August 2012

St. Louis Cardinals 3, San Francisco Giants 1: Like you didn’t see that coming

BOX SCORE

One day after scoring 15 runs, the Giants only managed one Thursday in the series finale against the Cardinals.

You didn’t have to be Nostradamus to predict that.

As we mentioned Wednesday, a win Thursday would have been icing on the cake.

  • The Giants still leave St. Louis with a split
  • They leave with a 5-2 road trip.
  • They leave with a 9-4 record on their last two road trips.
  • They leave with a one-game lead in the NL West.

But there were some unsettling stats from Thursday’s game.

The Giants out-hit the Cardinals 5-4. They also drew four walks to one by St. Louis.

The difference was this: Three of the Cardinals’ four hits were extra-base hits. Two contributed to runs: Carlos Beltran’s two-run home run in the first and Jon Jay’s double in the sixth.

Meanwhile, all of the Giants’ hits were singles.

Hunter Pence went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts.

If you’re looking for a positive as the Giants’ travel home, we’ll offer you this:

The Giants bullpen, which had its struggles recently, finished the series with 7 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings.

San Francisco Giants 15, St. Louis Cardinals 0: A perfect night in Missouri

BOX SCORE

The next time the Giants are struggling to score runs — which could easily come Thursday — and fans start to complain, they can remember August 8 in St. Louis.

The next time Giants fans complain that the Giants can just win games easily, they can remember August 8.

The next time fans complain the Giants don’t give Ryan Vogelsong enough run support, they can remember August 8.

And hopefully, some time in October when the Giants in the postseason, they can look back on August 8 as a turning point.

The Giants got a win they needed to get Wednesday. Oddly enough, on a night when they only needed one run, they got 15.

Too bad there’s not run equity or aggregate scores don’t count for anything.

The Giants needed to come into St. Louis and earn a split. They’ve assured themselves of at least doing that.

It will enable the Giants to return home on Friday with the lead in the NL West, either one game over the Dodgers or two.

As Mike Krukow said Wednesday, if the Giants lose Thursday, it will have been a good road trip. If they win, it will be a great one.

On the heels of an ugly 3-7 homestead, the Giants have turned the tables with a road trip that will be at worst a 5-2 one, at best 6-1.

And there were plenty of highlights to go around:

Marco Scutaro was the star of the box score, with his seven RBI. But six of those RBI, including his grand slam, came in the eighth and ninth innings, when the game was well in hand. The biggest RBI was his first, when he singled home Angel Pagan in the first inning. It marked the fifth time on this road trip that the Giants have scored in the first inning. They won all of those games.

Hunter Pence went 2 for 5 with a pair of RBI singles.

Buster Posey kept it up, going 1 for 2 with three walks. If teams are going to continue to pitch around Posey, Pence’s contributions will become even bigger.

Angel Pagan got things going atop the lineup, going 1 for 3 with two walks.

Brandon Belt continued his solid hitting, going 2 for 5. Melky Cabrera and Brandon Crawford also had two hits each.

But the star of the game was Ryan Vogelsong. He earned his 10th win of the season by limiting the Cardinals to no runs on three hits and three walks in seven innings. He left after 97 pitches and could have thrown more. But with the Giants up 10-0 in the top of the eighth, what was the point.

He lowered his league-leading ERA to 2.27. It was the kind of outing that makes you glad the Giants signed Vogelsong to a two-year deal prior to this season. It makes you feel even better that they added a team option for 2014.

Madison Bumgarner takes the mound Thursday afternoon against Adam Wainwright. If the Giants win, they’ll be sitting pretty with a two-game lead heading into the weekend series against the Rockies.

But even a one-game lead feels pretty good right now.

San Francisco Giants 4, St. Louis Cardinals 2: Barry Zito continues to be full of surprises

BOX SCORE

MONDAY BOX SCORE: St. Louis Cardinals 8, San Francisco Giants 2

There’s only one thing wrong with having Barry Zito follow Main Cain in the rotation.

When the Giants lose in a game started by Cain, they get Zito the next day.

Recently, that’s been happening more and more. It led to back-to-back losses to the Dodgers and then the Mets.

So optimism was not running high when the Giants took on the Cardinals Tuesday after Cain got knocked around by the Redbirds on Monday.

And then Zito did something he’s done a couple of times this season. He surprised us.

Just like he did in his first start of the season when he shut out the Rockies after a horrendous spring training.

Then came three consecutive losses to the Rangers, Astros and Angels in June, which was followed by seven shutout innings vs. the Dodgers.

He got whacked around pretty good by the Pirates in his final start before the All-Star Break. Then in his first post-break start, held the Braves scoreless for seven innings.

His most recent ugly streak included giving up 14 runs in 16.2 innings in his three most recent starts.

So what does he do Tuesday, limits the Cardinals to two runs — both on solo home runs by Allen Craig — on eight hits and NO WALKS over 6.2 innings.

He made Buster Posey’s three-run home run in the first inning stand up.

The victory was big because it allowed the Giants to lengthen their lead in the NL West over the Dodgers for the first time in a week. It’s the first time since before Zito’s ugly start agains the Dodgers on July 28 that the Giants’ lead was greater than one game.

It’s also a big win because it kept the hope of leaving St. Louis with at least a split of the four-game series more within reach. If the Giants do that, they will head home Friday guaranteed of remaining in first place.

It’s important to note because these games in St. Louis will be the Giants’ last road games against a non-divisional opponent with a winning record.

After this road trip, the Giants will have just 13 games against non-divisional foes — three at home vs. the Nationals, four at home vs. the Braves, three at Houston and three at Chicago.

Starting this weekend, the Dodgers embark on a 10-game road trip: three at Miami, four at Pittsburgh and three at Atlanta. And they still have three-game road series at Washington and Cincinnati later in September.

Oh, and the Cardinals travel to LA for a four-game set in mid-September to boot.

Starting Labor Day, the Giants will play entirely within the NL West.

San Francisco Giants add lefty reliever Jose Mijares

The San Francisco Giants were awared a waiver claim of left-handed relief pitcher Jose Mijares from the Kansas City Royals.

Then the Royals did something odd. They simply let Mijares go.

The Royals could have pulled the pitcher back from waiver, then would have had three days to work out a deal with the Giants.

But they decided it was better simply to let Mijares leave, much in the same way the Giants acquired Cody Ross in 2010.

It left many Giants’ beat writers and bloggers puzzled as to why the Royals did that.

The 27-year-old was having a solid season for the Royals, going 2-2 with 2.56 ERA, 37 Ks and 13 BBs in 38.2 innings. He was especially tough on lefties, who were hitting .212 against him. Righties were hitting .295.

He was making $925,000 this season with two more seasons under team control.

So why would the Royals let him go?

“Maybe he has really terrible B.O.” surmised NBC Sports Matthew Pouliot.

Maybe. That might explain why every American League team passed on him, as did 10 NL teams with worse records than the Giants.

Mijares has struggled of late. After seeing his ERA drop to his lowest point since mid-April at 1.54 on July 15, Mijares has allowed four runs in his last inning of work over four outings.

Mijares will be due to make between anywhere between $1.3 million and $2.5 million in arbitration next year. The Royals tried to trade the pitcher. But when those efforts failed they let him go.

“Jose did a perfect job for us,” Royal GM Dayton Moore said. “We just felt that after some opportunities to move him fell through, we needed to give those innings to other pitchers that potentially are going to be a part of our future.”

Pouliot offered one other possible explanation:

“Mijares was a real problem in the clubhouse. That was part of why the Royals dropped Yuniesky Betancourt on Sunday, and Mijares has long been viewed as something of a headcase. The Royals obviously didn’t think he’d be worth keeping around in 2013, so they figured they might as well let him go now.”

Mijares was added to the 40-man roster, and will be added the 25-man active roster when he arrives to the club. The candidates to be moved off the roster include Shane Loux or Brad Penny.

We’d expect Loux to be sent to Fresno.

San Francisco Giants 8, Colorado Rockies 3: A toast with Coors as Giants sweep

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Last season, in the midst of an offensive struggle, the Giants added a right fielder. This season, they did the same thing.

Last season, that newly acquired right fielder started by going 2 for 17 for the Giants. This season, the new right fielder did the same thing.

Last season, that right fielder got his first multi-hit game in his fifth game with the Giants. This season, the new right fielder did the same thing.

We hope that’s where the comparison ends.

On Sunday, Hunter Pence, acquired in a trade with the Phillies last week, went 2 for 5 with two doubles and three RBI in the Giants’ win over the Rockies.

Last season, it took Carlos Beltran 21 games before he got his first multi-extra base hit game, and 21 games before he got his first three-RBI game. It also took Beltran 11 games before the Giants won three games with him in the lineup.

Pence accomplished all those things in just his fifth game with the Giants.

It helped the Giants complete their first three-game sweep of a road series this season behind another solid outing from Tim Lincecum.

Lincecum labored through a 36-pitch first inning, but only allowed one run. He finished with a quality start, allowing just the one run on five hits and five walks (yech) in an 104-pitch outing.

The Giants scored 35 runs in the series. Angel Pagan went 0 for 4 with a walk Sunday to prevent the Giants from having every starting position player get at least one hit in each of three games.

Hopefully this series will allow the Giants hitters build enough confidence to help them when they move to St. Louis for a key four-game series. It’s a key series because these Rockies now head to Los Angeles for a series against the Dodgers.

The Giants’ three-game swept did not gain them any room between them and the Dodgers, who swept the Cubs at home. The Giants’ lead remains a half-game.

But the Giants are now 4-1 in Lincecum starts since the All-Star Break, after going 4-14 in his starts before the break. He has a 2.48 ERA since the break.

Now, it’s time to get Matt Cain some runs. The Giants lost in Cain’s last two starts, mostly a product of poor run support (nothing new for Cain). Cain will face Jake Westbrook on Monday in the opener in St. Louis.

What the acquisition of Hunter Pence means for the future of the San Francisco Giants

Hunter Pence was acquired last week from the Phillies for Nate Schierholtz, Tommy Joseph and Seth Rosin

When the Giants traded for Freddy Sanchez in 2009, MoreSplashHits was wary of trading away pitching prospect Tim Alderson.

But that deal worked out for the Giants, as Sanchez was a key member of the 2010 World Series title team, and Alderson has not amounted to much.

When the Giants traded for Carlos Beltran last year, MoreSplashHits was wary of trading away Zach Wheeler.

That deal did not work out for the Giants, as Beltran struggled, then got hurt, then got hot, but a bit too late to help the Giants make the playoffs. Meanwhile, Wheeler was just promoted to Triple-A for the Mets last week.

So when the Giants traded for Hunter Pence last week, MoreSplashHits was again wary. But it wasn’t because of the players the Giants gave up — OF Nate Schierholtz, C Tommy Joseph and P Seth Rosin.
Schierholtz was basically on his way out of San Francisco, basically request a trade. Schierholtz had been given the chance to win the starting right field job each of the past three seasons, but was unable to do so. We still think Schierholtz will be a good big-league outfielder, in the right lineup and in the right ballpark. But in San Francisco, he was going to be little than a good reserve outfielder.

Joseph was the center piece of the deal. He was the No. 4 prospect in the Giants system according to Baseball Prospectus.

But with Joseph a catcher, it was an area of strength of the Giants. Their best player is a catcher in Buster Posey. They also have a young backup in Hector Sanchez. And Andrew Susac, the No. 6 Giants prospect, is playing well at Class A San Jose.

Rosin, once on the Giants’ list of top-20 prospects, has faded in the past year or so to a marginal prospect.

So the concern wasn’t as much on what the Giants gave up to get Pence, but what the acquisition of Pence would mean to the organization going forward.

Pence is earning $10.4 million this season in his third year of arbitration. He will have one more year of arbitration, which will likely put his 2013 salary around $13-$14 million.

With Melky Cabrera expected to require a multi-year deal at a similar per-season salary, it left us to wonder whether the Giants could afford an 2013 outfield that consists of both Pence and Cabrera.

Giants GM Brian Sabean said there is room in the budget for both.

“It became apparent we were going to have flexibility this offseason,” Sabean said. “I’m sure everybody’s curious if we have enough room (to re-sign Cabrera) after Pence, and we do.”

Sabean also said he’d like to keep Pence beyond 2013.

Well, that’s encouraging. It’s also encouraging that the Giants brass was willing to take on a salary like Pence’s ($10.4 million) in exchange for Schierholtz ($1.3 million).

It may be a sign that the Giants are willing to enter 2013 with a payroll significantly above the current $130 million.

By MoreSplashHits’ calculations, the Giants would have about $25 million in 2013 to re-sign Cabrera, add another outfielder and a starting second baseman.

If they bring back Cabrera and Pence, that would cost in the neighborhood of $27 million for 2013.

That would leave the Giants with a budget of $132 million for 2013 and still in need of a second baseman, as it does not appear there is one ready to make the jump to the majors from within the system.

And they would need to find someone to play center field, as a payroll that includes Cabrera and Pence would almost certainly take Angel Pagan out of the mix. Pagan is set to make $7-$8 million a year in free agency last season. Plus, they wouldn’t want to block the path of top prospect Gary Brown, who after a slow start is playing well at Double-A Richmond. Brown is hitting .287 with a .349 OBP, seven HRs, 37 RBI and 64 runs.

But unless Brown is promoted to Triple-A very soon, it doesn’t seem likely that he will be an option to start in center in 2013 for the Giants. And Gregor Blanco’s struggles doesn’t really make him a strong candidate either.

So even if the Giants are able to bring Cabrera back, there are still questions lingering for 2013.

Here’s a closer look at the prospects the Giants recently dealt away:

  • C Tommy Joseph, 21, was drafted in the second round of the 2009 draft out of Horizon High School in Scottsdale, Arz. Joseph hit 16 HR, 68 RBI and .236 in 117 games in Class A Augusta in 2010. He hit 22 HR, 95 RBI and .270 in 127 games for Class A San Jose in 2011. This season for Double-A Richmond, he had 8 HR, 38 RBI and hit .260 in 80 games.
  • P Seth Rosin is a 6-6, 23-year-old right-handed pitcher who was drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 draft by the Giants out of Minnesota. Rosin went 2-3 with a 3.34 ERA in 89 innings for Class-A August in 2011, making 10 starts in 39 games. He was 2-1 with a 4.31 ERA in 34 games (five starts) for Class A San Jose this season. He struck out 68 in 56.1 innings with 18 walks.
  • 2B Charlie Culberson (traded to Colorado for Marco Scutaro), 23, was drafted in the first round in the 2007 (51st overall, sandwich pick) out of Calhoun (Ga.) HS. The Giants had high hopes for Culberson. But his minor-league career peaked in 2010 for Class A San Jose when he hit .290 with 16 HR and 71 RBI. After hitting .259 with 10 HR and 56 RBI for Double-A Richmond last season, he hit .236 with 10 HR an 53 RBI in 91 games for Class A Fresno this season. He had a brief spell with the Giants in May when Ryan Theriot went on the DL. But he was 3 for 22 (.136) with 7 Ks and one RBI in six games.

San Francisco Giants 11, Colorado Rockies 6: Hunter Pence having a positive impact

BOX SCORE

MoreSplashHits tweeted, rather tongue-in-check, that since Hunter Pence joined the game, the San Francisco Giants have averaged better than seven runs a game.

That has a lot more to do with weak Colorado Rockies pitchers than anything Pence has done.

Pence is 2 for 17 since joining the Giants. For what it’s worth, Carlos Beltran also went 2 for 17 to start his tenure with the Giants last season.

But Pence has produce a positive contribution. With Pence hitting in the No. 5 hole, it made it easier for manager Bruce Bochy to put Angel Pagan back in the leadoff spot.

It’s clear now that the best Giants outfield is Melky Cabrera, Angel Pagan and Hunter Pence. So if that’s the case, who is the best leadoff option?

Marco Scutaro, who started there on Thursday? Hardly.

It’s Pagan. And in this series in Colorado, Pagan has responded.

Pagan went 4 for 6 with two runs, three RBI, a home run and a stolen base in Saturday’s win over the Rockies. This followed Friday’s game when he went 3 for 4 with four runs and two walks.

That makes him 7 for 10 with two walks in two games in his return to the leadoff spot.

The big question now is whether this is a Colorado-aided offensive spurt and the start of something big for Pagan.

We all know how hot Pagan can get. His 21-game hitting streak earlier this year is evidence of that. But we’ve also seen the flip side to that streaky side.

But the Giants have put up 27 runs in two games with Pagan at the top of the order. We’ll gladly take that as long as we can get it.

And it might not have happened if the Giants hadn’t added Hunter Pence.

For the second game in a row, the Giants have pounded out double-digit runs and hits. But again, the Giants have received a lot of help from the Rockies.

Wilin Rosario, a catcher by trade, was inserted into the game at third base — a byproduct of having only four position players on their bench. In the eighth inning, the move may have cost the Rockies four runs.

After Brandon Belt led of the inning with a double, Pagan singled to left. Carlos Gonzalez appeared to have a shot at throwing Belt out at the plate until Rosario cut off the throw. Rosario then made it worse by trying to throw a relay home, which sailed wide and allowed Pagan to take second.

Then Pagan very unwisely attempted to steal third. He might have been thrown out except Rosario caught the ball but whiffed on the tag.

Then Ryan Theriot hit a ball down the third-base line that Rosario was unable to glove. It was a play a normal third baseman likely makes.

That led to a four-run eighth.

But if Rosario doesn’t cut off CarGo’s throw, actually tags Pagan and gloves Theriot’s grounder, that would have added up to three outs and no runs.

UP NEXT

The Giants will go for the sweep with Tim Lincecum on the mound. Lincecum will face Travis Chatwood, who will be called up from Double-A to fill the spot of Christian Friedrich, who was placed on the DL.

San Francisco Giants 16, Colorado Rockies 4: All Giants hitters needed was a little Coors

BOX SCORE

We thought a little Jonathan Sanchez and Coors Field could get the Giants’ hitters out of their recent slump.

Well, you would think that 16 runs on 16 hits would validate that claim.

But Friday’s offensive outburst had less to do with Sanchez and more to do with the Rockies’ bullpen and the Rockies’ ability to give the Giants runs.

The Giants worked 67 pitches from Sanchez in three innings of work, but only got two runs on three hits and three walks. Sanchez actually saw his ERA drop slightly after Friday’s outing as one of the two runs he allowed was unearned.

But the Giants scored more runs in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings (13) than they did in seven of their previous eight games.

The eighth inning was the best example of how the Giants were aided by the Rockies.

The Giants loaded the bases on a single, error and infield single. A Ryan Theriot single scored one. The two wild pitches scored two more runs. The second wild pitch allowed Melky Cabrera to reach base on a walk.

Then Buster Posey unleashed a three-run home run for a six-run inning.

There was good stats from the offense, however:

  • Angel Pagan reached base five times, going 3 for 4 with a double, triple, four runs and two walks.
  • Theriot was 2 for 5 with three runs and two RBI.
  • Posey was 4 for 5 with three RBI and a walk.
  • Hunter Pence got his first hit as a Giants after starting 0 for 9.
  • All nine starters collected at least one hit, including a double by Ryan Vogelsong.

That seventh-inning double by Vogelsong may have sapped him of some energy.

After allowing one hit in the first six innings, Vogelsong allowed three hits to the first four batters of the seventh inning — two doubles and a triple that resulted to two runs.

Manager Bruce Bochy left him in to face Wilin Rosario, who hooked a two-run homer just inside the left-field foul pole.

That snapped Vogelsong’s streak of 16 quality starts to open the season and he finished by allowing four runs on five hits in 6.1 innings.

It’s a good start to the road trip and kept the Giants ahead of the Dodgers and Diamondbacks, who both won Friday.

Now they need to keep it up as Madison Bumgarner takes to the hill Saturday against Jeff Francis.

Perfect fix for San Francisco Giants’ hitting woes: Facing Jonathan Sanchez in Colorado

MoreSplashHits goes on vacation, and so do the Giants hitters.

From the day we left for vacation, the Giants went 2-7, all home games.

What’s worse is that the Giants only scored more more than three runs in one of those game — a 4-1 win over the Mets on Tuesday.

The only good thing about this bad stretch is that the Giants (56-49) are still in first place in the NL West, leading the Dodgers (56-50) by a half-game.

The bad news is the Giants have allowed the Diamondbacks (54-51) back into division race. Arizona trails by only two games. AND the Giants are now four games out of the second NL wild-card spot, trailing the Pirates (60-44) and Braves (60-45).

The Giants hope the light air in Colorado will help get the bats going. If there is one NL West team that has been playing worse than the Giants (3-7) over the past 10 games, it’s the Rockies (2-8).

The three-game series gets started Friday with a reunion. Jonathan Sanchez, who was traded last month from Kansas City to Colorado will get the start for the Rockies Friday against Ryan Vogelsong.

Sanchez has seen his ERA actually go up since his trade from the Royals. It has gone from 7.76 to 8.93. He’s 0-7 this season.

In his two starts for Colorado, he has given up 11 earned runs on 14 hits in 8.1 innings, with eight Ks and six walks.

Sanchez has clearly been trying to throw more strikes, but that has left more hittable pitches. It’s a perfect combination for the free-swinging Giants.

Sanchez has given up at least four earned runs in each of his last six starts.

If the Giants can’t get the bats started IN COLORADO and against JONATHAN SANCHEZ, it’s time to get worried.

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