Sunday, September 30, 2012

Questionable Tim

Start # 33    ND   (10-15)        6 innings (92 pitches)  4 hits  4 runs  2 walks   4 strikeouts

The Giants racked up win #93 with a stirring come-from-behind victory, 7-5, over the San Diego Pudres.  Big ninth inning home runs by Xavier Nady and Hunter Pence ( off the previously untouchable Huston Street ) served notice that our bats can do some major damage in the post season.  However, fallen ace, Tim Lincecum, did little to ease doubts or answer the BIG question.

Timmy's numbers in his last regular season ( and possibly last start of 2012 period ) don't seem so bad. The four hits allowed looks good ... except three of them were home runs!  Two walks isn't terrible ... except they led to 2 runs and many stolen bases!  The worst part of tonight's start was that after we got him a lead, he gave it right up. Then, after we tied it, he gave up more runs. This did not seem like a guy ready for a HUGE post season start.

Good thing I don't have to be the one to pick which starter gets passed over... I'm really not sure...

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Yikes!

Not the kind of tune-up start you want before going into the playoffs.  Madison Bumgarner lasted 4 innings, gave up 5 runs, 4 of them earned.  Four innings.  76 pitches.  He was struggling with his command, and that is not something that is characteristic of the smooth young lefty. Madison gave up a triple to the first Padre, walked the second on his way to a 2 run first.  Then he set them down 1-2-3 in the second, gave up two home runs for 3 more runs in the third, and set them down again 1-2-3 on two strikeouts in the fourth.  Then he was done on the way to a 7-3 loss.  On the bright side, we now have two 100 rbi guys.

Tired after 208 innings this year?  Maybe the short outing and extra rest will help.  To quote Kuip, his mechanics were "out of whack."  Out of whack doesn't necessarily get fixed with an extra day of rest.  We had Vogie come back from the dead with an excellent outing, but now Tim and Maddy.......I don't know.  I'm thinking that Bochy may have to ready to employ the quick hook in the playoffs the way he has done lately, and we have to hope that our relievers are as good as they have been lately.  Today's loss saw Penny cough up another 2 runs in an inning, then Kontos, Hensley, and Machi allowed only one more hit between them.  What do we get, 25 guys in the playoffs?  12 pitchers?  13? 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Oh Yeah, Me Like This



--M.C.



source


Ninety

The Giants win their 90th game behind Matt Cain who set the tone right away with a four-pitch 1st inning. He chipped in a leadoff single in the 3rd and scored the Giants first run, then added an RBI single in the 5th. Matt flashed some leather, too, finishing off a nice 3-6-1 double play in the 4th, racing to first base to get the final out of the inning. It was an impressive performance by the big righty. In the 7th he gave up a booming opposite field double to Paul Goldschmidt (what is it with that guy and the Giants?) and a bunt single to Gerardo Parra, then threw a wild pitch to put runners at second and third with no outs. Two whiffs and a ground out later and the Diamondbacks were still scoreless. I liked that. Guillermo Mota, Jeremy Affeldt, and Dan Otero got the final six outs. Matty faced 27 batters in his seven frames, throwing a first-pitch strike to 18 of them. Four hits, one walk, and six strikeouts added up to a Game Score of 74. The final was 6-0. Brandon Belt looked good, stroking three hits including a triple that eluded Justin Upton in right-center by no more than a millimeter. Pablo Sandoval drove in two with two hits, and Marco Scutaro, who I think may be a cyborg, also had two knocks, an RBI, and a run scored. Buster Posey had the big milestone with his 100th RBI. The crowd got the M-V-P chant going after that. He's the best player in the league, if not all of baseball, and if the sports-writers can't see that then there's not much point listening to them ever again.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.


p.s. Cain got his career-high 16th pitcher-win. (The team is 21-10 when he starts.) His 50 walks is his lowest season total ever and his 191 strikeouts another career high. FanGraphs ranks him 10th in the NL with 3.9 WAR. (Wade Miley, the Arizona rookie who started last night, ranks 5th with 4.5). I think they are selling him a little short, don't you? He will most likely start again Monday in LA. That would put him on track (5th day) for Game 1 on Saturday, October 6th.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Cruel Tim

Start # 32     Loss  (10-15)        4+ innings (77 pitches)  5 hits  SEVEN runs  4 walks   3 strikeouts

Just when you thought it was safe to enjoy a no pressure, "fun" game, the disastrous 2012 Tim Lincecum reappeared.  Tim gave the Giants no chance as they fell, 7-2, to the pesky Snakes.  He pretty much did everything wrong: walks, wild pitches, hit batter, long ball... in other words, it was a total return to pre-All Star break Tim.  I so wanted to believe that Tim had it back together...maybe he had to re-invent himself a bit, but it was working...now I just don't know.  We have some tough questions to deal with.

Should Tim be the starter dropped from the play-off rotation?  He pretty clearly is the least reliable of the group.

Considering his contribution in 2010 ( or does that still matter? ), can the Giants actually pull "it"off without Tim?  I mean, I know they can... this is a good team... their resilience will be lauded for years to come, but it just doesn't seem "right" to do it without The Freak.  Sigh... I guess I don't know what I mean.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Final Half Inning

The Giants have nine games left on the schedule, or half a Seasonal Inning. If 18 x 9 = 162, then 9 x 18 must be the same thing, eh? You knew there was a reason you learned the Commutative Law in algebra class. The team was looking at a Magic Number of 11 when they finished the Eighth at 82-62. They took care of business with alacrity, clinching the West a mere 8 games later. The first half of the Ninth they whipped out an impressive 7-2 stretch, and sit 10 games up at 89-64. They play three against the Diamondbacks at home starting tomorrow, then three in San Diego on the weekend, then the final three in LA.

Both the Reds (92 wins) and the Nationals (93) have nine games remaining as well. They seem to have the best chance at the first two seeds in the playoffs. If the Giants finish as the three-seed, they will be the visitors in one of those cities. That means they play two at home, then go on the road* for the final three. That's the layout this year, it's not the usual 2H-2A-1H. They go back to that next year. A little crazy, to be sure, and even crazier is this second wild card entrant. I think the one game playoff is a post-season game, unlike tiebreakers which count as part of the regular season. What is that game called? The Wild Card Wild Card Game? I don't think I want to know. The number four seed in the playoffs could be a lot of teams. The Dodgers could still qualify. And if they beat the wild card team, and the Giants finished with the best record, they could host our boys at the LAtrine for two, just two days after playing three with them in the same place. Real life isn't like that. But this is baseball--Giants baseball--and it is like that. We have the scars to prove it.

But no worries, mates. Bring 'em on, I say, whoever they are. I like this team. This is a fun team to watch and root for. They are confident and play with a lot of joy. They are good. Good enough to win the World Series. I'm going to root for them just like that--with joy and confidence. We all know short series suck. Jose Oquendo can happen. Scott Spezio can happen. Edgar Renteria and Cody Ross can happen too, bitches. Six months of baseball, a week to settle it. If you're lucky, two more weeks. Lots of random variation. You can do almost everything right in games like these and still lose. But I like the Giants chances. They have a lot of weapons. And if Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, and Buster Posey can do the kinds of things they did last time, the rest will take care of itself. At least that's how it works on paper. It's not that the Reds and Nats (the most likely foes) aren't good. They are. But the way to be the best is to beat the best. I am eager to see how the Giants fare against these really strong clubs. If their season is built on a mirage of thumping the crappy outfits and fading against a quality opponent, then I want to see that. Because I don't believe it. I expect to see a well-led, determined squad. This Giants team has answered every challenge, and risen to every occasion. No reason to think they can't keep doing that.

 
--M.C.





*For the 2012 Postseason only, the five-game Division Series will begin with two home games for lower seeds, followed by up to three home games for higher seeds. This one-year change, which eliminates a travel day prior to a decisive Game Five of the Division Series, was necessary because the 2012 regular season schedule was established before the agreement on the new Postseason format was reached. Next year, the Division Series will return to the 2-2-1 format used in previous years. MLB Press Release.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Clinch!

The 2012 San Francisco Giants are the National League West Division Champions! This club came home on Monday with the Magic Number at nine and promptly won six games in a row to seize control of their own destiny. The Dodgers helped out with three losses (including one today) and that was that. The Giants have an eleven game lead with ten to play: the Magic Number is zero, they are the champs. Lots of highlights tonight, and that's the hallmark of this team--lots of heroes. Madison Bumgarner had a rocky 6th but pitched effectively and kept his team in it. He also had an RBI hit! Pablo Sandoval walked in the 1st to keep a rally going and made a ridiculous play in the 4th to get an out on a foul pop up. Brandon Belt had two hits including a home run and scored three runs. Marco Scutaro had three hits and three RBI. Angel Pagan had a hit, a walk, and two runs scored. Javier Lopez struck out the only guy he faced, as did Guillermo Mota. Hunter Pence had two hits and a first-inning RBI with a sacrifice fly. Jeremy Affeldt went three-up-three down in his inning, all via strikeout. It was Giants baseball, namely, pitching, defense, and scoring with every arrow in the quiver. There was speed, little ball, productive outs, situational hitting, and power all simmered together to cook up a clutch win.

Everything came together in the second half and the team nabbed the West title going away. Brian Sabean assembled the roster and Bruce Bochy made the right moves and now they head for the playoffs. The front office and coaching staff deserve a lot of credit for a winning culture. The players stepped up and overcame injuries and adversity to win the big games down the stretch. It's an easy team to like and one that's not hard to be confident about. They have some formidable foes to look forward to, but they can match up well against any team and have the talent and savvy to win it all. Let's hope they put on a show for us in the post-season.

The new Magic Number is Eleven: 3 + 4 + 4.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

Two

Ryan Vogelsong had this to say (AP/ESPN) about last night's performance:
"I'm going to sleep for the first time in about a month tonight. I can tell you that," Vogelsong said. "I'd been trying to tweak some stuff here for a while. I finally found something that felt comfortable and easy to repeat. Somehow I got twisted around there along the way. It took me a while to get back into something that felt right."
Timing is everything. I was sure the Giants and Dodgers would finish the season in LA with it all on the line. I kept telling people not to make plans for the first three days of October because they were going to be glued to their TVs. That job application for prognosticator? I've decided not to fill it out. Doesn't suit me and the pay is lousy. C'mon, who knew? I said from the start I liked this team, but I never figured them to run away with it. TEN games up with ELEVEN to play? Raise your hand if you saw that one coming. And speaking of coming on, I like what I see from Gregor Blanco these days. His fielding alone makes him valuable, his speed on the bases is ridiculous, but when he hits he makes you forget that we used to have the NL's leading hitter out in left field. And what kind left field B.S. is going on with His Melkiness and the Gate Keepers of Baseball's Moral Purity? First, we have the growing call for PED-suspended ballplayers to be kept from "awards." I'm shocked, shocked, to find steroids here. Then we have the silly notion that "batting title" is an award. It's not. It's a statistical record. Shit happens. People write it down. Get over it. Now we have a side deal by the player's union, apparently at Cabrera's request, to void the clause that makes him eligible to still win. Weird. Way too weird. I get it with Melky, it's great image re-hab, he wants a job next year. He may be entirely sincere. Who knows? Who cares? He did the crime, now he does the time, then it's done. Why spend all this energy on trying to re-write history? Self-serving nonsense we should all be spared.

Sorry for spewing. It's a great time to be a Giants fan.

GO GIANTS!!

--M.C.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Three

I didn't really say enough about Matt Cain in my last post. So, Matt Cain. I looked to see the last time a Giants pitcher finished eight innings. I found out it was Barry Zito on August 23rd against the Braves. See? I'm talking about today, now. Good job, Barry. That was the best 10-hit performance of your Giants career. Madison Bumgarner went eight against the Dodgers on August 20th. And Matt Cain went eight against the Padres on August 17th. The last time Tim Lincecum went eight innings was on July 14th against the Astros. He wasn't rewarded with a pitcher-win, but the club won in the 12th. Ryan Vogelsong has not thrown eight innings this season, but he has thrown at least seven fifteen times. That ain't bad. I know Zeets is making his case for the post-season roster, and bully for him. I hope he makes it. But Vogie has three starts left to make his case. And I think he will. I expect at least one more VogelStart before the end of the season, and we'll all wonder what we were so worried about.

Pablo Sandoval is getting it back! He homered from both sides of the plate for the first time ever. That's awesome, even if it is against the Rockies. It doubled the team season homer total for AT&T Park. Then Buster Posey screwed up all the math by hitting one, too. Can you say MVP? Buster, I said once before, is the perfect ballplayer. And he's ours.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.



Dodgers downed in DC
Magic Number Three.

Five

Count 'em on one hand, lads, that's all it will take to finish this thing. LA lost the opener of their doubleheader in DC and the Giants smoked the Rockies to tick two off the counter and creep ever closer to an NL West title. Pablo Sandoval hit an impossible three-run homer in the 1st inning and Matt Cain was Matt Cain and it all added up to a 7-1 win. The Panda seems to be finding his stroke and the timing couldn't be better. The pitch by Colorado starter Tyler Chatwood wasn't really hittable. It was plunging down and in and out of the strike zone, most guys would have missed it, topped it with the handle, or, if they did manage to put good wood on it, sent it well foul. Hell, most guys would have taken the damn thing for a ball! Sandoval, flashing his freakish bad-ball skills, three-ironed the thing down the right-field line and it clanged off the fair pole before arcing back down to field level and settling in Charlie Blackmon's glove. The Rockies, down 3-0, clawed back in the 5th, getting two hits and putting men on first and third with no outs, but they couldn't get another hit. The run came in on an out (sac fly) and that took some of the air out of the rally. Matt walked two guys and threw a wild pitch but got two ground balls to end the threat. Carlos Gonzalez made the final out with the bases loaded. He had a bad night, 0-for-4 with two whiffs. The Giants tacked on three more right after that with a big hit from Brandon Belt and another by Gregor Blanco, who also seems to be heating up at the right time.

Barry Zito has thrown back-to-back good starts against division foes this month (13 IP, 10 H, 1 R, 8 K), leading the team to two big wins. He gets the ball this afternoon as the Giants look for the sweep. The Dodgers get another shot at the Nationals--who only need one win to clinch a playoff spot--before traveling to Cincinnati. The Reds (magic number three) will probably wrap things up against them this weekend.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.


p.s. Matt Cain.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tenner Tim

Start # 31     Win !!! (10-14)        6.1 innings (106 pitches)  5 hits  ZERO runs  2 walks   6 strikeouts

Magic # 7

Tim Lincecum continued to salvage his "challenging" 2012 season and the Giants continued their march to the post-season with a convincing 6-3 victory over the Rockies.  The smogsuckers got rained out in D.C. (lucky chumps have to play a DH tomorrow) but it really doesn't matter.  It seems clear that we control our own destiny in the division ... and the way we are playing, that is a very good thing.

Timmy has clearly turned his ship around.  He may not be the dominant force he once was, but he is consistently getting the job done now.  Something we all know he wasn't doing AT ALL earlier this year.  The team record tells it all : first 14 starts - 2 wins and 12 losses, next 17 starts - 11 wins and 6 losses.  Those are numbers that can't be denied.  Timmeh also took care of a couple other, less important, but significant numbers.  First, he FINALLY got his friggin' ERA below FIVE ( 4.91 ) !! I know that still sucks but it sounds so much better.  Second, and of historical interest, Lincecum became 1 of 7 pitchers in SF-era history to have double-digit wins in 5-straight seasons.  The Freak has joined Jack Sanford (5 seasons from 1959-1963), Gaylord Perry (6, 1966-1971), Juan Marichal (11, 1961-1971), Kirk Rueter (7, 1997-2003) and Jason Schmidt (5, 2002-2006).  That is a list of truly great Giants ! Congratulations Tim ! (Nice bunt, too.)

The good: The offense continues to look potent and well-rounded. Well, maybe no long balls, but I think sac flies are sexier anyway.  Marco Scutaro (3 hits, 2 runs), Pablo Sandoval (2 hits), Xavier Nady (2 hits, 2 RBI's) and Hector Sanchez (2 hits) all chipped in.  Oh yeah, two intentional walks for Buster Posey. Didn't that bring back flashes of rubber chickens?

What can I say? We rock right now.

How long will it last?

First to Fifteen

That team from Los Angleles with all the hat but a lack of cattle did not play yesterday, a perfect opportunity for the Giants to shave a game off of their magic number and pick up a half game in the standings at the expense of the sub-.400 Rockies, and they did just that - but not without effort.

If you look at the box score it would appear to have been a good old fashioned pitching duel, and in some sense it was as the Giants emerged with a 2-1 victory, but it was not a pitching duel that featured exemplary performances from the starters.  Madison Bumgarner picked up a win from six innings of work.  He deserved it, but it wasn't the crisp kind of Maddy that we have been missing of late.  He gave up 4 hits but threw in 5 free passes.  Considering that he only allowed 1 run, he made some pretty good pitches when he had to.  And yes, he got some help, notably from Brandon Crawford for showing some fine defense, including turning a double play and from Buster Posey for throwing out two would-be base stealers including the guy who we have been led to believe is the world's fastest human, Rockies center fielder Dexter Fowler.

Rockie starter Jhoulys Chacin, who appears to have been named after the left-overs from a Scrabble game, also had some frustrations, going five innings and giving up 1 run.  You may remember that he lost by one run to the Giants in Denver not too long ago (9-8, Sept. 11).

Madison looked - good enough.  In his last five starts, he has gone 6.1 / 4.0 / 6.1 / 4.1 / 6.0 innings, but has managed to give up a lot of runs (18 in his previous 4 starts, 17 of them earned).  On that basis, last night, with 1 run scored against him was a definite improvement.  He was pulled after 101 pitches (6 K to go with those 5 BB).  The bullpen was spectacular thowing up a lot of zeros.  Mota, Mijares, Casilla, Lopez and Romo allowed NO hits and 1 walk (Mota).  Each reliever got one out, except Casilla, who has become a workhorse lately, pitching to 5 Rockies.

The defensive stars were offensive heros, as Posey got two hits and Crawford hit a triple and a ground-rule double.  Marco Scutaro also got two hits.  Crawford's triple turned into the first Giants run on a passed ball, and the only rbi came from Hunter Pence (anyone notice how much of a contributor he has been all of a sudden?) who singled home Pablo in the bottom of the sixth for the deciding run.

Congratulations to Madison for being the first Giants starter to record 15 wins this year.  Earlier in the year, it looked like he would coast to 20.  20 wins is not actually an easy feat to achieve, which is why it doesn't happen all that often.  Last year, no pitcher on the Giants exceeded 13 wins.  Even in the wonderful year of 2010, one Giants pitcher (Tim) exceeded 13 wins.  I am still hoping for all starters to have double digit wins (one to go) and two to reach at least 15 (one to go).  Yes, it means something.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Magic Number: Nine

Giants lose but gain anyway as the punchless LAtriners got beat in extras. The Pirates, Brewers, and Dodgers are all within three games of the Wild Card leading Cardinals. That's the second wild card mind you, as the Braves seem to have the first one close to sewn up. They are 6-1/2 up in that race, and curiously, 6-1/2 back of the Nationals. The countdown really starts when the Magic Number is single digits and that's where things stand after a weekend of getting outscored in Arizona. Giants come home for ten games starting tomorrow: four against the Rockies, three against the Padres, and three against the Diamondbacks. Ten chances to knock down number nine. LA travels tomorrow and starts a nine-game road trip in the same stretch to Washington, Cincinnati, and San Diego. Nine chances to get that nine whittled down by losing. I like those odds. The Dodgers are a losing team (44-56) since they hit their high-water mark (32-15, up by 7-1/2) on May 27th. I sure would like to see the Giants clinch before their final road trip (six games in SD and LA). I think it would be a good chance to rest the starters. Speaking of resting the starters, I think Ryan Vogelsong could use a day off. Or two. Seriously, sit the guy down. Skip a start. He's scheduled for two on the home stand (Friday the 21st and Thursday the 27th) and for the second game (Tuesday October 2nd) in the final series in LA.

Get it done, Giants!

--M.C.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Battery Batters 'Backs

Barry Zito pitched another fine game, this time in the hitter-friendly confines of Chase Field. He has his ups and he has his downs, but he's stifled the team's two nearest rivals in his last two starts. Methinks he wants to make the post-season roster! The best problem in the world to have is too many guys contributing to wins. Speaking of contributions, rookie backstop Hector Sanchez made two spectacular throws to nab runners attempting to steal second. In the 9th pinch-runner Tyler Graham was nailed on a no-doubter to snuff out a no-out, one-on threat. The bunt seemed like the obvious play there, but Gibson perhaps figured the young catcher was vulnerable to a steal attempt. Clearly he hadn't paid attention the first time, when Sanchez cut down Paul Goldschmidt in the 4th. The new wunderkind is apprenticing at the feet of the master, and learning his lessons well. What a luxury to have two excellent defenders behind the plate! And speaking of the master, what else does Buster Posey have to do to be the favorite for the NL MVP? His two-run opposite-field homer in the 5th was the difference in the game, and came right after Justin Upton had tied it with a solo shot. The man is unreal. Another excellent win: pitching, defense, speed, and power were all featured tonight. The Giants even up the season series with Arizona at seven wins apiece with four more to play. The Magic Number falls to ten with 17 games remaining.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

On to the Ninth

It's the final inning of the season. Last night in Arizona was game number 144, and we all know that 18 x 8 = 144, right? The Eighth Inning of the 2012 season wasn't quite as dominating as the Seventh, but it was damn good nonetheless. The Giants continued their impressive second half by going 11-7 and find themselves secure atop the NL West at 82-62. The Dodgers came to San Francisco in the middle of this stretch with a chance to get back in the race and were quickly disabused of that by a clinical Giants squad. The Magic Number is now 11 after the 6-2 win over the Diamondbacks and LA's loss in St. Louis on Thursday. Here's the season so far:

1st inning: 9-9
2nd inning: 9-9
3rd inning: 12-6
4th inning: 10-8
5th inning: 10-8
6th inning: 9-9
7th inning: 12-6
8th inning: 11-7

It's easy to have confidence in this bunch. They are so consistent. They claw their way out of funks and toss off winning streaks with regularity. If things go well the rest of the way they could clinch at home, and that would be a lot of fun. We all know that anything can happen in this game. We're Giants fans, fer chrissakes. We know this only too well. But I like this team. They just seem to have what it takes. Bip Roberts always talks about "chemistry" on the pre-game show, it's his favorite subject besides "confidence." It's easy to scoff at the old canards these guys trot out every night, but the Giants are living proof of both. They have talent, of course. You have to have that. But they have that magic dust, too, and they sprinkle it all over each other all the goddamn time. They have that synergy, that "whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-the parts" thing goin' on, and it's beautiful, man. Just beautiful.

Hunter Pence got a chance in the 1st with the bases loaded against rookie southpaw Tyler Skaggs and he made the most of it with his third career grand slam. I'm a believer in lots of arrows in the quiver. Having some guys who can give you a big jack now and then (well, at least on the road) is great. We haven't seen the power bat we expected from this guy, but he just might find his stroke here for the final run. Pablo Sandoval bounced back from his recent poor form, and he's another key bat. I'm not sure he can deliver the dingers, but some hard-hit balls sprayed all over the yard would be just fine. It seems like he's not physically 100%, that the injuries and DL time have taken a toll. The highlight of the evening was of course the RBI hit by Santiago Casilla to make it 6-1. Those kinds of things are real back-breakers. A relief pitcher gets a clutch hit? Cash it in, man, you know you are doomed. Matt Cain had the bases on balls bug, but would only bend a little and not break. He kept the Snakes off the board until the pitch count caught up with him in the 6th. Six guys finished up. Ol' Boch sure knows how to use a 40-man roster.

What would I like to see before the end of the season? The starters get some rest. They've still got a lot of work to do, but all of them could use a day off. They are not quite their dominant selves. Effective, yes, but not the aces they can be. It's not worrisome. How could a 7-1/2 game lead with 18 to play be worrisome? But I think the long grind has sapped them a bit. Having a cushion for the last inning of the year ought to be good for something, and I think that something ought to be a skipped turn or two. Ryan Vogelsong comes to mind first. Then Madison Bumgarner. I like the way Tim Lincecum is looking, maybe you don't mess with that now that it is coming together. Barry Zito is always Barry Zito, and he just might get hot and pitch himself on to the final roster. That game against the Dodgers was huge, and he's on track for four more starts. There is an off-day at home on the 24th before the final nine games. Matt is scheduled for three more starts and will miss the last series in LA. Tim's last start is the final Saturday in San Diego, the day before. Both are obviously on track to be the 1-2 guys in the first post-season series. If they can clinch before going on the road maybe a guy like Yusmeiro Petit could get a start and bump Vogie or MadBum from their last start and save their arms for the playoffs.

Let's go, Giants! Get it done.

--M.C.



Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Working Tim

Start # 30     Win !!! (9-14)        6 innings (108 pitches)  6 hits  3 runs  4 walks   8 strikeouts

Magic # 13   SEVEN GAMES UP

The Giants, one of the best road teams in the National League, flexed their "muscles" once again to secure yet another series by beating the Rockies, 8-3.  A five run fiesta in the first! Even without Angel Pagan and Pablo Sandoval, the offense didn't miss a beat.  We are frigging Road Warriors! Since the All-Star break, the Giants have gone 21-7 (.750) on the road...SF has won 10 of their last 12 road games, 12 of their last 15 and 17 of their last 22.  Got that?  It is simple...we kick ass on the road. 

Tim Lincecum, the first of EIGHT Giant pitchers, once again found a way to get the job done.  To hell with WHIP; screw ERA.  The "new " Tim can't seem to get enough base runners...and when one gets on, that is when the trouble begins.  It is like he is a different pitcher when he is in the stretch.  All command seems to fade.  Ah well, it is working, he avoids the big hit... so who am I to complain?  Maybe next outing he can get his ERA below FIVE !!  Ooops, there I go again.  Keep working it, Tim. (Nice bunt, too.)

The good:  What hasn't already been said about Marco Scutaro? The dude is a stud.  Brandon Crawford is really starting to show he belongs out there everyday.  His big hit against the crafty lefty, Jeff Francis, was what busted this one open.

Offense in Coors? You betcha!

Offense, when it comes from the Giants, is a good thing.  Last night the good guys won 9-8.  It would have been pretty embarrassing for the Rockies to win, again, after such a stellar weekend, and that almost happened.  But not quite.  Madison Bumgarner took the hill, and contributed greatly to the offensive effort.  He hit his second home run of the year, a 3 run bomb that tied the score in the fourth inning after the Rox were up 4-1.  The Giants picked up 2 more in the fifth, 2 in the sixth and 1 more in the seventh on Brandon Belt's big fly.  Didn't he also hit one the last time Madison went yard?  Angel Pagan hit a triple.  That ties him for triples in one season with Steve Finley, and a guy who you could argue was the greatest ball player of all time, Willie Mays.*  We needed all of those runs as the Rox mounted a spirited comeback in the ninth to almost tie.  Brandon Belt, 2 hits, 4 rbi.  Madison Bumgarner, 2 hits, 3 rbi.  Buster Posey, 2 hits, 2 walks in 5 ab.  Angel, 1 hit, 1 rbi.  Marco Scutaro (perhaps a better late-season pickup than all of LA's gazillion dollar players combined) 2 hits, 1 rbi. 

 Is anyone else worried about starting pitching?  I am.  Madison did not pick up a loss this time, but went only 4.1 innings, gave up 11 hits and 5 runs.  Bochy is using a lot of  relievers, and it has been a successful strategy.  He is keeping our starters fresh, and they need to be fresh going into the post season.  But Maddy and Ryan are not throwing well enough, right now, to take us very far in the post season.  Eight pitchers last night.  Bochy has a quick hook not just to keep our starters fresh, but because our starters are in trouble. 

* I used to have this card.  Wish I still did.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I Was Getting Annoyed by that Half Game Anyway

A quick "thanks" to the Rockies for cleaning up that hanging chad of a half game. Now the math is is a lot easier. Giants have 21 games left. Dodgers have 21 games left. If the Giants win more, then they win. And they have a five game cushion. I think I've got it.

It would be nice if Pablo Sandoval starting hitting. Hunter Pence got the memo, it seems.

Buster Posey.

--M.C.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Giants Stake Claim to the West

Bruce Bochy tried to "stretch" his three starters this weekend and the results were mixed. Tim Lincecum delivered six solid frames but had to be bailed out in the 7th. Matt Cain gave up the tying run in the 8th after seven superb. Barry Zito had six zeros tonight and 92 pitches, but still came out for the 7th. After putting on two, Santiago Casilla had to be summoned. I've often thought that relievers do better when they start innings. Coming in with men on base has to be more difficult. Yet, in all three games, the Giants were willing to risk it and not play it safe. They could have tucked their guys in and said "good night." But they didn't, they asked them to keep going. I can see it, too. The starters are the strength of the team, and asking them to "step up" and get big outs late in games is why they get paid the big bucks. Maybe the next time they are on the hill in the 7th or 8th they'll have that little extra to finish it. I think a lot of teams would have pinch-hit for Zeets tonight in the 6th, and Cainer yesterday in the 7th. Not the Giants. One thing about Ol' Boch, he believes in his guys and isn't afraid of tough spots. And who's to argue with the results? Giants starters in the series allowed only four runs (in 20 IP), and the staff gave up a total of five. Outstanding work from the hurlers this evening (six of them!) and all weekend.

The banged-up Dodgers scratched ace Clayton Kershaw and did the Giants a huge favor. It's a lot easier to score runs off of Joe Blanton. They are clearly re-calibrating their sights and thinking Wild Card. They have a four-game series coming up with St. Louis this weekend and then have to go on the road and face Washington and Cincinnati. They seem to have conceded the West, which is fine with us, eh? The math doesn't look too good for them. The Giants have 79 wins and 22 to play. A .500 record will net 90, meaning LA has to go 16-5 (.762) in their final 21 games just to tie. I think the Giants will finish with more than 90 wins. Six back in the loss column, five back in the win column, it ain't pretty for the smogsuckers.

After flashing some mad little ball skills in the series, the Giants showed off their power tonight. A big 1st inning double by Hunter Pence, another triple from Angel Pagan, and a massive home run to dead center by Buster Posey were the big plays on offense. This team has a lot of ways to win. Let's hope they keep the heat on and get this race wrapped up.

Let's go, Giants! Finish it!

--M.C.



p.s. Barry-Z had the best Game Score, a 66. Matty had a 61 and Timmeh a 57. Vogie gets the ball tomorrow in Coors Field.




Saturday, September 8, 2012

It Slipped Away Today

If you had told me, before the game, that Matt Cain would pitch into the 8th inning and allow only two runs, I'd have said "Giants kicked ass, eh?" or some other dim witticism. Alas, Matty threw a ball away from Buster Posey to allow the tying run to score from third and the Dodgers were resuscitated. Santiago Casilla held the score, but Jeremy Affeldt gave it up in the 9th, and the visiting squad pulled off the comeback. The Giants were feeble against Chris Capuano. Here's Pablo Sandoval's day: 1-4 on four pitches and making four outs (one was a DP). Sometimes this team looks like it wants to get its ABs over as soon as possible. LA is fighting for its life, and they scrabbled back with a couple of big hits to even the series. Giants will have a tough task against Clayton Kershaw in the finale, and will need some quality innings out of Barry Zito. I really really really wanted to see LA get whacked on the head and gutted on national TV. If I had to listen to Tim McCarver, I wanted him to have to talk about how awesome the Giants were. He did that, conceding them the West at the top of the telecast. Thanks, Tim, you jinxed the Giants with your blandishments. Stick to babbling about non-baseball things.

Other than the one critical lapse, Cain pitched a good game, and the team had a chance to win. That blunts the pain a bit. I've tried to hold my greed in check since last night's terrific win. I must say I wanted the kill, and still want it. Something tells me things aren't going to be easy for our boys in the next few weeks. Their foes still have fight in them. So I'll just hope for another well-played game tomorrow, and a chance to win. I like the odds the rest of the way.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

Pitcher Tim

 Start # 29  ND (8-14)    6.1 innings (119 pitches)  4 hits  2 runs  7 walks   7 strikeouts

In an exciting match-up of fallen Aces, Tim Lincecum and his fellow Giants wore down a tough Josh Beckett and the dispirited doggers, 5-2.  The Giants put on a lovely display of small ball (which I really enjoy) combined with just the right amount of studly pitching. That puts the good guys up 6 games in the loss column with 24 games to go. Or if you prefer to play the "Magic Number" game...it is NINETEEN!

Although Timmy did pretty much exactly what was asked of him in a big time game ( which is, get the game to our bullpen as late as possible ), you have to admit it was a wee bit painful to watch.  (As MOC so wisely pointed out, it felt a Jonathan Sanchez start.)  He was all over the place with his fastball for the first four innings; could NOT get it over. However, his slider was wicked and "spot on"... so he found a way to survive.  He was like a crafty veteran that seems to be using mirrors or some such wizardry.  Seven walks, a new career high. Sure that's ugly...but it was one an inning, every inning. Kinda weird and cool, huh? Bottom line :  This game was another significant moment in the evolution of Tim Lincecum, the "Freak", into Tim Lincecum, the "F*cking Good Pitcher."

The good: I love me my small ball! Three lovely sacrifice bunts by Tim, Emmanuel Burriss, and Gregor Blanco.   Stolen bases by Angel Pagan (#24) and Blanco (#21).  Yea baby, that's some fun!  Throw in a clutch hit by the best mid-season acquisition in the world, Marco Scutaro, and you have a recipe for dogger soup.

LET'S BURY THESE GUYS !!!!!   GO MATTY  !!!!!!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

24!

jeeezus h.  Arizona got 43 hits in the past three games.  They won again tonight, fortunately, San Diego also won so the smog-suckers improbably do not pick up any ground on the Giants before this weekend's series.  We have to play Arizona 6 more games this year.  It seems like all they did was hit the ball and run the bases.  Goldschmidt and Hill got 6 and 7 hits in the series, seems like they were constantly stinging the ball.  Many of the snakes' hits were not cheapies, either.  Trevor Cahill pitched tonight against Madison Bumgarner.  Maddy picked up his third loss in a row.  He gave up a run right away, and then went 6.1 innings and gave up 4 runs, more than enough for Arizona.  The Giants did not get a hit until the seventh, did not have a base runner until the sixth.  They struck out 8 times, which surprised me because every time I looked at the TV, they were walking away from the plate with the bat on their shoulder, so I expected at least 12.

That momentum from the really good road trip?  Gone.  Madison Bumgarner has given up 13 earned runs in the last 16.2 innings he has pitched.  That's not real good.  He has picked up an L in his last three starts.  Here is something else alarming:  Since Barry Zito threw 8 innings August 23, no starter has made it through the seventh inning, with one exception, Matt Cain on August 28.  He went 7.1.  That is 12 games, twice through our rotation plus two, with only one seven inning game.  Bochy has had somewhat of a quick hook, and we have some extra arms now that it is September, but come on.  Jean Machi looked great his first appearance, since then, not so much.  I guess there is a reason the guy is a 30 year old minor league call up.  In spite of the fact that we played 30 innings in 3 days, we used 24 pitchers.  24!

Extra Effort

Both the Giants and Dodgers lost in extra innings last night. Arizona spoiled a great comeback by hanging on for the win. The Giants had a golden chance in the 8th to push across the go-ahead run but could not deliver the big hit. It was a night for big hits--I particularly liked Brandon Belt putting one in the water on an 0-2 pitch to bring the team within a run. That was the 82nd homer by the club, by far the worst in baseball. Only the Dodgers (92) and the Padres (94) are similarly pathetic with the big fly. (The 2010 Giants hit 162 dingers.) It's a triples game in San Francisco: the Giants are tied with the Rockies with 46, best in the game. Gee, I wonder if there are ballpark effects at work here. This year's offense is actually a little better overall than than the World Series team, but the pitching is a little worse. Ryan Vogelsong continues to struggle, getting hammered for nine hits and six runs and failing to finish the 4th inning. He had lively, strikeout stuff, but his usual pinpoint control wasn't quite there, and the Diamondbacks have a good lineup and they had some great swings and great at-bats. Finishing guys off has been an issue lately, I don't recall seeing so many two-strike hits. Ol' Boch used 11 pitchers, which tied a major-league record for extra-inning games. The starters are the key--they'll have to get it back together soon and chew up some innings. The Giants chased Arizona starter Ian Kennedy in the 6th, and we know how tough he usually is, so that was big. Missed a chance to go up a game on LA, though, which is a bummer. They lost despite a fine start by Clayton Kershaw.

Madison Bumgarner gets the ball today, and he's usually lights-out at home.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.


p.s.  If you haven't seen Brandon Crawford's tag-and-throw double play to end the 7th, you must. He's so quick and so smooth and he makes the play with such nonchalance! Check it out.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Scootie & the Rostermen

. . . . and their big hit "Gettin' It Done" is Number One with a Bullet!

It is that crazy time of year with the expanded rosters, meaning there's forty goddamn guys to juggle instead of a mere twenty-five. That's fifteen more guys for Ol' Boch to figure out and find a spot for, and if today is any indication, the Giants are going to need every one of them. There were so many big plays and big players today--a thoroughly ridiculous game, one of those magical wins that defy analysis. The Giants have been on the comeback trail all week on the road, but those were bad teams, and today they were playing at home where they are lucky to score seven runs in two games, let alone one. The Diamondbacks are a good team, and have an axe to grind in the division. They were the champs last year, running away with it. This year? They score more runs than they give up but can't seem to win consistently. I don't know what their problem is, they certainly have the talent. And I don't really care, either, I have enough to worry about. Maybe it's the manager. After all, he pitched to Buster Posey with the game on the line when he didn't have to. Quick quiz: game on the line, your choice, Posey or Hunter Pence, what do you say? Leave this blog immediately if you answer wrong. There are EIGHT MORE GAMES against this club! I'm really going to be sick of Kirk Gibson and Sedona Red when it's all over.

Tip o' the tam o'shanter to d├ębutant Jean Machi (can you say Hey-AHN?) for an impressive, badly-needed inning of relief, Brett Pill for his bunt, Angel Pagan for his great catch, Brandon Crawford for three hits and flawless play, Brandon Belt for a huge hit, Hector Sanchez--who has a flair for the dramatic despite making outs 72% of the time--for two big hits, Brad Penny for being thick around the middle, and Sergio Romo for all-around filthiness. Oh, and did I mention that Pablo Sandoval had three hits? And I already talked about two-run triple Pence and two-hit, two-RBI Posey, right? That brings us to Scootie: the singer, songwriter, and lead guitarist of this Labor Day chart-topper. Greg Papa and Dave Flemming both said on the post-game coverage that Marco Scutaro was the biggest pickup by an NL West club this season. It's getting hard to argue. The man is built of overlapping, interlocking layers of VSC, covered with extra clutchness. I think we've all talked about how we've liked this guy for years, a dependable and versatile middle infielder with a real head for the game, and I think to a man we were happy that the Giants picked him up. But none of us expected this level of play! Way to go, Scoots, keep it going.

Giants are playing .570 ball and have more wins than the New York Yankees. And the Los Angeles Dodgers, which is what really matters.

GO, TEAM, GO!

--M.C.


p.s. Buster Posey.

Sunday Giants v. Cubs Recap, Version 2

Thanks for your initial recap, Zo. Just wanted to chime in with one of my own.

First, I pose a question:  What do you do, if you've accomplished just about everything that you need to in Madison, WI?  You've gotten your Kid installed in his Residence Hall, you've gotten together with the limited number of people you know in the Madison/Milwaukee area, you've bicycled, drank a lot of local beer, eaten some good food, gone to the Farmers' Market, bought souvenirs ... all of that stuff.  But, you've still got a free day.  Naturally, you say to your somewhat skeptical Wife: "Hey, let's drive to Chicago ... it's only 3 hours, & the Giants are still in town!"

Actually, due to very favorable traffic conditions, from our B&B here in Madison to our very close-in, but free, street parking space, it took only 2 1/2 hours, as we arrived in Wrigleyville at around 11:45 AM for the 1:20 PM game.  Soon, we had Bleacher tickets in-hand from a guy on the street a few blocks closer & approached the stadium, a real classic.  I had been there once, in 1982, for a game between the Cubs & Phillies.  But, to visit again to see the Giants, with Susana, at Wrigley was an opportunity just too good to pass up.

We got to our seats around Noon, allowing ample time to explore & take some good photos.  Giants' fans were everywhere, including the The Dog & his entourage, who apparently got some air time on Comcast Bay Area.  We were in the front row of the same LF bleacher section of which they were in the back row.  It was very muggy, but not excessively hot.  Still, I was instantly soaked through with sweat.

When I saw that the wind was blowing in (not strongly, but consistently), I thought that that bode well for Matt Cain.  In fact, I thought that that bode very well for Matt Cain.  But, yesterday's Matt Cain was getting a lot of K's & not that many of those harmless fly ball outs.  Still, he looked sharp through the first 4 innings, making Soriano look particularly bad by getting ahead of him, then getting to swing at garbage.

Meanwhile, the Giants cobbled together their first rally.  Remarkably, I thought that the key AB was Scutaro's eventual pop-up to 2B, after a lengthy battle with the surprisingly good Travis Wood.  Scutaro wore Wood down enough that the next 2 guys (Sandoval & Posey) lashed RBI singles to make it 3-0.  I thought that we were in good shape.  Then, after another DeJesus RBI hit (the Barney-Wood-DeJesus combination really worked well twice), Matt did the unthinkable ... he walked a guy, then got behind on the count to Soriano.  I was really worried at that point, & the dreaded 3-run no-doubter quickly followed.  Yuck, especially since we seated in Soriano's 'territory'.

Thankfully, the Giants came back with 2 crazy runs of their own in the top of the 6th.  First, Xavier 'The God' Nady slapped one down the RF line for a 2B.  Then, Belt hit that ball right beneath us that I was sure until the final split-second would be caught by Soriano.  I don't know if he hit the warning track & pulled up a little, but it just eluded him. We were in that cutout area down the line, where the wall juts out & the warning track is wider, so maybe that had something to do with it.  It seemed like a very ill-advised decision by Belt/Flannery for Belt to continue to 3B, but he made it, much to the dismay of the Cub fans around us.  Given the ensuing WP, that was also a key moment.

A tense period of very good Cubs & Giants relief pitching followed, building up to the drama of the 9th.  Again, Nady started it, this time with a no-brainer 4-pitch BB, an outcome predicted by many battle-weary Cubs fans around us.  Marmol succeeded to ingratiate himself further to the locals by throwing to 1B a thousand times & calling time-out a dozen more.  The natives were, indeed, getting restless.  Although also irritated by the delays, we knew that they would work in our favor.  Sure enough, after a particularly feeble Belt at-bat, off went Blanco, & Crawford surprised me by earning his own free pass (I was sure that he would slap an RBI hit).

It's amazing how much faith I have in Pagan these days.  After the slapstick fielding of his first month as a Giant, he has settled in as one of our more dependable guys in all facets: hitting, running, & fielding.  When he tried to bunt, I was not happy, because he was The Man right there ... luckily, he fouled it off.  Then, the RBI rope to left-center ... "Yes!!!!!"  When Scutaro batted in the 7th, I told Susana that he deserved a hit, because of his heroic 3rd inning AB.  Luckily, he saved it for the 9th, ripping another  RBI rope to center ... "Yes!!!!!"  Around the stadium, lots of Giants' fans cheering & lots of Cubs' fans booing.  [Susana asked me whether I would ever boo a Giants' Pitcher.  I said that it depended upon the situation, but, in this case, yes, mostly because he unravelled himself by losing focus on the batter, with all of the throws to 1B, etc..]

What is it about Javier Lopez these days?  I can think of at least 2 previous game-ending DP's he has induced from right-handed hitters.  Sure enough, there he was again, coming in to face another right-handed hitter in a game-ending DP situation.  It's starting to become predictable ... delightfully predictable!!!!!  Game over ... big hug for Susana, getting her first Giants' victory in a tense, stylish way in an historic ballpark!!!!!

Lots of excitement followed: more photos (of the scoreboard, especially), slapping 5's with other Giants' fans, bidding Wrigley adieu amidst a sea of Chicago Bucket Boy (if you've never seen them, check them out on YouTube - I had seen them previously at a Blazers' game) drumming & other festivities.  It wasn't super-late, so we hopped on the 'L' for a quick visit to downtown Chicago, which was crowded, humid, & lively.  We walked around a bit, then got back on the train, walked by the stadium one more time, got in the car, & drove off to Madison, arriving just before 10 PM.

A few final random observations:

- Joaquin Arias has Dan Gladden Disease.  He needs to get back within himself.  I think that he will.

- Nothing Hunter Pence does inspires confidence in me.  I know in my brain that he is a good player, but in the on-deck circle, at the plate, & in the field, he looks like a goofball.  I'll get over it.

- Despite no Closer, our Bullpen seems to be pretty solid again, & that is a very good thing.  Mijares, Affeldt, Casilla, & Lopez all looked very good yesterday.

- It was just wonderful to see the Giants win on the road with Susana.  Too bad we'll have to tell the Kids that they can't go to any more games.  Or, maybe, we can only see the Giants win ins maller sub-sets, not with all 4 of us attending.  We'll work it out!

GO GIANTS!!!!!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

It's Easy to Fill in for MOC When the Giants Win

And Win they did!  Matt Cain took the hill today, and pitched pretty well, but the Giants saved their fireworks until he was out of the game.  Matt threw 91 pitches in 5 innings and gave up 5 runs, 4 of them in his last inning of work.  He gave up a run when DeJesus singled Barney to third, which allowed him to score on Hunter Pence's fielding error.  After another single, Matt hung one to Alfonso Soriano, and he knew it was gone when Soriano hit it.  Matt was lifted in the bottom of the fifth for a pinch hitter, wait for it.....Aubrey Huff!

The Giants, however, went into the sixth trailing 5-3.  Travis Wood quickly disposed of Pence and Arias, but former Cal Bear, uninspiring major leaguer and FNG Xavier Nady hit a triple.  Our old friend Manny Corpas was called in to serve up a Wrigley Field triple to Brandon Belt, who then scored on a wild pitch.  Game tied!

Into the ninth against Carlos Marmol.  The X man took a walk, and was replaced by Gregor Blanco.  Gregor stole second as Brandon Belt struck out.  Brandon Crawford, who entered the game in the bottom of the eighth, walked.  Angel Pagan hit a line shot up the middle the scored the speedy Blanco.  The next batter, Marco Scutaro, did the same thing, another line shot up the middle.  Crawford scored without a throw home.  The Giants were up 7-5.  After one out in the ninth, Darwin Barney (really, that's his name) hit a single and Santiago Castilla, the pitcher of record, was replaced by Javier Lopez.  He induced the Beav to hit into a double play for the game, set and match.  The Giants are 5-1 on this road trip and headed home for Labor Day!

Conclusions:  Line shots over the pitcher's head are a useful run-scoring device in some situations.  The Giants have been pretty good lately scoring late.  Since August 3, when we came off of that 2 game losing streak in NY, the Giants have scored in the seventh inning or later in 19 of their last 29 games.  Doesn't it seem like in some seasons they hardly ever do that?  Also, of those games that they did not score late, 4 of them were against the doggers and Atlanta in 5 consecutive games and they won all 4 of them.  Also our bullpen has looked pretty good, although I am not going to look up numbers to verify it.  Is gay marriage legal in Illinois?  If Manny Corpas married David DeJesus, they could be Corpas DeJesus, "body of Christ."  But if it were Darwin DeJesus, would they have an internal debate over evolution?  On the other hand, if Brian LaHair married David DeJesus, they could be LaHair DeJesus, "hair of Christ."  I may go to hell.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

X-tra Good Tim

Start # 28  Win !!! (8-14)    6.1 innings (111 pitches)  4 hits  2 runs  3 walks   7 strikeouts

Boosted by FNG Xavier Nady, Tim Lincecum pitched one of his better games of the second half to defeat the inept Chicago Cubs, 5-2.  The X-Man delivered a clutch 3 RBI double in his first AB as a Giant...which , actually didn't come as that big of a surprise since he is a CAL MAN.  Welcome aboard, Xavier.  We will need many heroes to accomplish this crazy dream; you certainly look ready for the task!

About Tim...Maybe it wasn't Big Time Timmy Jim, but it wasn't too far off.  He had some nasty stuff fo' sure. He really only gave up two well hit balls ( and the homer was right down the right field line at Wrigley, which is about as short as it gets ).  His biggest problem tonight was with the pitch count, but let's face it, that's a nice problem compared to napalm innings which have led to that ridiculous 5.21 ERA.  Is he ever going to get that ugly-thang below FIVE?

The good:  My favorite moments ( besides the Nady double ) were : 1) a lovely throw by Hector Sanchez to nail a would-be base stealer. It was a perfect strike FROM HIS KNEES! Truly a thing of beauty. And 2) the four pitches (all strikes) from Javier Lopez to lock down the eighth.  He even gave up a single on the first pitch!

Oh yeah, that kid named Buster is pretty damn good too. He's hitting a crisp .330 right now. Are we talking MVP, or what?