The San Francisco Giants stand at a crossroads as far as their prospects for playoff contention this year are concerned. As August rolls into September, the Giants are 72-59, second place in the National League West, five games behind San Diego. They trail defending league champions Philadelphia by a game and a half in the wild-card race, with a slight lead over the St Louis Cardinals and Colorado Rockies. There are 31 games left to play.
Pitching has been the issue, pitching is the issue, and pitching will remain the issue down the stretch, assuming there is a stretch. Strong starting pitching, courtesy of two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Barry Zito, led the Giants on a 22-6 run through the month of July that left then one slim game behind the Padres and surfing on a wave of momentum. Heck, they even got on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball during that stretch-- and won the game.
Since then, the Giants' 10-14 record has been marked, if not marred, by a steep decline in the quality of starts. Most troubling is Lincecum's performance-- he last turned in a “Lincecum-type” start on July 30, and has been shelled twice in his five subsequent appearances. Zito has lost five straight decisions since his last win on July 16, and his last quality start was August 6. Cain has been better in August, pitching well in all six of his starts and winning twice, while Jonathan Sanchez held up his end as well (2-2 with two excellent starts). Rookie Madison Bumgarner has been the weakest link, as might be expected from a 20-year old kid who's never pitched this many innings before, but we're not worried about him. We're worried about Lincecum. Without their ace pitching like an ace, this ballclub is going to fall short of the postseason. And since everyone says there's nothing physically wrong with Timmy, we continue to believe that whatever his problem may be, it is correctable. And if it is corrected, the Giants will be contenders. If not... ?
The Giants' lineup is significantly stronger than it was a year ago. Aubrey Huff, who may rate as the major leagues' most valuable dollar-for-dollar player, has been the star at the center of the lineup and at three positions-- corner outfield and first base. Let's check that stat sheet: 22 homers, 68 walks, 77 RBI, 81 runs. He's .297/.380/.526 at home with 11 homers, too. We think the big guy might be in line for the “Willie Mac” Award, if not the MVP. As for other newcomers, injured washout Mark DeRosa was supplanted by Pat Burrell, signed for almost nothing at mid-season, who has hit 7 homers in 97 at-bats and slugged .577 at the 'Bell (.263/.370/.505 overall). The amazing Andres Torres, with his .369 OBP and 78 runs, has been a real leadoff hitter, and has added 13 homers and some big late-inning game-winning hits. Most promising is the steady rise of last year's hero, Pablo Sandoval, from a season-long slump. Over the past month the “Panda” has started to drive the ball again even as the ballclub has struggled. Then, of course, there's the Giants' Rookie of the Year candidate, Buster Posey. Taking over for the traded-away Bengie Molina on July 1, Posey immediately established himself as a major-league hitter. How's .329/.372/.505 with 10 homers and 49 RBI in 295 AB? We'd like to see his walks (18) double, but remember we're talking about a rookie here. It's no coincidence the club went on a 22-6 tear shortly after he joined the daily lineup.
The rest of the crew should be familiar from a year ago-- Freddy Sanchez when he's healthy, Juan Uribe always playing somewhere, Edgar Renteria and Aaron Rowand playing less and less. Two newcomers off the August waiver wire-- veterans Jose Guillen (OF) and Mark Fontenot (IF) add depth. In the bullpen there's closer Brian Wilson (1.88, 36 saves, 3 blown), with Sergio (2.56) Romo and Guillermo Mota joined by veterans Javier Lopez and Ramon Ramirez, plus lefty Jeremy Affeldt, who just got off the DL.
Bruce Bochy's lineup continues to use lots of guys in different situations, but you can pretty much count on Posey, Huff, Sanchez, Uribe, Sandoval, and Torres every day, with Burrell, Rowand, Guillen, and Travis Ishikawa in steady rotation. The Giants are now eighth in the league in runs scored, a big jump from last year, and right in the middle in OBP as well. Heck, they've hit almost as many homers as the Phillies. But while we're no longer following the 'Hitless Wonders', we are also 'cognint of the fack' that the Giants have dropped to fifth in the league in ERA, and they've walked 503 men in 131 games, worst in the NL. (Yes, they're also still #1 in strikeouts, primarily because Lincecum and Sanchez average over a K per inning regardless of how well they pitch otherwise.) The Giants' hitters appear to be more patient, thanks to new arrivals like Burrell and Huff, but our pitchers labor harder than anyone else's, and we wonder if this will result-- or has already resulted-- in overly tired arms late in the season. Not a pleasant prospect.
The Giants' remaining schedule calls for 15 games at home and 16 away. 25 of these last 31 are against NL West opponents, including a four-game set at San Diego in two weeks and a three-game season finale against the Padres at home. Against the West the Giants started an execrable 9-18, but are 12-8 over the last six weeks. As it appeared a year ago, their own division is the Giants' biggest challenge; they are 51-33 against the rest of the league. We continue to believe that no one will want to face this team in the playoffs, but it's evident that this team won't get to the playoffs until they conquer the Padres, Rockies, Dodgers, and Diamondbacks first. The weekend just concluded saw the Giants follow up a 38-run outburst against the visiting NL Central-leading Cincinnati Reds by losing two of three to last-place Arizona. That kind of frustrating inconsistency won't get the Giants past the first week in October. But a three-game sweep of the visiting Rockies-- who trail the Giants by three in the wild-card chase-- would certainly help get the train back on the track, starting tonight.
Hang on! As is usual with the San Francisco Giants, it's gonna be a bumpy ride!
San Diego 76-53 … Hey, 4 losses in a row...
GIANTS 72-59 5 GB … and they haven't taken advantage.
Colorado 68-61 8 GB 25-40 road record don't look good.
Los Angeles 67-64 10 GB Powerful Phils come rolling into town.
Giants lost two of three to Arizona, saving the series yesterday with a late rally.
San Diego was swept three in a row at home by the Phillies. Woohoo.
Colorado took two of three from LA at Coors Field, gaining a game on the Giants.
Giants host Colorado; 7:15 PDT at the 'Bell. Jonathan Sanchez seeks his 10th win. He's started twice against the 'Rockettes', winning one and losing one. He pitched better against them in Denver than at home, though.
San Diego open a three-game set at Arizona, with Wade LeBlanc starting tonight.
LA's at home against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
San Diego 76-54 … Their first serious losing streak all season.
GIANTS 72-60 5 GB There are only so many opportunities.
Colorado 69-61 7 GB Can get back into race if they keep it up.
Los Angeles 68-64 9 GB Don't bury me 'cause I ain't dead yet.
Giants lost to Colorado, 2-1.
San Diego lost at Arizona, 7-2, their fifth straight defeat.
LA defeated Philadelphia, 3-0.
Giants tee it up against Colorado again; 7:15 at the 'Bell. Madison Bumgarner starts.
San Diego's at Arizona; LA hosts Philly.
Last Night's Game
Jonathan Sanchez' eight splendid innings were just what the Giants needed to open this critical division series. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to close this critical game. A leadoff walk in the ninth brought in Brian Wilson, he of the 36 saves in 39 opportunities. Working the count full, Wilson gave up a broken-bat blooper to Carlos Gonzalez that eluded right fielder Cody Ross. The tying run scored and Gonzalez tried for third; Freddy Sanchez' relay throw hit Gonzalez and wound up in the stands. Just like that it was 2-1 Colorado, and the Giants went quietly in the bottom of the ninth to end it, disappointing the 30,224 who showed up at the 'Bell. Ross, a recent waiver-wire pickup making a rare start, blamed himself for the loss, but let's not forget the Giants managed only four hits. Aubrey Huff drew two walks and scored the only Giants' run, plated by Buster Posey's single in the fourth. Bottom line: with San Diego presenting a golden opportunity by losing their fifth straight game, the Giants' inability to take advantage in this game may prove costly. They absolutely have to win these next two.
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
San Diego 76-55 … Don't expect this skid will last forever.
GIANTS 73-60 4 GB Carpe diem, tempus fugit, 'n' all that.
Colorado 69-62 7 GB Renowned for late-season winning streaks.
Los Angeles 68-65 9 GB Doubtful they'll muster up enough to win.
Giants defeated Colorado, 5-2.
San Diego lost again at Arizona, 7-4, their sixth straight defeat.
LA lost to Philadelphia, 8-4.
Giants finish up with Colorado; 6:15 at the 'Bell. Tim Lincecum starts, and this would be a great time for him to pitch like, well, like Tim Lincecum. He is 0-2 against the Rockies this year.
San Diego is at Arizona again; LA hosts Philadelphia.
Last Night's Game
Andres Torres led off the eighth with a tie-breaking home run, and then the dam burst as the Giants brought two more across. Just as a walk and an error took them down to defeat the night before, it was an error, following Freddy Sanchez' bunt single, then an intentional walk, then a most unintentional walk, that set up Buster Posey's ringing two-run double to make it 5-2. And as encouraging as this rally was, Madison Bumgarner's six strong innings were just as important. Five days after a dreadful start against Cincinnati, the youngster showed no signs of 'meltdown' as he held the Rockies to five hits and one run, leaving with the lead. Jeremy Affeldt gave up a game-tying homer in the top of the eighth, but Brian Wilson, also putting the recent past behind him, pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for the save.
Philadelphia keeps winning, so they remain a game and a half ahead of the Giants in the wild- card thing. The fading Cardinals, meanwhile, have dropped four straight. They trail Cincinnati by seven in the NL Central, and are four behind Philly for the 'Card... One reason San Diego's losing streak is unlikely to last is that they haven't been particularly lucky this year. Their Pythagorean shows them at 79-52, three games ahead of their actual pace... Since you asked, the Giants' is 75-58... The only race in the American League is between the Yankees and Tampa Bay. One will win the division, the other will be the wild-card. Texas and Minnesota are the other likely AL participants... Let's see... Bumgarner, six innings, five hits, one run... that'd be a pretty fair line for Lincecum tonight. Just saying, y'know?
Thursday, September 2, 2010
San Diego 76-56 … A day of rest before the Colorado series.
GIANTS 74-60 3 GB Big ten-game road trip begins tomorrow..
Colorado 69-63 7 GB No rest for the weary; makeup tonight.
Los Angeles 68-66 9 GB There's still that dreaded 'spoiler' role...
Giants defeated Colorado, 2-1, as Tim Lincecum won his 12th game.
San Diego lost their seventh straight game, 5-2 at Arizona.
LA lost to Philadelphia, 5-1.
Giants have the day off. They fly to LA to open a three-game weekend set, then it's on to Arizona and San Diego. Big week acomin'.
Colorado's scheduled off-day will now be a makeup game against those red-hot Phillies. The good news for them is, it's at home. Then it's off to San Diego, who also have today off.
Last Night's Game
He's back! How's this sound: eight innings, five hits, nine K? That's the Tim Lincecum we know and love, and last night he outdueled one of the best, Ubaldo Jimenez, in a true battle of the aces. A solo homer provided the Rockies' only tally. It all came down to the bottom of the eighth when Mike Fontenot, who provided the Giants' only RBI of the night, drew a leadoff walk. In came Darren Ford, the Double-A kid with the major-league wheels, called up just that day, to pinch-run. Lincecum sacrificed Ford to second, then Jimenez bounced a wild pitch off catcher Miguel Olivo and Ford immediately took off for third. When Olivo's throw then sailed into left field, Ford raced home for the game-winner. Brian Wilson pitched a perfect ninth for his 38th save, and all of a sudden the Giants' homestand had ended 5-4, not great but not bad, either. More to the point, they've gained three games on San Diego in that stretch, and put some distance between themselves and the Rockies and Cards.
On The Road Again
It's no exaggeration to say this upcoming road trip could make or break the Giants' season. Three games in Dodger Stadium, three in Arizona, then a great big four-spot next weekend in San Diego, with nary a day off in between. Welcome to the stretch drive. Tomorrow night it's Barry Zito, who also needs to regain his earlier-season form, then Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez over the weekend. The Arizona series looks like Bumgarner, Lincecum, and Zito. That means Cain will open the festivities in San Diego-- and Lincecum will close it down.
The Giants are 6-6 against LA this year, and 3-3 in each ballpark. No advantage there. Zito, however, has started four games against the Bums, all of them quality starts, and is 0-1 with three no-decisions. Cain has not pitched at Chavez Ravine this year; he's 1-1 against LA at home, including that great Sunday night win August 1. Sanchez' lone start against the Dodgers was a forgettable one back in those dark days of late June. Against Arizona, the Giants have a robust 8-4 mark, bolstered by that four-game sweep two weeks ago. Let's hope their late success in the desert continues. Assuming the ballclub survives those six games intact, then it'll be the showdown at Petco Park. (Not quite as poetic as 'O.K. Corral', is it?) The Giants' 2-9 record against the team they're trying to catch is really the 800-pound gorilla of this saga. It goes without saying that a split, at least, of those four games will be essential. The only Giants pitcher who's really done well against the Pads is Sanchez, who has lost not one, but two games by 1-0, including that one-hitter he lost back in April, Five of the nine Giants losses in this rivalry have come by one run, though we must note that both Giants wins also were one-run games. All this tells us is that the whole thing is too close to call. And all we can hope for is that the race will still be too close to call once the Giants arrive back home a week from Sunday.
Saturday, September 4, 2010
San Diego 76-57 … Eight in a row; has panic set in yet?
GIANTS 74-61 3 GB Can still take two of three here.
Colorado 70-64 6.5 GB “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”
Los Angeles 69-66 8 GB Dreaded 'spoiler' role working out just fine.
Giants lost at LA, 4-2.
Colorado defeated San Diego, 4-3.
Giants face LA at Chavez Ravine; 7:10 PM PDT. Matt Cain against southpaw Ted Lilly.
Colorado's at San Diego again, in an afternoon tilt.
Last Night's Game
Chad Billingsley was the whole story. The Dodgers' best pitcher has made four outstanding starts against the Giants this year, and last night he won his second. Oddly, all four of those starts have come against Barry Zito, who lost his seventh straight decision and has gone from 8-4 to 8-11. Zito wasn't all that bad, but his stint was short as Bruce Bochy pinch-hit for him in the fifth. The bullpen did their job, holding LA scoreless the rest of the way, but Billingsley wasn't allowing anything either. He finished with a two-hitter and both Giants' runs, courtesy of Buster Posey's fourth-inning single, were unearned.
Sunday night's series-closer will be televised nationwide on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball. Jonathan “No-Hit” Sanchez (dare we hope) is slated to start against righty Hiroki Kuroda. Sanchez has never beaten the Dodgers (of course, neither had Matt Cain until last month, also on ESPN.) He and Kuroda are not comparable pitchers, but they have comparable ERA and won-lost records.
Sunday, September 5, 2010
San Diego 76-58 … The freefall continues apace.
GIANTS 75-61 2 GB Uribe delivers an earth-shaking blow.
Colorado 71-64 5.5 GB Giants have three more against these guys.
Los Angeles 69-67 8 GB Torre made the right call regardless.
Giants beat Los Angeles, 5-4, rallying for five runs on four homers over the final three innings.
Colorado beat San Diego, 8-2.
Giants finish up this big LA series with a nationally-televised showdown on ESPN. 5 PM PDT, 8 PM EDT at Dodger Stadium. Jonathan Sanchez faces Hiroki Kuroda.
Colorado and San Diego wind up their series at Petco Park.
Last Night's Game
The Giants first “incredible” rally of 2010 came not a moment too soon. Handcuffed by lefty Ted Lilly through six, the G-Men were looking at a 4-0 loss and another opportunity squandered as the obliging Padres dropped their ninth straight game. It started in the seventh, as Buster Posey led off the frame with a solo shot. Lilly recovered, got out of the inning without further damage, and it was still 4-1. Opening the eighth, Edgar Renteria launched another solo blast, and Joe Torre decided Lilly'd had enough. In came Octavio Dotel, who's been giving up late- inning homers for over a decade now. Pat Burrell, on the bench because manager Bruce Bochy decided to start Cody Ross on left-- more on him later-- pinch-hit for Matt Cain and launched yet another solo homer into the seats. Torre immediately summoned his new closer, Hong-Chin Kuo, to stop the bleeding-- even though he knew Kuo wouldn't be able to pitch the ninth to “close” it. Kuo did his job, preserving the one-run LA lead, and in the ninth out came Torre's “old” closer Jonathan Broxton. With one out, Cody Ross beat out an infield single on a close call at first base. Then it was Juan Uribe. Giants radio announcer Duane Kuiper called it best: “He hits it HIGH! HE HITS IT DEEP! OUTTA HERE!!!” Buster Posey's perspective: “We had guys 30, 35 years old jumping around like little kids!” While it's 'way too early to be sure, this one recalled those amazing comeback wins of 1987 and 1989, the Roger Craig days, when the Giants provided late-season drama and wins on an ongoing basis. That was then, and this is now, and the Giants are still two games back. But a week ago they were six games back, and maybe, just maybe, this team can keep the 49ers' season opener from hogging all the San Francisco sporting news for another week.
Anyone who would seriously question Torre's eighth-inning move is probably an underpaid players' agent who only represents “closers.” We respect the baseball wisdom which says some pitchers have the “closer” mentality and others do not. What we've repeatedly questioned are the assumptions that (1) The “closer” mentality is rare, and generally only the property of a seasoned veteran, and (2) The “closer” is only to be used in the ninth inning or later in a “save” situation. These twin fallacies serve both to denigrate the other guys in the bullpen, some of whom could “close” as well as anyone else if need be, and to risk losing the game without ever using your best reliever. Torre made the right move, and if it had been 4-3 in the seventh, it would have been right to use Kuo then, too. If you presume Broxton is going to cough up the lead in the ninth, it stands to reason he'll do so in the eighth, too, and then Kuo never gets in the game at all.
Monday, September 6, 2010
San Diego 76-59 … Is a historic collapse in progress?.
GIANTS 76-61 1 GB Good pitching, timely hitting.
Colorado 72-64 4.5 GB Shades of '07 as they jump back in race.
Los Angeles 69-68 8 GB Post-Manny Dodgers just ain't hittin'.
Giants defeated Los Angeles, 3-0.
Colorado defeated San Diego, 4-2.
Giants are at Arizona; a Labor Day 1:10 PM MST (4:10 EDT) start. Madison Bumgarner takes the baton. The 'Snakes are 7-3 over their last ten, best in the West, and were a major factor in San Diego's ongoing meltdown. Giants need to do here what they did in LA: take two of three.
San Diego now will host the Dodgers for three, and if LA can't win a couple there, you won't see them on our daily manifest any more. They are all but done.
Colorado hosts Cincinnati in the first of three. The Reds are runnin' away with the NL Central, so perhaps they can take those dangerous 'Rockettes' down a peg or two.
Last Night's Game
Jonathan Sanchez pitched, a couple of his teammates hit, and the Giants beat the Dodgers, 3-0, to take the series two games to one. It's a simple formula, and it's been key to the Giants' success this year, and it was a joy to see it in action last night-- a big game before a national TV audience. There probably isn't a team in the league that can beat Sanchez if he only walks one guy, and that walk-- plus a hit batsman on the next pitch-- was the extent of the young lefty's troubles last night. He struck out nine and allowed only three hits over seven innings, and was clocked at 95 in the seventh after his 100th pitch. The Giants got him a run early the old- fashioned way: Buster Posey (natch) singled, moved up on a wild pitch, took third on a short single by Jose Guillen, and came home on Pablo Sandoval's fly ball to right-- a bang-bang play that saw Buster just beat Andre Ethier's good throw. It stayed 1-0 until the seventh, when Juan Uribe went deep for the second straight night with a two-run shot down the left-field line. Sanchez almost visibly relaxed as he stepped up to the plate afterward, and an inning later he turned it over to Sergio Romo and then Brian Wilson, who nailed his league-leading 40th save.
About the only negative news from last night was Uribe's fouling one off his right shin, just before he launched the homer. He jogged around the bases OK, but then left the game. No news on the Giants' website about it... Philadelphia finally lost a game, and the Giants trail by two in the wild-card scramble. Like the Giants, the Phils are only one game out of first place... Today's Arizona starter, Ian Kennedy, is coming off a Sanchez-like performance against the Padres last week (7 shutout innings, 12 K). He has started three games against the Giants this year, pitching well in all three. His best outing (and only victory) was a 13-1 laugher back in May... Lincecum's opposite number tomorrow, rookie Barry Enright, beat the Giants' ace two weeks ago, pitching a shutout... Barry Zito and Daniel Hudson square off in the series finale. Hudson beat Zito (who didn't get out of the first inning) the day after Enright beat Lincecum, back when things were looking really bleak... Though the Padres haven't actually coughed up the lead yet, the very idea of a ten-game losing streak by a first-place team is almost incomprehensible in its freakishness. It's only happened once before in baseball history-- to the 1932 Pirates, who ended up finishing, yup, second.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
San Diego 77-59 … OK, so eleven straight was too much to ask.
GIANTS 77-61 1 GB Haven't allowed a run in 25 innings.
Colorado 73-64 4.5 GB Just hanging in 'til next week's series.
Los Angeles 69-69 9 GB Wha'appen to that 'dreaded spoiler role'?
Giants defeated Arizona, 2-0, in eleven innings.
San Diego defeated LA, 4-2.
Colorado defeated Cincinnati, 10-5.
Giants at Arizona; 9:40 PM EDT (6:40 MST). Tim Lincecum goes for his 13th win , while Barry Enright opposes. Hey, did you know Kirk Gibson is the Diamondbacks' interim manager?
San Diego hosts LA again, while Colorado takes on the Reds, who must resist the temptation to coast.
Last Night's Game
Nate Schierholz made up for one of baseball's most embarrassing moments in the top of the 11th when he ripped a line drive into deep right-center field that scored Aubrey Huff and Buster Posey with all the runs closer Brian Wilson would need. Earlier, Schierholz had come into the game as a pinch-runner for Pat Burrell-- and promptly got himself picked off first base. His game-winning heroics ended a marvelous pitchers' duel that began between Madison Bumgarner and the 'Snakes' Ian Kennedy, and ended (a surprisingly brisk three hours later) after eight relievers-- six of them Giants-- extended the non-scoring through ten. Given the situation, this had to be Bumgarner's finest outing to date-- he allowed only one extra-base hit (to Kennedy!) and walked one while fanning seven. Kennedy was even better, but despite-- or because of-- Bochy's constant pitching machinations (three of his six relievers faced only one batter), the Giants' bullpen pitched a four-inning no-hitter, which Arizona couldn't match. The save was Brian Wilson's 41st. As a group, the Giants' pitchers have not allowed a run since the fourth inning of Saturday's game against LA.
Giants announcer Mike Krukow said “Every night, a different hero,” after Schierholz's triple last night. This is another way of saying that nobody in the lineup is exactly tearing the cover off the ball right now. Andres Torres, Aubrey Huff, and Pat Burrell have all seen their numbers slipping lately, and Pablo Sandoval went 0-for-5 last night after his small recent rally. Only Buster Posey is bucking the trend, and even he is “down” to .326 from .339 a week ago... Gibson used tonight's starter, Enright, as a pinch-hitter last night. The kid is batting .280 with 4 RBI in 25 AB... Philadelphia continues to lead the wild-card chase after another victory last night, and they're only a half-game out of first place in the East, too... The Giants' win last night nosed them over .500 on the road... In the American League, Boston's last-chance effort took a step forward last night when they defeated Tampa. They need to sweep that series at Fenway. The Dodgers are in similar straits, but they have three, maybe four teams ahead of them, while the 'Sox' have only one.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
San Diego 78-59 … LA's got the tonic for what ails 'em.
GIANTS 78-61 1 GB The scoreless streak finally ends at 31.
Colorado 74-64 4.5 GB Three in the first was just enough..
Los Angeles 69-70 10 GB Losing records don't belong here.
Giants defeated Arizona, 6-3, as Tim Lincecum won his 13th game.
San Diego again beat LA, 2-1.
Colorado defeated Cincinnati, 4-3.
Giants finish up at Arizona; 9:40 PM EDT (6:40 MST). It's Barry Zito looking to break out of his slump, with Daniel Hudson opposing. Hudson beat Zito at the 'Bell two weeks ago.
San Diego and LA likewise wrap up their three-game set at Petco. The Dodgers have Chad Billingsley going, which is somewhat encouraging.
Colorado hosts Cincinnati tonight; they're in the middle of a four-game series.
Last Night's Game
The encouraging “return” of Tim Lincecum continues. He had a perfect game through four and a shutout through six. They started hitting him in the seventh, by which time he'd already struck out 11 and the Giants were up 6-0. Timmy benefited from a fast start; the Giants, who'd waited 11 innings to score any runs the day before, plated three in the first, two of them on Aubrey Huff's 23rd homer. Freddy Sanchez and Pat Burrell added long balls in the fifth and sixth, giving Lincecum a nice cushion. According to Mike Krukow, Lincecum's stuff was 'electric' last night, but when he started getting the fastball up, the 'Snakes' quickly halved the lead and Bruce Bochy summoned, in turn, Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo, and Jeremy Affeldt to finish it out.
It's Atlanta whom the Giants now trail, by one game, in the wild-card race. The Braves lost at Pittsburgh last night while Philadelphia won a crazy one over Florida, and suddenly the Phillies lead the NL East. All this tomfoolery benefits the Colorado Rockies, too, as they remain four and a half games back. The Cardinals, who have been unable to cash in on the Reds' recent misfortunes, are treading water, one game behind the 'Rocks'. Florida, only two games over .500 now, look to be about done, as are LA.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
San Diego 79-59 … Seems they've plugged the leak in time.
GIANTS 78-62 2 GB Hard-luck losses have been a trademark.
Colorado 75-64 4.5 GB Ask Reds if they think the West is weak.
Giants lost at Arizona, 3-1.
San Diego completed a three-game sweep of LA with a 4-0 win.
Colorado pounded Cincinnati, 9-2.
Giants open the big four-game series at San Diego. Tonight it's Matt Cain going against the well-traveled Jon Garland. 7:05 PM PDT (10:05 EDT) from Petco Park.
Colorado finishes up with Cincinnati.
Last Night's Game
Don't cry for Barry Zito, Argentina, but last night's loss was a tough one regardless. This was only the third such loss for Zito in 29 starts this season , though it sure seems like more. By contrast, he's been shelled-- or a reasonable facsimile thereof-- in eight of his twelve losses. Last night his fine six-inning four-hit seven-K stint was simply upstaged by young Daniel Hudson, who showed he can win a tight one, too. The Giants' only run came on Freddy Sanchez' second homer in as many days. Aubrey Huff and Jose Guillen each had two hits, but Buster Posey and Juan Uribe went a combined 0-for-8 with 7 LOB. Hard cheese indeed, Barry Z.
Yes, we know we're really reaching for these witty column headings. Get over it. The Giants will send Cain, Sanchez, Bumgarner, and Lincecum out to do battle with the enemy this weekend. And, speaking of gettin' off first, Cain and Sanchez have started 7 of the 11 games against San Diego this year so far. All of them have been close games; six have been one-run games-- and the Giants are 1-6 in those games. Two of them, of course, were 1-0 losses by Sanchez (including the one-hitter). As for Bumgarner and Lincecum, each has one start this year against the Pads: Bumgarner's was good, Lincecum's forgettable. For the opposition, it'll be Clayton Richard, Tim Stauffer, and Matt Latos following Garland tonight. Latos is the unquestioned ace (14-5, 2.21), a Cy Young candidate, and he'll oppose Tim Lincecum Sunday in the series finale. ESPN, are you paying attention? Latos won both those 1-0 decisions against Sanchez. And the stat sheet tells us he has not allowed more than two runs in his last fifteen starts, and nobody-- not Christy Mathewson, not Walter Johnson, not Lefty Grove, Bob Feller, Steve Carlton, Sandy Koufax (you get the idea)-- nobody has ever done that before. You could say it's time the Giants broke up that little streak, or you could say, “OK, who else ya got?” Well, Richard is no stranger to us: four starts this year, all quality starts, all San Diego victories, three of them at Cain's expense. Garland's lone start against SF was back in April against Todd Wellemeyer, who actually didn't pitch all that badly. (Yes, of course we lost that one, too.) The unknown quantity is Stauffer, Bumgarner's Saturday opponent, who has a 1.72 ERA in his six starts. Are there any more questions about why San Diego is leading the division? We'll leave with one encouraging note: both the Giants' wins against the Padres came in games started by, yep, Matt Latos. So don't give up the ship!
Friday, September 10, 2010
San Diego 79-60 … A split would probably be fine with them.
GIANTS 79-62 1 GB Now, that's how you kick off a big series!
Colorado 76-64 3.5 GB Have now won seven games in a row.
Giants defeated San Diego, 7-3.
Colorado edged Cincinnati, 6-5, overcoming a early 5-0 deficit and sweeping the Reds four straight.
Giants at San Diego, Round Two: Jonathan Sanchez against Clayton Richard, 10:05 PM EDT (7:05 PDT).
Colorado hosts Arizona in the first of three.
Last Night's Game
Kicking off a huge four-game series against the team they must beat and a team that has had the 'whammy' on them all year, the Giants came out swinging. It's hard to believe that even the Yankees could beat these guys when they play like this, and the frustrating thing is, they've yet to consistently play like this. But when it's happening, it's beautiful, and that was last night's story. Matt Cain sliced and diced the Padres through eight innings, allowing five hits and only one walk. Meanwhile, the Giants brought out the power; another house call from Doctor Longball. How many Giants fans, when asked to name the four who went deep last night, would answer reflexively, without even looking at the box score, “Huff, Posey, Burrell, Uribe.” Well, that's the ticket, sports fans, and all of a sudden the notion of the Giants leaving town with the lead no longer seems impossible, though it remains unlikely.
What's It Gonna Take?
It's extremely difficult to sweep a four-game series on the road, although the Giants did so recently at Arizona. That's what it would take to knock the Padres out of the lead right now. Should the Giants pull off the improbable, they'd return home with a two-game lead over a seriously rattled San Diego team. Now, taking three of four, which at the moment seems eminently doable, would leave the two teams essentially tied, though the Pads would retain a percentage-point lead due to their fewer losses. A split, and we leave town as we arrived-- two back. It's worth remembering that a split would conclude the ten-game road trip at 6-4, a good record for any road trip. But the Giants would then go back to depending on others to help out down the stretch, and any hopeful scenario would assign ultimate importance to those last three games of the season, when San Diego visits the 'Bell. Good for baseball, lousy for our nerves. The Giants have the advantage right here and right now: this is the time to press it.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
San Diego 79-61 … Have lost 12 of last 15 games.
GIANTS 80-62 … It's all tied up with three weeks to go.
Colorado 77-64 2.5 GB Have now won eight games in a row.
Giants defeated San Diego, 1-0.
Colorado bombarded Arizona, 13-4.
Giants at San Diego; 1:10 PM PDT (4:10 EDT). Madison Bumgarner has a chance to pitch the Giants into first place.
Colorado hosts Arizona again.
Last Night's Game
A hit batsman, a stolen base, and two fielder's choices resulted in the only run of the game, and the San Francisco Giants, like spies creeping through enemy territory, used that slender thread to, at long last, pull even with the former NL West frontrunners at approximately 10:08 PM PDT. And who else but Aubrey Huff, the team MVP, to make it all happen? Hit by a pitch opening the seventh, Huff stole second after the Padres pulled starter Clayton Richard for a reliever. One out later, Jose Guillen grounded one into the hole; Huff took off for third but appeared dead-on-arrival when Miguel Tejada grabbed the ball at the lip of the grass. But Huff's hustle beat the throw, a tough call that was panned by most of the 33,662 in attendance but which replays proved to be correct. Then Juan Uribe hit a double-play grounder that might've gotten San Diego out of the inning, but Uribe's hustle beat the relay as Huff crossed the plate. It's too bad that Jonathan Sanchez, no stranger to 1-0 games against the Padres, couldn't have gotten the win. He pitched five shutout innings and was nearly unhittable (actually, he's almost always unhittable when he's on his game), but he was terribly wild, walking seven, and no one was really surprised when Bruce Bochy lifted him for a pinch-hitter in the sixth. That attempted rally didn't pan out, but the next one did, and then it was the typical five-reliever parade over four innings: two hits, one walk, and Brian Wilson's 42nd save. The Giants are now firmly in the driver's seat of this series, already earning a split at worst, and still capable of a mighty sweep.
The ninth anniversary of the treacherous attack on America by the Global Jihad has extra significance this year, unfortunately, because of the pending construction of a mosque within the zone of destruction we call Ground Zero. As the saying goes, “Just because something can be done doesn't necessarily mean it ought to be done.” This applies to the building of the mosque, which is a thinly-veiled middle-finger in the very face of America, and it also applies to those misguided souls, acting in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who have threatened to publicly burn copies of the Koran in response. On this anniversary of a day where hate triumphed over love, we say, “Don't build it and don't burn it!” Instead, let us remember the fallen and honor their sacrifice by our actions, not merely our words.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
San Diego 80-61 … Third 1-0 win over Giants this season.
GIANTS 80-63 1 GB Periodic lack of offense remains concern.
Colorado 78-64 2.5 GB That's nine in a row now, sports fans.
Giants lost at San Diego, 1-0.
Colorado defeated Arizona, 2-1, with a seventh-inning rally.
Giants finish up the big San Diego series and the big road trip with a 1:05 PDT (4:05 EDT) start at Petco Park. It's a battle of the aces: Tim Lincecum against Matt Latos.
Colorado concludes their business with Arizona.
Teams tend to count their missed opportunities after losing games by 1-0, and both the Giants and the Padres have had occasion to do so over this weekend. Yesterday it was a pretty fair pitch Madison Bumgarner made to former Giant Yorvit Torrealba, which the San Diego catcher took the other way, fading it over the right-field fence like a regretted seven-iron. Bumgarner overall made perhaps his best start yet as a Giant, and he just keeps getting better. But Tim Stauffer and three of his teammates held the Giants to three hits, and the closest any of them came to producing a run was Juan Uribe's line-drive single to left with Jose Guillen on second, with one out in the second inning. Guillen was held at third, a textbook move that early in the game, but nobody figured the Giants would get only one more hit the rest of the way. And a ninth-inning attempt to inject a little speed into the mix saw the team's fastest player, Darren Ford, thrown out on a steal attempt. (Perhaps Aubrey Huff, for whom Ford ran, should have stayed in-- he stole a critical base on Friday. Just kidding, folks.) This one is far from catastrophic, but it's one the Giants let get away, and this recurring lack of offense is not a habit any team wants to take into the postseason, assuming they make it.
Monday, September 13, 2010
San Diego 80-62 … They were 5 ahead when this all began.
GIANTS 81-63 … 7-3 road trip turns the whole thing around.
Colorado 79-64 1.5 GB Howzabout a three-team race, people?
Giants defeated San Diego, 6-1, to take the four-game series and tie for first again.
Colorado defeated Arizona, 4-2, sweeping the series and winning their tenth straight.
Giants have the day off. LA comes to town for a three-game set beginning Tuesday.
Colorado hosts San Diego in the first of three. It's not inconceivable the Padres could be in third place by Thursday.
“ Recurring lack of offense?” Don't know what you're talking about. The Giants punished San Diego's Cy Young candidate, Matt Latos, severely over four innings, and Tim Lincecum did his own Cy Young impersonation as the Giants breezed, for a change, to a solid win that once again left the NL West leaderboard all tied up. Buster Posey belted a two-run shot in the first, and the Giants added another in the third and two in the fourth on Lincecum's two-run single. That was enough for young Mr Latos and his 2.43 ERA, and the rest of the evening belonged to the Giants' own ace, who won his 14th game. Whatever afflicted him in August seems safely behind us now: nine strikeouts and one walk in seven innings, hah? Along with Posey and Lincecum, Aubrey Huff handled the heavy lifting on offense as he went 3-for 5 and scored twice. The only “ofer” was Aaron Rowand, leading off and playing center field in the wake of Andres Torres' emergency appendectomy. Get well soon, brother.
On the Radar
The rolling Rockies have a chance to knock San Diego completely off the rails over the next three days. A sweep, which is by no means out of the question, would leave the Padres a game and a half behind Colorado, and presumably at least one game behind the Giants, too... This is the beginning of a ten-game road trip for the Pads, including four at St Louis and three more at LA. They don't return home until the 24th... It'll be Zito, Cain, and Sanchez taking the fight to LA, with Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, and Ted Lilly opposing. We know all about Billingsley and Lilly. As for Kershaw, he has pitched well in three starts against the Giants this year, but has one loss and two no-decisions to show for it. Most recently, he lost a 2-0 decision at the 'Bell to Matt Cain... The league is batting .208 against Sanchez, but he leads the NL in walks allowed... After LA, the Milwaukee series opens with a battle of lefthanders: the Giants' rookie Madison Bumgarner against veteran Randy Wolf (who is second in the league, we might add, in walks allowed)... We can't remember the last time the Giants won all three series on a long road trip like the one just concluded, but rest assured it don't happen very often. They are now a robust 30-30 against their own division... Of all the teams in baseball, Texas is closest right now to clinching their division, though their record is a half-game worse than the Giants'.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
San Diego 82-62 … Have they bailed out their sinking ship?
GIANTS 81-64 1.5 GB You can only get shut out so many times...
Colorado 79-66 3.5 GB Hottest team in baseball cools off a tad.
Giants lost to LA, 1-0.
San Diego defeated Colorado, 7-6, their second straight win over the Rockies.
Giants host LA; 7:15 PM PDT (10:15 EDT) at the 'Bell. Matt Cain goes against Chad Billingsley.
San Diego and Colorado finish up in Denver this afternoon. Padres go for the sweep.
Last Night's Game
Barry Zito's finest start in many weeks was wasted as the Giants simply could not hit. After five perfect innings, Zito got into some trouble in the sixth as LA loaded the bases with two out. Casey Blake then grounded one up the middle and Juan Uribe came all the way over from short to cut it off and keep it from going into center field. Uribe then juggled the ball and made a weak toss past second base, 'way too late to get the force, and the run from third scored. Rather mysteriously, this was ruled an error; presumably if Uribe had let the doggone thing go past him and into center, allowing two runs to score, he'd have been spared the error call. In any case, with one unearned run in, Zito was pulled in favor of righty Santiago Casilla, who got out of it, and he was followed by three relievers who pitched three perfect innings to keep it close. But the Giants' entire offense was four sparse hits-- two by Freddy Sanchez-- and they drew not a single walk. The Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw thus pitched a complete game in full command. The “recurring lack of offense” is back again, and his visits are becoming positively toxic.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
San Diego 82-63 … Had a chance to sweep and blew it.
GIANTS 82-64 .5 GB Cain wins 12th to even the series.
Colorado 80-66 2.5 GB Now must take their act on the road.
Giants defeated LA, 2-1, as Matt Cain threw seven shutout innings..
Colorado defeated San Diego, 9-6.
Giants finish up with LA at the 'Bell; Jonathan Sanchez against Ted Lilly in a battle of lefthanders. 7:15 PDT (10:15 EDT) start.
San Diego travels to St Louis, where they open a four-game set against the Cardinals.
Colorado has the day off. At long last, they'll get out on the road Friday as they visit LA.
Last Night's Game
How many times have we lauded the combination of timely hitting and great pitching? Last night's version saw newcomer Mike Fontenot drop a base hit into right-center with two out in the seventh. Travis Ishikawa, who had doubled one out earlier, scored with the game's first run, and that made a winner out of Matt Cain, who pitched a three-hit seven-inning shutout. Fittingly, it was Ishikawa who batted for Cain and scored the run that led to Matty's 12th win. One inning later, the unsinkable Aubrey Huff hustled home on a ground ball after taking third on a wild pitch after he had doubled to left. This insurance run paid off when Brian Wilson, in the process of earning his 43rd save, surrendered a ninth-inning solo shot to LA's Andre Ethier.
What was Fontenot doing in the game? He, along with Eugenio Velez (LF), Cody Ross (CF), and Nate Schierholz (RF), constituted one of Bruce Bochy's “outside-the-box” lineups, giving Aaron Rowand, Pat Burrell, and Freddy Sanchez some needed rest. Additionally, Jose Guillen (bulging disk) and Andres Torres (appendectomy) are under the weather, so “Boch's” habit of shuffling guys around all season is being put to the test, and it's paying off, at least some of the time... Colorado scored four in the fourth and four more in the fifth to avoid a sweep by the Padres. Good news for the Giants, who don't want either of those teams sweeping anybody... The Cardinals have lost seven of ten, they're barely above .500, and they're fading fast in the wild-card race. If they're gonna have any kind of chance, they've got to do it against the Padres this weekend. Wouldn't a four-game sweep be nice?... Colorado, with their miserable 29-42 road record, open a short (six-game) but, we hope, extremely unpleasant road trip to LA and Arizona … Speaking of the Cards, they host the Rockies in a strange four-game season finale... Atlanta continues to lead, barely, the wild-card derby; they're a half-game ahead of the Giants and now trail Philly by three in the NL East... Over in the American League, the Yankees and Rays are playing hot-potato with the AL East lead. Tampa currently holds a half-game lead after taking two of three from New York at the Tropicana Monstrosity.
Friday, September 17, 2010
GIANTS 83-64 … Whoa, Nellie... look at THIS!
San Diego 82-64 .5 GB
Colorado 80-66 2.5 GB
Giants crushed LA, 10-2, to win the three-game series and take over first place.
San Diego lost at St Louis, 4-0.
Colorado was idle.
Giants host Milwaukee in the first of three; 7:15 PDT (10:15 EDT). Madison Bumgarner faces veteran Randy Wolf.
San Diego is at St Louis again.
Colorado opens a road trip in LA tonight.
Last Night's Game
The last time the Giants were in first place in the month of September was in 2003. After seven years, they're back, and it was the old Earl Weaver formula-- pitching and three-run homers-- that got them there. Needing a strong start from Jonathan Sanchez, the Giants got an overpowering one. He struck out a career-high 12 over seven innings while allowing just four hits and two runs (one earned). Meanwhile, Aubrey Huff launched a three-run shot off Ted Lilly in the third, followed immediately by a second blast from Buster Posey, and the Giants were rolling. For good measure, they added a two-run cannon shot by Jose Guillen off Jeff Weaver one inning later, and piled on two more in the eighth just to be certain. San Diego had already lost, mesmerized by St Louis' Jake Westbrook, and so the game took on a tremendous, focused urgency as the final outs were made. A laborious, painstaking, at times infuriating 120-game climb is over and the Giants stand at the summit. The tricky part now will be staying there for 15 more games.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
GIANTS 83-65 … “I got it; now what'll I do with it?”
San Diego 82-65 .5 GB Cardinals are certainly doing their part.
Colorado 81-66 1.5 GB Bad road club gives no evidence of same.
Giants lost to Milwaukee, 3-0.
San Diego lost at St Louis, 14-4.
Colorado defeated LA, 7-5.
Giants host Milwaukee; 6:05 PDT (9:05 EDT) at the 'Bell. Tim Lincecum goes for his 15th win, while Yovani Gallardo opposes.
San Diego is at St Louis again, while Colorado's at LA. Both are afternoon games.
Last Night's Game
The only problem with being in first place, as the Giants are discovering, is now you have to stay there. Starting a more-or-less “standard” lineup against veteran southpaw Randy Wolf, the new NL West leaders punched out three meek singles in the first five innings and then retired from the action. More disconcerting were a series of defensive screwups, only two of which were scored errors and only one of which figured in the scoring. Madison Bumgarner, who has yet to win a game at the 'Bell. “pitched tough” into the sixth inning, allowing nine hits but also stranding nine runners. He gave up seven of those hits with two out, which makes us wonder if he's starting to feel the fatiguing effects of his first long season, and perhaps overthrowing in those pressure situations. His pitch count was 97 last night. He has been consistently in the 95-100 range per start all year, and he turned 21 six weeks ago.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
San Diego 83-65 … Two homers in the ninth pick them up.
GIANTS 83-66 .5 GB Homers? We don't got no stinking homers!
Colorado 82-66 1 GB Boy, those Dodgers are hangin' tough, hah?
Giants lost, again, to Milwaukee, 2-1, and lost the division lead.
San Diego defeated St Louis, 8-4, thanks to a four-run ninth-inning rally.
Colorado bombarded LA, 12-2.
Giants try to salvage one game from this Milwaukee series. Barry “Snakebit” Zito gets the start at 1:05 PDT (4:05 EDT).
San Diego finishes up their four-game set at St Louis.
Colorado is poised to sweep the Dodgers at LA.
Last Night's Game
This wretched Milwaukee business (the Brewers are 69-78 and the Giants swept them at Miller Park earlier this year) is depressingly familiar to anyone who followed the Giants as they stumbled down the stretch last September. In two games against the Seligmen, the Giants have eight hits-- all singles-- and one lousy run. Bruce Bochy was so desperate for offense, he pulled Tim Lincecum for a pinch-hitter in the fifth inning last night-- a move that visibly upset the normally unflappable ace. The Giants did get their only run in that frame, but thereafter did nothing and Lincecum was stuck with his 10th loss anyway. Well, at least he didn't hurt himself.
Monday, September 20, 2010
GIANTS 84-66 … Wake-up call came none too soon.
San Diego 83-66 .5 GB “Road trip from hell” just getting started?
Colorado 82-67 1.5 GB Hope Arizona proves tougher foe than LA.
Giants defeated Milwaukee, 9-2, to save the three-game series.
San Diego lost at St Louis, 4-1, dropping three out of four there.
Colorado lost at LA, 7-6, in 11 innings, and missed out on the sweep.
Everybody has the day off.
Giants open their last road trip of the year, to Chicago and then to Colorado.
San Diego will be visiting LA this week, and Colorado heads for Arizona.
Barry Zito finally got a break, the Giants' lineup finally hit, and the result was a rare laugher that moved the ballclub back into first place. Jose Guillen opened the festivities with a first- inning grand-slam home run, the kind of early-and-often explosion that frequently eludes these Giants. Zito turned in a good six-inning stint; he's pitched better in many of his losses, but the guy is historically unbeatable when supported by four runs or more. Those he got early, and the rest was “cake.” Guillen ended up with six RBI on the day, and Pat Burrell added a three-run shot in the seventh to move the game into full blowout status. The Giants thus avoided a mortifying sweep-at-home by the fourth-place Brewers, who were officially eliminated from contention with the loss.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
GIANTS 85-66 … Great start to a perilous road trip.
San Diego 84-66 .5 GB LA continues to roll over for the opposition.
Colorado 82-68 2.5 GB When was the last time they lost ground?
Giants defeated Chicago, 1-0, on Buster Posey's eighth-inning home run.
San Diego defeated LA, 6-0, as Clayton Richard beat Chad Billingsley.
Colorado lost at Arizona, 3-1.
Giants at Chicago; 8:05 PM EDT. Jonathan Sanchez goes for his 12th win.
San Diego is at LA again.
Colorado is at Arizona, with Ubaldo Jiminez trying for his 20th win.
Last Night's Game
Buster Posey is the National League Rookie of the Year. Let's get that one out of the way first. After last night's game-winning homer in the eighth, the only run of a tense 1-0 duel in the heat of a pennant race for a team playing on the road, it seems almost obscene to even consider anyone else. Posey's shot came an inning too late for Matt Cain, who pitched six two-hit scoreless frames but who was matched almost pitch-for-pitch by Chicago's Carlos Zambrano. When it came time for somebody to blink, it was the Cubs' bullpen that did so. Meanwhile, Rafael Ramirez, Sergio Romo, and Brian Wilson were perfect over the final three. Ramirez got the win and Wilson his 44th save, but the salient stat is the entire bullpen's 0.40 ERA in September. Such pitching can carry a team through quite a few 1-0 games-- but we still hope there won't be too many of those.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
San Diego 85-66 … Have quietly won three of last four.
GIANTS 85-67 .5 GB Fifteenth shutout loss of the season.
Colorado 82-69 3 GB Jimenez remains stuck on 19 wins.
Giants lost at Chicago, 2-0.
San Diego defeated LA, 3-1, to regain first place.
Colorado lost at Arizona, 8-4.
Giants finish up at Chicago; 7:05 PM EDT. Madison Bumgarner faces Ryan Dempster, who beat Tim Lincecum at the 'Bell last month.
San Diego goes for the sweep at Dodger Stadium, while Colorado tries to avoid a sweep at Arizona.
Last Night's Game
Giants actually out-hit the Cubs, 6-5, but it didn't matter. We've become familiar with this tune by now: a thoroughly unremarkable opposing pitcher (Randy Wells, in this case) puts up a Cy Young impersonation against us in a critical game. It doesn't happen as often as it seems; most of the pitchers who've shut the Giants down this year are guys like Billingsley, Latos, Jimenez, Ben Sheets, Tim Hudson and Jon Lester. Still, we can look at Wells' modest pitch count of 91 and conclude that the Giants are pressing, getting impatient, getting behind... all those things that help build a journeyman pitcher's confidence. The Cubs turned two double plays behind Wells, both with men in scoring position, and Pablo Sandoval, last year's stud, was pulled for a pinch-hitter in the eighth; he had failed to advance Jose Guillen to third after the latter's leadoff double in the second inning. Baseball is a funny game (that's “funny peculiar,” not “funny ha-ha,” though sometimes it's that, too), and these cases of 'yips' at the plate seem to be catching. Occasionally we'll get a game like Tuesday's, when a lone star (Buster Posey) does enough on his own to win the game. But it must be emphasized that no team can win that way consistently. The Giants need more games like last Sunday's, when everybody hits.
Friday, September 24, 2010
GIANTS 86-67 … Back in the saddle again.
San Diego 85-67 .5 GB LA rises up and denies the sweep.
Colorado 82-70 3.5 GB When was last time they were swept in a series?
Giants bombarded Chicago, 13-0.
San Diego lost at LA, 3-1.
Colorado lost a wild one at Arizona, 10-9, their fourth straight defeat.
Giants at Colorado; 8:10 PM EDT (6:10 MDT). Tim Lincecum goes for his 15th win, and biggest of the season. Jhoulys Chacin, who has beaten the Giants twice this year, opposes.
San Diego hosts Cincinnati in the first game of a weekend series.
Last Night's Game
Well, “ the Giants need more games...when everybody hits?” Indeed. And they got one last night, big-time, to take the Chicago series and vault back into first place. It was over quickly, as Juan Uribe led the barrage in a nine-run second inning that sent Ryan Dempster to an early shower and allowed Madison Bumgarner to set the cruise control. Uribe hit two homers in the frame, one a grand slam, and drove in six of the nine. The Giants pounded out 19 hits; Freddy Sanchez had four and Cody Ross three, and Bumgarner himself was 2-for-4. Conspicuously absent from the starting lineup was Pablo Sandoval; Mark Fontentot led off and had two hits and two runs scored in his place. As for Bumgarner, he just keeps getting better and better. He fanned nine in seven shutout innings last night, throwing a mere 103 pitches, and lowered his ERA to 3.06, better than any Giants starter except Matt (3.00) Cain. Maybe he should be the Rookie of the Year, hah?
Saturday, September 25, 2010
GIANTS 87-67 … At current pace, would win 92 games.
San Diego 86-67 .5 GB Now they lead in the wild-card race.
Colorado 82-71 4.5 GB Dare we hope they're beginning the final fade?
Giants defeated Colorado, 2-1, as Tim Lincecum won his 15th game.
Giants at Colorado again; 8:10 PM EDT (6:10 MDT). Barry Zito versus Jason Hammel. In two no-decisions against the Giants this year, Hammel pitched well and Colorado won both games.
San Diego hosts Cincinnati again.
Last Night's Game
Tim Lincecum took a perfect game into the sixth before surrendering a run, and Pat Burrell's monster two-run shot in the seventh made the Giants' ace a winner again. In a fine pitchers' duel which saw the two teams combine for five hits total, Lincecum's two-hitter over eight was better than Jhoulys Chacin's three-hitter over seven. Lest we forget, the Giants do a real good job of reminding us, every other day or so, that it's pitching, pitching, pitching with this ballclub, and we might as well get used to it.
The Philadelphia Phillies, winners of eleven straight, have turned the NL East into their own personal playground, and now lead Atlanta by seven games. The Phils have done all this in less than two weeks. Meanwhile, the Braves are trying to hang on in the wild-card race, but remain vulnerable to whoever loses this NL West derby... It's the same old story in the AL, with Tampa Bay and the Yankees both locked into win-one lose-one patterns; Tampa currently has the half- game lead. Since both teams will make the playoffs anyway, perhaps it matters little; and that's a doggone shame from where we sit. No, we don't much like the wild-card, even though it has helped us in years past... Pablo Sandoval, whom some caustic fans have taken to calling “Pablo Strand-'em-all,” watched the game from the bench for the second straight night... Last night's win was especially huge because Colorado really needed a sweep here, and they ain't gonna get it. Lincecum's effort was the very definition of “clutch”... Though the Rockies are hurtin' right now, don't count them out yet. They still have five home games (out of nine) to play... Andres Torres last night made his first appearance since his appendectomy, as a defensive replacement in the seventh, and also had one at-bat. Bruce Bochy said the center fielder was “comfortable” at the plate, so we hope this means he returns to the lineup soon. He has been missed... Uribe's two-homer inning Thursday night was the first time since 2007 (Bengie Molina) any Giant has done so. How many grand slams does Uribe have this season anyway? We remember at least two.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
San Diego 87-67 … Seem to have recovered from their slump.
GIANTS 87-68 .5 GB Everything right is wrong again.
Colorado 83-71 4 GB Tulowitzki may have saved their season.
Giants lost at Colorado, 10-9, in ten innings.
San Diego defeated Cincinnati, 4-3, scoring the winning run in the bottom of the ninth.
Giants wrap up at Colorado, their last road game of the season. It's a 3:10 PM EDT start, with Matt Cain going for his 13th win against lefthander Jorge De La Rosa.
San Diego finishes up with Cincinnati; Clayton Richard starts.
Last Night's Game
The Giants pounded out fifteen hits, four of them homers, and rallied twice to counter Colorado rallies, and still it wasn't enough. The bottom line is, they blew a 9-6 lead after six, and dropped into second place once again. And if there's one villain in this piece (outside of the Giants' normally-reliable bullpen, which we'll get to directly) it has to be Rockies' shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who, considering the situation, had a career game, a game for the ages. He was 4- for-5 with two doubles, a homer, and five RBI, including the game-winner. It came in the tenth off Brian Wilson, who blew his fifth save and lost his third game. Well, we might as well talk about the good stuff first, and for once that means hitting. Every starter except Buster Posey had at least one hit. Andres Torres, returning to the leadoff spot with a bang, belted his 15th to open the third, and one out later Aubrey Huff launched his team-leading 26th. That turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead, which lasted only a few minutes. Barry Zito was unable to escape the fifth, which ended when reliever Chris Ray surrendered a two-run homer to, who else, Tulowitzki. The Giants immediately responded in the top of the sixth, a five-run outburst crowned by Cody Ross' three-run homer, which made it 9-6. But then came the nickel-and-dime rallies: one on the sixth, two in the eighth to tie, and the game-winner in the tenth. The Giants' bullpen, so ineffably brilliant of late, evidently was due for a meltdown, and perhaps we may be grateful that everyone-- Ray, Casilla, Affeldt, Lopez, and finally Wilson-- had their bad night on the same night.
Torres' home run was great, but he's still hurting, and was removed from the game in the fifth... There is something majorly wrong with baseball's “Hold” statistic. While Dan Runzler and Sergio Romo did their jobs last night, why on earth would the three guys who coughed up the lead-- Casilla (one inning, three hits, one run), Affeldt (one inning, one hit, another run), and Lopez (one batter, one hit, and the tying run)-- each earn a “Hold” in this situation? Don't bother; there's no possible explanation that also jibes with the purpose of the whole thing, which is to Win The Game... Colorado would have been effectively eliminated if they'd lost. Five and a half games back with seven to go? That also shows that, while frustrating, this one by itself is not a killer loss. The Giants can win Sunday and complete the road trip at 4-2, with their final six at the 'Bell... Whoever wins the NL West will likely open the playoffs against the Cincinnati Reds, but the home-field advantage remains up for grabs... Texas and Minnesota have clinched their divisions in the AL, and Tampa Bay has opened up a game-and-a-half lead over the Yankees... The Reds can help themselves as well as the Giants by beating San Diego today. They could clinch the NL Central if St Louis also loses to the Cubs... Philadelphia likewise could wrap it up today with a win over the Mets if Atlanta also loses to the Nationals over in Washington... The Braves and Giants have identical records and are currently tied for the wild- card. Should that be the Giants' fate, they'll travel to Philly to open the playoffs. Yeah, better to win the division!