Results tagged ‘ Dodgers ’

Video helps Pence, Belt — can you dig it?

Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013

LOS ANGELES — You can call it creative visualization or positive reinforcement. Hunter Pence called it a “dig-me session.”

Regardless of the term, Pence’s method of studying videos of successful at-bats — particularly those that resulted in home runs — likely helped him and Brandon Belt deliver their titanic performances Saturday in the Giants’ 19-3 rout of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Pence said that he reviewed footage of himself hitting home runs before he crushed his 476-foot drive at Colorado on Aug. 27. Before that date, he had homered exactly once since July 14. Obviously, Pence was unhappy about the drought. So he reminded himself, visually, how he looked as a power hitter. The power of the mind apparently unleashed the power of the body.

Since then, Pence has hit at a torrid pace. His September numbers include a .407 batting average (22-for-54), four doubles, seven homers and 22 RBIs in 14 games. Saturday, he went 3-for-5 with a career-high seven RBIs.

Noticing that Brandon Belt had gone nearly a month without homering (his last one came on Aug. 15 at Washington), Pence urged his teammate to try the treatment that worked for him. Result: Belt collected five hits and six RBIs against the Dodgers on Saturday, both career highs. Among his hits was his 16th homer, aa two-run poke in the seventh inning.

Said Belt, “I think Hunter always likes to challenge people, make sure they have a positive mindset.”

That’s exactly how Pence saw it. “I just challenged him to keep pushing,” said Pence, who recalled telling Belt, “I want you to have a ‘dig-me’ session.”

As Pence explained, “Sometimes it makes you feel good to see what you’ve done and what you’re capable of.”

The greatest Giant of them all would agree.

“I would go home at night and create what I was going to do the next day,” Willie Mays said in an interview with MLB.com several years ago. “It sounds kind of childish. But if I feel that we’re going to have a good crowd or something, and I want to do something the next day to make sure the crowd enjoyed what I did, well, then I’d look at a couple of films by myself and figure out something that I can do to make them holler. And I would do it.”

*****

It’s staggering, really, that these Giants scored the highest number of runs in a single game at Dodger Stadium.

Consider all the impressive ballclubs and lineups that have performed at Chavez Ravine since the ballpark opened in 1962. The Cubs of Ernie Banks-Billy Williams-Ron Santo. The Big Red Machine. The Giants of Mays-Willie McCovey-Orlando Cepeda, or of Will Clark-Kevin Mitchell-Matt Williams. Any Braves lineup with Hank Aaron in it. Heck, even those Davey Lopes-Steve Garvey-Ron-Cey-Dusty Baker Dodgers clubs. And that’s mentioning just a few.

Pence admitted that a little luck was involved. “We hit a lot of bloops, a lot of jam shots that just fell in,” he said.

*****

Some leftover facts and figures from the Giants’ historic night:

– The Giants’ run total was their highest against Los Angeles since a 19-8 win on April 16, 1962 at Candlestick Park.

– The Dodgers hadn’t allowed this many runs since losing to the Cubs, 20-1, on May 5, 2001 at Wrigley Field.

– This was the Dodgers’ worst home loss since falling 19-2 to the Giants on July 3, 1947 at Ebbets Field.

Chris Haft

If you want to be in first place; Hector’s hustle

Wednesday, June 27

SAN FRANCISCO — A month ago to this day, May 27, the Giants trailed the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers by 7 1/2 games in the National League West. The Giants defeated Miami that day, and that victory launched a 19-10 binge that has tied them with Los Angeles atop the division standings.

The Giants downplayed their ascent. Constant success since 2009, including the surge to the World Series in 2010, has taught them all about season’s challenges and pitfalls. Wednesday was not a time to celebrate, despite the 3-0 victory over the Dodgers that completed a three-game sweep and rewrote, revived or revisited all kinds of shutout-related records.

Until Matt Kemp and others were sidelined with injuries, the Dodgers appeared poised to run away with the West title. Now, Giants manager Bruce Bochy expects the standings to remain bunched through the rest of the regular season.

“I’ll tell you what I expect: This is going to be a tight race,” Bochy said after Wednesday’s 3-0 victory over Los Angeles. The Dodgers, Bochy said are “a good ballclub. Arizona, you see how they’re playing now. This is going to be a tight race in September with these three teams. Not that I’m forgetting the other teams. It’s going to be this way the whole way. We’re all going to have our ups and downs, including us. Hopefully [the “downs” are] short ones.”

Catcher Buster Posey repeated the “There’s a lot of baseball left” bromide. Right-hander Sergio Romo used different words to say essentially the same thing.

“Standings are standings. We’re just focused on one game at a time,” Romo said. “We’re a good team. We know we’ll be in contention at the end of September.”

Dates to circle on the calendar: The Giants and Dodgers next meet July 27-29 at AT&T Park. They’ll play at Dodger Stadium Aug. 20-22. San Francisco doesn’t confront Arizona until September. At that point, the Giants will face the Diamondbacks for three series in a seven-series stretch.

*****

Hector Sanchez looked at the bruised, scraped area near his left elbow as if it were a whisker. “That’s [what happens] when you play hard,” he said.

Sanchez indeed delivered a sincere effort on Wednesday, particularly when he raced toward the backstop and dove to snare Elian Herrera’s fourth-inning popup on a bunt attempt. Sanchez was knocked dizzy as he fell to earth, but he remained in the game.

Whether Sanchez is earning more playing time remains to be seen. Obviously, he isn’t hurting his cause. Asked if he’d have trouble separating Sanchez from Tim Lincecum, who have collaborated smoothly in the right-hander’s last two starts, Bochy said, “Could be.” Bochy repeated that Posey will continue to handle most of the catching. But Sanchez has continued to remind the Giants that there’s not much of a dropoff, if any, when he’s behind the plate.

Chris Haft

Pagan likely to rest in L.A. finale

Tuesday, May 8

LOS ANGELES — Center fielder Angel Pagan was removed from the Giants’ 2-1 victory Tuesday night after sustaining a cramp in his left hamstring and likely will not start Wednesday’s series finale, manager Bruce Bochy said.

Pagan felt uncomfortable after beating out a slow roller toward third base in the eighth inning. Gregor Blanco immediately replaced him.

Wednesday’s outfield could be composed of Blanco, Melky Cabrera and Nate Schierholtz, who has hit safely in his last three games and is batting .421 (8-for-19) lifetime against right-hander Chad Billingsley, Los Angeles’ starting pitcher for the series finale.

Chris Haft

Right now, it’s easy to call Giants best in West

LOS ANGELES — Many of you won’t believe me, but I’m not being a homer.

The National League West standings tell the story of the season, and there’s no arguing with them. But right now, at this particular juncture, the Giants just might be the division’s best club.

The Giants remain flawed, of course, which says a lot about the quality of the NL in general. But forget about that stuff, and consider:

San Francisco beat Colorado in the season series, 10-8. The Rockies wish they never had to face Tim Lincecum or Barry Zito. Ubaldo Jimenez has Lincecumesque stuff, but he frequently looks less than invincible against the Giants. San Francisco also has a better bullpen than Colorado’s, especially with Huston Street sidelined.

The Dodgers’ starting rotation is in shambles. It was shocking to watch Chad Billingsley pitch in relief Friday. Remember, he was a National League All-Star this year. Billingsley and Matt Cain frequently are compared to each other, and Cain endured his own demotion to the bullpen … three years ago, long before HE became an All-Star. Who would be the Dodgers’ ace in their playoff pitching rotation? Clayton Kershaw, who’s still working his way back from an injury to his non-throwing shoulder? The Dodgers have a strong lineup, but they won’t win with that kind of pitching.

If 30 or 40 games remained in the regular season, the Giants would be in great shape. That’s not the case, so whatever happens, they’ll get what they deserve. But right now — and a significant member of the Dodgers personnel affirmed this to me Friday — the Giants are the division’s scariest club.

– Chris Haft

Kent gets nailed to Wall, nicely, on Saturday

Many observers consider Jeff Kent a Hall of Fame second baseman. But the Giants’ Wall of Fame comes first.

Kent’s achievements as a Giant from 1997-2002 will be celebrated Saturday when his Wall of Fame plaque is unveiled along the King Street sidewalk outside of AT&T Park. The ceremony begins at 3 p.m.

Kent, who spoke at length on various topics during a conference call Monday, met with reporters Friday afternoon in the Giants’ dugout and said that he’s “kind of in awe” of the honor, which is reserved for players who spent at least nine seasons with San Francisco or made at least one All-Star team during a minimum Giants tenure of five years.

Kent, 41, retired after last season with a .290 batting average, 377 home runs and 1,518 RBIs in 17 big league campaigns. He averaged .297, 29 homers and 112 RBIs per year with the Giants, winning the National League Most Valuable Player award in 2000 and exceeding 100 RBIs each season.

The 41-year-old Kent lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, Dana, and their four children. He has kept busy with the three motorcycle shops that he owns and a golf course he’s involved with, when he’s not driving kids to and from school.

Kent had a reputation for being sometimes abrasive with the media, but now that he no longer dwells on the rigors of competition, he has been more than accommodating as his Wall of Fame day has approached. Since we’re happy to let Kent speak freely as long as he wants, here’s the bulk of his comments Friday, presented verbatim (with some comments deleted for relevance or simplicity) and preceded by the respective questions.

The big day is here; are you more excited? When you spoke Monday seemed genuinely emotional and excited.
I am. I’ve spent my time just relaxing and staying away from the game since I retired, and that’s been special in itself — trying to let my body heal up and my mind relax. And I guess going through a time of do I have some anxiety about being away from the game. So I really wanted to stay away from it and I don’t have any regrets about leaving. With that being said, you’re able to push away the game and now move on to a new phase. The new phase is trying to revisit some of the great moments and great places where I played and obviously, this one being the greatest of all places I ever played and the most emotional place that I ever played was here in San Francisco. I’ll be honored with my ugly mug on the wall. Hopefully they have the mustache on there, too.

It’s really going to be cool. I have my wife and kids here, and my [youngest] boy turns six tomorrow and the only thing he wants to do is go in the locker room. So there’s a major attachment I have to the game and I’m glad that it’s going to exist here in San Francisco.

… This is the first time I’ve actually set foot [at AT&T Park], not wearing any type of baseball paraphernalia and walking through the halls thinking, “Yeah, I can still play,” knowing that’s not me speaking. it’s just the emotional attachment of knowing that this was the greatest place I ever played.

Have you seen the other plaques to get a perspective of who you’ll be joining?
 … I’m kind of taking this all in with my family. They made the sacrifices, too. I went to Cooperstown a month or so ago to play in the Hall of Fame Game and I purposely didn’t do the VIP tour of the Hall of Fame museum because I wanted to share that with my family. We’re going to go back on our RV trip; we’ve got about three years of what we want to do mapped out. … That’s going to be absolutely neat because my kids bring me into the history of the game more than I did. I was never really a big historian of the game. … Being able to walk through those and read them and tell my kids that I took advice from that guy or played with this guy or this guy was really good and this guy was a pain in the butt — it’s going to be neat to share that.

Have you paused to reflect on your spot as a second baseman in this game during this time?
A little bit. Not much. I’ve been so involved in my businesses and driving the kids to school, I haven’t really sat back. This is the start. This event, this weekend, is the start. My retirement speech, I got emotionally involved, it was like a thousand pounds lifted from my shoulders when I said I’m done. Tomorrow will be more emotional, too, but I think it’ll be more happy and grateful than emotional. This is the start of trying to figure out where I fit in. But I’m not so worried about it. Because I’m a baseball player. I played the game. Everything else, I didn’t care about much. … The awards, the pats on the back, the articles, the stats, they don’t hold a lot of weight for me.

The fans gave you a hard time when you came back with the Dodgers. What do you think it’ll be like tomorrow?
I don’t know. I don’t have any clue. I know they’re bitter at me because I was a Dodger, and they should be. I was a little hesitant to walk on the field (because) my first day as a Dodger was here in San Francisco on Opening Day (2005). That was the loudest boo I think I ever heard. And I say that laughingly because I respected it. And it was actually, for me, a sign of appreciation. … Tomorrow, I don’t know. I’m nervous. Because of the love that I have for the fans and the respect I have for the fans. I don’t know how it’s going to play out. But I guarantee that however it plays out tomorrow, it’ll have no effect on the appreciation I had playing for these fans. The times they came out at Candlestick [in] the wind and cold weather, and then opening the ballpark here and seeing 50,000 people coming out every day … I hope they can understand the respect that I have for them, at least. If they still hate me for being a Dodger, I hope they do. Because that means that they’re a good Giants fan.

(Pointing over his shoulder at the diamond) … I hope that the fans really do understand and appreciate the fact that I have blood, sweat and tears left on that field. It’s out there, more so here than any other place I played. I think these people understand that.

Many athletes, once they leave, have an appreciation for the sport and the experience that you can almost get only in retrospect. Is that something that you would advise a younger player to have more mindfulness about?
I kind of define your question (as), if I had to do it over again, would I enjoy more of the game when I was a player or would I think more of other things as a player than I did? If that’s your question, I would say, I thought about those things. But I didn’t know if I were to be more of this over-cordial person, come into my house and let you know everything about me, that would affect my play on the field. I tried to do everything I could to be a baseball player. If I were to tell somebody, you need to be more cordial or enjoy the experience more, I might be jeopardizing their play on the field. … I was purposely not that cordial and open. I really was in my house. This is my house.

Do you remember the sound during Game 5 of the 2002 World Series, when you guys were pouring it on?One of the happiest times of my whole life.

Now that I hear that they booed Manny [Ramirez] as bad or worse than they booed me, maybe I have a leg up on him.

– 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

Yogi, meet Pablo

SAN FRANCISCO — As I write this, there’s still a little more than an hour left (at least in the Pacific time zone) in Yogi Berra’s 84th birthday.

What does that have to do with the Giants?

Here’s the connection: Pablo Sandoval’s three-run, ninth-inning homer made him the hero of Tuesday night’s 9-7 victory over Washington. And, on Sunday in Los Angeles (I could have blogged this on that day, but for some reason decided to hold off), no less an expert than Dodgers manager Joe Torre compared Sandoval to Berra, the Hall of Fame catcher who was quite a free swinger himself.

That’s probably the most flattering comparison Sandoval has prompted since he ascended to the Majors last August.

“He’s like a Yogi Berra from both sides of the plate,” Torre said, then added half-jokingly, “How do you get him to swing? All you do is throw it.”

Torre proceeded to explain the challenge of pitching to hackers such as Sandoval.

“It’s very difficult if you’re the catcher. ‘Where do I go here?’ ” Torre said. “We can’t throw him a strike, but that doesn’t mean anything because he can hit the other stuff. It’s not a knock at the kid because he’s successful. And so was Yogi Berra. [It] is not comfortable for me to sit here [watching Sandoval] and think, even if we’re ahead on the count, ‘We’ve got him.’ “

– Chris Haft

Zito on Manny

DENVER — Barry Zito savors the competition he faces as a Major League pitcher. His comments about the Manny Ramirez situation demonstrated this.

Zito almost sounded like he would prefer to see Ramirez in the opposing lineup when he leads the Giants against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Friday night’s series opener at Chavez Ravine. Instead, Ramirez will be serving Game 2 of his 50-game suspension for performance-enhancing drug use.

Zito’s on record as saying that he enjoys facing free-swinging, right-handed batting sluggers. They often fall prey to his offspeed pitches. Ramirez fits this description.

But, for Zito, it’s also the heat of the battle that he cherishes. 

“If I look at facing Manny as a chore, I look at being in the big leagues as a chore. It’s kind of a microcosm of the same thing,” Zito said. “It’s fun to go out and compete and dig deep and see what’s in your heart that day. Against Manny, you have to dig a little deeper. That is fun.”

Giants players refused to criticize Ramirez, yet few went out of their way to express support for him. Zito was an exception.

“I think Manny’s a standup guy,” Zito said. “What his comments were today [about using a doctor’s prescription] are probably what’s going on.”

Zito also had a healthy appreciation for Ramirez’s prodigious skills. “Manny boosted [the Dodgers] offensively and, I think, morale-wise last year when he came over,” Zito said. “He just brings an air of kind of relaxed confidence that really sparked them.”

– Chris Haft

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