Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Rockies Thump Giants 8-2
Nolan Arenado and Wilin Rosario both homered in the first inning, Rosario’s with two runners on base, and the Colorado Rockies went on to defeat the San Francisco Giants, 8-2. Ryan Vogelsong started and gave up five earned runs, on six hits with three walks, exiting after one and a third innings.
Additionally, Charlie Blackmon went deep twice and Corey Dickerson added a two-run shot, Dickerson’s homer coming with Rosario on base, to bring the Rockies’ total to eight runs, on a total of five home runs. For the Rockies, Jorge De La Rosa went five innings, giving up one run on three hits with three walks.
David Huff relieved Vogelsong and got out of the second inning, but injured a quad muscle, running the bases, after singling to lead off the third inning. He would eventually score the Giants’ only run, but was removed from the game afterwards. Yusmeiro Petit came on to pitch the third inning and was greeted by the Dickerson home run which capped off the Rockies’ scoring.
The Giants’ offensive collapse was compounded this evening by the strikeout ball. At one point, five Giants in a row struck out. Altogether, eleven Giants fanned, including Michael Morse three times. The Giants managed to put one more run one the board with two outs in the ninth, when Gregor Blanco’s ground ball was misplayed, allowing Brandon Belt to score the second run of the game.
This game was decided in the first inning, and it was all downhill from there. Ryan Vogelsong took a huge step backward, David Huff’s quad injury will have to be assessed and somehow the Giants have got to put all that firepower that the Rockies trotted out there tonight behind them.
The best way is to have Madison Bumgarner come on tomorrow night and slam that door shut quickly, before Colorado gets it into its mind that they can have their way with Giants’ pitching at will. Either that, or the Giants need to start fighting fire with fire by heating their own bats up. After all, I was getting kind of tired of one-run games, but they suddenly don’t look so bad.
The Bitter With the Sweet
Here is what I have to say to all of you out there who complain about the number of one-run games the San Francisco Giants seem to stockpile, as they attempt to align both the pitching and the offense: One-run games are far preferable to games like last night’s 8-2 drubbing at the hands of the Colorado Rockies. It was over in the first inning, after the second of two home runs exited the playing field, giving the Rockies a 4-0 lead.
I’m not suggesting that a four-run lead is insurmountable; after all, we did that on the opening day of the season, against the Arizona D-backs, eventually taking a lead when Buster Posey hit one out in the ninth, and going on to defeat the Diamondbacks. But when your team just completed a three-game string of only scoring one run per contest, and you’re really not sure where your next run is going to come from, your spirits plummet proportionally to the ball(s) sailing over the outfield wall.
Nothing lends credibility to the man dealing from the mound, than being staked to a lead-any lead-in the first inning. All of the sudden he becomes the reincarnation of Cy Young He’s no longer the guy who’s been struggling, or the guy whose control is only a distant memory; he’s a lean, mean pitching machine and he challenges every hitter to hit the ball out of the park.
They try, believe me they try. It’s no fun to be mired in a team-wide slump, especially when the pitching has come on like gangbusters, and you’re losing 1-0 and 2-1 games with the same regularity as your Aunt Gertrude, who hasn’t missed an opportunity to criticize your life’s choices, since she moved into the guest room back during the Clinton Administration.
So players go up to the plate, determined to make something happen, and they do. They strike out five consecutive times, at one point in the game, and eleven times altogether. They forget that it takes concentration to wait for a pitch they can handle, not for a double off the wall, but for a seeing-eye grounder that darts through between the shortstop and the diving third baseman. You get that first guy on and it sets into motion an entire different approach, now, one that involves moving the runner along, and playing for the rally.
For instance, Angel Pagan engaged in a ten-pitch plate appearance in the first inning of last night’s game, before popping up to the first baseman; conversely, Justin Morneau did the same thing in his half of the inning to Ryan Vogelsong, requiring ten pitches and fouling off seven balls to stay alive. Only he ended up doubling to set the table for Wilin Rosario’s three-run jack. It worked for them and not for us. You just have to keep plugging away.
I’m sure Bruce Bochy has had numerous discussions about the need to wait on pitches, to be selective, to protect the plate, et al. He will take steps to vary routines, so that players don’t get too fanatical about trying to fix the problem by going bananas on the practice field. He will do anything and everything to right the problem, except panic.
He won’t panic because he knows his guys, he has seen what they can accomplish, and he is certain they will get it together. He just can’t give you a timeline. He knows that the more the magnifying glass focuses on the lack of runs, the more likely it is that no flame will occur, and that’s just the way it is. Had Pagan been able to emerge from that ten-pitch sequence with a base hit, then the entire complexion of the game may have been altered.
The Giants strung three consecutive singles together at the start of the third inning, only to have a double play and a strike out end the threat, after only one run had scored. Yes, when you are going that badly, you only score runs with the bases loaded and a double play.
The last thing I will say is I didn’t mind chortling at the vulgar display of power at the outset of the season, so I must accept this current lack of clout for what it is: the other side of the coin. Unfortunately, the coin does not stand on edge, so we get one or the other, and we’re never sure which side of the coin will show up.
Thursday, April 17, 2014
Vastly Surpassing Excellent! or Well-Played, Giants
When I wrote that the San Francisco Giants had to take two out of three from the Los Angeles Dodgers on the current homestand, and that anything less was unacceptable, I did so with the recognition that if things went poorly, I would adapt. If Tim Lincecum or Ryan Vogelsong had not come through, then I would be continuing to speculate as to what was “wrong.”
The fact is that Giants’ starting pitching has asserted itself big-time, the third go-through in the order, and this indicates that the team has shaken out the lethargy of the long winter months, and flexed its collective muscles in all phases of the game in the early going. The awareness that 29 of the first 38 games on the schedule were against National League West teams, and that ten of them (one more than half of the season total) were against the Dodgers, gave the Giants a plan of action and one that required implementing immediately.
For the Giants to have allowed the Dodgers to get an arm up on them in the early going, would have meant having to play catch-up. As good as the Giants are, no team in the game can afford to spot the Dodgers any kind of lead and expect to overtake them. Los Angeles is a formidable opponent and only a pitching staff as capable as the one the Giants possess, is going to be able to accomplish the task.
When the Giants’ bats erupted so early, it took the focus off of the fact that the starting pitchers were having trouble zeroing in on their targeted performance levels. Now that the pitching is establishing itself, the offense will undoubtedly balance out. What that means is that Angel Pagan, who scrambled out of the frying pan and into the fire, after getting off the disabled list, in an effort to ignite his team, can now retreat to mere mortal levels and conserve his energy for the long haul.
Balancing out means that Brandon Belt will stop swinging for the fences and go back to making solid contact, and drawing walks when he doesn’t draw strikes. It means that Buster Posey will continue to swing the potent bat that accompanied him to spring training from the first day. Balancing out means that Brandon Crawford will be given the occasional day off, as he was yesterday, and that he will not have to look over his shoulder to see who it is that may be platooning with him, when left-handed pitchers are on the mound.
Most importantly, balancing out means both Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval join the starting pitching in shaking out the cobwebs, so we won’t see opposing pitchers walk Pence to get at Sandoval, as we did in yesterday’s game. On the other hand, the strategy failed when the Panda delivered with a run-scoring single, the one run he drove in being the difference in the game.
No one could have foreseen Clayton Kershaw’s back issues, but they played right into the scheme of things, because the Dodgers have been without their ace, a guy who has tortured the Giants since he came into the league. Now with the Giants having seized the first two games of the series, and with Giants’ ace Madison Bumgarner taking the mound, San Francisco is in position to deliver a demoralizing kick in the backside to the egotistical Blue Crew.
For San Francisco to not be able to take advantage of Kershaw’s absence would be a pity. In this wild, wild NL West, a team has to trump when the ace is away, and that’s exactly what the Giants have been able to do. They just need to keep on piling it on, so that when the hand is over, they hold as many of the cards, in the form of victories, as possible.
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Vin Scully-The Voice of Reason in that Den of Iniquity
Just as I do, you may think whatever dastardly thoughts about the Los Angeles Dodgers you wish, but please go along with me on this one: You can’t disrespect their voice, Vin Scully, an iconic presence in an industry which features the immortal actions of such luminaries as Willie Mays and Sandy Koufax. Vin Scully is the cultured voice of not only the Dodgers, but of Every-Team, USA.
I enjoyed the way that the San Francisco Giants presented their tribute to Jackie Robinson, employing both Vin Scully and Giants’ broadcaster Jon Miller, to introduce their respective teams. The two Ford Frick Award winners make all fans appreciate what a fine art they have elevated their game to.
Vin Scully represents the voice of reason, in an age often devoid of any semblance of rationale. His well-modulated tone is one that others attempt to emulate. His unique style is one that will forever draw fans into his circle, or at least allow them to feel comfortable and at ease, standing at the fringes, occasionally, for a sweet taste of childhood and home, down on Fellowship Street.
Although I do NOT like to make this a habit, I do look upon the Dodgers from one angle as a civilized and even cultured organization, for this is the organization which opened the door to Jackie Robinson, and for that I will always be grateful. The feats accomplished by those subsequently allowed to play the game as a result of Robinson’s actions belie truth.
On the other hand, Yasil Puig makes it as easy to toss aside my noteworthy impressions, as it was for him last night to stroll six or eight steps up the first base line, after hammering the ball into the right field corner, finally stopping to grimace in disgust, as Hunter Pence gloved the ball on the track. I have never seen anything so arrogant on a baseball diamond, nor do I wish to do so again.
Vin Scully, born November 29, 1927, has been with the Dodgers since they were in Brooklyn, his 65 seasons with the Dodgers, the longest tenure of any broadcaster with a single team in professional sports history. Wikipedia described his voice as dulcet, which means sweet and soothing. I can’t attest to the sweet, but soothing certainly works for me. Though he broadcasts for the team I love to hate, I forgive him because without the Dodgers, the Giants would not be the team they are.
Jon Miller is noted in baseball circles for his dead-on impersonation of Scully. Why do other announcers want to sound like Scully? Among his countless achievements, he was named Sportscaster of the Century in 2000 by the American Sportscasters Association, which also named him top sportscaster of all time on its Top 50 list (2009).
Among his calls are four perfect games, one each by Don Larson (1956), which he described as “the most dramatic and well-pitched ballgame in the history of the game,” Sandy Koufax (1965), Tom Browning of the Cincinnati Reds (1988) and Montreal’s Dennis Martinez in 1991. He called Hank Aaron’s 715th home run, Bill Buckner’s muffed ground ball in the 1986 World Series, Will Clark’s pennant-clinching base hit off Mitch Williams to clinch the 1989 National League Championship Series, and Kirk Gibson’s winning home run, in Game One of the 1988 World Series. He is a god in the broadcast booth.
I must say that I do not believe my impression of “Vinny” is influenced in any way, shape or form on my growing up in the balmy SoCal climate, listening to the Blue Crew play all though the sixties. We would lie out under the stars, my three older bros and I, and listen as Frank Howard would provide all the offense needed, to win another 1-0 game, with Koufax pitching. When the San Francisco Giants would roar into town, the fireworks would begin.
No, my impression is based on a lifetime of listening to baseball on the radio and the fact that I have never heard any broadcaster who does it as fluidly and seemingly without effort as does Vin Scully. Considering he announces for the team I love to hear beaten more than any other, I must say that if the Dodgers are going to lose, they might as well have the best in the business describe it. It’s only fitting, say I.
The Good, the Bad and the Bodacious
The San Francisco Giants derailed the Los Angeles Dodgers’ steam-roller for at least one night, Tuesday, as Hector Sanchez came through in walk-off fashion, yet again, and the Giants regained a share of first place in the National League West standings. As always, there was an inexplicably wide range of accountable actions, some of it splendid, some of it in the tank. With that in mind, I want to examine the good, the bad and the bodacious.
The Giants ranked second in the National League in scoring going into Tuesday Night’s game, averaging almost 5.1 runs per game. That compares to 3.9 runs per game in 2013.
Newly acquired Michael Morse is off to a .350 batting average and has been knocking in runs at a furious pace. He and Angel Pagan share the team lead with ten RBI’s.
Pagan is batting .412 going into Tuesday’s game and that’s after going 0-8 leading up to his two-run single in Sunday’s game.
Tim Lincecum pitched well in last night’s start against the Dodgers, leaving after five innings and 93 pitches, having given up one run, struck out five and walked one.
The Giants won three of the first four series this year, all against NL West opponents.
Both Buster Posey and Brandon Belt have lit up the scoreboard this season, and subsequently begun to cool off. Better to start off hot, than to struggle out the gate, because at least you had your stroke at one point. Belt has been experiencing great success with his new batting grip and Posey has been swinging well since the first day of spring training. They have eight home runs between them.
Non-roster invitee Brandon Hicks has wrestled the second base job away from Joaquin Arias, partly because of his defensive skills, but mostly because he is sporting a .368 batting average so far this spring. He was on base three times in Tuesday night’s game.
The Giants are batting .272 with two outs compared to .253 last season. They are also batting .306 with runners in scoring position, compared to .256 last year.
Because the game ended after midnight, it turned out to be an early birthday present for Bruce Bochy, who turned 59 today.
Tim Lincecum has given up five home runs in three starts.
Brandon Belt has only drawn one walk so far this year. I like the home runs, but I also liked what was happening last August and September too.
Hunter Pence is off to a slow start, batting .157 going into the series with the Dodgers.
The Giants loaded the bases three times in Tuesday night’s game, without being able to score, stranding sixteen altogether.
Pablo Sandoval is also off to a slow start, batting .180 early in the season, and playing defense with an unPablo-like inefficiency. It’s the mental mistakes that are more disturbing than the physical ones. I think Pablo is feeling the pressure of it being a contract year.
Yasiel Puig did not run in the twelfth inning, when he hit a ball to the right field wall, that hunter Pence flagged down. Reprehensible. As Mike Krukow editorialized, he needs to respect the game.
The Giants were one for ten with runners in scoring position tonight and 0 for 5 with the bases loaded.
Tim Lincecum has struck out seventeen batters this season and walked one.
Back-to-back walk-off victories-that’s a statement that cannot be mistaken.
The Giants were hitting .404 with runners in scoring position, going into last night’s game, best in the major leagues, after batting .238 last year under the same circumstances. [That stat will take a hit after Tuesday’s game.]
Tim Hudson has not allowed a walk in three starts to begin this year, his streak having reached 23 innings. Atlee Hammaker had the San Francisco record with 21 innings without a walk, to start off a season.
Hector Sanchez’ walk-off hit was his fourth, all in extra innings. As Amy Gutierrez said to him, “You have a knack for it.”
The Giants have taken three of the first four from the Dodgers this year. This must continue; nothing short of dominance over the Dodgers will suffice.
Brandon Belt had three hits, the third one knocking in Angel Pagan, tying the game in the ninth.
In the Giants’ last twelve games, their relievers have recorded a 0.68 ERA, giving up just three earned runs in 39 and two-thirds innings.
The Giants refuse to anoint the Dodgers as head kingpin in the National League West, despite what the pundits keep muttering. Well, the Giants have been doing some muttering themselves, along with some motoring, right into first place. It’s early, I know, but it’s never too early to take up residence in your deserved place in the ranks and right now the Giants deserve to be number one.
Monday, April 14, 2014
Crawford, Giants Splash Rockies in Ten Innings, 5-4
Brandon Crawford hit a first-pitch fast ball in the bottom of the tenth for a splash home run, his first career walk-off shot, and the San Francisco Giants got past the Colorado Rockies 5-4, today, at AT&T Park, giving the Giants their third series victory out of four to begin the season. Tim Hudson was masterful for most of the game, but ended up giving up four runs on five hits, while Sergio Romo got the win, pitching to the minimum three batters in the top of the ninth.
Angel Pagan continued his red-hot hitting, singling in two runs to break a 1-1 tie in the fifth, Pablo Sandoval went 2 for 3, including a solo home run, and Brandon Hicks went 2 for 2 with a walk, as the Giants broke through their scoreless streak of seventeen innings, taking a 4-0 lead in the sixth.
Tyler Chatwood pitched well also, but gave up a key 2-run single to Pagan and a solo shot to Sandoval. Through five innings, Tim Hudson had thrown 57 pitches, Tyler Chatwood, 56 pitches. It was a very taut game through the first half of the game. Hudson gave up solo home runs to Wilin Rosario and and Justin Morneau, and then back-to-back doubles to lead off the eighth to Arenado and LeMahieu, and that was almost the extent of responsibilities. Hudson has yet to walk a batter this season.
The big story is Crawford, of course. His well-publicized struggle with left-handers, makes his splash shot off lefty Rex Brothers that much more telling. Crawford also had a sacrifice fly in the fifth, when the Giants scored three runs. Michael Morse hit one so hard during this inning, that it hit off the left field wall so hard that it was impossible for Morse to consider taking second.
But a smaller story is that of Pablo Sandoval right now, in light of his strikeout in the eighth inning of yesterday’s game, against Rex Brothers. Sandoval is a career .295 hitter, going into today’s game batting .150 (7-46). I watched Greg Papa interview Giants insider Andrew Baggarly, before the game today, and Papa asked Bags about Pablo being dropped in the batting order.
Baggarly said that Bochy didn’t want to comment publicly on any guy’s status, but that with the Dodgers coming into town, he needed Sandoval to be at his best, and moving him lower in the order, did not exactly instill confidence in the third baseman. Baggarly went on to say that Bochy thinks Sandoval has a good approach, but that if he keeps struggling, then he’d have to lower him in the order. After today’s pair of hits, Bochy is looking pretty smart.
Today’s game was crucial, with the Los Angeles Dodgers coming into town on Tuesday, for a series rematch of the earlier one, in which the Giants took two out of three. The Dodgers are the team to beat, but taking the series from the Rockies is a good warm-up. Tim Lincecum is up Tuesday, and it’s a good bet he would like to do his part to keep the ball rolling, all the way into first place.
Saturday, April 12, 2014
Colorado Rockies Defeat San Francisco Giants 1-0
The Colorado Rockies defeated the San Francisco Giants 1-0 at AT&T Park, on an afternoon when the Giants’ starting pitching came to play, but the offense did not. Though Matt Cain worked seven strong innings, five Colorado pitchers combined to shut out the Giants, with Brett Anderson starting and going three and leaving with a right index finger contusion, and Latroy Hawkins pitching a perfect ninth for the save.
Troy Tulowitzki knocked in the game’s only run with a sacrifice fly in the third. The irony of Tulowitzki getting the only RBI, is that he came into the game with a lifetime batting average of .328 off of Cain, and Cain kept him bottled up. Tulo still found a way to get it done. The Giants, conversely, have had one hit with thirteen runners in scoring position over the last three games.
The story today was pitching, beginning with Cain. He pitched seven full innings, allowing one run on four hits, with three walks and eight strikeouts. He got stronger as the game went on, retiring the final nine batters he faced, after giving up a lead-off double in the fifth. Going into today’s game, Cain had a lifetime mark of 17-7 against the Rockies. As a team the Giants were 83-43 against the Rockies at AT&T Park, including 14 of the last sixteen.
Brett Anderson’s numbers looked like this: three innings pitched; no runs on one hit, with a walk. Tommy Kahnle pitched two innings, allowing a walk. Matt Belisle pitched the sixth, Adam Ottavino the seventh, and Rex Brothers the eighth.
The Giants managed only three hits and only mounted one threat after the fourth, when they loaded the bases in the eighth, on Crawford’s double and walks by pinch-hitter Brandon Hicks and Hunter Pence. pablo Sandoval, with an opportunity to put his name in lights, for a rare appearance this season, flailed at a third strike, and the Gianrts went meekly in the ninth.
Tim Hudson starts for the Giants tomorrow, and they can still take the series with a victory in the finale. In any case, a game like today’s was bound to come along, and the Giants need to forget this one quickly, all except the part where Matt Cain stepped up and answered the question about what was wrong with him: Absolutely nothing.