Where does Travis Ishikawa’s walk-off homer rank among Giants’ most memorable postseason blasts?

San Francisco Giants Travis Ishikawa reacts after hitting a walk-off three-run home run during the ninth inning of Game 5 of the National League baseball championship series against the St. Louis Cardinals Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014, in San Francisco. The Giants won 6-3 to advance to the World Series. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

San Francisco Giants Travis Ishikawa reacts after hitting a walk-off three-run home run during the ninth inning of Game 5 of the National League baseball championship series against the St. Louis Cardinals Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014, in San Francisco. The Giants won 6-3 to advance to the World Series. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Travis Ishikawa sent the Giants to the National League pennant with his home run of Michael Wacha in Game 5 of the National League championship series.

It conjured up memories of Bobby Thomson’ Shot-Heard-’Round-The-World in 1951.

But where does it rank among postseason home runs by the San Francisco Giants over the past 25 years.

My Giants fandom is about 40 years old. So I thought back to some of the most memorable postseason home runs the Giants have hit since 1987, their first postseason appearance in 16 years at that time.

I came up with 10. The complete list of blasts is listed at the bottom. So look over these home runs then cast your vote for the most memorable.

 

thrill

Will Clark, grand slam, fourth inning, Game 1 of the 1989 NLCS vs. Chicago

Clark had already hit a solo home run in the third when he came up against in the fourth and the Giants leading 4-3. The Cubs’ Greg Maddux looked as if he might escaped a bases loaded jam when he got Robby Thompson to pop up for the second out. Cubs manager Don Zimmer came out to talk to Maddux. On the on-base cirle with Kevin Mitchell, Clark says he read Maddux’s lips and saw “fastball.” Clark hit the first pitch into the right field bleachers for a grand slam. The Giants went on to win 11-3. And since then, pitchers now cover the mouths with their gloves during conferences on the mound.

barry

Barry Bonds, solo home run, second inning, Game 1 of the 2002 World Series vs. Anaheim

After the Giants went down in order in the first inning, Bonds made the first plate appearance in the World Series in his long career. Instead of pitching around Bonds, as teams had done all season, the Angels’ Jerrod Washburn decided to challenge Bonds. Bonds answered with a long drive into right field that left Washburn shrugging his shoulders. The Giants would go on to win 4-3.

cody

Cody Ross, solo home run, fifth inning, Game 1 of 2010 NLCS vs. Philadelphia

The Giants were facing Roy Halladay, who would go on to win the 2010 NL Cy Young. In his previous start, Hallday became the second pitcher to throw a postseason no-hitter when he beat the Reds. Ross was batting eighth in the lineup (BEHIND Mike Fontenot). He took Halladay deep in the third for the Giants’ first hit of the game. The game was tied 1-1 when Ross came up again in the fifth. He sent a 2-0 pitch over the left-field fence for a 2-1 lead the Giants would not relinquish on way to a 4-3 win.

uribe

Juan Uribe, solo home run, eighth inning, Game 6 of the 2010 NLCS vs. Philadelphia

The Giants fell behind early 2-0, but rallied to tie the game in third. Then Jonathan Sanchez got the early hook, and relievers Jeremy Affeldt, Madison Bumgarner, Javier Lopez, Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson kept the Phillies off the board for seven innings. But the game was still tied until Uribe came up against Ryan Madson with two-out in the eight. Uribe took Madson’s first pitch and sent it over the right-field fence for a home run and a 3-2 lead. That would be the final, and the Giants were off to the World Series.

The Top 10 List of Non-Giants Who Should Be on Every Giants Fan's Christmas Card List: No. 4, Cliff Lee

Edgar Renteria, three-run homer, seventh inning, Game 5 of the 2010 World Series vs. Texas

With the Giants one win from a World Series title, Tim Lincecum and the Rangers’ Cliff Lee put up zeroes for six innings. But in the seventh, Cody Ross and Juan Uribe singled. Aubrey Huff bunted them over, but Pat Burrell struck out. Then Renteria, who spent much of the season on the DL with various injuries, got ahead 2-0, then sent a drive into left-center that cleared the fence for a 3-0 lead. The Giants would go on to win 3-1 for their first World Championship since 1954.

busta
Buster Posey, grand slam, fifth inning, Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS vs. Cincinnati

The Giants dropped the first games of the series at home, then found a way to squeak out a 2-1 win in Game 3 on a 10th-inning error. After winning Game 4, they found themselves facing an old nemisis in Mat Latos. The Giants pushed across two runs in the fifth to take a 2-0 lead when the loaded the bases. Posey came up and worked the count to 2-2 before sending the next pitch into the upper deck in left for a 6-0 lead. The Reds rallied back to make it 6-4 before the Giants closed out the series, making Posey’s slam the big hit.

 

San Francisco Giants' Pablo Sandoval hits a solo home run in the fifth inning of Game 1 of baseball's World Series against the Detroit Tigers, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

San Francisco Giants’ Pablo Sandoval hits a solo home run in the fifth inning of Game 1 of baseball’s World Series against the Detroit Tigers, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Pablo Sandoval, solo home run, fifth inning, Game 1 of the 2012 World Series vs. Detroit

Sandoval had alredy taken Justin Verlander deep twice — a solo shot to center in the first inning and a two-run poke to left in the third — when he came up against Al Albuquerque in the fifth. Then he joined Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols as the only players to hit three home runs in World Series game when he took Albuquerque out to center.

craw

Brandon Crawford, grand slam, fourth inning, Wild Card Game vs. Pittsburgh

Crawford became the fourth San Francisco Giant to hit a postseason grand slam when he took Edinson Volquez’s 1-2 pitch out to right to give the Giants a 4-0 lead en rout to an 8-0 win in a wild-card elimination game against the Pirates.

San Francisco Giants' Brandon Belt hits a sacrifice fly during the third inning in Game 1 of the National League baseball championship series against the St. Louis Cardinals Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

San Francisco Giants’ Brandon Belt hits a sacrifice fly during the third inning in Game 1 of the National League baseball championship series against the St. Louis Cardinals Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Brandon Belt, solo home run, 18th inning, Game 2 of the NLDS vs. Washington

After the Giants rallied in the ninth to score and run and force extra innings and after Yusmeiro Petit’s six shutout innings of relief, Belt led off the 18th and took Tanner Roark’s 3-2 pitch out deep to right. Belt, who missed much of the season with a broken finger and later a concussion, had only recently returned to the lineup to deliver in a big spot. The Giants won 2-1 and took a 2-0 series lead.

NLCS Cardinals Giants Baseball

Travis Ishikawa, three-run home run, ninth inning, Game 5 of the NLCS vs. St. Louis

Since playing a key reserve role on the 2010 Giants World Series team, Ishikawa had been designated for assignment by the Giants, Orioles, Yankees, White Sox and Pirates. He had bounced around the minors and twice contemplated retirement, even as recently as earlier this summer when languishing at Triple-A Fresno. But injuries led to his call-up in July. Even though he had only played 11 games in the outfield in his big league career, Ishikawa started all but one of the Giants’ postseason games this fall in left field. He misplayed a ball hit by John Jay earlier in the game for the Cardinals’ first run. But ready for redemption when he came up with two on and one out in the ninth of a 3-3 tie. Ishikawa sent Michael Wacha’s 2-0 pitch just over the wall in right for the Giants’ first postseason walk-off home run since Bobby Thomson’s blast in 1951.

All of Giants’ postseason home runs since 1987

1987 NLCS vs. StL
Jeffrey Leonard, Game 1
Will Clark, Game 2
Jeffrey Leonard, Game 2
Jeffrey Leonard, Game 3
Harry Spilman, Game 3
Bob Brenly, Game 4
Jeffrey Leonard, Game 4
Robby Thompson Game 4
Kevin Mitchell, Game 5

1989 NLCS vs. Chi
Will Clark (2), Game 1
Kevin Mitchell, Game 1
Kevin Mitchell, Game 2
Robby Thompson, Game 2
Matt Williams, Game 2
Robby Thompson, Game 3
Matt Williams, Game 4

1989 World Sries vs. Oak
Bill Bathe, Game 3
Matt Williams, Game 3
Greg Litton, Game 4
Kevin Mitchell, Game 4

1987 NLDS vs. Fla
Bill Mueller, Game 1
Brian Johnson, Game 2
Jeff Kent (2), Game 3

2000 NLDS vs. NYM
Ellis Burks, Game 1
J.T. Snow, Game 2

2002 NLDS vs. Atl
Rich Aurilia, Game 2
Barry Bonds, Game 2
JT Snow, Game 2
Barry Bonds, Game 3
Rich Aurilia, Game 4
Barry Bonds, Game 5

2002 NLCS vs. StL
David Bell, Game 1
Kenny Lofton, Game 1
Benito Santiago, Game 1
Rich Aurilia (2), Game 2
Barry Bonds, Game 3
Benito Santiago, Game 4

2002 World Series vs. Ana
Barry Bonds, Game 1
Reggie Sanders, Game 1
JT Snow Game 1
David Bell, Game 2
Barry Bonds, Game 2
Jeff Kent, Game 2
Reggie Sanders, Game 2
Rich Aurilia, Game 3
Barry Bonds, Game 3
Rich Aurilia Game 5
Jeff Kent (2), Game 5
Barry Bonds, Game 6
Shawon Dunston, Game 6

2010 NLDS vs. Atl
Pat Burrell, Game 2
Cody Ross, Game 4

2010 NLCS vs. Phi
Cody Ross (2), Game 1
Cody Ross, Game 2
Juan Uribe, Game 6

2010 World Series vs. Texas
Juan Uribe, Game 1
Edgar Renteria, Game 2
Cody Ross, Game 3
Andres Torres, Game 3
Aubrey Huff, Game 4
Buster Posey, Game 4
Edgar Renteria, Game 5

2012 NLDS vs. Cin
Buster Posey, Game 1
Gregor Blanco, Game 4
Angel Pagan, Game 4
Pablo Sandoval, Game 4
Buster Posey, Game 5

2012 NLCS vs. StL
Angel Pagan, Game 2
Hunter Pence, Game 4
Pablo Sandoval, Game 4
Pablo Sandoval, Game 5
Brandon Belt, Game 7

2012 World Series vs. Det
Pablo Sandoval (3), Game 1
Buster Posey, Game 4

2014 Wild Card vs. Pit
Brandon Crawford

2014 NLDS vs. Was
Brandon Belt, Game 2

2014 NLCS
Joe Panik, Game 5
Mike Morse, Game 5
Travis Ishikawa, Game 5

Giants’ Bruce Bochy needs to take new approach with Hunter Strickland

St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Adams hits a home run during the eighth inning in Game 2 of the National League baseball championship series against the San Francisco Giants Sunday, Oct. 12, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

St. Louis Cardinals’ Matt Adams hits a home run during the eighth inning in Game 2 of the National League baseball championship series against the San Francisco Giants Sunday, Oct. 12, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Hunter Strickland’s journey to baseball’s biggest stage is an interesting one.

When the Giants called him up in September, some folks were christening Strickland as the Giants’ new “closer of the future,” replacing the recently traded Heath Hembree.

Strickland was big. He threw hard (like 100 mph hard) and he threw strikes.

After a particularly impressive save outing of the 13th inning win over the Dodgers, even Giants closer Santiago Casilla was calling Strickland the Giants’ new closer.

Hunter Strickland

Hunter Strickland

Well, not so fast.

Before we document Strickland’s issue, let’s first look at his past.

Drafted in the 18th round of the 2007 draft, Strickland signed with the Red Sox right out of high school in Georgia.

In his days with the Red Sox, his fastball was reported to top out at 94 mph and be clocked regularly in the upper 80s to low 90s.

He had mixed results as a starting pitcher when he was traded in 2009 to the Pirates, who regarded him as a sleeper prospect.

After never rising abov high A-ball, he missed all of 2011 with shoulder problems.

He returned in 2012 and remained a starter for the Pirates’ A-ball team. He was promoted to Double-A midseason and moved to the bullpen.

He was added to the Pirates’ 40-man roster in November 2012, but designated for assignment at the end of spring training the following March. The Giants claimed him and sent him to Class A San Jose.

He was 1-0 with 0.86 ERA in 20 relief appearances before blowing out his elbow, requiring Tommy John surgery in June. The Giants released him in July, but re-signed him to a minor-league deal in August.

He was back and throwing hard in spring training. He was sent to Double-A Richmond, where he was 1-1 with 2.02 ERA in 35.2 innings with 48 strikeouts and four walks when the Giants called him up in September when rosters expanded.

Now 26, Strickland made nine appearances in September, throwing 7 innings, giving up no runs on five hits with nine strikeouts and no walks. Right-handers hit .200 off him (3 for 15), as did lefties (2 for 10, 2B). However, righties struck out seven times while lefties whiffed just twice.

But in the postseason a serious hole has been exposed in Strickland.

In the postseason, right-handed batters are 1 for 10 with a walk and three strikeouts. Pretty good.

But against left-handers, well….

Lefties are 4 for 7 with four home runs and two strikeouts.

In the playoffs, manager Bruce Bochy has been using Strickland like a new toy, rolling him out in high-stress situations or to pitch a full inning. One of the homers Strickland gave up tied the game. The other, on Sunday night, gave the opponents the lead.

Maybe he needs to take another approach.

On Sunday, Bochy’s options were limited. Having exhausted his two lefties already, he brought in Strickland to face righty Matt Holiday to end the seventh. Strickland picked off Kolten Wong instead.

With the game tied, Bochy didn’t want to his pen again, so he stuck with Strickland. Strickland got Holliday out, then came lefty Matt Adams.

Strickland throws hard, but straight. And this is not Double-A. Big-league hitters can hit anything straight, even if it’s approaching 100 mph.

Against Adams, Strickland made a bad choice or bad pitch.

Unlike against the Nationals’ Bryce Harper, when Strickland fell behind 2-1 and 3-1, Strikland got ahead
Adams 1-2, dropping in a pair of sliders.

Strickland’s next pitch should have been OUT of the strike zone. Up high or outside. Maybe both. Show him the fastball. If he chases, great. If not, you set him up for another slider. If you walk him, big whoop. Go after righties Jhonny Peralta and Tony Cruz.

Instead he shot one straight down the middle, and Adams took him deep (SEE ABOVE PHOTO).

Strickland has to be smarter.

Bochy needs to be smarter.

If the matchup is right, go to Strickland. If not, find another option.

Play to his strengths. This is not the right time for on-the-job training.

San Francisco Giants 2014 motto must be: “Somehow, Someway”

San Francisco Giants' Brandon Belt hits a sacrifice fly during the third inning in Game 1 of the National League baseball championship series against the St. Louis Cardinals Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

San Francisco Giants’ Brandon Belt hits a sacrifice fly during the third inning in Game 1 of the National League baseball championship series against the St. Louis Cardinals Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

The 2014 San Francisco Giants’ motto should be: “Somehow, Someway.”

The Giants’ inexplicable postseason run continued Saturday with a 3-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series.

The Giants again did not tear the ball of the cover. They did manage eight hits, but here is how they scored their three runs.

St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Carpenter can't catch an RBI single by San Francisco Giants' Travis Ishikawa during the second inning in Game 1 of the National League baseball championship series Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

St. Louis Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter can’t catch an RBI single by San Francisco Giants’ Travis Ishikawa during the second inning in Game 1 of the National League baseball championship series Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • A ducksnort bloop single off the Magic Wandoo of Travis Ishikawa.
  • An error.
  • A sacrifice fly.
St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Carpenter can't catch a ball hit by San Francisco Giants' Gregor Blanco as the Giants' Brandon Belt advances during the second inning in Game 1 of the National League baseball championship series Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

St. Louis Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter can’t catch a ball hit by San Francisco Giants’ Gregor Blanco as the Giants’ Brandon Belt advances during the second inning in Game 1 of the National League baseball championship series Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

And the Giants’ two-run “rally” in the second inning was started on a double by Pablo Sandoval that originally landed in the glove of Cardinals right fielder Randal Grichuk, but popped out after Grichuk hit the wall and then the ground.

The Giants’ third-inning run was aided when second baseman Kolten Wong failed to cleanly field a potential double-play ball off the bat of Hunter Pence. The Cardinals only got one out on the play, so no error, but it made Brandon Belt’s subsequent sacrifice fly possible.

 

This follows the Giants’ final four runs scored in the Division Series against the Nationals, which were scored on …

  • A wild pitch.
  • A groundout.
  • A walk.
  • A sacrifice fly.

The Giants even caught a break when Madison Bumgarner appeared to balk in a run in the seventh inning. But the umpires didn’t call a balk, probably because only the Giants are allowed to score a run on a balk.

It’s hard to figure.

The Giants went 15-61 in games in which they scored three runs or fewer. They were 73-13 when scoring four runs or more, second best in the NL this season (The Nationals had the best mark).

From June 3 to Aug. 25, the Giants went 1-35 in games in which they scored three runs or fewer.

But in the postseason, the Giants are now 4-1 in games in which they score three runs or fewer.

They have scored 12 runs total in their last five postseason games. Yet they find themselves with a 1-0 lead in the NLCS.

After going 5 for 40 (.125) with runners in scoring position in the series with the Nationals, the Giants added a 2-for-11 night with RISP on Saturday. And one of those hits didn’t score a run.

But here’s one stat to note. In the Division Series, the Giants struck out the fewest times of the four NL teams in the LDS round. And it’s not even close. The Nationals struck out 39 times in 172 plate appearances, the Cardinals struck out 37 times in 138 PAs, the Dodgers stuck out 36 times in 155 PAs and the Giants struck out 24 in 175 PAs.

And as the old adage goes “Good things happen when you put the ball in play.”

The other stat is the more obvious one: the pitching.

Giants pitching has an 1.14 ERA in the postseason.

The starting pitching has been even better: 0.64 ERA.

At some point, you have to expect the Giants bats to come alive.

Perhaps that will come in Game 2 on Sunday.

Some fans need fresh perspective on San Francisco Giants making the 2014 postseason

San Francisco Giants' Hunter Pence, center, rallies the crowd in a post-game cheer for the postseason, after the Giants defeated the San Diego Padres 9-3 in a baseball game in San Francisco, Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

San Francisco Giants’ Hunter Pence, center, rallies the crowd in a post-game cheer for the postseason, after the Giants defeated the San Diego Padres 9-3 in a baseball game in San Francisco, Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

The San Francisco Giants are back in the postseason, for the third time in five years.

Now I’ve been a Giants fan for 40 years. And this is only the second tim in that four-decade span that the Giants have made the postseason three times in five years (they made it three times in four years in 2000, 2002 and 2003).

And yet, there are a lot of Giants who are not excited about the fact the Giants are in the postseason. Not sure why.

Maybe it’s because the Giants didn’t win the NL West.

Maybe it’s because making the playoffs just means a one-game elimination situation.

Maybe it’s because the Giants blew a 9.5-game division lead.

Maybe it’s because the Giants were SOOOOO bad in June and July.

Maybe it’s because the Giants didn’t clinch a playoff berth by winning a game. Instead, they clinched because of a Brewers loss that followed five Giants losses over six games.

Maybe it’s because injuries have left the Giants’ prospects in the postseason so tenuous.

Who know. But really, I think that some Giant fans need a fresh prospective.

Let’s think back to spring training in March. What would you think of the Giants’ chances of making the postseason if the following things came true?

  • Matt Cain’s season would be over by the All-Star break.
  • Tim Lincecum’s final start would happen on Aug. 23.
  • Angel Pagan would spend two months on the DL and be limited to 96 games.
  • Marco Scutaro would be a non-factor in 2014.
  • Brandon Belt would miss 102 games and hit .241 in the games he did play in.
  • Michael Morse would hit just two home runs after the All-Star break and miss nearly the entire month of September.
  • Sergio Romo would lose his closer’s job in June and never regain it.
  • Brandon Crawford would make a career-high 21 errors.
  • The only player the Giants would acquire by trade is a pitcher who was 1-9 with 4.72 ERA.

Given those facts, what would you have thought the Giants would have finished in 2014.

70-92?

76-86? (Last year’s record).

81-81? I would think that a winning season would have been considered a stretch, given the above facts.

Yet, despite ALL of those hurdles, the Giants finished 88-74 and they are in the playoffs, sending their best pitcher to the mound to win an elimination game.

We’ll remind you the Giants won six consecutive elimination games on their way to the 2012 world championship.

So while there may be a lot of reasons to think the Giants won’t go far this October, there is really one reason to think they will.

They’re the Giants.

And if you need another reason to believe that, well, go root for the A’s.

No matter what White Sox — or Andrew Baggarly — say, San Francisco Giants did not beat Chicago White Sox on a ‘technicality’

Chicago White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers, right, reaches to tag San Francisco Giants' Gregor Blanco, who was originally ruled out at home but then ruled safe after review, during the seventh inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Chicago White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers, right, reaches to tag San Francisco Giants’ Gregor Blanco, who was originally ruled out at home but then ruled safe after review, during the seventh inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

During last offseason, Major League Baseball wanted to implement a rule that would prevent home-plate collisions. The rule would be simple and straightforward.

The catcher is not allowed to block the plate. The runner is not allowed to blow up the catcher. The only time home-plate collisions would happen was when the flight of the ball drew the catcher into the runner’s path, making any collision accidental and unavoidable.

But that wasn’t good enough for old-school catchers and managers. They said “How can we teach our catchers how not to block the plate in just six weeks of spring training when that’s how they’ve been playing the position forever (forever meaning in their pro careers, because blocking the plate was not part of the game they played in Little League, high school or college)?”

So MLB waffled a bit, adding a line into the new rule that catchers could still block the plate, if they had possession of the ball. And a can of worms was opened.

Given that sliver of light, old-school managers did not worry about teaching their catchers about where best to position themselves to be in compliance with the new rule. They simply told their catchers to play the position as they have always played it, and make MLB rule that they were doing it incorrectly.

In the first half of the season, MLB gave catchers the benefit of the doubt. The onus was on the runner to avoid contact. Catchers kept blocking the plate like they always had.

But then runners started to complain. Was there a new rule or wasn’t there one? And MLB started to listen. So after the All-Star break, we started to see a swing in how these plays were being ruled on replay.

If the catcher was in the runners path without the ball and didn’t give the runner a path to the plate, the runner would be ruled safe. It didn’t matter how far ahead of the runner that the ball arrived to the plate.

In short, if teams weren’t going to get their catchers to position themselves correctly in compliance with the new rule, MLB was going to do it for them.

And if you’re on the wrong end of one of these calls, you don’t like it. Just like White Sox manager Robin Ventura found himself in when umpires overturned a call in which the Giants’ Gregor Blanco was thrown out at the plate in the seventh inning on Tuesday.

The play resulted in a 1-1 tie, and the Giants went on to score six more times in the inning en route to a 7-1 win. And Ventura was livid.

“You look at the spirit of the rule of what they’re trying to do and what it’s actually doing, and it’s a joke,” said Ventura, who was ejected for arguing and kicking dirt on the plate after a review that lasted nearly five minutes. “We obviously disagreed with it, and we got hosed today.”

Ventura continued: “They don’t take into consideration that the guy was out by a longshot.”

Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! At what point did Ventura start to disagree with this rule. If you rewind back to Tuesday night’s game, Ventura found himself on the opposite end of a similar play.

In the 10th inning, Chicago’s Jordan Danks were ruled out at the plate on a tag by Buster Posey. Ventura came out to have the play to review to see if Posey blocked Danks’ path to the plate, even though Danks was out by a longshot.

One problem, however. The review showed that Posey didn’t block the plate, that he did leave Danks a pathway to the plate.

And why is this? Well, it’s because that’s how the Giants have taught their catchers to position themselves on plays on the plate. They instruct their catchers to get out IN FRONT OF home plate, between home plate and the pitchers mound, field the throw, then apply a sweep tag. That’s what Posey did.

Now fast-forward to Wednesday afternoon. White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers did not get out in front of home plate. He stood right over it. And when he went to field the throw from first baseman Jose Abreu, Flowers left leg clearly blocked off the entire plate from the oncoming Blanco. Flowers even admitted this much, but said that’s not the point.

Except it IS the point.

Some have said the Giants won Wednesday on a “technicality” including CSN Bay Area’s Andrew Baggarly, who called the ruling “lasso-sized legal loophole.”

This is what Flowers said: “I don’t think anybody has an understanding of this rule,. That’s not the purpose of this rule. The purpose of this rule is to prevent a situation like Posey had. It’s not when a guy is out by 30 feet. ‘Oh, he blocked the plate?’ That had no impact on him being safe or out. And there’s no clarification on that.”

There. Flowers just proved my point, even if he didn’t intend to, when he said “this rule is to prevent a situation like Posey had. It’s not when a guy is out by 30 feet.”

Flowers was referring to the Scott Cousins play — I call it the Cousins play because the responsibility for that collision was completely on Cousins — that prematurely Posey’s season in May 2011.

Here are three irrefutable points about the Cousins/Posey play.

  • Posey was NOT blocking the plate on that play.
  • Posey DID leave Cousins a lane to the plate.
  • Cousins did believe he would be out by 30 feet. He felt that from where right fielder Nate Schierholtz was throwing the ball, Cousins would be out easily. His only recourse was to try to dislodge the ball from Posey. As it turned out, Posey got caught with a short hop that he didn’t handle cleanly.

And that’s the point of the new rule. MLB wants catchers to leave runners a lane, so they don’t feel like their only course of action is collide with the catcher. And leaving a lane is all determined by where the catcher sets up to receive the throw.

So here’s another question for Flowers. If Blanco was going to be out by a longshot, why was Flowers even blocking the plate in the first place?

“I had two seconds to get from behind home plate to catch (and) make a tag, and I’m supposed to be able to make sure I don’t block the plate, catch the ball and make the tag, all within two seconds on an infield dribbler?” Flowers said. “That’s not realistic. That play doesn’t make any sense.”

But it is realistic, if it’s a play that you have been trained on doing correctly. Buster Posey had time to do it correctly Tuesday night because he’s been trained to do that. Flowers, likely because the White Sox have not made it a priority, appeared as if he hasn’t been trained on this.

So MLB gave him, and the White Sox, a valuable lesson. And they got what they deserved.

And that’s not a technicality.

Instead of trading prospects, San Francisco Giants call up a pair from Double-A for playoff push

Matt Duffy

Matt Duffy

When Matt Duffy and Jarrett Parker were told Thursday not to board the Richmond Flying Squirrels team bus for Altoona, they thought that they had been traded as part of a deadline deal.

That would be completely logical.

Instead, both Class AA players were getting promoted to the San Francisco Giants.

The Giants made no deadline deals Thursday to go with the acquisition of Jake Peavy. Instead, the Giants will make a playoff push with the players they have.

That started Friday, when Duffy, an infielder, and Parker, an outfielder, were called up to fill the roster spots vacated when second baseman Dan Uggla and outfielder Tyler Colvin were designated for assignment.

It was the first time since August of 2011 that the Giants have promoted a player midseason from Double-A. Back then it was pitcher Erik Surkamp.

A position player had not been called up from Double-A since Darren Ford earned a September call-up in 2010 as used strictly as a pinch-runner and defender.

The Giants are expecting Duffy and Parker to contribute more than that.

As for Duffy, the move is intriguing. Duffy, drafted as a shortstop, was an 18th-round pick out of Long Beach State in 2012. He has hit at every level: .247/.361 OBP in shortseason A Salem-Keizer in 2012, .307/.405 for Low-A Augusta in 2013, .292/.342 in high-A San Jose in 2013.

He’s hitting .332 with .398 OBP for Double-A Richmond in a pitcher-friendly Eastern League. He led Richmond in hitting by a long shot. And through his minor-league career, he’s walked about as much as he has struck out.

Jarrett Parker is another story. Parker, a second-round pick in 2010, has struggled at the start of every season in the minors, then recovered toward respectability. He hit .253 for San Jose in 2011, .247 for San Jose in 2012, .245 for Richmond in 2013 and .275 with 12 HRs and 58 RBI in 99 games for Richmond this year.

But he’s a big-time swing-and-miss guy: 144 Ks in 127 games in 2011, 175 Ks in 122 games in 2012, 161 Ks in 131 games in 2013, and 103 Ks already in 99 games in 2014.

But he may not be with the club for long. Brandon Belt is expected to be activated from the seven-day concussion disabled list this weekend. When that happens, look for Parker to return to Richmond.

Even if the Giants opt to jettison Travis Ishikawa when Belt returns, look to Parker to get a return bus trip to Richmond by next week when Angel Pagan is expected back from the DL.

Pagan played in an Arizona Rookie League game Friday night, and looked good. Barring setbacks, Pagan could return to the Giants when they arrive in Milwaukee on Tuesday.

But Duffy, as one of two middle infield reserves — along with Joaquin Arias — figures to stick around longer. At least until Ehire Adrianza comes off the disabled list. But that likely won’t happen until the Giants return from this 10-game road trip.

As for Uggla and Colvin, their stints with the Giants may not be over. If both players clear waivers, and they should (Uggla for sure), they could be sent to Fresno, if they accept the assignment.

Report: San Francisco Giants acquire Jake Peavy, which can’t be good news

Boston Red Sox's Jake Peavy, left, delivers a pitch to Houston Astros' Jose Altuve in the first inning of a baseball game Saturday, July 12, 2014, in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

Boston Red Sox’s Jake Peavy, left, delivers a pitch to Houston Astros’ Jose Altuve in the first inning of a baseball game Saturday, July 12, 2014, in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

The Associated Press reported Saturday that the San Francisco Giants are finalizing a deal to bring veteran pitcher Jake Peavy to the Giants.

Details are still being worked out, according to the report. But the Red Sox will reportedly get minor league pitchers Heath Hembree and Edwin Escobar.

The details being worked out likely involve money and other provisions. Peavy is making $14.5 million this season with the Red Sox, meaning he is still owed about $6 million. He has a player option of $15 million for 2015, but he is unlikely to reach the milestones to make that option vest. He would basically have to double his current innings output of 124 innings this season to allow that option to kick in.

Normally when Giants GM Brian Sabaen makes these midseason deals, I reserved judgment, preferring to defer to his better judgment.

The Giants have made several midseason deals over the past few years. Not all of the deals have worked out as the Giants hoped, but at least the Giants didn’t have to give up much to get them.

I wrote about this earlier, listing the prospects the Giants have given up in midseason deals the past five years. Really, only Zack Wheeler has amounted to anything, and the jury is still out on him.

But I’m going to say now that I don’t like this deal. To me, it represents of harbinger of bad news.

And here’s why.

CAIN SITUATION MUST BE BAD: When Matt Cain went on the disabled list after the All-Star break, manager Bruce Bochy said Cain could be down “one week, two weeks …. eight weeks. We just don’t know.” The Giants have been cagy with health reports of their players. So when they say they don’t know, we have to conclude they at least suspect. And the consumation of this deal must indicate they suspect that Cain may not return this season.

THE PRICE WAS TOO HIGH: In giving up Escobar and Hembree, the Giants parted with their No. 2 and No. 11 prospects, according to MLB.com’s preseason list of prospects. Both pitchers have appeared to be on the fast track to the majors in recent spring trainings. Escobar, 22, was thought to be in position to get a call-up this season, but he’s had a rough season in Triple-A. He’s 3-8 with 5.11 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 111 innings at Fresno. Hembree, 25, was thought to be the Giants “closer of the future” a couple of springs ago. But this season represents his third at the Triple-A level. He is 1-3 with 3.89 ERA, 18 saves and 46 strikeouts in 39.1 innings this season with Fresno. He was recently named a PCL All-Star. He did have a brief stint with the Giants in 2013, throwing 7.2 scoreless innings with 12 strikeouts. So I might have been OK giving up one of these two pitchers, along with some lower-level prospects, for Peavy. But giving up both?

THIS AIN’T THE SAME JAKE PEAVY: This has not been a good season for Peavy, 33, in Boston. He’s 1-9 with 4.72 ERA in 20 starts. He leads the American League in home runs allowed with 20. Here are most stats for 2014 to sample

  • His ERA+ of 83 is the lowest of his big-league career.
    His FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) of 4.81 is his highest since his second big-league season in 2003 when he was 22.
    His WHIP of 1.427 is the highest of his career.
    His Hit Allowed Rate of 9.5 is the second highest of his career.
    His HR Allowed Rate of 1.5 is the highest of his career.
    His Walk Rate of 3.3 is his highest since 2002.
    His Strikeout Rate of 7.3 is his lowest since 2002.

Looking for good news?

The Giants are clearly hoping that a return to the National League, where he hasn’t pitched since 2009, will do Peavy good. His four starts against NL teams this season have all been quality starts.

They are also hoping that pitching in AT&T Park will provide better results than pitching in Fenway.

Well, Peavy is 14-2 with 2.21 ERA against the Dodgers in his career also looked good to the Giants. Although it should be pointed out that most of those starts occurred in 2009 or earlier when Peavy was a different pitcher and the Dodgers were a different team. Peavy did limit the Dodgers to one run on three hits in a complete game win in Dodger Stadium last August.

And for good news, Peavy make be on the mound when the Giants face the Dodgers on Sunday night, instead of Yusmeiro Petit.

A look at prospects San Francisco Giants traded away in recent midseason deals

New York Mets starting pitcher Zack Wheeler follows through with a pitch against the San Diego Padres in the first inning of a baseball game Sunday, July 20, 2014, in San Diego.  (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

New York Mets starting pitcher Zack Wheeler follows through with a pitch against the San Diego Padres in the first inning of a baseball game Sunday, July 20, 2014, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

As the Giants consider making a midseason season trade to bolster the run toward the 2014 playoffs, it might be a good idea to look at what happened to the prospects the Giants traded away in midseason deals over the past five years.
2009 Tim Alderson (for Freddy Sanchez)

Alderson was the Giants’ No. 2 pitching prospect (behind Madison Bumgarner) when he was traded to the Pirates for Freddy Sanchez. Alderson never made it to the big leagues and was traded to the Orioles organization in July 2013. He was 2-4 with 6.12 ERA for the O’s Triple-A affiliate this season before being released. He signed with the A’s and is currently pitching in Class A Stockton.

2010 Joe Martinez and John Bowker (Javier Lopez)

Martinez, a decent long reliever/spot starter with the Giants, made five appearances with the Pirates in 2010. He spent most of the next three seasons in the minors with the Pirates, Diamondbacks and Indians. He was 0-3 with 16.36 ERA with the Angels’ Triple-A team before retiring this April at age 31. Bowker played for the Pirates’ Triple-A team after being acquired in the trade and earned a September call-up. He made the Pirates 2011 roster as a reserve, but spent most of the season in the minors before being traded to the Phillies late that season. In 2012, he went to play in Japan.

2010 Dan Turpen (Ramon Ramirez)

Turpen, a reliever never, made it out of the minors, first with the Red Sox, then Rockies and currently Twins. He’s pitching for the Twins’ Double-A team.

2010 Evan Crawford (Mike Fontenot)

An outfielder, Crawford never made it above Class A ball. He’s currently playing Independent ball in the Frontier League.

2011 Henry Sosa, Jason Stoffel (Jeff Keppinger)

Sosa made a brief appearance with the Astros in 2011. He was later released and signed with the Dodgers this season. He is 1-2 with 3.72 ERA in seven starts for Triple-A Albuquerque. Stoffel, a reliever, is still in the Astros’ system. He’s 2-3 with 2.91 ERA this season for Triple-A Oklahoma City.

2011 Thomas Neal (Orlando Cabrera)

Neal, an outfielder, spent 2011 and most of 2012 in the minors before earning a September callup from the Indians. He was released in January 2013 and signed with the Yankees, earning a couple of brief promotions in June and July of 2013. The Cubs claimed him off waivers in August of that year. He signed a minor-league deal with the Reds in 2014. He’s hitting .254 in 80 games for the Reds’ Triple-A team.

2011 Zack Wheeler (Carlos Beltran)

The former No. 6 overall pick in the 2009 draft, Wheeler was the Giants’ top prospect when he was dealt to the Mets for Beltran. Wheeler was promoted in 2013, going 7-5 with 3.42 ERA in 17 starts. He is 5-8 with 3.78 ERA in 20 starts this season for the Mets.

2012 Charlie Culberson (Marco Scutaro)

Culberson has bounced back-and-forth between the Rockies and Triple-A since being acquired. He is hitting .188 with 2 HR and 12 RBI in 61 games for the Rockies this season.

2012 Nate Schierholtz, Tommy Joseph, Seth Rosin (Hunter Pence)

Schierholtz hit .273 with 1 HR and 5 RBI for the Phillies after the trade in 2012. He signed as a free agent with the Cubs in 2013, hitting 21 HRs, 68 RBI and .251. He had 5 HR, 31 RBI and is hitting .199 this season for the Cubs. Joseph, a catcher, was the key piece in the Pence deal. But he has not realized his potential yet as concussion injuries have slowed his progress. He hit .209 in 21 games for Triple-A Leigh Valley last year. He’s hitting .282 in 21 games for Double-A Reading this season. Rosin pitched 2013 in Double-A before being taken by the Mets in 2013 Rule 5 Draft and traded to the Dodgers. He was on the Dodgers’ opening day roster, but never appeared in a game before being claimed off waivers by the Rangers in late March. He pitched in three games before being DFA’d by the Rangers in April and returned to the Phillies. He is 2-5 with a 4.46 ERA as a reliever for the Philles’ Double-A and Triple-A teams this season.

San Francisco Giants have a magic number and it’s four

four

We’re past the All-Star break. Time to start talking about magic numbers, right?

OK, maybe not. But there is a magic number for the Giants and winning baseball games … at least in the past month.

It’s four.

That the number of runs you have to hope the Giants score tonight against the Phillies. Or any night for that matter.

Since June 20, the Giants are 11-0 when they score four runs or more in a game.

When they don’t, they are 0-15.

Not an earth-shattering stat exactly.

For the season, the Giants are 40-10 when they score 4 or more runs in a game, and 10-34 when they do not.

But here’s one stat that I thought was interesting.

When opponents score two runs in a game, exactly two runs, the Giants this season are 8-9.

EIGHT AND NINE when the opponent scores just two runs.

Not like you had to explain that stat to Matt Cain or Ryan Vogelsong.

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Matt Cain looks on from the dugout during the first inning of a baseball game against the Colorado Rockies on Thursday, May 16, 2013, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Matt Cain looks on from the dugout during the first inning of a baseball game against the Colorado Rockies on Thursday, May 16, 2013, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

As San Francisco Giants revolving door turns: Cain, Belt out; Uggla, Kontos, Duvall, Petit in

Dan Uggla

Dan Uggla

As the post All-Star break began, San Francisco Giants fans were lifted with some hope.

The Giants had a modest three-game winning streak. It appeared they were starting to get healthy with the return of Brandon Belt and Marco Scutaro.

But then the reality of Monday hit like a rock.

The Giants placed Matt Cain on the disabled list for the third time this season. And it felt very similar to his first two trips.

Before the All-Star break, Cain was reshuffled in the rotation to the No. 5 spot. Manager Bruce Bochy said, at the time, there was no specific reason for this and that the Giants just wanted to give Cain more time.

Then came news Friday of Cain’s “cranky elbow,” but that he was still expected to start Tuesday against the Phillies.

Then came news of his third DL stint on Monday with elbow inflammation. Cain is eligible to return from the DL Sunday against the Dodgers, but at this point it looks very doubtful.

It was like deja vu from his first two stints, first with a finger laceration and later with a hamstring strain. First reports said “yeah, he’ll be OK and make his next start” followed by “DL time.”

So Yusmeiro Petit gets the call again to fill in for Cain.

On the surface, you can say Petit’s 3-3 record and 3.86 ERA this season is better than Cain’s 2-7 mark and 4.18 ERA. But then you look at Petit’s relief/start splits.

He’s 2-1 with 2.45 ERA in relief and 1-2 with a 5.81 ERA in his five starts.

George Kontos, who has been pitching very well lately in Fresno, gets the call to fill Cain’s roster spot.

Then came news that Belt would be placed on the seven-day concussion DL. Belt was hit in the face with a thrown ball during batting practice on Saturday. Belt was looking to receive a throw from shortstop when another one came in from second base.

Figures.

Belt started the game Saturday and came out of the game with dizziness. He’ll be eligible to return on Sunday vs. the Dodgers.

Adam Duvall got the call to fill Belt’s roster spot. Duvall, who got called up in June, has hit 3 HRs, 11 RBI and .310 in his last 10 games with Fresno.

And, finally, the Giants took a flyer on veteran second baseman Dan Uggla.

When Uggla was released by the Braves last week, several Giants fans on Twitter was screaming for the Giants NOT to sign him. They compared him to Brandon Hicks, except older and not nearly as good a fielder.

But given their options at second base, it’s a no-risk move to sign Uggla to a minor-league deal and send him to Fresno in an effort to find his stroke.

Uggla has an Aug. 1 opt-out date. That means if he hasn’t been called up to the Giants by then, he can opt-out of his deal and find a better one somewhere else.

It gives the Giants about 10 days to see if Uggla can help.

The best-case scenario is that the Giants catch a little lightning-in-a-bottle with Uggla, similar to what they did in 2010 with Pat Burrell and Cody Ross.

At worst, Uggla spends 10 days in Fresno. That should be long enough.

Everyone hits in Fresno. Juan Perez is hitting .337 in Fresno. Hicks is hitting .333 since he got sent to Fresno.

If in 10 days Uggla isn’t hitting in Fresno, let him take his opt-out.

Is Tim Lincecum back? Well, you could say The Freak has never been better

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum throws in the first inning of their baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday, July 11, 2014, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum throws in the first inning of their baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday, July 11, 2014, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

All of the talk around San Francisco these days revolves around one question.

“Is Tim Lincecum back?”

After two Cy Young seasons and two world championship seasons, Giants fans want to know if The Freak is back to his form from 2008-11 after a very bumpy stretch since 2012.

Well, one way to answer that question is to say Tim Lincecum has, in fact, never been better.

After his past four starts since June 25, Tim Lincecum’s stats are as follows …

  • 4-0
  • 30.1 innings pitched
  • 10 hits allowed
  • 1 earned run
  • 9 walks
  • 24 strikeouts
  • 0.30 ERA

Now compare that to his best four-start stretches over his career.

July 16-Aug. 1, 2007: 2-0, 26.1 IP, 14 H, 4 ER, 13 BB, 26 K, 1.37 ERA

April 19-May 4, 2008: 2-1, 27.1 IP, 24 H, 3 ER, 11 BB, 23 K, 0.99 ERA (3 scoreless outings out of four)

Aug. 12-27, 2008: 3-0, 27.2 IP, 13 H, 3 ER, 12 BB, 35 K, 0.98 ERA

July 27-Aug. 12, 2009: 2-0, 32.2 IP, 21 H, 4 ER, 6 BB, 37 K, 1.10 ERA

April 5-23, 2010: 4-0, 27 IP, 19 H, 3 ER, 6 BB, 32 K, 1.00 ERA

May 4-21, 2011: 2-1, 29.2 IP, 21 H, 3 ER, 11 BB, 30 K, 0.91 ERA (3 scoreless outings out of 4)

July 9-28, 2011: 3-1, 25 IP, 15 H, 3 ER, 15 BB, 26 K, 1.08 ERA

Aug. 7-24, 2011: 3-1, 29.2 IP, 18 H, 3 ER, 11 BB, 29 K, 0.91 ERA

Clearly, he’s never had a four-game stretch that was as good as his current run in terms of run prevention. In fact, it’s not even close.

It’s also important to note that his strikeout rate on the current stretch is not as high as in his previous impressive stretches.

But also in only two of the previous stretches did Lincecum give up fewer walks than his current streak, and in none of his previous stretches did he allow fewer hits than his current one. Again, it’s not even close.

So is Tim Lincecum back to being the pitcher he was in 2008-11.

No. He’s a different pitcher. But he’s getting the results.

Now some folks out there are still a bit skeptical, and they take Lincecum’s recent run with a grain of salt.

Freak me once, shame on you. Freak me twice …

They’ll point out that with all of his recent success, his ERA still sits at 3.66. Lincecum hasn’t had an in-season ERA that low (after May 1) since the end of the 2011 season.

But consider this. If you remove Lincecum’s two worst starts of the season (April 9 vs. Arizona, 4 IP, 7 ER; June 3 vs. Cincinnati, 4.1 IP, 8 ER), and Lincecum’s ERA drops down to 2.86. That represents 17 of his 19 starts.

Also consider he has posted quality starts in six of his past seven starts (just missing one — 6 IP, 4 ER — vs. Arizona on June 20), and in nine of his past 12 starts. And one of those non-quality starts was when he was lifted after 96 pitches despite throwing five scoreless innings vs. the Cubs.

Yes, Lincecum still has a big home-road disparity in his numbers. But 9 of his last 12 starts at home. So it’s hard to tell if his recent success is due to pitching so often at home, or if his high road numbers are due to the fact that he made four road starts prior to May 8, and only three since, when he has started to figure out how to pitch without being overpowering.

So while the jury is still out for some, we are impressed and encouraged by Lincecum’s recent success.

Will he be the Cy Young-winning super stud of 2008-09?

Maybe not. But can he be a top-of-the-rotation quality starter?

We’re beginning to think “yes.”

Brian Sabean’s inability to fortify bench in offseason is cause of San Francisco Giants’ midseason slide

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)

Brian Sabean made this bed. Now, we all have to sleep in it.

Luckily, with the way the Giants are playing, the ZZZZ’s coming easily.

Last offseason, the Giants went into the offseason with some basic questions

  • Who will replace Barry Zito in the rotation?
  • Would the Giants re-sign Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong and/or Javier Lopez?
  • Who is going to play left field?

The Giants answered those questions by signing Tim Hudson and Michael Morse and bring back Lincecum, Vogelsong and Lopez.

And, for the most part, those moves have worked out for the Giants. Most fans smart enough to realize the Giants were going to be in on top-of-the-market free agents, like Shin-Soo Choo or Jacoby Ellsbury, would agree with that.

But there was one area I kept waiting for the Giants front-office to address. And it wasn’t an area that was going to cost of ton of money, and yet would pay big dividends down the road.

And that is the bench. And more specificially, the infield bench.

Now, the Giants were expecting that Marco Scutaro would be ready to open the season. But when you have a 39-year-old second baseman with a history of back trouble, wouldn’t want some insurance?

And Giants fan watched the likes of Tony Abreu and Joaquin Arias last year and knew that there were better options to serve as Scutaro’s backups.

I watched as Emilio Bonifacio signed with the Cubs, Skip Schumaker signed with the Reds, Mark Ellis signed with Cardinals. I even wondered why the Giants weren’t in on Justin Turner when he received a non-roster invite by the Dodgers to Spring Training.

So who did Sabean bring in? Brandon Hicks, an infielder with 55 games of big-league experience and a career batting average of .133.

In fact, the entire bench the Giants broke camp with was not all that impressive: Hector Sanchez, Arias, Ehire Andrianza, Gregor Blanco and Juan Perez.

But the Giants poor benched was masked in the opening weeks of the season as the Giants … a) got off to hot start at plate, particularly with power; b) stayed healthy; c) caught lightning-in-bottle with Hicks’ unexpected power output.

And then the Giants’ power output cooled off, injuries came (first to Brandon Belt, then Angel Pagan) and Hicks’ offensive production completely dried up.

Now, when manager Bruce Bochy looks for alternatives to spark the lineup, he’s finding a bench that is bare.

How bare? Consider this.

I took the “ideal” starting lineup of every National League team (this is the lineup each team hoped to put onto the field to begin the season provided everyone was healthy), then subtracted the production of those players (and batting production from pitchers) from the total production of the team this season to measure the production of each team’s bench and midseason minor-league callups.

In doing that, I found, with no great surprise, the Giants have the third-worst bench batting average in the NL at .201 through July 4.

To make matters worse, the two teams that rank lower in bench production than the Giants have not depended on their bench that much.

The Cardinals had the worst bench batting average in the NL. But the Cardinals have had the third-fewest bench at-bats this season. The Phillies are No. 2 in bench batting average and No. 2 in fewest bench ABs.

However, the Giants have the third-worst bench batting average, but have required the third-most bench ABs in the National League.

So they have one of the worst benches in the league, and they’ve had to depend on that bench more than most of the teams in the league.

That’s a bad combination.

SO what’s the solution?

Well, they can get healthy. The Giants are hopeful that both Scutaro and Pagan will be able to return to the lineup after the All-Star Break. In a couple of days, Pablo Sandoval should be able to return.

Apart from that, they need to improve the depth of this roster. And that won’t cost a truckload of money or gut the farm system.

Remember in 2010, the Giants added the likes of Cody Ross and Mike Fontenot. In 2012, it was Scutaro. When acquired, none of these deals with thought to be blockbusters. But they did produce two NLCS MVPs and key cogs in those title runs.

And they need a little luck. For every Cody Ross, there’s a Jose Guillen. For every Scutaro, there’s an Orlando Cabrera.

But the answer to the Giants’ woes may not be that far away. Sabean missed his chance to deal with this shortcoming in the offseason. But he gets his second chance as the trade deadline approaches.

Adam Duvall and other San Francisco Giants who hit home run in first big-league game

San Francisco Giants' Adam Duvall at bat during their baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds Thursday, June 26, 2014, in San Francisco. The game was his first in the major league. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

San Francisco Giants’ Adam Duvall at bat during their baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds Thursday, June 26, 2014, in San Francisco. The game was his first in the major league. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

With Adam Duvall in the lineup today against the St. Louis Cardinals — which might be the last game we see Duvall play with Giants for a while with Brandon Belt due off the DL Friday — we thought we’d commemorate the players who hit a home run for the San Francisco Giants in their big-league debut.

  • Adam Duvall, June 26, 2014 (Mike Leake, Cin)
  • Brett Pill, Sept. 6, 2011 (Wade LeBlanc, SD)
  • a-Brandon Crawford, May 27, 2011 (Marco Estrada, Mil)
  • John Bowker, April 12, 2008 (Todd Wellemeyer, StL)
  • Eliezar Alfonzo, June 3, 2006 (Orlando Hernandez, NYM)
  • b-Will Clark, April 8, 1996 (Nolan Ryan, Hou)
  • Randy Kutcher, June 19, 1986 (Craig Leffterts, SD)
  • c-Johnnie LeMaster, Sept. 2, 1975 (Don Sutton, LAD)
  • b-John Montefusco, Sept. 3, 1974 (Charlie Hough, LAD)
  • a-Bobby Bonds, June 25, 1968 (John Purdin, LAD)
  • Orlando Cepeda, April 15, 1958 (Don Bessent, LAD)

Notes

a-grand slam
b-first big-league plate appearance
c-inside-the-park home run

Joe Panik finally becomes a San Francisco Giants, but for how long?

panik

On Saturday, fans got what they’ve been begging the Giants to do for almost a month now — second baseman Joe Panik was called up from Triple-A Fresno.

Panik was the first player the Giants drafted after winning the 2010 World Series (the 29th pick of June 2011 draft out of St. John’s).

Originally drafted as a shortstop, the Giants have been looking at Panik at second base for a while now.

Panik tore up of the Northwest League, hitting .341 in 69 games for Salem-Keizer. He hit .297 in 130 games at Class A San Jose, before hitting .257 last year in 137 games for Richmond in the pitcher-friendly Eastern League.

But in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, Panik has hit .321 with a .382 OBP, 5 home runs, 45 RBI in 74 games for Fresno.

Early in the year, fans weren’t clamoring for Panik. Second baseman Brandon Hicks wasn’t hitting great, but what he did hit, he hit hard — belting eight home runs in his first 41 games.

But since hitting his last home run on May 23, Hicks has just seven hits in 62 at-bats (that’s a .113 average to you and me).

And with other second base options (Joaquin Arias and Ehire Adrianza) not hitting much better, it BEGGED the question “Why not Joe Panik?”

After hemming and hawing for a couple of weeks with some pretty lame excuses, the Giants finally acquiesced and called up Panik on Saturday. Manager Bruce Bochy said he’ll get some consistent starts at 2B, beginning on Sunday.

To make room for Panik, the Giants optioned OF Juan Perez to Fresno (no shocker there) and they designated P Jake Dunning for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster (bit of a surprise there; I was looking at Erik Cordier).

Panik doesn’t bring the power that Hicks has shown. He has five home runs in 326 PA’s for Fresno this year in the hitter-friendly PCL. But has never hit more than seven home runs in any of his four minor-league seasons.

But he is a contact guy. He has 94 hits this season in Fresno against 33 strikeouts (Hicks has 33 hits to 72 strikeouts by comparison). And Panik has 27 walks. Over his minor league career he has 171 walks to 180 strikeouts in 410 games.

Think of him like a younger — much younger — Marco Scutaro.

Now, we get to see if those numbers translate to the big leagues. It doesn’t often. For every Buster Posey, the Giants have had their share of Charlie Culberson, Conner Gillaspie, Nick Noonan and Roger Kieschnick.

The other question is “how long will Panik remain with the Giants?”

Brandon Belt looked good taking BP in Arizona Friday. The thinking is he’ll start a rehab assignment soon, and he could be back with the club before the end of the month.

Then what?

The Giants have a roster full of players who are out of options, meaning they can’t be sent to the minors without first passing through waivers. Juan Perez is the only position player to be sent to Fresno from the big-league roster this season, and he’s been shipped off to Fresno to make room for Panik.

What would the Giants do to make room for Belt, if it isn’t sending Panik back to Fresno?

Add Santiago Casilla to San Francisco Giants’ bad history of key injuries in month of May

San Francisco Giants' Santiago Casilla, center, is helped up after falling while running out a ground out against the Colorado Rockies in the top of the ninth inning of the Giants' 5-1 victory in a baseball game in Denver on Wednesday, May 21, 2014. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

San Francisco Giants’ Santiago Casilla, center, is helped up after falling while running out a ground out against the Colorado Rockies in the top of the ninth inning of the Giants’ 5-1 victory in a baseball game in Denver on Wednesday, May 21, 2014. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

April showers bring May flowers. What do May flowers bring?

Well, for the San Francisco Giants, significant injuries. At least that’s been true over the past few seasons.

Mark DeRosa, Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Ryan Vogelsong, Angel Pagan. All suffered significant injuries that cost them weeks of playing time in May.

San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Santiago Casilla, center, is helped off the field after injuring himself while running out a ground ball against the Colorado Rockies in the ninth inning of the Giants' 5-1 victory in a baseball game in Denver on Wednesday, May 21, 2014. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Santiago Casilla, center, is helped off the field after injuring himself while running out a ground ball against the Colorado Rockies in the ninth inning of the Giants’ 5-1 victory in a baseball game in Denver on Wednesday, May 21, 2014. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Wednesday’s injury may have been the most frustrating.

In the top of the ninth, after he had just escaped a bases-loaded jam with the help of a double play ball, Santiago Casilla came to the plate for the first time since 2012.

Manager Bruce Bochy said afterwards that he gave Casilla instructions not to swing. But Casilla went up there hacking, working the count full before hitting a chopper up the middle. Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki charged the ball and threw to first. Casilla raced down the baseline with his hair on fire, as if they play were in Game 7 of the World Series.

It was a game in May, and the Giants were leading 5-1. Just before he reached the bag, Casilla pulled up, then fell over the bag and began writhing in pain. Casilla suffered a hamstring injury so bad that he could not put wait on the leg and had to be helped off the field by two trainers.

And this came after starter Matt Cain left the game early when he felt his hamstring tighten up.

Casilla is definitely going on the DL. For how long, we won’t know until an MRI is performed Thursday. But it didn’t look good. By the looks of things, if the Giants get Casilla back before the All-Star break, they would be lucky.

But it seems to follow a disturbing trend of key injuries suffered by Giants in the month of May.

Here’s a look back at others since 2010:

2010

Mark DeRosa: Prior to the 2010 season, Mark DeRosa signed a two-year, $12 million deal to be a veteran presence in the lineup. But in May of 2010, DeRosa went on the DL with a wrist injury that ended his 2010 season after playing 26 games in 2010. He came back to play 47 games in 2011, mostly as a reserve. He also started a DL stint in May 2011.

Edgar Renteria: Renteria went on the DL twice in May 2010, the first on May 7 with a strained groin. He returned May 22, played three games then went back on the DL with a strained hamstring for about a month. He would return, suffer other injuries, but return in the postseason to deliver one of the biggest hits in Giants history in Game 5 of the World Series.

2011

Buster Posey: The biggest May injury was Posey’s season-injury ankle injury on May 26 when he got plowed by Scott Cousins.

2012

Jeremy Affeldt: Affeldt went on the DL May 2 with a sprained knee sustained when his 4-year-old son lept into his arms after Affeldt returned home after a game. Now, granted, the injury occurred in late April, but Affeldt went on the DL in May. Affeldt missed the minimum, so it wasn’t major injury, but worth mentioning.

Pablo Sandoval: Almost a year after breaking the hamate bone in his right hand, Sandoval breaks the hamate bone in his left hand, leaving a game early against the Marlins on May 2. He would be out until June 9.

2013

Santiago Casilla: This isn’t the first time Casilla visited the DL in May. Last season, he went on DL on May 21 with a cyst in his right knee and did not return from the DL until July 14.

Ryan Vogelsong: Vogelsong was off to a bad start in 2013. But he looked to be turning things around with his best start of the season, throwing five shutout innings against the Nationals. Then he broke his hand swinging at a pitch at the plate. He would be out until Aug. 9.

Angel Pagan: Pagan supplied perhaps the most exciting play of the 2013 season for the Giants when he won a game against the Rockies with a 10th-inning, inside-the-park home run. But Pagan hurt his hamstring on the play on May 25. They waited until June 7 to put him on the DL. He tried to return later in June, but aggravated the injury on June 20 playing for Class San Jose. He would later have surgery and be out until Aug. 30.

2014

Brandon Belt: Belt went on the DL after suffering a broken thumb when he was hit by a pitch from the Dodgers’ Paul Maholm on May 9. He’s not expected back until late June, at the earliest.

Friday Farm Report: Andrew Susac makes Baseball America’s Hot Sheet

Giants fans are always on the lookout for the next hot prospect in their farm system.

Well, this week at least, Basseball America says that’s Andrew Susac.

susacSusac was No. 8 on Baseball America’s Hot Sheet this week. As BA puts it, this feature simply recognizes the hottest prospects in the minors during the past week.

Susac worked his way onto the list with a week in which he hit 6 for 19 (.316) with four home runs, 7 RBI, two walks and six strikeouts.

Susac is now hitting .314 for the season with a .404 OBP and 1.015 OPS. In 22 games in Fresno, he’s now hit half as many home runs (six) than he did last season at Double-A Richmond (12).

Now, Fresno is a hitter-friendly environment, and Richmond is more pitcher-friendly. But the offensive spike for Susac is encouraging, considering that it followed a stretch when he missed some time with concussion-like symptoms after taking a foul ball to the mask.

Still, John Manuel of Baseball America has been impressed.

“I saw him in the fall league last year, and I knew we were light on him in our rankings and in our Giants top 10 rankings,” Manuel said on MLB Network’s The Rundown. “He should have been in the Giants top 10 prospects.”

It’s worth noting that CSN Bay Area’s Andrew Baggarly supplied those rankings to Baseball America.

“He’s got power the other way,” Manuel said. “I saw him hit a home run to right-center field at Scottsdale Stadium while doing a game on (MLB Network). I could see him in the big leagues sooner than later with Brandon Belt on the disabled list.”

Matt Yallof of MLB Network noted that at 24 the clock was ticking on Susac as a prospect.

But not really. When the Giants drafted Susac in the second round of the 2011, he was recovering from a knee injury that ended his season at Oregon State.

Susac did not play in 2011. He played 2012 in Class A San Jose (hitting .244 with 9 HRs in 102 games) and 2013 in Double-A Richmond (.256 with 12 HRs in 84 games). So he’s right where he needs to be in his first season in Triple-A.

As far as getting a call-up to the bigs? Well, like Adam Duvall, the Giants would rather see Susac continue to get regular at-bats and playing time in Fresno than ride the bench in San Francisco. Improving his defense is something the Giants would like to see from Susac.

But he does become a viable option if the Giants need his bat later this season.

Other prospects in Fresno

  • 3B ADAM DUVALL: Duvall continues to tear it up. He’s hitting .359 with .419 OBP and an OPS of 1.419 over the past 10 games, with 6 HRs and 14 RBI. He’s been playing a little bit at 1B while the Grizzlies other 1B has been on the mend.
  • 2B JOE PANIK: Panik has cooled a little, hitting .282 over the past 10 games. He’s still hitting .314 for the season with a .381 OBP. He has 16 walks against 18 strikeouts. With Marco Scutaro out, Panik remains an option should something happen to Brandon Hicks.
  • OF GARY BROWN: Uh oh. After a good start to the season, Brown has begun to slip. He’s hitting .179 (7 for 39) over the past 10 games. He’s hitting .267 for the season with 31 Ks against 15 BBs.
  • P EDWIN ESCOBAR: Escobar was thought to be at the front of the line to get called up if the Giants needed a starter. But he’s struggled this season (1-4, 5.18 ERA). Opponents are hitting .308 against this season. The PCL is a hitter friendly league but you’d like to see better numbers than that from Escobar.
  • P CHRIS HESTON: Heston may have been in Escobar’s position last year, but struggled with a 5.80 ERA. He’s 3-2 with 3.40 ERA this season with 31 strikeouts against 10 walks. He’s allowed 15 earned runs, but many of those runs have scored on the five home runs he’s allowed in seven starts.

 

Celebrating Splash Hits from Brandon Crawford, Tyler Colvin with some fun facts

San Francisco Giants' Brandon Crawford (35) is congratulated by third base coach Tim Flannery after hitting a two-run home run off of Atlanta Braves pitcher David Carpenter during the eighth inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Wednesday, May 14, 2014. The Giants won 10-4. (AP Photo)

San Francisco Giants’ Brandon Crawford (35) is congratulated by third base coach Tim Flannery after hitting a two-run home run off of Atlanta Braves pitcher David Carpenter during the eighth inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Wednesday, May 14, 2014. The Giants won 10-4. (AP Photo)

Home runs have been coming fast and furious for the Giants this season, and that means More Splash Hits.

Of course, we like that.

Brandon Crawford belted the 66th Splash Hit at AT&T Park in the Giants’ 10-4 win over the Braves on Wednesday.

It came on the heels of Tyler Colvin hitting the 65th Splash Hit in Monday’s win over the Braves.

It’s the first time two Splash Hits have been hit so close to another since Barry Bonds smacked Splash Hits on consecutive days on April 12 and 13, 2004.

 

Here are some other fun facts about the Giants and Splash Hits this season:

  • With three Splash Hits this season, it’s the first time the Giants have had that many in a season since hitting five in 2011, and it’s only May 15.
  • It is only the second time that the Giants have hit three Splash Hits by May 14. The other time was in 2000, the season the park opened, when Barry Bonds hit two Splash Hits in one game on May 10 to give him three for the season.
  • It’s the second time two different Giants have hit Splash Hits two days apart since Felipe Crespo and Bonds hit Splash Hits on May 28 and May 30, 2001.
  • Colvin became the first Giant to hit a Splash Hit in his home debut with the Giants.
  • Colvin became the 18th different player to record a Splash Hit (Splash Hits are defined as home runs into the bay hit by a Giants player).
  • Crawford moved into a six-way tie for fourth on the all-time list of Splash Hits with his second.
  • If Crawford hits another Splash Hit this season, he will become the second player to record three or more in a second. Bonds did it five times (six in 2000, nine in 2001, six in 2002, six in 2003, four in 2004).

Why so many people were dead wrong about the game-winning play and review for Pirates in win over San Francisco Giants

Pittsburgh Pirates' Starling Marte, left, begins his slide as San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey as gets the throw during the ninth inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh Tuesday, May 6, 2014. Marte was called out but the call was overturned upon review. It was a walk-off triple, and an error, allowing Marte to score. The Pirates won 2-1.  (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Pittsburgh Pirates’ Starling Marte, left, begins his slide as San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey as gets the throw during the ninth inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh Tuesday, May 6, 2014. Marte was called out but the call was overturned upon review. It was a walk-off triple, and an error, allowing Marte to score. The Pirates won 2-1. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Now, that was a tough way for a six-game winning streak to end.

A two-out triple and error allowed Starling Marte to race around the bases and score the winning run in a 2-1 win for the Pittsburgh Pirates over the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday.

To make matters worse, Marte was called out at the plate, but the call was reversed on replay — the first time that a game has been decided by a review reversal.

You had to figure it would happen to Giants.

There was a lot of conjecture and debate about the final play on talk radio and Twitter, as Giants fans were looking for someone to pin the blame on.

So let’s look at the suspects:

HUNTER PENCE: Some fans said that Pence could have played the ball better off the wall in right. The ball bounced away from Pence after hitting the wall, allowing Marte to take third.

I believe Pence misjudged the carry on this ball. When it came off Marte’s bat, I thought that Pence would catch the ball on the warning track. I think Pence thought the same thing, which put him in a bad spot to play the ball off the wall.

So could he have played the ball better? Yes. But really it would have meant the difference between Marte at second or Marte at third. And with two out, a base hit is the most likely way Marte would have scored with two out. And a hit to the outfield scores Marte from second or third.

TIM HUDSON: Other fans said that Hudson should have been in a better position to back up the throw to third.

Again, OK, fine. But as a veteran pitcher, I don’t really think that Hudson thought there would be or should have been a throw into third. Is that an excuse? Not really. On a play like that, there’s no other place a pitcher should be than backing up a throw into third on a ball hit to right. But I’m not about to pin this one on Hudson, given the way he pitched when the Giants needed him to give the bullpen some much needed rest.

PABLO SANDOVAL: Given his struggles at the plate, fans are just looking for a reason to make The Panda into The Goat. But not on this play. Fans said Sandoval should have done all he could to block the ball. But the throw was a bad one, forcing Sandoval to lunge for the ball. He actually did a great job to get up quickly, get to the ball and make a spot-on throw home. Sandoval was not at fault.

BUSTER POSEY: This one drove me the most nuts. Fans were howling that Posey should have blocked Marte’s path to the plate. Some were blaming the new rule on blocking the plate, in which case they were wrong TWICE. For one, the new rule does not prevent a catcher from blocking the plate once he has the ball, and on this play, Posey had the ball early enough to block the plate within the rules. Secondly, regardless of the rule and what it allows, the Giants have instructed Posey for more than two years to avoid contact at the plate. Even if it means allowing a run — even the winning run — to score, they would much rather have a healthy Posey. And that’s the right call. Other fans thought Posey should have made a better tag, placing the tag on the hand or arm and not on the body. Well, looking at the replay, Posey did attempt to tag Marte on his left hand or arm, but Marte alerted pulled that hand back to his body to avoid the tag, leaving Posey to tag his chest. That allowed Marte to slip his right hand onto the plate.

If there was a way to fault Posey, it was his positioning at the plate. When Posey took the throw, he was standing right over home plate. When Marte came in with his slide, Posey backed away from him to avoid contact, applying the tag in a matador-like style. Again, this is likely a by-product of the Giants telling him to avoid contact. But a better way of that to happen is for Posey to position himself in fair territory and up the line to third to shorten the length of the thrown from Sandoval. This would have given Marte a lane to the plate, as the rule stipulates, but would have allowed Posey to make the tag earlier. The only question here is whether Posey could have done that and still retained a line of sight from Sandoval.

THE UMPIRES: Other fans were screaming that they hate replay. But I can assure you, that if the replay had allowed the Giants to win, they would love it. Replay is here to make sure calls are correct. As Jon Miller said in the post-game, in the entire history of the game, that play would have been called out because the throw beat Marte to the plate. It wouldn’t have mattered where the tag was, unless Marte made a more obvious attempt to avoid the tag. But now, with replay, it matters where the tag is. And that’s the way it should be.

The Giants were saying afterward they thought the replay was inconclusive and should not have been overturned. That’s more their hearts talking. The Giants had a play reviewed earlier this season ruled inconclusive that the Giants felt clearly showed that the call on the field should have been overturned. But that was in the first couple of weeks of the season, when the replay ump was far more reluctant to overturn calls on the field. But now they are willing to make the closer calls on replay. And in this case, the replay showed he was safe.

EHIRE ADRIANZA: If you were looking for the real culprit, you should look no further than Adrianza. This was another case of situational baseball, much like the plays earlier this season by Sandoval when he charged a slow roller and made an ill-advised and errant throw to first, allowing a run to score. The best play here would have been to eat the ball. The situation would have been different had their been one out or no outs. A runner at third with less than two outs is a much different situation. It’s a risk vs. reward situation, and the reward goes up with less than two outs. But with two outs, you don’t need to be a hero. You need to trust your pitcher to get that third out. There really wasn’t a play on Marte at third, and the risk of something bad happening outweighed the reward.

Just your garden variety weird, weird, weird win for San Francisco Giants in Pittsburgh

San Francisco Giants' Jean Machi lays down a bunt during the 13th inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Pittsburgh Tuesday , May 6, 2014. Giants' Hunter Pence on the misplayed bunt and the Giants went on to win in 13 innings, 11-10. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

San Francisco Giants’ Jean Machi lays down a bunt during the 13th inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Pittsburgh Tuesday , May 6, 2014. Giants’ Hunter Pence on the misplayed bunt and the Giants went on to win in 13 innings, 11-10. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

The Giants had hit a home run in their last 11 consecutive games entering Monday’s game in Pittsburgh.

They had hit 21 home runs over that 11-game span.

Home runs had accounted for 30 of the 49 runs the Giants scored over that 11-game span.

Home runs had accounted for 32 of the last 38 runs the Giants had scored on the road since April 5.

But that all ended Monday in the most unusual fashion.

The Giants rallied from an 8-2 deficit and beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 11-10 in 13 innings, extending their current win streak to six games.

They smacked out 20 hits — none of which were home runs.

It was the first time since July 25, 1961 that the Giants had 20 or more hits in a game without hitting a home run. That was a 16-7 win in, of all places, Pittsburgh.

Forbes Field was a monstrous field, nothing like PNC Park.

Bruce Bochy flushed his bench by the ninth inning, burning Juan Perez and Ehire Adrianza as pinch-runners. Perez stayed in the game for left-fielder Michael Morse.

Madison Bumgarner was used as a pinch-hitter. He grounded out. Santiago Casilla threw 40 pitches in two innings of relief, including a 14-pitch at-bat to Neil Walker that ended with a strikeout.

Angel Pagan had three hits, so did Hunter Pence, so did Buster Posey. Hector Sanchez had four hits.

And with all those hits, the Giants’ game-winning rally in the 13th produced a run without a hit. The key plate appearance was made by a relief pitcher — Jean Machi — who had just one previous plate appearance in the big leagues. That was last season. He struck out.

He only had two at-bats in the minors. But he got a hit — a double and an RBI.

The weirdness for Machi started on the mound.

Machi entered the game in the 11th inning. After allowing a single to Andrew McCutchen and striking out Pedro Alvarez, he fielded a comebacker by Sterling Marte. Machi turned and threw to second, but his throw hit umpire Jerry Davis for an error. Machi then got Ike Davis to hit into an inning-ending double play.

In the 12th inning, Gerrit Cole hit a comebacker to Machi, who deflected the ball to second baseman Brandon Hicks, allowing Cole to reach on an infield single.

After striking out Jose Tabata, Machi deflected another ball hit up the middle, one that would have been a custom-made double play to Hicks. Instead, the deflected ball allowed Jordy Mercer to reach on an infield single.

Then Machi got Chris Stewart to hit into an inning-ending double play.

In the top of the 13th, Hunter Pence started things with a one-out walk. Then Perez, and his whopping .059 batting average, received a gift. He was hit by a pitch.

Manager Bruce Bochy then left Machi in the game to sacrifice the runners over, something he’s never even attempted in 13 seasons of professional baseball.

Machi put down the perfect bunt. Pitcher Jared Hughes fielded the bunt, slipped a bit on the grass, then threw errantly to first, allowing Pence to score the go-ahead run.

Then after Sanchez struck out, Machi advanced to second on defensive indifference — not a stolen base. The rally ended after an intentional walk to Brandon Belt and a strikeout by Brandon Hicks.

After Sergio Romo locked down the save, Machi found himself leading the National League in wins by improving his mark to 5-0 on the season.

Jean Machi is now 5-0 with a 0.53 ERA. And one sacrifice bunt.

All this from a guy who was best known to Giants fans for breaking wind in the bullpen after getting called up to Triple-A last season.

Weird.

machi

Madison Bumgarner joins the quality start parade as San Francisco Giants sweet Atlanta Braves

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner delivers to the Atlanta Braves during the sixth inning of a baseball game Sunday, May 4, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Tulis)

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner delivers to the Atlanta Braves during the sixth inning of a baseball game Sunday, May 4, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Tulis)

Here’s one stat the San Francisco Giants fans aren’t talking about right now.

The Giants are 0 for their last 21 at-bats with runners in scoring position over their last five games.

In Saturday’s game in Atlanta, the Giants didn’t get a chance to fail with a runner in scoring position because they never put a runner into scoring position.

Yet the Giants are on a five-game winning streak thanks to home runs and outstanding pitching.

Madison Bumgarner joined the parade of quality starts by limiting the Braves to one unearned run over six innings in a 4-1 win on Saturday.

The win completed the Giants’ first sweep in Atlanta in 1988. That was a really, really, long time ago. How long ago?

It was so long ago that 1988 was the last time the Dodgers won a World Series.

Yeah, like we said, a looooooooooooooooong time ago.

It was good to see Bumgarner regain his form as the ace of the staff. Prior to Sunday’s start, Bumgarner had allowed as many earned runs (four) in his last start (5 IP) as Ryan Vogelsong, Tim Linecum, Tim Hudson, Yusmeiro Petit and Vogelsong had allowed combined in the 33.2 innings over the Giants’ previous five starts.

Bumgarner allowed three hits and one walk, while striking out nine over his six innings of work. He threw 95 pitches and lowered his season ERA to 3.18.

From there, the bullpen continued its streak of scoreless relief. The Giants’ pen has not allowed a run since the ninth inning of Monday’s loss to the Padres.

Since then, they’ve pitched 13 consecutive scoreless innings, allowing only three hits over that stretch.

And the Giants continue to hit the long ball. They added two more on Sunday, both off the bat of Brandon Crawford. He had a solo home run in the fourth, then broke the Giants’ long stretch of hitting just solo homers in the eighth with a two-run shot.

The Giants’ other run came on a run-scoring groundout by Buster Posey in the first inning, meaning that Angel Pagan remains the only Giant to have a run-scoring hit on the road that was not a home run since April 5. Pagan has two such hits.

It’s an odd combination, especially for the Giants — home runs, solid starting pitching and outstanding relief pitching. But it’s produced the first five-game winning streak of the 2014 season, and the longest winning streak since winning six in a row from April 29-May 5, 2013.

Now, it’s a happy flight to Pittsburgh as the Giants have opened this tough 10-game road trip against three playoff teams from 2013 at 3-0.

Home runs continue to power San Francisco Giants unlikely scoring string on the road

San Francisco Giants' Michael Morse (38) is congratulated by teammate Hector Sanchez, left, and manager Bruce Bochy, right, after a solo home run against the Atlanta Braves during the sixth inning of a baseball game Friday, May 2, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Tulis)

San Francisco Giants’ Michael Morse (38) is congratulated by teammate Hector Sanchez, left, and manager Bruce Bochy, right, after a solo home run against the Atlanta Braves during the sixth inning of a baseball game Friday, May 2, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Tulis)

If chick dig the long ball, they love the 2014 San Francisco Giants.

The Giants smacked three more home runs as they beat the Atlanta Braves 3-1 on Saturday in Atlanta.

That makes five solo home runs in the first two games of the series so far, accounting for all five of the Giants’ runs.

But the string of home runs accounting for the Giants’ offense on the road goes back further than that.

Going back to the Giants’ previous road trip in Colorado, the last 18 runs the Giants have scored on the road were accounted for by home runs — 12 of them.

Home runs have also accounted for 24 of the last 28 runs the Giants have scored on the road, and 29 of the last 34 runs they’ve scored on the road, dating all the way back to April 5.

During that span, only one play has a run-scoring hit that was not a home run: Angel Pagan (a two-run single on April 20 in San Diego, and an RBI double on April 5 in L.A.).

Here’s the breakdown (non-homer scoring plays in bold):

May 3 at Atlanta (W 3-1)

  • 3: Solo HR by Michael Morse in 7th inning
  • 2: Solo HR by Buster Posey in 4th inning
  • 1: Solo HR by Brandon Belt in 2nd inning

May 2 at Atlanta (W 2-1)

  • 2: Solo HR by Michael Morse in 6th inning
  • 1: Solo HR by Angel Pagan in 1st inning

April 23 at Colorado (W 12-10)

  • 9-12: Grand slam by Hector Sanchez in 11th inning
  • 8: Solo HR by Hector Sanchez in 8th inning
  • 6-7: 2-run HR by Brandon Belt in 7th inning
  • 3-5: 3-run HR by Michael Morse in 3rd inning
  • 2: Solo HR by Brandon Hicks in 3rd inning
  • 1: Solo HR by Michael Morse in 2nd inning

April 22 at Colorado (L 2-1)

  • 1: Solo HR by Hunter Pence in 5th innin

April 21 at Colorado (L 8-2)

  • 2: Run scores on error in 9th inning
  • 1: Run scores on double play from Buster Posey in 3rd inning

April 20 at San Diego (W 4-2)

  • 3-4: 2-run single by Angel Pagan in 2nd inning
  • 1-2: 2-run HR by Buster Posey in 1st inning

April 19 at San Diego (L 2-1)

  • 1: Solo HR by Michael Morse in 5th inning

April 18 at San Diego (L 2-1)

  • 1: Solo HR by Brandon Belt in 9th inning

April 6 at L.A. Dodgers (L 6-2)

  • 2: Solo HR by Hunter Pence in 6th inning
  • 1: Solo HR by Brandon Belt in 6th inning

April 5 at L.A. Dodgers (W 7-2)

  • 7: RBI Double by Angel Pagan in 6th inning
  • 6: Solo HR by Buster Posey in 5th inning
  • 3-5: 3-run HR by Pablo Sandoval in the 5th inning
  • 2: Solo HR by Michael Morse in the 4th inning
  • 1: RBI double by Madison Bumgarner in the 2nd inning

Friday Farm Report: Maybe it’s time for San Francisco Giants to call up Tyler Colvin

The struggles of the San Francisco Giants bench players in 2014 have been well documented.

  • Ehire Adrianza is hitting .185
    Hector Sanchez is hitting .171
    Joaquin Arias is hitting .146
    Gregor Blanco is hitting .125

But all of those struggles pale in comparison to the woes at the plate of Juan Perez, who is hitting .067 in 15 at-bats this season.

While Perez have been used mostly as a defensive replacement for Michael Morse — and doing a good job of that — the Giants may want to consider other options.

Unlike his other bench mates, Perez has options, which means he can be sent down to the minors without first clearing waivers. The Giants have already done this once, only to recall Perez again less than a week later when pitcher David Huff went on the DL.

So maybe Perez needs to go back to Fresno, and there may be a better option on the bench, like Tyler Colvin.

Colvin was signed to a minor-league deal by the Giants in the offseason and brought to camp to fight for a job. But Colvin battled injuries and struggled this spring, earning a ticket to Fresno.

His struggles continued there, where he opened the season hitting .145.

But things have begun to change for Colvin. Over his past 10 games, he’s hitting .429 (15 for 35) and hit his first home run of the season on Thursday. His average now sits at .269.

Now Triple-A stats are deceiving, as everyone hits in Fresno. Even Perez hit .478 in five games after his demotion last month.

But Colvin has experienced success at the big league level in his short career, something Perez has yet to attain.

Yes, Colvin is a left-handed batter, and Perez is right-handed. But lefty/righty goes right out the window when your righty is hitting .067.

So why not give Colvin a shot?

HIGHLIGHTS IN SYSTEM

TRIPLE-A

  • 2B Joe Panik: While other Fresno hitters have cooled off, Panik continues to deliver at the plate. He’s hitting .306 with a .380 OBP. Over the past 10 games, he’s hitting .378. He doesn’t hit for a lot of power, but he puts the ball in play — two strikeouts over 37 at-bats in last 10 games.
    C Andrew Susac: Susac was placed on the disabled list on April 23 (retroactive to April 21) for concussion-like symptoms after taking a few foul balls off the mask.
    3B Adam Duvall: Duvall has cooled off big time. He has 6 HR, 19 RBI and is hitting .250 for the season. But over the past 10 games: 0 HR, 1 RBI and .147 AVG.
    1B Travis Ishikawa: Hey, look who is a Giant again. Ishikawa was DFA’d by the Pirates on April 19. He signed with the Giants a couple of days later.
    RHP Heath Hembree: The Grizzlies closer had his first bad outing on Wednesday, giving up two runs on four hits in a inning of work against El Paso. He still has a 1.74 ERA with five saves, 10 strikeouts in 10.1 innings of work.

DOUBLE-A

  • OF Jarrett Parker: Parker has been known for power and strikeouts. He seems to be working on cutting down on his whiffs and making more contact. He has 15 strikeouts and nine walks in 88 ABs this season. He’s hitting .295 for the season with 1 HR.
    RHP Derek Law: Law, who impressed the Giants during spring training, is off to a great start. He has seven saves in 11 games with a 0.79 ERA. He has 14 strikeouts in 11.1 innings.

CLASS A

  • OF Mac Williamson: The most disappointing news of the week came out of San Jose where it was announced the power-hitting prospect would undergo Tommy John surgery. The plan was for Williamson to open the season at Double-A. But when elbow issues bothered him, he went to San Jose to play DH. While position players generally come back quicker from this surgery than outfielders, it is expected to end his season. It would not be a surprise to see Williamson pop up again in the Arizona Fall League or winter ball.
    OF Jesus Galindo: The speedy outfielder is hitting .330 with a .374 OBP. He also has 2 HR and 7 RBI and has scored 17 runs in 26 games. But his base stealing needs to improve. He’s 8 for 14.
    3B Mitch Delfino: The 20th round pick out of UCSB is off to a nice start at San Jose, hitting .318 with 6 HR and 20 RBI in 25 games.
    LHP Steven Okert: In a league that favors hitters over pitchers, Okert is doing a solid job as the San Jose closer. He has five saves, 21 strikeouts, five walks and a 1.35 ERA in 13.1 innings.

 

Peter Gammons says San Francisco Giants might be best candidate to trade for David Price

Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher David Price throws against the Chicago White Sox during the sixth inning of a baseball game on Sunday, April 27, 2014, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Andrew A. Nelles)

Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher David Price throws against the Chicago White Sox during the sixth inning of a baseball game on Sunday, April 27, 2014, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Andrew A. Nelles)

OK, so we’ll admit we endure Christopher Russo on MLB Network’s High Heat just so we can get our morning live baseball news fix. We don’t particularly like being yelled at by a New Yorker so early in the day (or any time of day for that matter).

But there was an interesting tidbit that came out of Wednesday’s version of High Heat, thanks to an appearance by celebrated baseball writer Peter Gammons.

The topic of discussion was what the Tampa Bay Rays would do with David Price should the team’s fortune continue to deteriorate this season.

Even though the Dodgers always seem to rise to the top of the list as possible suitors for high-profile players, Gammons doesn’t believe Big Blue makes the most sense as a trade partner for Price.

The team he thinks does make sense may surprise you.

“I think the one that might make sense are the Giants,” Gammons said. “They are loaded with pitching at Double-A — Kyle Crick. They have a couple of other really good young pitchers. (Giants GM) Brian Sabean might take the flier and say ‘OK, a year and a half, we might win once, we might make the playoffs twice. Let’s go and let’s go get David Price, even if we can’t pay him with Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum under contract.’ I think that’s the only place that makes sense.”

Gammons said the Dodgers don’t make sense because what he is hearing is that Los Angeles is unwilling to part with its top prospects: OF Joc Pederson, LHP Julio Urias and SS Corey Seager.

The young arms that Gammons was talking about at Double-A for the Giants is topped by Crick, a 21-year-old right-hander who is the Giants’ top prospect and ranked the No. 30 prospect in all of baseball by MLB.com.

Other pitchers at Double-A who rate as the Giants’ top prospects include LHP Adalberto Mejia (age 20), LHP Ty Blach (23), RHP Clayton Blackburn (21), RHP Derek Law (23) and LHP Josh Osich (25).

And that doesn’t even count 21-year-old lefty Edwin Escobar, who was the 56th-ranked prospect in all of baseball according to Baseball America. Escobar is considered the most big league-ready pitcher in the Giants’ farm system. Escobar has rebounded nicely in his last two starts after a bumpy debut for Triple-A Fresno.

Now, Gammons did mention that all of this is predicated on the notion that the Rays will be in a position by June that they even start about thinking of dealing Price. And that’s a big if.

The next question is whether the Giants will be in a position to trade for a big-time arm.

The Giants already have $125 million committed to 12 players for 2015, $84.5 million to six players in 2016 and $71.4 million to four players in 2017. And that doesn’t include arbitration years for Brandon Belt, or what the Giants will do regarding Pablo Sandoval’s contract.

So it would seem the Giants are going back to their plan they put in place in the post-Barry Bonds years in which they build through their young pitching. That plan helped deliver two World Series titles.

Price is making $14 million this year and can expect to make more than $20 million in 2015 through arbitration. Then comes free agency and the really big pay day in 2016.

So if they acquire Price, they can expect their payroll to approach $150 million in 2015 for just 13 players without knowing …

  • how much Brandon Belt will make in 2015
  • who is going to play third base
  • who is going to play left field (Michael Morse is on a one-year deal)
  • who will play second base (Marco Scutaro can’t be counted on for anything)
  • who will close (Sergio Romo is a free agent in 2015).

We have all the respect for Peter Gammons, and the idea of a 2015 rotation of David Price, Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Tim Hudson and Tim Linecum is worth dreaming about. But when you add up the numbers up, maybe it doesn’t make as much sense after all.

Friday Farm Report: Former No. 1 picks Panik, Brown hitting in Fresno

OK, the first thing you need to remember about Fresno Grizzlies stats is that EVERY hitter hits. Well, almost every hitter.

Juan Perez, who was 0-for-2014 with the Giants, got demoted last week and hit .421 (8 for 19) with three walks in five games before getting recalled. Tony Abreu, who got released and unclaimed by every other club because he couldn’t hit his weight in spring training, is hitting .319 for Fresno.

So you take every hitters’ stats with a grain of salt. Or a whole shaker of it.

Fresno (Triple-A)

2B JOE PANIK: The former first-round pick is having a nice debut at Triple-A. He’s hitting .317 with a .376 OBP. Panik’s numbers have been going down as he rises through the ranks — .341 in short A ball in 2011, .297 to Class A in 2012 and .257 in Double-A in 2013. So this is a good start at Triple-A.

C ANDREW SUSAC: The next is the Giants’ deep system of catchers, Susac has 2 HRs, 9 RBI and is hitting .291 with a .391 OBP. Good offensive numbers. But the book on Susac is he needs to work on his defense.

OF GARY BROWN: Brown, another former first-round pick, struggled mightily in his first go-round at Triple-A last year (.231). But the numbers are better this year: 1 HR, 9 RBI, .282 AVG, .364 OBP. But for a speed guy who is supposed to have a good glove, Brown has 16 strikeouts in 85 ABs this season. He’s also 4 for 7 on stolen bases and has four errors. So there’s work to be done.

3B ADAM DUVALL: The most big league-ready 3B in the farm system, Duvall has shown power with 6 HRs and 19 RBI in 21 games. He’s hitting .271, which is OK. He got off to a hot start, but has cooled some since.

RP HEATH HEMBREE: The Giants “closer of the future” has pitched seven scoreless innings for Fresno, giving up five hits and three walks with 7 strikeouts. He has three saves.

SP MIKE KICKHAM: Kickham has been the best starter in Fresno, despite a 1-3 record. He has a 3.00 ERA, but his WHIP is 1.59 because of 10 walks and 33 walks in 27 innings.

SP EDWIN ESCOBAR: Escobar was expected to be the first pitcher in line should the Giants need to call a starter up from the minors. But he got off to a very bumpy start. He’s 0-1 with 5.49 ERA. But he had his best start of the season last Sunday when he limited Reno to no runs, two hits and no walks in 7 innings of work.

Richmond (Double-A)

OF JARRETT PARKER: The former second-round pick is still swinging from the heels, striking out 15 times in 18 games this season. But he’s hitting .300, and in the hitter-friendly Eastern League, that’s worth noting.

1B ANGEL VILLALONA: Villalona is still working his way back after being out of baseball for a couple of years because legal issues. But he’s off to a good start at Double-A, hitting .288 with 3 HR and 15 RBI in 19 games.

SP CLAYTON BLACKBURN: One of the Giants’ better pitching prospects, Blackburn is 1-2 with a 1.80 ERA in four starts (20 IP). He has 16 strikeouts and four walks.

SP KYLE CRICK: Perhaps the Giants’ top pitching prospect is 1-0 with 3.27 ERA in three starts (11 IP). He has 14 strikeouts, but 11 walks. Obviously something he’ll need to deal with .. control.

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.

 

While Game 6 ghosts still haunt, the 2014 Giants are NOT the 2002 Giants

Scott Spiezio connects on a three-run home run in Game 6 of the 2002 World Series

Scott Spiezio connects on a three-run home run in Game 6 of the 2002 World Series

October 26, 2002 — a date that will live in San Francisco Giants’ fans infamy.

Two World Series championships really hasn’t diminished the sting of that day.

And as the Giants prepare to play Game 6 of the World Series on Tuesday against the Kansas City Royals, memories of Game 6 of the 2002 Series echo back to Giants fans.

The echo began after the Giants won Game 5 on Sunday. This fact dawned on me.

  • The Giants won Game 1 on the road
  • lost Game 2 on the road
  • lost Game 3 at home
  • won Game 4 at home
  • won Game 5 at home

Do you know what Series I’m talking about? Yes, it is the 2014 World Series, but also the 2002 World Series.

Game 6s bring back plenty of bad memories for Giants fans.

In 1987, the Giants took a 3-2 series lead back to St. Louis in the NLCS and never scored another run the rest of the series, losing 1-0 in Game 6 when Candy Maldonado played a Tony Pena single into a triple, then couldn’t throw out the slow-running catcher on a sac fly to shallow right.

The next Game 6 the Giants played was in 2002.

Now, the Giants did exorcise a Game 6 demon in the 2010 NLCS. The Giants took a 3-2 series lead in Philadelphia, and the Giants sealed the series with a Game 6 on the road.

That game could be the road map to manager Bruce Bochy’s approach in this Game 6.

In the game in 2010, Bochy went to the bullpen early when Jonathan Sanchez, yanking him with no outs in the third inning. From there, Bochy went to Jeremy Affeldt, Madison Bumgarner (two inning on two days rest), Javier Lopez, Tim Lincecum (one-third of an inning on ONE day rest) and Brian Wilson to shut out the Phillies.

I don’t see Bochy going to Bumgarner in this Game 6. He made that move with Lincecum in Game 6 in 2002 because he had Matt Cain set to go in Game 7.

I don’t him with the same confidence in Tim Hudson (Wednesday’s Game 7 starter) as he had in Cain in 2010. So Bumgarner will lay in waiting for Wednesday.

But even with that, Game 6 of the 2002 Series lingers.

In Game 5 of the 2010 World Series, after the Giants had taken a 3-0 lead over the Rangers, FOX put up a graphic in the bottom of the seventh that the last time a team had blown a three-run lead or bigger in the seventh inning or later in the World Series was Game 6 of the 2002 Series.

Thanks, Fox.

The Giants held on in 2010 to win the World Series. They also won a Game 6 at home in the 2012 NLCS.

But for me, that Game 6 in 2002 still lingers.

In 2002, my wife and I had joined a church that spring. That October, the pastor and his wife invited us to dinner at their house. That dinner date was set weeks before knowing that the Giants would be playing in Game 6 of the World Series.

But the pastor, a baseball fan himself, said that they would have the game on at their house, so come on over. I did, reluctantly.

Things went well for a while. Looked really good at the seventh inning stretch.

But then things went bad. Really, really bad.

I sat stoically, saying nothing, as I watched the collapse.

The pastor’s wife commented: “Tim, I’m amazed with you. If this were happening to the Padres (the pastor’s team), Scott would be going nuts.”

I kept it together until I got home later that night. Then I went straight to my VCR, ejected the tape I used to record the game and smashed it on my backyard deck.

But 2014 is different.

The 2014 Giants don’t have a closer whose arm is about to fall off. Remember, that game in 2002 was the last of Robb Nen’s big-league career.

This year, the Giants are seeking their first World Series title in 48 years, as they were in 2002. It’s been only two years. A Game 6 loss would be far easier to swallow.

The 2014 Giants have Bruce Bochy as their manager. Bochy is 8-0 in postseason series as manager of the Giants and has postseason record with the Giants of 32-13. The 2002 Giants had Dusty Baker as manager. Baker was 2-3 in postseason series with the Giants and had a postseason record of 11-12. Game 7 was the last game Baker would manage with the Giants. And remember, Baker went on to manage the Cubs in 2003 when he was part of the “Bartman Game” in Game 6 of the NLCS.

This group of Giants are resilient. Many were part of the 2012 team that went 6-0 in elimination games. They’ve bounced back from nearly hitting rock bottom this season in June and July, and they continued to plug away when injuries nearly derailed them late in the season.

And most importantly … I won’t be watching this Game 6 at the house of my pastor.

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