April 2010

Lincecum does it all

Giants 9, Dodgers 0

WP: Lincecum (3-0)

Giants HRs: None

Record: 8-3, 1st in NL West, 2 games ahead of Colorado

As More Splash Hits pile on the runs against the Dodgers on Saturday, there was one thought going through my mind.

SAVE SOME RUNS FOR TOMORROW!!!!!

The Giants pounded out nine runs and 12 hits and drew six walks. And that was great. But all the Giants needed was one run. All they needed was Tim Lincecum.

The Giants’ ace finished 3 for 4 with three RBI. Lincecum had three hits. The Dodgers only managed four hits off Lincecum.

It’s funny how back in March, we were all worried about Lincecum. Then, April came and he’s back to his old self. Of course, back in March we were all amazed by Todd Wellemeyer, and now …….

Saturday’s win was the Giants’ third shutout of the season. The first came on Barry Zito’s first start of the season in Houston. The second came Wednesday against the Pirates behind Jonathan Sanchez. And now Lincecum, who really should have contributed to another shutout on opening day if not for Brandon Medders giving up two runs in the ninth.

Medders almost did it again Saturday, putting runners on second and third in the ninth before getting out of the inning.

Only one other major league club has more than one shutout.

We only hope the bats stay alive for one more day as the Giants take on the Dodgers’ talented young left-hander Clayton Kershaw. Giant hitters have fared well against lefties this season.

Long (ball) night for Wellemeyer

Dodgers 10, Giants 8

LP: Todd Wellemeyer

Giant HR: Pablo Sandoval (2), Eugenio Velez (2)

Record: 7-3, first in NL West 2 games ahead of Arizona and Los Angeles

More Splash Hits didn’t get a chance to see Friday’s games — too many family commitments. And it’s just as well. Looks like it would have been a waste of a good Friday night.

Somebody forgot to tell the Giants that Vicente Padilla is NOT a strikeout pitcher. And somebody forgot to tell Todd Wellemeyer that he IS supposed to be a groundball pitcher.

Five of the first nine batters the Giants sent up against Padilla fanned on Friday, while the Dodgers belted three home runs in the first two innings off Wellemeyer, building a 7-0 lead.

As for the Giants’ hitters, this is a trend we’ve been seeing a bit this young season. They struggle against pitchers the first time they see them, then make adjustments the second time through the lineup. It happend against Tim Hudson, Kenshin Kawakami and Paul Maholm. But the difference in those game is that the Giants pitching kept them in the game.

That was not the case Friday night.

The Giants hitters did eventually get going, scoring three runs off Padilla. But it was too little, too late. The game was more lopsided than the final as the Giants tallied five runs in the top of the ninth. Eugenio Velez is becoming the Giants’ big power bat. He belted a three run homer in the ninth to get the game to 10-8.

Hopefully, pitching won’t be the problem Saturday with Tim Lincecum on the mound. But the Giants are facing a young knuckleballer in Charlie Haeger. Let’s hope the Giant hitters can show some patiences and see a lot of pitches. That’s how you win against a knuckleballer. It is not the Giants’ hitting M.O. however.

Setting up the weekend series in LA

The Giants are 7-2 and in first place in the National League. The 11 days the Giants have spent in first place are more days than the Giants have spent in first since 2006.

But now things get a little tougher for the G-men, and it starts with a six-game road trip to Los Angeles and San Diego.

Last year, a similar trip put the Giants in an early hole when the Giants went 0-6. It led to a season-long struggle on the road in Southern California, where the Giants finished 5-13 at Los Angeles/San Diego.

The Giants will need a good road trip because things don’t get any easier when they come home for a six-game homestand against the St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies.

Todd Wellemeyer takes the hill Friday night against Vicente Padilla. Wellemeyer pitched well for six innings against the Braves last Saturday before things unravelled in seventh.

Here’s the weekend pitching matchups:

FRIDAY: Todd Wellemeyer (0-1) vs. Vicente Padilla (0-1), 7:10 p.m.

SATURDAY: Tim Lincecum (2-0) vs. Charlie Haeger (0-0), 1:10 p.m. (FOX)

SUNDAY: Barry Zito (2-0) vs. Clayton Kershaw (1-0), 1:10 p.m.

Fred Lewis traded to Toronto

Way back in 1976, Toronto tried to steal the Giants away from San Francisco. Thanks to Bob Lurie, it didn’t work.

Now, 34 years later, Toronto may be at it again, bit by bit.
The Toronto Blue Jays acquired outfielder Fred Lewis in a trade with the Giants for a player to be named or cash.
This past offseason, the Blue Jays claimed Merkin Valdez and Brian Bocock off waivers from the Giants. Valdez is still in Toronto, while Bocock was put back on waivers and later claimed by the Phillies.
And then, of course, there’s pitcher Jeremy Accardo, whom the Jays acquired in that brilliant trade for Shea Hillenbrand back in 2006.
As far as Lewis is concerned, most folks saw this one coming the last few weeks. The Giants’ outfield is crowded and Lewis seemed to fall out of a favor with the team last season.
The alternative to trading Lewis would have been to place Nate Schierholtz or Andres Torres through waivers, or send Eugenio Velez or John Bowker to Fresno. There was no way the Giants were going to risk losing Schierholtz or Torres. With so many outfielders on the roster, Velez became to valuable for his ability to play 2B, and Bowker has started seven of nine games in right field this season.
We hope Fred finds a spark in Toronto. We always liked the fact that Fred rarely swung at pitches out of the strike zone. However, he also had a habit of not swinging at pitches IN the strike zone, which was always a frustration.
Fred has talent. If he could ever find the balance of being disciplined when you need to be disciplined and aggressive when you need to aggressive, he could blossom in Toronto.
Good bye, Fred. And good luck.

Down on the farm in Fresno

Madison Bombgarner, er, we mean, Bumgarner, had another rough outing for the Fresno Grizzlies on Wednesday.

The prized left-hander gave up seven runs on 10 hits in four-plus innings. He struck out four and walked none.
That now means his given up 21 hits in seven innings this season at Triple-A. For those who don’t like to do the math, that’s three runs per inning. Not good.
If you’re looking for a silver lining, here it is:Bumgarner actually three consecutive scoreless innings Wedneday. After giving up two runs in the first, the young left put up zeros in the second, third and fourth inning. 
But then he gave up five runs without getting an out in the fifth, including two home runs.
Also, catcher Buster Posey broke out of a brief 0-for-7 slump by going 2 for 5 with three runs scored, an RBI and a stolen base

Call-for-Posey talk can cool off … for now

Giants 6, Pirates 0


WP: Sanchez (1-0)
Giant HRs: Huff (1), Whiteside (1), Rowand (1)
Record: 7-2, 1st in NL West, 2 games ahead of Arizona and Colorado (both teams player later Wednesday)
The call of Giants fans to bring up Buster Posey from Fresno likely will quiet down a little bit after Wednesday’s 6-0 victory by the Giants over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Backup catcher Eli Whiteside had a good game both at the plate and behind as the Giants won the rubber match of the three-game series.
Whiteside, who entered the game 1 for 7 this season, pounded a three-run home run in the second inning and he later added a double. He finished 2 for 3.
And he caught a good game. Starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez struck out 11 Pirates, while allowing just three hits in eight shutout innings. You’ll remember it was Whiteside who was behind the plate when Sanchez threw his no-hitter last July. Wednesday’s outing was possibly Sanchez’s best since that day last July.
Whiteside was in the game because manager Bruce Bochy decided to rest Bengie Molina, despite his hot bat. Bochy is looking to rest Molina more this season, especially on day games that follow night games.
The next day game that follows a night game comes Saturday at Dodger Stadium. But that is also the day Tim Lincecum pitches, and the Giants prefer to have Molina catch Lincecum. So we’ll have to see how that plays out.
By the way, down at Fresno, Buster Posey is hitting .360. He started the season 9 for 18, but has gone 0 for his last 7. Fresno plays at Las Vegas Wednesday night.
Other notes from Wednesday’s game:
  • The power that the Giants were hoping to see from Aubrey Huff when they signed the first baseman showed up on Wednesday. Huff belted his first home run, although it didn’t come in the usual fashion. For the second time in three nights, Huff hit a ball deep into right center, normally where home runs go to die in AT&T Park. But this second-inning drive, hit off the No. 8 arch way and took a funky bounce back toward right field. By the time the Pirates got to the ball, Huff had rounded the bases and slid home for an inside-the-park home run. Huff also had a fly out to the warning track in center and doubled off the right-field wall on Wednesday.
  • Brian Wilson struck out two while pitching a scoreless ninth. It was Wilson’s first action since Friday’s extra-inning win over the Braves. The Giants have not provided Wilson with a save-opportunity situation since the second game of the season. And that’s a good thing. There have been a lot of comfortable wins.

Giants drop one to Pirates …. literally

Pirates 6, Giants 5

LP: Jeremy Affeldt (0-1)

Giant HR: Eugenio Velez (1)

Record: 6-2, first in NL West, 1.5 games ahead of Arizona, Colorado

For the second time in four games, a simple defensive mistake from shortstop Edgar Renteria contributed to a Giants’ defeat.

Renteria dropped a throw from Jeremy Affeldt trying to turn a double play, resulting a no outs and leading the Pirates taking the lead in the eighth inning of a 6-5 win over Giants on Tuesday.

With the scored tied 3-3 with one out in the eighth and runner on first, Affeldt got Lastings Milledge to hit a comebacker. Affledt fielding the chopper, spun and made a perfect throw to Renteria covering second. But in his haste to make a quick turn, Renteria did not secure the ball before beginning switching the ball from his glove to throwing hand, resulting in both runners being safe. Garrett Jones followed with a single to right scoring, Andrew McCutchen from second.

The play seemed to lose some significance when the Pirates tacked on two more runs in the top of the ninth off Brandon Medders. But then Eugenio Velez’s two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth brought the spotlight back on Renteria.

It’s also worth considering that had the score remained tied 3-3 after eight, the Giants likely would have sent Brian Wilson out for the ninth, instead of Medders, considering that a tie game after eight innings meant that Wilson could not be placed in a save situation.

Renteria said afterward that he never saw the ball, and was just trying to protect his face. Nice try, Edgar, but we’re not buying that you lost the ball in Affeldt’s gotee.

It looked pretty evident from the replay that he was trying to make a quick exchange of the ball from glove hand to throwing hand and simply muffed it.

But fortunately for Renteria, there was more blame to go around.

Third-base coach Tim Flannery gets some blame, too.

With runners on first and third and two out in the fifth, Mark DeRosa shot a double down into the right-field corner, scoring Aaron Rowand from third. Then Flannery inexplicably waved Pablo Sandoval home.

Watching the play live, you could see Flannery wave Sandoval home and automatically think “uh oh.” The next TV camera cut went to the Pirates cut-off man catching the ball and throwing home and you knew it wasn’t even going to be close. And it wasn’t. Not even the best shot from Kung Fu Panda to bowl over Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit could dislodge the ball and the Giants’ rally was over.

The decision from Flannery was bad from start to finish. First, Sandoval is not the most fleet of foot and Flannery should have been able to see the throw would beat him by a country mile. It was the kind of decision you might see him make in the bottom of the ninth if Sandoval was representing the winning run. But in the fifth inning?!?

If Flannery had put up a stop sign, the Giants would have had runners on second and third with thier hottest hitter — Bengie Molina — coming up next. Even if the Pirates decided to walk Molina, it still would have brought up Juan Uribe to the plate. Also a good situation for the Giants.

Flannery’s decision also had another impact. It contributed to the premature departure of Giants pitcher Matt Cain. Cain struggled early in the game, falling behind hitters and allowing three runs in three innings. But then, Cain found his groove, setting down the last 10 Pirates he faced.

And Cain had recorderd those last 10 outs with such efficiency that he was sitting at 86 pitches after six innings. He clearly could have come out for at least the seventh inning.

However, in the bottom of the sixth, Molina led off with a walk. Uribe followed with a single, sending Molina to third. After John Bowker struck out — struck out in a situation which calls for contact of just about any kind — it forced Bruce Bochy’s hand. He opted to pinch-hit for Cain, sending Velez to the plate. Velez responded with a run-scoring groundout and the game was tied. But it also took Cain out of the game.

Giants Huff and puff way to 6-1 start

Giants 9, Pirates 3

Winning pitcher: Barry Zito (2-0)

Giant HR: Bengie Molina (1)

Record: 6-1, first place in NL West, 1.5 games ahead of Arizona

There wasn’t much Giant fans couldn’t like about Monday’s win over the Pirates at AT&T Park.

Barry Zito had another quality start, Bengie Molina was 4 for 4 with a walk, Pablo Sandoval 3 for 4. But if there is one Giant we’d like to shine a spotlight on, it is Aubrey Huff.

Huff finished 2 for 2 with a walk and he was hit by a pitch twice.

In the first inning after Aaron Rowand and Edgar Renteria reached and Pablo Sandoval popped out, Huff was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Mark DeRosa followed with a two-run single, and Molina singled home Huff for a 3-0 lead. It was the fifth 3-run inning for the Giants in just the seventh game of the season.

Huff was on first base and Sandoval on second after Huff was hit by a pitch again. Mark DeRosa hit a liner to Pirates third baseman Andy LaRoche, who doubled Sandoval off second. If not for Huff’s alert baserunning, the Pirates may have turned a triple play.

When Molina followed with a double, Huff rambled around the bases to score.

In the sixth, the Giants mounted another two-out rally when Huff hammered the ball into triples alley for a triple, scoring Sandoval.

Huff is hitting .280 on the season with no home runs and RBI. But with his four walks and now two HBP, Huff’s on-base percentage is .419. He has only struck out twice. His professional approach at the plate hopefully will have a positive effect on the lineup.

Odds & ends: Kung Fu Panda delivers knockout blow

During the offseaon, Pablo Sandoval went to see his eye doctor and learned that he’s near-sided.

Since then, the Giants third baseman has debated between wearing prescription googles, contacts or nothing at all.

Perhaps that’s why he hasn’t look right yet this season. Or maybe he’s just been pressing.

Whatever it was, it seems to be a thing of the past after Sandoval hit the ball hard three times Sunday in a 6-3 win over the Braves.

“This was the starting point,” Sandoval told reporters afterwards. “This is the point to turn it around and help the team.”

Even though Sandoval entered Sunday’s game with a .290 average. He only had one RBI, and that came on a groundout. Many of Sandoval’s hits this season came a bloopers, infield hits or soft liners. Not so on Sunday.

First was a two-out triple to right-center in the fourth that led to the Giants’ first run. Then came a sharp single to left that led to the Giants’ second run. And finally came a mammoth homer to right-center that put the Giants up 5-2 in the eighth.

“Even Pablo will get out of sync occasionally,” manager Bruce Bochy told the San Jose Mercury News. “But even then, he finds a way to get hits.”

Barry speaks

Members of the 2000 San Francisco Giants team showed up at AT&T Park on Sunday, but didn’t get to take part in the planned pre-game ceremonies because of the rain delay.

But we did learn some things about the members of that team.

A member of that team said Sunday he used steroids. And a member of that team says he’s retiring from baseball.

Of course, neither one of those statements was made by Barry Bonds.

What Barry did say is that he is proud of Mark McGwire for his admission of steroid use. Bonds also says he likes offering batting advice to younger players.

Bonds said the he’s had a good friendship with McGwire over the years, “and I’m proud of what he did, and I’m happy for him.”

Bonds also spent a few days last winter offering hitting advice to the Phillies’ Ryan Howard. He said he enjoys coaching and would like to do more of it in the future. However, it seems that coaching would be on a free-lance basis, so don’t expect Barry to replace Hensley Meulens as the Giants hitting coach.

But maybe the Giants could hire Bonds to teach Giants hitters not to swing at 2-0 pitches out of the strike zone.

That is, if they don’t sign Bonds as a free agent. Officially, he has not retired from baseball, even though he hasn’t played since 2007. His lack of retirement could be linked to a potential grievance of collusion against Major League Baseball for keeping out of the game.

One ex-Giant who did announce his retirement was Rich Aurilia. Aurilia, now a Giants broadcaster, said he contact club president Larry Baer to state his intention to retire.

One ex-Giant who admitted to steroid use was Marvin Benard, who said he used the drug to help him recover from a knee injury

More Posey news

Buster Posey went 2 for 5 with three runs scored and his first home run of the season in the Fresno Grizzlies’ 14-2 win over the Reno Aces on Sunday.

Posey is now 9 for 18 for the season.

Also on Sunday, Fred Lewis went 2 for 3 with two walks for Fresno, and Joe Martinez pitched five scoreless innings for the win.

Pirates come to town on Monday

The Pittsburgh Pirates open a three-game series with the Giants on Monday at AT&T Park. Here’s a look at the pitching matchups

  • Ross Ohlendorf (0-0) vs. Barry Zito (1-0), 7:15 p.m. Monday
  • Paul Maholm (0-1) vs. Matt Cain (0-0), 7:15 p.m. Tuesday
  • Charlie Morton (0-1) vs. Jonathan Sanchez (0-0), 12:45 p.m. Wednesday

Giants’ win is well worth the wait

Giants 6, Braves 3

WP: Tim Linececum (2-0)

Save: Jeremy Affeldt (1)

Giants Home run: Pablo Sandoval (1)

Giants record: 5-1, first in NL West by 1 game over Arizona

Fans who waited through a four-hour rain delay Sunday at AT&T Park were treated to two sights they hope to see a lot of: Tim Lincecum setting down batters with ease and Pablo Sandoval smacking the ball all over the yard.

That combination allowed the Giants to finish their series with the Atlanta Braves with a 6-3 victory Sunday.

But for the longest time, it looked as if the Giants offense would produce another frustrating effort, and that one pitch would haunt Lincecum.

In the first inning, Lincecum threw one too many fastballs to the Braves’ Brian McCann, and McCann made the Giant ace pay by hammering a fastball into the arcade in right center for a 2-0 lead.

Meanwhile, the Giant hitters were being set down in order by Kenshin Kawakami, who set down the first 11 batters he faced.

That was until two out in the fourth, when Sandoval made his first solid contact with the ball all season, sending a shot into triples alley in right center for a triple. Then Aubrey Huff followed with a nice bit of hitting to drive Sandoval home.

The Braves had been putting on the Barry Bonds shift on Huff. But with Sandoval on third, they appeared to play Huff straight away. But just before the pitch, Atlanta shortstop Yunel Escobar shifted straight up the middle above second base. When Huff got a pitch on the outer half of the plate, he slapped into left center, into the spot vacated by Escobar.

In the sixth, the Giants pulled some more two-out magic. Sandoval again got it started by shooting a liner to left field. Huff followed with a walk. Then Mark DeRosa went with the pitch and shot the ball into right. As Sandoval slide home to score, he was struck by the throw from RF Jason Heyward. The ball kicked toward the Braves dugout, allowing Huff to score and DeRosa to take third. That put the Giants up 3-2.

In the eighth, after Aaron Rowand led off with a single, Sandoval hit his first home run of the year with a blast to right that would have certainly landed in the bay if not for the gale-force headwind.

So, to conclude, it was a great day for the Giants because ….

  • Lincecum gave up two earned runs over 7 innings with 10 strikeouts. He did not allow a run or a walk after the first inning.
  • Pablo Sandoval went 3 for 4 with a single, triple and home run.
  • For the first time all season, the Giants DID NOT hit into a double play.
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