Results tagged ‘ Jose Guillen ’

One step closer to the goal

Sept. 23

CHICAGO — With a few more days like Thursday, the Giants will indeed reach the postseason.

They gained ground on all of their rivals. The San Diego Padres lost, so the Giants leapfrogged them to reclaim first place in the National League West. The Colorado Rockies also fell, leaving them 3 1/2 games behind the Giants. San Francisco can all but officially end Colorado’s hopes for a division title by winning two of three games this weekend at Coors Field, which would put the Rockies 4 1/2 games back with a week remaining in the season.

NL Wild Card leader Atlanta was idle. But the Giants and Braves now have the same record (86-67). This bolsters the Giants’ hopes of qualifying for the postseason even if they don’t win the division.

Coolstandings.com lists San Francisco’s chances of reaching the postseason at 70 percent. That’s encouraging for the Giants, but I wouldn’t start computing their Magic Number yet.

*****

Bruce Bochy almost surely won’t win the NL Manager of the Year award. But my Baseball Writers’ Association of America brethren who possess ballots for that honor ought to pay at least cursory attention him.

A good manager must provide direction. Bochy has accomplished this twice in emphatic fashion.

After the Giants’ 11-3 loss to Arizona on Aug. 28, he and general manager Brian Sabean met with members of the starting rotation and essentially told them they had better shape up.

Tim Lincecum described the message Bochy and Sabean conveyed as “pretty much a sense of urgency. We need to come ready to play. No more worrying about where the ball’s going to go, what my mechanics are going to be. Just go out there. You’re here for a reason. Now play the game. Pretty clear-cut and simple.”

Since then, the starters have a 1.94 ERA.

And, of course, Bochy met with the hitters before Thursday’s 13-0 whipping of Chicago. “We came out with the right approach today,” Buster Posey said. “There was a little bit more fire in everybody. Hopefully that’s something we can continue for the next nine games. If we give this [pitching] staff some run support, we’re going to be pretty tough.”

*****

“Pretty tough” describes the challenge the Giants will face this weekend as they try to lengthen their 17-game streak of allowing opponents three runs or fewer — a stretch that hasn’t been matched since the Chicago White Sox reached 20 in 1917.

The Rockies are a formidable offensive club anywhere, but especially at Coors Field. Their home/road breakdown borders on unreal.

At home, the Rockies are a wrecking crew. They’re hitting .304 at Coors with 452 runs, 102 homers and an .880 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) in 75 games.

On the road, the Rockies are merely a wreck. Their numbers dip to .230 with 64 homers, 289 runs and a .663 OBP in 77 games.

*****

The Giants have existed since 1883. Yet none of their players had been hit by pitches twice in one inning until Thursday, when Jose Guillen was nicked by a pair of Ryan Dempster deliveries in the second inning. Juan Uribe homered following each plunking.

“Hey! Record book already,” Guillen said when told of his achievement.

*****

Had the Cubs won this week’s series from San Francisco, it wouldn’t have been their first time to ruin the Giants’ season.

You already know this if you’re either pushing 60 years old (at least) or an avid student of baseball history.

The 1959 Giants trailed the Dodgers by one game with five to play. That was after Los Angeles swept a three-game series at Seals Stadium to wrest first place from San Francisco.

Anyway, the Giants were still in the race. But consecutive one-run losses, 5-4 and 9-8 in 10 innings, pretty much finished their pennant bid. History didn’t repeat itself this time, however.

Instead, the Giants’ 13-0 rout Thursday represented their largest margin of victory over the Cubs since Sept. 3, 1963 (Juan Marichal won his 20th game that day as Orlando Cepeda, Tom Haller and Felipe Alou homered).

– Chris Haft

Contenders savor flavor of September

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

Defeat could pay dividends

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.

Examples:

– 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

 

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