Friday, September 30, 2016

New York 85 74 - 2 of 3 in Philly should do it.
GIANTS 84 75 - A lot of hustle on display.
St Louis 83 76 1 Controversial walk-off win.

Giants defeated Colorado, 7-2, to take the series.
New York was idle.
St Louis defeated Cincinnati, 4-3, scoring the winning run in the bottom of the ninth on a play that might have been overturned by instant replay.  

Giants open the season's final series against LA at the 'Bell. Lefthanders Madison Bumgarner and Rich Hill square off at 7:15 local time (10:15 EDT).
New York opens a three-game set at Philadelphia.
St Louis hosts Pittsburgh in the first of three at Busch Stadium.

Last Night's Game
You get Johnny Cueto early, or you don't get him at all. The Rockies did their level best in the first inning as Cueto, perhaps a bit tentative with his motion after the recent groin pull, allowed three hits and two runs mixed in with three strikeouts. But that was all they got as Cueto rolled through seven; by the time he left the game he was positively dealin', and the old hesitation, side-step, and paddlewheeler moves were back. He won his 18th game with 11 strikeouts and just one walk, though he was dinged for nine hits, most of them early in the game. And Cueto's all-around skills were on display in the sixth as the Giants scored three of the biggest runs they may earn all season. They'd tied it at 2-2 in  the fourth when Buster Posey opened with a walk and Hunter Pence with a double; Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik drove them in. In the sixth, Crawford lined an infield single off pitcher Jon Gray's shin; Gray's quick recovery was marred by a wild throw to first and Crawford took the extra base. Angel Pagan caught third baseman Nolan Arenado flat-footed with a bunt single, Crawford taking third. Panik tapped one toward first: Geraldo Parra thought he'd trapped Crawford off third and threw to the bag, but Arenado's tag was late (and confirmed so by replay). Bases loaded and Conor Gillaspie broke the tie with the inning's first out, a fly ball to deep left. First and second and Cueto rolled an absolutely perfect bunt past the lunging Gray; Arenado had broken for third but now recovered and made a quick pickup, but his inning-from-hell continued when he threw hastily and wildly past first. Both Pagan and Panik came all the way around to score. It was 5-2 and the entire Giants bench, from Pence to Giant-for-a-week Gordon Beckham, was jumping in jubilation. And for once the Giants' bullpen contrasted favorably with their opponents'. Three walks plus a hit batsman resulted in two more Giants runs in the eighth, and the lead was capably handled by Derek  Law, Javier Lopez, Hunter Strickland, and Sergio Romo.

Yadier Molina lined a one-hop double off the fence in left field at Busch Stadium last night, Matt Carpenter came around to score the winning run, and the St Louis Cardinals burst exuberantly onto the field, hollering and celebrating as if they'd won the pennant. The umpiring crew clustered together, lingered around the field for a time, then strolled off unhurriedly toward their clubhouse. On "MLB Tonight," commentators were already pointing out that the recessed set of billboards off which Molina's drive had caromed were out of play and that the drive should have been ruled a ground-rule double, forcing Carpenter to hold third. A subsequent tweet from the umpiring crew confirmed it; they'd missed it on the field but seen it on replays. Since Reds manager Bryan Price made no appeal, the point was moot and the run, and the win, will stand. At the time, the Giants were trailing Colorado 2-0 and Harold Reynolds, among others, waxed most eloquent about how this all might cost San Francisco their place in the wild-card standings. Fortunately, the Giants obviated any controversy by winning their game. Reynolds had a point, though, regarding the umpiring crew. It's easy to ask how "four guys could miss something like that," but in truth only one guy missed it-- the third-base umpire. Having umpired ourselves in the past, we can confirm that the first-base umpire was trailing Molina to and past first, the second-base umpire was trailing Carpenter as he rounded second and headed for third, and the home-plate umpire was getting in position for a play at the plate as well as ready to break for third if Carpenter slowed and/or the throw went there instead. Only the third-base umpire was expected to monitor the path of the ball as it went out to left field, and he just missed the call. It's a tricky one, in any case; the recessed wall sits atop the main wall, perhaps six feet back, leaving a ledge atop the main wall. We would suggest the Cardinals amend the ground rule to keep balls like Molina's in play, while dead-balling any ball that comes to rest atop the ledge or rolls along it.  

The Wild, Wild Card
We can expect the LA Dodgers to do their level best to sweep the Giants and knock them out of the wild-card race. While Dave Roberts is unlikely to make "playoff-level" moves to win these games, there's no chance the Dodgers will coast, rest key players, or otherwise ease up. They have a chance to win home-field advantage in the division series from Washington by winning here, and they want it. Rich Hill, Clayton Kershaw, and Kenta Maeda are a formidable one-two-three punch by themselves, though it's likely Roberts will limit their pitch totals a little more than he would in, say, June-- or October.  Mum's the word on the Giants' Saturday starter, although starting rookie Ty Blach would force the Dodgers to face three lefthanders in a row-- and left-handed pitching has been a problem for them this year. Matt Moore has not been officially listed as Sunday's starter, but we can't see who else Bruce Bochy would choose. From LA's point of view, it'll probably take a sweep, which none of us here want to even think about, to catch Washington. The Nats are still two games ahead of LA in won-loss record, though they do face the troublesome Miami Marlins this weekend. 

The Cardinals have the excellent Carlos Martinez (tonight) and venerable Adam Wainwright (Sunday) going this weekend. Our old friend Ryan Vogelsong is slated to start against Wainwright for the Pirates on Sunday. We want him to win, sure-- but let's just hope we don't need him to win... The Mets, meanwhile, have the ageless and shapeless Bartolo Colon on Saturday and "Thor" himself, Noah Syndergaard, in Sunday's finale. Tonight is rookie Robert Gsellman and his one month of major-league experience. Don't count him out; if any team can match the Giants for developing outstanding young starting pitchers, it's the New York Mets... Over in the American League it's really wild: Baltimore blew everything up by beating Toronto two in a row. Not only are the O's and Jays now tied for the wild-card lead, but this development keeps Detroit and Seattle, who've both also gained two games the past two days, in the hunt. The Tigers wrap up with an interleague series at the NL's worst team, Atlanta; both Jordan Zimmermann and Justin Verlander are scheduled to pitch this weekend. What's really strange is that Detroit has played one less game than their competitors, so there is a tentative game between the Tigers and Indians penciled in for Monday back in Detroit, if it proves necessary... Seattle, meanwhile, opened their concluding four-game set against the Oakland A's with a win last night. They are two games out and need help from everyone... Baltimore will try to keep the momentum rolling at Yankee Stadium this weekend. It's already playoff time for the Birds and they haven't announced starters for Saturday or Sunday yet... Toronto, meanwhile, had to have been hoping things would be sewed up nice 'n' neat before this season-ending series at Fenway Park. The Sox have Rick (22-4) Porcello and David (17-9) Price awaiting; the Jays have yet to show their cards.

On The Record
Each Giants starting pitcher recorded double-digit strikeout totals in the series against the Rockies as Matt Moore, Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto totaled 11 apiece on Tuesday through Thursday. According to Stats, it's just the second time since 1913 that Giants starters recorded 10-plus strikeouts in three consecutive games. The only other time this happened was Aug. 24-27, 1975, when Ed Halicki (10 strikeouts against the Mets in a no-hitter), Pete Falcone (12 strikeouts against Montreal) and John Montefusco (14 strikeouts against Montreal) accomplished the feat.
--From the Giants' website at

For all of you-- well, okay, both of you-- who remember the 1975 Giants, this will bring back some memories.  "The Count" was a rookie in 1975 and also the best pitcher on an underrated staff that included Jim Barr, Mike Caldwell, and Gary Lavelle. Montefusco, Halicki, and Falcone were all rookies that year, and pitching was the reason the club improved by 8 games over the dreadful 1974 edition. Winning 31 games his first two seasons at the 'Stick, "The Count" was briefly a local celebrity; by the time he left after the 1980 campaign he was the "punch" line of a not-very-funny joke. The 6'-7" Halicki, after pitching Frisco's first no-hitter since Gaylord Perry in 1968, succumbed to arm troubles by 1979 and was done before his 30th birthday. Oddest story of all is Falcone's. Here's a 21-year-old lefthander, winning 12 games (for a team that was outscored and finished 80-81) and posting a 4.17 ERA (league average 3.62). Yes, he walked 111 men in 190 innings-- but remember, this is a 21-year-old kid making 32 starts in the major leagues. He was traded that winter to the St Louis Cardinals for Ken Reitz, one of the stupidest trades we've ever seen. Falcone had a better season in 1976 for the Cards, though a worse W-L record. After that arm troubles set in and in 1979 he was dealt to his hometown team, the Mets, certainly the worst team in baseball at the time. He got his game back in New York, alternating between starting and relieving, then was traded to the Atlanta Braves, who had taken over from the Mets as the league's worst team. One good season, one bad season, and he was done at age 30. He never completely got over the wildness, and there's no guarantee he would have become a star in San Francisco-- but who in tarnation trades a 21-year-old lefty with electric stuff for anything less than a bonafide All-Star? Now we can see why 1975, with an 80-81 record, was one of the Giants' better seasons in that dreary decade.  

Thursday, September 29, 2016

New York 85 74 - Citi Field likely to host playoff.
GIANTS 83 75 - 12 yesterday, none today.
St Louis 82 76 1 Again can't take advantage.

Giants lost to Colorado, 2-0.
New York defeated Miami, 5-2.
St Louis lost to Cincinnati, 2-1.

Giants finish up with Colorado; 7:15 PDT (10:15 EDT) at the 'Bell. Johnny Cueto, after eight days of rest, will test his sore groin on the mound with an eye toward a possible playoff start in New York next week. Jon Gray opposes; he pitched very well against the Giants, and against Cueto, back in May in a game that was decided in 13 innings. 
New York is idle. They'll finish the season in Philadelphia.
St Louis finishes up with Cincinnati.

Last Night's Game
From soup to nuts, from 12 runs on 19 hits to no runs on five hits. That's the way it goes, and has been going, for the Giants lately. Jeff Samardzija struck out 11 over six-plus innings, and the "Shark" deserved better than his 11th loss, the latest in what seems like a long string of tough losses and no-decisions. Tyler Chatwood was too good, allowing just three hits through eight. The Giants managed to get the tying run on in the ninth after Kelby (Who Else) Tomlinson led off with a double, but Buster Posey grounded out to end it. 

The New Cain?
It does seem as though Samardzija has suffered an inordinate number of starts with less-than-stellar run support. You'll remember this was a year-in year-out issue for Matt Cain in seasons past, when his won-lost record rarely measured up to his excellent ERA, WHIP, and K/W ratio.  Just looking at the three frontline starters this year, we see the Giants have averaged 4.7 runs per start for Madison Bumgarner, 4.8 for Johnny Cueto... and 3.7 for Samardzija, a full run less. Overall the Giants have scored 689 runs in 158 games, an average of 4.4 per game, so "Shark" gets about 15% fewer runs than the team average, and 20% fewer than the other starters. What this means in the context of his 12-11 record is less easy to figure, but there it is. First impressions are sometimes correct.

Madison Bumgarner will open the LA series tomorrow night, and Matt Moore is likely to close it out Sunday. Who starts for the Giants on Saturday is anyone's guess... If the Giants fend off St Louis and make it as the second NL wild-card, Bumgarner could start against the Mets if the NL playoff is pushed back to next Wednesday... A Tuesday game would mean either Cueto or "Shark"...  There has been loose talk about the Giants going with a post-season rotation of "Bum," Cueto, and Moore, with Samardzija as the closer. Farfetched as that seems, it will be interesting to see which relievers make the post-season roster and which don't... Boston clinched the AL East yesterday, while Toronto, Baltimore, Detroit, and Seattle are all within a couple games of each other for the wild-cards...  With the Washington Nationals clinching the NL East pennant, good ol' Dusty Baker becomes the fourth man in the history of the game to manage four different teams in the post-season. Since you asked, the others are Billy Martin (1969 Twins, 1972 Tigers, 1976-1977 Yankees, 1981 A's), Dick Williams (1967 Red Sox, 1971-1973 A's, 1981 Expos, 1984 Padres), and Dave Johnson (1986, 1988 Mets, 1995 Reds, 1996-1997 Orioles, 2012 Nationals). Williams is the only one in that group who led more than one of his clubs to the World Series. Dusty (1997, 2000, 2002 Giants, 2003 Cubs, 2010, 2012, 2013 Reds, 2016 Nationals) could be the second.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

  W L GB
New York 84 74 - Just eliminated Miami.
GIANTS 83 74 - Like Mets, scored 12 runs.
St Louis 82 75 1 Like Giants and Mets, scored 12.

Giants pounded Colorado, 12-3.
New York routed Miami, 12-1.
St Louis crushed Cincinnati, 12-5.

Giants host Colorado; 7:15 local time (10:15 EDT) at the 'Bell. Jeff Samardzija gets the call.
New York is at Miami.
St Louis is home against Cincinnati.

Last Night's Game
It's easy when everyone hits, as Mike Moore will surely attest. The up-and-down lefty was way, way up as he struck out 11 over eight innings and departed with a 7-1 lead. The Giants added five runs in the eighth to get into double digits, but for once the game was settled well before then. Buster Posey and Hunter Pence launched back-to-back home runs in the fifth; Posey's blast was his 1000th career hit. Brandon Crawford hit one of his two (!) triples in that inning, which had opened with back-to-back doubles from Denard Span and Brandon Belt. The finally tally saw Belt 3-for-5 and Crawford 4-for-5, each with two runs scored; Pence totaled three hits, two runs, two RBI; Angel Pagan, Joe Panik and Conor Gillaspie, starting at third, each had two hits including Gillaspie's sixth home run. All told, it was 19 hits with seven starters getting two, and six starters both scoring and driving in runs. Needless to say, we need more days like this!

Congratulations to Brandon Crawford, who in addition to leading the team with 82 RBI, is the only player in the major leagues to reach double figures in doubles, triples, and home runs!   

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Arnold Palmer 1929-2016

"Ah, good, says Palmer. Are the TV cameras in focus? Swell. Flick the cigarette. Hitch the pants. And there goes a sixty-foot chip, uphill, downhill, and in for a birdie deuce. On to 17. Flick. Hitch. Hitch again. And down goes a six-foot birdie putt. Play-off. Which, of course, he wins..."

Arnold Palmer was one of those names that everybody knew, even people who didn't care about golf or thought the only thing more boring than golf on TV was golf on the radio. He was a quintessentially American figure, the Everyman with one special talent who never forgot where he came from. America loved him for it, and good old Arnie persevered as a neighborly, low-key icon throughout the years, impervious to trends, fads, fashion, and golfers who, though better players than he, never captured  the hearts and minds of people in the same manner. Good show, Arnold Palmer. You'll be missed.

Dan Jenkins, whose piece on the 1962 Masters we quoted above, writes better than just about anyone. He shares his memories of Arnie here:

Monday, September 26, 2016

New York 83 73 - Outscored the football Jets.
GIANTS 82 74 - Killer loss ends the road trip.
St Louis 81 74 .5 Couldn't take advantage.

Giants lost at San Diego, 4-3.
New York blew out Philadelphia, 17-0.
St Louis lost at Chicago, 3-1.

Giants have the day off; they begin the season's final homestand tomorrow night against Colorado.
New York is on the road at Miami.
St Louis opens at home against Cincinnati.  

Yesterday's Game
A single three-run outburst, if you want to call it that, was all the Giants could muster against Clayton Richard and his teammates. Then, over the final six innings, they watched that lead slip away, much as this season has slipped away, or almost. Buster Posey's two-run single had capped the top of the third and given rookie southpaw Ty Blach a 3-1 cushion. Blach gave up a solo homer in the bottom of the frame, and was done after just three, having thrown 76 pitches and allowed 7 baserunners. It was up to the bullpen then, for a long day of work. Derek Law, in the fourth, Steve Okert, in the sixth, and Will Smith, in the seventh and eighth, did their jobs. George Kontos, in the fifth, walked the leadoff batter and allowed the tying run. Corey Gearrin, in the seventh, gave up a triple to the Padres' fine young centerfield prospect, Manuel Margot, who went 3-for-4 on the day with an RBI, and who then scored the winning run on Wil Myers' single. The Giants managed just two hits after Richard left the game. Adding injury to insult, Eduardo Nunez limped off the field after stealing second base in the third. Though this may mean more playing time for Kelby Tomlinson, it weakens the Giants' bench for as long as Nunez is out.   

St Louis obligingly keeps losing and keeping the Giants' hopes alive. However, now it's the last-place Reds followed by the disappointing Pirates, all at Busch Stadium. But then again, the Cards are 33-41 at home... The Mets are on the road the rest of the way, at Miami and then at Philadelphia... LA clinched the NL West yesterday, to no one's surprise... Cleveland and Boston are on the verge of doing the same... The Yankees lost to Toronto yesterday and are all but eliminated from the wild-card race... Lost in the ennui of the Giants' wasted day was Santiago Casilla quietly recording the last out in the bottom of the eighth. There may not be many appearances left in Giants regalia for the one-time World Champion closer.

Jose Fernandez 1992-2016
What strikes us hardest about this young man's tragic death is his very youth. We have a son the same age. Jose Fernandez was, by all accounts, on his way to a great career in major-league baseball. He had already endured enough trial and ordeal to last most men a lifetime. Escaping the island prison of Castro's Cuba with his family after three failed attempts, each resulting in imprisonment, had to have toughened the young man. Yet the memories those who knew him best have shared with the world attest to his generosity, his joie de vivre, and his teamwork. Our prayers go out to his family, friends, and teammates for their loss.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

  W L GB
New York 82 73 - Hold home-field tie-breaker.
GIANTS 82 73 - Survived a serious scare.
St Louis 81 73 .5 Scored ten after being shut out.

Giants defeated San Diego, 9-6, in ten innings.
New York lost to Philadelphia, 10-8.
St Louis bombarded Chicago, 10-4.

Giants finish up at San Diego; 1:40 PDT (4:40 EDT) and then it's back home to wind up the 2016 campaign. Rookie lefthander Ty Blach gets the start against Clayton Richard.
New York concludes the Philly series at home. 
St Louis is at Chicago tonight in ESPN's Sunday night game.

Yesterday's Game
Madison Bumgarner was rollin' along with a no-hitter through three and a 3-0 lead. The Giants added three more in the top of the fourth, "Bum" himself contributing with a double and a run scored. The storm clouds were barely visible in the bottom of the frame, when Hunter Renfroe ended the no-hitter and the shutout with a solo homer. Then it was a two-run shot in the fifth, and another one in the sixth-- and a one-run game. Meanwhile, with starter Jarred Cosart safely out of there, the Padres' bullpen was putting up a string of six scoreless innings. Bumgarner didn't come out for the seventh, and this fazed the San Diego hitters not at all: as the Giants waltzed through their multi-reliever procession, the "Pads" batched two base hits around a Derek Law wild pitch to tie the game. Ready were we to wax furious again about a team blowing a 6-0 lead, to a last-place club, with their ace pitcher on the mound, and still being deluded enough to think they belong in the postseason. But, blessedly, Hunter Strickland and Will Smith kept it scoreless through the end of regulation. And then the Giants put up their third and final three-run outburst of the evening. Kelby Tomlinson, who always seems to feature in these things, drove in the first run ahead of Denard Span's two -run homer, and it was up to our old new closer, Sergio Romo, to nail down his third save, which he did via a game-ending double-play ball. Every Giant starter except Ehire Adrianza either scored or drove in a run or both; interestingly, Bruce Bochy moved Brandon Belt to the two-spot and Angel Pagan to 7th. 

The Road Ahead
Well, it's one game, but winning today and taking three of four is critical. And rather than going with retreads Matt Cain or Jake Peavy, bless their hearts, "Boch" is looking to the future as young Ty Blach gets a real start in a real game that really means a lot... With Monday off, Johnny Cueto is expected to start Tuesday after six full days of rest...  LA can clinch their fourth straight NL West division title with a win today. Rookie manager Dave Roberts certainly has silenced the doubters, of which there were many... Texas in the AL West and Washington in the NL East have clinched their divisions, and Cleveland is on the brink of doing the same in the AL Central...  The Boston Red Sox are finishing out the season in grand style. They've now won ten straight, opened up a five-and-a-half-game lead in the AL East, and David Ortiz, in his walk-off season, is a MVP candidate... The AL wild-card is still up in the air. Though dusted in the division race, Toronto now has a clear lead over the competition. Meanwhile, Baltimore is only a half-game up on Detroit, with Seattle and Houston close behind and the Yankees on life support, four and a half back. Defending world champion Kansas City has faded into the background... The Chicago Cubs have already clinched home-field advantage throughout the National League postseason, and will certainly break the 100-win mark... It kills us to even think about this, but y'all probably realize that the @#$%^*! Dodgers, in addition to winning their @#$%&*! division title, will also likely have the chance to be @#$%&*! spoilers next weekend when they come to San Francisco to finish out the @#$%&*! season. 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

New York 82 72 - Now in driver's seat.
GIANTS 81 73 - Need more than 4 hits per game.
St Louis 80 73 .5 Shut out at Wrigley Field.

Giants lost at San Diego, 7-2.
New York defeated Philadelphia, 10-5.
St Louis lost at Chicago, 5-0.

Giants at San Diego; evening start (5:40 PDT, 8:40 EDT). Madison Bumgarner tries to right the listing ship against Jarred Cosart, who is winless for two teams this year.
New York has Philadelphia at home again.
St Louis has another afternoon start at Chicago's Friendly Confines.

Yesterday's Game
Lost in all the disappointment and doubt of the Giants' slide from first to worst is the recent strong performance of their starting pitchers. Excepting two awful starts from Matt Moore, the starting rotation has kept the team in every game for a month now, with 17 quality starts in 18 games and most of the others not far off the mark. Such was the case with Alberto Suarez last night. He managed only four innings, and the three-run shot he gave up in the first cost him the loss, but it was a 3-2 game when he departed. Things got out of hand in a hurry against Matt Reynolds; brought in to face a string of left-handed batters, he let them all reach base, resulting in four runs. That was more than enough as the Giants managed only four hits off Edwin Jackson and none off the three worthies who succeeded him.

Friday, September 23, 2016

  W L GB
New York 81 72 - Needed 3-run rally in 11th.
GIANTS 81 72 - Shark overturns Padres 'hex.'
St Louis 80 72 .5 Leake faces Arrieta today.

Giants defeated San Diego, 2-1.
New York defeated Philadelphia, 9-8, in eleven innings.
St Louis was idle.

Giants at San Diego; 7:40 PDT (10:40 EDT). Alberto Suarez against Edwin Jackson.
New York hosts Philadelphia this evening.
St Louis has an afternoon start at Chicago.

Last Night's Game
Jeff Samardzija pitched and won what may be his most important start this year, and he did so in fine fashion, shutting 'em out over 7 while fanning nine. The Giants picked him up in the top of the eighth, breaking a scoreless tie thanks to Kelby Tomlinson's pinch-hit single and RBIs from Angel Pagan and Hunter Pence. Derek Law allowed a solo homer in the bottom of the frame, but steady hand Will Smith finished the inning and Sergio Romo got his second save in three days despite allowing a hit in the ninth. The six-game losing streak against San Diego is over, and the Giants could sure use a sweep of this four-game set before finishing out the season at home.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

NL West W L GB
LA 86 66 - It's over-- they'll win it.
GIANTS 80 72 6 Wild-card or bust.
Wild Card W L GB
New York 80 72 - Swept at home by last-place Atlanta.
GIANTS  80 72 - Have lost 6 straight to San Diego.
St Louis 80 72  -   Weekend wrangle at Wrigley.

Giants lost at LA, 9-3.
New York lost their third straight at home to Atlanta, 4-3.
St Louis was routed, 11-1, at Colorado. 

Giants open a four-game series at San Diego, with Jeff Samardzija opposing lefty Christian Friedrich, making his first start against the Giants. 7:10 PDT (10:10 EDT) at Petco Park.
New York hosts Philadelphia, who are not as bad as their record, and who may make things tougher for the suddenly-vulnerable Mets.
St Louis is idle. They open a three-game series at Chicago tomorrow night.
Last Night's Game 
Well, it was over quickly. Matt Moore, who came within one out of a no-hitter at Dodger Stadium a month ago, gave up five first-inning runs as the Dodgers sent ten men to the plate, and was out of there moments later when he opened the second just as badly. His Game Score of 6 rates as the worst of any Giants starter this year. The game having gotten out of hand, we saw both Matt Cain and Jake Peavy hit hard in garbage time, which made rookie Ty Blach's three spotless innings-- nine up, nine down-- about the only highlight of the evening. Scratching for positives, we note Ehire Adrianza's first homer of the year as he filled in for Brandon Crawford, and Brandon Belt's 37th double and 77th RBI.

And so, the division race is over. It really is. Nobody makes up a six-game deficit with ten to play. The Dodgers will win their fourth straight NL West title. But thankfully, both the Cardinals and the Mets have been most obliging during this September-to-forget. Last night St Louis blew their chance to sweep the Rockies, and the Mets, with a golden opportunity to put some distance between themselves and the competition, instead lost three straight at home to last-place Atlanta. So the Three Wannabes remain tied. Few Giants fans can seriously claim that our team is playing well enough these days to claim a post-season berth, but as long as those other guys keep losing and failing to take advantage, the door to the World Series remains open. For now.  The first order of business is, of course, reversing this appalling 0-for-6 streak against San Diego. Starting tonight.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

NL West W L GB
LA 85 66 - It's all about tonight.
GIANTS 80 71 5 Win the series, stay in the race.
Wild Card W L GB
New York 80 71 - Braves prove no pushovers.
GIANTS 80 71 - "Stuck in the middle with you…"
St Louis 80 71 -   Don't even think about tiebreakers.

Giants defeated LA, 2-0, as Johnny Cueto won his 17th game.
New York lost again at home to Atlanta, 5-4.
St Louis defeated Colorado, 10-5.

Giants conclude the three-game series in LA with Matt Moore going against Kenta Maeda, who is 2-0 against San Francisco this year. It's no exaggeration to say that the outcome of this game will determine whether a "NL West" entry (above) continues on this blog. 7:10 PDT (10:10 EDT) at Dodger Stadium. It's the great Vin Scully's last home call of a Giants-Dodgers game.
New York wraps up the series with Atlanta; St Louis finishes up at Colorado. 

Last Night's Game
"Another such victory, and we are undone." Whatever the Giants do the rest of the way may have to be done without the help of both Johnny Cueto and Brando Crawford-- who, it could be argued, are our most valuable pitcher and player. Hustling to third, sliding in headfirst, and being tagged out, Crawford sprained a finger. Following through on a sixth-inning pitch, with a one-run lead and a shutout going, Cueto strained his groin.  Both injuries are "day-to-day," with Cueto's the most troubling. Regardless of the MRI results, Cueto has to be careful with this one, and Lord'a'mercy, Giants fans, it just could not have come at a worse time.

With a solo homer by Eduardo Nunez the only scoring, San Francisco's beleaguered bullpen managed to work through the final three-plus. Steve Okert picked up Cueto with five big outs, then it was Will Smith, who seems to get better with each appearance, and finally good old Sergio Romo nailing down his first (!) save of the season. Brandon Belt's solo shot in the top of the 9th no doubt gave Romo some cushion and comfort as he set 'em down as in the days of old (well, 2012). LA wasted nine hits while stranding ten; the Giants had 11 hits but only the two solo runs. Both teams had a man thrown out on the bases and another picked off first.

So the Giants live to see another day in the division race, and now can win the series and cut the lead back to four as they leave town.  But at the same time, a loss tonight drops our fellows 6 back with 10 to play, and no one overcomes those odds. So, without going all Kenny Loggins on ya, we can still say, "This is it."

No other division leader has clinched a title since the Cubs put theirs away last week, but Texas could do so today if they win and the fast-rising Houston Astros lose. It wasn't that long ago that the 'Stros were lingering near the division cellar; now they've passed Seattle and are only two games behind in the wild-card race. The Rangers, meanwhile, now hold the best record in the American League... Boston has put some distance between themselves and the competition in the AL East, while Cleveland is holding steady over Detroit while Kansas City slowly fades back. It's possible all the AL divisions could be formally decided by Sunday... There are still five, possibly six, teams in the hunt for the AL wild-card... The Mets' unexpected struggles against Atlanta have pushed Washington closer to clinching the NL East, even though the Nats have lost four in a  row and are playing poorly in September.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

NL West W L GB
LA 85 65 - This race is all but over.
GIANTS 79 71 6 Must win tonight and tomorrow.
Wild Card W L GB
New York 80 70 - Didn't advance.
GIANTS 79 71 - That sinking feeling…
St Louis 79 71  -   Gettin' kinda crowded in here.

Giants lost at LA, 2-1, blowing still another ninth-inning lead.
New York lost at Atlanta, 7-3, while St Louis defeated Colorado, 5-3, moving into a tie with the Giants for the second wild-card spot.

Giants soldier on at LA, with Johnny Cueto facing Rich Hill. 7:10 PDT (10:10 EDT) at Chavez Ravine. Cueto is 2-1 with one no-decision in four starts against LA this year; he lost a 1-0 duel to Hill here last month.
New York is at Atlanta and St Louis at Colorado.

Last Night's Game
Well, the Giants proved you don't need Santiago Casilla to blow a critical ninth-inning lead. The latest travesty began when Madison Bumgarner was lifted after seven innings, despite pitching a one-hit shutout and striking out ten on only 97 pitches. His latest dustup with the Dodgers' Yasiel Puig-- a loud and extremely belligerent shouting match following a basepath staredown-- may have prompted Bruce Bochy to pull him. But "Bum" is a unrepentant hothead, as was Lefty Grove. That's his nature, and this was his game to win, and you roll with it. Will Smith and Derek Law did just fine in the eighth, but then came the ninth, and Bochy's evidently-irresistible urge to play matchup. Law allowed a single to open the frame, and the minuet began. Or more precisely, the Keystone Kops imitation. Yes, it was almost comical-- new pitcher, single; new pitcher, RBI single to tie it, new pitcher, walk-off single.  Game over. Four pitchers, four batters, four singles, two runs, no outs, and the latest example of why the San Francisco Giants simply do not have the mettle to compete in baseball's postseason this year.

There. We said it. Among other things, Bochy's matchup madness has become, in our view, a fetish. In years past, he would have left his best bet-- Law-- in the game to try and get the double play, irrespective of lefty-righty percentage plays. The revolving-door policy has bred, we believe, a team-wide lack of confidence in and among the relief pitchers. Knowing any mistake means the hook, no sense that the manager believes in your ability to get out of a jam-- this is no longer about being a team effort, or about guys picking each other up in a tight spot. This is a reactive, blind, seemingly fear-based mismanagement. Bochy, who not long ago was accused of being overly loyal to washed-up veteran pitchers, now acts as though he has no confidence in any of them. It would be better for all concerned if the Giants were to miss the playoffs completely, and retool their bullpen and their approach to its use, than for us to suffer through another of these nightmarish late-inning losses in a winner-take-all wild-card playoff.

Bright moment: Eduardo Nunez manufacturing a third-inning run against Clayton Kershaw, who was dealing, and the Dodgers' shaky defense. Two out, none on, and Nunez beats out an infield ht, steals second, goes to third when Yasmany Grandal throws the ball into center field, and comes in to score on Kershaw's wild pitch.  Kershaw, clearly getting his strength back after his DL stint, went six innings and struck out seven, giving up three hits and a walk along with that unearned run. The LA bullpen was lights-out perfect over the final three, and the contrast between the two teams was never more strikingly displayed.

Monday, September 19, 2016

NL West W L GB
LA 84 65 - Can settle it starting tonight.
GIANTS 79 70 5 The fat lady is warmin' up.
Wild Card W L GB
New York 80 69 - Royals did it, why not they?
GIANTS 79 70 - Woulda, coulda, shoulda…
St Louis 78 71 1 33-41 at home, 45-30 on road.

Giants lost to St Louis, 3-0, splitting the four-game series.
LA lost to Arizona, 10-9.
New York defeated Minnesota, 3-2, sweeping the series and taking the wild-card lead. 

Giants at LA; 7:10 PDT, 10:10 EDT. The battle of the lefty aces: Madison Bumgarner and the rested, rejuvenated Clayton Kershaw. They've met twice before this year; LA won both times, although one was decided late when Santiago Casilla blew his first save of the season. Nostalgic, we ain't.
New York is at Atlanta while St Louis is at Colorado.

Yesterday's Game 
You have to have a short memory in this game, they say, but yesterday's perfunctory, almost tepid affair had all the look of a bad hangover from the night before. Two outs away from a possible series sweep and the chance to put maximum pressure on LA, the Giants now limp away with a most unsatisfying split and the feeling that this just isn't meant to be. With Buster Posey given a rest, five singles and 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position sums up the offense. Alberto Suarez went his five innings and deserved better; he was succeeded by a parade of seven relievers over the final four. Three failed to record an out and were yanked after one batter; two-- Corey Gearrin and dear old Matt Cain-- were outstanding.

Desperate Times
No, the Dodgers can't eliminate the Giants outright even with a three-game sweep; it just feels that way. But if the Giants fall behind any further at this stage, the NL West race is over. Thus the Giants absolutely have to take two of three here to have a chance to still catch LA.  With three teams battling for two spots, the wild-card race is much more volatile, but at the same time our two rivals are on the upswing and we aren't. It's all NL West opponents the rest of the way-- six with LA, four with San Diego, three with Colorado. The Giants went 2-5 on the homestand just concluded, so now they'll have to win this thing on the road, 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

NL West W L GB
LA 84 64 - No issues with their closer.
GIANTS 79 69 5 Can't let Casilla close again.
Wild Card W L GB
GIANTS 79 69 - Samardzija deserves better.
New York 79 69 - Needed 13 but got it.
St Louis 77 71 2 Matheny's never missed playoffs.

Giants lost to St Louis, 3-2, blowing yet another save in the ninth inning.
LA defeated Arizona, 6-2.
New York defeated Minnesota, 3-2, in thirteen innings, and moved into a wild-card tie with the Giants.

Giants try to take three of four from St Louis. Alberto Suarez starts against rookie Alex Reyes. 1:05 local time (4:05 EDT) at the 'Bell.
LA wraps up at Arizona, also trying to win three of four.
New York goes for the sweep at home against obliging Minnesota.

Last Night's Game
"Well, here's another fine mess you've gotten us into."  Giants fans had a one-word abbreviation for this last night: "BOO." And the boos rained down in most un-Giants-fan-like fashion as Santiago Casilla left the field after blowing his ninth (really his tenth) save of the season, and one that may prove the most costly of his soon-to-end (we expect) Giants career. But the boos were also directed at Bruce Bochy. Yes, the beloved three-time World Champion Cooperstown-bound skipper has been unable to reproduce his bullpen alchemy this season, and as a result his moves have looked too often like a combination of guesswork, misplaced loyalty, and blind thrashing-about. What was packaged as closer-by-committee (i.e., the hot-hand approach) now looks an awful like closer-by-rotation (i.e., "It's his turn," or, more succinctly, "Russian Roulette"). After Sergio Romo had allowed a one-out single in the ninth, Giants leading 2-1, out came Casilla to face Yadier Molina. Unable, as usual, to hold the runner on first, Casilla let fast Tommy Pham steal second, obviating the double play. He then walked Molina, and a feeling of impending doom settled across the field. Randal Grichuk delivered the obligatory base hit, tying the game, and the boos echoed through the night as Casilla gave way to Matt Reynolds, who gave up the game-winning sacrifice fly, and that was it. The Cardinals have a closer, by the way, and he closed it.

Once again Jeff Samardzija did his job and then some, with no reward. The big guy has quietly pitched himself back into his earlier-season form, proving himself a solid, dependable mid-rotation starter. After yielding a first-inning solo homer, he gave up nothing the rest of the way and got two outs in the seventh before Will Smith-- maybe he should close, hah?-- finished it out. Javier Lopez and Derek Law took care of the eighth, and we can argue from hell to breakfast whether Law ought to have started the ninth, With Mike Leake pitching just as well the other way, offensive bright moments were limited to Brandon Belt's RBI double and a sacrifice fly from "Shark" himself. Eduardo Nunez, Denard Span, and Hunter Pence all went 2-for-4 and each contributed to the meager scoring.

Meager or not, you have to win this game! The Giants have now blown seven save opportunities in 16 games here in September. That's unacceptable. Last night the club was two outs away from putting a hammerlock on the Cardinals; a sweep of these four games would have all but guaranteed San Francisco a seat at the postseason table. Now St Louis can rally for a split and throw us back to where we were when the Padres left town Wednesday. All for naught, unless the Giants rally the troops, keep Casilla off the mound, and win today.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

NL West W L GB
LA 83 64 - Losing record on road.
GIANTS 79 68 4 Skipping BP seems to pay off.
Wild Card W L GB
GIANTS 79 68 - Face former teammate Leake.
New York 78 69 - Rookie Lugo takes the hill.
St Louis 76 71 2 Eliminated from division race.

Giants defeated St Louis, 8-2.
LA defeated Arizona, 3-2, beating former Dodger Zach Greinke.
New York shut out Minnesota, 3-0.

Giants host St Louis, game three of the series, 6:05 PM PDT (9:05 EDT). Mike Leake, a Giant for about two months last year, opposes Jeff Samardzija. 
LA is at Arizona, while New York hosts Minnesota; both evening starts.

Last Night's Game
Matt Moore's up-and-down night was made considerably easier by a six-run third-inning explosion after Yadier Molina, normally one of the best defensive catchers in the game, threw the ball into center field trying to get the runner at second base on Moore's sacrifice bunt. A two-run single from Buster Posey and a two-run double by Brandon Belt were the ensuing highlights. Posey added a two-run homer the next inning, finishing 3-for-4 with 4 RBI, and the generally stoic Posey was positively giddy after his first blast in two months, mugging for his teammates and the camera in the dugout and even giving way to a case of the giggles. Yes, this team has wooed us several times in recent weeks with evidence of a "breakout" game, only to follow with a face-plant  immediately afterward, but once again we lay the wreath of hope at the door of what looks like a rejuvenated clubhouse. As for Moore, he got a cheap-ish win, pitching the minimum five while allowing ten baserunners, only two of whom scored. 

The Chicago Cubs became the first team to clinch their division last night. They're at 94-53 and on pace to win about 104 games... In the American League, the Orioles and Blue Jays are separating from the rest of the wild-card pack, opening up a three-game lead while remaining tied with each other, two games behind Boston in the East...  The Kansas City Royals have lost five straight, the longest current streak in either direction... The Giants are seventh in the league in runs scored, and fifth in fewest runs allowed. Of their potential playoff opponents, only the Nationals and Cubs are ahead of the Giants in both categories...  Brandon Belt is back up to sixth in the league in OBP at .390. He's also 11th with 35 doubles... Brandon Crawford has nine triples, second in the NL. One more would put him in double figures for doubles, triples, and home runs, which is a rarer feat than you might think... The Cardinals did not lose anyone on the basepaths last night, which is a welcome change: they've been caught stealing 25 times this year against just 32 stolen bases, an appalling ratio that has probably cost them a game or two in the standings... According to the good people at, the Giants' Pythagorean record-- that is, their expected won-loss record based on runs scored and allowed-- is 81-66, two games to the good. Optimists will see this as an indicator the Giants are due to win more than their share of close ones down the stretch, while pessimists will seize on it to prove the Giants have, and likely will continue to, "find a way to lose."  

Friday, September 16, 2016

NL West W L GB
LA 82 64 - Still can't put it away.
GIANTS 78 68 4 Cueto wins 16th.
Wild Card W L GB
GIANTS 78 68 -  
New York 77 69 - Twins in town.
St Louis 76 70 1 Two games behind Giants.

Giants defeated St Louis, 6-2, as Johnny Cueto pitched a complete-game five-hitter.
LA lost at Arizona, 7-3.
New York was idle.

Giants host St Louis; 7:15 at the 'Bell. Matt Moore against rookie right-hander Luke Weaver, who has struck out 39 and walked only 8 in his first 31 innings.
LA is at Arizona again.
New York hosts the AL Minnesota Twins, hoping to fatten up on the worst team in baseball.

Last Night's Game
"These guys know what's at stake," Bruce Bochy said after the disastrous sweep at the hands of San Diego, and yesterday the Giants again played like it. Baseball's most exasperating team looked capable of beating anybody as Johnny Cueto shook off two early runs, got stronger as the game went on, and finished with a five-hit masterpiece, walking one and striking out 7. Buster Posey was 4-for-5, Brandon Belt walked twice and scored twice (his OPS is back up to .850), Hunter Pence belted another homer, and Eduardo Nunez had three hits. Even Denard Span, dropped to eighth in the lineup, went 2-for-3 with two RBI.  Wise guys will immediately opine that the Giants have finally found a sure-fire formula for success: just pitch complete games from here on out. We will caution that the Giants face a hard-throwing rookie tonight, one they've not seen before, and these are the type of pitchers that have, in the past, tied our guys in knots. Yes, the Giants know what's at stake, and they know what to do. They need to do it again tonight.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

NL West W L GB
LA 81 63 - The only good news here.
GIANTS 77 67 4 This can't go on.
Wild Card W L GB
GIANTS 77 67 - A win today may be too late.
New York 77 68 - Roark against a rookie.
St Louis 76 68 .5 Won't be eliminated just yet.

Giants lost to San Diego, blowing a 4-1 lead by surrendering five runs in the ninth.
LA lost at Yankee Stadium as CC Sabathia pitched a shutout.
New York and St Louis turned the tables on their division leaders, each winning a close game. The Cards staved off any possible elimination at the hands of the Cubs in this series. 

Giants try to salvage one win out of this "must win" (ha!) series, with Madison Bumgarner on the mound. Rookie Luis Perdomo opposes; you won't remember he was the guy who started the game back in July that ended with a Santiago Casilla balk-off loss. If any game can be said to have begun the Giants' slide into disappointment, that was the one.  It's a 12:45 PM PDT (3:45 EDT) start.
LA finishes up in New York as Clayton Kershaw gets his second start since coming off the DL.
New York concludes the series at Washington, and St Louis finishes up with Chicago before boarding a plane for SFO. All these are afternoon starting times.

Last Night's Game
What's to say? An opponent 20 games to the bad, the division leader losing, a good start by Alberto Suarez, and four runs from the batters. Four is enough to win most of the time, and with less than 20 games left in the season, maximum  motivation, good news on the scoreboard, and an inferior (inferior?) opponent on the ropes, how can you not win?  Well, the stat line reads: single, strikeout, single, single, walk, RBI groundout, three-run homer.  What it doesn't tell you is the RBI groundout, with the Giants leading 4-2 and men on first and third, by all rights should have been a game-ending double-play ball. But Hunter Strickland, trying to close it out, deflected it just enough that Joe Panik's only play was to first. Two on, two out, and the closer-by-committee plan dictated a left-hander, Steve Okert, come in to face the lefty-swinging rookie slugger Ryan Schimpf. That didn't work so well, but it did provide for some additional statistical madness as Strickland gets both the loss and the Hold (!!!) but misses out on the blown save. Okert gets that.

Perhaps seeing a losing pitcher also credited with a "Hold" will awaken the somnambulists who created this rule, and force them to make it mean what it means. Perhaps.

Anyway, that's 27 blown saves for the Giants, tied for the major-league lead, and it seems all of them have come since July 15. At this point, any talk of "turnaround" games and "wake-up calls" and the like seems fairly comical. There was Matt Moore's almost-no-hitter three weeks ago-- that was supposed to get the pot boiling. Then there was the Arizona revival this past weekend-- surely that lit the fire in the collective belly. Nope. The Giants are likely to lose out on the postseason altogether, and it won't be like 2009, 2011, and 2013. We've seen them come from behind, and we've seen them fall out of contention in September, but we really haven't seen the San Francisco Giants collapse down the stretch like this since... well, since at least 2004, and that actually wasn't much like this, except for one thing. That team had a bullpen full of budding arsonists, too.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

NL West W L GB
LA 81 62 - Age versus youth tonight.
GIANTS 77 66 4 This all started with San Diego.
Wild Card W L GB
GIANTS 77 66 - Home field no tonic yet.
New York 76 68 - Wild-card their only hope.
St Louis 75 68 .5 Cubs could clinch tomorrow.

Giants lost at home to San Diego, 4-0.
LA defeated the Yankees in New York, 8-2.
New York lost at Washington, 8-1, and St Louis lost to Chicago, 4-1.

Giants host San Diego again; 7:15 at the 'Bell. Alberto Suarez faces Clayton Richard, whom the Giants have not seen this season but know well from recent years. Good pitcher.
LA faces the Yankees at the Stadium again; young Julio Urias against venerable CC Sabathia.
New York is at Washington; St Louis hosts the Cubs, whose magic number is now 3.

Last Night's Game
It all started with the Padres, didn't it? Coming off a big surge out of the All-Star Break, the Giants opened with three "gimme" games in San Diego-- so we thought. The Pads swept all three, and the Giants haven't been the same since. We were reminded of this in spades last night as Paul Clemens, whom no one likely ever will mistake for Roger Clemens, pitched enough like the great one to fool the Giants. Five hits was the total; Jeff Samardzija's lonely double in the fifth plus four singles, two by Hunter Pence. Three times the Giants got a man as far as second, to no avail. "Shark" pitched reasonably well, but with no margin of error he lost his 10th game, against 11 wins. Back when we were the best in the business, he was 7-2. So it goes. We're not ready to give up yet, but this series-- against a team 24 losses to the bad, with all our opponents facing quality teams-- is certainly a must-win, if not a must-sweep. St Louis comes to town on Thursday, with road series in LA and back in San Diego again next week. If the Giants can't make it here, can they make it anywhere?

Monday, September 12, 2016

NL West W L GB
LA 80 62 - On their way to the Bronx.
GIANTS 77 65 3 First series sweep in 2 months.
Wild Card W L GB
GIANTS 77 65 - 13 of final 20 games at home.
New York 76 67 - On their way to Washington.
St Louis 75 67 .5 Here come the Cubs.

Giants defeated Arizona, 5-3, to sweep the series and conclude the road trip at 5-5.
LA was shut out, 3-0, in Miami and lost two of three.
New York defeated Atlanta 10-3, and St Louis lost to Milwaukee.

Giants return home and open a three-game set against San Diego. Jeff Samardzija gets the start against Paul Clemens, who has struggled of late. 7:15 local, 10:15 EDT.
LA opens a series in Yankee Stadium. Those pining for a Dodgers-Yankees World Series-- yes, both of you!-- can take heart from knowing that New York is only 2 games out in the crazy AL wild-card race.
New York faces the division-leading Nationals in Washington, while St Louis takes on the division-leading Cubs at home. 

Yesterday's Game
Mike Moore pitched: 11 strikeouts and only one walk over seven innings. Hunter Pence hit: a ringing two-run double in the seventh that turned a one-run lead into a three-run cushion. And Hunter Strickland closed it out: after scaring everyone by allowing a leadoff double to the engagingly-named Socrates Brito, Strickland quietly retired the side without fuss on eight pitches, showing the poise that has been missing from this position for some time now.  Pence's three-game tally stands at 8-for-11 with four walks, eight runs scored, and three RBI. "As Hunter Pence goes, so go the San Francisco Giants."  And with Bruce Bochy now going with closer-by-committee, we can hope his legendary acumen, the ability to select the right matchup at the right time, will moderate the relative mediocrity of this year's bullpen. Plus Derek Law is due to come off the DL this week. He may be needed against St Louis.  

Though it's "only" the last-place Diamondbacks, this series sweep was huge. For one thing, the Giants had been playing worse than Arizona over the last two months. For another, this was the Giants' first sweep of any series since the high point at 57-33 on July 10. And this road trip, which began with that cruelly disappointing Chicago series and featured three blown saves in seven games, stood at 2-5 when the Giants arrived in the desert. It ended 5-5. Now, the Giants don't leave California for the remainder of the season. The time is ripe: as the Giants prepare to face San Diego, the Mets and Cardinals go up against their respective division leaders; the Cubs actually could eliminate the Cardinals with a three-game sweep. And LA is on the road against the Yankees, who are fighting for their lives in a four-team division battle and a seven-team Wild Card scramble. Yes, we know there's a four-game set against the Cardinals later this week, and six remaining against LA. By no means are we out of the woods. But the Giants have vaulted back into the middle of the mix, and isn't this what pennant-race baseball is all about? 

Other than the one we all care about, there's only one division race left in baseball, and it's a doozy: the four-team AL East circus. Boston, Baltimore, and Toronto have all held the lead over the past few weeks, and the Yankees refuse to fade. If it ended today, the Sox would be on top with the Orioles and Jays the two AL wild-cards. But the Yanks, Detroit Tigers, defending champion KC Royals, Houston Astros, and Seattle Mariners all are within four games of a wild-card spot. We're big fans of the second wild-card; if you're gonna have the thing at all, make sure it's a "settle-for" option. But an ancillary "benefit" of all this extra eligibility might be a series of one-game playoffs just to get to the one-game playoff. Let's hope not...  Terry Francona's revitalized Cleveland Indians and Jeff Banister's Texas Rangers are well ahead in their divisions, as are the Cubs and Nationals in the NL... Our old pal Dusty Baker could become the fourth manager in baseball history to lead four different teams into the postseason. Billy Martin, Dick Williams, and Dave Johnson are the others... The Pittsburgh Pirates, who had such big dreams in April, were officially eliminated from the division race this week and are six games out and falling in the wild-card race... Zach Greinke, who took the loss yesterday, has only lost twice to the Giants in his career. Both times were this year and both were at Bank One Ballpark. 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

NL West W L GB
LA 80 61 - Hill pulled after 7 perfect?!?
GIANTS 76 65 4 19 hits a most welcome tonic.
Wild Card W L GB
GIANTS 76 65 - Can finish road trip 5-5 with win.
St Louis 75 66 - Like Giants, treading water.
New York 75 67 .5 Winning streak stopped at 6.

Giants bombarded Arizona, 11-3.
LA defeated Miami, 5-0, behind Rich Hill's 7 perfect innings.
St Louis defeated Milwaukee, 5-1, while New York lost at Atlanta, 4-3.

Giants finish up at Arizona, going for the sweep. Matt Moore against Zach Greinke. The Arizona ace sports an unsightly 4.54 ERA along with 12 wins. He's beaten the Giants t wice this year, both times in San Francisco; the Giants got their lone win against him here in Arizona back in May. It's still summer on the desert, so it's a 4 PM local time (7 PM EDT) start.
LA finishes up at Miami.
St Louis hosts Milwaukee and New York's at Atlanta-- all daytime starts.  

Last Night's Game
Johnny Cueto pitched, everybody hit, and the result was that rarest of rare events-- a Giants laugher. Cueto, now 15-5, won his first decision in three weeks and only his second since the All-Star Break. In the 19-hit Giants attack, six different players scored runs and seven drove in runs. Hunter Pence continued his regular tear: 4 runs scored for the second straight game on a 3-for-3 night with a homer and two walks. Joe Panik and Eduardo Nunez both were 3-for-5, Brandon Crawford was 2-for-5, Brandon Belt hit a monster two-run double initially ruled a three-run homer, and Cueto himself got into the act with a RBI single. The Giants have a chance now to sweep this series and finish what has been a disastrous road trip at a most satisfying 5-5-- if they can beat Zach Greinke this evening,

I've Heard That Song Before-- Wait, No I Haven't
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts made history of a most unlikely sort when he pulled Rich Hill from the game last night after Hill had a perfect game going through seven. Pitchers with no-hitters going have been pulled before, usually for pinch-hitters in a scoreless tie. But a pitcher with a perfect game in hand through seven? Never before! And LA was up, 4-0, at the time-- this was based solely on concerns for Hill's health. He had thrown only 97 pitches-- remember, he's a 36-year-old, not a rookie or youngster-- but apparently the training staff feared a re-occurrence of chronic blisters that had sidelined him earlier in the season. Given how well Hill is pitching, it's a defensible move on paper for a team that is desperate to reach the postseason and advance in it. But the commentator who deplored the "corporatization" of baseball has a point. The game itself suffers from these  types of decisions. Can you imagine Stengel pulling Larsen in Game Five of the 1956 Series?  There's a reason this was never done before, and let's hope for the sake of the game that it never is done again.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

NL West W L GB
LA 79 61 - Kershaw takes loss in return.
GIANTS 75 65 4 Bats seem to be coming alive.
Wild Card W L GB
GIANTS 75 65 - Must win this Arizona series.
New York 75 66 - Gained 3 games in last 10.
St Louis 74 66 .5 Not going away anytime soon.

Giants defeated Arizona, 7-6, in twelve innings.
LA lost at Miami, 4-1.
New York won their sixth straight, 6-4 over Atlanta, while St Louis defeated Milwaukee 4-3.

Giants continue at Arizona; Johnny Cueto, going for his 15th win, against Archie Bradley. Cueto has made four starts against the 'Snakes this year, winning two and losing two. Bradley is 0-2 against the Giants. 8 PM EDT.  
LA sends Rick Hill, who's been outstanding, to face the Marlins tonight at Miami.
New York's at Atlanta with St Louis at home against Milwaukee. All evening starts.

Last Night's Game
The best and worst of the 2016 San Francisco Giants were on display last night. The worst? That's easy-- Santiago Casilla blowing yet another save, this time in the tenth after the Giants had hustled home the leading run on a wild pitch. Once again it was one pitch, this time to Jake Lamb, and boom, tie ballgame. Basta! Turning to the good, we see Hunter Pance, 4-for-5 with four runs scored (including that wild pitch in the tenth), Brandon Belt on base five times with two hits and three walks, and two runs scored including the winner, Joe Panik and Eduardo Nunez combining for four hits and three RBI. These four led the Giants' rally to tie it through six after Madison Bumgarner had served up two two-run homers early and fallen behind 4-1. The capper was Angel Pagan belting a home run in the seventh for a brief 5-4 lead. It got ugly again quick when Denard Span dropped a fly ball that let a run score, but prettied up seconds later when a perfect relay from Brandon Crawford to Buster Posey nailed the trailing runner at the plate, That carried it into the tenth. In the twelfth, Belt's third walk and Panik's second hit were followed by, once again, Kelby Tomlinson coming through with a clutch pinch hit for the Giants' third lead of the game. And not to be overlooked on either side of Casilla's latest fiasco were four strong innings of relief from Sergio Romo, Hunter Strickland, Joe Nathan (who got the win) and Cory Gearrin, who got the save. After getting the first out in the twelfth, Gearrin went to left field, which allowed Javier Lopez to face Lamb. Lopez walked him, but Gearrin returned to the mound and managed a most difficult save, which included a stolen base and intentional walk, and ended in controversy when Wellington Castro was tossed for arguing strike three. The game was well past five hours by that point, and few outside the state of Arizona could blame the umpire. Seconds later, it ended quietly with a routine groundout. Whew!  

Statistical Insanity

Casilla's blown save last night was his eighth of the season. "Waitaminute," the sharp-eyed reader says, "he had seven before that fiasco in Colorado the other night. Can't these guys count?"  Oh, they can count all right, but it's clear that whoever makes up the "Blown Save" and "Hold" statistics just can't figure

If you review the box score for that Colorado nightmare, there you will see Casilla credited with a "Hold," and no blown save in sight.  No joke.

Casilla was charged with two runs on the evening, which cost the Giants the lead and ultimately the game. Going into the ninth with a two-run lead, he failed completely, allowing one run on a homer and putting the tying run on base, which later scored. He is charged with both runs! And yet, he gets a "Hold," evidently because the runs scored after he left the game, and is protected from a "Blown Save," evidently for the same reason.

No sane person who knows baseball can look at Casilla's performance that night and conclude he did his job. To let him escape the penalty of a "blown save" is wrong: the tying run is charged to him! And crediting him with a "Hold" is flat-out insane: he "held" nothing!  He blew the lead and, ultimately, the game! That the runs happened to score after he was yanked for utter ineffectiveness by one of the most patient and loyal managers in baseball is irrelevant. That he got one man out while giving the Rockies the means to tie it deserves no reward.  That the "Hold" is not an official statistic is a blessing under these conditions, but it grieves us that a player's agent can take this nonsense to arbitration or contract negotiation and squeeze money (generated by ticket sales) out of failure.

Rewrite the rule. We showed you how in an earlier post. Rewrite the blown-save rule as well, so that it makes sense.  Like it or not, baseball is a game defined by statistics. When those statistics are twisted to mean the opposite of what they should mean, they become not meaningless, but treacherous. They lie.