Sunday, March 9, 2014
Giants Deny Dodgers, 3-2
The San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers engaged in their only Cactus League contest today, with the Giants coming out on top, 3-2. Edwin Escobar pitched the first three innings for the Giants, giving up one run on one hit, and Brandon Hicks hit a two-run blast off of Klayton Kershaw, and eventually accounted for all three San Francisco runs. Kershaw pitched the first five innings for the Dodgers, giving up a total of two runs and five hits.
The Dodgers got things started with a bang in the bottom of the first inning. With Edwin Escobar pitching for the Giants, Chone Figgins drew a walk and ended up scoring on the ensuing put-out of A.J. Ellis, a fine play by Escobar to snag a bullet of a grounder and get Ellis at first. Unfortunately, Brandon Belt made a rare throwing error while trying to nail Figgins advancing to third. When Belt makes an error, he does not fool around. In commenting on the play, Jon Miller quipped that the ball “was over Pablo’s (Pablo Sandoval) head by eight feet.”
Before Escobar could collect his thoughts, Yasiel Puig drilled the first pitch down the right field line for a double and Adrian Gonzalez walked. Escobar got out of it by getting Justin Turner to fly out, and after yielding yet another walk to Mike Baxter, getting Alex Guerrero to ground into a force-out, Pablo to Brandon Hicks at second.
The Giants came back in the second when, after there were two quick outs, Joaquin Arias singled and Brandon Hicks sent one out over the right field wall off of Klayton Kershaw, who had retired the Giants in order in the top of the first. Jon Miller was laughing at the way Puig reacted to Hicks’s drive, saying, “Puig looked stunned to see the ball carry so far,” while Mike Krukow added, “The Giants have been looking for a guy who could hit off of Kershaw and they may have found him.”
That was it for scoring until the bottom of the seventh when Dan Runzler, relieving Jason Berken, gave up two singles and two walks, the second to Drew Butera, forcing in a second run and tying the game at two apiece. The Giants escaped when Juan Gutierrez got Brandon Harris to ground out to second, leaving the bases full. Berken threw three shutout innings, recording seven of his nine outs on infield ground balls, while the final two outs came on called third strikes. It made for an impressive stint and could not help but attract the kind of attention that every rookie in camp is seeking.
Brett Bochy came on to pitch the last of the eighth and Dee Gordon made it interesting by scampering around to third on an error by catcher Tyler LaTorre. With two outs and two on, Bruce Bochy went out to the mound to talk to Brett Bochy. “Just a little father-son chat...” as Jon Miller phrased it. With Scott Van Slyke, son of former major leaguer Andy Van Slyke, batting, Peterson stole second uncontested, and Van Slyke went on to draw a walk, loading the bases.
Bochy senior then returned to the mound, this time bringing the hook and replacing Bochy Junior with Jean Machi. “This is the kind of a spot that Machi might be summoned for during the regular season,” commented Miller. “He’s not afraid,” added Krukow. Machi proceeded to get Butera swinging to end the inning, and the Dodgers stranded three for the third time in the game.
The Giants had to be encouraged by Escobar’s outing, and the fact that both Gutierrez and Machi came in with the bags jammed and retired the only batter faced for the final out. Machi went on to slam the door in the ninth with a one-two-three inning.
So look for Edwin Escobar to continue to make his presence known, now that he is demonstrating he can handle the hot seat at the major league level. He sizzled at both Single and Double A ball last season, and the Giants feel that even if he cools off to hot, that might be enough to shore up the starting pitching over the course of the season.
Meanwhile, after the lopsided loss yesterday, it was grand to see a return of National League action. Get used to it. The Giants play the Dodgers nineteen times this season, and most of them will end in one-run decisions. It’s just nice to see that the youngsters have got the right idea already.
Thursday, March 6, 2014
San Francisco Giants Edge Los Angeles Angels 3-2
Matt Cain pitched three scoreless innings, Pablo Sandoval knocked in two runs, and the San Francisco Giants went on to defeat the California Angels, 3-2 today, at Scottsdale Stadium under warm, cloudy skies. Additionally, Michael Morse contributed in a style, to which we would like to become accustomed, by doubling home Hunter Pence in the fifth.
The Angels started Jered Weaver, who went four innings, giving up two runs on four hits, with a pair of walks and a pair of strikeouts. In the second consecutive victory to end in a 3-2 score, the Giants pieced together fine pitching, timely offense and a good showing by key starters, as well as backups, to go above .500 for the first time in the Cactus League play thus far, with a record of 4-3.
The Giants had a total of nine base hits, two apiece for Pablo and Mark Minicozzi, while Giants pitchers allowed six hits, as Matt Cain, Javier Lopez and Jose De Paula combined to face only two batters over the minimum during the first six innings. Altogether, Giants pitchers struck out seven while walking two with two double plays in support of them. Gregor Blanco (.200 this spring), slated to be the go-to back-up as the fourth outfielder, had a hit and knocked in two, while Minicozzi (.556 for the spring) helped his cause by maintaining his torrid hitting with two singles.
Albert Pujols, trying to come back after season-ending surgery last August, had a single and a walk in three plate appearances. Though the Angels had only six hits, two were doubles and one was a triple off Jason Berken, who replaced De Paula at the start of the seventh. Berken was responsible for both Angels runs while Heath Hembree got the save by facing the minimum in the ninth.
The game was played in an efficient two hours and thirty-nine minutes, Giants starters have now all successively begun their Cactus League games with zeroes, and Giants back-up positions are beginning to take better form with just over three weeks still to go. One could not ask for, nor expect, that Giants pitching would be so efficient, but one would not be surprised either. Business as usual is the name of the game. Next up tomorrow are the Cincinnati Reds, with the game beginning at 12:05.
Monday, March 3, 2014
Timmy: At the Intersection of Up and Down
You know Tim Lincecum has reached the ultimate heights in Celebrity-Ville when you see him referred to as Timmy, and everyone knows who you’re talking about. It’s kind of like another pitcher, who pitched in an earlier era, Sandy [Koufax]. The resemblance pretty much ends there, as Sandy was a southpaw and pitched for the Brooklyn/LA Dodgers his entire career, but they both experienced control issues that overshadowed their brilliance for extended periods of time while winning multiple Cy Young awards. Now Timmy is at the intersection of up versus down, and he’s been heavily affected by gravity for a couple of seasons now.
What does Timmy need to do to regain that intimidating presence, the one where feared batters flail away as that pitch tails away and down? Where down is a good thing? Timmy needs to make the inevitable transition from dominant to devious, which he has been dabbling in, and he needs to do it this season. To accomplish this, Timmy has about 17 things to do. I’m joking! I wouldn’t presume to tell Tim Lincecum what he should do. I might run five strategies up the flagpole, though, and see if he salutes any, but that’s as far as it goes.
You see, Timmy’s delivery is about as straightforward as Lombard Street. He has more moving parts than a Swiss watch, so if some component is out of synch, he’s likely to go into a time warp. He has already mastered several of the specialty pitches that keep batters off-balance, but Timmy has to learn that even the slightest variation on a theme produces movement on the ball, and leaves the batter guessing. Tim Hudson has a lot of experience which means he has a lot of secrets. So first off, Timmy needs to be a listener.
Now listening is all well and good, but it means nothing if you have a set mind. What Timmy needs to do is be open to suggestions, to consider them, mull them over and then experiment. He does not have to jump when Hudson says so, and it’s wise to hedge your bets, but you just don’t want to hold on to your cards when the stakes get too high, unless you’re certain. Hudson’s never had a sub-500 win/loss record for a season, and he’s the winningest pitcher in the bigs with 205 victories. Timmy has to recognize that there are others besides his dad/mentor who can guide him in his transition.
Thirdly, Timmy is as laid back as the Great Lebowski, but walking batters does not lead to tranquility; Timmy needs to regain control. It’s a confidence thing and we’re all aware that when the spotlight known as the world series focuses in on Timmy, it’s lights out for the opposing batters. He needs to gain control in spring training and take that with him into April, and maybe that glaring statistic about holding runners on, will lose its intensity. Fewer walks equate to fewer base stealing attempts.
It’s no secret that Timmy has been known to rank dead last in stolen base efficiency. Is it because he does have such confidence? That’s not confident-that’s cocky. A lot of folks think that because Timmy does not have a game-face like The Mad Hungarian, as they used to call Al Hrabosky, back in the seventies, and that Timmy’s game-face looks more like your grinning Uncle Bob, so that means it carries over to his game. Laid back doesn’t cut it on the mound. It’s laziness and the Timmy I know and respect is not lazy. So fourth on the flagpole is beef up the security, lad, before you lose the farm.
Finally, Timmy needs to abandon the northern part of home plate and think South. Keep your pitches low, Timmy, and revel in the fact that free-swingers Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence are on your team. The idea is to try an induce ground balls. Tim Hudson is a disciple of the low pitch and he’s had a lot of success. I know, weird, huh.
Maybe Timmy will be all ears and take in what is offered in the way of advice, or maybe he will grow his hair out again and block it out. Or maybe he will listen, grow his hair out and pitch the Giants to the playoffs again. He’s a talented fellow and I’m sure a little multi-tasking is within his grasp, so it all could result in another Cy Young trophy residing within the same grasp. After all, Sandy had three.
San Diego Padres Pin 7-2 Loss on San Francisco Giants
Tim Lincecum added to the string of zeroes by San Francisco Giants starters at the beginning of this spring, but the San Diego Padres came up big with six in the sixth, and went on to pin a 7-2 loss on San Francisco today at Scottsdale Stadium. Under sunny skies Lincecum threw two scoreless innings to lead off today’s game, including a one-two-three first inning on three infield grounders. Meanwhile, the Padres’ Tommy Medico pinch-hit for Tim Stauffer in the fifth and went on to get three hits, knocking in three runs and coming up short of the cycle by a triple.
The first five innings, though, represented prototypical baseball between these two division rivals, with steady pitching and good defense. The Giants sent Lincecum (two innings), Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo, and Yusmeiro Petit, one inning apiece, to the mound, while the Padres countered with Jo Johnson (first two innings),Tim Stauffer (3rd and 4th), and Joaquin Benoit for the fifth. The two clubs combined for seven hits, including a double by Kyle Blanks, two walks, and seven K’s. Vintage National League stats.
The sixth inning, however, was all about the good, the bad and the ugly for the Giants. Alexi Amarista homered to lead off matters in the sixth for the Padres and Xavier Nady followed with a single. After Kyle Blanks walked, Cory Spangenberg was brought in to pinch-run for Nady, and Daniel Robertson was brought in to run for Blanks. Nick Hundley then singled to center fielder Juan Perez, who knew he couldn’t get Spangenberg at the plate, so he went after Robertson at third and gunned him down, Pablo Sandoval taking the throw.
Two more singles, two walks, a two-run home run (Tommy Medica), and a double later (Alex Dickerson), the Giants escaped with a fly ball to Juan Perez, after Dan Runzler came on to get the final out. Runzler went on to pitch a scoreless eighth. Sandwiched in there, but part of that good I was telling you about, was a second put-out on the bases, this one coming when Perez threw into home and Sanchez went back to third, catching Jace Peterson, again to Pablo Sandoval.
Yusmeiro Petit was charged with four runs and six hits, while Jose Casilla, who replaced Petit with two outs, gave up two more runs on a walk and the homer to Medica. Runzler’s effort to get the final out in the sixth, is what the Giants need for him to do with consistency.
In the seventh Adam Relfer came on in relief of Runzler, giving up one more in the eighth on an RBI double by Medica, who ended the day with three hits, three RBI’s and a run scored and he didn’t even come into the game until the fifth, when he pinch-hit for Stauffer.
Offensively, the Giants did little today, with a quiet eight hits, all singles except for Brandon Hicks’s eighth inning double. Hicks later scored on Tyler Colvin’s two-run single, given up by Juan Pablo Oramas, who pitched the eighth and the ninth. Oramas was charged with the Giant’s two runs. Tyler Colvin’s two RBI’s provided fuel for the fire over who will be the fifth outfielder to break camp later on this month. Perez distinguished himself defensively by being part of two put-outs on the base-paths, while Colvin Knocked in two runs. Nice to see the lads battling.
I don’t think there’s anything to be made of four Giants starters cumulatively pitching 8.0 scoreless innings. That being said, I would rather have the staff at a 0.0 ERA than 54.0 or even 27.0. Let’s face it, all were doing in spring training is looking for trends, and I think I’ve got one in my headlights.
Tim Lincecum’s first start is a portent of things to come. He faced three batters in the first inning and chalked up three outs on three infield grounders. I wish I could have watched Bruce Bochy and Dave Righetti, as they collectively tried to keep from salivating at the prospect of the real Timmy being back in town. In the second, he surrendered a lead-off double before getting a pop-up, walking Ryan Jackson, and then getting a strike-out to Jace Peterson. He closed it with a ground out from Rymer Liriano.
Overall, it was not much to write home about in terms of outcome, but those things which were critical, Tim Lincecum’s start, Runzler’s one and a third stellar innings of relief, and Colvin’s two ribbies in the eighth, were key. Petit got rocked today just as Romo got hit hard the other day. Yawn. Each works at his own pace, letting the ball fall where it may. Next outing out, look for Petit to turn it around. If not, then David Huff’s stock will rise. This is the time to put up; otherwise, pack up. It’s brutal, but it’s baseball. The Giants have assembled a team with great capability; just get us to the playoffs.
Sunday, March 2, 2014
Giants Rattle D-Backs, 5-3
Tim Hudson made a sparkling spring debut, and Buster Posey, Angel Pagan, Joaquin Arias and Juan Perez had two hits apiece, as the San Francisco Giants defeated the Arizona DiamondBacks today 5-3, at Scottsdale Stadium under warm, sunny skies. Hudson faced the minimum of six batters, and the Giants scored four runs in the fifth to hand the win to Kameron Loe, who pitched the fourth and fifth innings. The DiamondBacks scored twice in the fifth and once more in the ninth, off Jean Machi, who got the save.
Javier Lopez allowed a single in the third, but the Giants’s second double play of the game kept Lopez facing the minimum three batters. Loe, replacing Lopez to pitch the fourth, found out how rewarding it is to have major league defense. First Perez made a fine play to cut off Prado’s hit and keep it to a single, and then Pagan made a Mays-like basket catch of Paul Goldschmidt’s deep fly ball, whirling to throw the ball back in, thus keeping again Prado at first. Chavez ended the inning by grounding out to second.
With Loe still pitching, Mark Trumbo doubled to lead off the top of the fifth and scored on Miguel Montero single’s single to center field, before Didi Gregorius flied out for the first out. Loe then plunked A.J. Pollock with a pitch and walked Cliff Pennington to load the bases. After Gerardo Parra flied out to Perez in left, with Montero scoring, the D-Backs called for a double steal. Pollock got a great jump to third, so Buster never hesitated, gunning out Pennington instead at second.
The Giants came right back in the bottom of the fifth, scoring four runs by combining a double by Juan Perez and singles by Pagan, Posey, and pinch-hitter Sanchez, who knocked in two. After Adam Russell replaced Brad Ziegler, Arias singled to keep the rally going, but Sanchez was thrown out by Parra’s throw to Chavez at third.
Hudson’s only blemish during his two innings, was a ball hit to the right side, which Brandon Belt fielded, but led the hustling Hudson too much to make the play. The throw was not that far off the mark, and had it been the regular season, there is a good chance that Hudson would have made the play, but this is only spring training and Hudson has to go easy.
Later in the broadcast, in hashing it over, Dave Fleming mentioned that when asked about it in the dugout, Hudson responded that he “...would have felt like Wes Welker with a linebacker coming right at me...” and so elected to let it go. It was a veteran move from a guy who does not have to prove that he knows how to field his position.
The Giants played good defense, with only the miscue by Belt in the second, and they had a dozen base hits to to go along with their five runs. Considering the DiamondBacks are going to be rattling around near the top of the division all season, today’s victory was a fine start.
Saturday, March 1, 2014
Shutouts Are Us
I do love a civilized debate, especially when the deck is stacked in my favor. Therefore, when I read Jason Burke’s article “Why the Oakland A’s Will Be Better Than the SF Giants in 2014,” I said, “Deal Me In.” This should be as easy as taking eight out of nine of our last World Series games. The Oakland A’s are, in fact, not a better team than the San Francisco Giants; quite the contrary, the Giants are definitively the superior club and here are five reasons why.
The A’s have been good enough to make the playoffs the past two seasons, but have lacked that which is necessary to drive the peg home. The Giants have won World Series Championships two of the past four seasons. Why bring up 2010, when only the past two seasons are under the periscope? The answer is because there are nine players on the current Giants’ squad, who have been on both of those two world class rides, since you have described AT&T as an amusement park. Three of those players are starting pitchers. Our starters have thrown four shutouts during the last two world series. Enough said.
Secondly, your contention that the Giants have not “added enough to their roster to significantly improve” is simply incorrect. The Giants’ left fielders last year combined for five home runs. Last season, during the month of April alone, Michael Morse hit nine home runs. That is “significant” improvement. Barry Zito never won a start on the road last season. By your own admission, “Huddy [sigh] is a solid pitcher and they are lucky to have him.” Again, that is “significant” improvement.
Thirdly, I do not know that the Giants considered Mike Kickham to be their “most qualified pitcher” when they brought him up last season. It’s a moot point. I think Edwin Escobar will be more likely to get the nod than Kickham. All Escobar did was produce a 2.67 ERA with a 9K/9 and 4.15 K/BB, after a mid-season promotion to AA. With the acquisition of southpaw David Huff, projected to be the Yankees’ fifth starter before they acquired Masahiro Tanaka from Japan’s Rakuten Golden Eagles, the Giants feel they have strengthened their pitching staff considerably.
Meanwhile, what have the A’s done to improve their pitching? I mean of course, besides losing the 28 victories that Bartolo Colon has supplied them with the past two seasons. Depending on whom you talk to, the A’s have seven guys trying to fill five pitching slots. All five Giants starters are All-Stars, with a dozen appearances among them at the mid-summer classic. That even sounds gaudy to me.
Finally, the Giants are the better team because they have Bruce Bochy. Bob Melvin has done an excellent job-no doubt about it-just not quite good enough. In Bochy, the Giants have a master at the helm, to ensure the ship delivers.
This year the star ride at the amusement park, otherwise known as AT&T, will be a playoff run culminating in yet another Crown, while the A’s tally up their win totals for the last three years and say, “Yep, we got the most wins.”
Friday, February 28, 2014
Just Being Neighborly
Larry Baer raised a few eyebrows Wednesday, by hinting that the Giants may be willing to be downright neighborly to the Oakland A’s, by sharing AT&T Park for a spell, should the A’s get a new stadium project off the ground. Just think of it as two good neighbors, chatting over the back fence. Considering that the Giants protested loudly when the A’s tried recently to encroach on the Giants’ territorial rights, by relocating to San Jose, this comes as a surprise to me.
I like the idea even if it would be a logistical nightmare to implement. I see no reason why the Giants and the A’s can’t be friends, at least officially. I know why it’s easy to remain distant; I am, after all, I Giants fan. And it’s not just 1989, though it could be. No, losing to the A’s in the Big Show is just one of the reasons I do not like the A’s. Hey, I hate green and yellow, I hate the fact that they seem to go postal winning meaningless spring games, and well, there’s that Series.
That being said, I do like the rivalry, I do think the A’s play a mean brand of baseball, and a lot of my personal friends are A’s fans, though I forgive them one and all. They can’t help the way their moms dress them in the morning. So therefore, I want the A’s to get a new stadium so that we can go head-to-head again on the greatest playing field of them all.
So, if the Giants and the A’s want to share a yard for a season or so, as the Mets and Yankees did back in 1974-75, then that’s all right with me. Maybe if the two clubs had been getting along in 1989, the baseball gods would have done us all a favor and let us have a couple measly weeks in October, without having to get in the act by causing a gall-darn earthquake, and knocking us right off our game. After all, who can be expected to play ball when the ground won’t stop shaking?