Talking Giants Baseball: A San Francisco Giants/Baseball Blog: September 2010

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Burrell's Clutch Home Run Reduces Magic Number To 3

Game Summary
For the first time since 2004, the Giants reached an important milestone.

After tonight's thrilling 3-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Giants won their 90th game of the season behind strong starting pitching from their ace Tim Lincecum.

Although Lincecum did not have his best stuff, struggling to even reach 91 miles per hour on the radar gun and hanging many off-speed pitches, he still pitched a gem of a game. In his 7 inning effort, Lincecum yielded just 1 run, 6 hits, and 4 walks. He struck out 11 Diamondbacks en route to his 16th win.

The lone run that Lincecum and the Giants gave up came from the very first hitter of the game, Stephen Drew. Lincecum poured a fastball for the first pitch of the game and earned a called struck, but on the very next pitch, Drew launched it over the right field wall. Before you can blink an eye, the Diamondbacks were up 1-0.

The losing pitcher, Ian Kennedy, was the tough luck loser, falling to 9-10. In his 5 innings of work, Kennedy gave up 3 runs and 5 hits, while striking out 4. Those 3 runs came in one inning, on a 4th inning home run by Pat Burrell, his 18th as a Giant.

The Giants' bullpen got it done again, although it wasn't easy. In the top of the ninth, with a 3-1 lead, Wilson gave up a lead-off double to pinch hitter Augie Ojeda. The next batter, Stephen Drew, grounded out, advancing Ojeda to third. Next came Mark Reynolds, who pinched hit for Tony Abreu. On a 1-2 count, Reynolds was on a  96 mph 1-2 fastball down the middle, but all he could do was foul it off. He would end up walking. Wilson would then strike out Kelley Johnson, and then retired Chris Young on a ground-out in the hole to Juan Uribe. Uribe scooped the ball up with his backhand and fired a strike to second for the force-out on Reynolds, ending the game.

The Padres defeated the Cubs 3-0 at Petco Park. However, with the Giants winning, the Giants' magic number reduced to 3. At the earliest, the Giants could clinch the NL West Championship on Friday. The Giants could certainly taste the champagne, but first, they got to take care of business one game at a time.

My Thoughts
Watch the 10th inning on PBS when it comes on. It is really good. If you're reading this now, its on at the moment. If you're a baseball fan, don't miss it.

What can I say about Pat Burrell? Tampa Bay just dumped him and basically thanked the Giants for taking him off their hands. Well, the Giants received a clutch hitter, who has hit more big home runs than I can remember in recent Giants history. To top it off, Tampa picked up the 10 million dollar tab on Burrell. After the game-winning taters against the Dodgers and in other big games, I can safely say that the Rays got the short end of the stick.

Tim Lincecum once again proved why he was an ace. He did not have his best stuff nor did he have consistent knee-high command. However, he was crafty, keeping hitters off-balance and managing to coax 11 Diamondbacks strikeouts. I don't think I've ever seen a pitcher get away with so many hanging off-speed pitches, but when you're Tim Lincecum, it does not matter.

This And That

Wilson earned his 47th save of the year. He is one shy of Rod Beck's single-season Giants save record of 48. The Diamondbacks/Giants season series is at 12-5 Giants. Tim Lincecum leads the national league in strikeouts with 231. If this holds up, it will be his 3rd straight year doing so. Tomorrow, the Giants send out Madison Bumgarner (6-6, 3.06 ERA) against the DBacks' Barry Enright (6-6, 3.73 ERA).

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Giants' Magic Number Reduces To 4 In 4-2 Victory Over Snakes

Game Summary
The last time the Giants had 4 as a number to note, it symbolized how close they were to being eliminated from post-season play.

However, tonight, in front of 37,449 people at AT&T Park, number 4 is their magic number. That's right. The number goes down whenever the Padres lose or the Giants win from here on out. If that number gets to 0, the Giants will make it to the play-offs as NL West champions for the first time since 2003.

It did not start well Tuesday night for the home town 9. Jonathan Sanchez started the second inning for the Giants but was shaky. Adam LaRoche lead off the inning for the Diamondbacks with a single. The next batter, Tony Abreu, struck out. Then trouble came, as Sanchez looked eratic. Up next was Miguel Montero who walked. With LaRoche at second and Montero at first, Sanchez threw a wild pitch, advancing each runner 90 feet. This prompted Bochy to walk the 8th place hitter, Cole Gillespie, loading the bases for the pitcher Rodrigo Lopez, who had not had an RBI all season. That would change when Lopez lifted a sacrifice fly to right-center field, giving the Diamondbacks a 1-0 lead. Stephen Drew, the next batter, would strike out looking to end the inning.

The Diamondbacks would add on to their lead in the top of the third inning on a solo home-run by Kelley Johnson. The score was then 2-0 Diamondbacks.

Then came the Giants. The Giants got on the board in the bottom of the third inning. Andres Torres led off the inning with a triple that glanced off the glove of Cole Gillespie, as he leaped in front of the right field brick wall to try and catch it. The next batter, Mike Fontenot, singled to center, making it 2-1 Diamondbacks.

In the next inning, Juan Uribe tied up the game at 2 on a long home run to left. It appeared that the Giants would take the lead when Sandoval was on third with 1 out, but Adam LaRoche made an incredible diving play on an Andres Torres screamer down the line.

In the 6th inning, the Giants got a 2-out rally started. Pablo Sandoval doubled to deep right off the brick wall. Jonathan Sanchez was due up next, but was lifted for pinch hitter Nate Schierholtz. As he did in game 1 of the last series the Giants and Diamondbacks played in Arizona, Schierholtz got an RBI hit that gave the Giants the lead.

The Giants added an insurance run in the bottom of the 7th inning. With Fontenot on second and 2 out, Pat Burrell came through with a single to center, extending the Giants' lead to 4-2.

Things got interesting in the top of the eighth inning. With runners at first and third with 1 out, Brian Wilson was summoned in for a 5 out save. He struck out Chris Young swinging on a slider in the dirt. Young appeared to check his swing, but the first-base umpire called him out. The next batter, Adam LaRoche, hit a high fly ball to deep center, but Torres tracked it down. The Giants went into the ninth with a 4-2 lead. They would not give it up, as Wilson earned his 46th save.

On the pitching front, Jonathan Sanchez got the job done. In his 6 inning effort, Sanchez yielded 2 runs, 3 hits, and 4 walks, while striking out 6. This was good enough for his 12th win. The losing pitcher, Rodrigo Lopez, pitched 5 2/3 innings and gave up 3 runs. He fell to 7-15.

With the Padres losing 5-2 to the Cubs, the Giants are now 2 games ahead of them in the National League West, with 5 games to play. The last time the Giants were in this position this late into the season, Buster Posey was attending high school and Madison Bumgarner was just finishing middle school.

My Thoughts
Pressed for time, but I got one quick thought. It is simply amazing how many heroes this team has every single game. In the past, it seemed to always be one guy, and that was #25. This year, it's been literally up and down the line-up. Tonight, it was Sanchez, Wilson, Schierholtz, Torres, Fontenot, Burrell, Soriano (Yes, Alfonso Soriano in Chicago!), and UUUUUUUUribe. Sunday, in Colorado, it was Cain, Burrell, Sanchez, and Ross. A true team effort is what it takes to win in September.

One more point. For all you Sabean and Bochy haters, how do those two look now? They constructed a potential juggernaut, so they deserve credit for the Giants being in 1st place right now.

This and That
The Giants have 36 comeback wins this year. Freddy Sanchez received a cortisone shot today on his right shoulder and may be back in the lineup tomorrow. Sanchez and Lincecum have each had 200 strikeouts this year. Brian Wilson is two saves shy from Rod Beck's single-season Giants' record of 48 set in 1993. Tomorrow, the Giants send out Tim Lincecum (15-10, 3.51 ERA) against Ian Kennedy (9-9, 3.76 ERA).

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Giants Lose No-No Bid But Beat Rockies 4-2

 Game Summary
Well, this is a rarity.

For the first time since 2008, the Giants took a series against the Rockies at Coors Field. Last year, the Giants went 3-6 at the mile-high stadium.

In a sharp contrast to last night's traditional slugfest in Colorado, pitching had the upper-hand today. Matt Cain took a no-hitter into the eighth inning only to be broken up by an infield single by Jay Payton. Juan Uribe got to the ball hit up-the-middle to his left, but double clutched and could not throw the runner out at first. This is the second time Payton has broken up a Matt Cain no-hitter. He did it last when he was a member of the A's.

The Giants set the tone offensively in the very first inning. After Jorge De La Rosa (8-6) walked the lead-off hitter, Freddy Sanchez took an inside fastball and hooked it fair down the left-field line for a 2 run home-run, giving the Giants an early 2-0 lead.

The Giants would add another run in the 3rd inning. After Aubrey Huff doubled to right-center to lead-off the inning, Buster Posey hit a come-backer. De La Rosa had Huff trapped between second and third, but the Rockies botched the rundown and Huff was safe at third. Huff appeared to not beat the tag at third, but 3rd base umpire Wally Bell called him safe. The next batter, Pat Burrell, hit a sac-fly, scoring Huff and giving the Giants a 3-0 lead.

The Giants capped their scoring in the top of the 7th inning. With 1 out, Cody Ross hit an opposite field home-run into the right-center field bullpen, increasing the Giants' lead to 4-0.

Despite Matt Cain (13-10) losing his no-hit bid in the eighth, he pitched a complete game 3-hitter. In his complete effort, Cain surrendered just 2 runs and 1 walk, while striking out 8. His 8th and final strikeout was a big one that ended the game, as he froze Jason Giambi on a perfectly located curveball on the inside corner. Carlos Gonzales, who singled, was on first at the time.

With the Padres losing 12-2 to the Reds, the Giants regained the NL West lead by a half-game. With 6 left to play, the pennant chase is far from over. Giants fans, stay tuned.

My Thoughts
I am not going to talk about the humidor issue anymore. It's over. Major League Baseball got involved, made sure the Rockies weren't cheating, and the balls used were fair game. Not to mention, the Giants took 2/3 in Denver. No complaints here.

Matt Cain just proved that he's the ace of the San Francisco Giants. He did two things to prove that to me. In the fifth inning, when he made a throwing error on a come-backer, he bared down and promptly struck out the next guy Jason Giambi (although Tulowitzki, the runner at first, stole second). He walked the next hitter, but with runners at first and second with 1 out, he struck out the next two hitters, striking out the side and halting the rally. Secondly, after he gave up the hit to Payton, he was able to finish out the game even though he gave up a 2-run homer to Melvin Mora. He handled the adversity very well and stepped up, like a true ace should. He was fearless and unfazed by potential Rockies' rallies. Many pitchers would fall apart and need their bullpen to clean up the mess. Not Cain.

This and That
The season season series between the Giants and Rockies is tied at 9. The Giants took their first series at Coors Field this year. For the first time since 2004, the Giants will have a winning road record this year at 43-38. Tuesday, the Giants send Jonathan Sanchez against the Diamonbacks' Rodrigo Lopez.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Giants Lose Heartbreaker 10-9

I'm going to keep the game summary really short. Nobody wants to hear how the Giants lost, so I'll do a quick one and get to my thoughts.

 Game Summary

After filing a complaint with Major League Baseball about the Rockies' humidor, the Giants did not expect this.

The Giants broke their streak of 18 consecutive games of giving up 3 runs or less on Saturday night. Wouldn't you know it, the scene was Coors Field in Denver.

The Giants carried a 9-7 lead into the eighth inning. With runners at first and third with 2 out, Troy Tulowitzki banged a 2-run doubled off the wall in right, tying the game at 9. Brian Wilson was summoned in to face Tulowitzki after lefty Javier Lopez struck out Carlos Gonzales.

Then came the bottom of the 10th. With Wilson still in the game, Carlos Gonzales hit a one-out infield single that Mike Fontenot dove for but could not get Gonzales out at first in time. The next batter, Troy Tulowitzki, lined a double, just past the shortstop Uribe, into the left-center field gap, winning the game for the Rockies. Pat Burrell stumbled as he got to the ball, which may have enabled Gonzales to score.

Barry Zito was sub-par in his outing tonight. He gave up 4 runs in just 4 1/3 innings. Brian Wilson (3-3) took the loss, blowing his 5th save of the year. The winner was Huston Street. He improved to 4-4.

Andres Torres had a nice game in his return tonight, going 1 for 3 with a home run, his 15th, that tied the game at 2 in the 3rd. He also made an incredible running catch out in deep left-center field. He left game in the fifth after feeling discomfort on his side, but it was more precautionary than anything. Aubrey Huff, Cody Ross, and Freddy Sanchez would also contribute with home runs.

The Giants will certainly feel miserable after blowing tonight's game, but a win tomorrow would be the perfect cure.

My Thoughts
After tonight's game, you can just throw the whole humidor theory out the window. Nothing funny was going on with the balls tonight, as someone from the MLB was keeping a close-eye on the balls transferred from the humidor. It was just simply a live ball yard tonight with the warm temperature. Not to mention, the hitters that beat them tonight are just good.

You have to walk Troy Tulowitzki in that situation in the eighth. The guy is just too hot in September. I would munch rather take my chances with Melvin Mora with the bases loaded, rather than Tulo with runners at first and third. The guy is just on fire right now and not many can get him out. Especially a night like tonight was, a fly-ball hit in the air could go a long way. However, what's done is done.

This loss really isn't the end of the world. They did what they had to do in my mind, which was win 1 game out of 3. Even if the Rockies win tomorrow, the best they could be is 3 games out, with only a week to go, including a 4-game series in St. Louis. If the Giants could come out of Coors only being a half-game out, I think they are in a pretty good position coming home. Also, they are still tied for the wild-card lead, so there's other avenues to get to first-place. If the Giants win tomorrow, though, the Rockies will be just an after-thought.

This and That

The Giants' funky pattern of scoring 2 runs or less for 2 games and then scoring 6 runs or more the third game is over. The Giants need to shake this one off and play well tomorrow. Enough said....Cain vs. De La Rosa tomorrow. Let's see what happens tomorrow!

MLB Officially Investigates Coors' Humidor

It's really about time. These late inning victories by the Rockies are more than mere coincidence, and it's not fair to the Giants or any other baseball team who plays hard for 9 innings only to suffer a crushing defeat because of a juiced-up baseball.

Last year was a perfect example. I firmly believable the humidor shenanigans cost the Giants the wild-card last year. Since this blog entry is me talking as a Giant's fan (think of it as an expanded "my thoughts") and not as a game reporter (like I do on "game summary), I am going to say that I am very upset that this went on. Because of it, Giants fans across the Bay Area, including myself, had to endure the crushing defeats at Coors that put the nail on the coffin when it came to them making the post-season for the first since 2003. Let's examine how many times the Rockies seemed to come back out of nowhere last year late in the season and also some of the evidence supporting a humidor conspiracy. Keep in mind that the Giants only trailed Colorado by 4 games by the end of the 2009 season.

Exhibit A: 8/22/09: The Giants were up 6-1, but a 7-run 6th propelled the Rockies to a 14-11 win. This would have tied things up in the wild card.

Exhibit B: 8/23/09: The Giants were up 2-0, while Lincecum (a fly-ball pitcher) was cruising, but runs in the 7th and 8th gave the Rox a comeback 4-2 victory.

Exhibit C: 8/24/09: This was the game where Damon Bruce filled in for Gary Radnich and gave a dose of baseball therapy. With the Giants up 4-1 in the top of the 14th, the Rockies roared back with a 5-run bottom 14 on a grand slam.

3 comebacks from nowhere in a row? Hmmmm......

Now let's look at this year.

Exhibit D: 7/3/10: Giants were up 7-1 on Ubaldo Jimenez, but the Rockies scored 4 in the 6th to take a 8-7 lead. Thankfully, the Giants won 11-8. Fly-ball pitcher Barry Zito started.

One more...

Exhibit E: The Giants were 3-6 at Coors last year and 7-2 at AT&T Park against the Rockies. 3/6 losses at Coors were come from behind by the Rockies. The Rockies did not come from behind once to beat the Giants at A&T Park.

As I said in my last entry, the mass media is very pervasive. It effects everybody. Because of it, the Giants' brass now have their eyes on the humidor along with help from Major League Baseball. The media brought the issue forward and now it has become salient. Take a look at this fine piece of work by Giants weekend host/CSN Bay Area writer Mychael Urban, as he writes about the humidor conspiracy. See link below.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Giants Silence Humidor Rumors With 2-1 Victory At Coors

Game Summary
So much for the humidor conspiracy rumors.

Tonight at Coors Field, there was no offensive barrage as predicted by most. There was no incredible Rockies comeback from nowhere in the late innings. There was no Rockies win. There was, however, a good old-fashioned pitcher's duel.

It was not the hitters, but the pitchers who stole the show tonight in front of 49,071 in Denver. Tim Lincecum (15-10) was the headliner, pitching eight strong innings of 1-run ball, while only giving up 2 hits, no walks, and striking out 9.

Rockies' rookie starter Jhoulys Chacin (9-10) was nearly as impressive, but stumbled in the 7th inning with the Rockies up 1-0. After giving up a lead-off walk to Buster Posey, Pat Burrell crushed a two-run homer run to left-field, his 19th, giving the Giants a 2-1 lead.

It didn't look good before that. The Giants were shut-out for six-innings on only 2 hits. It looked as if the Giants were destined to be blanked again, but they made Chacin work. In 7 innings, Chacin threw 120 pitches. Their patience ended up paying off, as one of their walks, Buster Posey, would go on to score.

Brian Wilson came on in the ninth and retired the side in order for his 45th save.

As Jason Giambi walked off the field after grounding out to end the game, the Rockies now find themselves 4.5 games behind the Giants in the NL West. As of now, San Diego is 1 game behind the Giants, pending their game against the Reds at Petco Park.

For now, the humidor appears to be functioning fine, but you never know what you are going to see at Coors Field. Stay tuned this weekend.

My Thoughts
I know this sounds crazy, but I believe that the Giants' media crew (CSN Bay Area, KNBR, Marty Lurie, Mychael Urban, Amy G, FP Santangelo, and everyone else working at Coors) deserves an assist for tonight's Giants 2-1 win. The mass media is pervasive, it's everywhere. When the Bay Area Sports media makes salient an issue about a team cheating, everyone is going to know about it (the players, the accused team, fans). For those non-Communication Studies majors unlike me, this is a perfect example of agenda-setting theory, where the media doesn't necessarily tell you what to think, but what to think about. Since the Rockies don't want to be found out if they are indeed switching humidor balls for non-humidor balls and they know that the Giants' CSN Bay Area crew is there watching every move the Rockies make with the balls, they will certainly be hesitant to tamper with the ball bag (for those of you who don't know, non-humidor balls will travel significantly further if hit than a ball in the humidor). Also, it helps when you got Marty Lurie and other Giants' media constantly asking questions about the humidor.

In addition, the Giants' players benefited from their media staff investigating the humidor conspiracy. There was an incident in the 6th inning where Miguel Olivo was up against Tim Lincecum. Lincecum tried to rub up a baseball, but something didn't feel right. It was clearly discernible on the CSN TV side when he appeared to mouth something to the effect of "this ****** juiced up baseball is **** ****. Lincecum then proceeded to request a new ball. Who knows if that ball was a non-humidor ball? If it was, give the media crew credit for making the Giants' players even think about the issue. It's not something players would generally think about, but hey, players read and listen to what reporters say too (and F.P. Santangelo after the game!). If Lincecum threw that ball and it was tampered with, a pop-up to right field may have just sailed on out.

Tim Lincecum is back. That fastball of his is finally being located on the corners again, setting up that devastating change-up. The fastball also has some nice movement on it like it once did back when he was on top of his game. Having that fastball back is important because now teams can't eliminate that pitch and just look for the change-up and be ready to hit it when it comes. Now, that change-up will appear to look like the fastball (because hitters still have that pitch in the back of their mind and will see that he can get it over for a strike), and hitters will be way out in front of it when it comes.

This and That

The Giants have now gone 18 straight games where they give up 3-runs or less. The Giants' pattern of scoring 2 runs or less for two games and then scoring 6 runs or more in the next game continues. Andres Torres came into the game as a late-inning defensive replacement after having his appendix removed on September 12. He had 1 at-bat and flied out. He will be starting in CF and leading-off tomorrow, according to Bruce Bochy. Rockies' 3B Melvin Mora was removed from the game in the fourth due to illness. Tomorrow, Barry Zito (9-13, 3.98 ERA) will take on Jason Hammel (10-8, 4.56 ERA).

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Giants Pound Cubs 13-0

Game Summary
This game was predictable from the start.

For 12 games now, the Giants have followed the same pattern. After getting shut down for 2 games, the Giants come back in the next game and score at least 6 runs. The pattern held up in this series at Wrigley Field, as the Giants scored 1, 0, and 13 runs respectively against the Cubs.

The Giants got ahead early against Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster and never looked back. With the bases loaded and nobody out, Buster Posey hit a double play ball that scored a run and gave the Giants a 1-0 lead. With the way things have gone for them, this is considered a big rally

Then came the top of the second inning. Jose Guillen lead off the inning getting hit by a pitch. This set things up for the struggling Juan Uribe, who hit a 2 run bolt of lightening over the wall in left field. So far, that made it a monster inning for the Giants (compared to the last couple nights). Just like that, the Giants had a 3-0 lead. This was only the beginning.

In the same inning, with runners at second and third with one out, Freddy Sanchez singled in Madison Bumgarner from third, giving the Giants a 4-0 lead. Later in the frame, Buster Posey came up and singled up the middle, with runners at first and third, increasing the Giants lead to 5-0. Their sixth run of the inning would come on a wild pitch.

The Giants went for the knock-out punch a few batters later. With the bases loaded and 2 out, Juan Uribe hit a grand slam to left, his 22nd homer of the year, capping the scoring for the inning at 9. The Giants entered the top of the third inning with a 10-0 lead. All told, Uribe had 6 RBIS and 2 home runs in the same inning, the first Giant to do so (to have 6 RBIS) in 40 years.

The Giants would add on two more solo home runs. Buster Posey (his 16th) and Cody Ross (his first as a Giants) provided them. Pablo Sandoval, mired in a 3 for 37 slump, came in as a pinch hitter in the eighth and singled to right for an RBI, making it 13-0 Giants. This would prove to be the final score.

Lost in all the hitting was Madison Bumgarner's (6-6) spectacular start. The 21 year old rookie lefty pitched 7 innings of shut-out baseball, while giving up 7 hits, walking 1, and striking out 9. The Giants bullpen once again did their job, pitching 2 innings of perfect baseball, contributing to a combined shut-out of the Cubs.

Ryan Dempster didn't fare as well. In just 1 2/3 innings, Dempster (14-11) gave up 7 hits and 9 runs.

Hopefully for the Giants, they break the pattern tomorrow at Coors Field because 1 run will surely not be enough against the Rockies at home.

My Thoughts
I can't get excited about the Giants' offense yet. Just look at the pattern I outlined in yesterday's blog entry (see 1 entry before this one) and add this score to it. It fits exactly into it. If the Giants score less than 2 runs at Coors Field tomorrow, I can almost guarantee that they will not win. However, the at-bats for the Giants did look better tonight, but Dempster's sinker was up. It's good to see the Giants ripping location mistakes, something they have been struggling to do as of late. Perhaps the team meeting Bruce Bochy had with the hitters before the game did something to wake up the offense.

This and That
The Giants' starting pitcher, Madison Bumgarner, had 2 hits in the second inning (That's right. He did not give them up, but he swung the bat and got them). The Giants have given up 2 runs or less in 16 straight games, the first time that's happened since the A's did it in 1981. With the Dodgers defeating the Padres 3-1, the Giants moved back into first place by a half game over San Diego. Colorado lost to Arizona 10-9, giving the Giants a 3.5 game lead against them. Tomorrow, the Giants face Jhoulys Chacin (9-9, 3.30 ERA). The Giants counter with Tim Lincecum (14-10, 3.60 ERA).

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Giants' Offense Shut Down Again, Lose to Cubs 2-0

 Game Summary
If the patterns continue, the Giants should score 10 runs and hit 3 home runs in tomorrow's series finale at Wrigley field.

Ever since the San Diego series, the Giants are in a rather odd hitting funk where they get shut down for two games (scoring 2 runs or less in each of those) and then score 6 or more runs on the following game. To illustrate, the Giants' run output since Game 2 of the Padres series looks like this: 1, 0, 6, 0, 2, 10, 0, 1, 9, 1, 0. Every third game, the Giants score sufficient runs to win.

Unfortunately for the Giants, tonight's game was only the second game after scoring 9 runs against the Brewers last Sunday at AT&T Park. The Giants have now been shut out 4 times in their last 11 games.

The Cubs, on the other hand, were able to push a couple of runs across. In the bottom of the third, Kosuke Fukudome lead off with a home run down the right field line, giving the Cubs a 1-0 lead. This would prove to be enough to win.

The Cubs would tack on another run in the bottom of the fifth inning. With a runner at second and nobody out, Sanchez threw a wild pitch, advancing the runner to third. Buster Posey tried to gun him down and third, but the ball skipped by Sandoval, scoring the runner and giving the Cubs a 2-0 lead.

Jonathan Sanchez certainly pitched well enough to win, but as has happened so many times in recent years, a Giants' pitcher was the tough luck loser. Sanchez pitched 5 2/3 innings, giving up 2 runs (1 earned), 4 hits, 2 walks, and 6 strikeouts. He took the loss and fell to 11-9.

Cubs pitcher Randy Wells (8-13) out-pitched Sanchez. His 7 2/3 innings of shutout baseball propelled his team to their 69th victory of the season. Carlos Marmol came in the eighth and earned his 34th save, striking out Freddy Sanchez on a hanging breaking ball with runners at second and third with 2 outs.

The Giants had chances in the game, most notably in the first inning. After Cody Ross popped out, Freddy Sanchez doubled to right-center. Aubrey Huff then singled to right, but Sanchez could not score. Up came Buster Posey, last night's hero, but he struck out, lunging at a Randy Wells slider outside. With 2 outs, Pat Burrell came up but struck out looking.

The Giants have every reason to be optimistic about tomorrow's game. After all, it is a game after getting shut down offensively in the two previous.

My Thoughts
I am just baffled as to why the Giants were shut down by Randy Wells. This pitcher had an over 4 ERA and was 7-13. All night long, Wells was hanging breaking balls, but the Giants for some reason could not capitalize, especially in the first inning. I don't know what it is, but the Giants are either fouling off or swinging and missing at pitches that should be hit a long way. Buster Posey, in the first inning, struck out on a curveball that was up (on the outside corner albeit, but that's his hot zone). It's hard to blame Buster Posey for not getting the run in in the first inning since he's already done so much for this team, but the Giants have got to find a way to get at least one run in there. I don't know what's going on with this team.

I refuse to say that Wells was fantastic tonight. It's not that he was good, but it was the horrible plate approach the Giants had tonight. In 7 2/3 innings, the Giants could only push Wells' pitch total up to 91. He should have been out of there in the fifth or sixth, but the Giants just refuse to work the count lately. They were doing it so well earlier in the season, but now it looks like they are trying to yank everything here during the stretch run, trying to do too much. Everyone wants to be the hero, but it's just not happening for anyone right now.

Bad umpiring continued to haunt the Giants. I thought they really had a chance against Carlos Marmol in both the eighth and ninth inning. Freddy Sanchez, with the tying runs in scoring position, got a couple of good pitches to hit, but could not capitalize. He fouled off one, but struck out on (yes, you guessed it) a hanging slider. Then in the ninth, so of those strike calls to Huff and Posey were just unfair. Some of Marmol's sliders crossed the plate at the shins, but they were called strikes. Thanks to the home-plate umpire's sudden redefinition of the strike zone, the Giants were robbed of a couple of good hitter's counts.

This and That

The Giants have now gone 16 straight games giving up 3 runs or less. Bruce Bochy says Andres Torres could be ready to return to the Giants' lineup as early as Friday after an appendectomy on Sept. 12. Edgar Renteria will have his sore right elbow re-evaluated on Thursday. Tomorrow, the Giants face a tough pitcher, Ryan Dempster (14-10, 3.50 ERA). The Giants will send out Madison Bumgarner (5-6, 3.27 ERA).

Giants Shut Out Cubs 1-0

Game Summary
I apologize for the very short post tonight. Got homework tonight, so I gotta make this quick.

In a game that was delayed nearly an hour and a half due to rain at Wrigley Field, the Giants were indeed happy that they got this one in.

The game wasn't the only thing put on hold for the Giants. Their bats did not come forward until the later innings. With one out in the eighth and a scoreless tie, Buster Posey hit a bolt of lightening that cleared the center-field fence and landed in the Wrigley Field basket just in front of the bleachers, giving the Giants a 1-0 lead that they would not give back.

The Giants' pitching staff once again got it done again. As the Cubs' ace Carlos Zambrano was putting up 0's (6 scoreless innings pitched, 3 hits, 5 walks, 8 strikeouts), Matt Cain was able to match him. In his six shutout innings, Cain surrendered 2 hits and 1 walk, while only striking out 2.

As has been typical, the Giants' bullpen was superb, pitching 3 perfect innings. Ramon Ramirez, who relieved Cain in the 7th, picked up the win and improved to 1-0. The loss went to Andrew Cashner, who fell to 2-6. Brian Wilson was summoned in the ninth and earned his 44th save of the year.

The Giants had opportunities throughout the game to breakthrough on the scoreboard earlier, but could not capitalize. Most notable was the fifth inning. With runners at first and second with 1 out, Freddy Sanchez hit a sharp ground ball up the middle that was dove for and gobbled up by Cubs' shortstop Starlin Castro. Castro promptly got up and through Ross out at second. Had this gone through, the Giants would have scored their first run in the top of the fifth. Two batters later, Buster Posey would fly-out to end the threat.

With Colorado losing and San Diego winning, the Giants remain in first place by a half game ahead of the Padres and 2.5 games ahead of the Rockies.

My Thoughts
Even though the Giants only scored one run, their plate approach was much better tonight. In 6 innings, they coaxed 116 pitches from Carlos Zambrano and left it up to the shaky Cubs bullpen. Sure enough, it was the Cubs' bullpen that lost the game for them. Cody Ross was a good example of the Giants' display of patience. He went 1 for 3 with a walk, but that's not the whole story. In his first at-bat to lead off the game, he worked the count to 3-2 and did the same in a later at-bat. Even though he struck out in those two plate appearances, he made Zambrano throw a lot of pitches, allowed him to see more pitches, and also allowed the entire team to see more pitches. With the way Zambrano was manipulating the movement of the ball tonight, he was very tough to hit, so they needed to work the count to get him out and into the Cubs' bullpen. That is exactly what happened. If they continue this patience throughout the road trip, they are gonna score a lot of runs.

This and That
The Giants' 1-0 win was their 15th straight game of allowing 3 runs or fewer. This ties a record for the third-longest single-season streak in the live ball era. Tomorrow, Jonathan Sanchez (11-8, 3.21 ERA) will face Randy Wells (7-13, 4.46 ERA).

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Giants Reclaim First Place With 9-2 Win Over Brewers

Game Summary
It would be an understatement to say that the Giants' 2010 season has had its ups and downs. The very first inning of Sunday's game served as a microcosm as to how this season has been for the Giants.

In that first inning, Barry Zito retired the side in order. The Giants came up in the bottom of the first where lead-off hitter Cody Ross hit a long drive to left field. As the ball was floating in the air on its way out of the park, the roar of the crowd of 41,113 at AT&T Park could be heard anticipating a home run that would jump-start the offense. However, the high would quickly turn into a low, as the Brewers' right fielder, Ryan Braun, leaped over the wall and snagged the would be home-run ball, quickly silencing the crowd.

Just as Giants fans were thinking "here we go again," the Giants showed their resiliency, as they have done all season after tough losses. Freddy Sanchez would then single, followed by a Aubrey Huff fly-out to center field. Buster Posey would then double to deep left-center, hitting it so hard that Sanchez had to stop at third. Pat Burrell came up, grineded out a walk with a little luck (the 2-2 pitch appeared to be a strike down the middle, but it was called a ball). With the suspense building up on whether or not the Giants would score, Jose Guillen stepped up and cranked a grand slam to deep left, giving the Giants a key 4-0 lead that they would not give back. Just as the Giants' fans were throwing their hands up in the air frustrated, they came right back and got some big runs.

This would be more than enough for Barry Zito, who hasn't picked up a win since July 16th. Coming into Sunday's game, Zito, who has received run support of 2 runs or less in 60% of his starts), was a career 109-6 when his team scored 4 runs or more for him. In the game, they scored 9 for him, upping that record to 110-6. He also threw out a quality start with his line looking like this: 6 innings, 3 hits, 2 earned runs, 1 walk, and 3 strikeouts. This would be good enough for his elusive 9th win.

The Brewers' lefty, Chris Narveson, would not fare as well. After Guillen's grand slam, he would settle down and hold the Giants scoreless until the 5th inning. With the bases loaded and 2 out, Guillen came back up and ripped a single up the middle, scoring 2 and giving the Giants a 6-0 lead. Guillen would go on to have 6 RBIs in the game. All told, Narveson gave up 6 runs in 4 2/3 innings on 4 hits. He would end up taking the loss and falling to 11-8.

The Brewers would get on the board in the top of the 6th on a 2-run homer by Ryan Braun. The Giants, however, would bust the game wide open in the bottom of the 7th on a three-run home run by Pat Burrell, making the score 9-2. This score would hold up to be the final.

The Giants bullpen was once again fantastic, combining for 2 hits of shutout baseball. 

With San Diego losing, the Giants leapfrogged them in the standings and rose to first place. Colorado lost as well, giving them a 1.5 game edge on the Rockies. With 12 games left, the Giants are heading toward the finish line, but to get there on top, the Giants must keep up the offensive production that they displayed during Sunday's game.

My Thoughts
I am very worried about this road trip. The Cubs have been playing well, winning 6 straight, and the Rockies are very tough to beat at Coors Field. If they can come out 3-3 on this trip, I think they come out the division winner. Anything less, it could be trouble. A sweep at the hands of the Rockies would be disastrous and would surely be the knock-out punch for the Giants. Let's just hope they can hit.

As for the hitting, Jose Guillen needed this game. He was signed by Brian Sabean to be a big RBI producer and has had a slow start so far, a big reason why the offense has struggled. But tonight, his 6 RBIs might be just the thing to get him going. All we can do is wait and see how he does during the final two-weeks.

The catch by Ryan Braun in the first was one of the best catches I've ever seen. That ball had to be at least 5 feet over the fence, but Braun jumped up and brought it back. Duane Kuiper made a great point. If that ball is hit where the bleachers are, there's no chance Braun catches that ball. The fans there would have certainly reached for it and tore Braun apart. It's a shame too for Cody Ross who hit that ball. He needed that home run to properly acclimate himself to the Giants. Even though this guy hasn't shown it, Ross does have some serious pop, but is a streaky hitter. Even though he went 1 for 5 today, he can strike at any time as he did when he played the Giants as a Marlin (besides it's better than Rowand's standard 0 for 4).

This and That

I decided to change this segment of my blog up with a trivia question, rather than entertaining you with my random facts. Here it goes. Post a comment below on this blog entry if you know the answer.

When was the last time the Giants were swept by the Brewers?

A) 2007            B) 2008                C) 1992                D) 1996

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Giants Get Shut Down By Brewers Again, Fall Out Of First Place

 Game Summary
After the Giants beat LA on Thursday night, raising their flag symbolizing their first place position, they were feeling pretty good. On Saturday night, however, the flag went right back down to the second place position.

The Giants were shut down by the Brewers for the second straight night. This time it was at the hands of the Brewers' ace Yovani Gallardo. Gallardo, in his 7 innings of work, yielded just 1 run on 5 hits, while walking 1 and striking out 6. In the two games in this series, the Giants could only muster 1 run, a far cry from their 10 run outburst against the Dodgers on Thursday night.

The only runs that scored off Giants ace Tim Lincecum occured in the top of the fourth inning. With the bases loaded and 2 outs, Matt Lucroy dumped a bloop single to right field, scoring 2 on the play and making the score 2-0 Brewers.

Bochy took a gamble and pulled Lincecum in the bottom of the 5th with runners at first and third with 1 out. Lincecum had pitched well, going 5 innings, giving up 2 runs, 2 walks, 6 hits, and striking out 3. Schierholtz, the pinch hitter, worked a walk to load the bases. This was the only shot for Lincecum to get a win, but it did not happen. The next batter, Mike Fontenot, grounded into a force play, giving the Giants their first run and cutting the deficit to 2-1. Next came Juan Uribe, who popped out. This would be all the scoring as the Giants would lose 2-1.

The game did not come without frustrations from both sides. The Giants and Brewers both had a beef with home-plate umpire C.B. Buckner. The most notable gaff from him came in the bottom of the ninth inning. With a 3-1 count on Aubrey Huff, Brewers closer John Axford threw a pitch that appeared to be below the knees, according to television replays, but Buckner waved his arm signaling a strike. This would have put Huff on first, and Bruce Bochy would have pinch ran speedster Darren Ford, but Huff would swing and miss at the next pitch, striking out. Axford would then go on and strike out the side, earning his 22nd save of the year.

As has been the case all too frequently, Tim Lincecum was the hard luck loser, falling to 14-10. Yovani Gallardo earned the win, improving to 13-7.

For now, the crowd of 41,767 at AT&T park had to watch the Giants' flag fall down to the second-place position. If they want to raise their flag again, they certainly need to step things up tomorrow and on the 6 game road trip coming up.

My Thoughts
The Giants are in trouble. They had to win this series if they wanted to go to the playoffs, and they could not do it. I know I might be burying them early, but with the way Colorado is playing, especially at home, they have to put some distance on them going into the big three-game set against them at Coors Field on Friday. As it stands, the Giants are only a half game ahead of them with one more against the Brewers. If they can be at least 2.5 games ahead of them by that series, they would at worst be a half game behind them if they get swept and 1.5 games ahead of them if they lose 2/3. Now, with the Rockies breathing down the Giants' neck, that flag of theirs may be heading down to the third-place position. Not to mention, the Dodgers are the worst spoilers I have seen in a long time, getting creamed by the Rockies today 12-2.

The offensive production by the Giants right now is unacceptable. You can't go in and score 1 run in 2 games against the Milwaukee Brewers and expect to win in the post-season. Sure you faced two of their best pitchers in Gallardo and Wolf, but you are going to be facing ace-type pitchers every day in the playoffs. You got to find a way to beat these teams. That's what good teams do (i.e. the Phillies). I could be wasting my breathe here because they always come back and score 10 runs the next day after getting shut down, but such is the roller coaster ride that is the San Francisco Giants.

I didn't see the opening at first, but Pablo has to go for the double play with the bases loaded and 1 out in the top of the fourth. When a ground ball is hit to you so close to the bag and you got a slow-footed Prince Fielder coming in from third base, the play has got to be made. Posey is a very tough catcher, and I have no doubt he would have held on to the ball if Fielder tried to railroad him. As it turned out, the next batter hit a bloop single to right field, and there went the game for the Giants. Nonetheless, if the Giants score like they are capable of doing, this is all a moot point. Unfortunately, lack of experience in the big leagues hurt Sandoval there. While most baseball players at his age are making those mistakes in A-Ball, unfortunately for the Giants, he is making those mistakes here in the big leagues. I give F.P. Santangelo credit for this point.

This and That
The Giants are 19-56 when scoring less than 4 runs. The Brewers improved to 2-4 against the Giants this year. Andres Torres, Giants lead-off man who they truly miss, began running on a treadmill today and could be ready as early as next week when the Giants start a 3-game series at Coors Field. Tomorrow, the Giants send out Barry Zito (8-13, 4.02 ERA) against Chris Narveson (11-7, 5.05 ERA).

Friday, September 17, 2010

Brewers Employ Ground Attack, Shut Out Giants 3-0

Game Summary
The Brewers' lineup is full of home run boppers. It includes the likes of the slugging Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, and Rickie Weeks, but tonight, none of them went deep.

Instead, the Brewers were able to score on little ball, with the help of shaky Giants defense. The Giants on Friday night committed 2 errors, an uncharacteristic stat for them. Coming into the game, the Giants have only committed 66 errors, which is good for 3rd in the league. Tonight you wouldn't know it.

The scoring for the Brewers began in the very first inning. Madison Bumgarner, the Giants' starting pitcher, retired the first 2 batters quickly. However, Brewers slugger Ryan Braun doubled down the left field line passed Uribe and was singled in by Prince Fielder, giving the Brewers a 1-0 lead. Then things go weird.

In the top of the 5th, with runners at first and third with 1 out, Carlos Gomez grounded to shortstop Edgar Renteria. Renteria back-handed the ball in the hole and fired the ball home way off-line, scoring the runner from third. It is very unlikely Renteria would have had the runner at home even with a good throw, but it was a mental lapse, and there would be more throughout the night.

The Brewers scored their final run on a throwing error by Jeremy Affeldt in the top of the 7th. With 1 out and runners on first and third, Jeremy Affeldt came in to relieve Guillermo Mota. The hitter was George Kattaras. Kattaras hit a comebacker right to the pitcher, but Affeldt threw a fastball to catcher Buster Posey that sailed past him, allowing the runner at third to score and giving the Brewers a 3-0 lead.

The Giants could not muster anything against lefty Randy Wolf. Wolf pitched a complete game shutout, allowing just 3 hits and striking out 6. The first 4 hitters for the Giants were a combined 0 for 13 against Wolf, a big reason why they were shut out. Wolf improved to 12-11 on the year.

Madison Bumgarner was a formidable opponent, but came up short. Although he only lasted 5 2/3 innings and gave up 9 hits, he just yielded 2 runs and 1 walk, while striking out 6. He was the hard luck loser, falling to 5-6. He is still winless at AT&T park.

The Giants should not hang their heads too much. With San Diego getting pummeled by the Cardinals, the Giants remain in first-place by a half-game in the National League West.

My Thoughts
The turning point in the game for me came in the bottom of the third inning with the score still 1-0. When Madison Bumgarner bunted into that double play with runners at first and second, the crowd of 41,835 at AT&T Park just went silent in contrast to how they sounded after the two singles to start the inning. Ever since then, the Giants looked flat both offensively (they would only get 1 hit after that) and defensively. The bunt wasn't even that bad, but 3rd baseman Casey McGehee picked it cleanly and made a good throw to second to start the double play. The bottom line was that the Brewers made their defensive plays and the Giants did not.

Randy Wolf was really good tonight and has been hot of late. He was pounding the strike zone low, high, in, and out. Every time he wanted the ball to go somewhere, it did. He was so good that he only had thrown 56 pitches through 6 innings. It's easy to say that the Giants should take more pitches, but when you have a pitcher always around the plate as Wolf was, everything looks like a strike. Thus, you are more likely to chase pitches outside the zone, as the Giants did with Wolf's high fastball and off-speed pitches down low.

The Giants had the atom ball going today. Buster Posey and Edgar Renteria both crushed a ball, but both were tracked down in the outfield. Pat Burrell had some good ABs too, but could only hit a hard ground ball to shortstop with a runner at second in the 7th. I made the point before. Baseball is a game of inches. Your job as a hitter is to hit the ball hard, and after that, it's out of your hands. Luck definitely was on the Brewers' side tonight, and it showed during Friday night's game.

Clearly the Giants' defense was awful tonight. They've played good defense all year, so I will give them a pass on this game. They have shown their resiliency all year, and I have no reason to believe it will be gone tomorrow. All teams will go through this in the course of 162, so don't panic Giants fans. It's all part of the game. If they look this flat the next 2 games, then you can panic.

This And That
The Giants fell to 4-1 against the Brewers this year. Madison Bumgarner remains winless at home. The Giants have won their last 5 series in a row. Pablo Sandoval has sat for the second straight game, and there is no guarantee he will play tomorrow against the righty. The Giants are 9-3 in their Friday orange jerseys after starting off 9-0. Tomorrow, Giants ace Tim Lincecum (14-9, 3.60 ERA) will square off against Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo (12-7, 3.64 ERA).

Giants Cruise Into First Place Thanks To Sanchez, Giants Offense

The Giants traveled somewhere they haven't been since May 6th of this year. In September, they haven't been there since 2003. That place is first place.

In front of an electrified crowd of 38,434 at AT&T Park, the Giants, after the game, moved the flags out in the outfield that denote where the Giants are in standings. In recent years, the Giants saw their flag plunge to the bottom, but on Thursday night, the Giants' flag sat atop the others. With the Padres losing 4-0 earlier to the Cardinals, the Giants are now 1/2 game ahead of them in the National League West.

As it has been throughout the season for the Giants, there were many heroes in this 10-2 route against the rival Los Angeles Dodgers. Jonathan Sanchez (11-8) was one of them. His line looked like this: 7IP, 4 hits, 2 runs, 1 earned run, 0 walks, and a career high 12 strikeouts.

It did not look good for Jonathan Sanchez and the Giants in the beginning. Rafael Furcal led of the game with a double down the third base line. The next batter, Ryan Theroit, then laid down a sacrifice bunt to third, but reach on a throwing error by Juan Uribe, giving the Dodgers an early 1-0 lead. Jonathan Sanchez would, however, bear down and strike out the next 2. The third out in the inning came on a hard ground ball to second by James Loney that Freddy Sanchez dove for in the hole and saved a run.

The Giants quickly responded back the next half-inning. With 2 outs and nobody on, Aubrey Huff hit a long triple to right-center field. Up stepped Buster Posey, who doubled to deep right and capitalized on a bad read on the ball by Reed Johnson. The Dodgers' right fielder initially broke in, but could not catch up to it, as he raced back trying to make up the ground. This tied the game at 1.

The Giants would go ahead in the bottom of the third inning off Dodgers starter Ted Lilly. With 1 out, Edgar Renteria laid down a bunt single that 3rd baseman Casey Blake had no play on. He would go 4 for 5 on the night, making a strong bid for more playing time in the stretch run. Freddy Sanchez then promptly doubled over the head of Johnson in right. This set up Aubrey Huff's 3-run bolt to right field that gave the Giants a 4-1 lead that they would not give back. If that wasn't enough, Buster Posey laced a long home run, his 14th of the season, more than half-way up the bleachers in left to give the Giants a 5-1 lead.

The Giants would tack on insurance runs in later innings. In the fourth, Freddy Sanchez walked with the bases loaded to extend the Giants' lead to 6-1. Jose Guillen would add to that with a 2-run homer in the fifth inning, making the score 8-2. Guillen went 3 for 3 on the night. The Giants would cap their scoring in the eighth on a 2 RBI double by Freddy Sanchez, pushing the Giants' lead to 10-2.

The highlight of the night for the Dodgers was Russell Mitchell's first career home run, that barely hit the foul poul in left field, off Jonathan Sanchez in the 5th inning. Other than that, the Dodgers' offense continued to struggle. In their 60 games since the All-Star Break, they have scored 2 runs or less in 30 of them.

The Giants' bullpen once again was solid, pitching 2 innings of perfect baseball. Jonathan Sanchez earned his 11th win. Ted Lilly suffered the loss and fell to 8-11.

It was good to see the Giants finally take a season series against the Dodgers. It seemed like in recent years, the Giants were always overmatched in both pitching and hitting. Not this year. Some of the best games of the year came against their arch-rival Dodgers, a sign that they are ready for post-season baseball. Juan Uribe's 9th inning home run at Dodger Stadium and Andres Torres' game-winning hit after Bochy's technicality are some of the memorable wins they probably don't get in years past. If you could win in the playoff-like atmosphere of a Dodgers/Giants series, then you are probably ready for the real thing.

Edgar Renteria has got to be out there tomorrow as the lead-off hitter, especially against the lefty Randy Wolf. Tonight, he had 3 singles and a triple in 5 at-bats, and surely deserves a second-look. After all, their alternatives (Rowand, Velez, Ross), have done nothing to show that they are ready for the position. Unfortunately for the Panda, Bochy has to go with the hot hand here and sit the cold Pablo Sandoval, who is a loss at the plate. Same goes for Aaron Rowand (now hitting .226), as he was booed by Giants fans each time he came up. Bochy himself said Renteria is leading off tomorrow, and I would expect to see Cody Ross hitting eighth for the Giants. One thing I like about Bochy this year is his short leash on those who don't perform. His philosophy is simple. If you don't hit, you don't play.

The Giants took the season series from the Dodgers 10-8 this season. This is the first time they have done this in 5 years. Bruce Bochy says Buster Posey will play every day the rest of the way. Pablo Sandoval, who will not play tomorrow either against Randy Wolf, is currently in an 0 for 15 slump. A very thick fog hovered over AT&T Park for most of the game. Jonathan Sanchez became the fourth player in Giants history since 1920 to strike out at least 12 without issuing a walk. His 74.4% strike percentage (of all pitches) was his highest in his career while starting. The Giants hit back-to-back homers for the 7th time this season. Tomorrow, the Giants welcome the Brewers. A couple of lefties will be squaring off. Madison Bumgarner (5-5) will take on Randy Wolf (11-11).

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Cain Outduels Billingsley In Nail-Biting 2-1 Victory

Last night, Barry Zito and the Giants' bullpen combined for a one-hitter, but still lost the game as a result of lack of offense (0 runs to be exact). On Wednesday night, however, the Giants manufactured just enough offense to reward Matt Cain his 12th victory with a 2-1 win over the Dodgers.

In just his second career win against the Dodgers, his first coming earlier this season, Cain was superb. In his 7 innings of scoreless baseball, he gave up only 3 hits and walked none, while striking out 5. His counterpart, Chad Billingsley (11-10), gave a valiant effort, but this time it was a Dodger's pitcher who suffered a tough luck loss. In his 7 innings of one-run ball, he gave up 6 hits, while walking 2 and striking out 7.

The one run Billingsley gave up came in the bottom of the 7th. With 1 out, Cain was lifted for a pinch hitter, Travis Ishikawa. Ishikawa promptly lined a double into right-center field. Emmanuel Burriss pinch ran for Ishikawa and was later advanced to third on a wild pitch with Eugenio Velez at the plate.Velez, however, hit a comebacker to the pitcher, and Burriss had to hold at third. This set things up for Mike Fontenot's clutch 2-out single that cracked the scoreless tie and gave the Giants a 1-0 lead.

The Giants tacked on an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth, which proved to be the winning run. With runners at second and third with 1 out, Pablo Sandoval hit a ground ball to first. Aubrey Huff, the runner at 3rd, was able to leg it out and score just ahead of Barajas' tag, giving the Giants what proved to be an important 2-0 lead.

Now, it was up to Brian Wilson in the ninth, looking for his 43rd save. The first batter, Rafael Furcal, flew out to Eugenio Velez in left field. He got the next batter, Ryan Theriot, on a strikeout. The run the Giants scored in the eighth proved huge because Andre Ethier came up next and cranked a solo home run to deep left-center, but Wilson retired the next batter, Jay Gibbons, on a strikeout and earned the save. The Giants and the 34,685 at AT&T Park could breathe easy after a rather impressive 2-1 victory over their arch-rival Dodgers. With both the Braves and Padres losing on Wednesday, the Giants are just 1/2 game back in both the Wild Card and NL West standings.

It is great to see that the pitching is back for the Giants. It really worried me (and I'm sure most Giants fans) in August when the rotation as a whole could not get it done. If this is what Giants fans can expect the rest of the way, I think the Giants will definitely get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2003. Their offense is better than they have shown these last few games, and I have no doubt it will come around. It is much better than the Padres', that's for sure, and they sit just a half game behind them with their loss to Colorado earlier.

As for the offense, the absence of Andres Torres continues to hurt the Giants. Bruce Bochy tried to instill some life with Eugenio Velez at the top of the order, but it didn't work. He looked awful in most of his plate appearances last night, going 0 for 3, but did walk once. Most notably was that at-bat in the bottom of the 7th with a runner at third and one-out. The score was still tied a 0, but all Velez could do was hit a comebacker to the pitcher. Luckily, Mike Fontenot rescued the Giants and picked up Velez with a big 2-out single. Even though Velez is hitless since coming up from AAA, it's hard to completely blame him. He has sat on the bench most of his stint up in the big leagues, and every baseball player knows that it's hard to get your timing down if you don't see big-league pitching consistently. Still, it is not the time to try and get your timing down. It's time to step-up, be ready to hit big-league pitching, and win some big ballgames. Edgar Renteria will try lead-off tonight against Ted Lilly, as Bochy tries to plug a hole that just keeps leaking.

I also want to comment on the job Brian Sabean has done this year. For the first time since perhaps Kenny Lofton, Sabean's offensive acquisitions are finally starting to pan out. Pat Burrell has brought much needed power to the Giants and is a patient hitter who gets on base. The same could be said for Aubrey Huff, but someone more under-the-radar has contributed offensively as well. Mike Fontenot was a solid pick-up and a clutch performer with runners in scoring position and 2-out. Last night, he had a great at-bat, blooping a single to center for the Giants' first run. Another notable 2-out clutch hit was against Ubaldo Jimenez a couple weeks ago at AT&T Park. In all, Fontenot was hitting .368 with 2 outs and runners in scoring position this season just after he was acquired. 

As it turned out, the last team to lose two one-hitters in one season was the Kansas City Royals of 1971. The Giants have a 1.55 team ERA this month. Jose Guillen, who has been out the last two games with a bulging disk in his neck, will be back in the lineup tonight. The season series between the Giants and Dodgers is now 9-8 Giants. On Thursday night's finale, the Giants will send out Jonathan Sanchez (10-8, 3.29 ERA) against the Dodgers' Ted Lilly (8-10, 3.58 ERA).

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Giants' Offense, Uribe's Error Spoils Zito's Solid Outing In 1-0 Loss To Rival Dodgers

Usually, when your team throws a one-hitter, they win those games and the dugout is feeling good. Twice this year for the Giants, however, throwing a no-hitter is synonymous with a crushing defeat.

On a night where Barry Zito was fabulous, he still took the loss and fell to 8-13. Although his last two starts were stellar, he has received just 2 runs of support in those 2 games and has only yielded 3 runs (2 earned). On Tuesday night, in front of 36,076 at AT&T park, his line looked like this: 5.2 IP, 1 R (0 earned), 1 hit, 3BB, 5 strikeouts.

The lone run for the Dodgers and of the game came in the sixth inning. With 1 out, Reed Johnson was hit on a 1-2 pitch. The next batter, Clayton Kershaw, bunted him over to second. The next two batters, Rafael Furcal and Andre Ethier, walked bring up Casey Blake. Blake hit a sharp ground ball up the middle, ticketed for center field, that hit the side of the mound and took a funny hop toward Juan Uribe. Uribe got to it, but the ball hit off the heel of his glove and rolled away from him, allowing Reed Johnson to score from third. Uribe flipped a desperation throw to second, but it was too late. Television replays concluded that Uribe would have probably recorded the out at first if he fielded it cleanly.

Uribe himself owned up to his error. "Yeah, yeah, it's an error. It's an easy play. It's my fault. If no error, maybe no score." With the big home runs Uribe has hit this season (10 of the 20 have either tied the game or gave the giants the lead), it is easy to forgive him for this one mishap. After all, it was the only run of the game. The offense has to score to win.

The Giants, however, could not do that. The Dodgers' ace, Clayton Kershaw (12-10), was simply fantastic, recording his first career complete game shut out of his career. In his 9 shutout innings pitched, he gave up 4 hits and no walks, constantly pounding the strike zone with strike 1.

The Giants had their best scoring opportunity off Kershaw in the sixth inning. Cody Ross doubled with 2 outs, but Freddy Sanchez hit a ball well to right center right at Matt Kemp. Freddy Sanchez was the only bright spot offensively for the Giants, going 2 for 4 (2 singles). The other hit for the Giants came from a single by Juan Uribe in the fifth.

The bullpen once again was superb, throwing 3 1/3 innings of perfect baseball. The Giants combined for a one hitter, but still lost to the Dodgers 1-0. The Giants will surely want to shrug this one off and get them tomorrow, but it will be awfully tough when this was such a winnable game.

For me, today's game is just one where you have to tip your cap to Clayton Kershaw. He was just a strike-throwing machine no matter what the count was or who was on base. He was able to get both the fastball and off-speed pitches over. 72 out of his 111 were strikes. Simply put, the way Kershaw pitched last night, many good offenses would have struggled against him.

The Giants did put up some good at-bats. Eugenio Velez pinch hit in the sixth and got the count to 3-2, but hit a sharp ground ball into the hole at 3rd that Casey Blake dove for and made the play on. Cody Ross did double later in the inning, so if Velez gets on there, the Giants would have had a good shot to tie the game. I thought Pat Burrell also just missed two home runs in his ABs. Even though he popped out twice, going 0 for 3, he just missed those 2 pop-ups. According to F.P. Santangelo, if Burrell hits those balls a quarter of an inch in a different direction of the bat, those two balls could have cleared the left field wall. Not to mention, Aubrey Huff just missed hitting one a long way in the ninth off Kershaw, but he fouled it straight back. Such is the game of baseball, a game of not just inches, but quarter-inches.

I hope Cody Ross is back hitting lead-off tonight. He is a streaky hitter, and that double might be just the thing to get him going. A few ABs may get him into the flow of things, since it is so hard to get your timing down if you are a regular player who is all of a sudden assigned to pinch hitting duties. He also has good speed and is a better fielder than the alternatives. If Ross doesn't work out, I like Marty Lurie's idea of letting Darren Ford lead off one game and play center field. He can't be any worse than Rowand or Ross if he struggles, and he might even beat out some ground balls to short. Yes, he is that fast.

Meanwhile, on the out of town scoreboard, the Braves lost 4-2 to the Nationals. The Giants could pull to within a half game of the Wild Card lead with a win. On the NL West watch, the Rockies are leading the Padres 9-3 in the 8th inning. If this holds up, the Giants would be just a half-game out in the West as well. Big game tonight.

The Giants lost both one-hitters that they have thrown this season, both at AT&T Park. The last time they lost a one-hitter was on May 13th vs. the San Diego Padres. Jonathan Sanchez was the hard-luck loser in that game, and Mat Latos got the win. Matt Kemp was caught stealing for the 15th time this year in 33 tries. Scott Podsednik missed his fourth straight game and likely is done for the season with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. Before the game, the Giants observed a moment of silence for the victims of the San Bruno explosion. $3 of every ticket purchased that game was donated to the San Bruno relief fund. In total, over $120,000 was raised for the fund. The Giants will face a tough pitcher tonight in Chad Billingsley (11-9, 3.65 ERA). They will counter with Matt Cain (11-10, 3.19 ERA). The Giants have not beat Billingsley this year, so it will be a tough one, but you never know what will happen in the game of baseball.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Not Baseball Related, But Pretty Cool None The Less it out. A girl filled in for the starting kicker on a high school football team and was key in the school's victory. This is really a great story.

On my way to the Giants/Dodgers game tonight. Who will be starting in center field? Rowand? Ross? Velez? We'll find out, and I will be sure to have the complete story after the game!

Giants Break Petco Hex And Take Series With 6-1 Win

I'm back from my trip to San Diego. It was a great series down there, and the Giants (and their fans) really showed up. The highlight of my trip was Sunday's 6-1 victory over the Padres, but meeting Mychael Urban (Giants weekend pre and post-game host, CSN Bay Area Analyst) at a Gas Lamp District restaurant/bar called Dick's Last Resort was awesome. Can you believe that their gimmick is to be rude to their customers and even throw napkins at you? It seems intense, but it's all in good fun. And what can I say about Urban? He bought all his Twitter-followers drinks at his Giants gathering, took the time to chat with me, my cousin, and the two girls we met outside Dick's, and even said he would follow me on twitter and look at my blog (if you're reading Mychael, thanks for an awesome time on Saturday night!). Enough reminiscing about good times. It's time to report on Sunday's game and give a quick recap of the games that I was not able to write about since I was in San Diego.

Before the series began, the Giants were 1-4 at Petco Park. During these games, they looked as if they lacked energy and simply weren't trying. They couldn't do anything right against the Padres. If they had to get a runner in with less than 2 outs, they would find a way to leave him stranded. If they had a runner at first with nobody out, they would find new ways to hit into a double play. If they had a dominate pitching performance from their starter, they would end up having him pitch in vein, but in this series, the Giants were the ones who had everything go their way, even the little things.

Game 1 of the series featured an offensive barrage from the Giants, as they hit 4 home runs en route to a 7-3 victory (see previous blog entry for details). Game 2 of the series was sort of a "taste of your own medicine" game. The Giants beat the Padres at their own game, as they squeaked out a 1-0 win with a strong outing from Jonathan Sanchez, hustle from Juan Uribe and Aubrey Huff, and dominant bullpen pitching, especially from Brian Wilson who recorded a 5 out save. The next game was not so nice to the Giants. Tim Stauffer and the Padres bullpen recorded a shutout against them, as the Padres returned the favor with a 1-0 win of their own. To further the Giants' frustrations that day, the game ended on a strike-em out, throw-em out double play with Darren Ford trying to swipe second and Posey striking out. However, Sunday was a much better day for the Giants, as they beat Mat Latos and the Padres 6-1 behind Tim Lincecum and pulled in to a virtual tie with them.

The scoring in Game 4 began in the very first inning. After the Padres' starter Mat Latos looked rather impressive striking out both Aaron Rowand and Freddy Sanchez to start the game, Huff singled. This set up Buster Posey's 2-run opposite field home run (his 14th), into the jury box in right field, that lit up the Giants' dugout and gave them an important 2-0 lead. The Giants would tack on another run in the third inning. After Huff singled with 1 out, he advanced to third on a hit-and-run single by Buster Posey. The next batter, Jose Guillen, battled Latos and hit a sacrifice fly to right center, scoring Huff and giving the Giants a 3-0 lead.

Tim Lincecum did it all on Sunday. In addition to pitching 7 strong innings, on 7 hits, 1 walk, while giving up 1 run and striking out 9, he was in the middle of the 4th inning rally that blew the game open. After Sandoval reached on a rare lead-off walk, Uribe doubled down the left-field line. Tim Lincecum would then slap a single past Chase Headley down the 3rd base line, scoring both Sandoval and Uribe, giving the Giants a 5-0 lead. All 5 earned runs were scored off the Padres' ace Mat Latos.

The lone run for the Padres came in the 6th inning on a David Eckstein single. This made the score 5-1.

The Giants would score once more in the eighth inning. Pat Burrell singled and was pinch ran for by Cody Ross. Pablo Sandoval then hit a fly ball to center that Luis Durango lined up, but dropped, scoring Ross from first and extending the Giants lead to 6-1.

The Giants' bullpen got the job done. Sergio Romo pitched a perfect eighth. Jeremy Affeldt gave up a couple hits in the ninth, but Brian Wilson was summoned to retire Matt Stairs with 2 on and 2 out. As the Giants faithful (which seemed like at least half of the 33,876 fans in attendance) at Petco Park rose to their feet with a 3-2 count on Stairs, Brian Wilson caught him looking to end the game. Lincecum got the win, his third in a row, improving to 14-9. Latos suffered the loss and fell to 14-6.

With the series win, the Giants moved into a virtual time tie with the Padres. However, technically, the Padres had a slight edge on the Giants by one one-thousandth of a percentage point. Tonight, however, San Diego defeated Colorado 6-4, ending the Rockies' 10 game winning streak and giving them a half-game lead in the National League West. With Atlanta winning as well, the Giants fell to a game and a half back of the National League Wild Card lead.

I have been waiting for this kind of move by the Giants for years. They were finally able to win a big series on the road, which is something they just could not do last year. The four game series where the Rockies hit a walk-off grand slam in extra innings last year comes to mind. Sure, they swept the Rockies in late August to tie them, but that was at home. Whenever they rolled into Dodger Stadium or Coors Field last year, however, they always looked over-matched, especially offensively and just could not compete with these offenses to win those series. If you are going to make the playoffs, you have to hit and win on the road in order to make a statement there, as they did in this 4 game series to the Padres.

It was good to see Tim Lincecum have another good game. I think he has finally turned the corner, and it is because he got his command back. The fastball is now going where he wants it, which makes the change-up look all the more devastating. He even tweaked that slider of his so that it would look more like his fastball instead of a slurvy breaking ball. This more deceptive slider proved effective, as he threw a remarkable game. An at-bat that comes to mind where he effectively showcased his new breaking pitch was Miguel Tejada's 5th inning at-bat where he struck out on that slider.

I didn't do a blog entry on Saturday's game, but I feel like I have to mention Jerry Crawford's awful strike zone from that game. He was calling every pitch off the outside corner strikes against the Giants, especially those cutters that started outside and moved back toward the plate. It was no surprise why the Giants could not score on Saturday. When you have an umpire taking away at-bats by constantly putting you in a two-strike hole, you can't be as selective to wait for your pitch to hit hard as opposed to being ahead in the count 3-1 or 2-1. Basically, the Giants were at the mercy of the Padres' pitching staff that whole game. Padres catcher Yorvit Torrealba took advantage of it by setting his target way off the plate and it worked. The umpire would keep calling those pitches strikes and so went the day for the Giants. I truly believe the strike zone cost the Giants the sweep, and the chance to be 2 full games ahead of the Padres at the conclusion of the 4-game series.

I also have to hand it to the Giants fans for coming out to support their team in San Diego. It really picked the team up, as the players loved the fact that they had so much support on the road. I really think it motivated them to play better, and they showed up for their fans by taking 3/4. On the flipside, I think it was so demoralizing to the Padres to have your home ballpark taken over by the opposing team (like when the Red Sox fans came to AT&T Park). It might have gotten into the Padres' heads a little bit and aided in the Giants' series win. The Giants fans were so salient at the game, I didn't know if I was in San Diego or San Francisco when Brian Wilson faced Matt Stairs with a 3-2 count needing only one strike to win the game for the Giants.

The Giants improved to 5-10 against the Padres this season. Mat Latos snapped his streak of 15 straight starts with two or less earned runs with five innings pitched. Tim Lincecum has won 3 straight starts after losing 5 starts in a row and recorded his 200th strikeout on Sunday. He became the fourth pitcher in Giants history with three or more consecutive seasons of 200-plus K's and the first since Juan Marichal in 1963-1966. The Giants took their first series from the Padres at Petco Park since the last series of the season last year in early October. They have also won 7 of their last 9 on the road, improving to 39-36 on the road as a whole. On August 22, the Giants were 6 behind the Padres and are now just a half game behind them. Lead-off man Andres Torres will be out about two weeks after being diagnosed with appendicitis. Aaron Rowand and Cody Ross will probably share time in Center. It will be very interesting to see how Bochy deals with this because Andres Torres was a key offensive and defensive spark for the Giants.

Tomorrow, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw (11-10, 2.99 ERA) faces Barry Zito (8-12, 4.14 ERA), as the Giants kick-off a six game homestand vs. the Dodgers and Brewers. Look out for the Dodgers. They should be a relaxed team with nothing to lose. This is their World Series and will be playing hard, trying to give misery and play spoiler to the Giants.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Cain Fantastic As Giants Hit 4 Home Runs En Route To 7-3 Victory

Coming in to tonight's game, the Giants were 2-9 against the Padres with 7 (5 of them losses) of those games being determined by 1 run. Tonight, you wouldn't even know it.

This time, it was the Giants' who produced a spectacular pitching performance and played flawless defense. This time, it was the Giants who produced enough offense to win and did the little things right. This time, it was the Giants who won.

The scoring barrage started off Jon Garland in the first inning when Andres Torres lead off the game with a triple to right-center field. The next batter, Freddy Sanchez (3 for 5), singled him home on a ground ball up the middle. The Giants would score again in the third inning on an Aubrey Huff home run into the beach in deep right-center field after Freddy Sanchez singled and stole second, making the score 3-1 at the time. They would tack on another run the very next inning on a long opposite field home run by Juan Uribe into the beach in right-center field. In the fifth inning with 2 out, after Huff doubled, Buster Posey drilled the Giants' third home run into the second deck in left field, giving the Giants a comfortable 6-1 lead at Petco Park. The Giants would score one more time in the 6th on a long home run by Pat Burrell, his 15th as a Giant, that hit the W on the top of the Western Metal Supply Company building located down the left field line. had that home run estimated at 379 ft., so it was no where near the longest home run at Petco Park, but it sure looked like it. The longest homerun in the San Diego ballpark was actually hit by Adrian Gonzales on April 26, 2009, who hit one 458 ft.

On the pitching front, Matt Cain was terrific. He threw 8+ innings, gave up 5 hits, allowed 3 runs, walked 1, and struck out 8. He only made two mistakes. One was the second inning solo home run to right field from Will Venable and second was Ryan Ludwick's 2-run shot to center in the ninth, which made the score 7-3 (and proved to be the final score). On the flipside, Jon Garland was not as great with his line being 5 innings, 8 hits, 6 earned runs, 3 walks, and 2 strikeouts. Garland was the losing pitcher falling to 13-11. Cain got the win and improved to 11-10.

I saw something from Cain tonight that I have not seen in awhile. His velocity was up to 95 mph in the sixth inning, and he showed it in that strikeout to Adrian Gonzales. He was just overmatched by Cain and the Giants tonight, going 0 for 4. If you can contain him, you got a good chance to win, as that's exactly what happened. To illustrate how good Cain was, he even struck out David Eckstein on a 95 mph fastball outside, something almost impossible to do.

The announced crowd at Petco Park was 28,456 tonight, and it seemed like most of them were Giants fans. According to F.P. Santangelo, it was estimated that about 10,000 of those fans were Giants fans. You can clearly hear on the radio and on TV the roar of the crowd on the Buster Posey homerun, not to mention the fans standing up in the background as soon as he hit that ball. Furthermore, when the Padres were down to their last strike, the crowd could be audibly heard just like at AT&T Park when the crowd is anticipating the last out. Man, if you are the home team, that must be a deflating feeling when the opposing team takes over your park. I don't know if it had any effect on the players, but it sure seemed like it did.

It was painful to watch Pablo Sandoval at the plate tonight. He had 4 ABs and grounded out all 4 times, including 2 double play balls. Teams are just throwing sinkers and offspeed pitches down to him, and he is just swinging aggressively at those pitches, grounding them into double plays. My Pablo bashing stops here because of the horrible incident in San Bruno. His mom lives there, the scene of the horrible gas explosion that burned down 52 homes so far. His mom is fine and is in San Jose, but no word yet on the status of the house. I truly hope everybody is ok there and would like to send out my prayers to the residents of San Bruno who were affected by the explosion.

The Giants improved to 3-9 against the Padres this year. They also hit 4 homeruns at Petco for the first time in franchise history. The four homeruns by the Giants also tied a season high. The umpire who blew the call at the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning in the final game of the Mets vs. Giants series, Phil Cuzzi, will be behind the plate on Sunday for the final game of this series. Tomorrow, Jonathon Sanchez (10-8, 3.38 ERA) will face Clayton Richard (12-6, 3.43 ERA). With tonight's win, the Giants are just 1 game back of the Padres in the National League West and are also 1 game back of the Braves for the Wild Card Lead.

This will be my last post until Sunday night (I will try to post quick game summaries/thoughts on Friday and Saturday if i get access to a computer, but it is doubtful). I will be in San Diego Fri-Sun watching the game live (don't want to lug my laptop around on my trip), but I will have audio of my announcing live from Petco. All my audio should be posted on Sunday or Monday once I figure out how to (if anyone knows how to do it here, please comment or send me a message on how to do it). Till then, enjoy the series. Who knows where the Giants will be next time we talk on Sunday!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Giants' Offense Cannot Back Up Zito In 3-1 Loss

On this night in Phoenix, Barry Zito pitched well, but unfortunately, he did not pitch well enough.

Zito (8-12) gave a valiant effort, but it was wasted as the Giants could only muster one run, a first-inning home run that was hooked down the left-field line by Freddy Sanchez. Although the losing pitcher Zito went 6 innings, on 4 hits, gave up 2 runs, while walking 2 and striking out 7 for his first quality start in his last 6, his counterpart Daniel Hudson was just a bit better. His 7 inning effort of 5-hit ball was rewarded with a victory as he improved to 5-1 and lowered his ERA to 1.91 for the year. Although Hudson only struck out 3, he yielded 1 run and 2 walks.

The DBacks began their scoring in the bottom of the second on a lead-off walk to Chris Young (lead-off walks are always a sign of trouble). Zito then walked Adam Laroche, but coaxed a double play off the bat of the next batter Mark Reynolds. With 2 outs and a runner at third, things looked good for Zito until Miguel Montero doubled to deep center, scoring Chris Young from third and tying the game at 1. The Diamondbacks would go on to tack another run in the third on a RBI single by Kelley Johnson after Stephen Drew's leadoff triple. They capped their scoring in the 7th when Stephen Drew drove in Miguel Montero, giving them a 3-1 lead at the time.

The Giants had plenty of chances to score in this one, but just could not capitalize. One that really stands out was the top of the 7th. With 1 out, Pablo Sandoval singled and was pinch ran for by Darren Ford, who stole second while Juan Uribe was at the plate. Uribe hit a swinging bunt that the catcher Montero threw on to first for the out. Cody Ross walked, leaving runners at first and third with 2 outs for Travis Ishikawa, but all he could do was hit a weak ground ball to first, stranding the runners and ending the inning. Hard to disagree with Bochy here. Ishikawa is one of the best pinch hitters in baseball, and with the way Hudson was throwing, I don't think there was a better option for Bochy. Everybody was struggling against the DBacks righty, and I would have much rather seen Burrell against a Diamondbacks reliever where he could do some serious damage. Why Bochy did not pinch hit Burrell for Cody Ross in the ninth is beyond me. Ross just looks uncomfortable at the plate, especially in the clutch (although he did get that big base hit in LA before Uribe's clutch shot). Although he would hit bombs against the Giants as a Marlin, he doesn't seem to have the same magic playing on the Giants' side. Go figure, but baseball can be a funny game.

If you're a Giants fan, I wouldn't be too worried about this loss. It's not so much that the Giants offense was bad, it was more like they were just victim of good pitching. Daniel Hudson was nasty, and he should be given credit for his work tonight. He simply beat Barry Zito and the Giants' offense, rather than the Giants' offense beat themselves. It's not like last year when Doug Davis would somehow spit out gems against the Giants due to their horrible plate approach. Hudson just pitched a very good game and is a good pitcher. His 1.91 ERA backs it up. The Giants still took 2/3 from a team who has been playing well recently (with good up-and-coming pitchers), no matter what their record is. Boy, if the Diamondbacks get a healthy Brandon Webb back, this team will be a force to reckon with in 2011.

The Giants now will gear up for their biggest series of the year. Tomorrow night, Matt Cain (10-10, 3.18 ERA) will take on Jon Garland (13-10, 3.31 ERA) at 7:05. The Giants' recent resurgence was huge because it takes some of the pressure off of the them. If they can just hold their own and at least split, they will have to feel good considering their recent struggles against the Padres. If the Giants were say 4 or 5 out, they would certainly have to sweep, but only being 2 out, a split would suffice. Nevertheless, first place is at stake this series, and the Giants need to put pressure on the Padres.

Arizona RHP Brandon Webb threw between 50 and 60 pitches in a batting cage, and came way feeling good and encouraged. He's coming back from shoulder surgery and hopes to pitch at least once in a game before the season ends. The Giants ended their 4-game winning streak tonight, but are 4-2 on the road trip. The Padres are 9-2 against the Giants.

One more thing. Baseball historian/writer/Giants' weekend post-game host Marty Lurie looked at my blog and gave me feedback via Twitter. Here's what he had to say.

baseballmarty @vintalkingiants Vin read the blog terriifc work good recaps of the team...very colorful site easy to read...good luck..MDL

Hearing positive feedback from him really meant a lot. He is a really knowledgeable baseball man, so praise coming from him is an honor. Those words of encouragement give me all the more reason to write (I just wish I got more comments. I would love to hear everyone's opinion on the team). Maybe this can launch my career covering the Giants.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

He's Back! Lincecum Stellar As Giants Win 6-3

Short post tonight. Long day with the family, but full post coming back tomorrow!

Before tonight's start, nobody knew what to expect when Tim Lincecum took the ball every fifth day. Tonight, Lincecum was able to feed off his last start and put it together to pick up his 13th victory of the year. Although he gave up 3 runs in 6 2/3, he only allowed 5 hits, walked none, and struck out 11. With his second quality start in a row (a small sample size), it's hard to say that Lincecum (13-9) is back, especially for Lincecum's standards, but it definitely was a good sign. To illustrate how awful he was in August, he went 0-5 with 7.82 ERA, but in September, he is off to a good start. The numbers this month look like this: 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA. But the question is, can he continue. We will see Sunday in San Diego.

The Giants' offense showed up tonight. The scoring started in the first with a lead-off double from the struggling Andres Torres. Next batter Freddy Sanchez grounded him over to third. With a runner at third with 1 out, Aubrey Huff went deep for his 23rd home run of the year, making it 2-0 Giants. Buster Posey then promptly ripped a double to deep center and was singled home by Jose Guillen. The Giants took their 3-0 lead into the Fifth, until Freddy Sanchez hit an opposite field homer to right, extending the Giants' lead to 4-0. The scoring for the Giants reached its max the next inning when Posey singled and Pat Burrell crushed a long home run to left, his 14th as a Giant.

For the DBacks, all 3 of their runs were scored against Tim Lincecum. Chris Young hit a 7th inning homer and Tony Abreu tripled in another in the same inning, trimming the score to 6-3. They would not score again.

The bullpen was once again stellar, pitching 2 1/3 innings of shutout one-hit ball, while striking out 1 and walking none. Brian Wilson was supposedly not available tonight (he did warm up in the ninth), so Romo came in to start the ninth, and retired Chris Young on a strikeout. Next batter Adam Laroche singled, but Jeremy Affeldt induced a Miguel Montero double play to end the game and give him his 4th save. Barry Enright took the loss and fell to 6-3.

You don't want to be pessimistic, but with Barry Zito (8-11, 4.18 ERA) pitching tomorrow, it's hard not to be. Zito has a lot to prove after his 4 inning 4 run disaster in Los Angeles. He could be pitching for his spot on the rotation, so let's see what happens. He will be opposed by Daniel Hudson (4-1, 1.99 ERA).

The Giants' scoreless streak ended tonight at 31 2/3 innings. The Diamondbacks/Giants season series record is now at 10-4 in favor of the Giants. Lincecum is 43-3 when the Giants score 3 runs or more for him. Mark Reynolds was out again for the second straight game this series and is doubtful to play tomorrow.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Unlikely Hero Nate The Great Cracks the Case of the Scoreless Game As Giants Win 2-0

Quick post tonight. Got a BBQ with the family.

The Giants, who were held scoreless for 10 of 11 innings tonight, escaped tonight's extra inning affair with a 2-0 thriller thanks to a key 2-out triple by Nate Schierholtz. The winning rally began with 2 outs in the 11th when Aubrey Huff singled off losing pitcher Aaron Heilman (5-7). Next batter Buster Posey, who was robbed of tonight's heroics in the ninth by Gerardo Parra, looped a single to right-center, advancing Huff to third. This set up Schierholtz's booming triple that kept the momentum on the Giants' side as they climbed to within a half game of the San Diego Padres and could be tied for the NL West lead pending on tonight's Dodgers vs. Padres matchup.

Just as last night, the Giants engaged in a pitcher's duel. The Giants' rookie lefty Madison Bumgarner pitched 7.1 strong innings, gave up 5 hits, 0 runs, 1 walk, while striking out 7. Bumgarner's counter-part, Ian Kennedy, matched the Giants' lefty pitch for pitch going 8 innings, on 2 hits, no runs, 2 walks, and 6 strikeouts. Kennedy hit for himself in the bottom of the eighth, hitting a double over the head of the drawn-in Schierholtz, but for some reason did not come back to pitch the ninth. The Giants bullpen was fantastic as well, pitching 3 2/3 innings of hitless baseball, while striking out 7. Santiago Casilla pitched a scoreless 10th inning (struck out the side) and picked up the win (6-2). Aaron Heilmen took the loss (5-7). Brian Wilson came on in the 11th and recorded his 41st save of the year, including a strikeout to Miguel Montero on an inside 97 mph fastball to end the game.

A key moment came in the bottom of the eighth. I thought Bochy really used his bullpen well here and put out the best matchups as possible. After Kennedy doubled to right off Bumgarner, he was advanced to third on a Stephen Drew sac fly to center. Sergio Romo was brought in and faced Ryan Church, who walked (it was more like a pitch around. Not a bad idea with a runner at third and a righty/lefty matchup). Javier Lopez then came on and struck out Kelley Johnson on a nasty sweeping slider. Ramon Ramirez was then brought on to face Chris Young, and he induced a week ground ball to the shortstop Renteria. Knowing Lopez was tough on Lefties, what a great decision by Bochy here. His motion is not easy to pick up by lefties and it showed. Righties, however, that's a different story. Righties hit well against Lopez, and knowing this, Bochy did the right thing by having the serviceable Ramon Ramirez face Chris Young.  I don't know about offense, but Bochy, going back to his San Diego days, sure knows how to handle a pitching staff.

A concern of mine is Andres Torres. Today he just looked overmatched by Ian Kennedy. He did go 1 for 5, but struck out twice. Torres has struck out 4 times in his last 2 games, going 1 for 9. If they are going to score consistently or get to the post-season, they need their igniter to get on base. It is no coincidence that the Giants offense has struggled at the same time Torres has struggled (Giants have only scored 12 runs in their last 4 games).

The Giants improved to 11-7 in extra inning games. They also have not allowed a run in 25 straight innings (the last runs they allowed were the 4 run inning runs to the Dodgers in the 4th inning of Saturday's game). Juan Uribe, Giants shortstop, was out of today's game after fouling a ball off his left shin last night, but hopes to return tomorrow. Arizona Right Fielder Justin Upton (not his brother BJ like had it), was out for his fifth straight game with a strained left shoulder. The Giants have now won 5 straight road games, improving their overall road record to 35-34. Last year the Giants were 36-45 on the road, so they are one game shy of matching last year's total amount of road wins here on September 6th. Tomorrow, the Snakes' Barry Enright (6-2) faces Giants' ace Tim Lincecum (12-9), who hopes to continue his good pitching from his last start vs. the Rockies.

Phillies just won the second game of the double-header 7-4, so the Giants are now just 1.5 out in the Wild Card. The Padres, who lead the Giants by just a half-game as of now, are just getting starting down in San Diego against the Dodgers. A Padres loss means the Giants tie the Padres. I hate to say it, but Go Dodgers!

Hunt For October Update

Good news on the playoff chase front for the Giants. Here are the notable scores.

CIN 4   COL 0 Top 3, this is an Ubaldo Jimenez Start
FLA 7   PHL 1 Btm 9 -- first game of a day-night double header. Even with a loss, the Giants will be no more than 2.5 back in the wild card.
STL 2   MIL 2 Top 7
ATL 1   PIT 3  Top 8
LAD  @ SD - 7:05 start time.

Giants need to capitalize today. It's not too often where you have teams you're competing with (ie SD) constantly lose. Game time in 5 minutes. Go Giants!

Giants' Sanchez, Pen Shut-Out Dodgers 3-0; Move Within 1 Game of San Diego

Even before tonight's game started, the Giants and their fans could taste a tough loss. Jonathon Sanchez, who came into the game with a career record against the Dodgers of 0-5 with a 6.04 ERA in 13 appearances against the Dodgers, took on a pitcher who has been nails against the Giants in his career. The Dodgers' Hiroki Kuroda was 2-1 against San Francisco with a 3.60 ERA in 6 career starts before tonight's game. The Dodgers clearly had the advantage tonight. Even Las Vegas had the Dodgers as heavy favorites. But, like so many times this year, the Giants beat the odds and once again stunned the crowd of 43,758 at Dodger Stadium with an impressive 3-0 victory.

Most of the game was a classic pitcher's duel. Jonathan Sanchez (10-8) began by striking out the first 3/4 hitters he faced. In all, this was arguably one of his best starts of the year (last week's was a gem as well). He went 7 innings, gave up 3 hits, 0 runs, 9 strikeouts, while only walking one (this is the key stat here). Kuroda allowed a run in the 2nd on a sac fly off the bat of Pablo Sandoval after Posey walked, advanced to second on a wild pitch, and was advanced to third on a Jose Guillen single up the middle. He would hold the Giants to the one run until the 7th inning where Juan Uribe carried on his heroics from last night. After a single off the bat of Pablo Sandoval (2 for 3), Uribe launched a long home run, his 19th, down the left field line that barely stayed fair a la Edgar Renteria (from last night). Uribe would later leave the game after appearing to foul a pitch off his left shin. Sergio Romo came into the eighth and pitched a perfect inning while striking out 2. Brian Wilson shut the door in the ninth 1-2-3 for his 40th save, including strikeouts to Ryan Theriot and Andre Ethier (who went 0-4 with 3 Ks).

With San Diego losing its 10th straight by a score of 4-2 against the Rockies, the Giants pulled to within 1 game of the Nation League West Lead. The Phillies were defeated by Milwaukee 5-2 allowing the Giants to pull within 2 of the Wild Card Lead. Atlanta, a team the Giants probably will battle in the wild card (I think the Phillies will leapfrog the Braves in the East), lost to the Marlins 7-6. They are really fading fast. Who would of thought just a week or two ago that the Giants would be closer to the division lead than the wild card? Also, don't count out the Rockies. They are now just 4.5 out of the division. Do they have another September run in them. Curious to know your thoughts. Please comment.

It seemed that tonight at the game, there was a strong showing of Giants fans down in Chavez Ravine. Clapping could be clearly heard on the ESPN telecast whenever the Giants would score or strikeout a Dodger hitter. It's about time Giants fans payback the Dodger fans by taking over their park, as too much Blue was starting to be seen at AT&T Park in recent years. If you were at the game or watched on TV, please comment about the amount of Giants fans down there and if they could be heard. I wish I could have been at UCLA for another month. Last night and tonight's game would have more than made up for all the heartbreaking losses I saw live at Dodger stadium.

For all you guys wondering about Juan Uribe, all indications say that he will be fine. According to Andrew Baggarly's tweet, after fouling a ball off his left shin, Uribe's shin was swollen but he said himself that he should be able to make the start tomorrow. I hope this is the case. His bat is really starting to come alive, and they need his clutch power bat down the stretch. 10 of his 19 home runs have either tied the game or gave the Giants the lead.

Why was Sanchez so successful? The answer was simple. He only gave up one walk and consistently pounded the zone with strike one. He started 18 of the 25 hitters he faced with first pitch strikes (one first pitch was put in play by Reed Johnson), which is a way higher percentage than his season-wide strike one frequency of 52%. If Sanchez can control his first class stuff, you get dominate outings like he showed tonight. To come up big in a rivalry game during the pennant race really showed me something about Sanchez. The Giants scored 3 runs for him, and he really made it stand. Even though the offense has been struggling, most of the starters have picked up the slack (Mr. Zito can perhaps learn a thing or too about being part of a team that picks each other up). This makes me think. If the playoffs started today, and the Giants were in, who would the starting four? Even though Zito has had playoff experience, and even beat Johan Santana in the 2006 ALDS, I would have to say they would have to go with their current best 4 pitchers. Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, and Bumgarner.

One more issue. What is going on with Jose Guillen? This guy was signed to produce much-needed power for this Giants offense. He is hitting .300 as a Giants, but the vast majority of those hits are either ground ball or low line drive singles. In order to justify his lack of speed out in right field, he needs to start hitting with more power or else the Giants would be much better off trotting Cody Ross out there. Could his hurt legs be affecting his hitting power? Also, tonight and last night, he for some reason is not able to turn around fastballs right down the middle at any speed. I will say this. He is starting to move a lot better in right field than the past couple weeks. But, he still is a professional hitter with a good track record, so I am willing to give him just a bit longer leash. I am curious to hear your comments on Guillen and whether or not he should be starting.

The Giants improved to 8-7 against the Dodgers this season. They are also 2-0 on Sunday Night baseball and 12-10 on Sundays. Brian Wilson is 2 saves away from a new career high in saves at 42. Mychael Urban is hosting a gathering for Giants fans traveling to San Diego, which gives me an extra incentive to go down there for a weekend game. Who knows, maybe I can tell him about this blog and have someone that matters read it. Gotta network in this business! Tomorrow, the Giants will take on the Arizona Diamondbacks. Madison Bumgarner (5-4, 3.76 ERA) will take on Ian Kennedy (9-9, 4.20 ERA). Vegas predicts the Giants to win tomorrow, so Giants fans will hope that this holds true. Game time is 1:10PM from the desert. Do not take this game lightly Giants fans. The hardest team to beat in September is often the teams who are out of it. For the Dbacks, this is their World Series. Have a good holiday everyone.

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