Thursday, September 30, 2010

GIANTS     90-68    ...           The issue will be settled this weekend.
San Diego    88-70     2 GB    Earned a chance to win it head-to-head.

Giants defeated Arizona, 3-1, as Tim Lincecum won his 16th game.
San Diego defeated Chicago, 3-0, to stay alive until at least Friday night.

Giants finish up with Arizona; a daytime start (12:45 PDT, 3:45 EDT). Madison Bumgarner faces Barry Enright.
San Diego likewise conclude the Chicago series with a twilight game; then they'll fly up the Coast.

Last Night's Game
Tim  Lincecum surrendered a home run to Stephen Drew on his second pitch of the game, but that was all he allowed. Striking out 11 over 7 innings, Lincecum got the support he needed in the fourth when Pat Burrell launched his 20th homer after a single by Aubrey Huff and a walk to Buster Posey. Javier Lopez handled the eighth, and Brian Wilson earned his 47th save despite allowing the tying run to reach base in the ninth.

Lincecum was not pitching on three days' rest, as we stated before yesterday's game. We forgot about Monday's off-day when reviewing the rotation switch. Lincecum was on his normal four-day pattern; meanwhile Bumgarner tonight will be going on two extra days' rest, which he probably appreciates even if he won't admit it.   

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

GIANTS     89-68    ...           Magic number: 4.
San Diego    87-70     2 GB    Also trail by 1.5 in wild-card race.

Giants defeated Arizona, 4-2.
San Diego lost to Chicago, 5-2.
Colorado lost to LA, 9-7, and were eliminated from contention. They are still alive-- barely-- for the wild-card.

Giants host Arizona, 7:15 PDT (10:15 EDT) at the 'Bell. Tim Lincecum starts on three days' rest. Bruce Bochy is lining up his rotation for the season finale, a possible one-game division playoff, and even the first game of the division series next week. Ian Kennedy opposes.
San Diego hosts Chicago again.

Last Night's Game
Nate Schierholz' pinch-hit single in the sixth broke a 2-2 tie and made a winner out of Jonathan Sanchez, who survived some early wildness and a 2-0 deficit to win his 12th game. Ramon Ramirez pitched a scoreless seventh, and Pat Burrell's RBI single in the bottom of the frame provided some breathing room. After the inevitable righty/lefty two-step in the eighth saw the Diamondbacks put two men on with one out, Brian Wilson was summoned to close it with a five-out save, his 46th. And, with the news from San Diego displayed on the board for all to see, the Giants took a Giant step toward their first division pennant since 2003.

Madison Bumgarner will now start tomorrow (Thursday), getting an extra day of rest. "Boch" clearly has faith in both Lincecum and the bullpen, as Timmy may only go five or six tonight. But if the gambit works, Lincecum would be available to start either Sunday in the finale, or next Monday in the event a 163rd game is required. And he'd have an extra day of rest otherwise before the real playoffs begin...  It's not too early to talk about a playoff rotation. Consider the possibility of Zito as the swingman, with Lincecum, Cain, and Sanchez, in that order, as the Big Three... Pablo Sandoval went 2-for-3 last night with a walk (!) and scored the go-ahead run on Schierholz' single... Cincinnati has clinched the NL Central.   

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

GIANTS      88-68    ...          Magic number: 6.
San Diego    87-69     1 GB    Need a great game from ace Latos.   
Colorado     83-73     5 GB    Could be eliminated tonight.

Giants were idle.
San Diego lost to Chicago, 1-0.
Colorado lost to LA, 3-1.

Giants host Arizona; 7:15 at the 'Bell. Jonathan Sanchez faces Rodrigo (7-14, 5.04) Lopez.
San Diego goes with their best, Mat Latos, against Chicago tonight.
Colorado hosts LA. The Rockies are in desperate trouble now.

The Final Final
It'll be Sanchez, Bumgarner, and Lincecum against Arizona, followed by Zito, Cain, and Sanchez again for the San Diego series. That is, unless the Giants manage to clinch a little early. Tonight's opponent, Lopez, has started three games against the Giants this year, with a loss and two no-decisions. He pitched best in the game he lost, but Matt Cain pitched a lot better. Sanchez has been excellent in his two starts against the Diamondbacks, as has Bumgarner. Lincecum is 1-1 in four starts, but his best outing against them came just three weeks ago.  Overall the Giants are 10-5 against Arizona.

Looking ahead (if we dare), the earliest the Giants could clinch this thing would be Thursday night, if they sweep the Diamondbacks and Chicago sweeps San Diego. That is extremely unlikely. If the status quo maintains, the Padres would hit town Friday  with a chance to force a tie by taking two of three, and to win it outright with a sweep.  It appears they'll have Latos ready for Saturday's middle game, with Cain opposing. We'll keep our eye on the ESPN schedule, because this is likely to be the only meaningful action of the season's final weekend. Everything else has been decided, except for some of the playoff positioning.  

Carlos Zambrano did his best to beat the Giants a week ago, and he did the same to San Diego last night, but this time he got the win... Philadelphia just clinched the NL East, and Atlanta moved ahead in the wild-card race... St Louis won last night to stave off elimination for another day... The Texas Rangers, who have never won a postseason series, will most likely oppose the AL East winner in the opening round... For the first time since 2007, Tim Lincecum does not lead the major leagues in strikeouts. He trails the leader, Anaheim's Jared Weaver, by only nine, though... Pat Burrell has 17 homers in only 268 at-bats, a rate of one per 15 AB or so... Albert Pujols leads the league in runs, RBI, and homers, but Carlos Gonzalez leads in total bases and slugging... Philly's Jayson Werth has 45 doubles... Brian Wilson's 45 saves lead all of baseball.     

Monday, September 27, 2010

GIANTS      88-68    ...           Cain's gem puts us in driver's seat.
San Diego    87-68     .5 GB    Can still claim share of lead tonight.   
Colorado     83-72    4.5 GB    Figure they need to 'run the table'.

Giants defeated Colorado, 4-2, as Matt Cain pitched a complete game for his 13th win.
San Diego lost to Cincinnati, 12-2.

Giants have the day off.  They return home to finish out the season.
San Diego hosts Chicago in the first of four. The Cubs have been relishing their 'spoiler' role     and playing well since Mike Quade took over for Lou Piniella as manager.
Colorado opens their final home series tonight, against LA.

Yesterday's Game

Matt Cain took a no-hitter into the eighth inning, pitching probably the greatest game of his six-year career in the heat of a pennant race on the road in a notorious hitters' park. Freddy Sanchez'first-inning two-run homer had gotten the Giants off to a good start, and Cain held a 4-0 lead as he went after a place in the history books. Then Jay Payton beat out an infield grounder up the middle to break it up, and Cain, momentarily, appeared to falter. One out later, Melvin Mora broke up the shutout-- and suddenly made it a close game-- with a two-run homer. But the real Matt Cain-- and the evidence of Bruce Bochy's faith in the young ace-- showed up for the ninth.Determined to finish it right, Cain allowed a one-out single to the hyper-dangerous Carlos     Gonzalez, and faced Saturday's hero Troy Tulowitzki, suddenly representing the tying run. Cain got him on a harmless popup, then struck out the veteran slugger Jason Giambi on an     audaciously nasty breaking ball that might have escaped a butterfly net. His 13th win, and the     Giants' 88th, put a resounding finish to this critical road trip, the second September road trip in which the Giants have not only survived, but thrived.