Thursday was a day off for the San Francisco Giants, but does mean there wasn’t news to report.
San Francisco Chronicle reporter Henry Schulman reported that Ryan Vogelsong’s sore back — which caused the pitcher to get a late start to spring training and to the started of the season — flared up in the days before his most recent start.
It did not prevent him from pitching Tuesday in Los Angeles. In fact, Vogey’s seven-plus inning, one-run outing was his best of the season.
The Giants had Vogelsong leave LA early to avoid subjecting his back to a late-night flight after Wednesday’s game. It also allowed him to get a “maintainence shot” to his back in Arizona. The Giants say they don’t expect Vogelsong to miss his next start Monday at home against the Rockies.
Then came another piece of news. The Giants reportedly called on Fresno Grizzlies pitcher Shane Loux to join the team in Arizona. Loux was not activated. According to Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com, teams have a short grace period in which they can bring a player in without calling him up.
The Loux summons could mean a couple of things:
The Giants could see Loux as insurance in the event Vogelsong’s back tightens up again. Loux started 28 games for Fresno in 2011 with a 4.67 ERA. But he’s worked exclusively out of the pen, with success, this season — 21 IP in 13 innings with a 3-1 record and an 0.43 ERA. So using Loux as a spot starter for Vogey doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Baggarly said it’s possible that Loux is being brought in simply to familiarize himself with the big league routine to prepare him for a future call-up. But Loux is no spring chicken. He’s 32 with two previous big-league stints — in 2002-03 with the Tigers and 2008-09 with the Angels.
It’s also likely the Giants are preparing to return to a seven-man bullpen. We knew that the Giants decision to go with a six-man pen in the wake of Guillermo Mota’s suspension and Aubrey Huff’s activation from the DL would not be permanent. The day off following the Dodgers series offered the Giants some flexibility.
But that flexibility ends Friday when the Giants start a stretch in which they play 20 games in 20 days. Loux’s call-up may be the first step toward the Giants returning to a seven-man pen. But with Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain, who both have the ability to pitch deep into games, going in the first two games, the Giants may simply be holding Loux in reserve, allowing them to keep the deeper bench at least to open the Arizona series.
And there’s another factor at play. Jeremy Affeldt (sprained knee) is eligible to come off the DL on Sunday and may well be available to do so. But even if he is ready to come off the DL, that doesn’t mean Loux won’t be needed.
The Giants normally keep two lefties in the pen (Javier Lopez and Affeldt). When Affeldt went on the DL, lefty Travis Blackley was called upon. So when Affeldt comes off the DL, Blackley could be sent back to Fresno and Loux is activated to give the Giants a seven-man pen.
This appears to be the mostly likely scenario to MoreSplashHits, given Thursday’s news.
Of course, if that does happen, the Giants would need to demote, DL or DFA a position player.
But we’ll deal with that decision in a later post.
If I told you that Tim Lincecum regularly hit 93 mph on the speed gun, walked just two and struck out eight, including Matt Kemp three times as part of an 0-for-5 night, you’d have to think it was a great night for the Freak and the Giants.
Oh, it was a so close to being true.
The game got away from Lincecum in the fourth inning, and Giants could not recover. Lincecum put himself in a bad position by leaving some pitches up. But his outstanding start to the game was completely undone by one bad pitch.
Giants fans had to feel good after Lincecum got through the first inning unscathed. He mixed in a walk and a single in-between three strikeouts in a 24-pitch frame.
But he was back to his dominant self in the second and third innings, with his fastball hitting 93 mph and his slider at 87 mph, a good 3-4 mph bump from his previous outings.
Then came the fourth. It started with Andre Ethier lacing a double to right. Lincecum left a pitch up and Bobby Abreu slapped it into center, with Ethier holding at third.
Juan Uribe hit a ball sharply to third that Joaquin Arias was able to glove, but slipped when he went to throw Abreu out at second. That went for an infield single as Ethier scored.
A wild pitch moved the runners up to second and third before a James Loney struck out for the first out.
Lincecum walked AJ Ellis on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases. Dodger skipper Don Mattingly pinch-hit for pitcher Chad Billingsley, calling on Tony Gwynn Jr.
But Lincecum jumped out to an 0-2 count. And that’s when he hung a curve ball right in the middle of the plate that Gwynn whacked to right for a three-run triple. Dodgers 4, Giants 2.
And that was it.
“You’re questioning yourself during games and during situations like that,” Lincecum said. “It’s just about execution. That’s what it comes down to making a better pitch in a situation where you’re ahead in the count, it’s in your favor and you’ve got their guy guessing. So why give the guy a cookie down the middle that he can see well?”
Why indeed. Lincecum got out of the fourth with the 4-2 deficit. He would pitch the fifth before exiting with 101 pitches, 74 for strikes.
The fourth inning had a double-negative effect on the Giants. It created an opportunity for the Dodgers to get Billngsley out of the game.
The Giants tagged Billingsley for seven hits and four walks in four innings, but again failed to big hit to break the game open.
Actually, two Nate Schierholtz plays on the basepaths really hurt the Giants.
In the second, after drawing a one-out walk, Schierholtz was caught stealing second base. That was followed by a walk to Arias, single by Brandon Crawford and single by Tim Lincecum that produced the game’s first run, when it should have produced at least two.
In the third, it got worse for Schierholtz.
Melky Cabrera had a one-out triple and scored on Buster Posey’s single. Brandon Belt grounded into a force play, but Schierholtz singled to put runners on first and second. Arias singled to center that appeared to score Belt, but Schierholtz made a big turn around second and scrambled back to the bag. Matt Kemp alertly saw this and threw Schierholtz out BEFORE Belt came across the plate.
That’s two runs the Giants left on the base paths, perhaps even more.
As we’ve said before, the Giants don’t have the kind of offense to keep making mistakes that prevent runs from being scored.
The Giants get a day off Thursday before opening a three-game series in Arizona, who are riding a five-game losing streak.
The normally cheerful pre-game notes from the Giants PR department were sort of ominous Tuesday.
The Giants were 0-5 against Clayton Kershaw last season, the first time they had lost five times to the same pitcher since 1961.
The Giants haven’t homered in six games and don’t have a homer by a guy who doesn’t currently have a broken hamate bone in their last nine games.
The Giants lead the majors with 33 errors and have 11 two-error games.
The one positive note: Giants starting pitchers have a 2.49 ERA over the past 19 games.
Of course, the theme to all of these notes were “Due for a W.”
Brett Pill belted a two-run homer, Ryan Vogelsong gave up just one run in 71/3 innings, the Giants committed no errors and turned four double plays, and a shutdown relief job by Javier Lopez and Santiago Casilla added up to a 2-1 win over Kershaw and the Dodgers.
It was great news for the Giants, and great news for Pill.
Pill appeared to be first in line for a demotion to Fresno last weekend before the anticipated activation of Aubrey Huff.
Instead, the Giants opted to go with the short bullpen for the time being. The move has worked so far as the Giants have not had to use Clay Hensley or Sergio Romo in this series and Casilla only threw two pitches on Tuesday.
We’ll see how long that last.
In the meantime, the spotlight shined on Pill, who used a good memory to help him on Tuesday.
Pill went 0 for 6 with four strikeouts against Kershaw during his callup last September. But he remembered one thing about the Dodgers’ left.
“Last year, he threw me a lot of first-pitch fastballs,” Pill said. “Luckily, he left one over the plate. After that, he didn’t throw that again.”
And Pill struck out twice before being lifted for defensively purposes.
- Angel Pagan left after tweaking his already troublesome hamstring in the ninth. Manager Bruce Bochy said it wasn’t serious, but we could expect a start in CF by Gregor Blanco on Wednesday.
- Inexiplicably, Ryan Theriot continues to get starts at 2B against left. Even more confusing is that he keeps batting in the No. 2 hole. Bochy is starting Theriot based on reputation of being able to hit lefties. Yet, Theriot is down to .179 on the season, and he’s actually hitting righties better. He’s hitting .227 after RHP and .148 against LHP. Bochy has access to these stats, doesn’t he?
- Brandon Belt got a rare start against a LHP. He walked and hit two balls very hard for outs to the outfield, including one that Matt Kemp had to reel in against the wall in right-center.
Tim Lincecum returns to the mound — and glad that he’s not facing Kershaw. Instead, it’s Chad Billingsley who gets the start in the 7:10 p.m. game.
Let’s take another shot at the lineup for Wednesday.
CF Gregor Blanco
3B Conor Gillaspie
RF Melky Cabrera
C Buster Posey
1B Brandon Belt
RF Nate Schierholtz
2B Joaquin Arias
SS Brandon Crawford
P Tim Lincecum
The box score will say Barry Zito had a quality start with three earned runs in 6 innings pitch.
But anyone who watched the Giants’ loss to the Dodgers know Zito deserved better.
Granted, Zito did spend some time dodging bullets in the early innings. But as he’s managed to do well this season, he was working his way out of trouble, instead of into big innings.
But Zito needed some help from his defense Tuesday, and did not get it.
In the third inning, Mark Ellis hit a one-out double to left. Zito walked Matt Kemp intentionally, and then Andre Ethier unintentionally (after starting him off 0-2 in typical Zito fashion).
But Zito looked like he’d get out of the inning when Juan Rivera hit a grounder right at Ryan Theriot. But instead of turning an inning-ending double play, Theriot bobbled the ball, and only got the out at first, allowing Ellis to score the game’s first run.
After the Giants tied the game in the top of the sixth, the defense helped give the lead back.
With one out, Bobby Abreu hit a slow chopper to third. A good third baseman like Pablo Sandoval makes the play and throws Abreu out. A weak-throwing third baseman like Conor Gillaspie does not. Abreu gets an infield hit.
After Jose Uribe walked, A.J. Ellis hit a bloop double to right that scored Abreu.
Then Tony Gwynn Jr. tried a safety squeeze that was too hard to Gillaspie to allow Uribe to score. But Gillaspie’s throw to first was off-line, and Uribe did score. Actually, Theriot was backing up the throw, but he failed to catch the ball cleanly. If he does, Uribe holds at third.
The Dodgers added another run in the seventh on a throwing error by pitcher Steve Edlefsen when he made the poor decision to try to throw out Matt Kemp at third, instead of getting the sure out at first.
An error by Buster Posey on a sacrifice bunt and Gillaspie’s inability to prevent a bunt single by Dee Gordon in the eighth set a five-run inning in motion.
Manager Bruce Bochy said the Giants defense “looked like we skipped spring training.” He and his staff even discussed putting the best defensive team on the field Wednesday — righty-lefty matchups be damned.
Well, it couldn’t hurt, especially with the way the Giants hitters are performing.
But here’s an interesting note about Clayton Kershaw.
Teams this year have stacked their lineups with righties against the left-handed Kershaw. Righties have 124 plate appearances in six games against Kershaw this year, compared to 24 by lefties.
Yet, righties are still hitting just .175 against him, while lefties are hitting .304.
The strikeout rate is much high among lefties (.360 to .202). But of the four home runs Kershaw has allowed this season, three have come from lefties.
Hey, it’s worth a shot. So if Bochy is honest about putting his best defensive team on the field Wednesday, this is how is should look.
- RF Gregor Blanco (I would rather put him in CF, but that won’t happen)
- 3B Joaquin Blanco
- LF Melky Cabrera
- C Buster Posey
- CF Angel Pagan
- 1B Brandon Belt
- 2B Emmanuel Burriss
- SS Brandon Crawford
- P Ryan Vogelsong
Ryan Vogelsong takes the mound against Kershaw at 7:10 p.m. The game will be carried live by the MLB Network, if you dare to watch.
So how do you keep you’re Mota running? Apparently with clenbuterol.
The San Francisco Giants took another hit on Monday when reliever Guillermo Mota was suspended 100 games for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug.
Mota tested positive for clenbuterol, which is usual prescribed to patients suffering from breathing disorders such as asthma.
However it has also been used as a performance-enhancing drug, which is how it landed on MLB’s banned list.
But it’s a banned drug for aiding athletes in high-octane type of sports. Here’s a list of athletes who have been punished for clenbuterol used
Spanish cyclist Alberto Contador
U.S. swimmer Jessica Hardy
Polish sprint canoer Adam Serocynski
Members of the Mexican national soccer team
And now Guillermo Mota. He doesn’t quite fit the profile, does he?
Both Contador and the Mexican soccer players were later exonerated when it was that clenbuterol was ingested via contaminated food or food supplements.
Perhaps, this will be Mota’s line of defense in any appeal.
Mota served a 50-game suspension for a performance-enhancing substance violation while with the Mets in 2006, although we didn’t find what the substance was back then.
Mota was 0-1 with a 5.06 ERA with 9 strikeouts and 4 walks in 10.2 innings this season. But four of the six earned runs allowed occurred in one outing in Colorado on April 11.
Aubrey Huff is eligible to come off the disabled list on Monday.
The question is: Will the Giants activate him on Monday?
Fans hoping to get an answer to the question Sunday were disappointed.
Bruce Bochy reported met with Huff on Sunday to assess where his veteran first baseman/outfielder was at with his treatment for anxiety disorder. Bochy also met with the Giants “braintrust” to discuss the options with Huff.
One report said Huff will travel with the team Monday to Los Angeles, but that doesn’t mean a thing.
It’s just as easy to get to Fresno from Los Angeles as it is from San Francisco. And with the Grizzlies set to play a day game Monday in Colorado Springs, a Huff rehab stint with Fresno wouldn’t start until Tuesday when the Grizzlies start a homestand.
Now the answer to the question “What should the Giants do with Huff?” is already clear, even if Bochy and the Giants haven’t figured it out yet.
The Giants should send Huff to Fresno for a rehab stint.
For one, the Giants will face two lefties to open the series with the Dodgers — Ted Lilly and Clayton Kershaw. Huff has not started a game this season against a lefty and he’s 0-for-4 against left-handed relievers. Huff has a .206 career average vs. Lilly in 34 at-bats. He 5 for 19 (.263) against Kershaw.
The Giants are slated to face another lefty in Patrick Corbin on Friday in Arizona. That’s three lefties in four games. Not the best situation for Huff to restart his season.
Also, he has not played in a game in more than two weeks. And even when he was playing, it was like he was raking. He’s hitting .182 for the season, which includes a 1-for-11 stretch right before he went on the DL.
A few days in Fresno would do him some good. Huff should play three games in Fresno before joining the Giants on Friday in Arizona, at the very least. A week with the Grizzlies may be better and have him rejoin the team when they return to San Francisco on May 14.
That’s what they should do. What they will do? It’s anyone’s guess.
The Giants escaped with a needed win Sunday to salvage a 4-5 homestand before opening a six-game road trip to Los Angeles and Arizona.
What they couldn’t do was get Matt Cain a win.
Cain did his part, limiting the Brewers to two runs on six hits and a walk in seven solid innings of work. He left with a 3-2 lead, but the bullpen and more precisely the defense let him down in the ninth.
Santiago Casilla was charged with his first blown save of the season, although it should have been charged to the defense as the lone run Casilla allowed was unearned.
It all started with an error by third baseman Conor Gillaspie on a ball hit by Corey Hart to open the inning. Casilla got the next batters out before Travis Ishikawa tied the game with a run-scoring double.
Well, that’s how it read in the scoreboard. In real life, Angel Pagan took a bad line to the fly ball to left center and could not catch up with a ball slicing away from him. Then Melky Cabrera did not get over in time to cut off the ball for a single and keep Hart from scoring.
But the Giants earned the win in the 11th after Buster Posey led off with a single and went to second on Pagan’s sacrifice. Brandon Belt was intentionally walked, then Ryan Theriot was unintentionally walked to load the bases.
Then with the Brewers using a five-infielder, two-outfielder set with the speedy Emmanuel Burriss, now pinch running for Posey, at third, Hector Sanchez slapped a 3-2 pitch into left for the game winner.
For Cain, that is five consecutive quality starts after the season-opening hiccup in Arizona. Yet he has a 1-2 mark over those five starts, despite a 1.61 ERA.
Par for the course for Cain.
- Angel Pagan went 2 for 4 to extend his hitting streak to 20 games.
- For the second consecutive game, the Giants went 3 for 10 with runners in scoring position.
- SS Brandon Crawford return to the lineup after two games off to clear his head. He went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts, but he DID NOT commit an error.
The Giants and Dodgers tangle for the first time this season when Barry Zito faces Ted Lilly at 7:10 p.m. Monday in Los Angeles.
On Tuesday, it’s Ryan Vogelsong vs. Clayton Kershaw, 7:10 p.m. on MLB Network
On Wednesday, it’s Tim Lincecum vs. Chad Billingsley, 7:10 p.m.
Remember those days when if the Giants hit a skid, you would look to Tim Lincecum to put a stop to it?
And then if the Freak was in a funk, you’d look to Matt Cain?
But now, it has to be Madison Bumgarner.
Not the Cain is a slouch. He’s lost his last two starts because the Giants didn’t want to score runs for him.
Well, then, maybe Cain should do what MadBum did Saturday.
With the Giants floundering with runners in scoring position and Hector Sanchez on second with one out in the sixth, Bumgarner raked a double to left, tying the score 1-1.
Since getting tagged for eight runs in 1/3 of an inning last June 21 vs. the Twins, MadBum is 11-1 at home. The Giants have won 11 of his past 13 starts dating back to last year. And he’s 5-0 with a 1.54 ERA since his sub-par season-opening start in Arizona.
In short, he’s money.
- Angel Pagan went 1 for 4 to extend his hitting streak to 19 games. He’s hitting .306 over the course of the streak. His season average sits at .259 because he was hitting .111 when the streak started.
- C Hector Sanchez, who was hitless in his previous 11 at-bats entering Friday’s game, went 2 for 4 with doubles (one from each side of the plate) to raise his season average to .255.
- RP Santiago Casilla allowed only a bloop single in the ninth in recording his fifth save in five tries since taking over the role from injured Brian Wilson.
Let’s get Matt Cain some runs as he takes on Shaun Marcum at 1:05 p.m. Sunday. We correctly predicted which eight players would start Saturday, so let’s take a crack at it again.
- RF Gregor Blanco
- 3B Connor Gillaspie (take a freakin’ strike Connor, please!)
- LF Melky Cabrera
- C Buster Posey
- CF Angel Pagan
- 1B Brandon Belt
- 2B Joaquin Arias
- SS Brandon Crawford
- P Matt Cain
It was another episode of Dr. Lincecum and Mr. Freak. We’ll let you decide who’s the genius and who’s the monster.
The Giants suffered their fourth straight loss after what started as a mind-numbing start by Tim Lincecum but then finished strong.
Lincecum started by throwing 11 of his first 13 pitches for balls. One of the strikes was a swinging strike at pitch out of the strike zone. The other strike resulted in Corey Hart graciously hitting into a force play.
The Brewers score their first run without a hit — on hit batter, two walks and a wild pitch. Jonathan Lucroy had the only hit in the inning, a two-run single for a 3-0 lead. Lincecum threw 24 pitches in the inning with only 10 strikes.
The second inning also another disaster, 26 pitches, two more walks before Lincecum escaped a bases-loaded jam without allowing a run.
Then he flipped the switch, retiring the last 10 batters he faced.
“To see myself, a guy who’s been able to do things my way and get away with it, it’s a little different to have to grind through things when you never really had to,” Lincecum said. “I’m getting in modes where I’m overthinking things too much instead of just going out there and trusting. That’s the biggest thing, go out there and have confidence in what you’ve got that day.”
BOCHY BUNGLES AGAIN
On Thursday, with runners on second and third and out, Giants manager Bruce Bochy pinch-hit for the left-handed Brandon Crawford with the left-handed hitting Nate Schierholtz, who had been mired in a 1-for-22 slump. Schierholtz hacked at the first pitch he saw and fouled out. The Giants did not score in that inning.
Flash forward to Friday night. The Giants loaded the bases with one out and Lincecum due up in the fifth. Even though Lincecum had only thrown 84 pitchers — 34 his last three innings after 50 in his first two — Bochy decided to hit for his pitcher in an effort to get more runs. So who does he send into bat? Schierholtz, who struck out swinging. The Giants wouldn’t score any more runs that inning. Travis Blackley came into the game to pitch in the sixth and the Brewers scored their fourth run of the game on a SUICIDE SQUEEZE PLAY!!!
ODDS AND ENDS
- The way things are going for the Giants, little things because huge things. In the Giants 3-run sixth that tied the game at 4-4, umpire Ed Rapuano’s blown call turned out to be a huge play. The Giants had just scored two runs in the inning and had Buster Posey on first with nobody out. Angel Pagan appeared to beat out an infield single, but Rapuano called him out. But if Rapuano makes the right call, Posey is on second and Pagan on first with no one out. A passed ball with Brandon Belt hitting moves the runners to second and third. Then when Belt shoots the ball past Rickie Weeks for an error, that play scores two runs, instead of one, and the Giants take a 5-4 lead. Rapuano’s makeup call on an infield squibber by Emmanuel Burriss a few plays later did not help the Giants recoup that lost run.
- Sergio Romo goofed by pitching to Aramis Ramirez with runners on second and third and two out in the seventh. If he pitched to Ramirez, it should have out of the strike zone to get him to chase and strikeout. With the open base, it would have better to go after Alex Gonzalez. Instead, Romo came into A-Ram and he smacked it into left for a two-run single, the difference in the game.
- Angel Pagan extended his hitting streak to 18 games.
Madison Bumgarner goes for his fifth win when he faces lefty Randy Wolf in a 1:05 p.m. FOX game. Wouldn’t be surprised to see this lineup:
CF Angel Pagan
SS Joaquin Arias
RF Melky Cabrera
1B Buster Posey
C Hector Sanchez
LF Brett Pill
3B Connor Gillaspie
2B Ryan Theriot