Results tagged ‘ Aubrey Huff ’

Why Beltran makes sense for SF; more from Sunday

Sunday, July 17

SAN DIEGO — Acquiring Carlos Beltran is virtually imperative for the Giants.

Not to reach the postseason, but to play deep into October.

Giants general manager Brian Sabean wouldn’t dare speak of Beltran as primarily a postseason asset. His healthy respect for San Francisco’s National League West rivals would prevent him from assuming publicly that winning the division is a fait accompli and that Beltran’s value potentially would emerge more in the postseason than in the regular season.

But the postseason is when the Giants will need Beltran the most. Chances are good that if they win the West, they’ll again face Atlanta and/or Philadelphia, as they did en route to last year’s World Series. Then the Giants will truly need a formidable hitter like Beltran to offset the Braves’ or Phillies’ pitching, since both staffs appear to be improved from a year ago.

Pitching becomes doubly important in the postseason; that’s why the Giants proudly wear those big, fat, beautiful rings. Maybe the Giants could outpitch Atlanta or Philadelphia. But the Braves seem tougher, with Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson developing into co-aces and Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel coming out of the bullpen throwing 235 mph. And don’t forget about Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe.

Giants fans believe their team’s starting rotation is the best in the Major Leagues. That notion is ridiculed in Philadelphia, where Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels anchor the pitching staff.

The Giants struggle to score against mediocre pitching. Imagine the challenge they’ll face against the Braves or Phillies.

But if the Giants gets Beltran, they’ll have at least one hitter who the Braves and Phillies must dwell upon in their scouting reports. And San Francisco’s bench would become deeper. For example, manager Bruce Bochy would have one more respectable pinch-hitter at his disposal — anyone among Cody Ross, Aaron Rowand, Andres Torres or Nate Schierholtz, depending who’s in or out of that night’s lineup.

Moreover, check out how Beltran has fared against some of the key Braves and Phillies pitchers.

The switch-hitting outfielder owns a remarkable .351 lifetime batting average (26-for-74) with four home runs and 17 RBIs against Hudson. Beltran also is a respectable 2-for-8 off Venters, though that’s not a representative sample size. There’s also no denying that Beltran has trouble with Lowe (.225, 9-for-40), Jurrjens (.182, 4-for-22) and Hanson (0-for-10).

Beltran has succeeded against Halladay (.333, 14-for-42, two homers, 10 RBIs) and Hamels (.278, three homers, five RBIs). Lee (.125, 1-for-8) has given him problems. But Beltran loves to face Ryan Madson, Phladelphia’s top set-up reliever (.429 9-for-21, four homers, six RBIs).

As has been reported, several other teams are in the hunt for Beltran. But the Giants might be the club he’s able to help most.

*****

In case you didn’t see the boxscore, the Giants who accounted for the San Francisco-era record-tying six stolen bases Sunday were Emmanuel Burriss and Nate Schierholtz, who had two apiece, and Eli Whiteside and Andres Torres, who each pilfered one.

“I had one of them. I’ll be damned,” said a jovial Whiteside.

The Giants improved to 11-1 when they steal at least two bases. Coincidence or correlation? I think you know the answer. Regardless, they’re more fun to watch when Bochy puts runners in motion. It doesn’t always work, but the Giants sometimes have to try to force the issue with their offense to get anywhere.

This marked the third time since moving to San Francisco in 1958 that the Giants stole six bases. It last happened on Sept. 8, 1987, in a 6-4 victory at Houston. Kevin Mitchell totaled three, Dave Henderson (a stretch-drive acquisition) had two and Chris Speier added one.

The other occasion was June 27, 1984 in a messy 14-9 win over Cincinnati. Dusty Baker stole second, third and home, all in the same inning. Bob Brenly, Johnnie LeMaster and Dan Gladden each had one.

*****

The Giants have maintained that they can survive for up to a month as long as couple of hitters get hot. This happened last year, when Aubrey Huff, Buster Posey and Torres sustained the team during its 20-8 July. And it’s happening now, though the Giants keep playing mostly low-scoring games.

Nate Schierholtz (.362 in July) and Pablo Sandoval (.322 in July) have been the month’s biggest contributors. But MIguel Tejada (.341) and Andres Torres (.317) have helped. All that’s missing is a little consistency.

Chris Haft

Tim Lincecum, 20-game winner

Wednesday, Nov. 3/Thursday, Nov. 4

SAN FRANCISCO — Tim Lincecum was a 20-game winner this year. Though he didn’t reach that number in the traditional sense, every victory helped.

When I mentioned his 20-game milestone to him Wednesday, he said self-deprecatingly, “I had 40 chances at it.”

Well, not quite, but close. Lincecum was 16-10 in 33 regular-season starts and 4-1 in five postseason outings.

He wasn’t a 20-game winner in the true sense of the phrase. But every victory counted — especially the last nine, given the tightness of the National League West race and the must-win atmosphere of the postseason.

“Having the opportunity and the chance to pitch in postseason makes everything that much more sweet,” Lincecum said.

*****

Aubrey Huff’s seventh-inning bunt in Game 5 of the World Series that advanced Cody Ross and Juan Uribe was an anomaly. It was Huff’s only sacrifice bunt in Major League competition and his first since 2000, when he played for Triple-A Durham in Tampa Bay’s system.

Though Huff must have discussed his bunt after the Series clincher, I wasn’t sharp enough (nor have I had enough time) to find an article that included his side of the story. So I coaxed this brief but suitable explanation from him Wednesday.

“It [the bunt sign] was given to me, but I was doing it anyway,” he said. That is, he fully intended to give himself up for the team.

Though Edgar Renteria’s homer rendered Huff’s bunt moot, there was no doubt that the sacrifice accelerated the Giants’ momentum. It left you KNOWING that the Giants would score in that inning.

Huff said that he might have had trouble pushing the bunt to third base. But directing it toward first, as he did, was no problem. “I do that bunt pretty good in batting practice,” he said.

*****

The wait to cram yourself inside a Dugout Store to buy World Series merchandise approaches three hours at times. Too late now, but do you know when was the best time to shop? Right before Wednesday’s parade began! Less than an hour prior to the scheduled start, there was no wait to get inside the main store at AT&T Park, though the checkout lines stretched deep.

– Chris Haft

Giants think of you, praise Bumgarner

ATLANTA — In case you’re wondering, the Giants hope you had fun celebrating their Division Series victory.

As long as you remained somewhat responsible.

“I hope it’s a chaos-fest on every single street you can possibly think of,” closer Brian Wilson said. “Within reason.”

Left fielder Pat Burrell sounded ready to join the party.

“The city’s been waiting a long time for something like this,” he said. “We can’t wait to get home.”

It’s worth wondering what kind of long-term effect the Giants’ success will have on the Bay Area sports landscape. After all, none of the professional teams except for the San Jose Sharks has thrived recently.

If you believe that a rising tide lifts all boats, then the Giants’ impact will be minimal, since the 49ers and Raiders are a joke and the Warriors probably will struggle to make the playoffs — though they have a loyal, rabid fan base that keeps coming back for more no matter what.

At the very least, the Giants have bolstered their already solid presence among the area’s baseball fans and, more importantly, are likely creating new fans with each postseason win.

*****

There’s no underestimating Madison Bumgarner’s toughness, poise, maturity, grace under pressure or whatever you want to call it. In short, the 21-year-old is no ordinary rookie.

Pitching on 10 days of rest before a hostile, howling Turner Field crowd, Bumgarner recorded one of San Francisco’s biggest victories of the season. Nobody was that surprised, however.

“The kid’s tough as nails,” pitching coach Dave Righetti said. “He got all the big outs and got us late in the game. For a young man who sat that many days, waiting … He held all that together and went out with a lot of poise in a foreign ballpark.”

“His composure was unbelievable,” catcher Buster Posey said. Recalling a Braves scoring threat early in the game, Posey said, “I went out to talk to him and he just kind of smiled at me and said, ‘I’m all right. I got it.’ When you get that type of response you know you’re in for a good night.”

First baseman Aubrey Huff went one step farther. Referring to the mild fuss over who should start Game 4 — Tim Lincecum, if the Giants were trailing 2-1; Bumgarner, if they led the series; or Lincecum under any circumstances — Huff declared, “I would have taken him (Bumgarner) tonight regardless of whether we had won last night.”

– Chris Haft

Defeat could pay dividends

Wednesday, Aug. 25

SAN FRANCISCO — The concept of a team winning a game that it can “build upon” is overrated. Any kind of triumph for a club needing one is significant only if it can win its next game.

But Wednesday’s crazy affair at AT&T Park was different. The Giants’ 12-11 loss to Cincinnati should have a definite residual effect: Impregnable, unshakable faith in themselves for the rest of the season.

They overcame a 10-1 deficit to take a brief 11-10 lead in the ninth inning. Never in their long, storied history had the Giants completed a comeback from a nine-run deficit, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Brian Wilson applied the “build on” phrase to the Giants’ surge.

“To be able to battle back like that, you can’t really hang your head,” he said. “You can only build on it, knowing that we can definitely score a lot of runs when we’re down.”

“Come playoff time, this whole game right here is a great experience for everybody,” first baseman Aubrey Huff said.

The Giants have been criticized for acquiring outfielders they might not necessarily need, namely Jose Guillen and Cody Ross. However, their influence has been obvious. They provide depth for the batting order (directly) and the bench (indirectly).

Suddenly, opposing pitchers have much more to think about when they confront the Giants.

“We’ve got some guys getting hot now,” Huff said.

Examples:

– Pablo Sandoval has rapped three hits or more in three consecutive games for the first time in his career. Suddenly, the Panda is batting a respectable .276 after languishing around .260 for much of the season.

– Juan Uribe has homered in back-to-back games.

– Freddy Sanchez went 9-for-11 in this series.

– Huff is batting .435 (10-for-23) during a six-game hitting streak.

That said, Thursday’s off-day appears to be well-timed for the Giants. Wednesday’s series finale against the Reds forced every reliever to pitch and surely drained the team as a whole. They can use a day to recharge, forget about baseball and return fresh on Friday for the weekend series against the Diamondbacks.

*****

Here’s a look at a day when the Giants almost wiped out a nine-run deficit. You knew I’d delve into history at some point, didn’t you?

Actually, they trailed by more than nine. Facing Pittsburgh at Seals Stadium on May 5, 1958, their first year in San Francisco, the Giants were on the short end of an 11-1 score entering the ninth inning. They proceeded to amass nine runs but left the bases loaded in an 11-10 loss.

*****

The Giants endured a scary moment in the third inning when Huff appeared to injure his left wrist. As it turned out, the pain was fleeting.

Cincinnati’s Paul Janish essentially bumped into Huff’s wrist as the San Francisco first baseman reached for pitcher Ramon Ramirez’s throw on a third-inning play. The semi-collision knocked Huff’s glove off his hand, which was fortunate. Had the mitt remained attached, Huff might have been hurt. “The best thing was that the glove went flying,” he said.

– Chris Haft

 

Giants still seeking a bat; crowds highlight weekend

Sunday, Aug. 1

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants acquired two relief pitchers before Saturday’s Trade Deadline and led the National League with 149 runs scored in July. This combination suggested that the Giants are satisfied with their offense.

Wrong.

Insiders believe that the Giants will continue to actively pursue performers who can upgrade their offense. The process becomes a little more challenging now that a player must clear waivers before he can be traded. But engineering a deal is hardly impossible.

So many players get placed on waivers at this time of year that it’ll be easy for one or two of the hitters San Francisco sought to slip through. Exactly which ones might become available to the Giants is too difficult to determine. But consider management ready to pounce.

*****

Various Giants agreed that the sellout crowds for the Dodgers series were more inspirational than usual. Perhaps because the vast majority of the spectators were Giants fans. Often, the audience is a little more divided.

“When you have over 40,000 roaring for you, it does something for the players,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “They wanted to get the sweep for the fans.”

Matt Cain was frequently the object of Sunday’s cheering. But the right-hander concentrates so intensely that the noise melts away from him.

“It’s weird. You get out there and you don’t hear it as much,” Cain said. “Sometimes maybe you hear it between pitches or in certain situations. But it’s one of those things you definitely feel but sometimes don’t hear.”

*****

Cain broke a personal trend — actually, several of them — while recording his first career victory over the Dodgers.

Five Dodgers entered the game batting .290 or higher lifetime against Cain: Rafael Furcal (.357), James Loney (.345), Casey Blake (.300), Matt Kemp (.296) and Russell Martin (.290). Andre Ethier (.514) received an excused absence to be with his wife, who was delivering their child.

Furcal, Loney, Blake, Kemp and Martin combined for two hits in 16 at-bats. Nothing to it.

*****

Cain also received ample defensive support. First baseman Aubrey Huff made a remarkable stop of Xavier Paul’s one-hop smash in the fifth inning. Center fielder Aaron Rowand dove to snare Furcal’s line drive one inning later.

Cain delivered a succinct appraisal of those plays.

“I thought if the ball stayed up enough for Rowand, that seems to be a play he makes so many times,” Cain said. “I’m hoping and praying, ‘Stay up, stay up, stay up,’ and it did.<p/>

“Now, Huffy, he’s going to brag and say that he’s a special athlete and he’s going to make that play 10 out of 10 times. I’m pretty sure it found his glove. But he did a great job of being able to pick it for us.”

*****

Javier Lopez distinguished himself in his Giants debut by inducing Scott Podsednik’s inning-ending comebacker in the eighth after Cain yielded Jamey Carroll’s two-out single. Welcome to San Francisco!

– Chris Haft

Many wins, many heroes

Wednesday, July 28

SAN FRANCISCO — When’s the last time the Giants have been this hot?

No need to answer that by citing a specific time frame in a specific year. It’s a rhetorical question more than anything.

Rarely in recent years, though, has it seemed like the Giants win virtually every day for even a moderately extended period. Just a few weeks ago, some insiders were doubting the club’s ability to sustain the kind of streak they’re on now — 17 victories in 21 games.

Buster Posey’s emergence, Aubrey Huff’s consistency and Andres Torres’ verve are just a few of the factors that have brought the Giants to brink of first place in the National League West and positioned them to continue their drive for a postseason berth.

Asked if he and his teammates stride into the clubhouse each day expecting to win, right-hander Sergio Romo said after Wednesday’s 10-9, 10-inning victory over Florida, “Realistically, yeah. We’ve always said from the beginning, even in Spring Training, that we have a good team, we’re going to compete and can play with the better teams in the league. That mindset is paying off. We know if we get our jobs done and back each other up, good things can happen.”

The Giants still lead the National League in runs during July after scoring sporadically during the season’s previous three months (they entered Wednesday as the league’s seventh-highest scoring team). They firmly believe that this is not an aberration.

“We’re not playing above our capabilities; we’re not playing below,” Romo said. “We’re just doing what we’re able to do. We’re finding our roles and trying to stick with that.”

As manager Bruce Bochy mentioned during his postgame media gathering that “we had the right guy up there” when Juan Uribe batted with two on and two outs in the ninth, it struck me that several Giants could fit the “right guy” description these days. Not just Uribe, who has hit eight home runs that either put the Giants ahead or tied the score. But also Posey. Or Huff. Lately, Travis Ishikawa. Freddy Sanchez, too. And, of course, Torres.

“Everybody who’s going up there, we feel confident with them,” Bochy said.

Weeks ago, Bochy pleaded for more “timely hitting.” He’s getting it.

“When you look up at the scoreboard at the end of the game and see that the number of runs scored is close to the number of hits you got, that just means you’re stringing together hits and getting them at the right time,” said center fielder Aaron Rowand, who’s hitting .329 in his last 26 games. “You can pound out 11 hits and walk away with three or four runs. It’s not like you didn’t swing the bats well, it’s just that you didn’t get the timely hitting. It’s just about being able to string together hits with runners on base and runners in scoring position.”

Rowand noted that the Giants’ ability to cope, even thrive, against top pitchers (Roy Halladay, Adam Wainwright, Roy Oswalt, Ubaldo Jimenez and Josh Johnson, to name a few) bodes well for them if they reach the postseason.

“Our pitching staff is good,” Rowand said, necessarily stating the obvious. “So if we can scratch some runs together against a good pitcher, our chances of winning the game are pretty decent. That’s what gives this team the possibility of being dangerous in the playoffs.”

P.S. To answer that question posed at the start of this entry, two other impressive streaks do come to mind. Both helped the Giants win division titles. In 1971, they started 37-14. In 1987, they closed with a 37-17 rush. This surge is different, since it’s occurring in midseason. Let’s see how long the Giants can ride this wave.

– Chris Haft

Whiteside-for-Posey move confounds many

Monday, July 5

MILWAUKEE — The Giants’  4-3 loss Sunday could be remembered for its sheer duration (15 innings spanning five hours and 24 minutes), its novelty (the back-to-back homers by Nate Schierholtz and Andres Torres, with the latter being inside-the-park — the first such tandem of homers by Giants since Mays/McCovey in 1966) or its agony (the Giants’ 10th defeat in 12 games).

Judging from the reaction back home and wherever Giants fans reside, none of this matters to the public. You — and your opinion counts, because you buy tickets and drive TV/radio ratings — are incensed over manager Bruce Bochy’s use of Eli Whiteside to pinch run for Buster Posey in the eighth inning.

Bochy explained after the game that he wanted Whiteside on the basepaths instead of Posey, who had just singled Pablo Sandoval to third. “On a ball in the gap, he [Whiteside] is going to score,” Bochy said. “He runs well. Which almost happened.” That last remark was a reference to Travis Ishikawa’s two-out single, which sent home Sandoval and moved Whiteside to third. But Edgar Renteria grounded out, the score remained tied 3-3 and you know the rest.

You’re disturbed because Whiteside went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, including a 13th-inning whiff with Aubrey Huff on third base and one out and a popup to end the 15th with Huff on second base. You’re annoyed because Whiteside was charged with a throwing error in the 14th that put Seth Smith on third base with nobody out (though Guillermo Mota, the eventual losing pitcher, admirably escaped that jam). You’re confounded because you’re wondering whether Whiteside really is that much faster than Posey.

From my vantage point, he isn’t. But I will never pretend to know half as much about baseball as Bochy or any of his coaches. At the same time, y’all are UPSET. It just adds to the rising tide of discontent surrounding the Giants that probably won’t ebb right away, unless they go on a nice little 12-game winning streak.

Today’s game is about four hours away as I write this. Can’t wait, can you? My best guess is that Whiteside won’t be running for Posey today — mainly because Huff, who did virtually everything he could to try to win Sunday’s game, will be worn out and in need of a rest. So Posey probably will play first while Whiteside catches.

After Sunday, what else can befall the Giants?

– Chris Haft

All-Star chance for Huff; praise for McCovey

Sunday, July 4

DENVER — The Giants just might send a third representative to the All-Star Game. But don’t count on it.

Manager Bruce Bochy said Sunday that Aubrey Huff is being considered as a replacement in case an existing National League All-Star is sidelined by injury.

Huff possesses decent statistics, including a .286 batting average to go with a team-high 15 home runs and 47 RBIs.

Huff demonstrated his value Sunday even while going 0-for-3. After drawing a one-out walk in the eighth inning — granted, he should have been out on a foul popup, but Colorado catcher Chris Iannetta and third baseman Melvin Mora let the ball drop – he further prolonged the inning with a takeout slide that prevented second baseman Jonathan Herrera from making a double-play relay to first.

Huff truly enhances his value defensively, however. He can play first base and either of the outfield corners. He would come in handy during the later innings of the All-Star Game after numerous players have been removed.

“That’s what would help,” acknowledged Bochy, whose remarks on the subject indicated that he has discussed it with Philadelphia’s Charlie Manuel, the NL All-Star manager. It all makes perfect sense, since Bochy is one of Manuel’s All-Star coaches.

Huff, who has never made an All-Star team in nine previous Major League seasons, received a hearty endorsement from teammate Brian Wilson, the closer who was chosen for his second Midsummer Classic along with Tim Lincecum, now a three-time All-Star.

“I think a guy who we all know should be going with us is Aubrey Huff,” Wilson said. “I can’t explain what the guy has done for us in our lineup. … The guy is more deserving than me, I feel.”

But since any of the NL’s five Final Vote candidates (San Diego right-hander Heath Bell, Colorado outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, Cincinnati first baseman Joey Vottto, Atlanta left-hiander Billy Wagner and Washington third baseman Ryan ZimmermanI) is likely to be considered as a late addition before Huff, don’t bet on seeing him in Anaheim on July 13.

*****

Willie McCovey, who needs no introduction, received his props during TBS’ MLB All-Star Selection Show.

While commenting on the potential unavailability of Atlanta outfielder Jason Heyward due to injury, former pitcher David Wells said, “Let’s just hope he does go. This guy is a stud. He’s done everything. He’s got the arm; he’s got the hits. He’s got that Willie McCovey-type swing.”

Wells respectfully added, for the benefit of younger viewers nationwide, “For those who don’t know Willie McCovey, he was a stud, too.”

– Chris Haft

Tidbits from Tuesday

Tuesday, May 25

SAN FRANCISCO — Shortstop Edgar Renteria’s right hamstring injury is extremely ominous.

Renteria’s 34. He struggled through elbow and shoulder ailments last year. He worked hard to return healthy this season, and his .326 batting average reflects the fruits of his labor.

But he missed two games in late April with discomfort in his left shoulder. Then he went on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right groin. Renteria rejoined the lineup last Saturday in Oakland, and now comes his hamstring injury.

It’s fair to wonder whether Renteria’s body is breaking down. This is not at all a criticism of Renteria. It’s just a question that inevitably arises when an athlete his age, who has played as extensively and diligently as he has, encounters an alarming sequence of injuries.

So much for the retooled lineup manager Bruce Bochy used in the series-opening 4-2 victory over the Washington Nationals. Juan Uribe likely will return to shortstop, with Pablo Sandoval going back to third base and Aubrey Huff resuming his tenure at first base after his Tuesday stint in left field. John Bowker probably will play left, unless Nate Schierholtz’s bruised right shoulder has healed enough to enable him to start in right field. If that’s the case, Andres Torres, who appears destined to stay in the lineup for a while, will occupy left.

*****

After striking out the side in Tuesday’s ninth inning for his 11th save, Giants closer Brian Wilson has 27 strikeouts in 17 1/3 innings. That’s a rate of 14.02 whiffs per nine innings. Remarkable.

*****

You may have read this elsewhere, but right-hander Zack Wheeler, the Giants’ first-round selection (sixth overall) in the First-Year Player Draft who’s pitching for low-Class A Augusta, went on the disabled list with what manager Dave Machemer called “a problem with a fingernail” on his throwing hand, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

In the Minors, a visit to the DL requires a minimum seven-day stay instead of the 15-day base in the Majors.

Wheeler, who turns 20 on Sunday, is 1-3 with a 5.03 ERA in seven starts, though he has improved somewhat in his last four outings (1-1, 3.95).

*****

Don’t mean to scare you, but had the Giants lost Tuesday, they would have dropped into fourth place in the National League West. Then again, with 118 games remaining, there’s no need to dwell on the standings. 

– Chris Haft

One way to get Posey up here

Friday, May 14

SAN FRANCISCO — This is not a recommendation; I don’t know if it’s even a suggestion. It’s just a thought.

If the Giants believe that promoting Buster Posey from Triple-A Fresno and installing him in the lineup would help their offense, here’s an option:

Put Posey at first base and move Aubrey Huff to left field. I’m sure several bloggers and maybe one of my counterparts/competitors already has raised this subject. If so, I apologize for sounding like I’m plagiarizing. But I’m not, since it doesn’t seem to have been widely circulated.

I think manager Bruce Bochy was dropping a hint recently when he praised Huff’s athleticism and said that he believed that, with a little training, Huff could play the outfield respectably. I’m not sure whether this would complicate matters, but most of Huff’s outfield experience actually is in right field — 237 games out of 245, according to baseball-reference.com. Still, Huff probably would adjust better to left field at AT&T Park, since he wouldn’t have to deal with the tricky archways and the wall in right field at home.

The Giants wouldn’t necessarily be giving up on Posey as a catcher. There’s always next year, assuming Bengie Molina doesn’t return (and given Molina’s re-signing this past offseason, I won’t assume anything). Again, this is just a possible way to get Posey’s bat in the lineup.

Your move, Giants.

– Chris Haft

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