Results tagged ‘ Bruce Bochy ’

A championship afternoon

Sunday, Oct. 3

SAN FRANCISCO — Images from one of the biggest days in recent Giants history:

* During the on-field celebration, when it seemed like everybody was embracing each other, manager Bruce Bochy placed his hands on Jonathan Sanchez’s shoulders and spoke to him briefly. I neglected to ask either of them what was said, but it was a fatherly-looking moment. I’m guessing that Bochy said something like, “I’m proud of you,” and for good reason.

* Pat Burrell’s leadership, which we’ve heard so much about, was in full display. Once he beckoned teammates to begin the victory lap around the warning track that gave fans a chance to hand-slap the players, they fell in line almost immediately.

* And it was fitting that the first Giant to return was the team’s fastest player, Andres Torres.

* You saw how jubilant Pablo Sandoval was on the field. It continued during the clubhouse celebration. The champagne being sprayed was Mumm, but the Kung Fu Panda evidently got a hold of a bottle of Dom Perignon, which was empty by the time I saw him. He clutched the bottle while posing for pictures with various combinations of teammates.

*****

I’ll sound like a homer for saying so, but I believe that the Giants will defeat Atlanta in the Division Series. Their pitching seems to be stronger at this juncture of the season, which makes all the difference. As for the League Championship Series, please wait. I’m taking things step-by-step.

*****

Torres’ first-inning line drive up the left-field line was so fair it wasn’t funny. It kicked up chalk, for crying out loud!

– Chris Haft

One step closer to the goal

Sept. 23

CHICAGO — With a few more days like Thursday, the Giants will indeed reach the postseason.

They gained ground on all of their rivals. The San Diego Padres lost, so the Giants leapfrogged them to reclaim first place in the National League West. The Colorado Rockies also fell, leaving them 3 1/2 games behind the Giants. San Francisco can all but officially end Colorado’s hopes for a division title by winning two of three games this weekend at Coors Field, which would put the Rockies 4 1/2 games back with a week remaining in the season.

NL Wild Card leader Atlanta was idle. But the Giants and Braves now have the same record (86-67). This bolsters the Giants’ hopes of qualifying for the postseason even if they don’t win the division.

Coolstandings.com lists San Francisco’s chances of reaching the postseason at 70 percent. That’s encouraging for the Giants, but I wouldn’t start computing their Magic Number yet.

*****

Bruce Bochy almost surely won’t win the NL Manager of the Year award. But my Baseball Writers’ Association of America brethren who possess ballots for that honor ought to pay at least cursory attention him.

A good manager must provide direction. Bochy has accomplished this twice in emphatic fashion.

After the Giants’ 11-3 loss to Arizona on Aug. 28, he and general manager Brian Sabean met with members of the starting rotation and essentially told them they had better shape up.

Tim Lincecum described the message Bochy and Sabean conveyed as “pretty much a sense of urgency. We need to come ready to play. No more worrying about where the ball’s going to go, what my mechanics are going to be. Just go out there. You’re here for a reason. Now play the game. Pretty clear-cut and simple.”

Since then, the starters have a 1.94 ERA.

And, of course, Bochy met with the hitters before Thursday’s 13-0 whipping of Chicago. “We came out with the right approach today,” Buster Posey said. “There was a little bit more fire in everybody. Hopefully that’s something we can continue for the next nine games. If we give this [pitching] staff some run support, we’re going to be pretty tough.”

*****

“Pretty tough” describes the challenge the Giants will face this weekend as they try to lengthen their 17-game streak of allowing opponents three runs or fewer — a stretch that hasn’t been matched since the Chicago White Sox reached 20 in 1917.

The Rockies are a formidable offensive club anywhere, but especially at Coors Field. Their home/road breakdown borders on unreal.

At home, the Rockies are a wrecking crew. They’re hitting .304 at Coors with 452 runs, 102 homers and an .880 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) in 75 games.

On the road, the Rockies are merely a wreck. Their numbers dip to .230 with 64 homers, 289 runs and a .663 OBP in 77 games.

*****

The Giants have existed since 1883. Yet none of their players had been hit by pitches twice in one inning until Thursday, when Jose Guillen was nicked by a pair of Ryan Dempster deliveries in the second inning. Juan Uribe homered following each plunking.

“Hey! Record book already,” Guillen said when told of his achievement.

*****

Had the Cubs won this week’s series from San Francisco, it wouldn’t have been their first time to ruin the Giants’ season.

You already know this if you’re either pushing 60 years old (at least) or an avid student of baseball history.

The 1959 Giants trailed the Dodgers by one game with five to play. That was after Los Angeles swept a three-game series at Seals Stadium to wrest first place from San Francisco.

Anyway, the Giants were still in the race. But consecutive one-run losses, 5-4 and 9-8 in 10 innings, pretty much finished their pennant bid. History didn’t repeat itself this time, however.

Instead, the Giants’ 13-0 rout Thursday represented their largest margin of victory over the Cubs since Sept. 3, 1963 (Juan Marichal won his 20th game that day as Orlando Cepeda, Tom Haller and Felipe Alou homered).

– Chris Haft

Excruciating enough for you?

Monday, Aug. 30

SAN FRANCISCO — My main man Michael, a faithful and long-suffering (that’s redundant) Giants fan who resides in New York, informed me via e-mail that he couldn’t immediately fall asleep after Monday night’s 2-1 loss to Colorado.

Neither could I, though I’m more tired than disappointed. I’m awake because I feel compelled to share a few more game- and Giants-related items:

– It’s tough and probably unfair to second-guess manager Bruce Bochy for his timing in summoning Brian Wilson to replace Jonathan Sanchez in the ninth inning. Sanchez didn’t look good in walking Dexter Fowler to open the ninth after jumping ahead on the count, 0-2. Immediately bringing in Wilson, a two-time All-Star with 36 saves in 39 chances, was a totally defensible move — even though he threw 33 pitches over 1 2/3 innings on Sunday.

Except Carlos Gonzalez, the next batter who hit the fateful triple off Wilson, welcomed the departure of Sanchez, who struck him out twice and induced a comebacker.

“I was happy,” Gonzalez said. “[Sanchez] basically dominated the whole night.”

– Sanchez added only two walks to his National League-high total of 75 he took into the game. Too bad the second free pass he issued was the one to Fowler.

– With their fourth loss in five games, the Giants clinched a losing record in August. They’re 12-15 this month, on the heels of their glorious 20-8 July.

– The Rockies have won four of their last five games at AT&T Park.

– The Giants’ defense has been charged with 11 errors in the last five games after committing 11 errors in the previous 27 games.

No wonder Michael can’t sleep.

– Chris Haft

Plenty of leftovers from Thursday (Giants 5, Phils 2)

Thursday, Aug. 19

PHILADELPHIA — Thursday night brought mixed blessings for Pablo Sandoval.

The struggling switch-hitter finally hit his first home run of the season as a right-handed batter in his 122nd at-bat from that side of the plate. It opened the fourth inning and concluded the Giants’ scoring in their 5-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.

But Sandoval also popped up into a double play in the ninth inning. That’s right, “popped up.” Phillies third baseman Placido Polanco dropped Sandoval’s one-out sky ball. But Sandoval loafed up the baseline, enabling Polanco to throw him out. Nate Schierholtz, pinch-running for Jose Guillen at first, strayed a little too far from the bag and was tagged out to complete the double play.

Manager Bruce Bochy fined Sandoval an undisclosed amount for not reaching first base safely. Sandoval — who was charged with grounding into his 22nd double play of the season — acknowledged the error of his ways.

“That’s my fault,” Sandoval said. “You learn. I made a big mistake. I apologized to [Bochy]. I learned I have to run hard to first base every moment.”

Sandoval homer, his ninth overall, was a more pleasant subject for him. He acknowledged that his timing, particularly as a right-handed batter, was all fouled up. “I’ve been jumping out and my hands don’t ‘load’ at the right time,” he said, admitting that he has been off-balance at the plate.

*****

Another Giants hitter who might have regained some equilibrium was Freddy Sanchez. The second baseman, who has shared playing time recently with Mike Fontenot, might have hit his way back into a regular role by singling solidly and scoring in his first two at-bats.

“Whatever my role is, the number one goal is winning. That’s all I want to do,” Sanchez said. “If that [means] playing against lefties right now, that’s just playing against lefties now. But when my name gets called, I’ll be ready.”

Sanchez pulled both of his hits to left field, contrasting with his usual opposite-field style. He indicated that he might have been concentrating too much on going to right field, particularly with runners (usually leadoff man Andres Torres) on base.

“I was talking to Boch about that,” Sanchez said. “Maybe not try so hard to get the guy over or hit a hole.”

Bochy approved of Sanchez’s handiwork.

“I thought he had some good at-bats tonight,” Bochy said. “I thought he had better balance and pulled some balls with authority. That’s the Freddy we know. It’d be nice to have him back to who he is.”

*****

Jonathan Sanchez’s success at going deep into the game proved to be essential. Bochy said that right-hander Santiago Casilla left Philadelphia before the game to be with his wife, who was in labor. This left San Francisco’s bullpen a man short. An abbreviated outing by Sanchez or an extra-inning affair might have made life tough for the Giants. Bochy sounded uncertain about Casilla’s availability for Friday night’s series opener at St. Louis.

*****

Talking to Gary Matthews, the winner of the 1973 National League Rookie of the Year Award with the Giants who threw his support behind Buster Posey (see Giants Beat), is always a pleasure. Here are some outtakes from the interview.

Matthews said that capturing the award filled him with pride, since his dressing-stall neighbor in the Giants clubhouse, the incomparable Willie McCovey, had received the honor in 1959.

“It was like carrying on tradition,” said Matthews, who relished beating out a pair of Los Angeles Dodgers rivals in the balloting, Ron Cey and Davey Lopes. They finished in a three-way tie for sixth.

The next three Giants teams Matthews played for finished below .500. “We were in a free-fall,” he said.

But, he added, surviving the competition for outfield jobs within the Giants organization made him a better player. At the time, the Giants’ farm system was still generating talented position players. And the outfield spots, thanks to Willie Mays, remained the most glamorous ones on the field.

“You took pride in trying to do the best you possibly could,” said Matthews, who proceeded to play for the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago Cubs in his 16-year career. “If I had to do it all over again, I’d do it the same way in terms of going through an organization like the San Francisco Giants, where you learned a lot of pride and the main thing — to win.”

*****

Speaking of Posey, he’s starting another streak. He’s batting .440 (11-for-25) while hitting safely in six consecutive games.

– Chris Haft

No squaring around for Posey

Friday, Aug. 6

ATLANTA — In case you were wondering, Giants manager Bruce Bochy didn’t consider asking Buster Posey to bunt in Friday night’s 11th inning.

Many hitters would have been asked to attempt a sacrifice after Aubrey Huff walked to open the 11th against Braves reliever Peter Moylan. Not Posey, the rookie catcher who quickly has become one of San Francisco’s most prominent offensive assets.

“You could be conservative and go that route,” Bochy said. “But he’s hitting cleanup for a reason.”

After Posey walked, the next batter, Juan Uribe, tried to bunt Moylan’s first pitch and fouled it off. Bochy explained that Uribe was bunting on his own.

If Bochy were faced with the situation 99,000 more times, he’d eschew bunting on each occasion. Partly because the next sacrifice bunt Posey lays down will be his first as a professional.

“I don’t know how many times Buster as bunted in his career,” Bochy said. “And Uribe’s effort wasn’t pretty.”

*****

The bullpen again played an integral part in the Giants’ triumph, allowing two hits, walking none and striking out five in four scoreless innings.

Brian Wilson preserved the decision for Javier Lopez, who pitched the 10th to earn his first victory as a Giant. Lopez has suited up for five games and has appeared in four of them. He also has yet to give up a run for San Francisco in 3 2/3 innings.

Despite not having pitched since last Friday, Sergio Romo worked the ninth after Chris Ray handled the eighth.

The Giants, who entered the game with the National League’s third-best relief ERA, reduced that figure to 3.27.

– 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

Bumgarner apologizes for outburst

Tuesday, June 8

CINCINNATI — Madison Bumgarner apologized, through a statement issued Tuesday by the Giants, for his outburst in Triple-A Fresno’s 6-5 victory over Sacramento on Monday.

A sequence of events upset Bumgarner, who was ejected in the seventh inning. Teammates had to restrain him from charging the second-base umpire, who in Bumgarner’s opinion blew a call. Bumgarner then hurled a ball into the outfield.

Bumgarner was fined and received a talking-to from Giants officials. He also issued the following statement:

“I regret my actions during last night’s game in Fresno. I am a highly competitive person, but I let my emotions get the better of me. I want to apologize to the Giants organization and to the fans of Fresno and throughout baseball.”

Giants manager Bruce Bochy seemed barely concerned by the incident. “He’s competitive. We know that,” Bochy said.

More importantly, Bochy said that Bumgarner is “real close” to earning a Major League promotion.

“We’re excited about his progress,” Bochy said. “We feel like he’s a guy who’s really close. If there’s any move made, we’re going to do it when we feel like it’s the right time.”

– Chris Haft

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 101 other followers