May 2013

Crawford’s defensive brilliance shines again

Thursday, May 16

DENVER — Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford displayed his Gold Glove-level skills again Thursday, making a highly difficult play on Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon to record a sixth-inning out during the Giants’ 8-6 victory over the Rockies.

Blackmon hit a low-trajectory bloop to Crawford that prompted him to break in for the ball. Suddenly he stopped and played the ball on a hop — though he had to reach for it with his bare right hand to do so. The ball very nearly skipped past him for a base hit.

Crawford grasped the ball smartly and threw out Blackmon, who has decent speed, at first base.

Asked to rank that play alongside his other examples of defensive artistry, Crawford said in his understated fashion, “It’s up there.”

He also admitted that the ball fooled him somewhat. “Off the bat I was going to catch it. I thought I was going to have time to get under it and catch it. But by the time I ‘broke down,’ [terminology for slowing up slightly to make a play -- it can be baseball, football or basketball] I had to react to it. With that spin, it was kind of typical for it to bounce off to the right.”

*****

One more Crawford tidbit, this on the Giants’ 10-game winning streak against the Rockies:
“It’s kind of weird, because they’re a good team. They have good arms and a lot of good bats, obviously. To win 10 straight on them is a pretty good accomplishment for our team.”

– Chris Haft

Giants might have to add reliever

Early Friday, May 10

SAN FRANCISCO — Forced to work the bullpen overtime due to the starters’ inability to last deep into games, the Giants might consider adding another reliever from Triple-A Fresno before Friday night’s rematch against the Atlanta Braves.

Asked about the possibility of such a move, manager Bruce Bochy said during his postgame news conference Thursday, “Right now there’s no plans, but we’ll talk about it once I’m done here.”

With right-hander Santiago Casilla nursing a sore right knee and sidelined for at least another day or two, the Giants’ bullpen contingent is essentially a man short. George Kontos and Chad Gaudin pitched two innings apiece in Thursday’s 6-3 loss to Atlanta. Jose Mijares consumed two innings on Tuesday. And Mijares came back Thursday to pitch two-thirds of an inning, throwing more pitches in his stint (23) than Gaudin did in his much longer outing (15).

If the Giants were to add a 13th pitcher, they’d likely option outfielder Francisco Peguero back to Fresno and recall right-hander Jean Machi, who sparkled in a recent big-league stint.

*****

Leftovers from Thursday:

– Marco Scutaro lengthened his hitting streak to nine games. He’s batting .515 (17-for-33) with eight runs scored in this stretch.

– Four of Buster Posey’s five home runs have come at AT&T Park. That contrasts with last year, when Posey amassed 17 of his 24 regular-season homers on the road.

– Giants pitchers matched a season-high with 14 strikeouts.

– Has anybody noticed how well Atlanta catcher Brian McCann hits at AT&T Park? In 23 games by the Bay, McCann’s batting .329 (28-for-85) with three home runs and 15 RBI.

Chris Haft

Affeldt looks smooth in tuneup outing

Wednesday, May 1

TEMPE, Ariz. — Jeremy Affeldt threw approximately 25 pitches Wednesday morning during what appeared to be a pleasantly uneventful appearance in an extended Spring Training game.

This was expected to be Affeldt’s final step in his recovery from a strained right oblique. Assuming he continues to feel comfortable after this outing — the next day is always a critical period — the left-hander likely will be activated from the disabled list before Friday’s series opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers at AT&T Park.

Assistant athletic trainer Anthony Reyes and strength and conditioning coach Carl Kochan were present to supervise Affeldt. Neither general manager Brian Sabean nor any of his top assistants appeared to be on hand, perhaps reflecting the organization’s confidence in Affeldt’s health.

Facing a squad of Los Angeles Angels farmhands, Affeldt faced seven batters and allowed two singles, neither of which was particularly hard-hit. He coaxed four ground-ball outs and recorded one strikeout.

An amusing moment occurred when Affeldt threw a curveball to the second man he faced. The batter leaned away from the pitch to avoid being hit, but the umpire called it a strike. Staring at the umpire, the hitter exclaimed “Wow” — perhaps in disdain over the ump’s call, or possibly in amazement over the movement of Affeldt’s curve.

Afterward, Affeldt met with Reyes and Kochan for an extended conversation. The topic appeared to be Affeldt’s pitching motion and how it affected his afflicted side, judging from his pantomiming of his delivery.

Chris Haft

Sandoval’s hit echoes postseason feats

Tuesday, April 30

PHOENIX — Though the Giants’ 2-1 victory Tuesday night over the Arizona Diamondbacks was merely regular-season game No. 27, it evoked indelible postseason memories.

The exchange between Pablo Sandoval, who hit the game-winning, two-run homer in the ninth, and Hunter Pence, who offered encouragement to the Kung Fu Panda, has been heard before — not verbatim, but the script sounded similar. And those previous dialogues occurred in two of the Giants’ biggest postseason triumphs.

Flashback No. 1: Game 5, 2010 World Series against the Texas Rangers. Edgar Renteria sensed that he has a big hit left in his 34-year-old body, and whispered to a teammate or two that he would hit a homer in a crucial situation. We all know what happened: Renteria hit the three-run homer that accounted for all of San Francisco’s scoring in the game that clinched the long-awaited World Series title for the Giants. “I told you he would do it!” center fielder Andres Torres shrieked after Renteria connected.

Flashback No. 2: Game 5, 1989 National League Championship Series vs. Chicago: Though the Giants owned a 3-1 Series lead, this one almost had the feeling of a Game 7. The Giants did not want to travel back to Wrigley Field for the series’ final two games. Fortunately for the Giants, they had Will Clark. As Cubs closer Mitch Williams warmed up in the eighth inning before trying to protect Chicago’s one-run lead, Kevin Mitchell said to Clark, “We have to get this done.” Clark’s reply: “It’s done.” His two-run single up the middle came next.

Chris Haft

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