All of the talk around San Francisco these days revolves around one question.
“Is Tim Lincecum back?”
After two Cy Young seasons and two world championship seasons, Giants fans want to know if The Freak is back to his form from 2008-11 after a very bumpy stretch since 2012.
Well, one way to answer that question is to say Tim Lincecum has, in fact, never been better.
After his past four starts since June 25, Tim Lincecum’s stats are as follows …
- 30.1 innings pitched
- 10 hits allowed
- 1 earned run
- 9 walks
- 24 strikeouts
- 0.30 ERA
Now compare that to his best four-start stretches over his career.
July 16-Aug. 1, 2007: 2-0, 26.1 IP, 14 H, 4 ER, 13 BB, 26 K, 1.37 ERA
April 19-May 4, 2008: 2-1, 27.1 IP, 24 H, 3 ER, 11 BB, 23 K, 0.99 ERA (3 scoreless outings out of four)
Aug. 12-27, 2008: 3-0, 27.2 IP, 13 H, 3 ER, 12 BB, 35 K, 0.98 ERA
July 27-Aug. 12, 2009: 2-0, 32.2 IP, 21 H, 4 ER, 6 BB, 37 K, 1.10 ERA
April 5-23, 2010: 4-0, 27 IP, 19 H, 3 ER, 6 BB, 32 K, 1.00 ERA
May 4-21, 2011: 2-1, 29.2 IP, 21 H, 3 ER, 11 BB, 30 K, 0.91 ERA (3 scoreless outings out of 4)
July 9-28, 2011: 3-1, 25 IP, 15 H, 3 ER, 15 BB, 26 K, 1.08 ERA
Aug. 7-24, 2011: 3-1, 29.2 IP, 18 H, 3 ER, 11 BB, 29 K, 0.91 ERA
Clearly, he’s never had a four-game stretch that was as good as his current run in terms of run prevention. In fact, it’s not even close.
It’s also important to note that his strikeout rate on the current stretch is not as high as in his previous impressive stretches.
But also in only two of the previous stretches did Lincecum give up fewer walks than his current streak, and in none of his previous stretches did he allow fewer hits than his current one. Again, it’s not even close.
So is Tim Lincecum back to being the pitcher he was in 2008-11.
No. He’s a different pitcher. But he’s getting the results.
Now some folks out there are still a bit skeptical, and they take Lincecum’s recent run with a grain of salt.
Freak me once, shame on you. Freak me twice …
They’ll point out that with all of his recent success, his ERA still sits at 3.66. Lincecum hasn’t had an in-season ERA that low (after May 1) since the end of the 2011 season.
But consider this. If you remove Lincecum’s two worst starts of the season (April 9 vs. Arizona, 4 IP, 7 ER; June 3 vs. Cincinnati, 4.1 IP, 8 ER), and Lincecum’s ERA drops down to 2.86. That represents 17 of his 19 starts.
Also consider he has posted quality starts in six of his past seven starts (just missing one — 6 IP, 4 ER — vs. Arizona on June 20), and in nine of his past 12 starts. And one of those non-quality starts was when he was lifted after 96 pitches despite throwing five scoreless innings vs. the Cubs.
Yes, Lincecum still has a big home-road disparity in his numbers. But 9 of his last 12 starts at home. So it’s hard to tell if his recent success is due to pitching so often at home, or if his high road numbers are due to the fact that he made four road starts prior to May 8, and only three since, when he has started to figure out how to pitch without being overpowering.
So while the jury is still out for some, we are impressed and encouraged by Lincecum’s recent success.
Will he be the Cy Young-winning super stud of 2008-09?
Maybe not. But can he be a top-of-the-rotation quality starter?
We’re beginning to think “yes.”
Brian Sabean’s inability to fortify bench in offseason is cause of San Francisco Giants’ midseason slide
Brian Sabean made this bed. Now, we all have to sleep in it.
Luckily, with the way the Giants are playing, the ZZZZ’s coming easily.
Last offseason, the Giants went into the offseason with some basic questions
- Who will replace Barry Zito in the rotation?
- Would the Giants re-sign Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong and/or Javier Lopez?
- Who is going to play left field?
The Giants answered those questions by signing Tim Hudson and Michael Morse and bring back Lincecum, Vogelsong and Lopez.
And, for the most part, those moves have worked out for the Giants. Most fans smart enough to realize the Giants were going to be in on top-of-the-market free agents, like Shin-Soo Choo or Jacoby Ellsbury, would agree with that.
But there was one area I kept waiting for the Giants front-office to address. And it wasn’t an area that was going to cost of ton of money, and yet would pay big dividends down the road.
And that is the bench. And more specificially, the infield bench.
Now, the Giants were expecting that Marco Scutaro would be ready to open the season. But when you have a 39-year-old second baseman with a history of back trouble, wouldn’t want some insurance?
And Giants fan watched the likes of Tony Abreu and Joaquin Arias last year and knew that there were better options to serve as Scutaro’s backups.
I watched as Emilio Bonifacio signed with the Cubs, Skip Schumaker signed with the Reds, Mark Ellis signed with Cardinals. I even wondered why the Giants weren’t in on Justin Turner when he received a non-roster invite by the Dodgers to Spring Training.
So who did Sabean bring in? Brandon Hicks, an infielder with 55 games of big-league experience and a career batting average of .133.
In fact, the entire bench the Giants broke camp with was not all that impressive: Hector Sanchez, Arias, Ehire Andrianza, Gregor Blanco and Juan Perez.
But the Giants poor benched was masked in the opening weeks of the season as the Giants … a) got off to hot start at plate, particularly with power; b) stayed healthy; c) caught lightning-in-bottle with Hicks’ unexpected power output.
And then the Giants’ power output cooled off, injuries came (first to Brandon Belt, then Angel Pagan) and Hicks’ offensive production completely dried up.
Now, when manager Bruce Bochy looks for alternatives to spark the lineup, he’s finding a bench that is bare.
How bare? Consider this.
I took the “ideal” starting lineup of every National League team (this is the lineup each team hoped to put onto the field to begin the season provided everyone was healthy), then subtracted the production of those players (and batting production from pitchers) from the total production of the team this season to measure the production of each team’s bench and midseason minor-league callups.
In doing that, I found, with no great surprise, the Giants have the third-worst bench batting average in the NL at .201 through July 4.
To make matters worse, the two teams that rank lower in bench production than the Giants have not depended on their bench that much.
The Cardinals had the worst bench batting average in the NL. But the Cardinals have had the third-fewest bench at-bats this season. The Phillies are No. 2 in bench batting average and No. 2 in fewest bench ABs.
However, the Giants have the third-worst bench batting average, but have required the third-most bench ABs in the National League.
So they have one of the worst benches in the league, and they’ve had to depend on that bench more than most of the teams in the league.
That’s a bad combination.
SO what’s the solution?
Well, they can get healthy. The Giants are hopeful that both Scutaro and Pagan will be able to return to the lineup after the All-Star Break. In a couple of days, Pablo Sandoval should be able to return.
Apart from that, they need to improve the depth of this roster. And that won’t cost a truckload of money or gut the farm system.
Remember in 2010, the Giants added the likes of Cody Ross and Mike Fontenot. In 2012, it was Scutaro. When acquired, none of these deals with thought to be blockbusters. But they did produce two NLCS MVPs and key cogs in those title runs.
And they need a little luck. For every Cody Ross, there’s a Jose Guillen. For every Scutaro, there’s an Orlando Cabrera.
But the answer to the Giants’ woes may not be that far away. Sabean missed his chance to deal with this shortcoming in the offseason. But he gets his second chance as the trade deadline approaches.
With Adam Duvall in the lineup today against the St. Louis Cardinals — which might be the last game we see Duvall play with Giants for a while with Brandon Belt due off the DL Friday — we thought we’d commemorate the players who hit a home run for the San Francisco Giants in their big-league debut.
- Adam Duvall, June 26, 2014 (Mike Leake, Cin)
- Brett Pill, Sept. 6, 2011 (Wade LeBlanc, SD)
- a-Brandon Crawford, May 27, 2011 (Marco Estrada, Mil)
- John Bowker, April 12, 2008 (Todd Wellemeyer, StL)
- Eliezar Alfonzo, June 3, 2006 (Orlando Hernandez, NYM)
- b-Will Clark, April 8, 1996 (Nolan Ryan, Hou)
- Randy Kutcher, June 19, 1986 (Craig Leffterts, SD)
- c-Johnnie LeMaster, Sept. 2, 1975 (Don Sutton, LAD)
- b-John Montefusco, Sept. 3, 1974 (Charlie Hough, LAD)
- a-Bobby Bonds, June 25, 1968 (John Purdin, LAD)
- Orlando Cepeda, April 15, 1958 (Don Bessent, LAD)
b-first big-league plate appearance
c-inside-the-park home run
On Saturday, fans got what they’ve been begging the Giants to do for almost a month now — second baseman Joe Panik was called up from Triple-A Fresno.
Panik was the first player the Giants drafted after winning the 2010 World Series (the 29th pick of June 2011 draft out of St. John’s).
Originally drafted as a shortstop, the Giants have been looking at Panik at second base for a while now.
Panik tore up of the Northwest League, hitting .341 in 69 games for Salem-Keizer. He hit .297 in 130 games at Class A San Jose, before hitting .257 last year in 137 games for Richmond in the pitcher-friendly Eastern League.
But in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, Panik has hit .321 with a .382 OBP, 5 home runs, 45 RBI in 74 games for Fresno.
Early in the year, fans weren’t clamoring for Panik. Second baseman Brandon Hicks wasn’t hitting great, but what he did hit, he hit hard — belting eight home runs in his first 41 games.
But since hitting his last home run on May 23, Hicks has just seven hits in 62 at-bats (that’s a .113 average to you and me).
And with other second base options (Joaquin Arias and Ehire Adrianza) not hitting much better, it BEGGED the question “Why not Joe Panik?”
After hemming and hawing for a couple of weeks with some pretty lame excuses, the Giants finally acquiesced and called up Panik on Saturday. Manager Bruce Bochy said he’ll get some consistent starts at 2B, beginning on Sunday.
To make room for Panik, the Giants optioned OF Juan Perez to Fresno (no shocker there) and they designated P Jake Dunning for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster (bit of a surprise there; I was looking at Erik Cordier).
Panik doesn’t bring the power that Hicks has shown. He has five home runs in 326 PA’s for Fresno this year in the hitter-friendly PCL. But has never hit more than seven home runs in any of his four minor-league seasons.
But he is a contact guy. He has 94 hits this season in Fresno against 33 strikeouts (Hicks has 33 hits to 72 strikeouts by comparison). And Panik has 27 walks. Over his minor league career he has 171 walks to 180 strikeouts in 410 games.
Think of him like a younger — much younger — Marco Scutaro.
Now, we get to see if those numbers translate to the big leagues. It doesn’t often. For every Buster Posey, the Giants have had their share of Charlie Culberson, Conner Gillaspie, Nick Noonan and Roger Kieschnick.
The other question is “how long will Panik remain with the Giants?”
Brandon Belt looked good taking BP in Arizona Friday. The thinking is he’ll start a rehab assignment soon, and he could be back with the club before the end of the month.
The Giants have a roster full of players who are out of options, meaning they can’t be sent to the minors without first passing through waivers. Juan Perez is the only position player to be sent to Fresno from the big-league roster this season, and he’s been shipped off to Fresno to make room for Panik.
What would the Giants do to make room for Belt, if it isn’t sending Panik back to Fresno?
April showers bring May flowers. What do May flowers bring?
Well, for the San Francisco Giants, significant injuries. At least that’s been true over the past few seasons.
Mark DeRosa, Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Ryan Vogelsong, Angel Pagan. All suffered significant injuries that cost them weeks of playing time in May.
Wednesday’s injury may have been the most frustrating.
In the top of the ninth, after he had just escaped a bases-loaded jam with the help of a double play ball, Santiago Casilla came to the plate for the first time since 2012.
Manager Bruce Bochy said afterwards that he gave Casilla instructions not to swing. But Casilla went up there hacking, working the count full before hitting a chopper up the middle. Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki charged the ball and threw to first. Casilla raced down the baseline with his hair on fire, as if they play were in Game 7 of the World Series.
It was a game in May, and the Giants were leading 5-1. Just before he reached the bag, Casilla pulled up, then fell over the bag and began writhing in pain. Casilla suffered a hamstring injury so bad that he could not put wait on the leg and had to be helped off the field by two trainers.
And this came after starter Matt Cain left the game early when he felt his hamstring tighten up.
Casilla is definitely going on the DL. For how long, we won’t know until an MRI is performed Thursday. But it didn’t look good. By the looks of things, if the Giants get Casilla back before the All-Star break, they would be lucky.
But it seems to follow a disturbing trend of key injuries suffered by Giants in the month of May.
Here’s a look back at others since 2010:
Mark DeRosa: Prior to the 2010 season, Mark DeRosa signed a two-year, $12 million deal to be a veteran presence in the lineup. But in May of 2010, DeRosa went on the DL with a wrist injury that ended his 2010 season after playing 26 games in 2010. He came back to play 47 games in 2011, mostly as a reserve. He also started a DL stint in May 2011.
Edgar Renteria: Renteria went on the DL twice in May 2010, the first on May 7 with a strained groin. He returned May 22, played three games then went back on the DL with a strained hamstring for about a month. He would return, suffer other injuries, but return in the postseason to deliver one of the biggest hits in Giants history in Game 5 of the World Series.
Buster Posey: The biggest May injury was Posey’s season-injury ankle injury on May 26 when he got plowed by Scott Cousins.
Jeremy Affeldt: Affeldt went on the DL May 2 with a sprained knee sustained when his 4-year-old son lept into his arms after Affeldt returned home after a game. Now, granted, the injury occurred in late April, but Affeldt went on the DL in May. Affeldt missed the minimum, so it wasn’t major injury, but worth mentioning.
Pablo Sandoval: Almost a year after breaking the hamate bone in his right hand, Sandoval breaks the hamate bone in his left hand, leaving a game early against the Marlins on May 2. He would be out until June 9.
Santiago Casilla: This isn’t the first time Casilla visited the DL in May. Last season, he went on DL on May 21 with a cyst in his right knee and did not return from the DL until July 14.
Ryan Vogelsong: Vogelsong was off to a bad start in 2013. But he looked to be turning things around with his best start of the season, throwing five shutout innings against the Nationals. Then he broke his hand swinging at a pitch at the plate. He would be out until Aug. 9.
Angel Pagan: Pagan supplied perhaps the most exciting play of the 2013 season for the Giants when he won a game against the Rockies with a 10th-inning, inside-the-park home run. But Pagan hurt his hamstring on the play on May 25. They waited until June 7 to put him on the DL. He tried to return later in June, but aggravated the injury on June 20 playing for Class San Jose. He would later have surgery and be out until Aug. 30.
Brandon Belt: Belt went on the DL after suffering a broken thumb when he was hit by a pitch from the Dodgers’ Paul Maholm on May 9. He’s not expected back until late June, at the earliest.
Giants fans are always on the lookout for the next hot prospect in their farm system.
Well, this week at least, Basseball America says that’s Andrew Susac.
Susac worked his way onto the list with a week in which he hit 6 for 19 (.316) with four home runs, 7 RBI, two walks and six strikeouts.
Susac is now hitting .314 for the season with a .404 OBP and 1.015 OPS. In 22 games in Fresno, he’s now hit half as many home runs (six) than he did last season at Double-A Richmond (12).
Now, Fresno is a hitter-friendly environment, and Richmond is more pitcher-friendly. But the offensive spike for Susac is encouraging, considering that it followed a stretch when he missed some time with concussion-like symptoms after taking a foul ball to the mask.
Still, John Manuel of Baseball America has been impressed.
“I saw him in the fall league last year, and I knew we were light on him in our rankings and in our Giants top 10 rankings,” Manuel said on MLB Network’s The Rundown. “He should have been in the Giants top 10 prospects.”
It’s worth noting that CSN Bay Area’s Andrew Baggarly supplied those rankings to Baseball America.
“He’s got power the other way,” Manuel said. “I saw him hit a home run to right-center field at Scottsdale Stadium while doing a game on (MLB Network). I could see him in the big leagues sooner than later with Brandon Belt on the disabled list.”
Matt Yallof of MLB Network noted that at 24 the clock was ticking on Susac as a prospect.
But not really. When the Giants drafted Susac in the second round of the 2011, he was recovering from a knee injury that ended his season at Oregon State.
Susac did not play in 2011. He played 2012 in Class A San Jose (hitting .244 with 9 HRs in 102 games) and 2013 in Double-A Richmond (.256 with 12 HRs in 84 games). So he’s right where he needs to be in his first season in Triple-A.
As far as getting a call-up to the bigs? Well, like Adam Duvall, the Giants would rather see Susac continue to get regular at-bats and playing time in Fresno than ride the bench in San Francisco. Improving his defense is something the Giants would like to see from Susac.
But he does become a viable option if the Giants need his bat later this season.
Other prospects in Fresno
- 3B ADAM DUVALL: Duvall continues to tear it up. He’s hitting .359 with .419 OBP and an OPS of 1.419 over the past 10 games, with 6 HRs and 14 RBI. He’s been playing a little bit at 1B while the Grizzlies other 1B has been on the mend.
- 2B JOE PANIK: Panik has cooled a little, hitting .282 over the past 10 games. He’s still hitting .314 for the season with a .381 OBP. He has 16 walks against 18 strikeouts. With Marco Scutaro out, Panik remains an option should something happen to Brandon Hicks.
- OF GARY BROWN: Uh oh. After a good start to the season, Brown has begun to slip. He’s hitting .179 (7 for 39) over the past 10 games. He’s hitting .267 for the season with 31 Ks against 15 BBs.
- P EDWIN ESCOBAR: Escobar was thought to be at the front of the line to get called up if the Giants needed a starter. But he’s struggled this season (1-4, 5.18 ERA). Opponents are hitting .308 against this season. The PCL is a hitter friendly league but you’d like to see better numbers than that from Escobar.
- P CHRIS HESTON: Heston may have been in Escobar’s position last year, but struggled with a 5.80 ERA. He’s 3-2 with 3.40 ERA this season with 31 strikeouts against 10 walks. He’s allowed 15 earned runs, but many of those runs have scored on the five home runs he’s allowed in seven starts.
Home runs have been coming fast and furious for the Giants this season, and that means More Splash Hits.
Of course, we like that.
Brandon Crawford belted the 66th Splash Hit at AT&T Park in the Giants’ 10-4 win over the Braves on Wednesday.
It came on the heels of Tyler Colvin hitting the 65th Splash Hit in Monday’s win over the Braves.
It’s the first time two Splash Hits have been hit so close to another since Barry Bonds smacked Splash Hits on consecutive days on April 12 and 13, 2004.
Here are some other fun facts about the Giants and Splash Hits this season:
- With three Splash Hits this season, it’s the first time the Giants have had that many in a season since hitting five in 2011, and it’s only May 15.
- It is only the second time that the Giants have hit three Splash Hits by May 14. The other time was in 2000, the season the park opened, when Barry Bonds hit two Splash Hits in one game on May 10 to give him three for the season.
- It’s the second time two different Giants have hit Splash Hits two days apart since Felipe Crespo and Bonds hit Splash Hits on May 28 and May 30, 2001.
- Colvin became the first Giant to hit a Splash Hit in his home debut with the Giants.
- Colvin became the 18th different player to record a Splash Hit (Splash Hits are defined as home runs into the bay hit by a Giants player).
- Crawford moved into a six-way tie for fourth on the all-time list of Splash Hits with his second.
- If Crawford hits another Splash Hit this season, he will become the second player to record three or more in a second. Bonds did it five times (six in 2000, nine in 2001, six in 2002, six in 2003, four in 2004).
Why so many people were dead wrong about the game-winning play and review for Pirates in win over San Francisco Giants
Now, that was a tough way for a six-game winning streak to end.
A two-out triple and error allowed Starling Marte to race around the bases and score the winning run in a 2-1 win for the Pittsburgh Pirates over the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday.
To make matters worse, Marte was called out at the plate, but the call was reversed on replay — the first time that a game has been decided by a review reversal.
You had to figure it would happen to Giants.
There was a lot of conjecture and debate about the final play on talk radio and Twitter, as Giants fans were looking for someone to pin the blame on.
So let’s look at the suspects:
HUNTER PENCE: Some fans said that Pence could have played the ball better off the wall in right. The ball bounced away from Pence after hitting the wall, allowing Marte to take third.
I believe Pence misjudged the carry on this ball. When it came off Marte’s bat, I thought that Pence would catch the ball on the warning track. I think Pence thought the same thing, which put him in a bad spot to play the ball off the wall.
So could he have played the ball better? Yes. But really it would have meant the difference between Marte at second or Marte at third. And with two out, a base hit is the most likely way Marte would have scored with two out. And a hit to the outfield scores Marte from second or third.
TIM HUDSON: Other fans said that Hudson should have been in a better position to back up the throw to third.
Again, OK, fine. But as a veteran pitcher, I don’t really think that Hudson thought there would be or should have been a throw into third. Is that an excuse? Not really. On a play like that, there’s no other place a pitcher should be than backing up a throw into third on a ball hit to right. But I’m not about to pin this one on Hudson, given the way he pitched when the Giants needed him to give the bullpen some much needed rest.
PABLO SANDOVAL: Given his struggles at the plate, fans are just looking for a reason to make The Panda into The Goat. But not on this play. Fans said Sandoval should have done all he could to block the ball. But the throw was a bad one, forcing Sandoval to lunge for the ball. He actually did a great job to get up quickly, get to the ball and make a spot-on throw home. Sandoval was not at fault.
BUSTER POSEY: This one drove me the most nuts. Fans were howling that Posey should have blocked Marte’s path to the plate. Some were blaming the new rule on blocking the plate, in which case they were wrong TWICE. For one, the new rule does not prevent a catcher from blocking the plate once he has the ball, and on this play, Posey had the ball early enough to block the plate within the rules. Secondly, regardless of the rule and what it allows, the Giants have instructed Posey for more than two years to avoid contact at the plate. Even if it means allowing a run — even the winning run — to score, they would much rather have a healthy Posey. And that’s the right call. Other fans thought Posey should have made a better tag, placing the tag on the hand or arm and not on the body. Well, looking at the replay, Posey did attempt to tag Marte on his left hand or arm, but Marte alerted pulled that hand back to his body to avoid the tag, leaving Posey to tag his chest. That allowed Marte to slip his right hand onto the plate.
If there was a way to fault Posey, it was his positioning at the plate. When Posey took the throw, he was standing right over home plate. When Marte came in with his slide, Posey backed away from him to avoid contact, applying the tag in a matador-like style. Again, this is likely a by-product of the Giants telling him to avoid contact. But a better way of that to happen is for Posey to position himself in fair territory and up the line to third to shorten the length of the thrown from Sandoval. This would have given Marte a lane to the plate, as the rule stipulates, but would have allowed Posey to make the tag earlier. The only question here is whether Posey could have done that and still retained a line of sight from Sandoval.
THE UMPIRES: Other fans were screaming that they hate replay. But I can assure you, that if the replay had allowed the Giants to win, they would love it. Replay is here to make sure calls are correct. As Jon Miller said in the post-game, in the entire history of the game, that play would have been called out because the throw beat Marte to the plate. It wouldn’t have mattered where the tag was, unless Marte made a more obvious attempt to avoid the tag. But now, with replay, it matters where the tag is. And that’s the way it should be.
The Giants were saying afterward they thought the replay was inconclusive and should not have been overturned. That’s more their hearts talking. The Giants had a play reviewed earlier this season ruled inconclusive that the Giants felt clearly showed that the call on the field should have been overturned. But that was in the first couple of weeks of the season, when the replay ump was far more reluctant to overturn calls on the field. But now they are willing to make the closer calls on replay. And in this case, the replay showed he was safe.
EHIRE ADRIANZA: If you were looking for the real culprit, you should look no further than Adrianza. This was another case of situational baseball, much like the plays earlier this season by Sandoval when he charged a slow roller and made an ill-advised and errant throw to first, allowing a run to score. The best play here would have been to eat the ball. The situation would have been different had their been one out or no outs. A runner at third with less than two outs is a much different situation. It’s a risk vs. reward situation, and the reward goes up with less than two outs. But with two outs, you don’t need to be a hero. You need to trust your pitcher to get that third out. There really wasn’t a play on Marte at third, and the risk of something bad happening outweighed the reward.
The Giants had hit a home run in their last 11 consecutive games entering Monday’s game in Pittsburgh.
They had hit 21 home runs over that 11-game span.
Home runs had accounted for 30 of the 49 runs the Giants scored over that 11-game span.
Home runs had accounted for 32 of the last 38 runs the Giants had scored on the road since April 5.
But that all ended Monday in the most unusual fashion.
The Giants rallied from an 8-2 deficit and beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 11-10 in 13 innings, extending their current win streak to six games.
They smacked out 20 hits — none of which were home runs.
It was the first time since July 25, 1961 that the Giants had 20 or more hits in a game without hitting a home run. That was a 16-7 win in, of all places, Pittsburgh.
Forbes Field was a monstrous field, nothing like PNC Park.
Bruce Bochy flushed his bench by the ninth inning, burning Juan Perez and Ehire Adrianza as pinch-runners. Perez stayed in the game for left-fielder Michael Morse.
Madison Bumgarner was used as a pinch-hitter. He grounded out. Santiago Casilla threw 40 pitches in two innings of relief, including a 14-pitch at-bat to Neil Walker that ended with a strikeout.
Angel Pagan had three hits, so did Hunter Pence, so did Buster Posey. Hector Sanchez had four hits.
And with all those hits, the Giants’ game-winning rally in the 13th produced a run without a hit. The key plate appearance was made by a relief pitcher — Jean Machi — who had just one previous plate appearance in the big leagues. That was last season. He struck out.
He only had two at-bats in the minors. But he got a hit — a double and an RBI.
The weirdness for Machi started on the mound.
Machi entered the game in the 11th inning. After allowing a single to Andrew McCutchen and striking out Pedro Alvarez, he fielded a comebacker by Sterling Marte. Machi turned and threw to second, but his throw hit umpire Jerry Davis for an error. Machi then got Ike Davis to hit into an inning-ending double play.
In the 12th inning, Gerrit Cole hit a comebacker to Machi, who deflected the ball to second baseman Brandon Hicks, allowing Cole to reach on an infield single.
After striking out Jose Tabata, Machi deflected another ball hit up the middle, one that would have been a custom-made double play to Hicks. Instead, the deflected ball allowed Jordy Mercer to reach on an infield single.
Then Machi got Chris Stewart to hit into an inning-ending double play.
In the top of the 13th, Hunter Pence started things with a one-out walk. Then Perez, and his whopping .059 batting average, received a gift. He was hit by a pitch.
Manager Bruce Bochy then left Machi in the game to sacrifice the runners over, something he’s never even attempted in 13 seasons of professional baseball.
Machi put down the perfect bunt. Pitcher Jared Hughes fielded the bunt, slipped a bit on the grass, then threw errantly to first, allowing Pence to score the go-ahead run.
Then after Sanchez struck out, Machi advanced to second on defensive indifference — not a stolen base. The rally ended after an intentional walk to Brandon Belt and a strikeout by Brandon Hicks.
After Sergio Romo locked down the save, Machi found himself leading the National League in wins by improving his mark to 5-0 on the season.
Jean Machi is now 5-0 with a 0.53 ERA. And one sacrifice bunt.
All this from a guy who was best known to Giants fans for breaking wind in the bullpen after getting called up to Triple-A last season.
Here’s one stat the San Francisco Giants fans aren’t talking about right now.
The Giants are 0 for their last 21 at-bats with runners in scoring position over their last five games.
In Saturday’s game in Atlanta, the Giants didn’t get a chance to fail with a runner in scoring position because they never put a runner into scoring position.
Yet the Giants are on a five-game winning streak thanks to home runs and outstanding pitching.
Madison Bumgarner joined the parade of quality starts by limiting the Braves to one unearned run over six innings in a 4-1 win on Saturday.
The win completed the Giants’ first sweep in Atlanta in 1988. That was a really, really, long time ago. How long ago?
It was so long ago that 1988 was the last time the Dodgers won a World Series.
Yeah, like we said, a looooooooooooooooong time ago.
It was good to see Bumgarner regain his form as the ace of the staff. Prior to Sunday’s start, Bumgarner had allowed as many earned runs (four) in his last start (5 IP) as Ryan Vogelsong, Tim Linecum, Tim Hudson, Yusmeiro Petit and Vogelsong had allowed combined in the 33.2 innings over the Giants’ previous five starts.
Bumgarner allowed three hits and one walk, while striking out nine over his six innings of work. He threw 95 pitches and lowered his season ERA to 3.18.
From there, the bullpen continued its streak of scoreless relief. The Giants’ pen has not allowed a run since the ninth inning of Monday’s loss to the Padres.
Since then, they’ve pitched 13 consecutive scoreless innings, allowing only three hits over that stretch.
And the Giants continue to hit the long ball. They added two more on Sunday, both off the bat of Brandon Crawford. He had a solo home run in the fourth, then broke the Giants’ long stretch of hitting just solo homers in the eighth with a two-run shot.
The Giants’ other run came on a run-scoring groundout by Buster Posey in the first inning, meaning that Angel Pagan remains the only Giant to have a run-scoring hit on the road that was not a home run since April 5. Pagan has two such hits.
It’s an odd combination, especially for the Giants — home runs, solid starting pitching and outstanding relief pitching. But it’s produced the first five-game winning streak of the 2014 season, and the longest winning streak since winning six in a row from April 29-May 5, 2013.
Now, it’s a happy flight to Pittsburgh as the Giants have opened this tough 10-game road trip against three playoff teams from 2013 at 3-0.