Last season, the Giants have five pitchers make 30 or more starts. No team has done that in back-to-back seasons in about 30 years.
And the Giants won’t be doing it again.
Ryan Vogelsong, in the midst of easily his best start of the season, broke two bones in the pinkie of his pitching hand when he was hit by a pitch while swinging at the ball.
Vogelsong will have surgery on his hand Tuesday and is expected to be out four to six weeks. That would put his return date in early July.
“It stinks,” Vogelsong said. ” Especially because it’s been so rough. To go out there and feel like my old self again … it stinks.”
Vogelsong pitched five shutout innings against the Nationals, giving up three hits with two strikeouts.
After Vogelsong’s last start in Toronto, there was talk about taking him out of the rotation. After five innings Monday, it appeared that Vogelsong had put to rest that discussion.
Now, the Giants must consider options. Here are a couple.
CHAD GAUDIN: Gaudin was signed last offseason to work as a long man out of the bullpen — something the Giants have gone without frequently in recent seasons — and a spot starter. Gaudin has been very good out of the pen, posting a 2.10 ERA in 25.2 innings. Gaudin has made 75 starts over his 11-year career, but none since 2009 with the Yankees. He also had a 72-pitch relief appearance in Vogelsong’s previous start in Toronto. Manager Bruce Bochy said Gaudin is a candidate, but added that he likes his value as a long reliever.
YUSMEIRO PETIT: Petit was considered a candidate for the rotation when Barry Zito struggled in spring training last season. And he was one of only two pitchers not named Cain, Bumgarner, Lincecum, Zito or Vogelsong to start a game for the Giants last season. But he is 2-3 with 6.69 ERA at Triple-A Fresno and has allowed nine home runs. But but he also has 46 strikeouts against just nine walks.
SHANE LOUX: Loux has been Fresno’s most consistent starter at 4-1 with a 3.68 ERA. But his stuff doesn’t really translate into big-league stuff. He made a brief stint with the Giants last season, posting a 4.97 ERA in 25.1 innings.
CHRIS HESTON: The Giants had hoped Heston, the 2012 Eastern League pitcher of the year, would be the next arm produced in the system. But his transition to Triple-A has been bumpy. He’s 5-2 with 5.33 ERA. He gave up three runs in 5.0 to 6.2 innings in six of his nine starts. He got tagged for 5 runs in 5 innings in one other start, and seven innings in 3 innings in another. But he had his best start in his most recent start, giving up 0 runs on 3 hits in 7 innings.
MIKE KICKHAM: The lefty had a rough spring, then got off to a slow start at Fresno. He’s 2-4 with a 4.72 ERA. But in his last four starts, he’s 2-1 with 1.80 ERA with 25 strikeouts against six walks.
WHAT MORESPLASHHITS THINKS: The Giants should start with Gaudin. Yeah, he’s been good out of the pen, but the Giants have a lot of good relievers down in Fresno: Dan Runzler, Steve Edlefsen, Ramon Ramirez, Sandy Rosario or Jake Dunning. They could even call up Loux to work as the new long man.
And please, Bochy, use the schedule in your favor. The Giants have four days off in June, including three in an eight-day stretch (June 3-10). Even if Bochy doesn’t take advantage of Thursday’s day off — which would only gain them a couple of days — Gaudin could start on Sunday and May 31, then he wouldn’t be needed again until June 15.
If Vogelsong returns quickly (four weeks), the Giants would only need three starts from Gaudin (or any fifth starter). If Vogey’s hiatus is on the longer side (six weeks), it would be five starts IF they use the days off to skip the No. 5 starter.
That’s the best plan.
There came a moment in Thursday’s game against the Rockies when I knew the Giants were going to win.
It came in the fourth inning when Matt Cain slapped a single to left to score the final run of a five-run inning, cutting the Rockies’ lead to 6-5.
To watch Cain’s knock, click here.
Right there, I knew it was in the bag.
Why? Well, it’s because, with that RBI and the subsequent 8-6 win, the Giants are now 23-0 since last May 9 when one of their pitchers records an RBI. And that includes the postseason.
Don’t believe me? Here’s the list:
- May 16, 2013 — Matt Cain, d. Rockies 8-6
- May 10, 2013 — Cain, d. Braves 8-2
- May 8, 2013 — Barry Zito, d. Phillies 4-3
- April 11, 2013 — Ryan Vogelsong, d. Cubs 7-6
- April 10, 2013 — Zito, d. Rockies 10-0
- April 3, 2013 — Tim Lincecum, d. Dodgers 5-3
- April 2, 2013 — Madison Bumgarner, d. Dodgers 3-0
- Oct. 24, 2012 — Zito, d. Tigers 8-3 (Game 1 of World Series)
- Oct. 22, 2012 — Cain, d. Cardinals 9-0 (Game 7 of NLCS)
- Oct. 21, 2012 — Vogelsong, d. Cardinals 6-1 (Game 6 of NLCS)
- Oct. 19, 2012 — Zito, d. Cardinals 5-0 (Game 5 of NLCS)
- Sept. 26, 2012 — Cain, d. Diamondbacks 6-0
- Sept. 22, 2012 — Bumgarner, d. Padres 8-4
- Sept. 14, 2012 — Santiago Casilla, d. Diamondbacks 6-2
- Sept. 11, 2012 — Bumgarner, d. Rockies 9-8
- Aug. 23, 2012 — Zito, d. Braves 5-2
- Aug. 17, 2012 — Cain, d. Padres 10-1
- Aug. 11, 2012 — Cain, d. Rockies 9-3
- Aug. 5, 2012 — Lincecum, d. Rockies 8-3
- July 21, 2012 — Cain, d. Phillies 6-5
- June 12, 2012 — Bumgarner, d. Astros 6-3
- May 18, 2012 — Zito, d. Athletics 8-6
- May 12, 2012 — Cain, d. Diamondbacks 5-2
The last time the Giants lost a game when one of their pitchers drove in a run came on May 9, 2012, when Lincecum got an RBI in a 6-2 loss to the Dodgers.
So who needs a DH?
Sorry, I haven’t blogged in a couple of days. Those two games in Toronto did not inspire me.
But the Giants left Canada with one burning question: What to do about Ryan Vogelsong?
I’ll admit that even as Vogey has struggled this season, I keep expecting that his next start will be the one in which he finds his groove again.
But then it just keeps getting worse. Since his April 22 start against the Diamondbacks, when his ERA sat at 5.68, it has steadily climbed over his last four starts to 6.23, 7.20, 7.78 and now 8.06.
And, heck, that doesn’t even include the five UNEARNED runs he allowed on Wednesday.
Manager Bruce Bochy said the two errors that contributed to a five-run first inning for the Blue Jays were the worst things that could have happened to Vogelsong, putting a struggling pitcher in a bad situation early.
“We’re trying all we can to get him in track,” Bochy said. “He’s trying his hardest. You work as hard as he did and you’ll lose a little command.”
Vogelsong wasn’t looking for excuses, saying that things aren’t always “sunshine and roses” and you have to be able to pitch through trouble.
Still Vogelsong continues to insist that he feels like he’s really close to where he needs to be.
“Things have got to turn around in my favor here eventually,” he said. “I shattered two bats (in the first inning) and sawed them off and they both go for hits. You’ve just got to ride it out.”
True, but between the broken bats and dropped outs, there were a lot of VERY hard hit balls, even many of the six outs recorded were on hard-hit balls.
Bochy would not say if Vogelsong will make his next start, which is set to come Monday at home against the Nationals, going with the same “we’ve got options and we’ll explore them” line he used after Vogey’s previous start.
Is it bad form to mention the last time Vogelsong faced the Nationals at AT&T Park he got lit up for eight runs on nine hits on 2.2 innings?
Prior to Wednesday’s start, that Aug. 13 start vs. the Nats last year was Vogelsong’s shortest in a Giants uniform.
If we had to guess, we’d say the Giants will give Vogelsong at least one more turn in the rotation to figure things out. A four-game series in Colorado often requires heavy use of the bullpen.
And if the Giants skip Vogey on Monday, that likely means Chad Gaudin would be the likely fill-in starter.
And if that’s the case, Gaudin doesn’t pitch this weekend in Colorado, and I doubt the Giants want Vogey coming out of the pen in Coors.
So who knows? Last year’s debacle against the Nationals started a seven-start stretch in which Vogey posted on ERA above 10. Maybe this year’s start vs. the Nats will be the one that gets him off this eight-start stretch with an ERA above eight.
Right now, it’s all we can hope for.
When the Giants re-signed Marco Scutaro to a three-year, it would have been a lot to expect the same Scutaro who produced during the last two months of 2012 and into the postseason.
But we’d be happy with something close to that.
As the season start, we saw a Scutaro who struggled. Then we learned he was still battling back issues that plagued him during spring training.
Then he got hot, and things were good. Then he started to scuffle again. And not only scuffle, but strike out, which is something he just didn’t do last year.
Well, those days are over as Scutaro is swinging the bat well, again.
Scutaro extended his hitting streak to 12 games on Sunday with another solid game that included his first home run of the season. He’s batting .479 (23-for-48) during that binge, indicating his relief from back pain.
Over the past week, Scutaro went 14 for 30 (.467) with four doubles, a triple, home run and no runs scored. He did not draw a walk but he also didn’t strike out.
And that make Scutaro MoreSplashHits’ player of the week for the Week of May 6-12. He’s now batting .305 for the season.
It was a busy weekend for MoreSplashHits. Hey, it was Mother’s Day weekend, so we weren’t blogging much.
But we were stilling watching the Giants, and Sunday’s game provided us with another Splash Hits.
It was Sandoval’s first Splash Hit since Aug. 31, 2011 and the seventh of his career. That ranks him second all-time behind …. some guy named …. Bonds, whoever that is.
Brandon Belt had delivered the last three Splash Hits. Belt also homered Sunday, but he hit his the other way to left field. Here’s a list of Splash Hit leaders.
- Barry Bonds 35
- Pablo Sandoval 7
- Brandon Belt 3
Sunday’s home runs helped cap a relaxing weekend for Giants fans. Prior to Friday, the Giants had only won two games without the need of a save or walk-off win.
None of the three wins against the Braves over the weekend required a save or walk-off win, with the Giants winning 8-2, 10-1 and 5-1. Before Friday, the Giants’ run differential was 0. Now, it’s +19.
A big sigh of relief was released by San Francisco Giants fans on Friday.
For the first time since April 21, they didn’t have to sweat out a victory as Matt Cain pitched eight solid innings and the Giants tallied a six-run fourth inning to beat Tim Hudson.
It was the second consecutive solid start from Cain, who looks more and more like he’s returning to his ace form. Here are a series of tidbits about Friday’s game.
- The Giants fans finally got a breather. It was only the third time the Giants have won a game that didn’t require a save or a walk-off win. The other two came in shutout wins in games started by Barry Zito.
- The lone two runs allowed by Cain came on a two-run home run in the fifth by Brian McCann. Sixteen of the last 20 runs Cain has allowed has come via the home run.
- McCann’s home run was the 26th time an opponent has hit a home run on the fly into San Francisco Bay. We don’t call it a Splash Hits, because those are just reserved for blasts of Giants’ bats.
- It was the first win by the Giants over Tim Hudson since April 8, 2006. Hudson had gone 6-0 with a 2.48 ERA against the Giants since then.
- Cain contributed to the six-run fourth with his first RBI of the season. Cain was the last of the five Giants starting pitchers to record an RBI.
- Including last season’s postseason, the Giants have won 22 consecutive games, dating back to May 9 of last year, in which a pitcher has recorded an RBI.
- Marco Scutaro had two hits in the fourth inning, extending his hitting streak to 10 games. He will likely get the day off on Saturday.
- The Giants improved to 4-0 at home on games played on Friday.
Ryan Vogelsong’s ERA started at 8.44 after giving up five runs in 5.1 against the Cardinals in his first start of the year.
Then Vogelsong started dropping his ERA over the next three starts to 7.15, 5.89 and 5.68. You would have expected that trend to continue this early in the season.
And yet, Vogey’s ERA has gone the other direction over his last three starts: 6.23 after 5 ER in 5 IP vs. the Padres, 7.20 after 7 ER in 4.2 IP vs. the Dodgers and 7.78 after 6 ER in 4.1 IP vs. the Braves on Thursday.
To his credit, Vogelsong says he expects to make his next start Wednesday in Toronto. “Why wouldn’t I?” he said. He says his health and stamina are fine, and he feels “he’s close” to being where he needs to be.
And, of course, he’s overcome his share of adversity in his career.
I came through it after 13 years,” Vogelsong said. “I came through it after August of 2011. I came through it after August and September of 2012 , and I’ll come through it again this year.”
OK, let’s examine that.
When Vogelsong mentioned August of 2011, my first reaction was “He was bad in August 2011? I don’t remember that.” And there was good reason for that: He wasn’t that bad.
After his first start in August of 2011, Vogelsong was 9-1 with 2.19 ERA. He then lost six of his next seven starts, but his ERA rose to just 2.66. He had one start in which he gave up five runs in five innings, but did not allow any more than three runs in any of those other starts. So the issue wasn’t Vogey; it was the Giants offense.
But August-September of 2012 was something completely different. In a seven-start stretch, he went 2-4 with a huge 10.31 ERA. Vogelsong responded by giving up just one earned run in his final three starts (17 innings) of the regular season. Then in the postseason, he was 3-0 with a 1.09 ERA in four starts.
The Giants didn’t skip Vogey during that ugly stretch, and the Giants were in the middle of a pennant chase. But manager Bruce Bochy said the Giants were considering all options when it come to Vogelsong.
That fifth inning has been ugly, no doubt. Hitters are batting .500 in the fifth. While home runs allowed have been balanced, opponents have six doubles and triples in the fifth to only two in innings 1-4.
Opponents hit Vogelsong better each time they face him: .271 first time through the lineup, .333 second time, .367 third time. And strikeouts have gone down: 20 first time, 11 second time, 6 third time.
There is one caveat to these numbers. Of the 12 fifth-inning runs allowed in the fifth inning, 10 have come in his last two starts (6 vs. Dodgers, 4 vs. Braves). Also four of those runs were scored after Vogelsong left the game because the reliever could not keep the inherited runners from scoring.
Still, the numbers are ugly, so it’s time to consider the options. So here they are:
BACK OFF BETWEEN STARTS: Vogelsong is a hard worker, a by-product of his path back to big leagues. He takes nothing for granted, and that’s why we love him. But that attitude could have a flip side. “If anything, he might work too hard at times,” Bochy said. So the Giants might monitor his throwing sessions between starts.
SKIP HIS NEXT START: The Giants have a off day on Monday, so they could skip Vogelsong’s turn in the rotation to give him time to work on things in the bullpen. But that would only move his next start from Wednesday in Toronto to Saturday (May 18) in Colorado. But how much good would three extra days rest do? Also, do you want to skip a start in Toronto to make one in Colorado? If he pitches on his normal turn, he would miss the four-game series at Coors.
SEND HIM TO THE PEN, FIND A REPLACEMENT: Vogelsong’s struggle set off calls to find someone in the minors to replace him. Well, this has been weakness of the Giants since spring training, and it hasn’t gotten much better. At Fresno, the starters include Chris Heston (3-2, 5.82 ERA), Mike Kickham (0-4, 5.65), Yusmeiro Petit (2-3, 6.69) and Boof Bonser (1-2, 5.45). The best option might be Shane Loux (3-1, 4.21), if that idea excites you. The numbers are better at Double-A where you have Justin Fitzgerald (3-0, 1.09) and Jack Snodgrass (3-0, 2.60). But the AA Atlantic League is a pitcher-friendly league, while the PCL is hitter-friendly. We’ve seen what making the jump from AA to AAA has done to the likes of Heston and Kickham. Making the jump all the way to bigs is a larger leap. Plus moving Vogelsong to the pen thins out an already overtaxed bullpen. Using long reliever Chad Gaudin as a spot starter is iffy. He’s only made one appearance of 3 innings, so stretching him out is no given. Plus, again, it thins out the pen.
KEEP HIM IN THE ROTATION AND LET HIM WORK IT OUT: These appears to be the most likely option, at least for now. While Bochy did talk about “options” he also said: “I do think the pitches caught up with him in the fifth,” Bochy said. “He worked pretty hard and he was up to 90 pitches in 4 1/3 innings. Up to that point, he was pretty good.” So while the Giants would love to get 6 or 7 solid innings from Vogey in Toronto, where the DH allows pitcher to go deeper into games, he may be on a very short leash, with Gaudin ready to pick up the innings on the back side.
Winning a game to stop a losing streak — even a modest two-game skid — is always a good thing.
But you might not realize how big Andres Torres’ game-winning single on Wednesday was.
I had been thinking that the Giants have been kind of streaky this year. But when I looked, I didn’t realize they were streaky in a funky way.
It started with ONE LOSS to the Chicago Cubs on April 12, which was followed by …
TWO CONSECUTIVE WINS, both over the Cubs on April 13-14, which was followed by …
THREE CONSECUTIVE LOSSES, in a sweep vs. the Brewers in April 16-18, which was followed by ….
FOUR CONSECUTIVE WINS, in a sweep of the Padres and a win over the Diamondbacks over April 19-22, which was followed by …..
FIVE CONSECUTIVE LOSSES, two losses to Diamondbacks and a sweep vs. the Padres after April 23-28, which was followed by …..
SIX CONSECUTIVE WINS, during consecutive sweeps of the Diamondbacks and Dodgers over April 30-May 5.
When the Giants dropped the first two games against the Phillies on Monday and Tuesday, I suddenly became worried that they might be on their way to a seven-game losing streak.
So thanks to Andres Torres for breaking the streak.
In the midst of a carbon-copy defeat to the Phillies on Tuesday, we thought you might need a pick-me-up.
I think it’s safe to say that Giants fans know how valuable Hunter Pence was to the Giants’ run to the World Series title last season, even if the numbers don’t say so.
Pence hit .219 with seven home runs, but 45 RBI in his 33 games after being acquired in a trade with the Phillies.
Those numbers make his stats with the Phillies preceding the trade look all-star quality: .271, 17 HR, 59 RBI in 101 games.
Yet, Pence told philly.com that he wasn’t upset with the Phillies for trading him away. He felt like he let the team down, leading to their sub-par 2012 season.
“To be honest with you, I felt really guilty,” Pence said. “I felt like I did something wrong. Obviously I shouldn’t have looked at it that way, it was the wrong way to look at it. But I was heavily invested in bringing the Phillies back, and it felt like . . . I felt guilty. I felt like it was my fault that it fell apart.”
“That’s 100 percent what I did,” Pence said. “And in this game, I say it a lot: You can’t try; you’ve got to trust. And I was trying to make it happen. But there was a great lesson for me in that experience, there was a letting go. There was a lot I had to learn.”
Perhaps, he didn’t learn that lesson right away, leading to down numbers during his two months with the Giants. Perhaps, he was trying to hard to prove his worth after being acquired by the Giants, and trying to replace Melky Cabrera, who was suspended shortly after Pence’s arrival.
The numbers masked his other contributions to the Giants: his clubhouse presence, his defense in right field, his pre-game speeches during the postseason. He batted .200 (4 for 20) in the NLDS vs. the Reds, but he had one of the bigger at-bats in the series. In Game 3, Pence battled a cramp in his calf and gutted out a big 10th-inning at-bat that produced a base hit that led to the Giants’ go-ahead run in a 2-1 victory that started a string of six consecutive wins in elimination games.
This offseason, he worked on his approach at the plate to eliminate chasing pitches out of the strike zone and making better contact — two important skills when you play your home games at AT&T Park.
It’s the kind of adjustment so many other ex-Giants failed to make when they moved from another home park to AT&T Park (Read: Aaron Rowand).
Now the numbers reflect those adjustments: 6 HR, 20 RBI, .288 AVG, .321 OBP, .500 SLUG in 33 games, very much mirroring his career averages of .285 AVG, .338 OBP, .475 SLUG. He’s also been 5 for 5 on stolen base attempts.
And who couldn’t like a guy who rides his scooter to the ballpark?