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The sticky situation between the Padres’ Derek Norris and the Giants’ Angel Pagan

Derek Norris of the Padres and Angel Pagan of the Giants

Derek Norris of the Padres and Angel Pagan of the Giants

You can call it the greatest overreaction to a piece of gum since Hedley Lamarr in Blazing Saddles.

gum

In the top of the ninth inning of a 0-0 tie, the Giants’ Angel Pagan and Padres catcher Derek Norris got into a jawing match that resulted in both dugouts being warned by home plate umpire Tripp Gibson.

But what could have sparked a near-brawl between the Giants and Padres?

“It was something really small,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “You can ask them. It was kind of silly, to be honest. It was intense out there.”

OK. So Pagan was asked by reporters.

“It was everything for a piece of gum,” he said.

As Pagan came to bat in the ninth, he looked down in the batter’s box, picked up something small and appeared to fling it at Norris’ shinguard. Norris took offense to that and stood up to tell Pagan about it, and Pagan barked back.

Pagan said the small item was a piece of gum. He was trying to fling it away, but it stuck to his glove and hit Norris.

Afterwards Pagan said: “ That’s his game face. I respect that. … He didn’t have to take that position.”

Norris wasn’t having any of that, telling the San Diego Union-Tribune’s Dennis Lin: “He was just being kind of dickhead, and I don’t take kindly to that. … I don’t come into center field and throw gum at him when he’s playing defense.”

Derek. It was gum. GUM!!

Padres pitcher Craig Kimbrel followed that up by buzzing Pagan high and tight.

“I just happened,” Kimbrel said. “I was wild today.”

He was smiling when he said that.

But it didn’t end there. Pagan then followed by lining a 3-2 pitch into center field for a leadoff triple.

After sliding into third, Pagan celebrated loudly — in the direction of the Giants dugout, or Kimbrel, who was backing up third on the play, or both.

San Francisco Giants' Angel Pagan pumps his fist after sliding into third with a triple as umpire Greg Gibson signals safe in the ninth inning of a baseball game won 1-0 by Giants over the San Diego Padres in 12 innings Thursday, April 9, 2015, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

San Francisco Giants’ Angel Pagan pumps his fist after sliding into third with a triple as umpire Greg Gibson signals safe in the ninth inning of a baseball game won 1-0 by Giants over the San Diego Padres in 12 innings Thursday, April 9, 2015, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

Kimbrel then stared down Pagan.

But Kimbrel got the last laugh, getting Brandon Crawford to pop up and Casey McGehee to hit into an inning-ending double play with Pagan still on third.

As he was leaving the field, Kimbrel barked at Pagan.

Just another fun day at Petco Park with the Giants and the Padres.

Oh, and by the way, the Giants won 1-0 in 12 innings.

“It was a great game overall,” Pagan said. “It was a very fun game, interesting, fun. Everything.”

Chris Heston’s unlikely road to San Francisco Giants’ rotation leads to victory

San Francisco Giants' Chris Heston throws a pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, April 8, 2015, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

San Francisco Giants’ Chris Heston throws a pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, April 8, 2015, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The San Francisco Giants were in need of some good news. And it came from an unlikely source — Chris Heston.

The rookie right-hander pitched six solid innings to propel the Giants to a 5-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday.

Coming into Wednesday, the Giants were unsure of the health of Jake Peavy and Brandon Belt and placed Matt Cain on the disabled list.

Heston was called up to fill in Cain’s spot. But after Peavy looked good in his bullpen session before Wednesday’s game — putting him on course to start Sunday in San Diego — it looked as if Heston’s start Wednesday would be a spot start with Ryan Vogelsong filling Cain’s spot in the rotation after Peavy’s return.

But then Heston did what he did Wednesday. He gave up two unearned runs on three hits and two walks on 91 pitches over six innings. He was the first rookie pitcher to start a game for the Giants in the opening week of the season since Matt Cain in 2006. He became the first rookie pitcher to start and win a game in Week 1 since Kurt Ainsworth in 2003.

The first unearned run was his own fault. Heston hit A.J. Pollock with a pitch in the first inning, then allowed Pollock go to third on an errant pickoff throw. Pollock scored on a groundout.

“The first inning started to unravel a little bit, kind of a little shaky there,” Heston said. “But I was able settle down and get back into it.”

In the sixth, he gave up a laser double to Paul Goldschmidt. Goldschmidt advanced to third on a pitch (which should have been caught by Hector Sanchez) and scored on a passed ball by Sanchez.

And now it looks as if Heston will start Monday in the home opener against the Rockies.

“We’re not moving him,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “We need him right now. What a shot in the arm for us.”

It is an unlikely outcome given Heston’s bumpy road to this point.

Heston was drafted in the 47th round of the 2007 MLB Amateur Draft by the Twins, out of Seminole Community College in Florida. He did not sign and remained at Seminole. He was drafted in the 29th round of the 2008 Draft by the Nationals, but passed on the Nats to attend East Carolina.

The Giants drafted him in the 12th round of the 2009 Draft, and Heston signed. His pro career got off to a bumpy start, going 1-5 in Rookie ball in 2009 and 5-13 for Class A Augusta in 2010.

But things started to come together in 2011 when he went 12-4 with 3.16 ERA for Class A San Jose. He went 9-8 with a 2.24 ERA and 1.103 WHIP for Double-A Richmond in 2012, earning an Eastern League All-Star nod.

He was added to the Giants’ 40-man roster that offseason, but success didn’t follow him to Triple-A in 2013. He went 7-6 with a 5.80 ERA in 2013 and was released in August of that year to create room on the 40-man roster.

Heston re-signed with the Giants and went 12-9 with a 3.38 ERA for Triple-A Fresno last season, earning a September call-up. He started the final game of the 2014 regular season, giving up three runs in four innings against the Rockies.

He spent the past offseason bulking up — something he said the Giants have been pushing him to do for several off seasons — and it paid off this spring. He impressed the Giants, going 1-0 with 2.40 ERA with 10 strikeouts and one walk in 15 innings.

He was set to open the Triple-A season with Sacramento when Cain’s trip to the DL prompted his call-up to face the Diamondbacks.

Where does it go from here? Well, we’ll get a better idea on Monday.

Opening Day: Seven positives (and a big negative) to take away from Giants’ 5-4 win over Diamondbacks

San Francisco Giants' Madison Bumgarner warms up during the fourth inning of an opening day baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks Monday, April 6, 2015, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

San Francisco Giants’ Madison Bumgarner warms up during the fourth inning of an opening day baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks Monday, April 6, 2015, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Opening Day. Everything is exaggerated on Opening Day.

Winners are crowned champions. Losers are dreaming about next year. At least in the eyes of the fans.

For the second consecutive season, the Giants opened the season with a win over the Arizona Diamondbacks 5-4. Madison Bumgarner picked up the win as the Giants had to sweat through an eighth inning that almost saw the D-back erase a 5-1 on deficit.

While it is only one game about of a 162, we thought we’d look a seven positives that could be taken from Monday’s opener.

  1. The Giants won. Hey, a win’s a win’s a win, even if it is over the lowly Snakes. We’ll take it, especially on Opening Day.
  2. The Giants punched out 13 hits — nine singles and four doubles. With a shortage of power, especially with Hunter Pence out, the Giants will need to string together hits for rallies.
  3. The top of the order produced: Nori Aoki, Joe Panik and Angel Pagan went a combined 8 for 14 with four runs.
  4. Casey McGehee (2 for 3) got two more hits and three fewer strikeouts (0 to 3) than Pablo Sandoval did on opening day.
  5. Madison Bumgarner was his usual MadBum, but still good enough to limit the Diamondbacks to one run on six hits over seven innings.
  6. They played good defense: No errors, turned two double plays. Another key to the season.
  7. Santiago Casilla looked really good, setting down Arizona’s 1-2-3 hitters in order to record the save in the ninth.

OK so it wasn’t all puppy dog tails and rainbows. Here are a couple of concerns.

The biggest concern came out of something that involved two players who didn’t play Monday. Jake Peavy and Matt Cain, both slated to start Games 2 and 3 for the Arizona series, won’t pitch in the series.

Peavy has a sore back. He’s hoping that rest and treatment will allow him to make his next scheduled start this weekend in San Diego.
Cain’s situation is a little more worrisome. Cain was diagnosed with a strained flexor tendon in his right forearm, an injury that will sideline him for two weeks.

The good news is the Giants have some pitching depth in the rotation. Ryan Vogelsong will start in place of Peavy on Tuesday, but the Giants haven’t made a call on who to replace Cain on Wednesday.

One option would be to move up Tim Lincecum, slated to pitch Friday in San Diego. Lincecum only pitched one scoreless inning of relief in the Bay Bridge series, so bringing him back on three days rest shouldn’t be a big concern. However, the idea of Lincecum facing Paul Goldschmidt in Arizona doesn’t warm the heart.

The other option is to put Cain on the DL and call up a pitcher from Triple-A to start in his place. Chris Heston had a solid spring.

Bruce Bochy said he’d prefer to leave Yusmeiro Petit in the bullpen, rather than thin about the bullpen.

Setting the table for San Francisco Giants 2015 spring training

San Francisco Giants' Tim Lincecum (55) stretches during spring training baseball practice Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

San Francisco Giants’ Tim Lincecum (55) stretches during spring training baseball practice Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

The pitchers and catchers reported to camp last week. Now, the rest of the team is reporting.

So I guess it’s time to emerge from my baseball blogging hibernation.

Well, since we last chatted, back in October when the Giants were wrapping up their third World Series championship in five years, the Giants’ offseason could be wrapped up like this.

Imagine last fall’s roster.

Now imagine that the Giants traded away Pablo Sandoval and Michael Morse for Casey McGehee and Nori Aoki.

Not thrilled with that trade? Well, that was the Giants’ offseason in a nutshell.

The Giants allowed Sandoval and Morse leave via free agency, gaining a June draft pick for Sandoval. They traded from McGehee and signed Aoki. Then they brought back Jake Peavy, Ryan Vogelsong, Sergio Romo and Travis Ishikawa.

  • The Giants are counting on a full return of Angel Pagan, who missed the back half of 2014 with a back injury.
  • They are hoping Brandon Belt has the breakout year that they hoped from him in 2014 when his season was shortened by first a broken hand and then a concussion.
  • They hope for a full return of Matt Cain, who missed the last half of the season after getting bone chips removed from his elbow.
  • They hope Tim Lincecum can refind his form that makes him a significant contributor to the rotation.
  • And they Joe Panik doesn’t suffer a sophomore slump.

That’s a lot of hoping. But here is out the 2015 roster is shaping up as spring training gets into full gear.

PROJECTED LINEUP

CF Angel Pagan
LF Nori Aoki
C Buster Posey
RF Hunter Pence
1B Brandon Belt
3B Casey McGehee
2B Joe Panik
SS Brandon Crawford

BENCH

IF Joaquin Arias
IF Ehire Adrianza or Matt Duffy
OF Gregor Blanco
IF-OF Travis Ishikawa
C Hector Sanchez or Andrew Susac

STARTING ROTATION

LH Madison Bumgarner
RH Matt Cain
RH Tim Hudson
RH Jake Peavy
RH Tim Lincecum, RH Ryan Vogelsong or RH Yusmeiro Petit

BULLPEN

RH Santiago Casilla
RH Sergio Romo
LH Jeremy Affeldt
LH Javier Lopez
LH Jean Machi
RH Tim Lincecum, RH Ryan Vogelsong or RH Yusmeiro Petit
RH Tim Lincecum, RH Ryan Vogelsong or RH Yusmeiro Petit

OTHER PLAYERS ON 40-MAN ROSTER

RHP Ray Black
RHP Erik Cordier
RHP Joan Gregorio
RHP Cody Hall
RHP Chris Heston
RHP George Kontos
RHP Derek Law
RHP Hunter Strickland
3B Adam Duvall
OF Daniel Carbonell
OF Jarrett Parker
OF Gary Brown
OF Juan Perez

NON-ROSTER INVITEES

LHP TY Blach, RHP Clayton Blackburn, RHP Brett Bochy, RHP Kyle Crick, RHP Cody Gearin, RHP Juan Gutierrez, LHP Braulio Lara, LHP Adalberto Mejia, LHP Steven Okert, RHP Curtis Patch, RHP Chris Stratton, LHP Nik Turley, C Aramis Garcia, C Guillermo Quiroz, C Ty Ross, IF Christian Arroyo, IF Mitch Delfino, IF Brandon Hicks, IF Kelby Tomlinson, IF Carlos Triunfel, OF Justin Maxwell, OF Mac Williamson

While Game 6 ghosts still haunt, the 2014 Giants are NOT the 2002 Giants

Scott Spiezio connects on a three-run home run in Game 6 of the 2002 World Series

Scott Spiezio connects on a three-run home run in Game 6 of the 2002 World Series

October 26, 2002 — a date that will live in San Francisco Giants’ fans infamy.

Two World Series championships really hasn’t diminished the sting of that day.

And as the Giants prepare to play Game 6 of the World Series on Tuesday against the Kansas City Royals, memories of Game 6 of the 2002 Series echo back to Giants fans.

The echo began after the Giants won Game 5 on Sunday. This fact dawned on me.

  • The Giants won Game 1 on the road
  • lost Game 2 on the road
  • lost Game 3 at home
  • won Game 4 at home
  • won Game 5 at home

Do you know what Series I’m talking about? Yes, it is the 2014 World Series, but also the 2002 World Series.

Game 6s bring back plenty of bad memories for Giants fans.

In 1987, the Giants took a 3-2 series lead back to St. Louis in the NLCS and never scored another run the rest of the series, losing 1-0 in Game 6 when Candy Maldonado played a Tony Pena single into a triple, then couldn’t throw out the slow-running catcher on a sac fly to shallow right.

The next Game 6 the Giants played was in 2002.

Now, the Giants did exorcise a Game 6 demon in the 2010 NLCS. The Giants took a 3-2 series lead in Philadelphia, and the Giants sealed the series with a Game 6 on the road.

That game could be the road map to manager Bruce Bochy’s approach in this Game 6.

In the game in 2010, Bochy went to the bullpen early when Jonathan Sanchez, yanking him with no outs in the third inning. From there, Bochy went to Jeremy Affeldt, Madison Bumgarner (two inning on two days rest), Javier Lopez, Tim Lincecum (one-third of an inning on ONE day rest) and Brian Wilson to shut out the Phillies.

I don’t see Bochy going to Bumgarner in this Game 6. He made that move with Lincecum in Game 6 in 2002 because he had Matt Cain set to go in Game 7.

I don’t him with the same confidence in Tim Hudson (Wednesday’s Game 7 starter) as he had in Cain in 2010. So Bumgarner will lay in waiting for Wednesday.

But even with that, Game 6 of the 2002 Series lingers.

In Game 5 of the 2010 World Series, after the Giants had taken a 3-0 lead over the Rangers, FOX put up a graphic in the bottom of the seventh that the last time a team had blown a three-run lead or bigger in the seventh inning or later in the World Series was Game 6 of the 2002 Series.

Thanks, Fox.

The Giants held on in 2010 to win the World Series. They also won a Game 6 at home in the 2012 NLCS.

But for me, that Game 6 in 2002 still lingers.

In 2002, my wife and I had joined a church that spring. That October, the pastor and his wife invited us to dinner at their house. That dinner date was set weeks before knowing that the Giants would be playing in Game 6 of the World Series.

But the pastor, a baseball fan himself, said that they would have the game on at their house, so come on over. I did, reluctantly.

Things went well for a while. Looked really good at the seventh inning stretch.

But then things went bad. Really, really bad.

I sat stoically, saying nothing, as I watched the collapse.

The pastor’s wife commented: “Tim, I’m amazed with you. If this were happening to the Padres (the pastor’s team), Scott would be going nuts.”

I kept it together until I got home later that night. Then I went straight to my VCR, ejected the tape I used to record the game and smashed it on my backyard deck.

But 2014 is different.

The 2014 Giants don’t have a closer whose arm is about to fall off. Remember, that game in 2002 was the last of Robb Nen’s big-league career.

This year, the Giants are seeking their first World Series title in 48 years, as they were in 2002. It’s been only two years. A Game 6 loss would be far easier to swallow.

The 2014 Giants have Bruce Bochy as their manager. Bochy is 8-0 in postseason series as manager of the Giants and has postseason record with the Giants of 32-13. The 2002 Giants had Dusty Baker as manager. Baker was 2-3 in postseason series with the Giants and had a postseason record of 11-12. Game 7 was the last game Baker would manage with the Giants. And remember, Baker went on to manage the Cubs in 2003 when he was part of the “Bartman Game” in Game 6 of the NLCS.

This group of Giants are resilient. Many were part of the 2012 team that went 6-0 in elimination games. They’ve bounced back from nearly hitting rock bottom this season in June and July, and they continued to plug away when injuries nearly derailed them late in the season.

And most importantly … I won’t be watching this Game 6 at the house of my pastor.

Where does Travis Ishikawa’s walk-off homer rank among Giants’ most memorable postseason blasts?

San Francisco Giants Travis Ishikawa reacts after hitting a walk-off three-run home run during the ninth inning of Game 5 of the National League baseball championship series against the St. Louis Cardinals Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014, in San Francisco. The Giants won 6-3 to advance to the World Series. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

San Francisco Giants Travis Ishikawa reacts after hitting a walk-off three-run home run during the ninth inning of Game 5 of the National League baseball championship series against the St. Louis Cardinals Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014, in San Francisco. The Giants won 6-3 to advance to the World Series. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Travis Ishikawa sent the Giants to the National League pennant with his home run of Michael Wacha in Game 5 of the National League championship series.

It conjured up memories of Bobby Thomson’ Shot-Heard-‘Round-The-World in 1951.

But where does it rank among postseason home runs by the San Francisco Giants over the past 25 years.

My Giants fandom is about 40 years old. So I thought back to some of the most memorable postseason home runs the Giants have hit since 1987, their first postseason appearance in 16 years at that time.

I came up with 10. The complete list of blasts is listed at the bottom. So look over these home runs then cast your vote for the most memorable.

 

thrill

Will Clark, grand slam, fourth inning, Game 1 of the 1989 NLCS vs. Chicago

Clark had already hit a solo home run in the third when he came up against in the fourth and the Giants leading 4-3. The Cubs’ Greg Maddux looked as if he might escaped a bases loaded jam when he got Robby Thompson to pop up for the second out. Cubs manager Don Zimmer came out to talk to Maddux. On the on-base cirle with Kevin Mitchell, Clark says he read Maddux’s lips and saw “fastball.” Clark hit the first pitch into the right field bleachers for a grand slam. The Giants went on to win 11-3. And since then, pitchers now cover the mouths with their gloves during conferences on the mound.

barry

Barry Bonds, solo home run, second inning, Game 1 of the 2002 World Series vs. Anaheim

After the Giants went down in order in the first inning, Bonds made the first plate appearance in the World Series in his long career. Instead of pitching around Bonds, as teams had done all season, the Angels’ Jerrod Washburn decided to challenge Bonds. Bonds answered with a long drive into right field that left Washburn shrugging his shoulders. The Giants would go on to win 4-3.

cody

Cody Ross, solo home run, fifth inning, Game 1 of 2010 NLCS vs. Philadelphia

The Giants were facing Roy Halladay, who would go on to win the 2010 NL Cy Young. In his previous start, Hallday became the second pitcher to throw a postseason no-hitter when he beat the Reds. Ross was batting eighth in the lineup (BEHIND Mike Fontenot). He took Halladay deep in the third for the Giants’ first hit of the game. The game was tied 1-1 when Ross came up again in the fifth. He sent a 2-0 pitch over the left-field fence for a 2-1 lead the Giants would not relinquish on way to a 4-3 win.

uribe

Juan Uribe, solo home run, eighth inning, Game 6 of the 2010 NLCS vs. Philadelphia

The Giants fell behind early 2-0, but rallied to tie the game in third. Then Jonathan Sanchez got the early hook, and relievers Jeremy Affeldt, Madison Bumgarner, Javier Lopez, Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson kept the Phillies off the board for seven innings. But the game was still tied until Uribe came up against Ryan Madson with two-out in the eight. Uribe took Madson’s first pitch and sent it over the right-field fence for a home run and a 3-2 lead. That would be the final, and the Giants were off to the World Series.

The Top 10 List of Non-Giants Who Should Be on Every Giants Fan's Christmas Card List: No. 4, Cliff Lee

Edgar Renteria, three-run homer, seventh inning, Game 5 of the 2010 World Series vs. Texas

With the Giants one win from a World Series title, Tim Lincecum and the Rangers’ Cliff Lee put up zeroes for six innings. But in the seventh, Cody Ross and Juan Uribe singled. Aubrey Huff bunted them over, but Pat Burrell struck out. Then Renteria, who spent much of the season on the DL with various injuries, got ahead 2-0, then sent a drive into left-center that cleared the fence for a 3-0 lead. The Giants would go on to win 3-1 for their first World Championship since 1954.

busta
Buster Posey, grand slam, fifth inning, Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS vs. Cincinnati

The Giants dropped the first games of the series at home, then found a way to squeak out a 2-1 win in Game 3 on a 10th-inning error. After winning Game 4, they found themselves facing an old nemisis in Mat Latos. The Giants pushed across two runs in the fifth to take a 2-0 lead when the loaded the bases. Posey came up and worked the count to 2-2 before sending the next pitch into the upper deck in left for a 6-0 lead. The Reds rallied back to make it 6-4 before the Giants closed out the series, making Posey’s slam the big hit.

 

San Francisco Giants' Pablo Sandoval hits a solo home run in the fifth inning of Game 1 of baseball's World Series against the Detroit Tigers, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

San Francisco Giants’ Pablo Sandoval hits a solo home run in the fifth inning of Game 1 of baseball’s World Series against the Detroit Tigers, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Pablo Sandoval, solo home run, fifth inning, Game 1 of the 2012 World Series vs. Detroit

Sandoval had alredy taken Justin Verlander deep twice — a solo shot to center in the first inning and a two-run poke to left in the third — when he came up against Al Albuquerque in the fifth. Then he joined Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols as the only players to hit three home runs in World Series game when he took Albuquerque out to center.

craw

Brandon Crawford, grand slam, fourth inning, Wild Card Game vs. Pittsburgh

Crawford became the fourth San Francisco Giant to hit a postseason grand slam when he took Edinson Volquez’s 1-2 pitch out to right to give the Giants a 4-0 lead en rout to an 8-0 win in a wild-card elimination game against the Pirates.

San Francisco Giants' Brandon Belt hits a sacrifice fly during the third inning in Game 1 of the National League baseball championship series against the St. Louis Cardinals Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

San Francisco Giants’ Brandon Belt hits a sacrifice fly during the third inning in Game 1 of the National League baseball championship series against the St. Louis Cardinals Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Brandon Belt, solo home run, 18th inning, Game 2 of the NLDS vs. Washington

After the Giants rallied in the ninth to score and run and force extra innings and after Yusmeiro Petit’s six shutout innings of relief, Belt led off the 18th and took Tanner Roark’s 3-2 pitch out deep to right. Belt, who missed much of the season with a broken finger and later a concussion, had only recently returned to the lineup to deliver in a big spot. The Giants won 2-1 and took a 2-0 series lead.

NLCS Cardinals Giants Baseball

Travis Ishikawa, three-run home run, ninth inning, Game 5 of the NLCS vs. St. Louis

Since playing a key reserve role on the 2010 Giants World Series team, Ishikawa had been designated for assignment by the Giants, Orioles, Yankees, White Sox and Pirates. He had bounced around the minors and twice contemplated retirement, even as recently as earlier this summer when languishing at Triple-A Fresno. But injuries led to his call-up in July. Even though he had only played 11 games in the outfield in his big league career, Ishikawa started all but one of the Giants’ postseason games this fall in left field. He misplayed a ball hit by John Jay earlier in the game for the Cardinals’ first run. But ready for redemption when he came up with two on and one out in the ninth of a 3-3 tie. Ishikawa sent Michael Wacha’s 2-0 pitch just over the wall in right for the Giants’ first postseason walk-off home run since Bobby Thomson’s blast in 1951.

All of Giants’ postseason home runs since 1987

1987 NLCS vs. StL
Jeffrey Leonard, Game 1
Will Clark, Game 2
Jeffrey Leonard, Game 2
Jeffrey Leonard, Game 3
Harry Spilman, Game 3
Bob Brenly, Game 4
Jeffrey Leonard, Game 4
Robby Thompson Game 4
Kevin Mitchell, Game 5

1989 NLCS vs. Chi
Will Clark (2), Game 1
Kevin Mitchell, Game 1
Kevin Mitchell, Game 2
Robby Thompson, Game 2
Matt Williams, Game 2
Robby Thompson, Game 3
Matt Williams, Game 4

1989 World Sries vs. Oak
Bill Bathe, Game 3
Matt Williams, Game 3
Greg Litton, Game 4
Kevin Mitchell, Game 4

1987 NLDS vs. Fla
Bill Mueller, Game 1
Brian Johnson, Game 2
Jeff Kent (2), Game 3

2000 NLDS vs. NYM
Ellis Burks, Game 1
J.T. Snow, Game 2

2002 NLDS vs. Atl
Rich Aurilia, Game 2
Barry Bonds, Game 2
JT Snow, Game 2
Barry Bonds, Game 3
Rich Aurilia, Game 4
Barry Bonds, Game 5

2002 NLCS vs. StL
David Bell, Game 1
Kenny Lofton, Game 1
Benito Santiago, Game 1
Rich Aurilia (2), Game 2
Barry Bonds, Game 3
Benito Santiago, Game 4

2002 World Series vs. Ana
Barry Bonds, Game 1
Reggie Sanders, Game 1
JT Snow Game 1
David Bell, Game 2
Barry Bonds, Game 2
Jeff Kent, Game 2
Reggie Sanders, Game 2
Rich Aurilia, Game 3
Barry Bonds, Game 3
Rich Aurilia Game 5
Jeff Kent (2), Game 5
Barry Bonds, Game 6
Shawon Dunston, Game 6

2010 NLDS vs. Atl
Pat Burrell, Game 2
Cody Ross, Game 4

2010 NLCS vs. Phi
Cody Ross (2), Game 1
Cody Ross, Game 2
Juan Uribe, Game 6

2010 World Series vs. Texas
Juan Uribe, Game 1
Edgar Renteria, Game 2
Cody Ross, Game 3
Andres Torres, Game 3
Aubrey Huff, Game 4
Buster Posey, Game 4
Edgar Renteria, Game 5

2012 NLDS vs. Cin
Buster Posey, Game 1
Gregor Blanco, Game 4
Angel Pagan, Game 4
Pablo Sandoval, Game 4
Buster Posey, Game 5

2012 NLCS vs. StL
Angel Pagan, Game 2
Hunter Pence, Game 4
Pablo Sandoval, Game 4
Pablo Sandoval, Game 5
Brandon Belt, Game 7

2012 World Series vs. Det
Pablo Sandoval (3), Game 1
Buster Posey, Game 4

2014 Wild Card vs. Pit
Brandon Crawford

2014 NLDS vs. Was
Brandon Belt, Game 2

2014 NLCS
Joe Panik, Game 5
Mike Morse, Game 5
Travis Ishikawa, Game 5

Giants’ Bruce Bochy needs to take new approach with Hunter Strickland

St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Adams hits a home run during the eighth inning in Game 2 of the National League baseball championship series against the San Francisco Giants Sunday, Oct. 12, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

St. Louis Cardinals’ Matt Adams hits a home run during the eighth inning in Game 2 of the National League baseball championship series against the San Francisco Giants Sunday, Oct. 12, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Hunter Strickland’s journey to baseball’s biggest stage is an interesting one.

When the Giants called him up in September, some folks were christening Strickland as the Giants’ new “closer of the future,” replacing the recently traded Heath Hembree.

Strickland was big. He threw hard (like 100 mph hard) and he threw strikes.

After a particularly impressive save outing of the 13th inning win over the Dodgers, even Giants closer Santiago Casilla was calling Strickland the Giants’ new closer.

Hunter Strickland

Hunter Strickland

Well, not so fast.

Before we document Strickland’s issue, let’s first look at his past.

Drafted in the 18th round of the 2007 draft, Strickland signed with the Red Sox right out of high school in Georgia.

In his days with the Red Sox, his fastball was reported to top out at 94 mph and be clocked regularly in the upper 80s to low 90s.

He had mixed results as a starting pitcher when he was traded in 2009 to the Pirates, who regarded him as a sleeper prospect.

After never rising abov high A-ball, he missed all of 2011 with shoulder problems.

He returned in 2012 and remained a starter for the Pirates’ A-ball team. He was promoted to Double-A midseason and moved to the bullpen.

He was added to the Pirates’ 40-man roster in November 2012, but designated for assignment at the end of spring training the following March. The Giants claimed him and sent him to Class A San Jose.

He was 1-0 with 0.86 ERA in 20 relief appearances before blowing out his elbow, requiring Tommy John surgery in June. The Giants released him in July, but re-signed him to a minor-league deal in August.

He was back and throwing hard in spring training. He was sent to Double-A Richmond, where he was 1-1 with 2.02 ERA in 35.2 innings with 48 strikeouts and four walks when the Giants called him up in September when rosters expanded.

Now 26, Strickland made nine appearances in September, throwing 7 innings, giving up no runs on five hits with nine strikeouts and no walks. Right-handers hit .200 off him (3 for 15), as did lefties (2 for 10, 2B). However, righties struck out seven times while lefties whiffed just twice.

But in the postseason a serious hole has been exposed in Strickland.

In the postseason, right-handed batters are 1 for 10 with a walk and three strikeouts. Pretty good.

But against left-handers, well….

Lefties are 4 for 7 with four home runs and two strikeouts.

In the playoffs, manager Bruce Bochy has been using Strickland like a new toy, rolling him out in high-stress situations or to pitch a full inning. One of the homers Strickland gave up tied the game. The other, on Sunday night, gave the opponents the lead.

Maybe he needs to take another approach.

On Sunday, Bochy’s options were limited. Having exhausted his two lefties already, he brought in Strickland to face righty Matt Holiday to end the seventh. Strickland picked off Kolten Wong instead.

With the game tied, Bochy didn’t want to his pen again, so he stuck with Strickland. Strickland got Holliday out, then came lefty Matt Adams.

Strickland throws hard, but straight. And this is not Double-A. Big-league hitters can hit anything straight, even if it’s approaching 100 mph.

Against Adams, Strickland made a bad choice or bad pitch.

Unlike against the Nationals’ Bryce Harper, when Strickland fell behind 2-1 and 3-1, Strikland got ahead
Adams 1-2, dropping in a pair of sliders.

Strickland’s next pitch should have been OUT of the strike zone. Up high or outside. Maybe both. Show him the fastball. If he chases, great. If not, you set him up for another slider. If you walk him, big whoop. Go after righties Jhonny Peralta and Tony Cruz.

Instead he shot one straight down the middle, and Adams took him deep (SEE ABOVE PHOTO).

Strickland has to be smarter.

Bochy needs to be smarter.

If the matchup is right, go to Strickland. If not, find another option.

Play to his strengths. This is not the right time for on-the-job training.

San Francisco Giants 2014 motto must be: “Somehow, Someway”

San Francisco Giants' Brandon Belt hits a sacrifice fly during the third inning in Game 1 of the National League baseball championship series against the St. Louis Cardinals Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

San Francisco Giants’ Brandon Belt hits a sacrifice fly during the third inning in Game 1 of the National League baseball championship series against the St. Louis Cardinals Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

The 2014 San Francisco Giants’ motto should be: “Somehow, Someway.”

The Giants’ inexplicable postseason run continued Saturday with a 3-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series.

The Giants again did not tear the ball of the cover. They did manage eight hits, but here is how they scored their three runs.

St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Carpenter can't catch an RBI single by San Francisco Giants' Travis Ishikawa during the second inning in Game 1 of the National League baseball championship series Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

St. Louis Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter can’t catch an RBI single by San Francisco Giants’ Travis Ishikawa during the second inning in Game 1 of the National League baseball championship series Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • A ducksnort bloop single off the Magic Wandoo of Travis Ishikawa.
  • An error.
  • A sacrifice fly.
St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Carpenter can't catch a ball hit by San Francisco Giants' Gregor Blanco as the Giants' Brandon Belt advances during the second inning in Game 1 of the National League baseball championship series Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

St. Louis Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter can’t catch a ball hit by San Francisco Giants’ Gregor Blanco as the Giants’ Brandon Belt advances during the second inning in Game 1 of the National League baseball championship series Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

And the Giants’ two-run “rally” in the second inning was started on a double by Pablo Sandoval that originally landed in the glove of Cardinals right fielder Randal Grichuk, but popped out after Grichuk hit the wall and then the ground.

The Giants’ third-inning run was aided when second baseman Kolten Wong failed to cleanly field a potential double-play ball off the bat of Hunter Pence. The Cardinals only got one out on the play, so no error, but it made Brandon Belt’s subsequent sacrifice fly possible.

 

This follows the Giants’ final four runs scored in the Division Series against the Nationals, which were scored on …

  • A wild pitch.
  • A groundout.
  • A walk.
  • A sacrifice fly.

The Giants even caught a break when Madison Bumgarner appeared to balk in a run in the seventh inning. But the umpires didn’t call a balk, probably because only the Giants are allowed to score a run on a balk.

It’s hard to figure.

The Giants went 15-61 in games in which they scored three runs or fewer. They were 73-13 when scoring four runs or more, second best in the NL this season (The Nationals had the best mark).

From June 3 to Aug. 25, the Giants went 1-35 in games in which they scored three runs or fewer.

But in the postseason, the Giants are now 4-1 in games in which they score three runs or fewer.

They have scored 12 runs total in their last five postseason games. Yet they find themselves with a 1-0 lead in the NLCS.

After going 5 for 40 (.125) with runners in scoring position in the series with the Nationals, the Giants added a 2-for-11 night with RISP on Saturday. And one of those hits didn’t score a run.

But here’s one stat to note. In the Division Series, the Giants struck out the fewest times of the four NL teams in the LDS round. And it’s not even close. The Nationals struck out 39 times in 172 plate appearances, the Cardinals struck out 37 times in 138 PAs, the Dodgers stuck out 36 times in 155 PAs and the Giants struck out 24 in 175 PAs.

And as the old adage goes “Good things happen when you put the ball in play.”

The other stat is the more obvious one: the pitching.

Giants pitching has an 1.14 ERA in the postseason.

The starting pitching has been even better: 0.64 ERA.

At some point, you have to expect the Giants bats to come alive.

Perhaps that will come in Game 2 on Sunday.

Some fans need fresh perspective on San Francisco Giants making the 2014 postseason

San Francisco Giants' Hunter Pence, center, rallies the crowd in a post-game cheer for the postseason, after the Giants defeated the San Diego Padres 9-3 in a baseball game in San Francisco, Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

San Francisco Giants’ Hunter Pence, center, rallies the crowd in a post-game cheer for the postseason, after the Giants defeated the San Diego Padres 9-3 in a baseball game in San Francisco, Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

The San Francisco Giants are back in the postseason, for the third time in five years.

Now I’ve been a Giants fan for 40 years. And this is only the second tim in that four-decade span that the Giants have made the postseason three times in five years (they made it three times in four years in 2000, 2002 and 2003).

And yet, there are a lot of Giants who are not excited about the fact the Giants are in the postseason. Not sure why.

Maybe it’s because the Giants didn’t win the NL West.

Maybe it’s because making the playoffs just means a one-game elimination situation.

Maybe it’s because the Giants blew a 9.5-game division lead.

Maybe it’s because the Giants were SOOOOO bad in June and July.

Maybe it’s because the Giants didn’t clinch a playoff berth by winning a game. Instead, they clinched because of a Brewers loss that followed five Giants losses over six games.

Maybe it’s because injuries have left the Giants’ prospects in the postseason so tenuous.

Who know. But really, I think that some Giant fans need a fresh prospective.

Let’s think back to spring training in March. What would you think of the Giants’ chances of making the postseason if the following things came true?

  • Matt Cain’s season would be over by the All-Star break.
  • Tim Lincecum’s final start would happen on Aug. 23.
  • Angel Pagan would spend two months on the DL and be limited to 96 games.
  • Marco Scutaro would be a non-factor in 2014.
  • Brandon Belt would miss 102 games and hit .241 in the games he did play in.
  • Michael Morse would hit just two home runs after the All-Star break and miss nearly the entire month of September.
  • Sergio Romo would lose his closer’s job in June and never regain it.
  • Brandon Crawford would make a career-high 21 errors.
  • The only player the Giants would acquire by trade is a pitcher who was 1-9 with 4.72 ERA.

Given those facts, what would you have thought the Giants would have finished in 2014.

70-92?

76-86? (Last year’s record).

81-81? I would think that a winning season would have been considered a stretch, given the above facts.

Yet, despite ALL of those hurdles, the Giants finished 88-74 and they are in the playoffs, sending their best pitcher to the mound to win an elimination game.

We’ll remind you the Giants won six consecutive elimination games on their way to the 2012 world championship.

So while there may be a lot of reasons to think the Giants won’t go far this October, there is really one reason to think they will.

They’re the Giants.

And if you need another reason to believe that, well, go root for the A’s.

No matter what White Sox — or Andrew Baggarly — say, San Francisco Giants did not beat Chicago White Sox on a ‘technicality’

Chicago White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers, right, reaches to tag San Francisco Giants' Gregor Blanco, who was originally ruled out at home but then ruled safe after review, during the seventh inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Chicago White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers, right, reaches to tag San Francisco Giants’ Gregor Blanco, who was originally ruled out at home but then ruled safe after review, during the seventh inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

During last offseason, Major League Baseball wanted to implement a rule that would prevent home-plate collisions. The rule would be simple and straightforward.

The catcher is not allowed to block the plate. The runner is not allowed to blow up the catcher. The only time home-plate collisions would happen was when the flight of the ball drew the catcher into the runner’s path, making any collision accidental and unavoidable.

But that wasn’t good enough for old-school catchers and managers. They said “How can we teach our catchers how not to block the plate in just six weeks of spring training when that’s how they’ve been playing the position forever (forever meaning in their pro careers, because blocking the plate was not part of the game they played in Little League, high school or college)?”

So MLB waffled a bit, adding a line into the new rule that catchers could still block the plate, if they had possession of the ball. And a can of worms was opened.

Given that sliver of light, old-school managers did not worry about teaching their catchers about where best to position themselves to be in compliance with the new rule. They simply told their catchers to play the position as they have always played it, and make MLB rule that they were doing it incorrectly.

In the first half of the season, MLB gave catchers the benefit of the doubt. The onus was on the runner to avoid contact. Catchers kept blocking the plate like they always had.

But then runners started to complain. Was there a new rule or wasn’t there one? And MLB started to listen. So after the All-Star break, we started to see a swing in how these plays were being ruled on replay.

If the catcher was in the runners path without the ball and didn’t give the runner a path to the plate, the runner would be ruled safe. It didn’t matter how far ahead of the runner that the ball arrived to the plate.

In short, if teams weren’t going to get their catchers to position themselves correctly in compliance with the new rule, MLB was going to do it for them.

And if you’re on the wrong end of one of these calls, you don’t like it. Just like White Sox manager Robin Ventura found himself in when umpires overturned a call in which the Giants’ Gregor Blanco was thrown out at the plate in the seventh inning on Tuesday.

The play resulted in a 1-1 tie, and the Giants went on to score six more times in the inning en route to a 7-1 win. And Ventura was livid.

“You look at the spirit of the rule of what they’re trying to do and what it’s actually doing, and it’s a joke,” said Ventura, who was ejected for arguing and kicking dirt on the plate after a review that lasted nearly five minutes. “We obviously disagreed with it, and we got hosed today.”

Ventura continued: “They don’t take into consideration that the guy was out by a longshot.”

Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! At what point did Ventura start to disagree with this rule. If you rewind back to Tuesday night’s game, Ventura found himself on the opposite end of a similar play.

In the 10th inning, Chicago’s Jordan Danks were ruled out at the plate on a tag by Buster Posey. Ventura came out to have the play to review to see if Posey blocked Danks’ path to the plate, even though Danks was out by a longshot.

One problem, however. The review showed that Posey didn’t block the plate, that he did leave Danks a pathway to the plate.

And why is this? Well, it’s because that’s how the Giants have taught their catchers to position themselves on plays on the plate. They instruct their catchers to get out IN FRONT OF home plate, between home plate and the pitchers mound, field the throw, then apply a sweep tag. That’s what Posey did.

Now fast-forward to Wednesday afternoon. White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers did not get out in front of home plate. He stood right over it. And when he went to field the throw from first baseman Jose Abreu, Flowers left leg clearly blocked off the entire plate from the oncoming Blanco. Flowers even admitted this much, but said that’s not the point.

Except it IS the point.

Some have said the Giants won Wednesday on a “technicality” including CSN Bay Area’s Andrew Baggarly, who called the ruling “lasso-sized legal loophole.”

This is what Flowers said: “I don’t think anybody has an understanding of this rule,. That’s not the purpose of this rule. The purpose of this rule is to prevent a situation like Posey had. It’s not when a guy is out by 30 feet. ‘Oh, he blocked the plate?’ That had no impact on him being safe or out. And there’s no clarification on that.”

There. Flowers just proved my point, even if he didn’t intend to, when he said “this rule is to prevent a situation like Posey had. It’s not when a guy is out by 30 feet.”

Flowers was referring to the Scott Cousins play — I call it the Cousins play because the responsibility for that collision was completely on Cousins — that prematurely Posey’s season in May 2011.

Here are three irrefutable points about the Cousins/Posey play.

  • Posey was NOT blocking the plate on that play.
  • Posey DID leave Cousins a lane to the plate.
  • Cousins did believe he would be out by 30 feet. He felt that from where right fielder Nate Schierholtz was throwing the ball, Cousins would be out easily. His only recourse was to try to dislodge the ball from Posey. As it turned out, Posey got caught with a short hop that he didn’t handle cleanly.

And that’s the point of the new rule. MLB wants catchers to leave runners a lane, so they don’t feel like their only course of action is collide with the catcher. And leaving a lane is all determined by where the catcher sets up to receive the throw.

So here’s another question for Flowers. If Blanco was going to be out by a longshot, why was Flowers even blocking the plate in the first place?

“I had two seconds to get from behind home plate to catch (and) make a tag, and I’m supposed to be able to make sure I don’t block the plate, catch the ball and make the tag, all within two seconds on an infield dribbler?” Flowers said. “That’s not realistic. That play doesn’t make any sense.”

But it is realistic, if it’s a play that you have been trained on doing correctly. Buster Posey had time to do it correctly Tuesday night because he’s been trained to do that. Flowers, likely because the White Sox have not made it a priority, appeared as if he hasn’t been trained on this.

So MLB gave him, and the White Sox, a valuable lesson. And they got what they deserved.

And that’s not a technicality.

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