Results tagged ‘ Brian Wilson ’

No shame for Giants against Phils

SAN FRANCISCO — Truly rabid Giants fans still pondering What Might Have Been in 2009 can torture themselves further as the World Series begins Wednesday by recalling San Francisco’s efforts against the Philadelphia Phillies, who hope to capture their second consecutive Fall Classic.

The Giants were 4-3 against Philadelphia and easily could have fared better. They lost twice by one run in a Sept. 1-3 series at Citizens Bank Park. San Francisco took three of four from the Phils July 30-Aug. 2 at AT&T Park, emboldening those who suggested that the Giants would be tough to face in a short postseason series.

A game-by-game look at the season series showed that the Giants were alternately at their most impressive and most vulnerable against the National League champions:

July 30: Pablo Sandoval said he wasn’t acting out of revenge toward Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, who left him off the NL All-Star team. But it sure looked like it as Sandoval homered, doubled and drove in four runs in a 7-2 Giants victory. Jonathan Sanchez turned in a typical performance, lasting only 5 2/3 innings but allowing just three hits while striking out seven.

July 31: The punchless Giants showed up, mustering four hits in a 5-1 loss. Then again, they faced the formidable Cliff Lee, who allowed two runners to reach scoring position while throwing a complete game. San Francisco trailed 1-0 when Brandon Medders and Jeremy Affeldt endured rare struggles as they combined to issue three walks and hit a batter in Philadelphia’s three-run seventh.

Aug. 1: Tim Lincecum was nothing short of magnificent, striking out eight and retiring the final 10 batters he faced in an eight-inning effort. Juan Uribe drove in the game’s only runs with a pair of sacrifice flies off Joe Blanton in a 2-0 Giants victory. Lincecum improved to 12-3 and Brian Wilson pitched a perfect ninth for his 27th save.

Aug. 2: Trailing 3-1 against Cole Hamels, the undaunted Giants scored three runs in the fifth and three more in the sixth to pull away and win, 7-3. Eugenio Velez contributed to both uprisings, blooping a two-out single and scoring on Freddy Sanchez’s two-run double in the fifth before stroking a two-run single in the sixth.

Sept. 1: The Giants arrived in Philadelphia tied with Colorado for the Wild Card lead, but Hamels precipitated their September slide by allowing two hits in a 1-0 decision. Sanchez struck out eight in six innings, lapsing only when Shane Victorino singled leading off the fourth inning and scored on Ryan Howard’s one-out double. Rich Aurilia opened the ninth with a pinch-hit single but pinch-runner Andres Torres was thrown out trying to steal second base, ending the rally before it began.

Sept. 2: Brad Penny dominated in his Giants debut, surrendering five hits in eight shutout innings. The resurgent Torres hit a fifth-inning single to open the scoring before Uribe and Aaron Rowand delivered back-to-back homers in a three-run sixth to hasten San Francisco’s 4-0 win.

Sept. 3: An instant classic ended in frustration for the Giants. Lincecum struck out 11 in seven innings while allowing two runs and four hits. But Pedro Martinez was slightly better, blanking San Francisco for seven innings after Velez homered to open the game. After the Cy Young Award winners left the stage, the Giants put runners on the corners with two outs in the ninth against Brad Lidge before pinch-hitter Fred Lewis grounded into a force play to end Philadelphia’s 2-1 triumph.

– Chris Haft

Correction: Wilson better than realized

SAN FRANCISCO — I goofed. Giants closer Brian Wilson pitched a career-high 2 2/3 innings Saturday against the New York Mets, not 2 1/3 as I reported in my game story.<p/>

Wilson’s outing was destined to last 1 2/3 innings until Bengie Molina hit his tiebreaking home run in the top of the 10th. That’s when the Giants’ braintrust decided to leave Wilson in for one more inning. “At first they wanted to tell me that was it,” Wilson said.

Technically, Wilson received a blown save, since he inherited a 4-2 lead before allowing Fernando Tatis’ RBI single and Gary Sheffield’s sacrifice fly. But he pitched perfect innings in the ninth and 10th, helping the Giants improve to 7-4 in extra-inning decisions.

The only drawback of all this was Wilson’s inflated pitch count. He threw 40 pitches, about twice as many as usual, which could rule him out of action Sunday.

– Chris Haft

Zito’s a harsh self-critic; Wilson loves the challenge

SAN FRANCISCO — Barry Zito received a warm ovation from the AT&T Park fans upon leaving Saturday’s game once he walked Wladimir Balantien to open the seventh inning. But while Zito might have impressed observers, he sounded anything but impressed with himself.

Zito called his outing “a grind,” though his statistical line might suggest that he cruised through Cincinnati’s lineup in the Giants’ 4-2 victory. The left-hander allowed both Reds runs and only three hits in six innings. Zito, who’s 3-1 with a 2.32 ERA in five starts since the All-Star break, has walked nine and struck out 25 in 31 innings in that span.

Zito meant that his results didn’t come easily. Manager Bruce Bochy, of course, was thrilled that Zito delivered, extra effort or no extra effort. Bochy pointed out that Zito has been the Giants’ “tough-luck pitcher” this year, having entered Saturday’s start with the Major Leagues’ lowest run support.

“I think he’s throwing the ball better than his record indicates,” Bochy said. “He has been exceptional this last month. He’s throwing strikes and pitching with a lot of confidence right now.”

Zito has won three consecutive decisions for the first time since May 23-June 4, 2007, his first couple of months as a Giant.

*****

A temporarily overlooked element of Brian Wilson’s blown save and loss Friday night was the simple fact that Bochy summoned him with the bases loaded and one out in the EIGHTH inning. Though Wilson has converted a National League-high seven saves of more than one inning, each of those was a 1 1/3-inning stint. Had he saved Friday’s game, his 1 2/3-inning outing would have been his longest of the season in a save opportunity. He pitched 2 1/3 innings in a 10-inning victory April 22 against San Diego and two innings July 17 in a 14-inning loss at Pittsburgh. Both were scoreless performances.

Second-guessing managers for using their closer for more than one inning is a favorite fan pastime. But Bochy hasn’t hesitated to insert Wilson in the eighth inning, and he won’t hesitate to do so again in the future.

“The game’s on the line,” Bochy said. “That’s where you want your closer.”

Speaking after he recorded his 28th save of the season in Saturday’s victory, Wilson said that entering games in the eighth inning is OK with him.

“They obviously have confidence in me to come in and shut the door,” Wilson said. “I’m not going to complain about that, because what’s the team going to think about a guy who complains about pitching? I play this game for the love of it. Any chance I get to pitch is a good chance.”

In a remark that bordered on a Yogi Berra-ism, Wilson added, “If you’re going to come in the ninth, you might as well come in the eighth, too.”

– Chris Haft

Defense helps Lincecum; Wilson lauds Mariano; Rowand hurt

ST. LOUIS — For the first 4 2/3 innings Monday night, while it seemed as if Tim Lincecum might pitch a no-hitter, a handful of close calls and sparkling plays stood out.

Albert Pujols ended the fourth inning by scorching a line drive directly at third baseman Pablo Sandoval. Had it traveled a few feet in any other direction, it would have been a double.

Second baseman Juan Uribe preserved Lincecum’s perfect game in the fifth inning by darting up the middle to snare Chris Duncan’s smash on one hop and make an off-balance but strong throw to first base for the out.

Then Rick Ankiel swung at Lincecum’s very next pitch and broke his bat but managed to bloop the ball into right-center field for a single.

Still, I remain convinced that Lincecum or Matt Cain will throw a no-hitter someday.

Even Bruce Bochy admitted that thoughts of Lincecum pitching a no-hitter crossed his mind, though that’s not the kind of thing a manager often admits.

“To be honest, yeah,” Bochy said. “That’s a good-hitting ballclub over there. But with Timmy, sure.”

But Bochy added, with Ankiel’s hit squarely in mind, “It takes a lot of luck to throw a no-hitter.”

*****

Giants closer Brian Wilson, who has listened ad nauseum to coaches and managers telling him that he must mix up his pitches more, seized upon Mariano Rivera’s milestone 500th save as an example of a pitcher who excels without variety.

“The guy’s gone after hitters with one pitch his whole career,” Wilson said, referring to Rivera’s cut fastball. “Pitching coaches always harp on getting a third pitch, a fourth pitch, and he has always been the case where I’d say, ‘Well, Mariano’s got one pitch, so” — and then dot, dot, dot.

“It’s such a good pitch that it’s really four different types of pitches. He can throw it front door to a righty, back door to a lefty, he can throw it to the other side of the plate and he can throw it down. Maybe that’s all you need. His plate zone because of that pitch is expanded.”

*****

Center fielder Aaron Rowand left Monday’s game in the seventh inning after he was hit above the left knee by a pitch from St. Louis’ Clayton Mortensen, who was making his Major League debut. Rowand hopes to play Tuesday, though he sported an ugly bruise on his leg that’s likely to swell.

– Chris Haft 

Sandoval’s elbow causes concern; more from Sabean

SEATTLE — Pablo Sandoval has a tender right elbow which he injured in Friday night’s seventh inning as he dove to stop a Kenji Johjima grounder. This limited Sandoval to designated-hitter duties Saturday, a role he’ll probably occupy again Sunday.

But Sandoval’s diminished ability to throw affects more than just whether he can play third base.

Manager Bruce Bochy will be forced to keep catcher Bengie Molina in the lineup until Sandoval can throw again. Molina already has started eight games in a row and might not rest again until Thursday’s scheduled off-day. Meanwhile, his batting average has taken a beating, dropping from .304 to .276 during a 1-for-17 skid entering Saturday. Bochy said he wanted Sandoval to catch Sunday, but Molina likely will have to keep toiling.

Bochy said that emergency No. 3 catcher Kevin Frandsen is not ready to start a game behind the plate.

Summoning a catcher from Triple-A Fresno is an option — it’d probably be Eli Whiteside, since Steve Holm was demoted last week and has to stay put for at least 10 days — yet neither Bochy nor general manager Brian Sabean indicated that this would happen soon.

***** 

More stuff from general manager Brian Sabean, who spoke Saturday with reporters covering the Giants (a main story is on the website):

On closer Brian Wilson, who has lost three of his last five outings while compiling a 12.28 ERA: “[He has] had some trials and tribulations, but that’s going to be natural; He’s still cutting his teeth doing that job.”

On the team in general, other than its lousy hitting: “I like the effort and I like the fact that we’re doing two things you have to do to compete, and that’s pitch and play defense.”

When asked if he has seen enough of first baseman Travis Ishikawa to evaluate him fully: “I don’t think so. … With him it’s consistency. We’ve seen him have some really good at-bats against some really good pitching and then just the opposite. In his case, while we really love the defense. … The strikeouts (29 in 93 at-bats entering Saturday) don’t help and the low on-base percentage (.298) doesn’t help.”

On Pablo Sandoval’s progress at third base: “At least in this snapshot, he’s shown that he can play that position and it’s more than making routine plays. He’s much more accomplished than I think we all thought, at least up to this point.”

Finally, Sabean squashed any speculation that he came here to get fired or discuss his job security with managing general partner Bill Neukom, who’s also in town. They did not discuss his job status, said Sabean, whose contract expires after this season. Sabean planned to spend the weekend scouting amateur players for next month’s draft, but decided to see the big club after the excruciating three-game sweep in San Diego.”I don’t want the reputation of not being around when things are a little upside down,” Sabean said. 

– Chris Haft

Leftovers from Giants 2, Mets 0 (5/17/09)

SAN FRANCISCO — A lot happened in this riveting game that couldn’t be squeezed into game coverage. In no particular order:

– Breaking down Matt Cain’s triumph was relatively simple. He limited Carlos Beltran, Gary Sheffield and David Wright, New York’s 3-4-5 hitters, to one hit in their first three plate appearances. In the series’ previous three games, that trio combined for 16 hits in their first three plate appearances.

– Kevin Frandsen went 0-for-4 in his (likely brief) return to the Giants, but he still contributed to the victory. He made a slick short-hop pickup as he charged Sheffield’s sixth-inning grounder, and he quickly collaborated with second baseman Emmanuel Burriss on an eighth-inning double play.

– After stealing 13 bases in the series’ first three games, the Mets had none in this one. Bengie Molina threw out Wright at second base in New York’s lone attempted theft.

– Cain on his three consecutive walks in the second inning: “I felt good. I was just missing a little bit here, a little bit there. He [plate umpire Brian Knight] wasn’t giving a ton either. So it was going to have to be that [kind of] day where you’re going to have to get it over the plate a little bit.”

– Brian Wilson, downplaying his ability to bounce back from absorbing defeats Thursday and Friday in the series’ first two games: “That’s what every closer is supposed to do.”

– Chris Haft 

Wilson has a winning way

LOS ANGELES — Giants fans should feel free to cheer on the resurgent Barry Zito and the club’s meager yet resourceful offense. Just make sure to save some applause for Brian Wilson.

Had Wilson blown his save opportunity Friday night, he would have had a handy excuse. He hadn’t pitched since last Sunday. But he came through with yet another four-out save, his fourth of the season.

The prolonged rest helped, of course. But so did Wilson’s attitude after he yielded James Loney’s leadoff single in the ninth. Two batters later, Wilson coaxed Rafael Furcal’s double-play grounder to end the game.

“I feel like I’m a ground-ball pitcher,” Wilson said. “If a guy gets on, I’ve got a real good chance of getting a double play. If I can just back those thoughts up in my head and think positively — ‘OK, I’m going to end the game with a double play’ — I’m sure it’ll happen.

“It better happen.”

It has happened for Wilson seven times in eight save chances so far. Entering his second year as the Giants’ closer, the right-hander has a better grasp on his self-control and what to expect.

“I think I’m learning to stay relaxed, throw at the same speed and have more accuracy instead of tense up and throw hard,” Wilson said. “I think last year I saw every situation you can imagine. So I have that under my belt now. It’s a good learning experience.”

***
One factoid I should have included in the final version of my game story but didn’t: The Giants (15-13) are two games above .500 for the first time this year. They failed on four previous occasions to reach that level.

– Chris Haft
 

A scary, scary moment

SAN FRANCISCO — As of this moment, Joe Martinez’s condition remains unknown. We’re all praying that he’s OK.

Martinez needed one out to end the Giants’ 7-1 victory Thursday over the Milwaukee Brewers when Mike Cameron slammed a line drive back at the right-hander. The ball struck the right side of Martinez’s forehead with such force that the ball caromed all the way back to the Brewers’ dugout on the first-base side.

Martinez remained conscious but wisely sat on the mound, not trying to move and allowing Giants athletic trainers to attend to him. An angry red mark could be seen on Martinez’s forehead. Meanwhile, numerous players began praying — Brian Wilson, leaning against the Giants dugout railing; shortstop Edgar Renteria and all three outfielders, squatting on the outfield grass; Cameron, hunched over at second base and visibly upset. Randy Winn and Fred Lewis came over to console Cameron.

Giants head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner held a bandage to Martinez’s forehead as the pitcher walked off the field under his own power — an encouraging sign.

– Chris Haft  

Guzman’s first Giants project: First base

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Jesus Guzman, who has impressed the Giants this spring with his hitting while dismaying them with his fielding, has played first base for three days in a row in Minor League exhibitions as the organization strives to find a position he can handle adequately.

“He can get nine innings of learning the peripherals of first-base play,” manager Bruce Bochy said Tuesday.

Guzman has virtually no chance of making the Opening Day roster despite hitting .404 this spring. Not only has he looked inadequate defensively at first base and third base and in left field, but he also has played only 15 games above the Double-A level. Polished as Guzman seems at the plate, he must prove himself in all phases of the game.

Other items of note from Tuesday:

– Nate Schierholtz’s third-inning home run in the Giants’ 7-3 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks gave San Francisco at least one homer in 22 of its 29 Cactus League games. The Giants entered the afternoon with 37 homers, second in the Majors to Kansas City’s 41.

– Matt Cain lasted only five innings but was effective when necessary, stranding five runners in scoring position while yielding two runs and seven hits. “I probably felt more relaxed and comfortable toward the end. Sometimes it works that way,” said Cain, who struck out five during his 90-pitch outing.

– Closer Brian Wilson worked the ninth inning and allowed his first run in 10 spring appearances, though it was unearned. Bochy has been pleased with Wilson’s use of a changeup to complement his fastball and slider. “That can be a big pitch for him if he gets comfortable with it and feels like he can throw it anytime,” Bochy said.

– The Giants have re-signed right-hander Matt Kinney, who will pitch at Triple-A Fresno. Kinney, who pitched for the Giants in 2005, gives them more Minor League depth.

– Chris Haft

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