Results tagged ‘ Edgar Renteria ’

Sandoval’s hit echoes postseason feats

Tuesday, April 30

PHOENIX — Though the Giants’ 2-1 victory Tuesday night over the Arizona Diamondbacks was merely regular-season game No. 27, it evoked indelible postseason memories.

The exchange between Pablo Sandoval, who hit the game-winning, two-run homer in the ninth, and Hunter Pence, who offered encouragement to the Kung Fu Panda, has been heard before — not verbatim, but the script sounded similar. And those previous dialogues occurred in two of the Giants’ biggest postseason triumphs.

Flashback No. 1: Game 5, 2010 World Series against the Texas Rangers. Edgar Renteria sensed that he has a big hit left in his 34-year-old body, and whispered to a teammate or two that he would hit a homer in a crucial situation. We all know what happened: Renteria hit the three-run homer that accounted for all of San Francisco’s scoring in the game that clinched the long-awaited World Series title for the Giants. “I told you he would do it!” center fielder Andres Torres shrieked after Renteria connected.

Flashback No. 2: Game 5, 1989 National League Championship Series vs. Chicago: Though the Giants owned a 3-1 Series lead, this one almost had the feeling of a Game 7. The Giants did not want to travel back to Wrigley Field for the series’ final two games. Fortunately for the Giants, they had Will Clark. As Cubs closer Mitch Williams warmed up in the eighth inning before trying to protect Chicago’s one-run lead, Kevin Mitchell said to Clark, “We have to get this done.” Clark’s reply: “It’s done.” His two-run single up the middle came next.

Chris Haft

Upon further review, maybe Ford makes sense

Think about it: The Giants probably are going to struggle to score runs against the Atlanta Braves in the Division Series. Derek Lowe has been outstanding lately and always pitches well against the Giants. Tommy Hanson doesn’t scare me much, but Tim Hudson looked like Orel Hershiser circa 1988 the last time he faced San Francisco.

Ideally, the Giants won’t give up many runs, either. Which (duh) means a lot of low-scoring ballgames. To cope in this environment, the Giants just might need to keep the ultra-speedy Darren Ford on the postseason roster.

Lately, the Giants have relied far too much on homers while struggling to manufacture runs. It’s easy to envision scenarios in which they find themselves tied or trailing by one run late in a game. Then they get a runner on first base with nobody out or one out, putting them in a position where they absolutely have to try to generate a run.

They’ll need to advance that runner into scoring position without giving up an out. They’ll need a stolen base.

They’ll need Ford.

Ford conceivably can do what Dave Roberts did for the Red Sox in 2004 or what Chone Figgins accomplished for the Angels in 2002. It’s easy to regard Ford as a luxury, but under the circumstances, he might actually be a necessity.

Of course, keeping Ford means that a veteran position player such as Edgar Renteria or Aaron Rowand won’t make the Division Series roster. It would be a shame to see either player sidelined. Renteria and Rowand both happen to own World Series rings. Moreover, they’re solid professionals who won’t back down from tough, critical situations. They’d be ideal to have available.

But addressing what probably will be a desperate need for offense of any sort requires some extreme measures. For this reason, don’t be at all surprised if Ford joins San Francisco’s 25-man contingent for the Division Series.

– Chris Haft

Statistically, Sanchez ranks among top lefties

Thursday, Sept. 16

SAN FRANCISCO — With his seven-inning gem Thursday night against the Dodgers, Jonathan Sanchez of the Giants continued his march toward an obscure yet impressive pitching distinction.

Sanchez struck out 12, hiking his season total to 188 in 176 2/3 innings. He, Boston’s Jon Lester (208 strikeouts, 190 innings) and Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw (201, 1902 1/3) should continue to average more than a strikeout an inning, marking the second year in a row that this trio of left-handers has accomplished that feat while pitching enough innings (162) to quality for the ERA title.

According to the “HardballTalk” feature on msnbc.com, since the expansion era began in 1961, 17 different left-handers have hit this strikeouts/innings exacta, and only five reached this level more than once: Randy Johnson (12 times), Sandy Koufax, Sam McDowell and Johan Santana (four times apiece) and Sid Fernandez (three).

Former Giants farmhand Francisco Liriano, now with the Minnesota Twins, is also on course to join this accomplished group (189 strikeouts, 178 1/3 innings) for the first time.

*****

Another note on Sanchez: He became the fourth left-hander in franchise history to strike out at least 12 and walk none in a game. The first to accomplish this was Hall of Famer Carl Hubbell in 1933; the most recent one had been Atlee Hammaker on June 26, 1983 in a four-hit, 2-0 shutout against San Diego. By the way, the Giants won despite collecting only two hits in that game.

Ray Sadecki, a decent pitcher who had the misfortune of being acquired for Orlando Cepeda, recorded such efforts twice: On Sept. 12, 1967 at Los Angeles and on Aug. 11, 1968 against the Mets.

*****

If you have a feeling that Edgar Renteria will play more frequently down the stretch, you’re not alone.

Renteria won’t continue to bat .800, as he did Thursday night by going 4-for-5 from the leadoff spot in the Giants’ 10-2 victory over the Dodgers. But the 15-year veteran remains more than capable of contributing.

Renteria just might receive more chances, particularly against left-handed pitchers. In those events, switch-hitting Pablo Sandoval, who has struggled against lefties all year, would be benched as Juan Uribe would move to third base to vacate shortstop for Renteria.

You can call it a modified lefty-righty platoon. Sandoval is hitting .228 off left-handers, Manager Bruce Bochy already has said that Renteria will start Friday night’s series opener against the Milwaukee Brewers, who are starting left-hander Randy Wolf. After Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo pitches Saturday, another left-hander, Chris Narveson, will work on Sunday.

So Renteria, who has been maligned by fans and media since signing his two-year, $18.5 million deal, could have multiple chances to silence his critics if Bochy sticks with him.

*****

A final word, or more: True Giants fans must have basked in glory Thursday night. You did, didn’t you?

Fog enveloped AT&T Park. The Giants not only moved into first place, but they thrashed the Dodgers while doing so. This was an evening made for San Francisco fans, whose euphoria was almost palpable.

Times like this don’t come around very often. This bite of success tastes fresh, since it’s the first that’s spiced with a cast of Giants who have never reached the postseason. Enjoy yourselves, folks.

– 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

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

Uribe update: Day-to-day

Friday, May 21

OAKLAND — As expected, the tightness in Juan Uribe’s left hamstring is nothing serious. The infielder’s playing status is day-to-day, so he could be ready to resume activity at any time.

“It’s not too bad,” Uribe said.

Uribe said that he began sensing discomfort in his hamstring on Thursday. He felt it again on Friday, when he moved to his left to corral Ryan Sweeney’s first-inning grounder. Some observers also noticed that Uribe didn’t look right even when he merely stood in the batter’s box to draw his second-inning walk. By the third inning he was out of the game.

While Uribe sits for a day or two, as is likely, Giants manager Bruce Bochy will be spared some difficult decisions. Saturday, shortstop Edgar Renteria will leave the disabled list and will reclaim his starting role. That will force Bochy to bench either second baseman Freddy Sanchez or Uribe, who’s being unseated from shortstop and can also play second base.

Had Uribe remained healthy, this might not have been a problem on Saturday for Bochy, who indicated that Sanchez could receive a rest after playing three consecutive games. Bochy also could have used either Sanchez or Uribe as a designated hitter, since Bengie Molina, Friday’s DH, is likely to catch Saturday.

*****

Though 15 of the Giants’ last 18 games have been decided by three runs or fewer, two of the last three have been lopsided — Friday’s 6-1 loss to the A’s and Wednesday’s 13-1 shellacking at Arizona. The Giants have lost three games in a row and four of their last five.

*****

Need to derive something positive from the Giants’ performance Friday? Besides Barry Zito’s respectable effort, which bore little resemblance to his statistical line, Pablo Sandoval looked like himself as he rapped two sharp singles. He’s hitting .357 (10-for-28) during a modest seven-game hitting streak.

– Chris Haft

 

Defense adds sparkle to diamond

Tuesday, April 27

SAN FRANCISCO — Great pitching is sublime. Powerful, consistent hitting is impressive. But few aspects of baseball demonstrate its beautiful, skillful demands like defense.

There was plenty of that on display at AT&T Park on Tuesday as the Giants defeated the Phillies, 6-2. If you saw it, consider yourself fortunate.

The defensive display began early, as Schierholtz dove to snare Placido Polanco’s fly to right-center field for the second out in the first inning.

Schierholtz gained an accomplice in the second inning. He corralled Ryan Howard’s liner into the right-field corner and unleased a strong one-hop throw to second base, where shortstop Edgar Renteria was waiting nonchalantly. Fooled by Renteria’s passive posture, Howard slowed as he neared the bag, believing he had a sure double. Instead, Renteria slapped the tag on Howard a stride before he reached base.

The Phillies’ turn came in the third. With Renteria on first base and one out, Sandoval smacked a grounder up the middle that shortstop Juan Castro lunged for and gloved. Falling down, he shoveled the ball from his glove — under his right arm, like a basketball player making a no-look pass — to second baseman Chase Utley, who barehanded the ball and relayed it to first for a double play.

Footnote: I covered Castro for a few years in Cincinnati. He’s like a master violinist who performs in obscurity. Everybody in baseball, however, knows what a marvelous defender he is. That play he made was eye-popping but not surprising.

Recapturing the spotlight, Schierholtz ran down Carlos Ruiz’s long drive to right-center to christen the fifth inning. Then Schierholtz threw out Utley, who was trying to stretch a single into a double, to open the ninth. That gave Schierholtz two outfield assists in a game for the first time in his relatively brief career (193 games). The last Giants outfielder to record two outfield assists in a game was Randy Winn on April 15, 2006 at Los Angeles.

– Chris Haft

More on efficient offense, solid Bowker, wayward Romo

Monday, April 5
HOUSTON — That was a well-executed rally the Giants staged in Monday’s second inning to grab a 3-0 lead.

As superb as Tim Lincecum was, this early outburst boosted their confidence considerably as they proceeded to win, 5-2, and improve to 7-1 all-time in season openers against Houston.

“I felt good about it, [ahead] 3-0, with the way he was throwing the ball,” left fielder Mark DeRosa said.

After Aubrey Huff began the uprising with a leadoff single off Houston ace Roy Oswalt, DeRosa lived up to his billing as a “professional hitter” by drawing a walk on a 3-2 pitch after nearly slicing a double into the right-field corner.

“I’ve faced Roy a lot,” said DeRosa, who entered the game hitting .481 (13-for-27) in his career against Oswalt. “I study video religiously and come up with a game plan. I really don’t think you can succeed on the big league level if you don’t go up there with a game plan. In that sequence I fouled off a couple of pitches that I probably wanted to put in play.”

Ball four was a low changeup. “He kind of ‘spiked’ it,” DeRosa said. “It was a little easier to lay off than probably if he would have thrown it a little closer.”

Then came the inning’s hero, Bengie Molina. He lined an RBI single on an 0-2 pitch, then advanced from first base to third on John Bowker’s single off the left-field wall. Molina had to “read” the flight of the ball expertly to make his move. That enabled Molina to score on Juan Uribe’s sacrifice fly.

After Edgar Renteria got an early jump in Comeback Player of the Year Award consideration with his second hit, a two-out, seventh-inning RBI double off Chris Sampson, DeRosa poked an opposite-field homer to right with one out in the eighth off Tim Byrdak. Afterward, a reporter suggested that DeRosa’s homer would have a single at AT&T Park.

“Everyone’s saying that,” DeRosa said good-naturedly. “I don’t care. It’s a home run. I’ll take the single when we go home, but for now I’ll take the homer here.”

*****

Bowker, who pulled ahead of Nate Schierholtz in the second half of Spring Training in competition for the right-field job, had a memorable first Opening Day. He followed that run-scoring hit with a running catch in the corner on J.R. Towles’ tricky drive to end the bottom of the second inning.

Facing Oswalt in the second inning, Bowker sensed he would have a chance to do what he does best: Swing the bat. “Oswalt fell behind 2-0, so I knew I was going to get a pitch to hit.”

Did that help Bowker’s self-esteem in his first Opening Day start? Of course. “It felt good to get that first hit [and] first RBI out of the way,” he said.

Bowker described the catch by saying, “It was weird because I was playing shallow, and with two strikes [on the count] I moved over a little bit. The wind out there, I think, was swirling. It felt like it was blowing in, so I didn’t think [Towles] could drive one through the wind. But then when it got up it started taking off and drifting toward the right-field corner.”

*****

Right-hander Sergio Romo, whose Opening Day excitement was documented in another story on this site, showed just how pumped up he was when he bounded off the pitcher’s mound and began sprinting toward the Giants’ dugout … after striking out Michael Bourn for the second out of the eighth inning.

Romo stopped short of the third-base line and returned to the mound before he made himself look even more foolish.

“I was so into it,” Romo said. “I was excited. There was no disrespect [meant toward the Astros]. I got caught up in the moment. I got a big strikeout in my eyes and I went, ‘Ohhhh!’ “

– Chris Haft

Cain looks ready for regular season

March 23
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Matt Cain had every right to feel tired Tuesday. But he didn’t look fatigued at all.

Cain recorded the longest Cactus League outing by a Giants starter so far, working 6 2/3 innings in Tuesday’s 6-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox. The Giants improved their Major League-best spring record to 16-6 with their sixth consecutive victory and seventh in their last eight games.

Cain surrendered just three hits. Fifth-inning fielding errors committed by first baseman Aubrey Huff and second baseman Matt Downs largely accounted for the lone, unearned run Cain yielded.

Though Cain pitched six innings in his previous appearance, a Minor League exhibition game last Thursday,the deepest he had gone in an exhibition game was a mere three innings. He relished the opportunity to push himself.

“You get to that kind of tired point and you have to start using your legs,” Cain said. “That’s what you want to get to toward the end of spring, to be able to carry that over into the season.”

Cain issued his first walk of the exhibition season when Paul Konerko drew a free pass with two outs in the fourth inning. That remained Cain’s lone walk in 15 1/3 innings this spring. The right-hander struck out just two batters but recorded several outs early in the count, helping him stay on the mound longer.

Cain augmented his effectiveness by using his slider for the first time this spring. “I’m feeling pretty good about everything,” he said. “I’m trying to make sure I can hit both sides of the plate with my fastball and throw strikes with my offspeed stuff.”

*****

The afternoon’s oddest play occurred in the fourth inning, when Chicago’s Gordon Beckham led off with a popup behind the mound. Huff and shortstop Edgar Renteria converged on the ball and collided. Renteria nevertheless caught the ball and held onto it while Huff fell over backward. Still on the ground, Huff pointed at Renteria as he asked him whether he made the catch.

“I will say, Huff wanted the ball,” manager Bruce Bochy said.

*****

Third baseman Pablo Sandoval ended his three-game absence in fine fashion by doubling twice in four at-bats, scoring a run and driving in one. “He didn’t look like he missed a beat,” Bochy said of Sandoval, who needed five stitches to close a cut on his right ankle last Friday after he slid into Cleveland catcher Lou Marson’s shinguard.

– Chris Haft

Pondering ‘Willie Mac’ candidates

If you’re proud of your association with the Giants — whether you’re a player, club employee or fan — then Friday should be one of the biggest nights of the year.

Friday happens to be when the recipient of the “Willie Mac” Award, given annually to the most inspirational Giant, will be honored in a pregame ceremony. The award is named for Willie McCovey, who needs no introduction. Nor is it necessary to explain why the distinction was named for him. If you saw McCovey play and witnessed his grace, class and professionalism, or if you ever met him and realized that he possesses those same qualities off the field, you know that this isn’t any ordinary award and that Friday’s event isn’t just a routine observance.

The Giants have several worthy Willie Mac candidates this year, which helps explain why they’re destined for their first above-.500 finish since 2004. This is just my opinion, but I’d like to think others would share it. Here are the players who come to mind:

JUAN URIBE. Tales of his positive clubhouse influence followed him from Chicago, where the White Sox adored him. Uribe quickly began spreading that same good cheer among the Giants. Sometimes he has done it with the hearts games he led during Spring Training or his daily sessions of attack dominoes with Edgar Renteria, Brian Wilson and others. Sometimes he has done it with his veteran’s presence, such as when he went to the mound to counsel Jonathan Sanchez during a tight moment Wednesday night. Often he has done it simply through humor and remaining upbeat. Asked by one teammate if he ever felt down, Uribe’s response was, “Uribe’s never down.” And, of course, he has proven invaluable on the field.

BENGIE MOLINA. The Willie Mac winner in 2007-08 has remained a steady, calming influence. Pablo Sandoval admires him. Pitchers relish throwing to him. Every teammate appreciates his earnest, competitive spirit. It’s easy to say that the Giants shouldn’t re-sign Molina, who’s eligible for free agency, but they’ll miss a lot of his intangibles if they don’t. He’d be the award’s only three-time winner if he gets it again.

EDGAR RENTERIA. Since Renteria’s so quiet and unassuming, he tends to exercise his influence subtly or behind the scenes. He hasn’t delivered the offense the Giants sought when they signed him to a two-year, $18.5 million contract, but players, coaches and front-office members rave about his professionalism and impact on the team, particularly among the Giants’ younger Latin American players.

RANDY JOHNSON. Wednesday night’s telecast partially illustrated why Johnson’s on this list. There was, caught by the camera, filling Matt Cain’s ear with something. Whatever it was, it was valuable. The Giants’ pitchers have benefited immeasurably from having a 300-game winner and five-time Cy Young Award recipient in their midst who has been so willing to share his wisdom. “This is a guy we all look up to,” Barry Zito said. “I want to pattern myself after him in many ways.”

PABLO SANDOVAL. Why not? He plays hard, he’s always having fun and he’s the most effervescent Giant since Willie Mays circa 1951. Moreover, he has an appreciation for McCovey, as he revealed when he recorded his first “Splash Hit” home run on the 50th anniversary of Stretch’s Major League debut.

BARRY ZITO. This is Zito’s 10th year in the Majors, so he knows a little something about how to act as a big leaguer. He has disseminated his wisdom among younger players in tactful yet definitive fashion. Moreover, Zito has gained respect by improving his performance while ignoring the fan abuse he has prompted.

– Chris Haft

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