be asked to contend for starting spot in 2014.

SS Ehire Adrianza

A former top prospect, Adrianza built a reputation as a guy with big-league glove, minor-league bat. After hitting .240 for Double-A Richmond to start 2013, he was promoted midseason to Fresno more out of necessity. But since arriving for his first stint at Triple-A, he’s hit .311 with a .418 OBP in 39 games. He walks about as much as he strikes out. It might be a surprise, but maybe he’s worth a look.

IF Nick Noonan

Noonan earned a job with the big club out of spring training and opened the season well. But a lack of consistent playing time led to a drop-off (he’s hitting .209 for the season). A demotion to Fresno didn’t help the numbers (.245 in 42 games). But he’s shown some ability when given the chance to play, so the Giants may give him more ABs in September.

1B Angel Villalona

Villalona emerged from nearly three years out of the game because of legal problems. He hit .229 with 14 HR and 42 RBI in 73 games to High-A San Jose before getting moved up to Double-A Richmond, where he’s hit .236 with 7 HR, and 27 RBI in 46 games. He still needs to find his hitting stroke, so don’t expect him in San Francisco this September.

OF Francisco Peguero

Peguero was just up with the big club before being sent down to make room on the roster for Angel Pagan, who was activated from the DL on Friday. So we can expect to see Peguero back up when rosters expand.

OF Juan Perez

Perez was another player who showed brief flashes early in his call-up to majors. He’s continued to hit at Triple-A (.301 in 94 games) but his lack of patience at the plate (.333 OBP) nullifies one of his assests — his speed. His shown a good glove, and with Andres Torres done for the year, the Giants could use outfielders.

IF-OF Kensuke Tanaka

The Japanese League veteran held his own in his brief stint with the Giants (8 for 30, .267, in 15 games). He’s shown he can handle Triple-A pitching (.331 avg, .403 OBP) and he actually walks more than he strikes out (like the Giants could use that?). He’ll get another look in September.

PLAYERS NOT ON THE 40-MAN ROSTER

The Giants might not restrict a September call-up to players currently on the 40-man roster. They may want to take a look at others.

Right now, all 40 spots on the 40-man roster are spoken for. But the Giants could create a spot if they wanted to.

One easy to do that is to put infielder Tony Abreu on the 60-day disabled list. Abreu has been bothered with knee issues dating all the way back to spring training. He worked his way back into playing shape and earned a promotion to the big club in July. But knee issues resumed and he returned to the DL in late July. If the Giants determine that Abreu won’t be 100-percent healthy in September, they could put in him on the 60-day and open a roster spot.

With pitchers Matt Cain, Jeremy Affeldt and Chad Gaudin expected to return soon from the DL, the only other way to create a spot on the 40-man roster is to designated someone for assignment.

The prime candidate for MoreSplashHits is Barry Zito. We’ve seen enough of Zito over the past seven years, and we don’t need to see any more. If Cain is able to come off the DL next week, as expected, the Giants have plenty of starting pitching candidates with Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong, Yusmeiro Petit, as well as youngsters Mike Kickham and Eric Surkamp.

I would rather see what Surkamp has to offer instead of Zito. Surkamp is a candidate to contend for a rotation spot in 2014. Zito is not.

BUT, Zito is slated to start Monday against the Padres at home. Let’s hope this is final send-off.

Here are candidates to get a call-up who are not on the 40-man roster.

RHP Heath Hembree

Hembree wowed the Giants during spring training 2012 as he became the “closer of the future.” But arm troubled sidelined him a bit in 2012, and he struggled early in 2013 for Triple-A Fresno. But he’s been pitching better of late, posting a 2.70 ERA with seven saves, eight strikeouts, one walk in 10 innings in August. He’ll need to be added to the 40-man roster this offseason, so the Giants might as well take a look now.

C Johnny Monell

Teams often like to call up a third catcher in September. And the idea of giving Buster Posey more time off in September seems like a good one. Monell, a 27-year-old, impressed the Giants with his power in spring training, but he needed to improve his defense. He’s worked on that at Fresno while he has continued to hit. He has 20 HRs, 63 RBI and batting .279 in 118 games for the Grizzlies.

OF Gary Brown

We throw this name in for the heck of it. Brown, a first-round pick in 2010, has been one of the Giants’ top rated prospects the past few years, but he has had a poor year at Triple-A this season. He’s hit .233 this season in a hitter-friendly league and has a team-high 132 strikeouts for Fresno. Not what you want to see from a guy you had hoped could be a leadoff candidate. Brown’s not ready. Another year in Triple-A would be good. No need to call up Brown now.

 

San Francisco Giants on historic pace for defending World Series champion

San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy adjusts his cap after his team was retired in order  during the eighth inning against the Colorado Rockies of a baseball game in Denver on Saturday, June 29, 2013. The Rockies won 2-1. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy adjusts his cap after his team was retired in order during the eighth inning against the Colorado Rockies of a baseball game in Denver on Saturday, June 29, 2013. The Rockies won 2-1. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Another loss — a 4-2 setback to the Washington Nationals on Tuesday — has put the San Francisco Giants on an historic path.

A historic path of the worst kind.

The loss dropped the Giants to a .441 winning percentage on the season. That prorates to a record of 71-91 on the season. It would match the Giants’ worst season since going 71-91 in 2007, Barry Bonds’ final season with the Giants.

If the Giants lose 92 games this season, it would be their worst season since going 68-94 in 1996.

But when put into context of defending World Series champions, it gets really bad.

When it comes to follow-up seasons for World Series champions, the 1998 Florida Marlins set the gold standard with their 54-108 season. The Giants only need to win three more games to surpass that season.

After winning the 1997 championship, the Marlins traded away players like Kevin Brown, Al Leiter, Moises Alou, Devon White, Jeff Conine, Robb Nen, Ed Vosberg and Dennis Cook in the offseason. They would trade away Gary Sheffield, Charles Johnson, Bobby Bonilla, Jim Eisenreich and Felix Heredia during the 1998 season.

In the Nen trade with the Giants, the Marlins received in return Mike Villano, Joe Fontenot, Mick Pageler. So it’s no wonder they lost 100-plus games in 1998.

By contrast, the Giants kept the bulk of their 2012 championship trophy together for 2013. So they won’t challenge the 1998 Marlins. But they are right on course for the second-worst record by a defending World Series champion.

Presently, that honor goes to the 1991 Cincinnati Reds, who went 74-88 (.457). To finish ahead of the Reds, the Giants only would have to go 23-21 the rest of the way. If the Giants finish 75-87, they would also surpass the third-worst mark by a defending champ, the .460 mark of the 1918 Chicago White Sox (57-67).

On more win would put them ahead of the 1932 St. Louis Cardinals. Another win and they slide past the 1986 Kansas City Royals and 1967 Baltimore Orioles.

In all, 15 defending World Series champions have failed to post a winning record in their encore season. For the Giants to avoid becoming the 16th team, they would have to finish the season 30-14.

The most likely scenario is somewhere in between. So here is the list of the worst records of defending World Series champions, along with (in parenthesis) the record the Giants would require in their final 44 games to surpass that mark.

  1. 1998 Florida Marlins 54-108 .333 (3-41)
  2. 1991 Cincinnati Reds 74-88 .457 (23-21)
  3. 1918 Chicago White Sox 57-67 .460 (23-21)
  4. 1932 St. Louis Cardinals 72-82 .468 (24-20)
  5. 1986 Kansas City Royals 76-86 .469 (25-19)
  6. 1967 Baltimore Orioles 76-85 .472 (25-19)
  7. 2003 Anaheim Angels 77-85 .475 (26-18)
  8. 1994 Toronto Blue Jays 55-60 .478 (26-18)
  9. 1989 Los Angeles Dodgers 77-83 .481 (27-17)
  10. 2007 St. Louis Cardinals 78-84 .481 (27-17)
  11. 1919 Boston Red Sox 66-71 .482 (27-17)
  12. 1961 Pittsburgh Pirates 75-79 .487 (27-17)
  13. 1983 St. Louis Cardinals 79-83 .488 (28-16)
  14. 1964 Los Angeles Dodgers 80-82 .494 (29-15)
  15. 1965 St. Louis Cardinals 80-81 .497 (29-15)

Sunday’s starter goes from “Zito” to “TBA” — What are San Francisco Giants’ options at this point?

San Francisco Giants' Barry Zito works against the San Diego Padres in the first inning of a baseball game, Sunday, April 21, 2013, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

San Francisco Giants’ Barry Zito works against the San Diego Padres in the first inning of a baseball game, Sunday, April 21, 2013, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

The San Francisco Giants officially listed their starter for Sunday’s game in Tampa Bay as “TBA.”

Sunday is Barry Zito’s turn in the rotation.

Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle tweeted: “Not a good sign for Zito. … Chances of Zito pitching that game … not good.”

Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea chimed in with: “We might have (seen) Barry Zito’s last start as a Giant.”

MoreSplashHits remains completely baffled as to why the Giants didn’t use Monday’s off-day (not to mention last Thursday’s) to skip Zito’s turn in the rotation.

Then they could have given Zito some time in the bullpen to work on his delivery, while Chad Gaudin, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner pitched in Philly and Tim Lincecum, Zito and Gaudin pitched in Tampa.

Instead, they said the ONE GUY who has been terrible on the road and make him the only pitcher to be slated for two starts on the six-game road trip.

Now, they find themselves looking for a replacement starter possibly on Sunday.

So what are the options?

Ryan Vogelsong: Vogey made his second rehab start after his long DL stint with a broken finger Tuesday in Richmond. That would put him on pace to pitch Sunday. But manager Bruce Bochy said Vogey will remain on his original rehab schedule, which is to pitch Sunday for Double-A Richmond. If all goes well, he will return to pitch for the Giants on Aug. 9 at home against the Orioles … in Zito’s spot in the rotation.

Guillermo Moscoso: The Giants acquired Moscoso from the Cubs a week ago just for this situation. Moscoso, 29, was 7-5 with 3.93 ERA in 17 starts for the Cubs’ Triple-A team in Iowa. He had a shaky debut for the Giants in relief of Zito on Tuesday. He gave up a single, intentional walk and hit batsmen before escaping without giving up a run in the fourth vs. the Phillies, set down the side in order in the fifth, then gave up another walk and a two-run homer in the sixth.

Eric Surkamp: Zito could develop some mysterious ailment that would prompt a trip to the DL — or he could be DFA’d — creating a roster spot for Surkamp. Surkamp struggled in his first big-league start since Tommy John surgery, giving up seven runs in 2.2 innings vs. the Reds on July 23. Surkamp was optioned to Fresno on July 24, meaning he needs to stay at Triple-A for 10 days. That period would expire Saturday, allowing the Giants to recall him to start on Sunday. In his first start back at Fresno, Surkamp gave up one run on three hits over seven innings on Tuesday, putting him right on pace for a Sunday start.

Pray for rain: Rain is the forecast Thursday in Philadelphia. The two teams will wait out for a window to play for as long as possible as Thursday’s game is the last scheduled in 2013 between the two teams. But if the game is postponed, then Cain starts Friday in Tampa, followed by Bumgarner and Lincecum. That would give the Giants the option of pitching Zito on Monday in San Francisco against the Brewers, where he’s had more success.

How Roger Kieschnick’s MLB debut measures up to other Giants

San Francisco Giants' Roger Kieschnick hits a single that scored Buster Posey from third base during the third inning of a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Wednesday, July 31, 2013, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)

San Francisco Giants’ Roger Kieschnick hits a single that scored Buster Posey from third base during the third inning of a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Wednesday, July 31, 2013, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)

And so ushered in the Roger Kieschnick era.

Kieschnick singled in runs in his first two major league at-bats, finishing the night 2 for 5 and included a nice grab in left field as the Giants snapped a five-game skid with a 9-2 win at Philadelphia.

It’s been a long road to the majors for Kieschnick, a third-round pick in the 2008 draft that included Buster Posey (first round), Conor Gillaspie (sandwich pick), Brandon Crawford (fourth round) and Eric Surkamp (sixth round).

Injuries have stunted Kieschnick’s progress through the minors. After hitting .296 with 23 home runs and 110 RBI for Class A San Jose in 2009, he spent two injury-filled seasons with Double-A Richmond in 2010 and 2011. He was off to a solid start in 2012 with Triple-A Fresno and might have earned a call-up to the majors, but he injured his wrist while crashing into a wall while trying to run down a foul ball, effectively ending his season.

He was hitting .273 with 13 HRs and 56 RBI for Fresno this season before getting his first call-up on Monday. He made his debut on Wednesday.

Here’s how Kieschnick’s debut matched up with other MLB debuts for players on the current Giants’ roster who made their debut as a Giant.

BUSTER POSEY

  • Sept. 11, 2009 vs. Dodgers — 0 for 1, 1K, entered game in eighth inning

First start

  • Sept. 25, 2009 vs. Cubs — 0 for 3, 2 K

BRANDON BELT

  • March 31, 2011 at Dodgers — 1 for 3, 1 BB, 1 K

BRANDON CRAWFORD

  • May 27, 2011 at Brewers — 1 for 3, 1BB, 1 HR, 4 RBI (grand slam)

PABLO SANDOVAL

  • Aug. 14, 2008 at Astros — 0 for 3, 1 RBI, 1 SF

HECTOR SANCHEZ (currently on DL)

  • July 15, 2011 at Padres — 0 for 0, 1 BB, entered game in ninth inning

First start

  • Sept. 10, 2011 vs. Dodgers — 0 for 2, 1BB.

BRETT PILL

  • Sept. 6, 2011 at Padres — 1 for 3, 1 HR, 2 RBI

Brian Wilson doesn’t care about rivalry; San Francisco Giants fans do

When news broke Tuesday that Brian Wilson had signed had signed with the hated Los Angeles Dodgers, Twitter blew up with a mix of reaction from San Francisco Giants fans that ranged from “thanks for the memories” to “burn in Hell, you traitor.”

MoreSplashHits is convinced that if Wilson had signed with any other team, the reaction from Giants fans would have been almost universal “Thanks, and good luck.” But the Dodgers?

We finally heard from Wilson on Wednesday via post on gossip site TMZ.com.

San Francisco Giants' Brian Wilson during a spring training baseball workout Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

San Francisco Giants’ Brian Wilson during a spring training baseball workout Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Oh, and on a side note, is it odd to anyone else that this is the second time in the last few months that TMZ has been lucky enough to “catch” Wilson strolling down a public street? I mean, if there’s any place Wilson with his trademark beard could bleed into anonimity, it’s on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.

Anywho, in the video (which can be viewed above), Wilson said: “I don’t worry about rivalry, bro. I just want to play baseball. You know, if there are 30 teams out there and 29 teams don’t want me, what am I going to do, say I’m not going to play baseball?”

He continued: “I’ve got much love for San Francisco. We had a good time. But there’s nothing I can do. They don’t want me back, so it’s all good.”

We get it. If you’re a free agent, you can choose where you want to play. And the Dodgers are an attractive destination. They are a contender. Wilson lives in Malibu. And the Dodgers have deep pockets.

Just don’t expect to get Buster Hugs from Giants fans. For the record, the Dodgers play three more games in San Francisco this season: on Sept. 24, 25 and 26 (Games No. 157, 158 and 159 of the season).

Wilson had a public tit-for-tat with the Giants last offseason when negotiations between the two parties broke down because the Giants didn’t offer him a guaranteed contract and Wilson felt the Giants owed him more — even though the Giants paid him more than $8 million in 2012 for two appearances.

Why wouldn’t you expect a guy like that wouldn’t go running to the free-spending Dodgers?

Giants CEO Larry Baer thanked Wilson for his service with the Giants, and added that Wilson signing with the Dodgers “doesn’t mean he’ll never be a Giant again. People go and come back.”

I’m sure Baer was speaking in broader terms, as in Giants who leave the Giants, then return later.

But if you’re talking about San Francisco Giants who left to sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers then returned to the Giants, we could only find one example of that.

Jose Vizcaino, who started his career as a Dodgers in 1989-90 before being traded to the Cubs, was traded from the Indians to the Giants after the 1996 season. After the 1997 season, Vizcaino signed with the Dodgers and played there for two-plus seasons. Six years after leaving LA, Vizcaino re-signed with the Giants for the 2006 season. He hit .210 in 136 games that season before being released in August.

Good luck, Brian Wilson (not really), because recent ex-Giants who became Dodgers have stunk it up

FILE - In this July 10, 2011, file photo, San Francisco Giants pitcher Brian Wilson adjusts his neck during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the New York Mets in San Francisco. Wilson is likely headed for surgery on his right elbow after an MRI showed structural damage and an issue with the ligament, and his season could be in jeopardy. Manager Bruce Bochy and athletic trainer Dave Groeschner say the club will seek at least one other opinion and probably two, including from the renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews, who performs Tommy John elbow-reconstruction surgeries. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)

Brian Wilson

What’s the price of one’s soul? Brian Wilson will soon find out.

The former Giants closer reached a minor-league deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, USA Today reported on Tuesday.

Wilson has not pitched since undergoing Tommy John surgery in April 2012 after making just two appearances for the Giants in the 2012 season. Then he became grumpy when the Giants didn’t offer him a contract in the offseason for what would have cost the Giants more than $6 million.

Wilson vowed to be ready by spring training. But workouts last January showed that Wilson was still a long way off from being ready.

Then we lost sight of The Beard, until he showed up in San Francisco last week to throw for scouts that included the Giants.

But ultimately, Wilson, who lives in Malibu, decided to join Big Blue. Reports say Wilson could be called up to the big club in as soon as two weeks.

When that happens, Wilson will join a long and storied list of players who have played for the Giants and Dodgers.

But since Ned Colletti left the Giants to become the Dodgers general manager after the 2005 season, the outcome for players leaving the Giants and directly joining the Dodgers have not been good.

Consider …

BRETT TOMKO

Played for Giants in 2005, signed by Dodgers as free agent before 2006 season

With the Dodgers

  • 2006 — 8-7, 4.73 ERA, 112.1 IP in 44 games, 15 starts
  • 2007 — 2-11, 5.80 ERA, 104 IP in 33 games, 15 starts

DFA’d on Aug. 24, 2007

JASON SCHMIDT

Played for Giants in 2006, signed by Dodgers as free agent before 2007 season

With the Dodgers

  • 2007 — 1-4, 6.31 ERA, 25.2 IP in 6 starts
  • 2008 — Did not pitch, injured
  • 2009 — 2-2, 5.60 ERA, 17.2 IP in 4 starts

Retired from baseball after 2009 season

MARK SWEENEY

Traded by Giants to Dodgers on Aug. 9, 2007

With the Dodgers

  • 2007 — 0 HR, 3 RBI, .273 in 33 ABs in 30 games
  • 2008 — 0 H, 5 RBI, .130 in 92 ABs in 98 games

Retired from baseball after 2008 season

EUGENIO VELEZ

Played with Giants in 2010, signed with Dodgers as free agent before 2011 season

With the Dodgers

  • 2011 — 0 HR, 1 RBI, .000 in 34 games

Released after 2011 season

JUAN URIBE

Played with Giants in 2010, signed with Dodgers as free agent before 2011 season

With the Dodgers

  • 2011 — 4 HR, 28 RBI, .204
  • 2012 — 2 HR, 17 RBI, .191
  • 2013 — 5 HR, 30 RBI, .262

There are good reasons for the San Francisco Giants NOT to trade Hunter Pence

San Francisco Giants' Hunter Pence singles against the Colorado Rockies in the ninth inning of the Giants' 5-2 victory in a baseball game in Denver on Sunday, June 30, 2013. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

San Francisco Giants’ Hunter Pence singles against the Colorado Rockies in the ninth inning of the Giants’ 5-2 victory in a baseball game in Denver on Sunday, June 30, 2013. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The Giants are not going to be contenders for a playoff spot in 2013. If that wasn’t clear last week, it became crystalized after being swept at home by the Cubs.

So in a week or so, the Giants went from potential buyers to potential sellers.

The news Monday that the Giants would be calling up first baseman Brett Pill and outfielder Roger Kieschnick from Triple-A Fresno to open the road trip Tuesday in Phil sent Giants fans into a Twitter.

There was no corresponding moves, but many speculated that a trade could be in the works, namely for Hunter Pence.

Given the Giants’ dismal state in the standing, dealing away Pence would seem to make sense. But there are reasons for hanging onto the right fielder.

If the Giants keep Pence, they can tender him a contract for 2014 and receive a draft pick as compensation if he signs elsewhere

Under new free agency rules, teams can offer their impending free agents the average of the top 125 average annual salaries in baseball for one year. Heading into 2014, that will likely be around $14 million. If the Giants make that qualifying offer to Pence, and he rejects it, they will receive a draft pick in return if he signs with another team.

But others may say that the Giants could get a prospect better than one that could be drafted No. 30-36 in next June’s draft. The draft pick the Giants would receive is a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds. Maybe. Maybe not. For those folks thinking the Giants could get a top-notch prospect (i.e. the Rangers’ Jurickson Profar), you’re dreaming. It won’t happen. Pence isn’t that kind of draw.

You’ll remember in 2011 when the Giants added Carlos Beltran for Zach Wheeler? Well, it wasn’t Beltran for Wheeler straight up. The Mets had to send the Giants $4 million to pay for most of the balance of Beltran’s remaining 2011 salary to make the Giants agree to send the Mets a prospect who was still two years away from making it to the majors. So what would the Giants have to pay to lure a quality prospect from another team in addition to Pence.

The Giants have said they want to re-sign Pence, and the best way to do that is not trading him

When was the last time a player was traded in July, then returned to the team that traded by signing as a free agent the following offseason? I can’t remember. I can tell you it doesn’t happen often.

But more than that, making the qualifying offer doesn’t just give the team a guarantee of some kind of compensation, it could give the team some kind of leverage.

You’ll remember Kyle Lohse and Michael Bourn last offseason. Both rejected qualifying offers and held out for long deals for big money during the free agent season. When teams decided they didn’t want pay big money for a player AND give up a draft pick, Lohse and Bourn lingered on the market. Eventually, they signed for much less than they originally sought.

If the Giants trade Pence, the team that acquires him cannot make him a qualifying offer. That means Pence hits the free agent market with less restrictions around him than if the Giants kept him and made the qualifying offer. That drives up his price in a market that appears very thin for outfielders.

Keeping Pence gives Giants exclusive negotiating rights for next three-plus months

The Giants have said they want to bring Pence back. Pence wants to return to San Francisco. Pence’s Facebook page “Team Pence” even linked to an SF Examiner.com post saying why the Giants should not trade the outfielder. Given the mutual interest, there is a good chance the Giants could agree to a deal with Pence BEFORE he hits the market — and potentially save the team some money to fill other needs.

The Giants will NEED a right fielder for 2014

Without Pence, the Giants will head into the offseason looking for a right fielder, a left fielder (unless they want to continue with the Blanco/somebody platoon) and will have a center fielder coming off a significant hamstring injury. Not only that, but they’ll likely be looking for a couple of starting pitchers and a reliever. That’s a ton of uncertainty. And, again, the potential 2014 free-agent class appears thin on outfielders. Shin-Soo Choo is the best option. And while we would prefer Choo over Pence, the price is likely to be higher.

The Giants still have two months of game tickets left to sell

The Giants boast of their consecutive sellout streak, and Pence has become a fan favorite with the Giants fans. The Giants still need a reason for fans to buy tickets for the remainder of 2013. Sending Pence away leaves the team with an outfield of Blanco, Francoeur, Torres, Kieschnick and maybe Peguero. Not all that exciting. Keeping Pence sends the message that the Giants are committed to being a contender in 2014.

You haven’t been imagining it: San Francisco Giants terrible against opposing pitchers

Chicago Cubs' Travis Wood, right, is greeted by teammate David DeJesus, left, after hitting a home run off San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum during the fifth inning of their baseball game on Sunday, July 28, 2013, in San Francisco. Giants catcher Buster Posey, center, looks on. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Chicago Cubs’ Travis Wood, right, is greeted by teammate David DeJesus, left, after hitting a home run off San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum during the fifth inning of their baseball game on Sunday, July 28, 2013, in San Francisco. Giants catcher Buster Posey, center, looks on. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Sometime between Travis Wood’s second-inning single and his fifth-inning home run in the Cubs’ 2-1 win over the Giants on Sunday, MoreSplashHits decided to do some research concerning how the Giants have fared against opposing pitchers.

It’s not good.

Wood’s home run was the fourth allowed by the Giants to opposing pitchers. No other team in the majors has allowed more than two (yeah, yeah, we know AL pitchers don’t usually face AL pitchers at the plate, but saying “majors” just sounded better than “NL.”)

Woods’ two hits on Sunday gave opposing pitchers 32 hits against Giants pitching this season. That’s tied for third-most in the NL, behind the Rockies (33) and Nationals (33).

And when you add in extra-base hits — the Giants have allowed 10 doubles (most in the NL) — it gives opposing pitchers 54 total bases against Giants pitching this season, the most in the NL in by LARGE margin. The Nationals (45) are next, followed by the Rockies (43).

Here’s the list (as of mid-afternoon Sunday)
HITS/2B/3B/HR (Total bases)

  1. Giants 32/10/0/4 (54)
  2. Nationals 33/9/0/1 (45)
  3. Rockies 33/7/0/1 (43)
  4. Diamondbacks 31/2/1/2 (41)
  5. Dodgers 28/1/1/2 (36)
  6. Mets 24/6/0/2 (36)
  7. Marlins 25/3/2/1 (33)
  8. Reds 23/6/0/1 (32)
  9. Brewers 30/2/0/0 (32)
  10. Padres 24/4/0/0 (28)
  11. Phillies 22/3/1/0 (27)
  12. Cubs 23/1/0/0 (24)
  13. Pirates 18/2/0/1 (23)
  14. Braves 18/1/1/0 (21)
  15. Cardinals 15/0/0/0 (15)

A glance at how San Francisco Giants’ top draft picks are doing

Christian Arroyo

Christian Arroyo

With the 2013 season quickly going nowhere, MoreSplashHits thought it was time to look to the future.

So we thought we’d take a quick look at how the top 20 players drafted by the Giants in the June draft were doing this season.

One thing to note — and I don’t know if this is a point of stress for the Giants (and if it is, good!) — but a lot of these young hitters appear to be showing signs of good patience at the plate

Second-round pick Ryder Jones has an OBP of almost .500. CF Johneshwy Fargas has an OBP of .417. SS Brett Kay has an OBP of .458.

These are small samples. And it also should be noted that almost three-quarters of the Giants’ rookie league roster is batting above .300. But it’s encouraging all the same.

Here are the numbers through Thursday (ages in parenthesis):

1 SS Christian Arroyo (18)

Arizona Rookie League — 20 G, 80 AB, 1 HR, 18 RBI, .300/.363/.463, 15 K, 9 BB

2 3B Ryder Jones (19)

Arizona Rookie League — 16 G, 57 AB, 1 HR, 9 RBI, .404/.493/.579, 10 K, 10 BB

3 RHP Chase Johnson (21)

Arizona Rookie League — 3 G, 5.1 IP, 0-0, 1.69 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 7 K, 1 BB

Short-A Salem-Keizer — 3 G, 3 GS, 14.0 IP, 1-1, 0.00, 0.64 WHIP, 13 K, 2 BB

4 1B Brian Ragira (21)

Arizona Rookie League — 15 G, 28 AB, 0 HR, 6 RBI, .357/.379/.464, 6 K, 1 BB

Short-A Salem-Keizer — 15 G, 54 AB, 1 HR, 7 RBI, .278/.409/.389, 16 K, 11 BB

5 RHP Daniel Slania (21)

Short-A Salem-Keizer — 1 G, 1 IP, 1 H

6 SS Brandon Bednar (21)

Arizona Rookie League — 1 G, 2 AB, 1 BB.

Short-A Salem-Keizer — 30 G, 118 AB, 3 HR, 22 RBI, .280/.344/.415, 19 K, 10 BB

7 RHP Nick Vander Tuig (21)

Arizona Rookie League — 1 GS, 1 IP, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 2 K, 0 BB

8 LF Tyler Horan (22)

Arizona Rookie League — 13 G, 49 AB, 0 HR, 5 RBI, .245/.321/.388, 12 K, 6 BB

Short-A Salem-Keizer — 16 G, 61 AB, 0 HR, 5 RBI, .262/.333/.377

9 LHP Donald Snelten (21)

Arizona Rookie League — 7 G, 9.1 IP, 2-0, 0.96 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 12 K, 7 BB

10 RHP Tyler Rogers (22)

Arizona Rookie League — 6 G, 7.0 IP, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 13 K, 3 BB

Short-A Salem-Keizer — 3 G, 4.1 IP, 1-0, 2.08 ERA, 1.85 WHIP, 5 K, 4 BB

11 CF Johneshwy Fargas (18)

Arizona Rookie League — 13 G, 31 AB, 0 HR, 2 RBI, .323/.417/.355, 3 K, 3 BB

12 C Tyler Ross (21)

Arizona Rookie League — 3 G, 11 AB, 0 HR, 2 RBI, .182/.308/.273, 1 K, 2 BB

Short-A Salem-Keizer — 10 G, 30 AB, 0 HR, 2 RBI, .300/.382/.467, 4 K, 4 BB

13 RHP Pat Young (21)

Arizona Rookie League — 2 G, 1 GS, 5.0 IP, 1-0, 3.60 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 5 K, 1 BB

Short-A Salem-Keizer — 1 G, 1 GS, 3.1 IP, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, 4 K, 0 BB

14 LHP Nick Jones (21)

Arizona Rookie League — 7 G, 5.2 IP, 0-0, 6.35 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, 4 K, 4 BB

15 C Eugene Escalante (22)

Short-A Salem-Keizer — 25 G, 80 AB, 1 HR, 8 RBI, .300/.370/.388, 21 K, 6 BB

16 3B Jonah Arenada — UNSIGNED

17 C Rene Melendez (18)

Arizona Rookie League — 2 G, 1-for-6 batting

18 LHP Christian Jones (22)

Arizona Rookie League — 4 G, 5.1 IP, 0-0, 1.69 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 4 K, 2 BB

19 LHP Garrett Hughes (21) — UNSIGNED

20 SS Brett Kay (22)

Arizona Rookie League — 15 G, 41 AB, 1 HR, 9 RBI, .341/.453/.488

Loss to Cubs makes it official: Time for San Franciso Giants to look toward 2014

San Francisco Giants fans have been talking about rock-bottom for a month now.

Sergio RomoSome said it was when they got swept by the Dodgers after dropping three of four to the Marlins.

Others said it was when they got no-hit by Homer Bailey.

And more said it was when they got shut down by Zach Wheeler on a day when Matt Cain didn’t pitch out of the first inning.

Well, for MoreSplashHits, it was Friday night.

It’s rock-bottom because no matter how many games the Giants lose from this point forward, they won’t matter a bit. Because Friday night is when the last of my hope of the Giants making something out of the 2013 season when right out the window, or more precisely, right between our legs.

From this point on, it would take a miracle for the Giants to make the postseason. And, yes Al Michaels, I do believe in miracles. But they just don’t happen all that often.

The Giants lost to the Cubs after blowing a 2-1 lead with two on and two out in the ninth when Anthony Rizzo hit a ball right at Brandon Belt at first and the Giants’ sure-handed first basemen let it go right between his legs, allowing the Cubs to score the tying and go-ahead runs for a 3-2 win.

On the same night, the Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Rockies — the three teams ahead of the Giants in the NL West — won. The Giants are now eight games out of first place and 10 games under .500. They have the worst record in the majors over the past two months.

And the win allowed the Cubs to have a better record than the Giants. Ponder that for a moment.

After I pondered that fact for a moment, I discovered it was a good thing. Because I’m not looking at 2013 anymore. I’m looking at 2014. Here are the standings I’m looking at.

  1. Astros 34-68 .333
  2. Marlins 39-62 .386
  3. White Sox 40-60 .400
  4. Brewers 42-60 .412
  5. Twins 43-56 .434
  6. Padres 46-58 .442
  7. Giants 46-56 .451
  8. Cubs 46-55 .455
  9. Mets 46-54 . 460
  10. Blue Jays 47-55 .461
  11. Angels 48-53 .475

The Giants have the seventh-worst record in all of Major League Baseball.

That’s not so important to just pick up the No. 7 pick in next June’s draft. But remember, if the Giants go after a free agent next offseason who has been tendered a qualifying offer, it won’t cost the Giants a first-round pick to sign that player if the Giants have a top-10 selection in the draft. It will cost them a second-round draft pick.

It’s very likely the Giants could be looking to fill four spots on their roster vacated by free agents: a right fielder (Hunter Pence), two starting pitchers (Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito) and a reliever (Javier Lopez).

While it doesn’t appear there will be more than about a half-dozen players who will actually receive qualifying offers this offseason — recent trades of Ricky Nolasco and Matt Garza make them ineligible to receive one, and one of those qualifying offers may be made to Pence if the Giants opt not to trade him — it still takes a least one hurdle out of the Giants’ way if they want to go after a player like Shin-Soo Choo, who we fill would make a nice fit in right field.

And when you start looking toward 2014, these tough losses won’t seem so tough.

Anquan Boldin looks good in San Francisco Giants cap

Anquan Boldin

Anquan Boldin

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin talked to the media Friday at training camp … wearing a San Francisco Giants cap.

Uh oh. MoreSplashHits hopes he doesn’t get fined.

Actually, Boldin looked pretty good in a Giants cap (San Francisco Giants cap!). And wearing that sleeveless shirt, Boldin looks like he could hit a ball a loooooooong way.

Instead of asking Boldin how he is fitting in with the 49ers, maybe somebody should have asked him if he’d be interested in moonlighting as a baseball player.

He looks like he would make a great left fielder for the Giants.

At least we know he can CATCH THE BALL!!!!!!!!!!!

MLB allowed itself to be beaten again by Ryan Braun

File-Milwaukee Brewers' Ryan Braun reacts after striking out after pinch hitting during the 11th inning of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins Sunday, July 21, 2013, in Milwaukee. Braun, a former National League MVP, has been suspended without pay for the rest of the season and admitted he "made mistakes" in violating Major League Baseball's drug policies. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig announced the penalty Monday and released a statement by the Milwaukee Brewers slugger, who said: "I am not perfect. I realize now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions." (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

File-Milwaukee Brewers’ Ryan Braun reacts after striking out after pinch hitting during the 11th inning of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins Sunday, July 21, 2013, in Milwaukee. Braun, a former National League MVP, has been suspended without pay for the rest of the season and admitted he “made mistakes” in violating Major League Baseball’s drug policies. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig announced the penalty Monday and released a statement by the Milwaukee Brewers slugger, who said: “I am not perfect. I realize now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions.” (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

You ever see a player get into some kind of mischief on the field — throwing at a batter or charging the mound — and draw, say, a five-game suspension.

So, of course, he appeals the penalty.

And while he waits for his appeal to be heard, he plays on.

But then a couple of games go by and he tweaks his hamstring or rolls an ankle, causing him to miss a couple of games.

So the player decides to drop his appeal and start serving his suspension, using the five days to rest and recover from his injury.

Doesn’t that annoy you? How a player can manipulate the system to lessen the impact of his penalty.

It happens frequently. But this week it happened on the biggest stage, when Ryan Braun agreed to begin serving a 65-game suspension for unspecified violations of the MLB’s drug program.

MLB may think, after more than 21 months of pursuit, it finally got its man. But in reality, they let Braun wriggles himself off the hook.

Braun’s 2013 was been a walking pain. He was bothered by a neck problem for most of April and lingered into May. Then in late May, he was bothered by a thumb injury that eventually landed him on the DL for a month.

He returned from the DL and played in one game on July 9 before a trip on the bereavement list took him out of action through the All-Star break. When he returned, Braun declined to detail the nature of the “family medical emergency” that sent him home, only saying “This was one of those moments where I needed to be home with my family. Everybody is doing much better.”

After playing in three more games, his 2013 season was ended by the suspension.

To review, his 2013 season has been marred by injury, the inflamed nerve in his thumb was not completely healed even after his month-long stint on the DL and the Brewers’ season was going nowhere fast.

Sounds like a perfect time to cease his battle against MLB and take a 65-game suspension, and come back in 2014 and start fresh.

It seems to me that Braun beat MLB, again, just like he did in the spring of 2012 when he was suspended for testosterone use from a failed test during the 2011 playoffs that followed his MVP season. He appeals that penalty, and won … on a technicality.

He played it off as vindication.

Now who is vindicated?

Certainly not MLB. It had a chance to show it was serious about eradicating performance-enhancers by hitting one of the game’s biggest stars where it hurts.

But does this hurt?

Braun gets to go home, spend time with his family, heal his thumb that has been hurting him for more than a month, all while not hurting his team which was not a playoff-bound team with him in the lineup at less-than-100-percent.

Sure, there is the $4 million in salary that he will forfeit. But considering he’s due another $100 million-plus from the Brewers over the next seven seasons, what’s $4 million? Uncle Sam is going to take way more of Braun’s money as a normal course of business than what MLB will take by invoking a penalty.

But that is the penalty. And until MLB, and the players union, get serious about cleaning up the game and proposing some far more serious consequences to violators — and not allow players the right to plea bargain their way to a lesser penalty because it’s easy and convenient — MLB will again find itself allowing the cheaters to gain the upper hand.

After another loss to Reds, time to take a look at starting pitching prospects for Giants

San Francisco Giants starter Eric Surkamp, right, is pulled from the game by manager Bruce Bochy during the third inning of the first game of a baseball doubleheader against the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday, July 23, 2013, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

San Francisco Giants starter Eric Surkamp, right, is pulled from the game by manager Bruce Bochy during the third inning of the first game of a baseball doubleheader against the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday, July 23, 2013, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The Cincinnati Reds have faced two San Francisco Giants pitchers who were called up from Triple-A Fresno this season.

The Reds lit both of them up for seven runs on nine hits in 2.2 innings.

The first was Mike Kickham on July 1 in Cincinnati. The second was Eric Surkamp on Tuesday’s first game of a doubleheader.

In fact, in four starts this season, starting pitchers called up from Fresno have given up 23 earned run 13 innings. That’s a 15.92 ERA.

If Kickham and Surkamp were the best two options at Fresno, and another — Chris Heston — was released by the club last weekend, we thought it might be time to take a look at the top-rated starting pitchers in the Giants’ system and see how they are doing this season. These ratings are set by MLB.com.

NO.1, RHP KYLE CRICK

Crick, 20, was rated as the Giants’ No. 1 prospect by MLB.com. He lost two months of this season to an oblique strain. But since returning from the DL, he’s been awesome, allowing 3 ER in 25 innings over five starts (1.08 ERA). He was selected to the Futures Game and Baseball America had him at No. 49 in their midseason rankings of prospects. For the season, he has 50 strikeouts in 34.2 innings, but walks are a concern (24 on the season). Don’t look for him contributing to the big club until 2015.

NO. 2 RHP CHRIS STRATTON

It was thought that Stratton may be able to contribute soon for the Giants after being the team’s No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft. But that doesn’t appear to be the case. Stratton, 22, is 7-3 with 3.66 ERA in low-A Augusta. He has 92 strikeouts and 32 walks in 91 innings for the Green Jackets. He’s been hot and cold. Twice in his last six starts he’s given up 11 hits in a start. But also in his last seven starts, he has twice throw seven shutout innings and two other times gone six innings with one earned run. So consistency appears to be the key.

NO. 3 RHP MARTIN AGOSTA

Agosta, the Giants’ second-round pick in 2012 out of St. Mary’s, is pitching very well at Augusta. He is 8-3 with a 2.03 ERA in 15 starts. He has 97 strikeouts against 34 walks in 79.2 innings. Over his last seven starts, he’s been even better — 5 ER in 39 innings (1.15 ERA). Perhaps a promotion could be in order.

NO. 4 LHP ERIC SURKAMP

Surkamp, a former top prospect for the Giants, had Tommy John surgery last July. He pitched well for Class A San Jose but he had a 4.79 ERA in four starts at Triple-A Fresno when he got the call to start Tuesday. Expect Surkamp to go back to Fresno to keep working. He might see him against in September and he could battle for a starting job next spring.

NO. 5 LHP EDWIN ESCOBAR

Acquired in a trade with the Rangers as an 17-year-old in April 2010, Escobar, now 21, has improved with age. He was an organization All-Star in 2012 after going 7-8 with 2.96 ERA for Augusta. He was promoted to high-A San Jose this season and went 3-4 with 2.89 ERA with 92 strikeouts and 17 walks over 74.2 IP. After being named California League pitcher of the week on July 8, he was promoted to Double-A Richmond. In three starts for the Squirrels, he is 1-2 with 4.32 ERA, but still throwing strikes — 17 Ks against 3 BB in 16.2 innings.

NO. 6 RHP CLAYTON BLACKBURN

Blackburn is a big kid at 6-3, 220. He was drafted in the 16th round out of high school in 2011. He went 8-4 with 2.54 ERA at Augusta in 2012 and is 5-4 with 4.26 ERA in 17 starts at San Jose. But the 20-year-old has a 1.147 WHIP with 107 strikeouts against 26 walks in 95 innings.

NO. 7 LHP MIKE KICKHAM

It’s been a bumpy 2013 for Kickham. After a slow start in April for Fresno, he put together a nice string of starts (1.72 ERA over six starts) that earned him a promotion when Ryan Vogelsong went on the DL. But a poor start against Oakland got him a trip back to Fresno where he had some very mixed results. When Chad Gaudin went on the DL, Kickham was called on again. He had an so-so start against the Dodgers before getting lit up by the Reds. The Giants kept him as a long reliever before sending him back to Fresno in the middle of July. He is 3-6 with 5.12 ERA in 15 starts in Fresno this season.

NO. 8 RHP JOAN GREGORIO

Gregorio is tall — 6-foot-7 — but not a lot of beef (180 pounds). He was signed as a 17-year-old out of the Dominican. He had a bumpy season in 2012 at shortseason Salem-Keizer (7-7, 5.54 ERA). Now 21, he is 6-2 with 3.12 ERA in 11 starts for Augusta with 73 strikeouts against 13 walks in 60.2 innings.

NO. 9 LHP ADALBERTO MEJIA

Signed out of the Dominican in 2010, Mejia, 20, is on a faster track than Gregorio. He was 10-7 with 3.97 ERA for Augusta in 2012 and now he’s 3-3 with 3.51 ERA in 10 starts for San Jose. He has 50 strikeouts against 15 walks in 51.1 innings.

NO. 10 LHP TY BLACH

Drafted in the fifth round of the 2012 draft out of Creighton, Blach, 22, has been impressive in his pro debut in 2013 for San Jose. He’s 10-3 with 2.59 ERA with 95 strikeouts and 11 walks in 100.2 innings. He has pitched at least five innings and not given up more than two runs in any of his last seven starts.

Silver lining: Tim Lincecum’s outing was not the worst no-hitter follow-up in baseball history

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum walks at the end of the second inning where he gave up two home runs to the Cincinnati Reds during a baseball game on Monday, July 22, 2013, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum walks at the end of the second inning where he gave up two home runs to the Cincinnati Reds during a baseball game on Monday, July 22, 2013, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Johnny Vander Meer didn’t have to wait long to pop that champagne bottle in heaven.

There would be no repeat of Vander Meer’s back-to-back no-hitters when Tim Lincecum took the mound on Monday against the Reds.

It took six pitches before Shin-Soo Choo lined a double to left on a 3-2 pitch to open the game to record the game’s first hit against Lincecum.

And unfortunately for the Freak, there would be eight more hits by the Reds before Lincecum was lifted from the game in the fourth inning.

In the end, Lincecum got tagged for eight runs (all earned) on nine hits and one walk in 3 2/3 innings. He also gave up three homers, a far cry from the no-hitter he tossed in San Diego nine days before.

So he went from one of the best starts of his career to one of his worsts. It was the first time in his career that he got tagged for eight earned runs.

It was not his worst start, statistically speaking. That honor would go to his April 11 start of last season, when he got tagged for six earned runs in 2.1 innings in Colorado (a 23.48 ERA for that start). But Monday’s start (19.62 ERA) would rank as second-worst if you used ERA as the measuring stick.

And before you start thinking it, Monday’s outing was also not the worsrt ever pitched by a pitcher coming off a no-hitter.

I started research the 273 starts the followed no-hitters in baseball history (I excluded no-hitters thrown by combined pitching efforts), and I only had to go back to 2008 to find a start worse than Lincecum’s follow-up effort.

That belonged to Carlos Zambrano of the Cubs, who on Sept. 19, 2008 — five days after he no-hit the Astros — got tagged for eight runs on six hits and three walks over 1.2 innings against the Cardinals.

Philip Humber of the White Sox got tagged for nine runs in his starter after no-hitting the Mariners last season, but he did that over five innings.

I don’t know if Zambrano’s start is the worst following a no-hitter, but you’d be hard-pressed to find one worse than eight earned in 1.2 innings.

So now, naturally, come the questions of whether than 148 pitches Lincecum threw in his no-hit effort against the Padres played a role in Monday’s start.

Lincecum said no, and I tend to believe him.

“I mean, I felt just as normal as I have in recent starts,” Lincecum said. “So there’s no toll.”

If you’re looking for another culprit, you might look at the eight days off between the two starts.

Lincecum is a prisoner to his unusual mechanics. And we’ve seen him get out of whack repeatedly over the years. And that’s what happened Monday.

“I think just repeating, you know?” Lincecum said. “I wasn’t consistently hitting spots with my fastball so that meant I had to go to my secondary pitches. I think I just used them up a little too much early and let them see them a little too much.”

Also circumstance had a hand in the debacle as well.

Choo’s lead-off double looked like the kind of ball Giants fans had gotten used to see Gregor Blanco catch in left field. But he didn’t and it went for a double.

The Giants then didn’t pounce quickly enough on Derrick Robinson’s clear sacrifice attempt and the speedy Robinson beat it out for a single.

After Lincecum struck out Joey Votto, he got Brandon Phillips to tap back to the mound for the second out.

Then he got up 0-2 on Jay Bruce before, in a very Lincecum fashion, couldn’t put him away and walked him.

That was followed by a hit-me fastball to Todd Frazier, who hammered it over Andres Torres’ head for a bases-clearing double.

The 31-pitch first inning likely led to more trouble later in the game for Lincecum.

Lincecum gets the Cubs at home this weekend, and Giants fans can only hope to finds his mechanics again and gets a little help along the way.

San Francisco Giants’ win over Arizona brings memories of 2012 playoff game

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Matt Cain throws to the Arizona Diamondbacks during the third inning of a baseball game Saturday, July 20, 2013, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Matt Cain throws to the Arizona Diamondbacks during the third inning of a baseball game Saturday, July 20, 2013, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The San Francisco Giants are 2-0 after the All-Star break.

We knew the series against the Diamondbacks was going to be big. And these two games had the feel of October baseball.

In fact, Saturday’s 4-3 win by the Giants over Arizona felt a lot like Game 5 of last October’s NL Division Series against the Reds.

Think about it.

Matt Cain gets the start, pitches well early, is given the lead, but can’t get through the sixth inning.

Jeremy Affeldt gets injured.

Buster Posey hits a big home run in the fifth inning to extend the Giants’ lead, and the homer represents the last of the Giants’ scoring.

The bullpen runs the gauntlet in the late innings, escaping jam after jam and hanging onto the lead.

Sergio Romo gives up a one run in the ninth, but locks down the victory.

CAIN’S START: After an ugly outing in St. Louis on June 1, Cain posted a 1.84 ERA over his next five starts, lowering his ERA from 5.45 to 4.29. Then he had two ugly starts vs. the Dodgers (2.1 IP, 8 ER) and Mets (0.2 IP, 3 ER) and his ERA was back at 5.06. Cain came out Saturday and threw up four zeros before getting charged for single earned runs in the fifth and sixth. He should have escaped with another zero in the fifth when he got Eric Chavez to hit a double-play ball to second. But shortstop Tony Abreu, playing in place of the mildly hurt Brandon Crawford, threw the throw to first away, allowing a run to score. At the time, the run was unearned, as it scored on an error. But when Cain followed with back-to-back walks, it turned the run into an earned run. But if Abreu makes the play he should have, no runs score. He opened the sixth by giving up back-to-back singles and exited with 102 pitches in five-plus innings. Again, the Abreu error in the fifth led to Cain throwing an extra 15-18 pitches in the fifth.

AFFELDT HURT: Last October in Cincinnati, Affeldt suffered a minor injury when he tried to avoid a foul ball in the dugout. Saturday’s injury was a bit more severe. Affeldt suffered a strain groin and is likely headed to the DL. It’s quite possible Affeldt may be out a month. Jean Machi likely will get recalled to fill Affeldt’s spot, but when does Dan Runzler get another shot in the bigs? He’s a lefty, even though the Giants have lefties Javier Lopez and Jose Mijares in the pen.

BUSTER’S BLAST: After Andres Torres singled with one out in the fifth, Buster Posey blasted a shot over the center-field wall for his 14th homer of the year. It gave the Giants a 4-1 lead.

BULLPEN STARTS, THEN PUTS OUT FIRES: After Cain got the hook with two on and no outs in the sixth, George Kontos gave up an RBI single to Martin Prado to make it 4-2, then got Cody Ross to line out to second for the first out. Affeldt was brought in for Kontos and got Cliff Pennington to fly out to Pence in Triple’s Alley. But then strained his groin on a 2-2 pitch to A.J. Pollock and Jose Mijares was called in. Mijares walked Pollock to load the bases, but struck out Adam Eaton to end the threat.

In the seventh, and Santiago Casilla pitching, Aaron Hill got a two-out walk followed by a single by Miguel Montero. So again, go-ahead run came to the plate. But Castilla got Martin Prado to ground out.

In the eight, Sandy Rosario came into pitch and gave up a lead-off single to Cody Ross that glanced off Rosario’s ring finger on his pitching hand (X-rays after the game were negative). After Rosario got Pennington to fly to center, Javier Lopez came in. Wil Nieves reached on an error by Crawford, again bringing the go-ahead run to the plate. But Eaton made the second out on a comebacker to Lopez and Gerardo Parra grounded to second to end the inning.

In the ninth, Sergio Romo came in and gave up an infield single to Paul Goldschmidt off Romo’s glove. Hill flied to center, and Montero grounded to first with Goldschmidt taking second. Prado hit a bloop single to right to score Goldschmidt, but Romo struck out Cody Ross to end the game.

Whew.

Now, the Giants clinched the series win they needed to get. They are 4.5 game out of first place, four games behind the second-place Dodgers. A win tomorrow will get them at least within four games of the lead, maybe 3.5.

This is an opportunity with All-Star Madison Bumgarner on the mound. The Giants need to seize on these opportunities. And it would be nice if they could do without going too deep into the bullpen that used seven of eight pitchers in the pen on Saturday.

Who is Giants’ odd man out when Ryan Vogelsong return: Chad Gaudin or Barry Zito?

San Francisco Giants starter Chad Gaudin throws to the Arizona Diamondbacks during the fourth inning of a baseball game Friday, July 19, 2013, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

San Francisco Giants starter Chad Gaudin throws to the Arizona Diamondbacks during the fourth inning of a baseball game Friday, July 19, 2013, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Chad Gaudin did it again on Friday.

Gaudin, the journeyman pitcher who joined his Xth team this spring when he signed with the Giants, turned in his best performance of the season when he limited the Diamondbacks to three hits and no walks or runs over seven innings in the Giants’ 2-0 win on Friday. He struck out eight, improved his record to 4-1 and lowered his ERA to 2.15.

He is 4-0 with 2.23 in seven starts since moving to the rotation in place of the injured Ryan Vogelsong.

Since coming off the DL after being hit in the arm with a line drive, Gaudin is 2-0 with 0.95 ERA over three starts.

Manager Bruce Bochy admitted that it would be hard to remove Gaudin from the rotation when Vogelsong returns from his stint on the DL next month.

So it left many Giants fans to wonder: Who goes to the pen when Vogey returns? Vogey? Gaudin? Tim Lincecum? Barry Zito?

Well, the answer may have come Saturday afternoon.

Ryan Vogelsong threw 40 pitches in the bullpen, then 35 more from the main mound at AT&T Park to coaches Shawon Dunston and Roberto Kelly as well as outfielder Gregor Blanco.

“I came out of it healthy,” he told the San Jose Mercury News. “I took out of it what I needed to. The hand feels good, the arm feels good.”

Barring any setback, Vogelsong’s next step to pitch in an Arizona Rookie League game next week, then a start with Class A San Jose and another with Double-A Richmond. The “soft” return date to the Giants is Aug. 9.

August 9, eh? Hmmm. That could be very telling. Take a look at how the Giants’ rotation sets up between now and then.

  • July 20 vs. Diamondbacks (Cain)
  • July 21 vs. Diamondbacks (Bumgarner)
  • July 22 vs. Reds (Lincecum)
  • Jul 23 DH vs. Reds (Zito and TBD – either Yusmeiro Pettit, Mike Kickham or Eric Surkamp; Pettit seems longshot as it would require opening a spot on the 40-man roster).
  • July 24 vs. Reds (Gaudin)
  • July 26 vs. Cubs (Cain)
  • July 27 vs. Cubs (Bumgarner)
  • July 28 vs. Cubs (Lincecum)

Now, the Giants have two upcoming days off — July 25 and July 29. If they stay on turn, Zito would pitch on July 30 in Philadelphia to open a six-game road trip. It would also mean Zito would pitch twice on that road trip.

Considering Zito has been so dreadful on the road — he is 0-6 with 9.89 ERA on the road compared to 4-1 with a 2.45 ERA at home — it would wise to use those off days to skip Zito’s turn in the rotation, limiting him to one start on the road trip. Then the rotation would look like this:

  • July 30 at Philadelphia (Gaudin)
  • July 31 at Philadelphia (Cain)
  • Aug. 1 at Philadelphia (Bumgarner)
  • Aug. 2 at Tampa Bay (Lincecum)
  • Aug. 3 at Tampa Bay (Zito)
  • Aug. 4 at Tampa Bay (Gaudin)
  • Aug. 5 vs. Milwaukee (Cain)
  • Aug. 6 vs. Milwaukee (Bumgarner)
  • Aug. 7 vs. Milwaukee (Lincecum)

That would mean that Zito’s next turn in the rotation would fall on August 8, at home vs. the Brewers. Vogelsong’s soft return date is Aug. 9. That means Vogelsong’s soft return date would plot him right between Zito and Gaudin in the rotation, meaning either could easily be bumped.

Or the Giants could even tinker with a six-man rotation, in which Zito gets skipped on the road.

Some cold, hard numbers regarding San Francisco Giants’ second-half prospects

San Francisco Giants' Hunter Pence singles against the Colorado Rockies in the ninth inning of the Giants' 5-2 victory in a baseball game in Denver on Sunday, June 30, 2013. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

San Francisco Giants’ Hunter Pence singles against the Colorado Rockies in the ninth inning of the Giants’ 5-2 victory in a baseball game in Denver on Sunday, June 30, 2013. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The San Francisco Giants went into the All-Star break with a 43-51 record, their worst mark at the break in five years.

On Friday, the second half of the season begins with a key series against the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Diamondbacks went into the break with a 50-45 mark. If all of the NL West teams duplicate their first half performances, the Diamondbacks would win the division title with an 85-77 record.

But MoreSplashHits believes it will take at least 88 wins to take the division crown this year. That means the Giants would have to finish the season 45-23 over the final 68 games to reach that 88-win mark.

It’s a daunting task for a team eight games under .500. But not impossible.

It’s only four games better than how the Giants finished over their final 68 games in 2012, when they posted a 41-27 record.

But if the Giants hope to win 22 more games than they will lose over the last 2.5 months of the season, they need to start winning now.

Taking 3 of 4 from the Padres prior to the break is a start. It needs to keep going this weekend at home against the Diamondbacks. The Giants have won 6 of 9 vs. Arizona this year.

If the Giants take 2 of 3 from Arizona, they will be 5.5 games out of first place and still in the mix. If they lose 2 of 3, they will fall 7.5 games back and on the verge of being out of the mix.

If the Giants get swept by Arizona, they will fall 9.5 games and it might be time to start thinking about 2014.

However, if the Giants were to sweep Arizona, they’d be 3.5 games behind Arizona, and the race is on.

The Giants come out of the break with 10 consecutive games at AT&T Park (although they’ll be the “road” team in one of those games against the Reds as part of a makeup from a rained-out game in Cincinnati earlier this month).

Realistically, the Giants need to go at least 6-4 over those 10 games to stay viable in the NL West race. The goal should really be more like 7-3.

August’s schedule is brutal, with series against the Rays, Orioles, Red Sox, Nationals and Pirates. So the winning needs to start in July.

San Francisco Giants’ Sergio Romo added to All-Star team; Is Hunter Pence next?

Sergio Romo was added to the NL All-Star roster on Sunday.

Sergio Romo was added to the NL All-Star roster on Sunday.

Following through on a pledge he made Friday, San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy selected closer Sergio Romo as an injury replacement to the National League All-Star roster on Sunday.

Pirates pitcher Jeff Locke and Nationals pitcher Jordan Zimmermann announced that they would not participate in Tuesday’s game in New York because of minor injuries.

Bochy replaced Locke and Zimmermann with Romo and Pirates reliever Mark Melancon.

That give the Giants four players on the All-Star roster with Romo joining reserves Buster Posey, Marco Scutaro and Madison Bumgarner.

Bochy will need to make at least two more replacement selections. Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright is scheduled to start Sunday night’s game against the Cubs, making him ineligible to play in the All-Star game. However, Bochy cannot announce a replacement for Wainwright until he actually throw a pitch in the game, which doesn’t start until 5 p.m. Pacific Time. I would expect Bochy to turn another Cardinal to replace Wainwright. That’s what he did with Locke.

Two possible Redbird options are starting pitcher Shelby Miller or reliever Edward Mujica.

Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, who on Thursday won the All-Star Final Vote as the final addition to the roster, suffered a jammed thumb on Saturday and will not play Tuesday.

Freeman beat out the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig, Giants’ Hunter Pence, Nationals’ Ian Desmond and Dodgers’ Adrian Gonzalez in fan voting, in that order.

Considering Puig, the runner-up in fan voting, has been sidelined this weekend by a sore shoulder, Bochy may select Pence as a replacement for Freeman. Pence finished third in Final Vote voting.

However, San Jose Mercury’s Alex Pavlovic reported that Bochy is leaning to a third catcher to replace Freeman. If that’s the case, the Rockies’ Wilin Rosario would be at the top of the list.

Tim Lincecum accomplishes the unexpected with first career no-hitter

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum pitches in the ninth inning of his no hitter over the San Diego Padres in a baseball game in San Diego, Saturday, July 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum pitches in the ninth inning of his no hitter over the San Diego Padres in a baseball game in San Diego, Saturday, July 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

Tim Lincecum has accomplished a lot in his seven-year career with the San Francisco Giants.

He’s a two-time Cy Young Award winner, a four-time All-Star. He was the NL All-Star starter in 2009. He was the Giants’ opening day starter 2009-2012. He started Game 1 of the 2010 NLDS, NLCS and World Series. He pitched the Giants to victory in the clinching game of the 2010 World Series. He’s a two-time World Champion.

But one thing he hadn’t accomplished was pitch a no-hitter.

So I understand how many Giants fans watching the last few innings of Saturday’s win over the Padres with nervous trepidation.

However, I wasn’t one of them. I wasn’t nervous because I just didn’t think he could throw a no-hitter.

Prior to Saturday, Lincecum had just five shutouts in his career and only eight complete games. None since 2011.

So as Lincecum piled up the strikeouts Saturday, his pitch count continue to rise to more than 100 by the end of the sixth inning. At the pace he was on, it would take 153 pitches to complete nine innings of work. And as he had never thrown more than 142 pitches in a game in his career, it seemed as if time was not on his side.

But he found a way. There’s something about July nights, the San Diego Padres, an unlikely pitcher that lead to no-hitters.

You’ll remember when Jonathan Sanchez threw his no-hitter in July of 2009, he had just returned from being demoted to the bullpen when he no-hit the Padres.

Lincecum got 13 of his 27 outs on Saturday by strikeout, most on swing-and-misses. Here are his blemishes on the night

  • A two-out walk to Chase Headley in the first innning
  • He hit Jed Gyroko with a pitch with one out in the second
  • A one-out walk to Everth Cabrera in the sixth
  • A two-out walk of Headley in the sixth
  • A two-out walk to Cabrera in the eighth

Of balls put in play, there were three scary plays

With Cabrera and Headley on base with two out in the sixth, Carlos Quentin hit a hard liner right at shortstop Brandon Crawford

Jesus Guzman hit a bouncer behind the bag at third that Pablo Sandoval gloved and make a strong throw to first for the out to end the seventh.

Alexi Amarista hit a sinking liner to right that Hunter Pence made a diving, rolling grab to end the eighth.

The left the ninth, during which Lincecum struck out Headley and got Quentin and Yonder Alonso to fly out to Gregor Blanco to set off the celebration.

It was a stirring, 148-pitch gem from Lincecum during a time when the Giants needed a spark the most.

What other surprises does Lincecum have in store for Giants fans during the second half of 2013

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 272 other followers