Tuesday, April 24, 2012

From the Met to the Mat

Yes, folks, spring has arrived, and with it the dreaded Season of Puns is here in full force. The Giants departed New York last night, having swept a doubleheader and taken three of four from the Mets, and leaving the freezing rain behind.

Tonight Matt Cain carries his 16-inning scoreless streak into Cincinnati's Great American Ballpark, where he and his teammates will face an old friend, Mat Latos, who just two years ago was a Cy Young Award candidate with the Padres.  Remember when the dear departed Jonathan Sanchez lost a pair of 1-0 decisions in 2010, one of them a one-hitter? Latos won both those games. He also went fifteen consecutive starts that year without allowing more than two runs, a most esoteric but still remarkable record that no other pitcher, living or dead, has matched. (And yes, it was our Giants who ended that streak on September 12, 2010, three weeks before clinching the division.) 

Last year Latos struggled, as did his team; his W-L inverted from 14-10 to 9-14 and his ERA bumped up by half a run per game. Off he went in trade for the talented but oft-injured Edinson Volquez, whose "breakthrough" season was four years ago and who hasn't been the same since. From our perspective, the Padres gave up on Latos 'way too soon: he's not yet 25 (Volquez is 29) and he's relatively cheap, though arbitration-eligible after this season. Though he's 0-2 so far in three starts for Cincy, with a 8.22 ERA (come to think of it, those numbers look a lot like Tim Lincecum's going into yesterday's game), we wouldn't be a bit surprised if tonight's "Get Off the Mat(t)" showdown resulted in another fine pitchers' duel.

Notes: Lincecum fanned 8 in five innings yesterday, picking up the win despite allowing 9 baserunners in five frames. Intelligently, Bruce Bochy pulled him after five with a nice lead. Ace pitchers' egos sometimes need to be guarded like the Crown Jewels...  We're sure enjoying Doctor Longball's frequent housecalls to the Giants clubhouse, and we hope he takes up permanent residency...  Another encouraging sign is the way "Boch" continues to shuffle the outfield; Nate Schierholz, in particular, is earning every at-bat he gets...  Speaking of good old "No-Hit" Sanchez, it's been rough sailing so far in KC. He's walked ten in twelve-plus innings (!) over three starts, though he did win his only decision. Even more troubling is the 14 hits allowed over the same span, which translates to a frightening 1.9 WHIP.... And a warm salute to a certain Hall-of-Famer and certified Class Act, Ivan Rodriguez, who officially retired from baseball yesterday at a ceremony held in the Rangers' Ballpark at Arlington, Texas.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Nothing to Nothing

Old joke: Guy makes a date with his girlfriend to go to the ballgame together. She shows up an hour late. He's annoyed, and he grumbles about it all the way to the ballpark. They go in and make their way to their seats. He looks at the scoreboard and gripes, "For Pete's sake, it's already the bottom of the sixth!"  She asks innocently, "Well, what's the score?" He looks again. "Nothing to nothing." Her reply: "So, what are you complaining about? We haven't missed a thing!"

It's doubtful any of us who were not among the 41,000-plus who packed the sold-out 'Bell last night will console ourselves with such a thought. A true pitchers' duel between Matt Cain and Cliff Lee, featuring ten full innings of scoreless ball, ended in Our Boys' favor in the eleventh, when Melky Cabrera singled home Brandon Belt with the game's only run after a critical misplay by Philadelphia's Ty Wigginton allowed Belt to reach scoring position. This, after Philly had opened the top of the frame with a leadoff double and advanced the runner to third with one out. Cain had gotten the first 27 outs; it took three guys to get the last two. But who's complaining?

Cain allowed four hits and one walk in a 91-pitch performance that, given only four strikeouts, was just this side of overpowering. He could have gone a few more innings but Bruce Bochy chose to pinch-hit Hector Sanchez leading off the ninth. Lee, who surrendered seven hits, was in trouble repeatedly but induced no less than four ground-ball double-plays from the Giants; he reminded us of John Tudor and even old Fernando Valenzuela in his ability to get himself off the hook. He went ten, with 81 strikes in 102 pitches, before Charlie Manuel likewise tried to win it with a pinch hitter-- Jim Thome, no less, with that runner on third and one out. Thome has hit 604 fly balls over the fence in his Hall-of-Fame career, but he couldn't hit a sacrifice fly to the outfield in the 11th last night. Chalk up another one for the underrated Javier Lopez.

The Phillies and Giants always seem to elevate each others' game when they meet, and certainly this was the best game yet of the young season. It was also the first true pitcher's duel of the year for the Giants, who are averaging a robust 4.5 runs per game so far. (For those of you scoring at home, that would work out to 729 for the year; they scored 570 in 2011.)

Yet even with all that great pitching, neither Lee nor Cain was around at the end to get a decision, good or otherwise. That's just the way it is today. It inevitably reminds us of perhaps the greatest pitchers' duel of all time: the legendary 16-inning goose-egg fest between Juan Marichal and Warren Spahn at Candlestick Park on July 2, 1963. The inimitable Spahn, the greatest left-hander between Grove and Koufax, struck out two (!) and walked one over his marathon stint; he also managed a double off Marichal, one of 8 hits surrendered by the "Dominican Dandy", who fanned ten. The Giants hit ten fly-ball outs to the center fielder; Milwaukee's best chance to score ended when Willie Mays threw the runner out at the plate in the fourth. The Braves got the leadoff runner on in the 13th but Marichal immediately picked him off; the Giants left 'em loaded in the 14th. In the bottom of the sixteenth, Mays, 0-for-5 on the day, homered to win it. The whole thing took four hours and ten minutes, or about half the length of a nationally-televised Yankees-Red Sox tilt nowadays.

(Our thanks, as always, to the wonderful folks at Retrosheet.org for the above information.) 

Friday, April 6, 2012

No Do-Overs in Baseball

If only we could get some official to declare, "False start, number 55, defense..."

But it ain't gonna happen. That's one down, 161 to go, and "Bum" starting tomorrow. Go Giants!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The San Francisco Giants Open the 2012 Season!

Tim Lincecum, R               Spotlight on two-time CYA winner's pivotal season
Matt Cain, R                     Whew! Giants just signed him through 2017!
Madison Bumgarner, L      Ready to step up as one of game's top lefthanders
Barry Zito, L                     Will Giants release him if he can't cut it?
Brian Wilson, R                 Says elbow feels fine after plenty of rest, exercise
Sergio Romo, R                The middle...
Javier Lopez, L                          ... of the Giants bullpen...
Jeremy Affeldt, L                              .... is as solid a group....
Guillermo Mota, R                                    ... of versatile relief pitchers as... .
Santiago Casilla, R                                                        .... we have ever seen
Clay Hensley, R                Started 29 games for San Diego back in 2006
Danny Otero, R                For some reason, Bochy likes carrying 12 pitchers
Ryan Vogelsong, R (DL)  Expect he'll return in time for home-opening series

Buster Posey, c                All eyes on team MVP returning from serious injury
Pablo Sandoval, 3b          Did yeoman work last year as only offensive threat
Melky Cabrera, rf            Brings good numbers and, at 28, still in his prime
Angel Pagan, cf                Miscast as leadoff man unless OBP improves
Brandon Belt, 1b              Terrific (.378) spring earns him the starting job
Brandon Crawford, ss      At 25, has about 200 at-bats to show he can hit
Aubrey Huff, lf-1b           At 35, has about 200 at-bats to show he can still hit
Emanuel Burriss, 2b         Likely starter while Freddy remains on shelf
Gregor Blanco, of            He deserves a shot in center and leadoff spot
Nate Schierholz, of          Will he ever get chance as full-time starter?
Ryan Theriot, if                Assumes role recently filled by Fontenot, Keppinger
Brett Pill, 1b-of                He's the right-handed bat coming off the bench
Hector Sanchez, c            New to the position, but hey, he can hit
Freddy Sanchez, 2b (DL) They say he'll be ready for action soon... won't he?