Results tagged ‘ Giants ’
Sunday, Sept. 19
SAN FRANCISCO — All that stuff about how winning in April means just as much as winning in September is true. Mathematically, at least.
In reality, context changes everything. The pursuit of a postseason berth magnifies each game for contenders during the stretch drive.
“Back in May, you don’t really know how the season’s going to unfold,” Giants outfielder Cody Ross said after Sunday’s 9-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers. “Now, we have a solid team. We’ve adapted to each other. We get the job done. That’s what makes it exciting.”
For ballplayers — especially playoff-hungry ones like the Giants, who haven’t qualified for the postseason since 2003 — the stretch drive represents the culmination of their year-round labor. Well, winning the World Series might mean more. But precious few players get to experience that. Participating in a pennant race is more attainable and, in some ways, provides more of a rush, since it sustains a high and prolongs the buzz surrounding a ballclub for weeks.
“Going out there every single day — I can’t speak for everybody; for me, I can’t wait to get to the field and keep going,” Ross said. “It’s going to be an exciting game no matter who you play.”
Said Barry Zito, who finally recorded a long-deserved victory, “This is why we do what we do all offseason, training and going to Spring Training, and [working] hard. It’s all about this last month here and getting in [the postseason.”
Speaking of stretch drives, Zito and Jose Guillen were A’s teammates in the last couple of months of the 2003 season, when Oakland acquired the latter from Cincinnati to bolster the offense. Guillen batted only .265 in 45 games for the A’s after hitting a torrid .337 in 91 games with the Reds. But Zito has seen enough from Guillen, then and now, to know that the outfielder remains dangerous at the plate.
“He’s had some incredible hot streaks in his career,” Zito said after Guillen’s six-RBI day. “Being a veteran player, he knows what he needs to do to produce and stay in his comfort zone. Having him hot can be a huge addition for us.”
Guillen was one of the few productive Giants during their six-game homestand, batting .500 (7-for-14) with two home runs. His first-inning grand slam was the fifth of his career.
Brewers pitchers might see Buster Posey in their nightmares this winter. Posey hit .500 (12-for-24) with four homers, nine RBI and nine runs scored against Milwaukee this season.
– Chris Haft
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
Friday, Sept. 10
SAN DIEGO — Ah, the little things. They make such a big difference, as was the case Friday night in the Giants’ 1-0 victory over San Diego that pulled them into a virtual tie for first place in the National League West.
Here’s a partial list of the little things that fueled not just this triumph but also San Francisco’s postseason hopes:
– Catcher Eli Whiteside’s strong throw that apprehended Everth Cabrera, who tried to steal second base in the eighth inning. “That kind of sealed it for us,” Giants closer Brian Wilson said.
– Nate Schierholtz’s hustling slide into second baseman David Eckstein to break up a seventh-inning double play and enable the Giants to tally the game’s lone run. “He [Eckstein] was right on top of the bag and I was able to get a piece of him,” Schierholtz said.
– Juan Uribe’s defense. He assisted on four putouts, three involving Miguel Tejada.
– Chris Haft
Saturday, Sept. 4
LOS ANGELES — That was one of the damndest games I’ve seen in nearly 20 years of covering professional sports.
We’ve all witnessed bigger comebacks. Most of us probably have seen a team hit more homers in one game. But the Giants’ fierce, sudden uprising — four home runs in the final three innings, after Dodgers starter Ted Lilly held them to one hit in six innings — was downright dizzying, even for seasoned pros.
“It takes everything you can not to punch your teammate in the chest,” said Aubrey Huff, who needed a physical outlet for the excitement he felt after Juan Uribe’s two-run, ninth-inning homer put San Francisco ahead.
There’s no underestimating the magnitude of this victory for the Giants. Not only did they reclaim whatever momentum they lost after dropping Friday night’s series opener, but they also gained a game on the first-place Padres in the National League West race.
Of course, the Giants can’t stop here. They still trail San Diego by two games in the division and Wild Card leader Philadelphia by three. The thrill of Saturday night’s win will quickly ebb if they lose Sunday. And if they win Sunday — well, guess what? The magnitude of that triumph may actually eclipse Saturday’s. At this juncture and under these circumstances, each win is bigger than the next.
But as they sip vanilla milkshakes and write letters to their grandmothers before falling asleep, the Giants must allow themselves to savor this victory. Four home runs in the final three innings against the Dodgers, during a race for a postseason berth! Somewhere, Russ Hodges is bellowing, “Bye Bye Baby!” with heavenly gusto.
Here’s the bad news: The Giants are still slumping, despite all those home runs.
They’re batting .163 (24-for-147) in their last five games. And the disease isn’t isolated. It’s an epidemic.
Even with his pinch-hit homer in Saturday’s eighth inning, Pat Burrell is 2-for-16.
Jose Guillen struck out in all four of his plate appearances and is 2-for-17.
Aubrey Huff is 3-for-32 in his last nine games.
Travis Ishikawa is in a 2-for-26 skid.
Buster Posey has eight hits in his last 38 at-bats (.211).
Aaron Rowand ended an 0-for-16 tailspin with his first-inning double but is hitting .128 (5-for-39) in his last 17 games.
Pablo Sandoval is in a .167 funk (4-for-24) which includes no hits in his last 12 at-bats.
Andres Torres is 1-for-16 in his last five games.
Uribe, Saturday’s hero, is 3-for-23 (.130) in an eight-game stretch.
Eli Whiteside is 10-for-56 (.179).
It’ll be intriguing to see what kind of lineup manager Bruce Bochy comes up with Sunday. Bochy likes to play the hot hand, and right now nobody fully fits that description.
Giants starter Matt Cain played a key role in Saturday’s victory by holding the Dodgers scoreless for three innings after being lit up for four runs in the fourth.
“Give Matt a lot of credit for settling down,” Bochy said.
An unsung hero for the Giants was Nate Schierholtz, who pinch-ran for Pat Burrell in the ninth inning and stayed in the game to play right field. You’ll recall that Jamey Carroll singled to right with one out and Casey Blake on first base. The way Carroll’s liner scissored across the outfield, it could have eluded the outfielder for an extra-base hit that would have scored Blake with the tying run. But Schierholtz, who remains one of the Giants’ best defensive outfielders, neatly cut off the ball. It wasn’t a spectacular play, but it was a necessary one.
Bochy was asked whether this game eased the sting of another game at Dodger Stadium that featured plenty of late home runs: The Dodgers’ five-homer fusillade against the San Diego Padres, who Bochy then managed, on Sept. 18, 2006. After Los Angeles’ four ninth-inning homers erased San Diego’s 9-5 lead, Nomar Garciaparra hit a two-run homer in the 10th to win it for the Dodgers.
“That’s a game I’d like to forget but I can’t because I see it on TV sometimes,” Bochy said.
– Chris Haft
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
Wednesday, Aug. 25
SAN FRANCISCO — The concept of a team winning a game that it can “build upon” is overrated. Any kind of triumph for a club needing one is significant only if it can win its next game.
But Wednesday’s crazy affair at AT&T Park was different. The Giants’ 12-11 loss to Cincinnati should have a definite residual effect: Impregnable, unshakable faith in themselves for the rest of the season.
They overcame a 10-1 deficit to take a brief 11-10 lead in the ninth inning. Never in their long, storied history had the Giants completed a comeback from a nine-run deficit, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Brian Wilson applied the “build on” phrase to the Giants’ surge.
“To be able to battle back like that, you can’t really hang your head,” he said. “You can only build on it, knowing that we can definitely score a lot of runs when we’re down.”
“Come playoff time, this whole game right here is a great experience for everybody,” first baseman Aubrey Huff said.
The Giants have been criticized for acquiring outfielders they might not necessarily need, namely Jose Guillen and Cody Ross. However, their influence has been obvious. They provide depth for the batting order (directly) and the bench (indirectly).
Suddenly, opposing pitchers have much more to think about when they confront the Giants.
“We’ve got some guys getting hot now,” Huff said.
– Pablo Sandoval has rapped three hits or more in three consecutive games for the first time in his career. Suddenly, the Panda is batting a respectable .276 after languishing around .260 for much of the season.
– Juan Uribe has homered in back-to-back games.
– Freddy Sanchez went 9-for-11 in this series.
– Huff is batting .435 (10-for-23) during a six-game hitting streak.
That said, Thursday’s off-day appears to be well-timed for the Giants. Wednesday’s series finale against the Reds forced every reliever to pitch and surely drained the team as a whole. They can use a day to recharge, forget about baseball and return fresh on Friday for the weekend series against the Diamondbacks.
Here’s a look at a day when the Giants almost wiped out a nine-run deficit. You knew I’d delve into history at some point, didn’t you?
Actually, they trailed by more than nine. Facing Pittsburgh at Seals Stadium on May 5, 1958, their first year in San Francisco, the Giants were on the short end of an 11-1 score entering the ninth inning. They proceeded to amass nine runs but left the bases loaded in an 11-10 loss.
The Giants endured a scary moment in the third inning when Huff appeared to injure his left wrist. As it turned out, the pain was fleeting.
Cincinnati’s Paul Janish essentially bumped into Huff’s wrist as the San Francisco first baseman reached for pitcher Ramon Ramirez’s throw on a third-inning play. The semi-collision knocked Huff’s glove off his hand, which was fortunate. Had the mitt remained attached, Huff might have been hurt. “The best thing was that the glove went flying,” he said.
– Chris Haft
Tuesday, Aug. 24
SAN FRANCISCO — You have to trust me on this one.
During Tuesday night’s repeat rout of the Cincinnati Reds, the busy bees in the Giants’ media relations department announced the last time the team scored 11 runs in back-to-back games. That was June 27-28, 2000 at Colorado’s Coors Field. Where else?
That begged a question: When did the Giants last reach double digits in back-to-back home games? Surely it was on another pair of dates during the Barry Bonds era. Instead, it was Sept. 2-3, 1973, as the media relations folks informed us. That’s right — just after the Vietnam War ended, while “All in the Family” was revolutionizing television and as the Watergate scandal mushroomed.
Here’s the part you have to trust me about: I attended both of those ’73 games.
Obviously, I didn’t have much going on socially at that time. But I was a 14-year-old baseball addict and summer was about to end, so I needed one last Candlestick Park fix.
What follows is my recollection of both games, without checking baseball-reference.com (BR) or any other historical source. I’ll complete this entry by testing my accuracy and sharing with you what actually happened after examining the BR archives.
The Giants told us that the Sept. 2 game was the nightcap of a doubleheader against the Atlanta Braves. Here’s what I remember: Juan Marichal started the second game and got bombed; Hank Aaron hit a home run; and Garry Maddox and Gary Matthews went nuts offensively. Bobby Bonds also homered, but I think that came in the first game. I missed it because I was somewhere getting a hot dog.
The Sept. 3 Labor Day encounter was one for the ages. It remains one of my favorite games, mainly because it reinforced that almost everything is possible in baseball’s realm.
The Giants trailed the Dodgers, 8-1. I distinctly recall seeing an older couple vacate their box seats behind home plate in the fifth or sixth inning and announce to an usher that they were done for the night, because there was no way the Giants would rally.
Shortly after they left, the Giants roused themselves to score six runs. I confess that I recall nothing about the comeback. I do remember how I felt afterward — fully certain that the Giants would win. Surely they wouldn’t squander such terrific momentum.
Nevertheless, the Dodgers took their 8-7 lead into the ninth inning with Jim Brewer pitching. But the Giants loaded the bases with nobody out. For some reason I think Jim Howarth was among the guys on base. I do know that Dave Rader attempted a sacrifice bunt. Not only did he get the bunt down, but he also reached base safely.
Then Bobby Bonds won the game with a grand slam. Pandemonium ensued. Upon returning to the bus for my ride back home, I noticed that everybody’s face was alight with joy. I’m sure that mine was, too. Until school began a few days later.
Now, the fact-checking:
Marichal pitched, but he started the first game. And he didn’t get bombed, though by his lofty standards it was a subpar outing. He allowed four runs and eight hits, including two homers, in 7 2/3 innings. I correctly remembered that Bonds homered, but I’d seem smarter if I had said that he homered twice, which he did. San Francisco won, 5-4, in 10 innings.
As for the second game, Hank Aaron not only didn’t hit a home run, he didn’t even play. But Maddox (3-for-5, three RBIs) indeed had a big game. Matthews, not so much (1-for-5, three strikeouts), though he scored twice in the Giants’ 11-3 triumph. Come on, you’ve got to believe I was there.
By contrast, my memory of the Sept. 3 game remained relatively well-preserved. If you watched a game like that, yours would be, too. The Giants indeed erased most of an 8-1 deficit with six runs in the seventh inning.
I was completely wrong about Jim Howarth. He never batted in the ninth. And Pete Richert started the inning for the Dodgers. But I was right about Rader’s bunt and, of course, Bonds’ game-winner off Brewer, who entered the game with the bases full and nobody out.
So 37 years passed before the Giants could generate consecutive double-digit scoring outbursts at home. At that rate, the next one will occur in 2047. Somehow I doubt I’ll be a witness.
Then again, in baseball, you never know.
– Chris Haft
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
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
Thursday, August 5
ATLANTA — The Giants activated right-hander Todd Wellemeyer from the 15-day disabled list and created roster room for him by designating right-hander Denny Bautista for assignment.
Wellemeyer, who began the season as San Francisco’s No. 5 starter and held that role until he strained his right quadriceps on June 10 at Cincinnati, likely will pitch in long relief. The Giants haven’t needed a multiple-inning reliever often, given the quality of their starting rotation, but as the summer lengthens and arms begin to tire, you never know.
Wellemeyer was 3-5 with a 5.52 ERA in 12 appearances (11 starts) before he was hurt.
Bautista’s statistics actually were decent — well, most of them. He was 2-0 with a 3.74 ERA in 31 relief appearances. Opponents hit only .205 against him, and he accumulated 44 strikeouts in 33 2/3 innings. But he also issued 27 walks (four intentionally) and hit three batters, which prompted his dismissal.
– Chris Haft