Results tagged ‘ Jonathan Sanchez ’

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

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

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

Sanchez intends to stop thieves

MESA, Ariz. — Jonathan Sanchez distinguished himself last year by pitching a no-hitter and ranking fourth among National League pitchers in strikeouts per nine innings and opponents’ batting average.

But that wasn’t all.

Opponents stole 24 bases while Sanchez was on the mound, the NL’s highest total. Though the responsibility for some those thefts rested with Giants catchers, basestealers undoubtedly capitalized on Sanchez’s leisurely pitching motion.

Toward the end of last season, Sanchez began working more intently with pitching coach Dave Righetti on improving his slide-step to home plate and his pickoff move to first base. Sanchez’s improvement with the latter was evident against the Chicago Cubs in Wednesday’s first inning, when he picked off Ryan Theriot.

“I had too many stolen bases last year,” said Sanchez, who practiced his move in the offseason in front of a mirror.

The successful pickoff contributed to the impression that Sanchez is poised for a breakout season. He blanked Chicago for three innings in the Giants’ 5-1 victory and is unscored upon over five innings in two exhibition appearances.

“My fastball was jumping out of my hand,” said Sanchez, who also expressed satisfaction with his offspeed pitches.

Sanchez, who’s expected to start the Giants’ April 9 home opener against Atlanta, said that he’s not yet ready for the regular season. “But I’m close,” he said. “Almost there.”

*****

The competition for reserve roles on the Opening Day roster is too close to call at this juncture. Most of the contenders are playing well, and the remaining ones have not eliminated themselves.

John Bowker is batting .333 (6-for-18) with a team-high 11 total bases. He also has a .611 slugging percentage and a .429 on-base percentage.

Eugenio Velez and Kevin Frandsen are hitting .385 and .357, respectively.

Fred Lewis is hitting only .214 but has a .571 slugging percentage, thanks to a home run and a triple. Similarly, Andres Torres owns a .250 batting average but a .500 slugging percentage.

*****

Manager Bruce Bochy knows that the Giants’ 7-1 Cactus League record is largely meaningless, though he pointed out that it does carry some significance.

“The one thing it indicates is that the kids are playing well,” he said, referring to San Francisco’s rookie corps. “They’re playing half the game and doing a great job.”

Bochy added that this will end after the weekend. Next week, he said, San Francisco’s regulars will begin playing together more frequently.

*****

Right-hander Joe Martinez is experiencing soreness in his right shoulder and is expected to undergo an MRI to determine the source of his discomfort.

– Chris Haft

No shame for Giants against Phils

SAN FRANCISCO — Truly rabid Giants fans still pondering What Might Have Been in 2009 can torture themselves further as the World Series begins Wednesday by recalling San Francisco’s efforts against the Philadelphia Phillies, who hope to capture their second consecutive Fall Classic.

The Giants were 4-3 against Philadelphia and easily could have fared better. They lost twice by one run in a Sept. 1-3 series at Citizens Bank Park. San Francisco took three of four from the Phils July 30-Aug. 2 at AT&T Park, emboldening those who suggested that the Giants would be tough to face in a short postseason series.

A game-by-game look at the season series showed that the Giants were alternately at their most impressive and most vulnerable against the National League champions:

July 30: Pablo Sandoval said he wasn’t acting out of revenge toward Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, who left him off the NL All-Star team. But it sure looked like it as Sandoval homered, doubled and drove in four runs in a 7-2 Giants victory. Jonathan Sanchez turned in a typical performance, lasting only 5 2/3 innings but allowing just three hits while striking out seven.

July 31: The punchless Giants showed up, mustering four hits in a 5-1 loss. Then again, they faced the formidable Cliff Lee, who allowed two runners to reach scoring position while throwing a complete game. San Francisco trailed 1-0 when Brandon Medders and Jeremy Affeldt endured rare struggles as they combined to issue three walks and hit a batter in Philadelphia’s three-run seventh.

Aug. 1: Tim Lincecum was nothing short of magnificent, striking out eight and retiring the final 10 batters he faced in an eight-inning effort. Juan Uribe drove in the game’s only runs with a pair of sacrifice flies off Joe Blanton in a 2-0 Giants victory. Lincecum improved to 12-3 and Brian Wilson pitched a perfect ninth for his 27th save.

Aug. 2: Trailing 3-1 against Cole Hamels, the undaunted Giants scored three runs in the fifth and three more in the sixth to pull away and win, 7-3. Eugenio Velez contributed to both uprisings, blooping a two-out single and scoring on Freddy Sanchez’s two-run double in the fifth before stroking a two-run single in the sixth.

Sept. 1: The Giants arrived in Philadelphia tied with Colorado for the Wild Card lead, but Hamels precipitated their September slide by allowing two hits in a 1-0 decision. Sanchez struck out eight in six innings, lapsing only when Shane Victorino singled leading off the fourth inning and scored on Ryan Howard’s one-out double. Rich Aurilia opened the ninth with a pinch-hit single but pinch-runner Andres Torres was thrown out trying to steal second base, ending the rally before it began.

Sept. 2: Brad Penny dominated in his Giants debut, surrendering five hits in eight shutout innings. The resurgent Torres hit a fifth-inning single to open the scoring before Uribe and Aaron Rowand delivered back-to-back homers in a three-run sixth to hasten San Francisco’s 4-0 win.

Sept. 3: An instant classic ended in frustration for the Giants. Lincecum struck out 11 in seven innings while allowing two runs and four hits. But Pedro Martinez was slightly better, blanking San Francisco for seven innings after Velez homered to open the game. After the Cy Young Award winners left the stage, the Giants put runners on the corners with two outs in the ninth against Brad Lidge before pinch-hitter Fred Lewis grounded into a force play to end Philadelphia’s 2-1 triumph.

– Chris Haft

Addition to ‘Walk of Fame’ humbles Sanchez

SAN FRANCISCO — Jonathan Sanchez gave witnesses the baseball thrill of a lifetime when he no-hit the San Diego Padres on July 10. Now, Sanchez gets to keep some of the thrill for himself.

With teammates, coaches and Giants manager Bruce Bochy looking on, a bronze plaque commemorating Sanchez’s no-hitter was unveiled Saturday morning at the club’s Walk of Fame, which is located at AT&T Park’s portwalk located behind the right-field arcade.

The Walk of Fame honors significant Giants moments that have occurred at AT&T Park. Sanchez is the fourth honoree, joining Barry Bonds, Robb Nen and Jason Schmidt.<p/>

Shortly before the unveiling ceremony, the friendly but usually taciturn Sanchez expressed gratitude for being immortalized by the organization.

“It’s going to be there as long as this stadium stands,” Sanchez said. “When I retire, I’m going to come back and say, ‘I was here.’ “

– Chris Haft

Sanchez stars, Aurilia slugs, Giants rock steady

SAN FRANCISCO — Here’s why Jonathan Sanchez’s victory Thursday over the Phillies was more impressive than it looked:

Philadelphia typically mauls left-handed starters like Sanchez. Entering their encounter against him, the Phillies were 22-11 against lefty starters with a Major League-high 46 home runs. Philadelphia also led all National League teams in doubles, extra-base hits, RBIs and total bases against left-handers.

So for Sanchez to limit Philadelphia to two runs and three hits in 5 2/3 innings was a definite accomplishment.

*****

This comes courtesy of Doug Greenwald, Triple-A Fresno’s broadcaster:

Rich Aurilia hit a two-run homer in the third inning of Fresno’s game against Colorado Springs. Aurilia needed an injury rehabiIitation stint while his infected big toe heals.

Meanwhile, Greenwald pointed out that this was Aurilia’s first Triple-A homer since 1997.<p/>

*****

By defeating the Phillies in Thursday’s series opener, the Giants sealed a winning July. The Giants improved to 14-12 for the month, continuing their trend of posting winning records each month. It all started with a 10-10 April, continued with a 15-14 May and peaked with a 17-10 June.

– Chris Haft

Sanchez returns to scene of gem

SAN FRANCISCO — Tonight (Thursday) should be a special one at AT&T Park.

Not just because the Giants apparently have rebounded from their dreadful road trip.

Not just because the trades for Ryan Garko and Freddy Sanchez have given the team unseen but definite impetus toward the postseason.

Not just because the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies are in town.

It’s largely because Jonathan Sanchez will be making his first home start since no-hitting San Diego on July 10.

Can you believe that? Nearly three whole weeks have elapsed since Sanchez threw his gem. Of course, that’s due to the vagaries of the schedule. Sanchez’s feat immediately preceded the All-Star break, and then the Giants began the second half with their three-city sojourn.

When Sanchez takes the mound, fans ought to give him the roaring salute he deserves for becoming the first Giant in 33 years to throw a no-hitter. I’m sure they will.

– Chris Haft

Sadowski secures Sunday’s start

MILWAUKEE — The intrigue surrounding the status of the Giants’ starting pitcher for Sunday ended on Saturday afternoon as manager Bruce Bochy named Triple-A Fresno right-hander Ryan Sadowski to pitch the series finale against the Milwaukee Brewers.

The move cements Jonathan Sanchez’s demotion to the bullpen. Sanchez, 2-8 with a 5.54 ERA, has lost four consecutive games and, in the minds of Giants officials, simply wasn’t demonstrating much improvement.

Sadowski, 26, was 5-2 with a 4.11 ERA in 13 starts with Fresno. He walked 32 and struck out 59 in 72 1/3 innings. The Giants will officially purchase his contract Sunday and announce a corresponding 40-man roster move at that time. They conceivably don’t have to tinker with the active 25-man roster, since infielder Rich Aurilia will go on the bereavement list due to the death of his father and will be absent from Sunday’s game through the upcoming St. Louis series.

Bochy said that the Giants didn’t consider summoning Madison Bumgarner or Tim Alderson, two of their leading pitching prospects, from Double-A Connecticut. They did contemplate using Tim Lincecum one notch early but on his regular rest — a luxury afforded by Thursday’s scheduled off-day. But since Lincecum has pitched 26 innings in his last three starts, the Giants figured that he and the rest of the rotation could benefit more from an extra day’s rest.

Sadowski has been outperformed at Triple-A by right-hander Kevin Pucetas (7-2, 3.41 ERA). But Pucetas last pitched on Thursday, so returning on Sunday would give him just two days’ rest, half of his usual complement.

See the upcoming Sunday game preview for further details.

– Chris Haft 

 

 

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