Saturday, April 25, 2015

Giants use all the arrows in the quiver

Extra innings seems to be the Giants forte. They are now 3-1 when they need more than nine. Amazing effort tonight in a hostile park. Tim Hudson was terrific and the bullpen equally tough and that gave the lineup the chances they needed to score and win one against the Rockies. We saw it all: doubles, homers, walks, steals, and bunts; an offensive kitchen sink that just keep grinding and it eventually paid off. The team was 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position! The club really needed a win and now they have a chance to take the series tomorrow behind Tim Lincecum.

Great game and a great time seeing old friends as well. Good stuff tonight.



1st inning: 7-11

We've seen the Giants play 1/9 of their season so far, 18 of 162 games, the first seasonal inning. The highlight of course was the three-game sweep of the Dodgers. The low point was the eight-game losing streak in which they were outscored 43-15. The emergence of rookie Chris Heston as a viable starter is definitely another high point--he got beat yesterday in Colorado but the entire Giants team has yet to figure out how to beat the 2015 Rockies so I'm not too bothered by that. The other youngsters like Joe Panik and Matt Duffy have been terrific as well. FNG Justin Maxwell has been a great addition so far as has Nori Aoki. It looks like Brandon Belt is finding his stroke and Angel Pagan looks strong and healthy and back to form. Brandon Crawford is still the best shortstop in the world and he's starting to see the big hits fall. Tim Lincecum is another great 2015 story with only four runs allowed in his first three starts.

Right now the club is third from the bottom of the league in run-scoring. Only Philadelphia (6-11) and Milwaukee (3-14) are worse. You can win with a below-average offense, but not with one this bad. The Giants are pounding out 2.94 runs per game and the NL mean is 3.88 rpg. Note that San Diego (4.72), Los Angeles (4.50), Arizona (4.38), and Colorado (4.29) are 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 6th in the rankings. Giants could use an uptick and the obvious candidate for improvement is Buster Posey. We all know what Buster can do so I expect we will see that happen real soon. Casey McGehee's bat has not come to life either but you have to figure things will turn around for him, too. In terms of OPS the Giants, at .666, are only a hair from the league mean of .683, but again the top three teams are from the West (Dodgers, Rockies, Padres) so it behooves the club to find some power hitting. The Giants have proven that you can win without home runs, but they have always had extra-base hits aplenty and they could use a few more. The team has drawn 56 walks, 4th-best, which I hope is a season-long trend.

The Giants aren't doing it on the run-prevention side either. They've given up 74 runs, 4.11 rpg, fourth and sixth from the bottom. The league average is 3.95 so there is reason for optimism as they aren't too far away. LA (3.62) and SD (3.67) are leading the way in the West and are 3rd and 4th from the top. Ace Madison Bumgarner is not entirely there yet and that will have a huge impact on things when he gets into mid-season form. Tim Hudson can still deliver quality starts and along with the other Timmy that's not a bad trio. With Jake Peavy out of sorts and now injured and Matt Cain still on the shelf the team's depth will be tested. Ryan Vogelsong showed some moxie in his last start and perhaps Yusmeiro Petit will be called upon to do his magic a few times before the boys are back. The bullpen is still a team strength, I'm particularly enjoying watching George Kontos who looks very tough.

There's nothing pretty about eight losses in a row, a 7-11 record, and last place. But it's 1/9 of the season and considering the injuries to two starters and the team's two best players below par I'm not worried. There is a lot of baseball left to play and plenty of time for things to start going the Giants way. The starters are the key, they have to keep games close, but the offense has been mostly anemic and that's cost them some winnable games. They've been shut out three times, scored only one run three times (but got a win!), and scored only two runs twice. That's not a recipe for success. Score four and allow three is the magic formula, the Giants have that reversed right now. We saw them take three from LA with three strong starts (six runs allowed!) and some clutch hitting so we know they can match up with their rivals. The new-look Padres are in the mix with a nice balance of pitching and hitting and the damn Rockies have yet to be beaten by the defending champs but I'm not sure I buy into their hot start. I still see a three-way brawl for the title. LA has the track record, the home run hitters, and the ├╝ber-aces. SD has the Rodney Dangerfield vibe as well as some smart off-season moves (Craig Kimbrel, James Shields, Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, etc.) on their side. Should be fun, eh?



Thursday, April 23, 2015

Epic Exertions in Extras!

When Howie Kendrick made that full-extension leaping grab of Justin Maxwell's line drive with two outs in the 8th and the bases loaded I thought that was it for the Giants. Down 2-1, though, they rallied again in the bottom half as Casey McGehee singled to lead things off and Brandon Crawford smoked a triple to score pinch-runner Matt Duffy. With a runner on 3rd and no outs, it looked like the Giants might walk off with the win but LA closer Pedro Baez righted the ship and sent the game to extras. Santiago Casilla appeared ready to give it away in the 10th but struck out Adrian Gonzalez with two outs and the bases loaded to keep the tie. That was tense! In the bottom of the 10th, Maxwell got another chance to be the hero and he roped a no-doubt winner down the left field line to end it, scoring Angel Pagan. The team would not quit and kept scratching out chances and they finally paid off with a sensational come-from-behind victory.

Great work from starter Ryan Vogelsong who allowed two solo shots in six innings, retiring the last ten batters he faced. The 'pen kept it scoreless for the final four frames while LA's crew gave up two. With struggling FNG McGehee getting a big hit and struggling Vogie pitching well it was a good day for the ballclub. Did I mention the great Giants bullpen? A series sweep of the high-flying Dodgers was the perfect antidote to an otherwise ugly homestand. Now 7-10 after four wins in five games, the last two walk-offs, the home squad gets the thrill of a trip to Colorado for a weekend series. That place is goofy. Weird baseball happens there. They just played a 2-1 game--the Rockies beat the Padres today at Coors. What are they thinking?

Terrific afternoon of baseball for Giants fans and like I said just what was needed after the losing streak. Let's hope the 'mo' continues to flow.



Wednesday, April 22, 2015

In A Pinch, Panik

9th inning.  A pinch hit rbi with bases loaded, game over.  What's not to like?  Joe Panik.  Madison Bumgarner against Clayton Kershaw.  Kershaw gave up 2 runs in 6, Madison gave  up 2 in 6 1/3.  They gave Mr. Kershaw a better game score, which illustrates how little that means.  However, Joe Panik.  And just to be absolutely clear, Joe Panik.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Double 'em Up Tim

The sleeping Giant awoke!  For one of the only times this season the Giants played an all around excellent ballgame and smacked down the formerly streaking doggers, 6-2.  Tim Lincecum pitched a fine game that was supported by a baker's dozen of hits (including a dinger!) and an efficient bullpen.  Throw in some shaky LA defense and the sell-out crowd at AT&T had a truly swell time.

Spiffy double plays were a key feature of this game.  In fact, Tim got the blue goo to hit into FOUR, which was the most by a Giant pitcher in 13 years.  The best of the bunch was a beauty that BCraw started with a dive and perfect flip.  It was spectacular and it is getting to where you expect it!

This game had so many highlights that is easy to lose track of the fine job that Tim did. We needed a solid start (hell, we needed EVERYTHING) and he certainly delivered : 6 innings, 5 hits, 1 run, 3 walks, 5 strikeouts, game score 60. Even though he was a little wild, he kept it down and was rewarded with big double plays.  An all around great game, but the clear player of the game was...

Justin Maxwell.  When you hit a triple and a homer AND make a magnificent catch, all against the doggers, you definitely deserve the game ball.  Congratulations, new guy! We have only won 5 games and Maxwell is largely responsible for two of them. Gee, think he deserves a bit more playing time?

Tomorrow: Bumgarner vs. Kershaw.  Does it get any better?

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Heston Bests 'em Again

Chris Heston delivered another impressive effort, this time snapping the team's horrid eight-game losing streak with 7-2/3 innings of five-hit ball. The Giants have needed a big hit for a week, something cathartic, and Brandon Crawford obliged with a booming two-run homer to right-center that made it a 4-1 game in the 4th. Nori Aoki and Joe Panik had conjured up an early lead, and that's always a positive development, but the rookie was the key with a string of zeroes to start the game and another string after giving up a run. You have to figure the Diamondbacks are sick of the guy--that's three runs allowed vs. Arizona and a win in each park. The Giants were desperate for something positive and they finally got the result they wanted with a brisk, formulaic display that's been lacking in the early going. Pitching, solid play, and timely hitting sounds so simple but has been hard to come by for the local lads.

The ring ceremony was marked by a spectacular sky-diving entrance, something we expected on Opening Day. One if by land, two if by sea, three if by . . .? We were sure at the time it was by air but it was by horse instead. We were also sure we saw a dive plane overhead that day but it seemed conditions were a little spotty--it was windy at the top of the stadium, the flags snapped loudly all afternoon. Maybe we're nuts, it was just a scouting mission, but it sure seemed right. I guess they were saving it for this evening.

Regardless, the Giants won. I say they ought to be done with all this celebrating by now and should be on to winning some more ballgames. What do you say?



Our Pitchers Are Not Ready

Yeah, last night was the worst.

Chris Heston    2 starts, 13 IP, 4 runs, 1 earned.
Tim Hudson     2 starts, 13.1 IP, 3 runs, 3 earned.
MadBum          3 starts, 17 IP, 10 runs, all earned.
Timmy             2 starts, 12 IP, 4 runs, 3 earned.
Jake Peavy       2 starts, 7+ IP, 8 runs, all earned.
Vogie               1 start, 10 IP, 14 runs, 12 earned.

Not much to complain about with Heston and Hudson.  Madbum has not been his sharp self, a few more 7 inning games will make his 5+ inning average look better.  But still, he has been giving up a lot of runs, especially for him.  In that context, you could say that Timmy looks better.  1 earned run per 4 IP is better than 1 earned run per 1.7 innings pitched.  I know that earned runs are not the best measurement, but they are not without meaning, and I don't feel like delving into total bases or some other number.  Peavy and Vogie have really not been good.  Coupled with a strong case of anemia offensivia, and some stumbles by the relief staff and we are seeing plenty of bad baseball.  Yes, I know it is early and things are likely going to change.  (I mean, they have to chalk up a victory some time, right?)  Still, it looks to me like we have two fifths of a starting rotation to put on the field, an another two fifths of sub-par pitching for a team that relies on it.  We need for a couple of starters to get sharper, and fast.  Relying on an old guy and a rookie is not the best formula for success.  Hopefully, Matt Cain.

I just wanted to get that off my chest.  Also, Tuffy Gosewisch seems like the name of a cat.  It doesn't help to see a line-up with a C next to his name.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Giants Mount Comeb....oh, never mind

The Giants came back in the 9th to tie the game, only to give up a home run in the 10th.  They came back in the 10th to tie the game, only to give up two in the 12th.  They came back in the 12th, but not back enough.  They lost again, 7 in a row.

Madison Bumgarner was on the mound.  Madison threw 94 pitches and 71 of them were strikes.  That usually means a good game from Maddy, 70%+ strikes, but a couple, at least, were very hittable strikes.  He gave up 4 runs on 2 home runs, a solo shot to Mark Trumbo in the 2nd and a 3 run bomb on a fattie in the 5th to Paul Goldschmidt.  Madison gave up a total of 6 hits and walked 1, but those hits did a lot of damage.

The Giants scrapped.  Matt Duffy had 2 hits, including a single to score Blanco in the 9th and a double to score Belt in the 12th.  Joe Panik, dropped in the batting order, had 3 hits, including a triple to score Buster and tie the game in the 9th.  Brandon Crawford hit a 2-run bomb.  Ultimately, though, it was another L.  Arizona used all their relief pitchers, so maybe they are worn out a bit.  One can only grasp at straws.  Peavy up.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Back End Tim

Playing like a team in the midst of an impressive death spiral, the Giants dropped their sixth in a row as they lost to the Rockies, 4-2.  We have it all going on right now: shoddy defense, inept offense and largely inadequate pitching. One can only hope that this stanky stretch will finish up soon; this team needs to feel some love.

Tim Lincecum pitched like a pretty bad number 5 starter.  He gave up a healthy lead right away and really put his team in a big hole. He never hit over 90 mph (that I saw) and seemed to average around 88.  It wasn't a complete implosion - 5 innings, 6 hits, 4 runs(3 earned), 1 walk, 4 SO -  but it sure was nothing to get excited about. Yep, Timmeh looked like exactly what he is; an end of the rotation guy.

The offense was largely forgettable once again.  Matt Duffy hit an 8th inning homer and Angel Pagan had a three hit night but everything else is a bunch of meh.  I must admit I'm getting very tired of watching Hector Sanchez  play baseball. Susac, anyone?  And how much longer does Joaquin Arias take up a roster spot? It is not like those guys are to blame for this spell of sh*t baseball, it just feels better to blame someone and then chop their heads off!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A bit of a disappointment today

My crew and I had a lovely time in the City by the Bay but unfortunately the Giants could not conjure up an offense this afternoon and the boys lost the Home Opener to the Rockies. Rookie Chris Heston pitched beautifully but got Cained by the pesky Coloradans. Brandon Crawford put on another display of fielding wizardry--he really is something to watch in person--but it was not enough as the purple-clads left the field as 2-0 winners.

Madison Bumgarner got to ride a horse with the 2014 championship flag and that was a lot of fun. The celebration at the Park was relaxed and subdued but the fans certainly enjoyed what fol-de-rol there was. W expected more of the home squad as they had opportunities aplenty in the first few frames but squandered them with some unfortunate impatience and bad luck. It was a gorgeous day in San Francisco but the Giants could not put together a winning sequence.

I realized that I said we'd be in View Box 321; alas, I made a typo, we were in section 327. So if you came by to say "hi" you would have missed me. My bad--put it down to road weariness and intoxication. Otherwise it was fun to reconnect with old friends and share some time at the yard together.

There's always tomorrow.