May 2012

San Francisco Giants weekend series recap: Another blowup inning for Tim Lincecum

GIANTS 8, ATHLETICS 6: BOX SCORE

GIANTS 4, ATHLETICS 0: BOX SCORE

ATHLETICS 6, GIANTS 2: BOX SCORE

Stop me if you’ve read this before:

Tim Lincecum pitched great on Sunday, until ….

Once again, the big inning and Lincecum’s inability to get out of trouble jumped up and bit the Freak.

Let’s relieve Lincecum’s outing on Sunday against the A’s

FIRST INNING: Strikeout, strikeout, walk, strikeout.

SECOND INNING: Groundout, strikeout, fly out.

THIRD INNING: Groundout, strikeout, triple, groundout.

Through three innings, Lincecum had given up one hit and one walk and struck out five on 55 pitches.

And then came the fourth.

The fourth went groundout, single, single, walk, infield single (3B Joaquin Arias was able to field a grounder on the line but not able to make a play), single, force out, wild pitch, walk, groundout.

In all, four runs on three hits and two walks — 35 pitches.

After a high-stress inning that included Lincecum taking a shot on the chin from the head of Collin Cowgill when he slid home to score on a wild pitch, manager Bruce Bochy lifted Lincecum for a pinch-hitter, having thrown 90 pitches in four innings.

A couple of weeks ago, we called it an anomaly. Now, it seems like a habit.

“Just missing pitches, execution of pitches,” Lincecum explained. “The walk didn’t help. Just some unlucky stuff here and there.”

Well, if that’s so, Lincecum is the unluckiest guy around.

Lincecum is creating his own luck, by falling behind in counts. It’s not that Lincecum is getting hammered. But he’s being killed by a thousand pin pricks.

And he can’t get out of big innings.

“It used to be the first,” Lincecum said. “Now, it’s the fourth or fifth.”

Manager Bruce Bochy seems to think the problem is in Lincecum’s head, not his arm. The Freak seems to agree.

“I’m trying to make too good of a pitch, instead of just making a pitch,” Lincecum said. “I’m trying to be too fune, instead of just trusting it.”

Lincecum’s next start comes Friday at Miami, then May 30 at home vs. Arizona. Let’s hope he finds some trust before then.

UP NEXT

The Giants open a seven-game road trip to Milwaukee and Miami, two cities close in the alphabet but not on the map. Monday’s opener features Madison Bumgarner vs. Randy Wolf in a rematch of a Giants’ 5-2 win in San Francisco on May 4.

San Francisco Giants Friday Farm Report 5/18

It’s easy to look at the numbers of the players hitting in the Giants’ Triple-A affiliate and wonder why the big club hasn’t called them up.

Yet every player the Giants have called on this season has seen a significant drop-off from their Triple-A’s number. This can be expected because there’s a huge difference between Triple-A pitching and big-league pitching.

But you also have to consider Triple-A’s players play in hitter-friendly Chukchansi Park in Fresno, as well as other hitter-friendly parks in the PCL.

Taken those two facts together, and you can expect to see a significant drop in production.

Joaquin Arias had a slash line of .400/.432/.557 at Fresno. With the Giants, he’s at .250/.311/.321.

Connor Gillaspie was at .364/.417/.545 at Fresno. In San Francisco, it was .150/.150/.200. In Gillaspie’s first game back at Fresno since being demoted last week, he went 2 for 5 with a two-run home run.

And now we have Charlie Culberson: .284/.320/.496 in Fresno. With the Giants, it’s .111/.111/.111.

File those Triple-A numbers under the grain-of-salt file.

Triple-A Fresno

  • IF Brock Bond: In the days since Culberson was called up to the big club, Bond has gone 8 for 15 with three walks. He’s now hitting .395 for the season with a .473 OBP. Bond, who was playing 3B, is playing 2B now that Gillaspie is back.
  • IF Nick Noonan: Noonan is playing SS in Fresno, but has played other infield positions. He’s riding a 12-game hitting streak and is hitting .317 with a .370 OBP and .407 SLG.
  • OF Justin Christian: After cooling off a bit from his hot start, Christian is hot again, hitting safely in his past 10 games. He’s at .383/.451/.578 for the season.
  • RP Heath Hembree: Hembree had his first blow-up outing on Monday, giving up five runs (three earned) on one hit and two walks in 1/3 of an inning, bumping his season ERA to 3.77.
  • RP Dan Otero: Otero was sent down when the Giants needed to make some roster moves in late April. Since then, he’s 2-1 with 6.23 ERA at Fresno.

Double-A Richmond

  • 3B Daniel Mayora: The 26-year-old Mayora leads Richmond in hitting at .314, but has very little power and has committed 14 errors.
  • C Tommy Joseph: Joseph continues to make improvements at the plate. He 7 for 18 over his past five games, raising his season average to .250.
  • OF Gary Brown: Not much new to report on the Giants’ top prospect. He’s hitting .237 on the season with a .322 OBP. He’s starting to figure the stolen base thing, swiping 10 in 13 attempts. But he was also 1 for 6 with three whiffs in Richmond’s 14-inning 1-0 win over Harrisburg Thursday.
  • LHP Michael Kickham: Kickham had his best start of the year Saturday vs. Bowie, pitching 6.1 scoreless innings, giving up six hits and no walks.
  • RHP Chris Heston: Heston continues to be the most impressive starter in Richmond. He threw eight shutout innings Thursday vs. Harrisburg. He has not allowed an earned run in his last three starts and only one in his past five starts. He has an 0.71 ERA and 0.85 WHIP in 50.2 IP.

Class A San Jose

  • OF Ryan Lollis: The 25-year-old Lollis leads San Jose in hitting with a .330/.395/.470 slash line. He’s 10 for 24 over his past 6 games.
  • SS Joe Panik: Slowly but surely, Panik is starting to get his cold start turned around. He’s 6 for 24 over the past week (6 games), but with only one strikeout (He fanned 13 times in his first 29 games). His season line is at .247/.343/.313.
  • LP Jack Snodgrass: Snodgrass improved to 5-1 with 1.69 ERA with two wins in the past week. He has 34 Ks and 11 BB in 48 IPs.
  • SP Seth Rosin: The 6-6 rightie added two more saves with a couple of hitless innings in the past week. He has eight saves, recording one in each of his last five outings. He has a 2.45 ERA with 23 Ks and 5 BB in 14.2 IP this season.

San Francisco Giants 7, St. Louis Cardinals 5: Impostors take field for Giants, draw NINE walks, whiff twice

BOX SCORE

Who were those guys, anyway?

Matt Cain is supposed to be the dependable shutdown starter for the Giants. Instead, he labored through six innings, giving up four runs on eight hits.

Since the Giants have given Cain an average of 3.67 runs of support over his career, giving up four runs is supposed to be a sure loss for Cain. But the Giants gave him five runs of support, then added two more for insurance.

The Giants scored seven runs, the first time they’ve scored more than five in a home game all season.

And finally, one day after striking out 11 times with no walks, the Giants walked a nine times and only whiffed twice (and one of those was by Cain). Yes, on Tuesday, the Giants walked 10 times, but struck out 11.

So again, we ask: Who were those guys?

  • Gregor Blanco continúes to perform well in the leadoff spot, drawing two walks. (A leadoff batter who takes pitches and draws walks? Who’s heard of such a thing? Not Giants fans who have endured the likes of Andres Torres, Aaron Rowand and even Cody Ross in the leadoff spot).
  • Brandon Crawford, hitting in the No. 2 hole, went 2 for 5 with a double and two RBI.
  • Buster Posey went 2 for 4 with a walk. His average is back up to .302.
  • Angel Pagan walked THREE times and went 1 for 2. Don’t look now but his average is up to .296.
  • Brandon Belt went 2 for 3 with two doubles and a walk.

Every Giant position player got a hit or drew a walk …. except for Charlie Culberson.

Yes the Giants were aided by some bumbling in the field by the Cardinals. But the Giants put themselves in position to take advantage of those errors by putting runners on base.

Did somebody talk to the Giants hitters about being more patient, more selective?

Did they finally listen?

I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I like the results. Let’s see if they can keep it up.

UP NEXT

Barry Zito, who now with Cain’s rough outing, leads Giants starters in ERA (2.35) will face the Oakland A’s and rookie Jarrod Parker at 7:15 p.m. Friday in the first leg of the Bay Bridge series. Ryan Vogelsong meets Tyson Ross on Saturday; and Tim Lincecum faces Bartolo Colon on Sunday.

St. Louis Cardinals 4, San Francisco Giants 1: Giants aren’t fit to be tied … for long

BOX SCORE

Watching another Giants loss on Wednesday, I couldn’t help but feel like I had seen this before.

And I’m not talking about an offense that can’t score, especially at home. That Giants have not scored more than five runs in a game at home all season, and have only scored five runs twice (both day games).

And I’m not talking about wasting another solid performance from their starting pitcher.

And I’m not talking about listening to announcers talk about how efficient the opposing pitcher has been with his pitches.
I’m talking about letting a team reclaim the leader after the Giants manage to tie the game.

It seems I’ve seen that before. So I looked it up.

Thirteen times this season the Giants have come from behind to tie the game. In six of those occurences, the Giants have allowed their opponent to retake the lead IN THEIR VERY NEXT AT-BAT.

That’s almost a 50-50 proposition.

It happened again Wednesday. After the Cardinals scored in the first inning, Madison Bumgarner kept them off the board until the Giants pushed across the tying run with a Buster Posey RBI single in the sixth.

In the top of the seventh, Bumgarner got two quick outs, then gave up a solo home run to David Freese to left.

OTHER NOTES

  • The Madison Bumgarner batting eighth experiment was almost a push. MadBum had a single and a strikeout in three ABs. Emmanuel Burriss, in the No. 9 hole, had a single and two strikeouts in four ABs. I guess you can say MadBum had the better game.
  • Speaking of strikeouts, the Giants, who have the fewest strikeouts in the NL this season, struck out 11 times with ZERO walks. Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia, who is not known as a strikeout pitcher, fanned nine. This doesn’t have ANYTHING to do with the hitting coach?

UP NEXT

Matt Cain faces Adam Wainwright at 12:45 p.m. Thursday in the finale of the two-game series.

San Francisco Giants bat Emmanuel Burriss in the 9th spot

Bruce Bochy has played Aubrey Huff at second base.

He’s had Brett Pill play third base.

If Nate Schierholtz had gotten at hit Tuesday night, he would have been looking at playing Hector Sanchez at third base.

And now, Bochy is having Emmanuel Burriss hitting ninth in the batting order, behind Madison Bumgarner.

Bochy tried to spin the move in his pre-game comments.

“I’ve done this once before,” Bochy said. “The way it’s set up, I did put Madison in the eighth spot. It gives you two leadoff hitters, like Tony (La Russa) talked about that.”

What?!? Two leadoff hitters?!? In what world would Bochy, or anyone, think about having Burriss bat leadoff?

“It’s not something I plan to do on a consistent basis,” Bochy continued. “But against a left-hander, Manny can play his game, which is speed, from the ninth spot.”

Um, yeah, right.

And if you believe that, Bochy might have a bridge he’d like to sell you.

Bochy is doing this move for one pure and simple reason: Against left-handed pitching, Bumgarner is a better hitter.

Burriss this season vs. left-handed pitching is 0 for 11 with one walk and one sacrifice.

It’s probably why he tried to bunt with two on and two out in the sixth inning against LHP Christian Friedrich on Tuesday.

He’s a career .260 hitter against LHP. But last season, he was .143 vs. LHP in 30 PAs.

Now Burriss suffered two foot injuries in 2009 and 2010. But those injuries would not impact his RH batting. We’re guessing the league has a book on Burriss from the right side, and Burriss hasn’t read it yet.

Meanwhile, Bumgarner is 1 for 12 with double and an RBI vs. left-handed pitching. That double came against Milwaukee’s Randy Wolf on May 5. Over his career, he hits .111 vs. lefties (3 for 27).

It’s just another sign that Burriss’ tenure with the Giants may soon be coming to an end.

The first sign came when the Giants called up a second baseman from Fresno in Charlie Culberson.

If Freddy Sanchez can ever get healthy, the Giants may be willing to part with Burriss. The Giants liked Burriss for his versatility on defense. But Joaquin Arias has shown he can fill that road … and hit.

And that’s the ONLY reason Bochy drew up the lineup this way … because Arias needs one more day to recover from a bruised forearm after being hit by a pitch.

Colorado Rockies 5, San Francisco Giants 4: Defense lets Tim Lincecum down, and that’s OK with Bruce Bochy

BOX SCORE

Tim Lincecum got somewhat lost amid the late-game theatrics in Tuesday’s loss to the Rockies.

Lincecum’s final line was nothing to write home about — four runs on seven hits and three walks in seven innings. Yet through five innings, Lincecum was very good, allowing just one run on three hits and one walk.

He retired the side in order in the first two innings, striking out three. He did not allow his first hit until the fourth inning.

But things rapidly went awry in the sixth with Angel Pagan’s foolish decision to attempt a shoe-string catch on Troy Tulowitzki’s liner to center.

Instead of playing the ball on a hop for a single, Pagan tried to make a lunging catch. But the ball went under his glove and all the way to the center-field wall for a single and a two-base error. If Tulowitzki weren’t so hobbled by a bruise foot sustained Tuesday, he would have easily rounded the bases and scored. Instead, he simply jogged to third.

Ever the apologist, manager Bruce Bochy gave Pagan a pass.

“That’s part of the game when you’re hopefully playing aggressive,” Bochy said. “I don’t want these guys to go the other way. I probably would have felt worse if he had backed off and caught it on one hop there if he had a chance to catch it. And he was pretty close to catching that.”

OK, there’s a difference between playing aggressively and playing smart. The Giants need to play smart, and they need a manager who understands that.

First, as a center fielder with a ball hit directly at you, you have to know that if you miss it that will lead to big, BIG trouble because it’s unlikely someone will be there to back you up. It’s much different on a ball hit to either gap, when either the left or right fielder could be in position to back you up.

Also, the situation dictates how you play that. If there’s a runner on third with two outs and the liner to center is hit, yeah, be aggressive. Try to catch the ball to prevent the run.

But this was with one out and no one on. Then it becomes a risk-reward situation. You could A) catch the ball for an out; B) play the ball on a hop for a one-out single to a slow-moving baserunner who will clog up the basepaths; or C) miss the catch and potentially turn it into a four-base play.

The smart play is to play it on a hop and trust that Lincecum can work around the one-out single … like he had done previously in the game.

Instead, there’s a runner on third with one out. So Lincecum pitches around Todd Helton for his second walk, trying to set up a double play. He gets Michael Cuddyer to hit a grounder, but it’s right over the third-base bag for a double, scoring Tulowitzki.

Then Lincecum walks Ramon Hernandez to load the bases. Lincecum gets Jordan Pacheco to hit a fly to shallow center, which should have afforded Pagan a chance to throw out the slow-footed Helton. But Pagan’s throw is nowhere near the plate, and Helton scores.

Pagan’s aggrssiveness led to two runs being scored. It led to two of Lincecum’s three walks (which were basically intentional). It led to a stressful inning that caused Lincecum’s pitch count to mount. And it led to Lincecum to wonder what he needs to do to pitch better when in fact, he did his job.

But apparently all of that is perfectly fine with Bochy.

San Francisco Giants 3, Colorado Rockies 2: It’s Gregor ‘Babe’ Blanco

BOX SCORE

Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Aubrey Huff was getting closer to start.

Well, not with Gregor Blanco around.

Blanco went 3 for 4 Monday, with two hits that didn’t leave the infield and one hit that left the yard.

Blanco’s solo shot to right in the sixth — and it was no cheapy — got the Giants on the board, and his infield single to leadoff the eighth sparked a two-run rally.

“I was trying to hit a line drive through the middle and it worked out better,” Blanco said of his home run.

It led to happy ending that didn’t look evident when things started — nor the way it ended.

The Giants could not figure out Colorado rookie left-hander Christian Friedrich early on. The Giants, who have the fewest strikeouts in the NL, whiffed six times their first time through the lineup.

Blanco’s first infield single to lead off the fourth would be the team’s first hit. They would finish with 10.

In the ninth, after RBI singles by Buster Posey and Brett Pill in the eighth gave the Giants a 3-1 lead, the Rockies put two runners on with one out against Santiago Casilla.

Casilla looked to get out of the inning when Marco Scutaro hit a hard grounder third baseman Joaquin Arias, setting up a potential game-inning double play. Instead, Arias let it get by him for an error, allowing the Rockies to cut the margin to 3-1 and put runners on second and third with one out.

But Casilla struck out Dexter Fowler, and after an intentional walk to Carlos Gonzalez, Arias redeemed himself by making a nice play on a slow chopper by Chris Nelson to end the game.

OTHER NOTES

  • P Ryan Vogelsong regrouped from a rough start when he struggled with his control. He walked five, but finished seven innings by giving up one run on three hits.
  • C Buster Posey went 2 for 4 as he tried to break out of a recent slump.
  • An interesting late move. 2B Charlie Culberson was replaced in the ninth by 2B Emmanuel Burriss, we presume for defensive purposes.

UP NEXT

Tim Lincecum returns to the mound at 7:10 p.m. Tuesday to face Jeremy Guthrie, who will make his first since coming off the DL. Lincecum may face a Troy Tulowitzki-less lineup. Tulowitzki injured his ankle when he was hit by a foul ball by teammate while sitting in the dugout. Tulowitzki tried to continue but was eventually pulled for a pinch-runner. We’d be surprise to see him in the lineup Tuesday.

San Francisco Giants’ revolving door at second base takes another spin

So let’s take a look at the players the Giants have tried at second base this season.

  • Ryan Theriot
  • Emmanuel Burriss
  • Joaquin Arias
  • Aubrey Huff
  • and now Charlie Culberson

All of that has added up to 0 HR, 6 RBI, .208 AVG, .259 OBP, .216 SLG. In case you haven’t figured it out, that’s the worst for any position other than pitcher on the team.

Even Giants shortstops are hitting .240.

In fact, Giants pitchers have delivered two more doubles than second basemen.

With that as a backdrop, we share news Monday that Freddy Sanchez had ANOTHER setback on his recovery from shoulder surgery.

Except this time, it was his back that flared up.

Manager Bruce Bochy called it a “minor setback.” But no setback for Sanchez can be consider “minor” at this point. Plus, Sanchez battled a sore back when he started spring training in Arizona.

Bochy said Sanchez’s back was bothering him for a few days, but has now become so bad that “he can’t do anything.”

Bochy said earlier this month that there was 50-50 chance of Sanchez returning to the Giants by the end of the month. Those odds went WAY down after Monday’s news. In fact, if you had “September 1 to never” in your office pool on Sanchez’s return date, you’re looking good right now.

So where do the Giants’ go from here?

Well, in the short term, they’ll turn to Charlie Culberson.

Culberson went 1 for 5 in his big-league debut Sunday after getting a late call Saturday for a promotion. 3B Conor Gillaspie was sent down.

Culberson is a 23-year-old who was a sandwich pick out of high school in 2007.

The Giants started him out as a shortstop. But after committing 35 errors in 79 games at Class A Augusta in 2008, they moved him the third base. But he maded 40 errrors in 132 games there for Augusta in 2009.

That led to a move to second base, where he found success. Coincidentally (or not), once Culberson found a defensive position, his offensive numbers improved. After hitting .234 in 2008 and .246 in 2009, he hit .290 with 16 HR, 71 RBI for Class A San Jose in 2010.

He followed that up with 10 HR, 56 RBI and .259 at Double-A Richmond in a league that usually challenges hitters.

He was hitting .284 with 5 HR and 24 RBI, plus 11 doubles for Fresno. It’s that show of power that led the Giants to call on Culberson over the more experienced Brock Bond, who was hitting .380 with a .450 OBP for Fresno. But the 26-year-old Bond had 1 HR and 11 RBI.

But we’ve seen players who were hitting at Fresno come to San Francisco and failed to get the job done. That was the case with Gillaspie, who was sent down as much for his defense as his offense.

So we’ll see what Culberson can do.

San Francisco Giants’ weekend wrap-up

GIANTS 5, DIAMONDBACKS 2: BOX SCORE

GIANTS 7, DIAMONDBACKS 3: BOX SCORE

Maybe the Giants should keep the pink bats year-round.

The Giants capped their six-game road trip by smashing out a season-high 14 hits in a 7-3 win over the Diamondbacks Sunday.

Every Giants position player collected at least one hit, including Charlie Culberson’s first career hit.
Culberson was called up prior to Sunday’s start as Conor Gillaspie was sent back to Fresno.

Melky Cabrera had a big game, going 4 for 5, Brett Pill belted his third homer of the season and the Giants went 4 for 11 with runners in scoring position.

Couple all that with another quality start from Barry Zito (6 IP, 3 ER, 3 BB, 5K) and it equals a series win in Arizona, a place of hardship for the Giants over the past year.

The Giants got nine hits in Saturday’s win, but only hit 3 for 15 with runners in scoring position. In fact, without Matt Cain’s bat, they may have score only two runs. Cain had a two-run double. But he also had a leadoff single in the fifth. That led to a Gregor Blanco forceout, and then steal. Blanco scored on Melky Cabrera’s two-out double.

UP NEXT

The Giants open a seven-game homestand with a two-game set against the Rockies. Ryan Vogelsong face Christian Friedrich at 7:15 p.m. Tim Lincecum meets Jeremy Guthrie on Tuesday.

Arizona Diamondbacks 5, San Francisco Giants 1: Madison Bumgarner gets mad, then bummed

BOX SCORE

After giving up three runs in the fifth, Madison Bumgarner was steaming mad. But it wasn’t clear if MadBum was upset with the umpire or his defense. Or both.

But manager Bruce Bochy said the source of the Giants’ problems on Friday wasn’t the umpire or defense. It was the offense.

And you know what? He has a point.

The defense had its issues … again. Brandon Crawford committed another error that led to an unearned run. There was another Arizona hit that Crawford should have snared, and Miguel Montero had a double that should have been caught by Brett Pill in left for the third out of what became a three-run inning.

Despite all that, the Giants can’t expect to come to Arizona, score one run and hope to win a game.

“This offense has got to get going,” Bochy said. “We just didn’t have very good at-bats today. Defense, sure there were a couple of mistakes. I just think that you are going to break out at some point. We scored five runs in the series in L.A. and then come in here and score one. That is not going to work.”

And it wasn’t that the Giants only scored one run. It’s that they didn’t come CLOSE to scoring another.

Melky Cabrera got the Giants on the board with a home run in the first inning. After that, the Giants only got one runner as far a second base the rest of the game, and that came in the seventh when Justin Upton dropped a fly to right off the bat of Buster Posey for a two-run error.

That’s as close to a rally that they got.

The Giants’ other hits: a one-out single by Hector Sanchez in the second, and two-out single by Angel Pagan in the sixth, a two-out single by Aubrey Huff in the eighth and a one-out single by Cabrera in the ninth.

Oh, and the number of times the Giants walked on Friday: ZERO.

UP NEXT

Matt Cain takes on Trevor Cahill at 5:10 p.m. Saturday. The Giants didn’t face Cahill in their season-opening series. The last time the Giants saw Cahill, he was pitching for the Athletics. He limited the Giants to two runs on six hits in 14 innings against them in 2011. The results of those two games were a 2-1 win for the Giants on May 20 and a 2-1 win for the A’s on June 19. Oh, and who did Cahill face on the June 19th win? Matt Cain. Yeah, it’s going to be one of THOSE days.

We heard rumblings that Huff may get his first start Saturday since coming off the DL. If that’s true, here’s our best guess at Saturday’s lineup.

  1. CF Angel Pagan
  2. 3B Conor Gillaspie
  3. RF Melky Cabrera
  4. C Buster Posey
  5. 1B Brandon Belt
  6. LF Aubrey Huff
  7. 2B Joaquin Arias
  8. SS Brandon Crawford
  9. P Matt Cain
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