April 2013

San Francisco Giants Week 2 preview: vs. Rockies, at Cubs

Colorado Rockies' Wilin Rosario (20)rounds the bases after hitting a three run home run against the San Diego Padres during the seventh inning of an MLB baseball game on Sunday, April 7, 2013, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

Colorado Rockies’ Wilin Rosario (20)rounds the bases after hitting a three run home run against the San Diego Padres during the seventh inning of an MLB baseball game on Sunday, April 7, 2013, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

The Giants went 3-3 last week, leaving them 3-3 for the season, fourth in the NL West, 2 games behind the Rockies and Padres.

  • Monday: L 4-0, at Dodgers; LP: Kontos (0-1)
  • Tuesday: W 3-0, at Dodgers; WP: Bumgarner (1-0)
  • Wednesday: W 5-3, at Dodgers; WP: Lincecum (1-0); HR: Pence (1), Sandoval (1).
  • Friday: W 1-0, Cardinals; WP: Zito (1-0)
  • Saturday: L 6-3, Cardinals; LP: Vogelsong (0-1); HR: Pence (2), Sandoval (2).
  • Sunday: L 14-3, Cardinals; LP: Cain (0-1).

Mixed results in week 1, due in part to inconsistent hitting. Angel Pagan, Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval got their hits, but others are trying to find their stroke. Giants were able to win three games because of solid pitching. The first four starters did not allow an earned run. That ended over the weekend, and the Giants dropped two to the Cardinals. But this week they face two teams that they had big-time success against in 2012.

ROCKIES (5-1) AT GIANTS

  • Monday: Rockies (Jorge De La Rosa 0-0) at Giants (Madison Bumgarner 1-0), 7:15 p.m.
  • Tuesday: Rockies (Juan Nicasio 1-0) at Giants (Tim Lincecum 1-0), 7:15 p.m.
  • Wednesday: Rockies (Jeff Francis 1-0) at Giants (Barry Zito 1-0), 12:45 p.m.

The Giants went 14-4 against the Rockies in 2012. But the Rox are healthy and hitting in 2013 and have won five in a row since rockieslogodropping a 5-4 decision to the Brewers in the season opener. … It’s the first time since 1995 that the Rockies have won their opening two series of a season. They beat the Brewers 2 of 3 in Milwaukee and swept the Padres at Coors Field … Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler have been hot … OF Michael Cuddyer is sidelined with a sore wrist. Eric Young Jr. will start for Cuddyer and bat leadoff on Monday. … De La Rosa gave up four earned runs on five hits and three walks in 4 1/3 innings against the Brewers in his first start.

GIANTS AT CUBS (2-5)

  • Thursday: Giants (Ryan Vogelsong 0-1) at Cubs (Carlos Villanueva 0-0), 11:20 a.m.
  • Friday: Giants (Matt Cain 0-1) at Cubs (Jeff Samardzija 1-1), 11:20 a.m.
  • Saturday: Giants (Bumgarner 1-0) at Cubs (Edwin Jackson 0-1), 10:05 a.m., FOX
  • Sunday: Giants (Lincecum 1-0) at Cubs (Travis Wood 1-0), 11:20 a.m., WGN

cubslogoThe Giants won six of seven meetings with the Cubs in 2012. They swept the Cubs in four games in San Francisco in June and won two of three in Chicago in early September. … Like the Giants, the Cubs also have struggled with the bats. They scored 13 runs in their first six games. After one bad week, Carlos Marmol is out as the Cubs’ closer and replaced by Kyuji Fujikawa. Fujikawa was a closer in Japan for 12 season before signing with the Cubs in the offseason. … The Giants will meet former teammate Nate Schierholtz, who is playing right field for the Cubs and playing well. He’s hitting .316 with a home runs and four RBI in six games.

Cardinals 14, Giants 3: Ten positive things we can say about Sunday’s debacle

When you try to put a blog post after every San Francisco Giants (except when a spring break trip takes you away from internet access), it’s sometimes a challenge to try to post something positive.

Sunday was just one of those days for Matt Cain. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Sunday was just one of those days for Matt Cain. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Sunday’s game against the Cardinals was one of those games.

While we can’t guarantee any of these will perk you up after Sunday’s loss, these come from our best efforts

  1. The pre-game ring ceremony was cool. You can watch the video of the ceremony above.
  2. Angel Pagan, normally a cold starter to the season, continues to hit the ball well with a double and his first triple of the season.
  3. After getting just two hits in their first 24 at-bats with runners in scoring position, the Giants got two hits in three at-bats with RISP in the third inning. The Giants are now 5 for 30 with RISP on the season (.167).
  4. Brandon Belt got his first hit of the season.
  5. Nick Noonan got his first career hit in the ninth inning, a neat highlight if you were determined enough to wait around to watch it.
  6. Even though he still hasn’t found his swing, Pablo Sandoval got two more hits.
  7. Guillermo Quiroz is hitting 1.000 for the season.
  8. Chad Gaudin pitched three shutout innings, giving up just one hit and striking out four.
  9. Sunday’s loss only counts as one in the standings.
  10. To quote Marty Feldman from “Young Frankenstein”: It could have been worse; it could have been raining.

Did any of that make you feel any better? No? Well, if it’s any consolation, Matt Cain feels worse.

For three innings, Cain had Giants fans thinking two things: “Could Matt Cain possibly through ANOTHER perfect game?” and “Watch out Orel Hershiser; Matt Cain is coming after your consecutive scoreless innings streak.”

Cain sailed through the Cardinals’ lineup the first time through — nine up, nine down on 28 pitches. Extending back into last season, it stretched Cain’s scoreless innings streak to 11 innings.

But before the fourth inning was over, all that was a distant memory. Cain’s fourth went: single and error, single, sac fly (1 run), walk, single, ground-rule double (2 runs), single (1 run), single (1 run), foul pop-out by pitcher, walk, single (2 runs).

He left with two on and two out. Beltran’s single against Jose Mijares plated two more runs charged to Cain. All totaled: nine earned runs on seven hits and two walks.

Oh well. Luckily, there’s another game tomorrow.

Cardinals 6, Giants 3: It was ALMOST a good day for Vogelsong, Giants

San Francisco Giants' Ryan Vogelsong, center, walks off the mound as he is pulled from the game by manager Bruce Bochy (15) during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday, April 6, 2013, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

San Francisco Giants’ Ryan Vogelsong, center, walks off the mound as he is pulled from the game by manager Bruce Bochy (15) during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday, April 6, 2013, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Sabermetricians will say Ryan Vogelsong had a bad outing Saturday against the St. Louis Cardinals.

And when you look at the final statistics, it would be hard to argue.

5.1 innings, 9 hits, 5 earned runs, two walks and six strikeouts.

But if you actually sat and watched the game, you’d say Vogelsong pitched well and had a good game … well, almost.

For the first four innings, the Cardinals were not making much solid contact against Vogelsong. Yet, St. Louis had a run on the board.

Vogelsong gave up the first earned run by a Giants starter this season in the first inning. The rally was fueled by two hits — Matt Carpenter’s swining bunt and Carlos Beltran’s two-out looper to right.

After Beltran’s single, Vogelsong would set down 10 of the next 11 hitters he faced.

Then came the most unfortunate fifth inning.

It started with Pete Kozma’s grounder into the hole at short that Brandon Crawford was able to glove. But Brandon Belt was unable to handle Crawford’s short-hopped throw to first, and Kozma was safe on an infield single.

After Kozma advanced to second, then third on a pair of outs — and then Carpenter walked — Vogelsong was in position to get out of the jam when he threw an 0-1 curverball to Matt Holliday. Holliday got out in front of the pitch, but was able to put the bat on the ball and hit a perfect seeing-eye grounder into left field to tie the game at 2-2.

Vogelsong may have escaped the damage right there when Allen Craig hit a sharp grounder between third and short. Pablo Sandoval made a diving smother of the ball, but could not come up with the ball cleanly to record an out.

What made the play even more unfortunate for Vogey and the Giants is that if Sandoval had let the ball go past him, Crawford was in position to field the ball cleanly and throw out Craig.

Instead, the bases were loaded. Then Beltran followed with a clean, two-run single to right to make it 4-2.

The bad luck didn’t end there for the Giants. Trailing 5-2 in the bottom of the sixth, it looked like they were ready to mount a rally when Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt drew one-out walks. Joaquin Arias was called on to hit for Gregor Blanco. Arias then hit a liner to the right side of the infield that first baseman Craig was able to snare and turn into a inning-ending double play.

“A step here or there and we’re talking about a totally different ballgame,” Vogelsong said. “I felt I was forcing the ball early, trying to make it do stuff instead of jut letting it come out. The middle innings got better. I didn’t feel I threw the ball all that terribly.”

And he didn’t. But that’s baseball sometimes.

The end result was a loss that snapped the Giants’ three-game winning streak. It also snapped a seven-game winning streak of meaningful games for the Giants at AT&T Park that dated back to Game 1 of the National League Championship Series.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS

POWER FROM PENCE AND PANDA: Last season, the Giants hit the fewest home runs in the majors. This season, so far, they have hit four home runs, tying them for 16th in the majors. All four have come off the bats of Pence and Sandoval. The duo hit homers in Wednesday’s win over the Dodgers, and both connected again on Saturday. Pence is hitting .294 so far, and Sandoval is hitting .274. Plus, the Panda said he still feels a little lost at the plate after missing time late in spring training with a sore elbow.

WHO IS THIS GUY IMPERSONATING MARCO SCUTARO? Marco Scutaro went 1 for 4 Saturday, raising his average to .105. At least we think it’s Marco Scutaro. It looks like Scutaro. But the Scutaro we know struck out swinging only five times in 2012 after joining the Giants. He’s already struck out swinging twice in five games this season, including with the bases loaded and one out on Friday. On Saturday, he did something else strange. Last year, Scutaro swung at the first pitch on 13 percent of the time while playing for the Giants. In the bottom of the ninth with two outs, a runner on first and trailing by three runs, Scutaro swung at the first pitch and flied to right to end the game. Who IS this guy?

GOOD THINGS FOR BRANDON BELT? It’s been a rough week for Brandon Belt. First he looks bad against Clayton Kershaw in the season opener in LA. Then he gets food poisoning, which sidelined him for two games and caused him to loose 11 pounds. After an 0-for-4 day on Friday, Belt went 0-for-3 with walk on Saturday, leaving him 0 for 10 on the season. But two of hits outs on Saturday were loud outs, a liner to center in the second and a rope to first in the fourth. After fanning twice against Kershaw on Monday, Belt hasn’t fanned in his two games this weekend. Good things could be on the way for Belt.

San Francisco Giants’ flag-raising ceremony went almost like we expected

MoreSplashHits got up Friday thinking how great it would be to be at AT&T Park for the pre-game festivities, but at least I could watch it on TV.

The 2012 world championship flag is raised in the outfield by members of the San Francisco Giants before the Giants; baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday, April 5, 2013, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

The 2012 world championship flag is raised in the outfield by members of the San Francisco Giants before the Giants; baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday, April 5, 2013, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

Then I turned on the MLB Network, which was carrying Friday’s Giants-Cardinals game. But instead of showing the pre-game, the network decided to show Brian Kinney and Harold Reynolds blabber at each other.

OK, no problem. I’ll just go to MLB. TV. But MLB.TV also did show the pre-game, joining the broadcast right before the first pitch.

AARRGG!!

So, we’d like to thank SFGiants.com show sharing video of the highlights of Friday’s pre-game activities as the Giants raised their 2012 World Series banner.

And it almost turned out like we called it.

MoreSplashHits posted 10 prime candidates to raise the flag on Friday.

Two of them did not participate, as we expected, because they were getting ready for the game: Pitcher Barry Zito, who was warming up in the bullpen, and catcher Buster Posey, who was catching Zito.

“It would have been nice, but I also like my routine,” Posey said of joining the pre-game festivities. “It’s a balance.”

Two other players we listed did not hoist the flag, but were given another honor. NLCS MVP Marco Scutaro and World Series MVP Pablo Sandoval got to throw out the ceremonial first pitches.

As for the flag itself, it was brought in via the bay on a San Francisco fire boat. After it was carried into the stadium, it was handed to Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who walked it to the outfield wall, and passed it off to pitcher Matt Cain.

Cain carried the flag into the stands and to the flag pole, followed by five teammates — each of whom took turns in hoisting the flag up the pole:

Matt Cain — got it
Tim Lincecum — got it
Ryan Vogelsong — got it
Sergio Romo — got it
Hunter Pence — got it
Angel Pagan — DOH!!

OK, we didn’t get Pagan, but 9 out of 10 isn’t bad.

Actually, when I was compiling my list of candidates, I wanted to have five pitchers and five position players. After coming up with Pence, Scutaro, Posey and Sandoval, I needed one more.

I went with Blanco because he’s defensive plays in the postseason stuck out more in my mind. But I could have gone with several candidates like Brandon Crawford (for his defense) and Pagan.

Pagan was a solid choice for his contributions from the start of the season through the playoff run. And he just signed a four-game contract with the Giants last winter.

“This is about sharing the joy, sharing the accomplishment,” Pence said Hunter Pence. “That’s what we do it for. We do it for each other. We do it together.”

Good choices all the way around, and it was a great ceremony. Still, it would have been nice to see Buster in the mix.

“Aw, I had fun watching ‘em,” Posey said of his teammates.

Don’t feel too bad for Buster. He’ll get his time in the spotlight Saturday when he’ll be presented his MVP trophy in a pre-game ceremony.

Giants 1, Cardinals 0: All the Giants need is Zito and an RWI

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Barry Zito throws to the St. Louis Cardinals during the first inning of a baseball game on Friday, April 5, 2013 in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Barry Zito throws to the St. Louis Cardinals during the first inning of a baseball game on Friday, April 5, 2013 in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Six months later, and the St. Louis Cardinals are still looking to score a run at AT&T Park … or against Barry Zito.

After being shut out in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series, the Cardinals have now played 21 consecutive scoreless innings at AT&T Park, thanks to Barry Zito.

Now be honest: How many of you expected Zito to extend the Giants’ run of starting pitchers giving up no earned runs? Probably a similar number of those who thought the streak would last past Tim Lincecum.

But Zito was on again, pitching seven shutout innings, giving up four hits and three walks as the Giants won their home opener over the Cardinals, 1-0.

Here is the extent of the Giants’ offense on Friday.

The Fourth Inning

  • Gregor Blanco walks
  • Brandon Crawford singles to center
  • Zito bunts, but Yadier Molina (of all people) mishandled the ball, and Zito is safe on the error.
  • Angel Pagan walks, Blanco scores.

And then, if things weren’t strange enough, the Giants’ best contact hitter — Marco Scutaro — comes up in a contact situation … and strikes out swinging.

As it turned out, that one run is all that Zito and the Giants would need.

Zito continue his mastery of the Redbirds. If you added his seven shutout innings Friday to the 7.2 shutout innings he threw in Game 5 of last season’s NLCS and the two shutout innings on the back end of a quality start in St. Louis on Aug. 7, it makes 16.2 consecutive shutout innings by Zito against the Cardinals.

It also marked the 15th consecutive start — including last postsesaon — that the Giants won a game in which Zito started.

Zito’s start Friday marked the first time since the 1976 Milwaukee Brewers that a team had starting pitchers not allow an earned run in the first four games of the season. The Brewers, by the way, went 66-95 in 1976 in Hank Aaron’s final season.

Here’s another interesting stat: The last time the Giants won a game started by Zito by a 1-0 score came on July 16, 2010, when Zito pitched eight shutout innings on two hits, two walks and 10 strikeouts against the Mets.

And now the Cardinals get Ryan Vogelsong on Saturday.

Ten good candidates to raise the banner at the San Francisco Giants home opener on Friday

The Giants' 2010 World Series banner

The Giants’ 2010 World Series banner

The San Francisco Giants will raise the banner on Friday at their home opener against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Now the question is “Who will raise the banner?”

In 2011 — when the Giants also played their home opener against the Cardinals — reliever Brian Wilson took the honor of hoisting the World Series flag at AT&T Park.

While Wilson played a vital role in the 2010 championship, it should be pointed out that when the Giants opened the 2011 season, the 2010 World Series MVP (Edgar Renteria) was playing for the Reds. And the 2010 NLCS MVP (Cody Ross) was on the disabled list.

So on Friday, when the Giants hoist their 2012 World Series banner, the candidates for the honor are numerous. The Giants have been tight-lipped on who will get the honor and exactly how the act will be performed.

One thing we can say for certain: It won’t be Brian Wilson. Wilson was last seen shopping at a Southern California mall in a ketchup-stained T-shirt.

So who is it going to be? Well, here’s MoreSplashHits’ list of the top-ten candidates. (more…)

Dodgers 4, Giants 0: It’s Clayton Kershaw’s day, and that’s all we can say

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw throws during the fourth inning of a season opening baseball game against the San Francisco Giants in Los Angeles, Monday, April 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw throws during the fourth inning of a season opening baseball game against the San Francisco Giants in Los Angeles, Monday, April 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

For all the moves the Dodgers made, all the big-money contracts they have under their payroll, the only player the Dodgers needed Monday was they haven’t paid … YET.

Clayton Kershaw was on his game Monday, and that left the Giants with only one hope: try to keep the game scoreless until Kershaw exited.

But it didn’t look good when Kershaw needed only 85 pitches to get through eight innings. It looked even worse when Kershaw came out to hit for himself to lead off the eighth, meaning the Dodgers’ ace would be hanging around for another inning or two.

It was over when Kershaw launched George Kontos‘ first pitch of the eighth inning over the center-field fence for his first career home run.

Everything that happened after Kershaw’s blast was completely inconsequential. Sabermetricians will tell you otherwise, but some stats are completely meaningless.

The only stats you need to be worried about are Kershaw’s: 9 IP, 4 hits, 0 runs, 0 walks, 7 Ks on 94 pitches. The Giants only got one runner to second, and none to third.

So the Giants, a team that was not shut out until June last season, suffered a shutout in their first game of 2013.

Here are some other notes:

  • Matt Cain looked good in his first start. He was every bit as good as Kershaw, except for a first inning in which he labored to escape after putting two runners on with no outs. He exited after 93 pitches and six shutout innings, four hits allowed, one walk and eight strikeouts.
  • Marco Scutaro went 0-for-4, snapping a 20-game hitting streak he ended the 2012 season with.
  • Pablo Sandoval went 2 for 4 and was one of four Giants starters who didn’t strike out against Kerhaw (Angel Pagan, Hunter Pence and Andres Torres the others).
  • Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford were each 0 for 3 with two strikeouts. Neither lefty had a chance against Kershaw.
  • The two loudest balls hits off Kershaw came off the bat of Pence, who flied out to deep center and deep left for outs.

There’s no point trying to make conclusions from this game. It belonged to Kershaw.

Losing on Opening Day for a third consecutive season stinks, but let’s move on to game 2 of 162.

Remember, the Giants opened the 2012 season 0-3 and 1-4, and still won the World Series. The Dodgers started 3-0 and 9-1 in 2012 and missed the postseason.

In other words, it’s a long season.

San Francisco Giants Week 1 preview vs. Dodgers, Cardinals

San Francisco Giants' Matt Cain throws before an exhibition spring training baseball game against the Chicago Cubs, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013, in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

San Francisco Giants’ Matt Cain throws before an exhibition spring training baseball game against the Chicago Cubs, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013, in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Opening day is finally here. And the Giants begin Week 1 of the 2013 against two familiar rivals — the hated Dodgers and the Cardinals, who the Giants beat for the NL pennant in 2012. It marks the fourth consecutive opening day the Giants have played on the road: 2010 at Houston (win), 2011 at LA (loss) and 2012 at Arizona (loss). Week 1 will feature five games on national TV.

GIANTS AT DODGERS

  • Monday: Giants (Matt Cain) at Los Angeles Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw), 1:10 p.m., ESPN
  • Tuesday: Giants (Madison Bumgarner) at Dodgers (Hyun-Jin Ryu), 7:10 p.m., MLB
  • Wednesday: Giants (Tim Lincecum) at Dodgers (Josh Beckett, 7:10 p.m., ESPN2

The Giants won the season series 10-8 from the Dodgers in 2012, winning 5 of 9 at home and 5 of 9 at the Ravine. … The Dodgers won the last series of 2012, the final three games of the regular season when the Giants’ lone win eliminated the Dodgers from postseason logoLADcontention. … Prior to the series, the Giants won 5 of 6 vs. LA. … This is the 10th time the Giants and Dodgers have opened the season against each other since both teams moved West in 1958. The Giants have gone 6-4; the Dodgers have won the last two (2011, 2008, both in LA). … The Dodgers’ South Korean signing Hyun-Jin Ryu will make his big-league debut on Tuesday. … Giants 2B Marco Scutaro will open the 2013 with a 20-game hitting streak to end 2012 still intact. … Scutaro will be the sixth different opening day second baseman for the Giants in the past six seasons: Ray Durham, Emmanuel Burriss, Juan Uribe, Freddy Sanchez and Ryan Theriot. … Pablo Sandoval will make his fifth consecutive opening day start at third base, the longest such streak at one position for the Giants since Ray Durham started six straight at 2B from 2003-2008.
CARDINALS at GIANTS

  • Friday: St. Louis Cardinals (Jake Westbrook) at Giants (Barry Zito), 1:35 p.m., MLB
  • Saturday: Cardinals (Shelby Miller) at Giants (Ryan Vogelsong), 1:05 p.m., FOX
  • Sunday: Cardinals (Adam Wainwright) at Giants (Cain), 1:05 p.m.

logoSTLThe Giants and Cardinals went 3-3 vs. each other last season, splitting two games in SF and four in StL. … The Giants beat the Cardinals in seven games in the National League Championship Series last fall. … The three pitchers the Giants will send out in this series and the same three pitchers San Francisco started in Games 5, 6 and 7 (all wins) of the NLCS — Zito, Vogelsong and Cain. … The Cardinals were the opponent when the Giants made their home opener in 2011 after their 2010 World Series win. … The Giants won the last 11 regular season starts made by Zito, last 14 starts overall (including postseason). When did the streak begin? Aug. 7 at St. Louis, a 4-2 Giants win.

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