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.