Results tagged ‘ Bruce Bochy ’

Molina fine with move to fifth

SAN FRANCISCO — Did you notice the subtle difference in the Giants’ batting order Monday? Bengie Molina batted fifth in the series opener against the Colorado Rockies — marking the first time that he hadn’t hit cleanup since the 2007 season. Pablo Sandoval replaced Molina in the four-hole.

Manager Bruce Bochy explained that he hoped to re-create the magic of Sunday, when San Francisco lashed 15 hits and defeated the Dodgers, 7-2. As Molina rested, Sandoval went 2-for-4 from the fourth spot. In fact, each of San Francisco’s collected multiple hits and combined to go 10-for-17 with five RBIs.

“I like the way it went yesterday,” Bochy said before Monday’s game. “It’s not a lot of tweaking, but we put some runs on the board.”

Molina, who hit mostly sixth in 2007 before replacing Barry Bonds at cleanup, accepted the move unblinkingly.

“I always respect what Bochy has to do,” Molina said.

Molina said that Bochy didn’t consult him before making the move but noted, “He doesn’t have to. He’s the manager; [Brian] Sabean’s the general manager. They’re the ones who make the decisions.”

Many critics have charged that Molina isn’t a prototypical cleanup hitter. But he has been extremely productive, at least by the club’s standards. He amassed a career-high 95 RBIs last year and entered Monday ranked second on the club in homers (17) and RBIs (70). “I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of,” Molina said. “I probably did much more than they expected.”

– Chris Haft

Giants go ‘fourth’ with Torres

SAN FRANCISCO — More than once in his postgame address Sunday, Giants manager Bruce Bochy expressed appreciation for Andres Torres’ bases-loaded walk in the sixth inning off Jeff Weaver that drove in San Francisco’s fourth run of the game.

“We had trouble getting that fourth run. That was frustration,” Bochy said, practically equating “fourth run” with “Holy Grail.” Added Bochy, “That’s why it was so important Torres drew that walk.”

Why did Bochy heap what might have seemed to be disproportionate praise upon Torres? It’s simple.

The Giants own a 54-14 record when they score four runs or more. With their excellent pitching, that number usually gives them enough offense to win. That’s why Torres’ RBI loomed as significant.

It also paved the way for Freddy Sanchez’s two-run single, which was the biggest hit in the four-run uprising.

Torres’ statistics aren’t spectacular (.250 in 59 games), but he has made contributions like this all season. And, for what it’s worth, his attitude is ceaselessly positive and he’s one heck of a nice guy. It’ll be interesting to see whether the Giants bring him back for 2010. He’s a pretty useful player to bring off the bench.

– Chris Haft 

Bochy ‘fesses up on Penny hijinks; Velez glows

PHILADELPHIA — Now the story can be told. When Bruce Bochy managed the Padres and Brad Penny pitched against them as a visitor with Florida and the Dodgers, the velocity readings at the ballpark were about 5 mph slower than they should have been.

That’s because Bochy, knowing that Penny habitually checked the speed of his deliveries after every pitch, tried to mess with the right-hander’s head by ordering the velocity gurus to slow down his readings by 5 mph.

Penny casually mentioned this after throwing his eight shutout innings Wednesday night, and Bochy confessed to this crime Thursday.

Trouble was, Penny’s speed-run readings were still impressive. “I’d see ’94,’ ” Bochy said. When he reminded the crew to subtract 5 mph from the speed readings, the reply came, “We are.”

*****

Despite the Giants’ 2-1 loss Thursday, Eugenio Velez couldn’t resist a smile when he was asked to discuss his home run off his Dominican countryman, Pedro Martinez.

“Man, that’s my favorite pitcher,” Velez said. “I feel so excited because that’s the best pitcher I’ve faced.”

Velez jumped on the game’s first pitch, a fastball. He explained that this was the wisest approach to take against Martinez.

“With a pitcher like him, you have to be aggressive, always,” Velez said. “You’re going to see only one pitch [to hit], and then he’s going to make his pitch.”

*****

Bengie Molina, who returned to the starting lineup Thursday after an eight-game absence due to a tight right quadriceps, met with Bochy after Wednesday night’s game. Shockingly, they didn’t invite reporters to join them. But Bochy revealed that the talk was constructive and mostly involved Molina’s physical state. The chat apparently wasn’t dominated by Molina’s concerns about management’s plans for him in light of Buster Posey’s promotion, as was reported.

“We talked about [Molina's] start today and we’ll give him more time [off] if he wants,” Bochy said. “He wants to do all he can to help contribute to the cause here.”

*****

Asked what he thought the ideal scenario for Posey’s Major League debut would be, Bochy said, “I think it would be a start, to help him in his preparation.” That’s not likely, though, as long as Molina stays healthy and the Giants remain in contention.

– Chris Haft 

Promising health update for Molina

SAN FRANCISCO — This isn’t extremely detailed, but manager Bruce Bochy said after Thursday night’s 11-0 loss to Arizona that the MRI of catcher Bengie Molina’s right quadriceps revealed a “mild strain.”

The strain was known. The “mild” part was a little less certain.

So, Bochy said, “I think we got some pretty good news there.”

– Chris Haft

Aurilia ready to play but remains on DL

SAN FRANCISCO — Infielder Rich Aurilia was eligible to be activated from the 15-day disabled list Thursday. He remained in limbo instead.

“I think he’s physically ready,” manager Bruce Bochy said of Aurilia, who had tendinitis in his left ankle. “We just don’t have a move to make right now.”

In other words, the Giants would rather have rookie Ryan Rohlinger on their 25-man roster than Aurilia, who has a wealth of experience and, despite his .220 batting average, remains more than capable of battling the best of pitchers, particularly during the late innings.

So Aurilia must wait until roster limits expand to 40 next Tuesday to be activated. Wisely, he remained mostly mum regarding Thursday’s non-events.

“I don’t make those decisions,” he said. “I’m healthy and ready to play.”

– Chris Haft

Tight quad sidelines Molina again; picture Torres

SAN FRANCISCO — Catcher Bengie Molina was out of the lineup for the second game in a row with tightness in his quadriceps. Eli Whiteside replaced Molina, the Giants’ cleanup hitter who’s batting .261 with 15 home runs and 64 RBIs.

Manager Bruce Bochy sounded optimistic that Molina would return soon. But he didn’t want to rush the veteran. “Let’s get that thing healthy,” Bochy said, referring to Molina’s injury.

Third baseman Pablo Sandoval (strained right calf) also began his second consecutive game on the bench, though he remained available to pinch-hit, as he did Tuesday night.

The Giants want both Molina and Sandoval at full strength by Friday, when they begin their critical three-game rematch against the Colorado Rockies.

*****

The Giants posed for their team picture Wednesday, and it was too bad that outfielder Andres Torres wasn’t around. Torres is playing in Arizona as he recovers from a hamstring injury.

Torres hustled his way onto the Opening Day roster and was instrumental in a couple of victories earlier this season. The team photo simply wouldn’t be complete without him.

– Chris Haft

 

All hope is not lost, but …

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants’ season and their playoff push are far from over. But after their 6-4, 14-inning loss Monday at Colorado, anybody feeling less than hopeful is excused.

In 40 years of following this team, this is among the most crushing come-from-ahead defeats I’ve witnessed (albeit on TV; I wasn’t on assignment for the Rockies series). Granted, the Giants are well-positioned to shrug off the effects of this setback and losing three of four to the Rockies, who lead them by four games in the National League Wild Card standings. If the Giants can recover against Arizona while Colorado struggles against the Dodgers in the next few days, San Francisco will be poised to regain ground when the Rockies visit AT&T Park next weekend.

After all, it’s not even September yet.

But for now, the Giants are reeling.

The bullpen that has sustained the Giants so well this season is in rough shape. Most relievers are suddenly overworked. Those who aren’t no longer inspire confidence, such as Merkin Valdez. If the Giants put second baseman Freddy Sanchez on the disabled list, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them fill his spot on the 25-man roster with a reliever, though lacking a full complement of position players handcuffed manager Bruce Bochy somewhat in the 14-inning marathon.

The Giants’ plight will be worsened if third baseman Pablo Sandoval is out for more than a few days with his calf injury.

Tuesday’s pregame hours could be intriguing as the Giants evaluate the fitness of Sandoval and their bullpen.

– Chris Haft

Lewis is a lucky charm; contemplating Bill Hall

CINCINNATI — Fred Lewis will take the Giants’ lineup to home plate for the umpires before Wednesday night’s game against the Cincinnati Reds.

That’s because he did it before Tuesday’s game, which the Giants won. And before Monday’s game, which the Giants won. Baseball folks are superstitious that way.

Typically, bench coach Ron Wotus does the honors. But the Giants will ride Lewis’ luck as long as they can. Besides, Bochy and Wotus pretty much know each ballpark’s ground rules. They can adjust to Lewis’ interpretation.

“We had to talk to him for a while to get them all figured out, but he was pretty close on them,” Bochy said jokingly.

*****

The Milwaukee Brewers have until Friday to try to engineer a trade for utility man Bill Hall, who they designated for assignment last week. I heard third-hand that the Giants might be among the interested teams. Now, I’ll readily admit that “third-hand” is a pretty flimsy source. Except that this particular source often knows what he’s talking about.

Still, it’s difficult to figure out why the Giants would need Hall. They’ve already got Juan Uribe as an infield handyman, and though they could use a spare right-handed-hitting outfield, it’s not a crying need. I’m guessing nothing will happen, though I’ve been wrong a few million times before.

*****

FYI: Catcher Buster Posey, who needed a few days off to nurse a minor injury, returned to Triple-A Fresno’s lineup Tuesday and went 2-for-5 with an RBI single and a run scored. 

– 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

Looking past Reds to Dodgers? Naaah

SAN FRANCISCO — Bruce Bochy seemed horrified at the mere thought that any of the Giants might — m-i-g-h-t — be looking past this weekend’s series against the Cincinnati Reds to the three-game set against the National League West rival Los Angeles Dodgers beginning Monday.

“We’re playing the Reds right now,” Bochy said before Friday night’s 10-5 loss to Cincinnati. “That’s our focus. That’s how it has to be.”

Fresh off the disabled list and a Minor League injury rehabilitation assignment, infielder Rich Aurilia said that he’d be more than happy to help Bochy point the less-experienced Giants in the proper direction, if necessary.

“Hopefully we can instill that in some of the younger guys. Just worry about winning tonight and not about what happens Monday,” Aurilia said.

Still … as a public service, here are the pitching matchups for the Dodgers series:

Monday: Hiroki Kuroda (4-5, 4.44 ERA) vs. Jonathan Sanchez (5-9, 4.49);

Tuesday: Randy Wolf (5-6, 3.55) vs. Joe Martinez (2-0, 5.87);

Wednesday: Chad Billingsley (11-6, 3.73) vs. Tim Lincecum (12-3, 2.20)

Los Angeles right-hander Jason Schmidt was in line to face his ex-teammates, but he returned to the disabled list with a shoulder injury.

*****

Get this: Buster Posey hit his third home run for Triple-A Fresno on Friday night. As a shrewd witness in Fresno observed, the pitcher who yielded Posey’s homer, Clay Hensley, happened to allow Barry Bonds’ 755th career homer in August 2007. Hensley was then pitching for the San Diego Padres.

*****

Shortstop Edgar Renteria probably would have preferred a more pleasant 34th birthday. His double error in the fifth inning handed Cincinnati an unearned run. With two outs, Renteria fumbled Willy Taveras’ grounder, then threw wildly past first base. That allowed Taveras to reach second base and score on Alex Gonzalez’s subsequent single.

Nevertheless, I will leave AT&T Park tonight with a higher opinion of Renteria than I had when I arrived here. A Reds coach who I deeply admire told me before the game that Renteria’s positive influence, particularly on younger Latin American players, has been obvious. This echoes what a Giants coach recently told me. I suppose I feel somewhat ashamed that people had to point this out to me; this is something I should be able to observe myself. But Renteria is extremely soft-spoken and goes about his business in an unassuming manner, never calling attention to himself. I’m sure Renteria’s intangibles are an asset. I’m also sure he prefers to operate below the radar, so to speak.

*****

Also:

– The Reds have won six consecutive games against the Giants.

– Eugenio Velez extended his hitting streak to 13 games. He’s batting .429 (24-for-56) in this span.

– Pablo Sandoval recorded his fourth multiple-hit game in a row, hiking his batting average to .336.

– The last time San Francisco committed five errors in a game — June 25, 2005 at Oakland in a 6-3 loss — the club took that hangover into its next performance, a 16-0 loss to the A’s which had to have been one of the Giants’ worst defeats since moving to San Francisco in 1958. I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that the current Giants won’t follow up Friday’s dud with another one.

– Chris Haft

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