September 2012

Reliving eight NL West Division clinching moments by San Francisco Giants

Saturday’s NL West-clinching victory over the San Diego Padres was the second earliest division clinching win among the Giants’ eight NL West Division titles.

Amazingly, six of the division titles were clinched with wins by the Giants over the Padres. Even one of the two titles that were not clinched with a Giants win over the Padres, one of them was clinched by a Padres’ loss.

So let’s relive the previous seven San Francisco Giants’ division clinching moments. Remember, division play began in 1969.

Thursday, Sept. 30, 1971 (Game 162)

Giants 5, Padres 1

Final record: Giants 90-72, +1 over Dodgers

On the final day of the season, the Giants clinched the division title over the Dodgers by one game. Willie Mays had an RBI double and Dave Kingman belted a two-run home run as part of a three-run fourth inning at San Diego Stadium. Juan Marichal did the rest, going the distance for his 18th win of the season.

Monday, Sept. 28, 1987 (Game 156)

Giants 5, Padres 4

Final record: Giants 90-72, +6 over Reds

The Giants were seven games up on the Reds with seven to play when they opened a three-game set in San Diego. Don Robinson was the hero of the game, entering the game in the fifth inning in relief of starter Dave Dravecky. Dravecky was lifted for a pinch-hitter with the bases loaded in the top of the fifth. Robinson pitched five solid innings and even belted the go-ahead home run in the eighth inning. Tony Gwynn, who opened the ninth with single, was on third base with two out when John Kruk hit a fly to left that Jeffrey Leonard caught on the warning track to end the game. An interesting sidenote: Who struck out in the fourth inning against Dravecky as a pinch-hitter for the Padres? Bruce Bochy.

Wednesday, Sept. 27, 1989 (Game 159)

Dodgers 1, Giants 0 (Reds 2, Padres 1, 13 inn.)

Final record: Giants 92-70, +3 over Padres

The Giants were in Los Angeles when they clinched this title. But this title was clinched in San Diego. Even after losing the opener of a three-game series in LA, the Giants were five up with five to go, needed to win one of two games to clinch the division. But after losing 1-0 to the Dodgers on the 27th, the Giants were in the clubhouse at Dodger Stadium when Eric Davis’ RBI double helped the Reds win in the 13th, meaning the Giants didn’t have to go to San Diego for the season-ending series still up 3 on the Padres.

Saturday, Sept. 27, 1997 (Game 161)

Giants 6, Padres 1

Final record: Giants 90-72, +2 over Dodgers

J.T. Snow had a two-run double and Wilson Alvarez, acquired before the trade deadline threw seven shutout innings at Candlestick Park as the Giants clinched their four NL Western Division title, all created by a loss by the Padres (three of them were Giants wins).

Thursday, Sept. 21, 2000 (Game 152)

Giants 8, Diamondbacks 7

Final record: Giants 97-65, +11 over Dodgers

At Pacific Bell Park, the Giants took the lead in the bottom of the eight on pinch-hitter Russ Davis’ sacrifice fly to score J.T. Snow. Another pinch-hitter, Felipe Crespo, singled home Ellis Burks for an insurance run. The Giants needed the insurance as Danny Bautista doubled home Tony Womack. But Robb Nen got Jay Bell on a deep fly ball to center for the final out.

Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2003 (Game 150)

Giants 8, Padres 3

Final record: Giants 100-61, +15.5 over Dodgers

At Pacific Bell Park, the Padres took a 3-0 lead in the top of the second. But Andres Galarraga smacked a two-run homer in the second, and the Giants took the lead in the third inning on Marquis Grissom’s two-run homer. From their Jason Schmidt settled down for seven strong innings and 11 strikeouts.

Sunday, Oct. 3 (Game 162)

Giants 3, Padres 0

Final record: 92-70, +2 over Padres

At AT&T Park, Freddy Sanchez’s RBI single scored Jonathan Sanchez, who had tripled, then Aubrey Huff doubled home Freddy Sanchez for a 2-0 Giants lead in the third inning. Buster Posey homered in the eighth. The rest of the story was five shutout innings from Jonathan Sanchez, and four more zeros posted by Santiago Casilla, Ramon Ramirez, Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo and Brian Wilson.

Series review: San Francisco Giants take 2 of 3 from Rockies

ROCKIES 6, GIANTS 5: BOX SCORE

GIANTS 9, ROCKIES 8: BOX SCORE

GIANTS 8, ROCKIES 3: BOX SCORE

Giants 81-62
Dodgers 74-69
NL West lead: 7 games
Magic number: 13

San Francisco Giants: 2012 NL Western Division champions.

Are we getting ahead of ourselves?

Maybe. But the Giants’ 8-3 win over the Rockies on Wednesday pushed their lead in the NL West to a season-high seven games. In fact, it’s the largest divisional lead since the Giants finished 15 games ahead of Arizona to end in the 2003 season.

It also means that the earliest the Giants can clinch the NL West in next Thursday, Sept. 20.

For their part the Giants are keeping their sights on the task ahead, which is winning games in Arizona this weekend.

Here are a string of quotes from the series in Colorado, where the Giants went 7-2 this season.

Tim Linecum on the Giants’ seven-game lead in the West:

“We’re in a good spot . We’re just focusing on ourselves and having a good time and winning.”

Manager Bruce Bochy on giving Pablo Sandoval a day off to clear his head. The Panda is hitting .232 since coming off the DL last month:

“Let’s get him back to being relaxed and having fun. It hasn’t been fun for him the last couple games.”

Angel Pagan, on meeting Willie Mays in the spring and tying his San Francisco Giants record (shared with Steve Finley) for triples in a season:

“Right away, he asked for the guy who came from New York. It wasn’t ‘Angel,’ it was ‘Hey, where’s the guy who came from New York?’ Right after that I introduced myself and we had a great chemistry. Now to tie his triples record is something I’ll always remember. It’s one of the best days of my career.”

Madison Bumgarner, on being the first Giants pitcher since 2007 to belt two home runs in the same season. Bumgarner had one of the bigger at-bats of the season when he smacked a three-run homer Tuesday to tie the game 4-4.

“My job is to go out there and pitch, not hit. Obviously I’m glad to do what it takes, but I wanted to pitch better.”

 

Brandon Belt on going 2 for 4 with a double, homer and four RBI on the same night MadBum homered. In May, Belt hit his first homer of the season on the same night Bumgarner homered.

“I just do not want to be outdone by Madison Bumgarner at the plate at all. I think he hit a three-run home run and I got four RBIs. So I beat him.”

Bochy on Aubrey Huff’s single on a ball whacked off the right-field wall. Huff has proven himself a quality pinch-hitter of late, even though he provided his teammates with some levity when he had to scramble back to the bag when he couldn’t leg out the double.

“He smoked that ball. He did a good job turning that double into a single.”

Ryan Vogelsong on his struggles over his past six starts.

“I’m costing us games right now and I’m not really happy about it. I feel today it was on the arm side. Last time, it was on the glove side. It’s like I fix one and the other goes haywire. I need to get back to the middle of the road here.”

While his ERA has gone up, his confidence has not dropped.

“Yeah, I’m fine. I’m a battler, guys. Look what I’ve been through. A couple bad starts in a span of six is not going to get me down. I’ve been through way too much in this game to let six not good starts keep me from where I want to get with this team.”

San Francisco Giants 4, Los Angeles Dodgers 0: Barry Zito does it again

 

Giants 79-61

Dodgers 74-67

Lead: 5.5

Magic number: 17

Entering Sunday night’s game, the Giants were still nursing the soreness of missing an opportunity to really stick it to the Dodgers, wasting a solid outing from Matt Cain on Saturday.

Then they had Barry Zito going up against Clayton Kershaw. So the odds of the Dodgers leaving town with a 3.5-game deficit were looking good.

Then the Dodgers announced that Kershaw was nursing a sore hip, and they decided to stick with Joe Blanton in his regular turn in the rotation, giving Kershaw two more days to make his regular turn Tuesday in Arizona.

That was the first bit of good news.

With Blanton on the mound, the Giants struck early with Hunter Pence delivering a two-out, two-run double in the first. Angel Pagan’s triple led to a third run, and Buster Posey’s 20th home run of the season made it 4-0.
Then Zito did what he’s done a number of times this season — he shut down a contending team.

Zito shut out the Dodgers before leaving with two on and one out in the seventh.

Santiago Casilla pitched out of that jam. Jose Mijares, Guillermo Mota, Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo finished out the shutout.

It was the fourth time this season the Giants have shut out the Dodgers. To make that sweeter, the win was the rubber match for games at AT&T Park for the rivals. The Giants won 5 of 9.

The Giants have 22 games left. The Dodgers have 21. We were incorrect in any earlier post in saying the Dodgers now head to Washington and Cincinnati. That trip will come in another week. Now the Dodgers head to Arizona for two-game before a brief four-game homestand against the Cardinals.

Now if the Giants finish the season 11-11, the Dodgers’ hope of winning NL West ends with their sixth loss. Done at 15-6.

Those are long odds for a team that is 6-9 since their blockbuster trade that was supposed to put them over the top. Long odds for a team that still has 13 games left against playoff contenders. Long odd for a team whose ace has a sore hip, whose No. 2 pitcher is done for the year, whose closer’s status is uncertain, whose best player has a sore shoulder.

It might be to stop looking back at the Dodgers and start looking up at the Reds and National. See if they can’t catch those guys and secure some home cooking in October.

First things first. Let’s beat the Rockies on Monday, extend Colorado’s five-game skid and officially eliminate the Rockies from the NL West race. And it would be nice to get Ryan Vogelsong right.

San Francisco Giants 5, Los Angeles Dodgers 2: Marco Scutaro is clutch

BOX SCORE

Giants 78-60
Dodgers 73-66
NL West lead: 5.5
Magic number: 19

How many times have we talked about this: The Giants’ struggles with a runner on third and less than two outs.

Last year, it was a bigger issue when the Giants had one of the most anemic offensive seasons in history. How many times last year did we see a Giant strikeout when the situation calls for contact, contact of any kind.

This year, it’s been a different story. The Giants are hitting .375 with a runner on third and less than two outs. That number not only represents the number of clutch hits the Giants have delivered this season, but it’s also impacted by the Giants’ league-high 53 sacrifice flies. If you added those 53 outs to the Giants’ 267 at-bats with a runner on third with less than two outs (sacrifice flies are not counted as at-bats), their average drops to .313.

But there is an oddity in the numbers. The Giants have hit .287 with runners on second and third (regardless of outs). But that number drops to .210 with the bases loaded.

So when the Giants put runners on second and third with one out in the bottom of the seventh on Friday, it was an easy decision to walk Angel Pagan to load the bases, setting up a force at every base.

But it also brought up Marco Scutaro. Scutaro may be the one Giant that fans loved to see up in that situation.

To put it simply, Scutaro has been clutch. Scutaro has hit .273 with runners in scoring position. But if you put a runner on third, his numbers take off.

He’s hit .357 with the bases loaded, and he’s hit a whopping .444 with a runner on third with less than two outs.

And here’s another stat: In 37 plate appearances with a runner on third and less than two outs this season, Scutaro has struck out ZERO TIMES.

That’s because Scutaro makes contact on 94 percent of strikes thrown to him.

The Dodgers can hoot and holler about all the bats they’ve added this season — Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino, Adrian Gonzalez — but no midseason acquisition has been bigger than the Giants’ addition of Scutaro.

Get this: In 95 games with the Colorado Rockies — playing the most hitter-friendly park in baseball — Scutaro hit 4 HRs, 30 RBI and batted .271. In 39 games with the Giants — playing the least hitter-friendly park in baseball — Scutaro has 2 HRs, 26 RBI and a .331 average.

So then it was no surprise when Scutaro smacked a tiebreaking two-run single to right with the bases loaded in the seventh, sending the Giants to a 5-2 win over the Dodgers.

CSNBayArea’s Andrew Baggarly suggested, given that the Giants will have a vacancy at second base in 2013, that it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Scutaro sign a two-year deal with the Giants in the offseason.

Even if he will by 37 in 2013, that doesn’t sound too bad to us.

Giants vs. Dodgers preview: Giants have numbers on their side

Orange Friday. Freaky Freaky. Beat LA.

Those are the thoughts that will be on most Giants fans’ minds as the Giants open against the new (but necessarily improved) Dodgers Friday at AT&T Park.

And as always, it’s a big series. Both teams enter the series coming off back-to-back losses. In fact, the last three times the Giants have lost, the Dodgers have failed to gain ground, keeping the Giants’ lead in the NL West locked in at 4.5 games for the past week.

Clearly, there will be movement in the standings this weekend.

If the Dodgers sweep (and the last three series between the rivals have been sweeps), the Giants’ lead will be down to 1.5 games with a magic number to clinch the NL West holding at 21.

If the Dodgers win 2 of 3, the Giants’ lead will be 3.5 games with a magic number of 19.

If the Giants win 2 of 3, the Giants’ lead will be 5.5 games with a magic number of 17.

And if the Giants sweep (now there’s a pleasant thought), their lead would be 7.5 games with a magic number of 15.

So the Giants’ primary objection this weekend should be clear — don’t get swept.

That’s because the numbers tell us that time and the schedule are on the Giants’ side.

Friday’s game marks the first of a nine-game road trip for the Dodgers against all three NL division leaders: the Giants, Nationals and Reds. After the Dodgers get home from that trip, they get a four-game series at home against the wild card-contending Cardinals.

Meanwhile, the Giants will play 10 games against the Rockies, Diamondbacks and Rockies (seven games against the last-place Rockies).

Here’s another way to look at it:

The Giants have 25 games left — all but six against teams currently with a losing record (the three this weekend with LA and the last three in LA). If the Giants go 13-12, they will clinch the NL West if the Dodgers go 16-8 or worse. That’s a .667 winning percentage in 24 games in which 16 are against teams with winning records.

Here’s a look at the three games this week:

Friday, 7:15 p.m. MLB Network
Josh Beckett vs. Tim Lincecum

It’s a matchup of two one-time aces who have struggled this season. Lincecum is 8-14 with 5.21 ERA. But since the All-Star break, he’s been better — 5-4 with 3.26 ERA. Beckett is 6-12 with 5.03 ERA. As much as Giants fans were hoping Beckett’s move to the NL wouldn’t help his situation, early indications are that they have. He is 1-1 with 2.93 ERA in 12.1 innings with the Dodgers.

Saturday, 1:10 p.m. FOX
Chris Capuano vs. Matt Cain

If there’s a game in this three-game set that Giants fans are most confident of, it’s this one with Cain on the mound. Cain is 13-5 with 2.98 ERA. Cain has hit some bumps in the second half of the season, including his five-run-in-five-IP outing against the Cubs last Sunday. But before that, he had gone at least 7 innings and allowed no more than two runs in each of his previous four starts. And he has thrown quality starts in each of his past four home starts. Capuano (11-10, 3.63 ERA) had all-star caliber numbers in the first half of the season, but then they started to taper off. Capuano has gone 2-6 with a 4.78 ERA since the break

Sunday, 5:05 p.m., ESPN
Clayton Kershaw vs. Barry Zito

The Dodgers, realizing how important this series is, will skip Joe Blanton’s turn in the rotation to utilitze Thursday’s day off to throw Kershaw on his normal rest. The Giants will throw Barry Zito. In his tenure with the Giants, manager Bruce Bochy has NEVER liked to monkey with his rotation, and we can’t remember a time when he did skip someone who wasn’t hurt. Of course, the alternative would be to move Zito back one day, and move up Ryan Vogelsong, pitching him on normal rest. But Vogelsong hasn’t been exactly sharp recently. Still, most Giants fans would be more comfortable with Vogelsong on the mound than Zito. But Zito has surprised us before. His last five quality starts have come against playoff contenders. In his seven other starts, five came against non-contenders (if you want to count the Diamondbacks as non-contenders, and we do).

Brandon Belt moves up the Splash Hit list

Sure, the Giants ended up losing to the Diamondbacks Tuesday. But the Dodgers also lost, preserving the Giants’ lead in the NL West to 4.5 games and reducing their magic number to clinch the division to 22.

But we’re MoreSplashHits, so we can let a Splash Hit go by without by homage to it.

In the Xth inning, Brandon Belt got a hold of an Ian Kennedy pitch and sent it deep into the night, over the wall and into the bay on the fly — the 62nd Splash Hit at AT&T Park.

The last three Splash Hits have come off the bat of Belt: Sept. 27 of last season vs. the Rockies, June 14 vs. the Astros and Tuesday night.

Belt’s three career Splash Hits put him in sole possession of third place for the most Splash Hits, behind Barry Bonds (35) and Pablo Sandoval (6).

And here it is. Enjoy:

San Francisco Giants 7, Chicago Cubs 5: Giants put the X on the Cubs

BOX SCORE

Giants 76-58
Dodgers 72-63  
Lead: 4.5 games
Magic number: 24

When the Giants signed Xavier Nady to a minor-league deal early last month, no one was really sure what they were getting from the oft-injured veteran outfielder.

After two games, the Giants are getting quite a bit.

Nady went 2 for 2 with a double and two walks. He scored two runs, and it was his ninth-inning walk that sparked a two-run rally in the ninth, leading the Giants to a win.

The victory gave the Giants a 5-1 road trip. Given they were playing the two worst teams in the NL, it was a good results. But only slightly more than expected.

In two games with the Giants, Nady is 3 for 5 with two doubles, two runs, two walks and three RBI.

In fact, the Giants scored three runs in the third, two in the sixth and two in the ninth. All three of those rallies were ignited by Nady: a single in the third, double in the sixth and walk in the ninth.

On Monday, the Salinas native will play in his first game as a Giant in AT&T Park. Over his career as a visiting player, Nady has hit .299 with 1 HR and 6 RBI in 77 at-bats at AT&T Park.

And the change of scenery won’t be the only change.  Nady, who has worn No. 68 in his first two games with the Giants, will wear No. 12 on Monday, Nate Schierholtz’s old number.

With the success he’s been having so far, why would Nady want to change anything?

“Hopefully, it’s not the jersey that affects you,” Nady said.

Probably not, but why risk it?

San Francisco 5, Chicago Cubs 2: Xavier Nady will be eligible for postseason

San Francisco Giants’ Xavier Nady hits a three-run double off Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Justin Germano, scoring Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, and Hector Sanchez, during the first inning of a baseball game, Saturday, Sept. 1 2012, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

BOX SCORE

MoreSplashHits had two thoughts when watching Saturday’s win over the Cubs (and others may have had the same thoughts).

“I wonder if, somehow, Xavier Nady may be the second coming of Pat Burrell (circa 2010)?”

“And if that’s true, why the hell didn’t the Giants bring up Nady in August to make him eligible for the postseason?”

The answer to the first question has yet to be revealed. The answer to the second question is that the Giants know the rules better than MoreSplashHits.
Nady made his Giants debut Saturday wearing No. 68, which of course was worn by other Giants greats like John Ayers. (No, wait a minute, that’s not right. I’m thinking about the 49ers).

Nady made a splash in his first at-bat Saturday, by raking a bases-clearing, three-run double down the third base line in the first inning.

When Nady came to the plate in the first inning, the Giants were just 1 for 45 with the bases loaded and two outs this season. Yikes! I just had a 2011 offensive flashback there.

To make matters worse, the Giants has fanned 21 times in 53 plate appearances this season with two out and the bases loaded. They have also drawn five walks in those situations and have been hit by a pitch once (on Saturday by Hector Sanchez, right before Nady’s hit).

So it was certainly an instant impact. Manager Bruce Bochy was impressed enough with that he’s putting Nady back in the lineup Sunday against the Cubs and Monday against the Diamondbacks.

So can Nady pull off a repeat of the Burrell performance in 2010? Well, Nady was hitting .157 with three home runs and six RBI in 40 games with the Washington Nationals when he was released on July 29. Nady spent a month on the disabled list with a wrist injury before being waived by Washington. He hit .158 in 12 games with Class A Potomac as he tried to work his way back from the DL.

The Giants signed him on Aug. 4 and sent him to Triple-A Fresno, where he hit .270 with 6 HRs and 18 RBI in 25 games. After starting very slowly with Fresno, Nady heated up late, batting .371 with 3 HR and 8 RBI in his final 10 games with the Grizzlies.

By comparison, Burrell hit .202 in 24 games with the Tampa Bay Rays before being released in 2010. The Giants picked him up and he hit .266 with 18 HR and 51 RBI in 96 games with them that season.

Like Burrell in 2010, Nady is 33 years old.

So if Nady can get hot like Pat the Ball in September, why wasn’t he with the Giants in August, making him eligible for the postseason.

Well, as it turns out, the Aug. 31 postseason roster deadline applies only to players being acquired from other organizations.

The rule states that any player on a team’s active 25-man roster, disabled list, restricted list or suspended list on Aug. 31 is eligible for the postseason.

For the Giants, that would include these 35 players:

  • PITCHERS (17): Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, Barry Zito, Ryan Vogelsong, Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez, Guillermo Mota, George Kontos, Jose Mijares, Shane Loux, Brad Penny, Clay Hensley, Eric Surkamp, Brian Wilson.
  • CATCHERS (3): Buster Posey, Hector Sanchez, Eli Whiteside
  • INFIELDERS (9): Brandon Belt, Marco Scutaro, Ryan Theriot, Brandon Crawford, Joaquin Arias, Pablo Sandoval, Aubrey Huff, Freddy Sanchez, Angel Villalona.
  • OUTFIELDERS (6): Angel Pagan, Gregor Blanco, Hunter Pence, Francisco Peguero, Melky Cabrera, Justin Christian.

However, if any of those 35 players are injured at the start of the postseason, any of those players can be replaced with any other player who was with the organization on Aug. 31, whether on the 40-man roster or not.

So with Cabrera on the restricted list and Freddy Sanchez on the DL, those are two players Nady could easily replace in the postseason.

So that’s good news.

Now all Nady needs to do is peform like Pat the Bat, circa 2010.

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