April 2010

Simply put: Doo-doo happens

Well, that was annoying.

But sometimes, stuff happens.
That’s about the only way you can sum up the Giants’ 7-6 loss to the Phillies in 11 innings on Wednesday afternoon.
We can go on and on about what the Giants did wrong. But when we look back, if any of several plays Wednesday were altered by inches, the outcome could have much different.
It didn’t look like a game of inches when Tim Lincecum was rolling through eight innings with a 4-1 lead.
Lincecum pitched in the top of the ninth. But after allowing a four-pitch walk to Shane Victorino with one out, manager Bruce Bochy pulled the pitcher after a 106-pitch outing.
No problem, right? Brian Wilson came in. Wilson had not allowed an earned run coming into Wednesday’s game. 
Wilson got Placido Polanco to fly out for the second out of the inning. Then things went wrong.
Chase Utley followed with a solid single to right, with Victorino taking third. Wilson was careful with Ryan Howard, and eventually walked the first baseman on a full-count pitch.
That brought Jayson Werth up. Wilson got ahead of Werth, but Werth stayed alive by fouling off pitches and eventually worked the count full.
Then Wilson made a good pitch, down and in. Werth was able to get the bat on the ball and hit a flare down the right-field line. Because the outfield was deep trying to cut off balls into the gap, right fielder Nate Schierholtz was playing far off the line — the way you play right field in AT&T Park. He was unable to get to the ball, which landed right on the chalk line for a bases-clearing double.
The game went into the 10th tied 4-4. Jeremy Affeldt came on to pitch and struggled with control, hitting the first batter he faced. The batter, Brian Schneider, eventually reached third, and came home to score on a wild pitch. The pitch wasn’t down in the dirt. It was a hard slider inside that was actually swung at and missed. But Bengie Molina also missed the pitch as it kicked off the heal of his glove for a wild pitch.
But the Giants rallied to tie the game in the bottom of the 10th.
The Giants almost got out of the top of the 11th without any damage from the Phillies. But Wilson Valdez hit a long drive down the left-field line. Left fielder Eugenio Velez almost made a nice grab at the wall, but it instead glanced off the wall for a double that scored the go-ahead run. Later, Velez just plain dropped a much easier fly ball, allowing the second run to score.
That second run would prove vital.
Thanks to Schierholtz’s lead-off double in the bottom of the 11th — capping a 5-for-5 day for the outfielder — the Giants scored once in the bottom of the 11th. And it looked like they may get one more when they loaded the bases with one out. Velez came up and hit a chopper to a drawn-in Ryan Howard at first. Howard threw home off-line, but catcher Schneider caught the ball, spun around, the lunged toward the plate. Juan Uribe attempted to slide around Scheider’s tag, but has he brought his hand down on the plate, it brushed the back side of Schneider’s glove and Uribe was correctly ruled out.
Andres Torres, who had already driven home three runs, grounded out to end the game.
Oh well. So close. So many times. But in the end, the Giants won 2 of 3 from the Phillies, and have won 4 of 6 on this homestand so far. If they can take 2 of 3 from the Rockies over the weekend, it will be a good homestand.

Go figure! Giants beat Halladay

With the way the Giants hit on Sunday — and the very telling post-game comments from Cardinals pitcher Brad Penny — the Giants didn’t figure to have much of a chance against the Phillies’ Roy Halladay.

And then the Giants went out and did the clutch hitting that they’ve been lacking all season and beat Halladay and the Phillies 5-1.

It all started in the first inning, when Edgar Renteria and Pablo Sandoval had back-to-back one-out singles. After both players advanced on a groundout by Aubrey Huff, Mark DeRosa worked the count full to Halladay, then connected on a two-run single to left.

The Giants added another run in the second on consecutive doubles from John Bowker and Eli Whiteside.

In the sixth, Sandoval doubled and Huff singled him home. And in the seventh, Whiteside homered off Halladay, driving one off the base of the foul pole in left.

So after going 5 for 54 with runners in scoring position over the previous week — and four of those hits never left the infield — the Giants went 3 for 7 with RISP against Halladay.

On the flip side, it was another solid outing from Jonathan Sanchez and the Giants bullpen.

Sanchez worked his way in and out of trouble to get through five innings of work. He needed a nice catch in center from Andres Torres to get him out of trouble with two-on in the first. And he pitched his way out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the third.

It was the ninth consecutive game in which Giants pitching had held opponents to two runs or fewer in games not started by a guy whose name rhymes with “Smelly dyer.”

In fact, if you took the ERAs of Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez and added them together, it would still be lower than that of Todd Wellemeyer (7.97 to 8.16).

Wellemeyer gets the chance to lower his ERA today as the Giants face the Phillies and Jamie Moyer in Game 2 of the series.

Another solid outing for Bumgarner

More Splash Hits spent the afternoon watching Giants pitching prospect Madison Bumgarner toss another solid outing in the Fresno Grizzlies’ 4-2 win over the Portland Beavers in Portland.

Also Sunday, we learned something new about Bumgarner: He’s got opposite-field power.

Bumgarner (1-1) gave up one run on four hits and three walks in five innings of work, earning the victory. He struck out three. Bumgarner also hit an opposite-field home run to right field off the Beavers’ Josh Geer in the third inning.

Bumgarner was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the top of the sixth after throwing 99 pitches.

The first two batters to single off Bumgarner on Sunday were erased when the left-hander picked them both off first base — Luis Durango in the first and Craig Stansberry in the second.

The third hit Bumgarner allowed was debatable. In the third, Sean Kazmar hit a chopper over the bag at third. Fresno’s Brad Boyer made a nice play to field the ball, but his throw was low and first basemen Brett Pill could corral the ball. It was ruled a hit. I might have scored it otherwise, but no one asked.

The lone run came in the fifth, when Chris Stewart drew a leadoff walk, was sacrificed to second and scored on Durango’s single to center.

Bumgarner had some difficulty locating his off-speed pitches, leading to some deep counts. Also, the Beaver hitters did a good job of fouling off two-strike pitches to prolong some at-bats and make Bumgarner work harder. Still, his fastball was consistently in the low 90s all afternoon, topping out several times at 93 mph on the stadium radar.

The Grizzlies belted three home runs: Bumgarner, Pill and Mike McBryde.

Catcher Buster Posey was 1 for 4 with a walk and two strikeouts.

“Barry! Barry! Barry!”

Giants 2, Cardinals 0

WP: Zito (3-0)

Save: Wilson (4)

Record: 10-7, 2nd in NL West, 1 game behind San Diego

For the first time in three years, the chant “Barry! Barry! Barry!” could be heard resonating throughout AT&T Park.

For the first time ever, the chant was for Barry Zito.

Zito continued his stellar April with the type of outing Giants fans have been dreaming about when he signed the largest contract in franchise history more than three years ago.

Zito pitched eight strong shutout innings, striking out 10 while walking three and giving up three hits in a 110-pitch outing.

And the Giants rewarded their veteran left-hander by plating two runs in the bottom of the ninth to beat the St. Louis Cardinals 2-0 on Saturday. It was the first series loss of the season for St. Louis.

Brian Wilson came in to pitch the ninth and finish off the Cardinals for his fourth save. It was the second time this season Wilson had saved a shutout that Zito had started.

So, again, the pitching was great. The offensive was good enough. But considering the Giants were facing the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright, the Giants’ woes could be as much Wainwright’s doing as the Giants’ doing.

The Giants were again stung by the double-play ball, hitting into two more, giving them a major-league leading 24 for the season. After one double play, Giants announcer Duane Kuiper said “and after a Giants double play, we go to Amy G.” referring to Giants on-field reporter Amy Gutierrez. Amy, surprised, just said “Awww, nooo.” If Amy were quicker, she would have replied “What?!? Well, if that the case, I should get a raise!”

In the bottom of the eighth, Nate Schierholtz led off the inning with the hardest hit ball of the night off Wainwright, a shot down the right-field line for a double. Andres Torres was called to pinch-hit for Zito and bunt Schierholtz to third. But after failing to hit the ball fair in his first two attempts, Torres swung away and smacked the ball up the middle to center to score Schierholtz.

The Giants added a second run with a little help from the umps. After Eugenio Velez bunted Torres to second, Edgar Renteria hit a sharp grounder to short. Torres got caught to far off the bag and appeared to hung out diving back into second. But the umpire ruled him safe even though the throw clearly beat Torres. However, replays showed that Felipe Lopez’s tag on Torres was high up his arm, allowing Torres to slip under and reach the bag safely.

Pablo Sandoval followed with a slow chopper to third, which the umpire ruled that Sandoval beat out at first. Replays show that he didn’t, even though it was very close. That allowed Aubrey Huff to score Torres with a fly to left.

More Splash Hits ends holdout for runs

Giants 4, Cardinals 1

WP: Lincecum (4-0)

Save: Wilson (3)

Record: 9-7, 2nd in NL West, 1 game behind San Diego.

More Splash Hits was getting so frustrated by the Giants inability to score runs that we decided, in a Ghandi-like move, to start a self-imposed strike of more blog posts until the Giants scored more than two runs in a game.

Well, it paid instant dividends as the Giants managed four runs in a win over the Cardinals, snapping a four-game losing streak.

And while it’s great to get a win, the Giants’ offensive woes and struggles with men in scoring posiition weren’t exactly cured on Friday night.

They hit into two more double plays and really should have hit into three. But a custom-made double-play ball off the bat of Aubrey Huff was muffed by Cardinals second baseman Skip Schumaker, allowing a run to score.

In fact, all of the Giants’ runs Friday were not the product of clutch hitting, but Cardinals fielding mishaps.

Andres Torres scored the first run when St. Louis shortstop Brendan Ryan committed an error. Then came Schumaker’s error. The Giants’ third run came when Nate Schierholtz beat out an infield single. That play was added when Cardinals pitcher Jaime Garcia did not cover first base quickly enough. And the final run scored on a wild pitch.

So there are still issues, but we’ll take the gifts and the win. The Giants had been in short supply of breaks in the past week.

The end result was another win by Tim Lincecum and a save for Brian Wilson. Jon Miller said at the conclusion of Friday’s game that Friday was Wilson’s first save opportunity in 10 days. But he must have misread his calendar. It was Wilson’s first save opp in 17 days. Wilson notched saves in the Giants’ first two games of the season, but had none since, until Friday. That’s because the Giants’ wins either came in extra innings or by four runs or more.

The Giants look to hand the Cardinals their first series loss of the year when Barry Zito takes to the mound against Adam Wainwright at 6 p.m. Saturday. 

Giants fans need some good news; so here it is

Amid the Giants offensive slump — three runs in three games — I thought it would be a good time to share some good news.

Madison Bumgarner had his first solid outing of 2010 on Monday night.

The left-hander gave up one earned run over six innings of work in a 3-2 win over the Portland Beavers. He struck out three and walked one. He also gave up an unearned run — unearned because he committed an error on a pickoff throw to first.

The error led to the unearned run. The earned run came on a home run. His fastball was clocked as high as 94 mph on the stadium gun.

“I felt like I pitched a lot better,” said Bumgarner, who came into the game with an ERA over 14.00. “Even last time out felt better, but this was my best start of the spring or the season so far.”  

But Bumgarner didn’t get the win, because like the big-league counterparts, the Fresno hitters didn’t score enough runs for him.

So if he ever gets back to San Francisco, Bumgarner will fit right in with the rest of the Giant pitchers


Giants’ hitting woes hit a new low

Padres 1, Giants 0

LP: Sanchez (1-1)

Record: 8-6, 1st in NL West, tied with San Diego


There’s just other way to put it, without engaging in a little French.

Or a lot of French.

The Giants’ inability to show any kind of plate discipline, or any time of clutch hitting reached an all-time low on Tuesday night in San Diego.

Jonathan Sanchez pitched his best game of the short season, maybe his best performance since last year’s no-hitter. He pitched seven innings, struck out 10 and gave up just one hit …. and lost.

Yes, lost.

Are you ready for the “highlights” from Tuesday’s fiasco?

  • In five of the nine innings, the Giants put the leadoff runner on base. And failed to score.
  • In four other innings, the Giants went down 1-2-3.
  • In the first, Eugenio Velez led off the game with a walk (the second time in four days he’s done that), but Edgar Renteria hit into a double play. Pablo Sandoval followed with a single.
  • In the third, Eli Whiteside led off with a double. Sanchez tried to bunt him to third, but Whiteside was thrown out a third. Velez followed with a single. Then Renteria his into ANOTHER double play.
  • In the eighth … the coup de grace! Nate Schierholtz led off with a triple to left-center .. and got stranded there. Whiteside grounded to third; Bengie Molina popped to first; Velez struck out looking.
  • In the ninth, Sandoval drew a one-out walk. Andres Torres ran for Sandoval. (That’s how desperate the Giants have become that they were taking out their best hitter for their worst hitter). But the moved looked to pay off with Aubrey Huff singled to center, sending Torres to third. Then Juan Uribe flied to shallow right. Torres did not attempt to score. Not sure why, given how poorly the Giants have performed in the clutch. If he’d gone, he probably would have been thrown out. The throw from right was on target, but high. Who knows? But Torres stayed at third. Then John Bowker struck out to end the game.

And how did the Padres score? Chase Headley had a leadoff single (the Padres only hit) in the fourth. He stole second (it was his third stolen base off Sanchez on the night). Headley took third when Huff made a nice play on a foul pop, but fell into the photographer’s well, sending Headley to third. Scott Hairston plated the run with a deep fly to right.

Can it get much worse than that? Well, we’ll find out Wednesday as the series ends with a 3:30 p.m. game. Do you get that feeling that Wednesday will be the day the starting pitching or the bullpen implodes under the tremendous weight the anemic offense is putting on them?

If there’s good news, it’s that the Giants still are in first place. We can only hope they still are when they leave their offensive black hole known as Petco Park. 



Another one-run loss in San Diego

Padres 3, Giants 2, 10 innings

LP: Affeldt (2-2)

Giants HR: Uribe (2)

Record: 8-5, 1st in NL West, 1 game ahead of San Diego

Well, Giants fans have seen this before: a one-run loss in San Diego. You’ll remember last May when the Giants were swept by the Padres in San Diego, losing all three games by one run, and in none of the games did the Giants score more than two runs.

And like we’ve seen before, what hurt the Giants was not the inability to get hits. It was the inability to get hits when they needed to get hits.

The Giants managed 10 hits on Monday night, same as the Padres. But when given the opportunity to put a crooked number on the board with a simple single, the Giants couldn’t seem to find one.

In the fourth after the Giants pushed across the tying run, they had the bases loaded and one out. But that rally was killed when Andres Torres grounded into a double play.

Yeah, double play. Like we have seen that before.

Torres continues to get the starts against lefties, even though he’s hitting .111. He went 1 for 4 on Monday. His only hit came when he was actually trying to sacrifice Juan Uribe to second in the seventh inning. But Torres’ bunt slipped past pitcher Clayton Richard and Torres reached on an infield single.

Nate Schierholtz then bunted the runners to second and third. And then the Giants did another thing we’ve seen too much.

Mark DeRosa came into to pinch-hit. All he needed to do was make solid contact. An outfield fly gets the tying run home. An infield grounder also does the job. The Padres were playing back. They didn’t want to play in because that would increase the odds of a single slipping past them and allowing two runs to score.

But DeRosa struck out. To make matters worse, Eugenio Velez followed with another strikeout.

The Giants struck out nine times Monday. They walked once.

The Giants are 1 for 16 with runners in scoring position in the past two games. After early-season success at the plate, the Giants have seemed to regress to the habits that kept them from being a playoff team in 2009. Having Aaron Rowand and Mark DeRosa sideline hasn’t helped matters.

The Giants desperately need to avoid another San Diego sweep. This road trip has started with three losses in four games. Things don’t get any easier when they return home, with six games against the Cardinals and Phillies. They’ll face Adam Wainwright and Roy Halladay.

Those guys are certainly more intimidating than Mat Latos and Jon Garland, the two pitchers the Padres will send out next against the Giants. Neither Latos or Garland are lefties, so maybe we won’t see Torres in the lineup.

Can’t blame this one on Zito

Dodgers 2, Giants 1

LP: Romo (0-1)

Giants HR: Uribe (1)

Record: 8-4, 1st in NL West, 2 games ahead of Colorado, Los Angeles and San Diego

Told you the Giants should have saved some runs for Sunday.

They only got one on Sunday, and that wasn’t enough. Usually, it isn’t. But on Sunday, it almost was.

Barry Zito pitched seven scoreless innings and took a 1-0 lead into the eighth on the strength of Juan Uribe’s home run. But Zito’s one-out walk to Garret Anderson (is there anything worse than a former 2002 Angel now playing for the Dodgers???) led to his exit from the game.

Sergio Romo hung a 1-2 slider to Manny Ramirez, and Ramirez pounded it for a two-run homer. And the Dodgers went on to win, 2-1.

As frustrating as watching the Giants only manage four hits off Dodgers pitching, there is one thing to take away from this loss — Barry Zito is pitching great.

In 2007, Barry Zito was terrible in April. In 2008, he was just as bad. But last season, Zito actually pitched well, even though his win-loss record didn’t show it. That’s because he got a severe lack of run support (kinda like what he got Sunday).

But Zito is 2-0 with a 1.86 ERA in April this season. Zito was a decent pitcher in the second half of the season in both 2007 and 2008. So if Zito is going this well in April, what’s yet to come this season.

We’ll take that as a good sign.

Time to move on from Dodger Stadium, and focus on winning some games in San Diego.

Matt Cain gets the call on Monday night against the Padres.

Hey Toronto! Can we have Fred Lewis back?

Wonder if there has ever been a player who was traded for a player to be named later, and then that player to be named later ended up being the player originally traded?

Actually, it happened in 1962, when Harry Chiti was traded to the Mets for a player to be named, and then traded back to the Indians.

But that took two months to complete. The Giants need Fred Lewis back now.

As it happened, the Giants traded Lewis to Toronto on Thursday. On Friday, Aaron Rowand was beaned in the cheek by a pitch from the Dodgers’ Vicente Padilla. On Saturday, Mark DeRosa left the game early with a strained hamstring.

So Lewis was sent off because the Giants were flush with outfielders. Now, they’re short two outfielders.

Rowand was placed on the 15-day disabled list Saturday and he may be out three weeks. The Giants called up infielder Matt Downs from Fresno to take his place on the roster.

I’ve seen some chatter about why the Giants would bring up an infielder when they’ve got two ailing outfielders.

Well, for one, DeRosa’s injury is not thought to be serious. He’s day-to-day and hopes to play Sunday. For another, with Rowand out, Eugenio Velez figures to see more playing time. And Velez, like DeRosa, acted in ways like backup infielders. So bringing up Downs allows Velez to remain strictly an outfielder.

Velez started for Rowand on Saturday, and Velez did something that Rowand has been unable to do this season in the leadoff spot — draw a game-opening walk. Velez is swinging a hot bat, with two home runs and he’s batting .412. If he can keep that going, the Giants will be fine in Rowand’s absence. Also, with a lefty on the mound Sunday, look for Andres Torres to start in center with Velez in left or right, depending on whether DeRosa can go or not.