- WP: Tim Hudson (2-0)
- HR: Brandon Belt (5)
Brandon Belt is off to a hot start, and that’s a good thing on many levels.
For one, it’s showing that the adjustments he made last season, when he finished the season with eight home runs, 28 RBI and hitting .346 in the final two months of the season, are still producing results.
And it’s gotten Belt, who has been plagued by poor Aprils in his young Giants career, off to a good start to the season.
In his first three big league seasons, Belt has hit .214 with three home runs and 20 RBI in the month of April (and March, too).
This season, through eight games, he has five home runs, nine RBI and is hitting .343.
Belt smacked his fifth home run of the season in the first inning Tuesday as the Giants beat the Diamondbacks in their home opener.
In doing so, Belt became the sixth San Francisco Giant to hit five or more home runs in the first eight games of the season, joining some nice company.
- Willie Mays in 1964 (6)
- Orlando Cepeda in 1959 (5)
- Kevin Mitchell in 1989 (5)
- Barry Bonds in 2002 (5)
- Jose Cruz Jr. in 2003 (5)
That’s two Hall of Famers (and a third who should be) and two players who would go on to win the NL MVP award.
In four of the five previous seasons in which a Giant hit five homers in the first eight games, the Giants would win 90 or more games.
In the last three seasons a Giant accomplished the feat, the Giants would go on to advance to the World Series.
Mays, Mitchell and Bonds would go on to hit 46 or more home runs for the season.
All good signs for Belt.
HOME SWEET HOME OPENERS
Tuesday’s win was the Giants sixth consecutive win in their home opener.
FINE IN SUNSHINE
The Giants improved to 4-0 this season when playing in the daylight. The Giants are averaging 7.5 runs in those four day games.
The Giants will send Tim Lincecum to the mound against the Diamondbacks and Bronson Arroyo at 7:15 p.m. in a pitching rematch of last Thursday’s game that the Giants won 8-5.
- LP: Matt Cain (0-1)
- HR: Brandon Belt (4), Hunter Pence (1)
Sunday’s series final in Los Angeles gave Giants fans a severe case of deja vu.
Has Matt Cain come down with another case of dingeritis?
Maybe. Maybe not.
Cain gave up three home runs in six innings, giving up long balls to Matt Kemp twice and Hanley Ramirez once, in a 6-2 loss to the Dodgers.
Home runs have always been a part of Cain’s game.
Yes, Cain gave up a career-high 23 home runs last year. But Cain gave up 21 home runs in 2012 and 22 home runs in both 2009 and 2010.
Cain went 16-5 with a career-best 2.79 ERA in 2012 despite giving up 21 home runs.
So when Cain is going good, he’s giving up home runs. And when he’s going not so good, he’s giving up home runs.
That was the case in 2013 when he went 8-10 with 4.00 ERA.
And really, Cain’s problems with the long ball really stung him during on stretch of seven starts from April 12 to May 16.
In that stretch he gave up 13 home runs, accounting for 22 of the 25 earned runs Cain allowed over that stetch.
Sunday night’s game with the ninth time in Cain’s career that he’s allowed three or more home runs in a game.
He had five from 2006-2012, and never more than one in any season.
But last year, he had three games with 3+ home runs allowed. All three occurred in that seven start stretch.
Cain didn’t allow any home runs in his first start in Arizona. So it’s difficult to say if Sunday’s outing was a harbinger of things to come with Cain or not.
Let’s hope not.
HOME RUNS BY GIANTS
The Giants hit two home runs themselves. Both came in the sixth inning, one by Brandon Belt and one by Hunter Pence.
Belt’s home run was his fourth of the season.
Belt joked that he planned to hit 74 home runs this season.
Well, he’s on pace to hit 93 right now.
When Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs in 2001, he didn’t hit his fourth of the season until his 10th game.
A GOOD START
All things consider, that was a pretty good opening road trip.
- The Giants took 2 of 3 from the Dodgers. We’ll take that.
- They went 5-2 on the opening road trip, all against division foes. We’ll take that.
- The Giants lead the National League in home runs. You know we’ll take that.
Monday is an off day before the Giants play their home opener at 1:35 p.m. Tuesday against the Diamondbacks. Tim Hudson, coming off his stellar Giants debut against Arizona last week, will take the hill for the Giants against Trevor Cahill. It’s the same pitching matchup when the Giants beat the Diamondbacks 2-0 last Wednesday.
- WP: Madison Bumgarner (1-0)
- HR: Michael Morse (1), Pablo Sandoval (1), Buster Posey (2)
Second day in Dodger Stadium. Second win. And this time it came with no qualifications.
Michael Morse, Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey all belted home runs, which was more than enough for Madison Bumgarner as the Giants beat the Dodgers 7-2.
Bumgarner bounced back nicely after an abbreviated Opening Day start. He limited the Dodgers to two runs on eight hits and one walk over 6.1 innings of work. He struck out 10.
Morse hit his first home run as a Giant when he hit a Paul Maholm pitch halfway up the left field pavillion in the fourth inning, giving the Giants a 2-1 lead.
Bumgarner led off the fifth with a single, and Angel Pagan followed with another hit. One out later, Sandoval belted a three-run homer for a 5-1 lead. Buster Posey greeted reliever Juan Dominguez with a solo home run to left, as the Giants showed they could go back-to-back, too.
Every Giant starter reached base safely.
- Angel Pagan 2-4, 2B, BB
- Hunter Pence 2-5, 2 2B
- Pablo Sandoval 1-3, HR, 2 BB
- Buster Posey 2-5, HR
- Michael Morse 1-2, HR, BB
- Brandon Belt 1-5
- Brandon Hicks 1-4
- Brandon Crawford 0-2, 2 BB
- Madison Bumgarner 1-2
One quirk from Saturday’s game. Giants manager Bruce Bochy replaced Morse with Juan Perez in left field in the bottom of the fifth.
Bochy said he was going to replace Morse for defensive reasons. But the fifth inning?
Yeah, the Giants were up 6-1 at the time. And Bumgarner was rolling.
But the fifth inning?
PENCE HEATS UP
Hunter Pence, who entered the game 1 for 20, hit two doubles. And he recorded his third outfield assist of the season when he threw out Scott Van Slyke in the seventh.
Matt Cain takes on Zach Greinke in the series finale at 5 p.m. The game is on ESPN. The Giants go for the sweep. But worst-case scenario: The Giants will play home opener in first place in the NL West.
- WP: David Huff (1-0)
- HR: None
Well, we can say one thing for certain on Friday: Opening Day at Dodger Stadium is a lot more fun for the Giants when Clayton Kershaw is not on the mound.
For the third time in four years, the Giants were the opponent for the Dodgers’ home opener. But this time the Giants got the jump on Big Blue and pitcher Hyung Jin-Ryu for an 8-4 victory.
With Kershaw on the mound, the Dodgers beat the Giants 2-1 and 4-0 on Opening Day in 2011 and 2013 respectively.
But 2014 was different as the Giants tallied six runs in the first and two more in the second for an 8-0 lead.
After that, Kershaw might as well have been on the mound because the Giants didn’t muster another yet after Joaquin Arias’ RBI single in the second inning.
But they were able to hang onto the win, and that’s all that matters.
The day started quietly enough for the Giants as Ryu recorded two quick outs.
After a walk to Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey laced a double to left, then Michael Morse lined a single to center to score two. Matt Kemp’s error allowed Morse to take second, and it was 2-0 Giants.
Then Brandon Belt blooped a single into right to score Morse.
Brandon Hicks hit what appeared to be an inning-ending infield pop-up. But Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon lost the ball in the sun, and when teammates Adrian Gonzalez and Andre Ethier could not bail him out, it went for a double.
Arias was walked to load the bases and get to pitcher Ryan Vogelsong. But Vogelsong, who managed just two hits in 36 plate appearances last season, blooped a single to left-center to score two more.
“I really couldn’t call it a knock,” Vogelsong said. “It was more like a sand wedge. But you take them any way you can get them.”
After Angel Pagan added another RBI single, it was 6-0 Giants.
In the second inning, Posey lead off by reaching on Hanley Ramirez’s error. Then with two outs, Hicks got an RBI double and Arias added an RBI single.
All eight runs were scored with two outs. Twenty-three of the Giants’ 31 runs so far this season have been scored with two outs.
DR. VOGELSONG/MR. RUN-AND-HIDE
Ryan Vogelsong called his outing a 50-50 performance.
He seemed to breeze through the first three innings, giving up one hit and two walks.
But he opened the fourth by giving up back-to-back home runs to Adrian Gonzalez and Andre Ethier. Juan Uribe darn near made in three in a row when his drive to center hit off the wall. Vogey was able to limit that inning to those two early runs.
The Dodgers greeted Vogelsong in the fifth with a single by Carl Crawford, and an RBI double by Kemp. When Hanley Ramirez’s single put runners on first and third and no outs, manager Bruce Bochy yanked Vogelsong.
“I hated to get him, but it looked like he hit a wall,” Bochy said. ”For three innings he was right on with his delivery and command. He had good stuff. His velocity was real sharp. He started running into some deep counts and it caught up with him.”
Vogelsong said it wasn’t fatigue. It was bad mechanics, which he plans on fixing.
“It’s the same thing I started to get into last year,” he said. “It’s a bad habit. I got a little loose with my mechanics. That caused my drop in velocity and I was showing the ball to the hitters more, and I lose the whole deal.”
BULLPEN TO THE RESCUE
While the Giants managed only a walk and no hits over the final seven innings against the Dodgers’ bullpen (striking out 10 times), the Giants bullpen was almost as good.
David Huff, JC Gutierrez, Jean Machi and Javier Lopez allowed no runs, three hits and no walks over five innings of work.
After the Giants’ first experience with the replay challenge went awry in Arizona, Bochy scored a positive result on Friday.
After Ramirez led off the seventh with a single, he tried to steal second.
He was called safe at first, and Arias quickly protested. Bochy came out and challenged the call of second base umpire Mary Foster and it was reversed.
GIANTS BREAK SKID IN RAVINE
Friday’s win was the first time since 2007 that the Giants won their first game of the year in Chavez Ravine.
It’s another afternoon game at the Ravine. Madison Bumgarner faces Paul Maholm in a 1:10 p.m. start. The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1.
WP: Jean Machi (2-0)
HR: Brandon Belt (3), Brandon Hicks (1), Angel Pagan (1)
The Giants dialed up some more two-out magic to rally past the Diamondbacks and take three games in the season-opening four-game series.
With two out in the eighth inning, pinch-hitter Michael Morse slapped a single up the middle to score Juan Perez to tie the game 5-5.
Then Angel Pagan delivered a three-run home run into the pool area in right-center to give the Giants an 8-5 victory.
“We’re just trying to be patient, not panicking when we’re trailing on the scoreboard,” Pagan said. “And it’s been working. Everybody’s putting the best at-bat possible for the next guy to get the job done. It happened to me in that at-bat.”
So far this season, 16 of the 23 runs scored by the Giants have come with two outs. One of those seven “other” runs was scored on a play in which the second out was recorded.
The season is only four days old, but the Giants have shown some early ability to score in the clutch.
Tim Lincecum’s 2014 debut was a mixed bag.
Unlike Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain, Lincecum was able to pitch into the sixth inning.
He struck out seven and walked none. It was only the 17th time in 221 career starts that Lincecum has not issued a walk.
That was the good news.
The bad news? A two-run home run to Paul Goldschmidt in the first inning, and two-run home run by Mike Trumbo in the sixth inning. Both blasts went to deep center field.
Lincecum was unsure what he’ll do next again Goldschmidt, who has belted six home runs in 24 career at-bats against Lincecum.
“I’m going to start throwing underhand to him,” Lincecum said. “I don’t know, I’ve just got to figure out something.”
But, on the whole, I’d say a good start for The Freak.
Brandon Belt became the fifth San Francisco Giant to hit three home runs in the first four games of a season when he took Bronson Arroyo deep in the first inning. Willie Mays accomplished the feat four times. Kevin Mitchell did once (1989) as did Barry Bonds (2003).
“I said before the season I would hit 74 home runs,” he quipped. “So we’ll see what happens.”
Three of Belt’s six hits this season have been home runs. He also has six strikeouts in 18 at-bats.
Belt is on pace to hit 121 home runs this season.
NO SAVE FOR SANTI
Mean ol’ Bruce Bochy!
Santiago Casilla was one out from recording a six-out save. He retired all five batters he faced, two by strikeouts.
But with left-hander Eric Chavez set to bat with two out and no one on in the night, the Giants manager brought in Javier Lopez to get the final out, which he did.
No save for Santiago.
Ryan Vogelsong takes the mound as the Dodgers open a three-game series in Los Angeles. As it is the Dodgers’ home opener, first pitch is at 1:05 p.m. Hyun-jin Ryu will start for the Dodgers.
- LP: Juan Guiterrez (0-1)
HR: Brandon Belt (2)
So the rule that was supposed to keep the umpires from sticking it to the Giants didn’t keep the umpires from sticking it to the Giants.
The Giants’ first experience with a replay challenge didn’t go the Giants’ way, and they ended up losing because of it.
With A.J. Pollock on first base in the fourth inning, Matt Cain appeared to catch Pollock leaning and picked him off. Umpire Chris Guccione called him safe.
It didn’t take long for manager Bruce Bochy to bounce out of the dugout to challenge the call via a replay.
However, it took the replay umpire 3 minutes and 45 seconds to come to a decision.
CSN Bay Area showed three different angles of the play. On one angle, you can’t tell when Pollack’s hand touched the bag because the bag blocks the view.
On another angle, Brandon Belt’s size 15 gunboats block the view of Pollock’s hand for a moment. But you can see when Pollock’s hand touches the base and when he’s tagged.
The third angle, from the outfield, you can’t see when Belt’s tag makes contact.
I don’t know if one angle provided a definitive angle, and maybe that’s what the replay ump was looking for — one definitive replay. But when you put all three replays together, you can clearly tell when the tag occurs and where Pollock’s hand was. And it was not on the bag yet.
He was out. But the replay umpire apparently didn’t see it that way. Pollock was allowed to stay at first.
A couple of batters later, Buster Posey had a pitch pop out of his mitt and roll away. Pollock, now on third, charged for home, as did Cain. Cain caught the ball from Posey, but slipped as he went to tag Pollock.
Still, Cain was able to clip Pollock’s heel before his foot touched the plate. However, home plate umpire Eric Cooper called Pollock safe.
This time, you only needed one look at the replay to see the ump got it wrong.
However, having exhausted his only unsuccessful review, Bochy could not appeal.
The Giants went on to lose by one run.
With this replay system, what MLB is trying to avoid is having managers challenge every reasonably close play. So they want some kind of penalty for an unsuccessful challenge.
But the whole purpose of the replay system is to ensure that bad calls don’t decide games, like they did Tuesday.
So there needs to be a better solution.
Here’s an idea:
A manager makes his first challenge in the first six innings. The call is upheld on review.
The manager challenges a second call in the first six innings. This call is again upheld.
Now the team can challenge no more plays in the first six innings, and the manager is tossed from the game.
Wednesday: Tim Hudson makes his Giants debut as the Giants face the Diamondbacks and Trevor Cahill at 6:40 p.m.
Baseball’s two newest rule changes made their debuts on Opening Day.
The rule on limiting home-plate collision was a non-issue on Monday, as we predicted it would be most days during the season.
The rule allowing replay challenges of close calls was used five times in MLB on Monday, with two of the calls being overturned.
The Giants didn’t have any replay challenges in their game with the Diamondbacks, although there was one play when it could have been used.
In the fifth inning, second baseman Joaquin Arias fielded a ball in the hole between first and second, spun and threw to second. However, it was ruled that Arias’ throw drew Brandon Crawford off the bag and all runners were safe.
The replay showed that it was a very, very close play. Crawford’s foot wasn’t ON the bag, but it may have been up against the bag.
A replay challenge may not have been conclusive enough to overturn the call, but it brought up an interesting discussion on the replay rule.
One play that is not reviewable for replays is the play at second base on double plays. In other words, the “neighborhood” play.
The neighborhood play is one of those unwritten rules of baseball in which umpires will allow middle infielder to not actually be on the bag when receiving a throw to complete a double play. They simply need to be in the neighborhood of the base. It is intended to protect infielders from potential injury from a takeout slide at second.
But if you’re concerned about protecting infielders, why not just put a rule in the book that prohibits the takeout slide.
Oh wait! There’s already a rule. It’s called Rule 7.09(d), which reads …
“Any batter or runner who has just been put out hinders or impedes any following play being made on a runner. Such runner shall be declared out for the interference of his teammate;”
That seems pretty clear. How is it that takeout slides are permitting at all with a rule that is so clear?
Well, it comes from the interpretation of the comment after rule 7.09(d), which reads:
“If the batter or a runner continues to advance after he has been put out, he shall not by that act alone be considered as confusing, hindering or impeding the fielders.”
It’s a very, very broad interpretation of this comment that has led to the takeout slide.
What this comment is saying that if the momentum created by a runner trying to reach a base safely causes him to come in contact with a fielder after the runner has been put out, that contact, in itself, is not considered interference.
But what this broad interpretation has created is that any contact between the runner and fielder is OK as long as the runner can show that he could be in contact with the base at some point during his “slide.”
But the comment is really just talking about incidental contact. So maybe what we need is a rule that talks about willful or deliberate action of the runner.
Oh wait! We already have one. It’s called rule 7.09(e).
“If, in the judgment of the umpire, a base runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead. The umpire shall call the runner out for interference and also call out the batter-runner because of the action of his teammate. In no event may bases be run or runs scored because of such action by a runner.”
Well, that seems pretty clear.
One thing the critics of the new home-plate collision rule have complained about is how these rules are making the game softer.
But this really isn’t about making the game softer. It’s really not about protecting infielders or even runners (Bryce Harper took a knee to the head on his takeout slide on Monday).
What this is really about is the simple point that a runner who has been eliminated from the play should not be allowed to impact the play after he’s been eliminated.
And we don’t even need a new rule to make sure that happens.
We just need to enforce the rules that are already written.
- WP: Jean Machi (1-0)
- Save: Sergio Romo (1)
- HR: Brandon Belt (1), Buster Posey (1)
Hey, it wasn’t pretty. But it’s a win.
And in the end, that’s all that matters.
The Giants rallied from four runs down to beat the Diamondbacks 9-8 for their first season-opening win in four years.
Due in part to sloppy defense, the Giants trailed 6-2 after five innings and 7-3 after six.
But the Giants tallied four runs in the seventh to tie the game, with all four runs scoring with two outs.
With Joaquin Arias on first, rookie Ehire Adrianza came in to hit for reliever Yusmeiro Petit and delivered a double to right, scoring Arias.
After Oliver Perez relieved starter Brandon McCarthy, Angel Pagan shot a double to left off the glove of Martin Prado, scoring Adrianza.
After a Brandon Belt single moved Pagan to third, the Giants caught a break. With a pitch headed to his right shoulder, Pablo Sandoval with a part check-swing, part trying to avoid being hit, made contact with the ball and blooped into shallow center off the glove of shortstop Chris Owings, scoring Pagan.
After a Buster Posey single loaded the bases, Hunter Pence walked to tie the game.
Then in the top of the ninth, again with two outs, Buster Posey delivered a huge two-run home run to left to give the Giants a 9-7.
Despite giving up a solo home run to Miguel Montero, Sergio Romo was able to close out the game for the win.
The box score says the Giants made two errors. But really there should have four or five or more.
“They let an intern do it for the first game,” Giants announcer Duane Kuiper said on Monday’s official scorer.
Let’s look at them.
Leading off the fourth, Mark Trumbo reached when Brandon Belt could handle his grounder for Error No. 1.
The next batter, Miguel Montero, hit a chopper to short that Sandoval cut over to field. But he dropped the ball for Error No. 2.
Two batters later, Gerardo Parra singled home Trumbo, but Miguel Montero was called out on Pence’s throw home and Posey’s sweep tag. Except for one thing, Posey dropped the throw. Non-error No. 1.
In the fifth inning, Joaqin Arias fielding a grounder but his throw to second drew Brandon Crawford off the bag. It was ruled a fielder’s choice. Non-error No. 2.
The next batter, McCarthy hit a grounder that should have been a 4-2-3 double play. But Arias’ throw short-hopped Posey at the plate, and the Giants only got the force at home. You can’t presume a double play, so non-error No. 3.
Luckily, neither of Arias’ gaffes cost the Giants any runs.
That wasn’t the case with Belt in the sixth inning. Petit had Paul Goldschmidt picked off as Belt started the run down. Then Belt somehow lost focus and allowed Goldschmidt to slip into second. He then scored on Trumbo’s single. Non-error No. 4.
In the eighth, Aaron Hill hit a slow roller to Sandoval, who fielded the ball but his throw to first sailed over the head of Belt. Luckily, it bounced off some plexiglass the protects the photographer’s well, so Hill could advance no further. The play was scored a single, but we’ll call it non-error No. 5.
In the ninth, Chris Owings tried for a bunt single to Sandoval, who had enough time to field the ball and get Owings. But Sandoval did not come up with the ball cleanly. It was ruled a hit, but we’ll call it non-error No. 6.
Not pretty. But the bats rescued the Giants on Opening Night.
Tuesday: Matt Cain takes the mound for the Giants against Wade Miley. First pitch is 6:40 p.m.