May 2012

Arizona Diamondbacks 4, San Francisco Giants 1: A quality start for Tim Lincecum

BOX SCORE

Well, it was a quality start for Tim Lincecum. We can at least say that.

For only the second time this season, Lincecum notched a quality start, giving up two runs (one earned) in seven innings. He walked five and struck out six, giving up four hits in a 112-pitch outing.

But as it turns out that wasn’t enough to get him, nor the Giants, a win.

While Lincecum avoided the big inning that has haunted him so much this season, he was again bitten by poor pitch selection.

With two out in the sixth, Lincecum was facing Paul Goldschmidt, a hitter who is 6 for 11 with three home runs off Lincecum.

Lincecum started off by throwing a high hanging curveball. Then with the count 1-0, he tried a low curveball, which Goldschmidt dug out and drove over the left-field fence.

It would have been better for Lincecum to work around Goldschmidt and instead go after Chris Young, a batter Lincecum has had better success against. And if he decides to pitch to Goldschmidt, don’t give him anything he can hit out to left … like a curveball.

It should have been fastballs and changeups away. Make him hit it out to right.

Some may say with the Diamondbacks adding on two runs in the seventh and the Giants held to one run, it didn’t really matter.

But if Lincecum gets out of the sixth still tied at 1-1, it’s likely the Giants would have gone with someone other than Steve Edlefsen out of the bullpen.

Lincecum can at least take this outing and build off of it. He’ll get the Cubs next on Monday. Another chance for another solid outing.

OTHER NOTE

Melky Cabrera collected his 51st hit of May in the ninth to tie Randy Winn for the most by a San Francisco Giants hitter in a month.

UP NEXT

The Giants take Thursday off before opening a four-game set with the Cubs.

San Francisco Giants 3, Arizona Diamondbacks 1: Just call him May-ky; Melky Cabrera sets May mark

BOX SCORE

April showers bring Melky knocks.

Melky Cabrera delivered a 3-for-4 night for the Giants to break Willie Mays’ record for hits by a San Francisco Giant in the month of May with 50.

The Giants on Tuesday only mounted threats in the fourth, sixth and eighth innings — the innings in which Cabrera delivered the first of the inning for the Giants.

So since the previous Giants’ record for hits in May was held by a guy named Mays, shouldn’t we now call Melky “May-ky?”

Or we should just changed the name of the month Melky.

In the fourth, the Giants loaded the bases on singles by Cabrera and Buster Posey, plus a walk to Brett Pill. But the Giants were unable to score.

In the sixth, Cabrera’s infield single preceded Posey’s RBI double that tied the game. The Giants would load the bases again, but not score in part because first-base umpire Brian O’Nora blew the call (Please, Bud Selig, isn’t time for expanded replay?).

In the eighth, Ryan Theriot led off with a walk and went to third on Cabrera’s record-breaking hit to right. Posey plated Theriot on a sacrifice fly for the lead. Cabrera would later score on Joaquin Arias’ groundout.

For the second time in three days the Giants won a game with excellent pitching and all of their hits coming from Cabrera, Posey and Pagan.

The Giants’ 3-4-5 hitters were 7 for 11 with two runs and two RBI. The other hitters in the Giants’ lineup were 0 for 18.

If Cabrera gets one more hit on Wednesday, he’ll tie Randy Winn for the most hits by a San Francisco Giant in any month.

UP NEXT

It’s Tim Linecum Day on Wednesday. Hopefully, it also will be Tim Lincecum Win Day as he faces off against Ian Kennedy at 7:10 p.m. The Giants have won three games in a row for the fifth time this season, but they have not won four in a row.

San Francisco Giants 4, Arizona Diamondbacks 2: Barry Good Day for Barry Zito and Barrry Bonds

BOX SCORE

Barry Bonds held court before Monday’s game against the Diamondbacks.

Barry Zito held court during the game.

The left-hander had one of his better starts of 2012, which is saying quite a bit.

Zito gave up two runs on seven hits and one walk in 7-plus innings. He was pulled after giving up a leadoff home run in the eighth on just his 93rd pitch of the game.

As Tim Lincecum continues to struggle, its refreshing to get quality starts out of Zito.

And if Lincecum can’t figure out his troubles, he could always ask Barry Bonds.

The former Giants slugger seemed to think he has an idea on how to fix the Freak.

Actually, Bonds thinks he has a lot to share with the younger Giants. And he indicated he’s has discussions with the Giants to do just that.

“I had a nice conversion with (Giants managing partner) Larry Baer,” Bonds said during a visit to AT&T on Monday. “The Giants have a lot of young players with a lot of ability. And hopefully I can get the opportunity to work with them.”

MoreSplashHits has always thought Bonds would be a good hitting instructor, sharing tips on pitch selection and hitting approach with Giants hitters.

But there’s been a fog over Bonds since he retired. First, it was the ongoing witch hunt by federal prosecutors that lingered on year after year.

That pursuit ended last year with a conviction for obstruction of justice, the least of the charges brought against him.

That conviction, which is currently on appeal, may be a stumbling block in Bonds pursuit to work for the Giants.

Even if the Giants agree to some arrangement for Bonds to be a roving instructor, commissioner Bud Selig, who has never had a soft spot in his heart for Bonds, could block on the basis of that conviction.

“I’m a convicted felon of obstruction of justice and that’s what I am,” Bonds admitted Monday. “I live with that. It will never go off your mind. You never forget those things. You move on (but) I’ll never forget.”

That being said, Bonds appeared in good spirits and good health. He’s dropped 20-25 pounds since his playing days as he spends his time running and cycling. And he cheered on the Giants as he hosted some inner-city youths who earned a day with Bonds by keeping up good grades.

As Barry said, the Giants have only lost once when he’s returned to AT&T as a spectator. His hot string continued Monday, which is reason enough to keep Barry coming back to the yard.

Weekend review: Melkman delivers again, but does Melky Cabrera have a future with the San Francisco Giants?

MARLINS 5, GIANTS 2: BOX SCORE

GIANTS 3, MARLINS 2: BOX SCORE

The Giants’ offensive burst over the past couple of weeks slowed down over the weekend, but it still produced a split in Miami thanks to a nice outing by Matt Cain.

Between May 15-25, the Giants had scored four or more runs in 9 of 11 games. Even including this past weekend, the Giants have scored 3 or more runs in their last seven games and in 15 of their past 17 games, dating back to May 12.

So how much of this offensive explosion (if that’s what you want to call it) can be credited to the torrid May of Melky Cabrera.

We saw what an impact Cabrera can have on Sunday, when he went 4 for 4 and scored all three of the Giants’ runs. He had 4 of the Giants’ 7 runs. In fact, only Cabrera, Buster Posey (2 for 4) and Angel Pagan (1 for 2) collected hits. Everyone else pulled an 0-fer.

When he acquired Cabrera in the offseason, Giants GM Brian Sabean said Cabrera was the kind of player the Giants needed. He wasn’t the big power hitter everyone said the Giants needed. But he got hits, had speed and played good defense.

Now when asked what the chances of the Giants signing Cabrera to an extension before next season, Sabean said the “stars would have to align.”

Doesn’t sound too encouraging, does it?

Well, let’s help Sabes align some stars.

After this season, Aubrey Huff’s $10 million-a-season contract comes off the book, so does Freddy Sanchez’s $6 million deal. And let’s not forget the Giants are paying Aaron Rowand $12 million to make appearances on American Roadster. That also is off the ledger in 2013. The Giants were set to pay Brian Wilson $10-$11 million in arbitration next season. But with Wilson’s elbow injury, that won’t happen as the Giants are sure to non-tender The Beard in hopes of re-signing for much, much less.

Those contracts alone will save the Giants more than $34 million come next year (after you factor in buyouts). They’re looking at about six players who would be arbitration-eligible after this season.

They have cost-certainty with the recent extensions of Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Pablo Sandoval. Doing the same for BusterPosey may be the next order of business, although the Giants may endure a year of arbitration with their catcher to make sure there are no long-term after-effects from his ankle injury.

Barry Zito’s contract ends in 2013. So does Tim Lincecum’s.

A couple of months ago, the thought of letting Lincecum walk when free agency arrived would be unthinkable to most Giants fans.

Now …..

It’s not that we don’t think Lincecum will eventually figure out his struggles. It’s just that he has been prone to this lapses over the past couple of years — August 2010, June 2011, NOW.

Then the question becomes whether you want to pay someone prone to these extended funks $25 million a season.

Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com mentioned that with Gary Brown’s struggles in Double-A this season that the Giants may consider extending Angel Pagan a higher priority.

But the Giants have Gregor Blanco … on the cheap. He may be arbitration eligible in 2013, or he might not.

Blanco is having the breakout year similar to Andres Torres in 2010. And Blanco’s pitch selection and ability to get on base lends itself to avoid the tail-off season the free-swinging Torres had in 2011.

So we believe Cabrera is the priority and Pagan the fallback.

While Adam Jones’ recent contract extension may complicate the Cabrera situation for the Giants. But there are other potential free agent outfielders — Michael Bourn, Andre Ethier, Josh Hamilton, Torii Hunter, Carlos Quentin, Ichiro Suzuki, B.J. Upton, Shane Victorino — that could soften the market.

Miami Marlins 7, San Francisco Giants 6: The saga of Tim Lincecum continues

BOX SCORE

Same story, different game.

Tim Lincecum looked good, very good at times against the Miami Marlins.

His fastball was topping out at 93 mph.

He held the Marlins to one run through five innings.

He successfully managed to work himself out of jams in the first and fifth innings.

But, oh, that blowup inning.

And what makes the blowup inning more frustrating is that is could have been avoided.

Let’s relive Lincecum’s disaster inning this time.

  • Omar Infante doubles
  • Hanley Ramirez strikes out looking.
  • Giancarlo Stanton singles, scoring Infante (first sign of trouble)
  • Logan Morrison walks (second sign of trouble)
  • Bryan Peterson singles to right, but doesn’t tie game only because the Marlins held up Stanton at third (third sign of trouble)
  • John Buck flies out to DEEP center. So deep that all three runnners tag up (fourth sign of trouble)
  • Chris Coughlan homers. Marlins lead 6-3. Lincecum is removed from game (time to call the fire truck, even though the house has already burned to the ground).

When asked if he had any second thoughts about going to get Lincecum earlier, manager Bruce Bochy got grumpy.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Bochy said. “Who he’s facing? The bottom of the order? As much as we’ve used the pen? His pitch count was fine. I didn’t struggle at all. If I’ve got to take him out with who he’s facing, we’re hurting.”

Hey, Boch. You’re ace is who is making $21 million is 2-5 with a 6.41 ERA. We think you’re hurting.

To Bochy’s credit, Lincecum did only throw 97 pitches when he was lifted, 60 of them for strikes. And the bottom of the Marlins’ order is hardly tearing it up. But there were some tell-tale signs that Lincecum was heading down the worn-out road to destruction in the sixth.

The hits to Infante (hitting .340) and Stanton (hitting .289) are somewhat excusable. But when he walks Morrison (hitting .224), you have to start wondering.

When he gives up a hit to Peterson (hitting .188), red flags should start going off in your head.

The LOUD sacrifice fly to Buck (hitting .170)? Hello? Even with Lincecum facing Coughlan, hitting .106 at the time, it may have been time to get him.

But he didn’t.

It’s not about Lincecum’s arm right now. It’s as much about his psyche. Getting The Freak right does not involve a start when he’s second-guessing himself.

And that alone should have made Bochy second guess himself.

UP NEXT

The Giants turn next to Madison Bumgarner to face Mark Buerhle at 1:10 p.m. Saturday. At least the offense is still producing.

San Francisco Giants 14, Miami Marlins 7: Football game breaks out in Miami

BOX SCORE

You know that crazy sculpture beyond the center field wall at Marlins Park? Thursday’s game between the Giants and Marlins was kind of like that.

It’s hard to imagine, but at one point Giants fans were just hoping the Giants could push across one run to give Ryan Vogelsong a lead in a 1-1 game.

And that point came in the sixth inning.

With Gregor Blanco on third and one out, it looked like another Giants rally would be snuffed out when Melky Cabrera hit a comebacker to Anibal Sanchez that got Blanco hung out between home and third.

But Marlins catcher Brett Hayes held the ball too long while running Blanco back to third and the speedy outfielder dove back into the bag safe.

A walk to Buster Posey loaded the bases, then Angel Pagan smacked a two-run double. A wild pitch scored Posey and Brandon Belt’s bloop single made a 5-1 game.

But the Giants didn’t stop there. They would three more runs in the seventh, four more in the eighth and two more in the ninth for a 14-7 victory.

“You like to see your offense break out,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “That’s something we haven’t done, especially against this club.”

No doubt. The Giants managed just five runs when they were swept by the Marlins in San Francisco three weeks ago.

But something has happened of late to the Giants offense. Going back a week, the Giants have scored at least four runs in all but one of the last eight games. They’ve scored 7, 8, 4, 2, 4, 6, 5 and now 14 runs.

Just imagine what they can do when Pablo Sandoval gets back.

And, by the way, The Panda tweeted Friday that he hit 50 balls off a tee and took 25 grounders with no pain, a good sign that he may soon be back with the big club.

UP NEXT

Well, let’s hope Tim Lincecum doesn’t think he can give up 7 runs in a game and win. The Freak returns to the mound to face Josh Johnson in a 4:10 p.m. game Friday.

Milwaukee Brewers 8, San Francisco Giants 5: Welcome back, Barry Zito of old

BOX SCORE

So far this season, part of the Giants pitching has been backwards.

Barry Zito has pitched like Tim Lincecum, and Tim Lincecum has pitched like Barry Zito.

However, on Wednesday in Milwaukee, the Zito of old returned.

Zito got tagged for eight runs in the first two innings by the Brewers, although only four of them were earned.

While defensive issues did not help, Zito certainly put tons of kindling on the pile before it exploded on him.

He walked Corey Hart to open the game, then committed an error when Norichika Aoki attempted to bunt Hart to second. Then he walked Ryan Braun to load the bases. Aramis Ramirez then spanked the first pitch he saw from Zito into left center for a three-run double.

A hot shot off the bat on Jonathan Lucroy bounced off Brandon Crawford for another error on the Giants shortstop, although Crawford claimed the shadows caused by how the roof at Miller Park was left opened caused him to not see the ball properly (a legitimate claim).

After another walk to Rickie Weeks, Zito got the first out of the inning on a strikeout of Carlos Gomez. But a groundout by Cesar Izturis plated another run. Then pitcher Marco Estrada doubled home two more runs on a ball that should have been caught by third baseman Joaquin Arias, but that Arias said he never saw (again, the shadows).

The Giants were hurt in the first inning by the shadows. The rest of the game they were hurt by the shadowy figures in blue — the umpires.

In the second, the Brewers made it 8-0 on a two-run homer by Lucroy. But that blast was preceded by an infield single by Aoki in which replays indicated that Zito beat Aoki to the bag while covering first, yet Aoki was called safe. If the umpire Eric Cooper gets the call right, Lucroy does not bat in the inning.

Cooper later hurt the Giants again when replays show that Brandon Belt beat the pitcher covering on an infield grounder, yet Cooper called him out.

Even so, the Giants kept the game entertaining because the bullpen trio of Shane Loux, Steve Edlefsen and Clay Hensley pitched five shutout innings of relief. The Giants bullpen was outstanding in the series in Milwaukee.

The Giants got closer in the third on a three-run double by Hector Sanchez (which was aided by the way by another blown call by the umps). On a side note: commissioner Bud Selig again reiterated that he has no plans of expanding instant replay. Hey Bud! Maybe you should spend more time in your home park.

They got two more in the fourth on an RBI single by Brandon Crawford and RBI double by Melky Cabrera.

But that’s where the scoring stopped, hindered by a season-high 15 strikeouts by the Giants. Seven of those strikeouts were called strike threes, as home plate umpire Jeff Kellogg was calling strikes on pitches so low they would have been too low if thrown to Eddie Gaedel.

Of course, all of these issues would have been minimized if Zito hadn’t started that fire in the first inning.

So if Zito is going to pitch like Zito, is it too much to ask for Lincecum to pitch like Lincecum?

UP NEXT

The Giants open a four-game set in Miami on Thursday with Ryan Vogelsong facing Anibal Sanchez at 4 p.m. Thursday.

San Francisco Giants recent roster decisions, and what they could mean

The Giants have been busy with roster moves, and moves they didn’t make, this past week. And each move — or non-move — can provide some inside about what the Giants are thinking.

Move: Signing Brad Penny

Penny, who spent part of the 2009 season with the Giants, signed with the Giants on Friday. Penny signed with the Softbank Hawks of Japan’s Pacific League for $4 million in the offseason. But it became clear he didn’t want to pitch there and was granted his release earlier this month.

The Giants signed him for the league mininum with the intent of using him as a long reliever and not simply as starter insurance in Fresno.

Penny reported to extended spring training in Arizona and hopes to soon join Fresno. The Giants hope to get Penny on the big-league roster by the end of the month.

So what does the move mean?

  1. It means that Guillermo Mota’s appeal of a 100-game suspension has little chance of succeeding. Hard to believe, given Mota’s “children’s cough medicine” alibi.
  2. It also means that the Giants are not confident going with Triple-A callups Shane Loux and Steve Edlefsen for the long haul in the bullpen.
  3. There’s also some concern with Eric Surkamp’s recovering from an elbow problem that landed him on the DL in spring traiing. Surkamp was viewed in the spring as the first line of defense in the rotation should there be an injury or poor performance.

Non-move: Not signing Orlando Hudson

When the Padres gave the O-Dog his release last week, talking heads are baseball said the Giants might be a good fit. Instead, the Giants passed on Hudson, who later signed with the White Sox.

What does that mean?

  1. The Giants are committed to sticking with Ryan Theriot at second base. Theriot went on the DL on May 11 with an inflamed elbow, although we had our doubts about the injury. There may have been some issue with the elbow, but we think it’s more likely that the Giants wanted to give Theriot time to work on things, given his .179 average in 20 games. Evidence to this is the fact that Theriot is expected to activated Thursday, the first day he’s eligible to come off the DL.
  2. It could also mean the Giants are confident in Pablo Sandoval making a quick return. Sandoval took 25 swings off a tee Wednesday and reported no pain. Giants announce Dave Flemming said Tuesday that Sandoval could be back with the Giants within two weeks. If the Panda is back by early June, the Giants could keep Joaquin Arias with the big club. The Giants like what Arias has brought to the club, both with his bat and glove.
  3. If the above two notes are true, it could mean the end of Emmanuel Burriss’ stay with the Giants. CSNBayArea’s Andrew Baggarly hinted Tuesday that Burriss could be the out man out when Theriot is activated. But MoreSplashHits still believes the Giants will send Charlie Culberson back to Fresno, as he hasn’t played much in the past few days. But when Sandoval returns, the Giants may decide their better off with Arias than with Burriss. Arias has the ability to play all infield positions.
  4. And it can also mean the Giants remain confident of Freddy Sanchez making a return this season. We haven’t heard much from Sanchez since he received an epidural for his sore back early last week. And with Sanchez, the silence is deafening. Sanchez is expected to restart baseball activity soon. But until he does and until he restarts his minor league rehab assignment AND plays some at second base, you can’t count on anything from Sanchez.

San Francisco Giants 6, Milwaukee Brewers 4: Buster Posey is wearing out opposing pitchers

BOX SCORE

For a guy who is supposed to be “tired” or “worn out” Buster Posey sure looks frisky these days.

Two weeks ago, CSNBayArea’s Andrew Baggarly posted a story in which he quotes an unnamed scout who said he thought Buster Posey looked “worn out” adding that Posey’s at-bats got worse late in games.

At the time, Posey was hitting .361 with five strikeouts in 36 at-bats in innings 1-3.

But he was hitting .250 with 20 strikeouts in 64 at-bats in innings 4-9. In innings 7-9, he had 13 strikeouts in 30 at-bats with only one walk.

Baggarly did say that part of Posey’s struggles could be attributed to him trying to do too much in the wake of Pablo Sandoval’s absence from the lineup. But he also said fatigue could be a factor.

At the time, MoreSplashHits believed Posey’s struggles had everything to do with Posey trying to do too much.

While Posey’s strikeouts went up in late innings, so did his home runs. On May 10, two of his four home runs came in late innings.

Clearly, with the Giants always involved in tight games, Posey was trying to deliver a big hit that would get the Giants back into a game, give them the lead or help extend a lead.

And that got him into habits that took him away from the talents that made his such a valuable bat in the Giants lineup.

Once Posey realized that, he went about fixing it with the help of batting coach Hensley Meulens.

“Basically it’s just trying to keep my front side down,” Posey said. “I give ‘Bam Bam’ a lot of credit for recognizing the problem. We went down just a couple of days ago and hit some off the tee. It’s just a matter of keeping that front side closed and he has a couple of drills to help that.”

Since the start of the Giants’ last homestead, Posey is hitting .367 with 2 home runs and 11 RBI. What’s more, in the late innings, he has struck out twice and walked twice since that May 10 Baggarly post.

Posey had been hitting with power of late as well, even though AT&T Park robbed him of a couple of home runs over the weekend.

Miller Park is a different matter.

Posey belted a three-run shot in the first inning on Monday. On Tuesday, he belted a two-run blast that hit the center-field scoreboard, a shot that was estimated at 438 (even though Posey thinks it would have gone farther).

“I would like to think that one would go out at AT&T, too,” he said. “I think it was a little further (than 438 feet). What do you guys think?”

We think Brewers pitchers would be happy to see Posey sit out the series finale on Wednesday. Posey 12 for 24 with six home runs and 15 RBI in Miller Park (although the Giants’ visit to Milwaukee last season came right after Posey’s season-ending injury).

And the Brewers likely will get their wish. With Barry Zito on the mound (Hector Sanchez has been Zito’s personal catcher) and with a day game after a night game, manager Bruce Bochy said Posey will get a day off.

UP NEXT

Barry Zito faces Marco Estrada in 10:10 a.m. game Wednesday. Estrada is 0-3 with 4.63 ERA. He’s allowed at least four earned runs in three of his last four starts.

San Francisco Giants 4, Milwaukee Brewers 3 (14): Hector Sanchez makes his skipper look brilliant

BOX SCORE

I’ll admit it. I didn’t see much of Monday’s win over the Brewers. But apparently, I saw enough.

I watched the first inning, when Buster Posey blasted a thee-run home run. But then I had an evening meeting. When I got back, the game was still going on, in the 14th inning.

My first thought was: How many pitchers are left in the bullpen? How many position players are left on the bench, given Bruce Bochy’s penchant for double switches and pinch-hitting for position players.

The answer to the first question was two: recent Triple-A callups Steve Edlefsen and Shane Loux. The answer to the second question was none.

  • Brandon Belt entered the game in a double-switch in the eighth.
  • Emmanuel Burriss entered the game in a double-switch in the ninth
  • Aubrey Huff pinch-hit for Jeremy Affeldt in the 11th.
  • Angel Pagan was not available because of the stomach flu.
  • In the 12th, Bochy replaced Posey with Hector Sanchez in a double switch.

But Sanchez made the move pay off with a lead-off home run in the 14th.

“You don’t see that too often, a double-switch and your backup hits one out,” Bochy said.

It’s a rare sight indeed. Also rare is a game in which all of the Giants’ runs game via the home run — and each of those homers came from a Giants catcher.

You wouldn’t expect to see that with Eli Whiteside or Chris Stewart on the roster.

UP NEXT

Matt Cain takes the mound against Shaun Marcum at 5:10 p.m. Cain has a road ERA of 4.42, but that is misleading. Cain has only had three road starts this season, and that includes his first start of the season, in which he gave up five runs in six innings in Arizona. His most recent road start also came in Arizona on May 12, in which he gave up one run on three hits in six innings.

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