Thursday, June 28, 2012

America: Dark days ahead

Off topic, yes. Tragic, yes. Struggle for equanimity, we shall.

How Sweet It Is!

Sure, it's one game, one series, in June, and all that. After 47 years following this game and this team, we're well aware that these moments can be fleeting. But, for Pete's sake, let's just forget that we're a bunch of naturally grumpy Giants fans for a minute here, and let's enjoy all the marvelous events that came spilling out of the 'Bell yesterday like an early visit from Santa Claus.

How about Tim Lincecum regaining his form at the most opportune time, given a chance to lead his team into a tie for first if only if only if only he'd just for once this season actually pitch like, well, like "Tim Lincecum." I mean, pleeeeeeeeeeeeeease, just once? And responding with seven strong innings of four-hit shutout ball, never once succumbing to the "One Bad Inning" syndrome that's been his undoing all year. Who remembers a start he made on September 2, 2010, against the red-hot Colorado Rockies, in which after a nightmare August Lincecum turned his, and his team's, season around?  Not saying this is like that, but not saying it isn't, either. We all know what this guy has, deep down inside, and with Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong having pitched shutouts before him, now he's reminded everyone else.

While we're at it, how about Lincecum blocking the plate against his opposite number, Chad Billingsley, in the third? He looked like Gumby in uniform trying to slow down a runaway truck, yet he held his ground, took the hit, and made the tag!  (What a guy won't do to protect his ERA, huh?)  And with Billingsley having stung him for a double and nearly scored, Lincecum went out in the bottom of the frame, drilled a base hit, advanced to second, and came around to score himself! Take that, ya big lug! And two batters later, Billngsley, thoroughly out of character, actually walked in a run. Whoa, Nellie!

How about sweeping three straight from the Dodgers, which would be sweet even if we were 0-159, and doing so with three bang-bang-bang shutouts? Sure, the Bums are dinged up, missing a few key ingredients in their lineup and all-- hey, we know all about it, we went through it just a year ago. With any luck, baseball's greatest rivalry-- yes, that includes you Yankee and Red Sox people-- will simmer all season long just like the old days. Twelve games remain betweem the two, six of them at the 'Bell-- including three in September-- with the last three games of the season at Dodger Stadium in October.
And thankfully, good old Chris Haft at the Giants' website went ahead and let us know that the Giants hadn't swept a three-game series with three straight shutouts since-- good golly, Miss Molly-- since April 1954, when they were still the New York Giants. (Saved us from having to leaf through heaven-only-knows how many dusty cobwebbed sheets of IBM green-bar paper, or from spending half an hour on retrosheet, whichever makes for the better story.) Another San Francisco first, and that makes it historic (but not "historical", as the grammatically-challenged headline writer at would have you believe). It's also the first time in the franchise's 129-year history that they've treated the Dodgers with such glorious asperity.  We had a feeling that three-game shutout sweeps are rare for any team at any time, and we're glad to be proven right for once 

The Giants were seven and one-half games back exactly one month ago today. Now they're tied for first. Don't worry; be happy!

Friday, June 22, 2012

We're Praisin' Cain

Out here in Blog-O-Land, we neither need, respect, nor meet deadlines. So, with Matt Cain having pitched the 22nd perfect game in Major League history back on June 13, here we are now to update you with what you already know and have known for a week already. 

Actually, we're here to take a look at a remarkable seven-year run of events, from the day that twenty-year-old former high-school superstud Matt Cain joined the Giants until now, when, at 26, this outstanding young pitcher is finally getting his due. That it took pitching's most notable achievement to vault him to this status may be because he's been overshadowed by Tim Lincecum for the past four years, or because he's been typecast as a "workhorse" pitcher, or because he has yet to throw a single inning in the All-Star Game despite being selected twice, or perhaps because he hasn't a gaudy won-lost record to go along with his excellent efforts. We don't know. Certainly his brilliant performances in the 2010 postseason helped raise his visibility, but up until now most of the accolades have come from fellow ballplayers, not from the media. We've been saying "This could be the year" for Matt Cain each of the last few season openers; perhaps 2012 is, in fact, The Year.

Cain was called up in 2005 to replace Kirk Rueter, if you'll remember, when it became clear the veteran southpaw no longer had the stuff to remain in the rotation. Since then he's rarely missed a start. And so, with everything that can be said about that perfect game pretty much already said, herewith we offer a smorgasbord of reaction, commentary, and general verbiage regarding the Giants' 2012 ace, from Day One up until the present. Enjoy, and remember (good gravy, did Cain really lose 16 games in 2007?)...

Cain looks good but loses in big-league debut... Rookie Cain superb as Jints gain a game... Cain's complete-game two-hit masterpiece...

Cain gets through the lineup... once... Red-hot Phillies tee off on Cain... Cain continues his MLB education... Cain's brilliant one-hit shutout... Cain fans 10, just misses no-hitter... Bullpen betrays Cain's 11-K effort... Befuddled bullpen betrays Cain...  Cain superb as SF closes gap... Cain sharp, but Giants can't hit... Cain impressive again with 12 K's... Cain takes his lumps early... Cain, Giants complete the sweep... Cain superb as Giants roll along... Cain sharp as Bonds hits 728th... Cain's amazing run continues... Cain brilliant again with 2-hit shutout... "Curse of Coors" catches Cain...

Bonds belts 735th ; bullpen betrays Cain... Cain throws a one-hitter-- and still loses... Cain sharp-- again; bullpen croaks-- again... Cain superb as Bonds hits No. 740... Jints battle in vain as Phils clobber Cain... Beleaguered bullpen betrays Cain... Cursed Cain unsupported again...  Yet another Cain quality start wasted... Cain sharp but Giants fall in regulation...  Cain basks in glow of Lewis' second 'slam... Same old story as Cain falls to 3-10... Cain's gem squandered in ten... Bonds hits 757th (and Cain hits 1st!)... Cain belts another homer, and wins again... Cain fans eight, wins third straight... Cain allows one hit-- and loses again... Cain unsupported again in 16th loss...

Shades of '07-- bullpen betrays Cain... Cain torched in forgettable home opener... Bullpen betrays Cain again, SF falls in ten... Cain spared loss with rallies in 9th, 13th... Cain, three relievers combine for win... Cain cruises after three-run first... Winn, Cain lead the 4-game sweep... Cain fans 11 but once again gets no help... Cain perseveres and so do Jints... Cain dominates the NL's hottest team... Bullpen betrays Cain's fine effort... Wheels fall off after Cain departs... Cain brilliant; SF sweeps season series 7-0... Same old story: Cain gets no help... Cain pitches well and is rewarded... Cain contiinues mastery of Braves... Cain drops 10th in familiar fashion...

Cain dominates behind Molina's 4 RBI... Renteria's grand slam stakes Cain... Cain falters but Giants can't hit anyway... Cain labors, prevails, avoids sweep... Cain (5-1, 2.40) on track for a great season?... Cain cruises to a soggy seventh win... Cain's complete-game nine-K four-hitter... Cain sharp but Giants fall in 10... Cain hit in right arm by a line drive!... Cain outduels fellow All-Star Duke... Cain wins 12th as Giants tie for wild-card... Cain dominates, but SF needs 10 to win... Cain wins 13th as Giants keep pace...

Cain claims first win with one-hit masterpiece... Cain superb as Giants sweep a road series... Cain all too familiar with 1-0 losses... Cain's brilliant complete-game one-hit shutout... Cain, Rowand, Sandoval save series... Will this be Cain's Cy Young season?... Cain near-perfect as Giants gain a game... Cain pitches, Renteria hits, Giants sweep!... Cain outduels Billingsley, Giants move up... Cain, Posey, Wilson overcome Cubs, Wrigley, rain... Cain's gem lifts Giants back into lead... Matt Cain will take the hill for the Giants against Phillies' lefthander Cole Hamels... Matt Cain pitched seven brilliant, two-hit shutout innings, completely neutralizing one of the most powerful lineups in baseball...  Cain, absolutely impassive and controlled throughout, walked three and struck out five with his 119 pitches... Cain has allowed exactly one run, unearned, in his two postseason starts... Matt Cain, the latest "Mister October," continued his brilliant postseason run with seven and two-thirds innings of shutout, four-hit ball... Cain now has pitched 20 and 2/3 innings in three postseason starts without surrendering an earned run, and he's inching his way into Christy Mathewson territory with this streak...

Cain sharp, Giants sweep, tie for first... Cain's complete-game 11-K five-hitter... Jints drop fourth straight despite Cain's effort... Cain's gem rewarded by a most timely balk... All-Star Cain takes fifth loss of season... Old story: Cain's three-hitter not enough... Cain brilliant, bullpen shaky, sweep prevented...

Cain opens 'Bell with near-perfect one-hit shutout... Cain tames tormentors with arm, bat... Cain emulates Mathewson in 1912 uniform... MATT CAIN'S HISTORIC PERFECT GAME!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Throbbing Thursday

The title of this screed will make no sense unless the phrase, "102.3, Bethesda, Maryland," somehow resonates in your memory.

And so much for that. We were greeted with the following image when we visited the Giants' website this morning, and while it may not replace "The Riverdance" any time soon, we were rather, uh, taken with it:

Anybody wants to come up with a name for this thing, we'll see if we can start a new craze.

Meanwhile, Madison Bumgarner got a cheap win last night, thanks in part to a couple of timely hits by the dancin' fools up there, but mostly thanks to some truly appalling defense by the Padres. No less than four runs scored on a series of miscues, and while second baseman Logan Forsythe's two-run error in the sixth effectively decided the outcome, when was the last time you saw a team score runs on both a passed ball and a wild pitch?

All this allowed "Bum" to win his seventh game of the season. In twelve starts the young lefty has only one no-decision (contrast with teammate Ryan Vogelsong, who has four in ten starts), and if he continues on pace and starts 34 games, he'd win 21 of those. You usually need some cheap wins to get there, and Bumgarner, who had plenty of tough losses a year ago, was averaging a Game Score of 65 in his six wins prior to last night, so this was a good example of even-up, or "karma" if you're one of those who believe in same.

Yes, we said  "usually." In his 18-win season of 2008, Tim Lincecum did it the hard way: not one cheap win, lowest winning Game Score 52. The more we review that Cy Young season (remember, the team went 72-90), the more amazing it becomes. Great pitchers adjust when the league figures them out; perhaps this is the year we find out whether Lincecum is, truly, great. His last two starts offer a modest measure of hope.

And in the wacky world of baseball scoring decisions based on tradition that no one can explain without a bellyful of alcohol, we note that only two, not four, of the Giants' error-gifted runs last night were unearned. That's because runs scoring on wild pitches counts as earned. Sure, we understand the basic intent: the wild pitch is the pitcher's fault, and should hurt him where it counts-- right in the old, uh, ERA. And Clayton Richard's wild pitch was indeed his own doing. But we remember an afternoon during the last days of Candlestick when Shawn Estes pitched a gem of a game, leaving with two out and a runner on third. Robb Nen came in,  promptly wild-pitched the runner home, and Estes was charged with an earned run. If you can explain that one to us sober, well--  well, we'll give you a ride home.

(Credit to the San Francisco Giants website for the above image.)

Sunday, June 3, 2012



Well, it's the  best we could do on short notice. And it's not like we're suggesting Matty 2012 will go on to win 363 games and make the Hall of Fame, as did Matty 1912.  But yesterday's "Turn Back the Century" game, replete with block-lettered black-and-white scoreboard as well as classic uniforms (though to be truly authentic, they needed to remove the numbers from the backs, too) did bring out a classic 2-1 pitchers' duel between the Giants and the Cubs, the early 20th century's great National league rivals.  As fans of baseball history as well as baseball, we couldn't help but get a little caught up in this.

Credits go to the San Francisco Giants organization and to Arthur K. Miller and "The Art of the Game" for the above images.