Sunday, August 31, 2014

Saaa - weeeeep!

The Giants completed a sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers this weekend who were first in the National League Central Division and are currently tied for first as a result of the Giants efforts.  That gives them 6 wins in a row and, in the past week, they have managed to gain 2 games on front-running LA.

The numbers the Giants put up were impressive.  Madison Bumgarner tied the league leaders with his 16th win.  He threw 96 pitches in 6 innings, gave up 5 hits and 1 run and struck out 7.  He knocked his ERA to less than 3.00.  He got into some trouble in the first, giving up two singles to the first two batters to put runners at first and third.  Then, Ryan Braun hit into a double play, Crawford to Panik to Morse.  Brandon Crawford has played some spectacular defense lately, and I'm thinking I could get used to watching a lot of BCraw to Panik double play pivots.

Behind 1 - 0 after the first, the Giants scored in the second to tie the game, added 3 in the third to take the lead and never looked back.  They also scored in the fifth (2), sixth (1), seventh (7) and eighth (1).  The final was 15 - 5.  For those who keep track of such things, that is a collective 31 - 8 whupping the Giants have laid on the Brewers.

1 home run (Panda).  3 triples (Panda, Pence and Panik).  6 doubles (2 for Pence, 2 for Susac, Blanco and Arias).  16 hits total.  3 rbi for Panda and Susac, 2 rbi for Pence and Panik, and an rbi for Pagan, Morse, Crawford and Arias.  The Giants got 15 runs without Buster Posey in the game.

In the seventh, Madison was relieved by George Kontos.  Kontos went 2/3 of an inning and gave up a home run to Martin Maldonado.  Javier Lopez relieved him for the final out.  Tim Lincecum came in for the final two innings.  It did not go well.  Tim gave up a solo home run to Ryan Braun in the eighth and hit Maldonado with a pitch and gave up an assortment of hits (including a past ball) to allow 2 more runs in the ninth.  So I guess Tim will not be starting in relief in the suspended game in Colorado tomorrow.

It is a good thing that the Giants are scoring well, finally, as they have the make-up game and three more to play in Colorado.  It does not look particularly easy after that.  They go to Detroit from Colorado, currently scrapping for the American League Central Division lead.  Then they play Arizona at home before our last home stand against LA.  Then a road trip to Arizona, San Diego and Los Angeles before our final 4 game series at home against San Diego.  San Diego is one of those kind of teams that worry me.  They are out of the race, as is Arizona, but have been playing well lately (they just took 2 of 3 from LA after taking 2 of 3 from Milwaukee).  It is the time of year when you get a bunch of young players who tend to swing for the fences to try to impress someone.

The Giants' starting pitching is going great.  Well, maybe not Tim, but there's still hope and Yusmeiro looks like a good fill in.  Their hitting is going great and just in the nick of time.  Their relief looks a little spotty, but really, they were nails until the last couple of games, so on the whole, still great. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Peavy Power!

The Giants beat the Brewers 3-1 for their fifth straight win behind a brilliant effort by Jake Peavy who took a no-hitter into the 8th inning. Unlike last night's rout, this was a taut affair that stayed close until the final out. Giants starters have done a Peavy-to-Peavy run through the rotation and have six fine starts (Game Scores of 61, 98, 77, 69, 67, 82) to show for it, allowing only seven runs. Santiago Casilla was touched for a run tonight as he was on Wednesday, those being the only allowed by the 'pen over the same stretch. With the Dodgers losing in extras to the Padres tonight the Giants are 2-1/2 back in the West. We've been waiting, hoping and praying that the team would put together a streak of good baseball and you have to like this stretch. Clutch hitting and some big fielding plays sealed the deal and the Giants get another big win against a tough team and have a chance to sweep the series.

Madison Bumgarner, fresh off a one-hitter, gets the start tomorrow afternoon.



Friday, August 29, 2014

Vogie, Giants Throttle Brewers

Ryan Vogelsong kept the Brewers quiet for seven innings, giving up only two runs on four hits and one walk while striking out seven. It was his sixth start of the month and his best since his two-hitter in New York on the first. Vogie wasn't content with studly pitching--after a dose of chin music from Brewers starter Wily Peralta to lead off the 2nd he roped a liner to right to and eventually scored. It was an impressive nine-pitch battle that oozed with grit and VSC. The Giants were up 3-0 after the 1st and scored in the next four innings as well, pounding out 19 hits on the night. Buster Posey had five all by himself including a triple. Joe Panik had four and Angel Pagan and Hunter Pence banged out three apiece. Gregor Blanco had three RBIs, two on a homer, his second in two nights. Mike Morse was on base three times via a HBP, walk, and single. The only starter without a hit was Brandon Crawford but he did manage a walk and also drove in a run. George Kontos got the last six outs with a minimum of fuss. It was a complete rout--the final was 13-2.

It was a great night for the Giants. We've been hoping to see a playoff-caliber team emerge here in crunch time as every series from this point forward is crucial. Tonight they looked like champions against a tough foe. By the way that's five good starts in a row, one for each guy. Let's hope they can keep that going.

Jake Peavy goes tomorrow night.



Thursday, August 28, 2014

Petit Power!

Yusmeiro Petit came agonizingly close last season to baseball immortality. This season he's taken another shot at it and come away with a major league record--46 batters retired consecutively. It's not as glamorous as a perfect game, but the cool thing about it is that he alone is at the top of the list. Not bad. One thing you learn watching this game is that any guy on the roster might play the hero one day, one week, one season. And that any guy on a big league roster is capable of doing something historic. I love it when an unsung "nobody" gets to be the star. Petit's streak started in Philadelphia, a game Tim Lincecum saved in the 14th inning. He pitched poorly that day, but has been damn tough ever since, all in relief, and added the record-breaking eight more he needed in today's start. Of course he's in Tim's spot in the rotation, and naturally it was the opposition pitcher that got the hit that broke the streak. Congratulations, Yusmeiro! Way to put your name in the record books and lead the team to a much-needed win.

Gregor Blanco's two-run shot in the 1st gave the home team all they needed today, but it was nice to see them add two more later with some patience, execution, and good situational hitting. The Rockies have been very tough on the Giants and I'm getting sick of them. It doesn't get easier, though, as the NL Central-leading Brewers come to town this weekend. I wonder if Petit's strong start means he'll get another one. And when will we see Lincecum come out of the 'pen?



Buster Plays Hero Again

Buster Posey rescued the Giants again with a two-run shot in the 9th to beat the Rockies 4-2. It's fun to see him return to form. Last year he had two homers total after the Break. I wondered why Boch took out Hudson, but I was cool with Casilla, he's been deadly. It didn't work out. I suppose they want to keep the old guy fresh. I wondered why the Giants couldn't score more than two runs in eight innings against the goddamn worst road team in the world. I'm still wondering. When they get good start against a weak team they should thrash 'em. Speaking of good starts, that's three in a row. Yusmeiro Petit gets the ball this afternoon.



p.s. This is pretty cool:

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Madison Bumgarner / Buster Posey

Madison Bumgarner was superb tonight.  He was almost perfect.  He faced 28 Colorado batters, and only one of them got a hit.  He had a perfect game through 7 innings, gave up only 1 hit, walked none and struck out 13.

Madison was economical with his pitches, throwing less than 11 per inning through the first 7.  He threw 103 pitches in total, and 80 of them were strikes.  He had seventeen 0 - 2 counts on the Colorado batters.  Think about that for a minute.  In 17 of the 27 outs allotted in a game, Colorado batters had 1 strike to work with.  His 13 strikeouts was a career high, and he leads the National League in double-digit strikeout games.  When Justin Morneau hit a double to lead off the eighth and break up the perfect game and no hitter, Madison responded by striking out the next three Rockie batters.

Buster Posey carried the offense on his broad shoulders.  He hit 2 home runs, the first with Hunter Pence on base, for the Giants 3 runs.  It was his first multiple home run game.  Gregor Blanco made several important catches, including a spectacular at-the-wall snag in the first.  As the radio spots say,  Mr. Bochy is a genius for starting Gregor in left field tonight.

This was a fantastic performance.  I wish I felt that it was the start of something big, but I have soured too much on this team in the past few days.  To elaborate on that seems churlish.  Madison Bumgarner is 25 years old.  Buster Posey is 27.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Giants Get Peaved

Bruce Bochy was so peeved on a terrible called strike three to Buster Posey in the 8th he got booted by home plate umpire Doug Eddings. It was that kind of game. The Rockies scored one in the 1st with the help of two errors (one by Panik and one by Peavy) and two in the 4th with the help of two errors (both by BCraw) and a balk by hard-luck starter Jake Peavy. It was weird. In fact, the whole game was bizarre, like some kind of alternate universe where good is bad and bad is good. That inning had two plays at the plate, both outs, but the first one had to be reviewed before the call got made. Not something you see very often.

Mike Morse hit into two double plays--the Giants hit into four total--both well-struck, and he also got on base twice. His triple with one out in the 4th gave the team a real chance to tie the score but he was stranded. He walked to lead off the 9th and give the team another chance to tie the score but was, naturally, stranded (at least pinch-runner Matt Duffy was stranded). So, four plate appearances for the big fella with two clutch positive results and two double-whammy un-clutch outcomes. That was the game in a nutshell. Nine hits for the home squad and a strong start from their excitable pitcher but a terrible loss nonetheless. Peavy looked ready to come apart at the seams more than once, especially after the blown-but-corrected call at home but kept making good pitches and racking up outs. He should have fared better. Hell, the team should have fared better.

Andrew Susac hit a long homer to center field that gave the Giants an early lead. At least that was fun to watch. Peavy is fun to watch, too. He's the antithesis of the stoic Matt Cain he replaced but I have to say I find his histrionics quite entertaining. He gets Cainian results despite the difference in temperament. Speaking of Cain, Ryan Vogelsong did. In Baggs' article about his start in D.C. Vogie was quoted as saying he felt the need to "step up" when Matty went down. He's certainly been a bright spot in this confounding season, especially this month.

Thirty-two games left. Five games back in the West. Clinging to a half-game lead for the second Wild Card. We keep saying it and it remains true: time for the ball club to get their shit together and put together some winning streaks.



Sunday, August 24, 2014

Disaster Inning Sinks Giants

It was the right move to bring in a rested Jeremy Affeldt in the 6th in relief of Ryan Vogelsong. With one out and no one on it should have been an ideal situation for the lefty who consistently gets strikeouts and ground balls. And has been a top-flight reliever since joining the team in 2010. Alas, he couldn't get anyone out and the Nationals poured it on and turned a 6-3 deficit into an 8-6 lead (the final result was 14-6). Maybe with Gregor Blanco in left instead of Mike Morse, Bryce Harper's double is an out instead, but Boch didn't have the luxury of a defensive replacement with Angel Pagan getting the day off. In the end, Morse's misplay mattered little as the stalwart 'pen finally faltered. Sometimes you make the right move but get the wrong result. Washington is suddenly on fire, winning 12 of 13 and streaking their way to the best record in the NL. The Giants found that out the hard way this afternoon. They've never hit Stephen Strasburg before, and shockingly lit him up early and chased him after four, but it didn't hold up. The lineup flashed both power (two homers, double, triple) and situational hitting (two sac flies) but it was all for naught. Vogie is starting to get some real run support these days--the team has been shut out in five of his starts and had zero on the board when he left on four other occasions.

I have a rule about reading too much into one game. That is, I don't like to do that. Especially in baseball where any team can have a rotten game, weekend, or road trip and still be a contending club. But this game was a soul-crusher. Seeing them come home after taking two of three from a first-place team would have been wonderful. Even if they had lost two of three I would have been OK if the games were close. Hold your own against good teams and thump on the bad ones is an excellent way to win a division (q.v. OGC's latest). Now the onus is on the Giants to stomp the Rockies this week at home where they are 32-32 for the season and have not played well lately (4-8 in the last two homestands). The Giants have already scored more runs in August (92) than they did in July (85) and should pass their June total (93) easily. They also have seven games left in the month and with 10 wins have tied their June total and are only two from July's, so you have to like that trend. They gave up an astonishing 116 runs in June and improved that in July to 92. Today's ridiculous game pushed their relatively stingy 68 runs allowed up to 82, but that's still not too bad. I'm trying to see the positives here and look for improvement! Maybe I'm reaching, but after a horrid, gut-punching loss like this one I need a lifeline.

Jake Peavy gets the ball tomorrow night in San Francisco.



p.s. Great games today from Gregor Blanco and Travis Ishikawa and three hits for BCraw who looks like he might be reversing--finally--a long hitting slide. Interestingly, his OPS has gone up each year since his debut. We'll see if he can finish the year on a high note.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Pitiful Tim

 Game Summary:
Reality returned after yesterday's glory and it took the form of yet another horrible Tim Lincecum performance. At least it was short.  The Nationals racked the former stud, got a quality start from Zimmerman, and won easily, 6-2. 

Tim Facts:
Start #26  Loss  (10-9, 4.64)  2.2 innings  6 hits  6 runs   4 earned runs   4 walks   2 strikeouts  1 hr

Second shortest start of Lincecum's career. Plus that makes SEVEN crappy starts in a row.  At this rate it will take a long time for Tim to reach victory #100.  In fact, I hope he gets it as a member of the bullpen. Not only does Tim richly deserve the demotion, Petit definitely deserves the chance.  It was absurd to leave Tim in to hit to start the third and I was surprised Bochy did it. Time to make the move, good things may come from it.

High and/or Lowlights:
Petit could not have made a better case for joining the starting rotation.  Lincecum could not have really done a better job of earning a demotion. After 11 of 18 batters reached safely against Lincecum, Yusmeiro (which is a really beautiful name) set down the only THIRTEEN Nats that he faced.
It would be a pity to lose Petit from the long relief role, though. However, it would be a pity to keep letting Lincecum start.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Panik Mode

The Giants thumped the Nationals tonight 10-3, scoring six runs in the final two frames to turn a taut 4-2 pennant race contest into a rout. Rookie Joe Panik launched his first big-league homer in the 3rd with two on to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 3-1 lead. Young Joe made an error in the 1st that led to the Nats first run but finished with four hits. It was an impressive display by the visiting squad with 14 hits including two homers (Buster had the other) and two doubles (Posey and Travis Ishikawa). Eight different guys got hits and seven different guys scored runs. Here's what I liked: LF Mike Morse had a hit and a run scored, his late-game replacement Gregor Blanco did as well, and he also made a nice grab in the field. That's how it is supposed to work, right?

Tim Hudson was grit and VSC personified, but the patient Washington lineup eventually chased him in the 6th. Javier Lopez was the vanguard of a Giants relief triumvirate with Jean Machi and Sergio Romo that nailed down the next eight outs in nine batters. Juan Gutierrez made a bit of a mess of the 9th, but with an eight-run lead it hardly mattered. Final line for the 'pen: 3-2/3, 2H, 1R, 2BB, 5K.

Big win against a tough team. Tim Lincecum gets the ball tomorrow.