Results tagged ‘ Pablo Sandoval ’

Ups, downs of signing Tejada

Tuesday, Nov. 30

Looking strictly at intangibles, the Giants couldn’t have signed a better replacement for Juan Uribe than Miguel Tejada.

Tejada is renowned for his effervescent attitude. He’s said to be ceaselessly positive — which must be genuine, considering all those years he spent playing for the downtrodden Orioles after repeatedly experiencing the postseason rush with the A’s. He’ll fit nicely with the Giants. They’ll miss Uribe – the White Sox did after he left that club — but they’ll adjust.

If I were a member of the Giants’ front office, I’d be more concerned with Tejada’s 74-point drop in slugging percentage from 2009 to this year’s .381. Having spent 14 years in the big leagues at age 36, Tejada’s unlikely to rebound. This increases the importance of Pablo Sandoval’s return to form and Brandon Belt’s ability to contribute. They can do much to compensate for the loss of Uribe’s 24 home runs and 85 RBIs. Because it’s doubtful that Tejada can accomplish this on his own. 

Yet don’t blame the Giants for balking at giving Uribe the same three-year deal that he received from L.A. If he stays healthy and productive for the duration of the contract, I’ll be pleasantly surprised. As spry as he was, he performed through numerous aches and pains with the Giants. Such nagging injuries often become worse as players grow older.

Uribe’s a heck of a clutch performer, as he proved constantly for San Francisco throughout the regular-season and postseason. That’s what the Giants might miss most from him in the long run. Let’s see how many big opportunities he receives as a Dodger.

– Chris Haft 

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

Leftovers from Thursday

Thursday, June 10
CINCINNATI — Pablo Sandoval seemed pretty gloomy over missing a sign for a squeeze bunt in the seventh inning of the Giants’ 7-6 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.

Sandoval’s inaction caused Eli Whiteside, who had begun to charge home, to get trapped off third base for the inning’s second out.

“You learn,” Sandoval said. “That’s my first time to miss a sign.”

This spoiled a mostly good day for Sandoval, who went 2-for-5 and hit a third-inning drive that was caught at the right-field wall.

*****

Overlooked in the Giants’ defeat was their rough treatment of Reds starter Mike Leake, who entered the game 5-0 with a 2.22 ERA and left it with his worst all-around statistical line of the season.

The rookie right-hander allowed a career-high 11 hits in 4 1/3 innings, the shortest outing of his career. The five runs he surrendered tied a career high.

“I think what was different about this game is their coaching staff had a pretty good plan for me,” Leake said, crediting the Giants. “They punched me right off the bat and I couldn’t react fast enough.”

*****

The brief flareup between Giants right-hander Guillermo Mota and Cincinnati’s Joey Votto proved to be just a misunderstanding.

After Votto hit what proved to be the game-winning RBI single in Thursday’s eighth inning, he and Mota began yelling at each other. Cooler heads quickly prevailed.

Mota delivered a calm explanation. Votto believed that Mota was jawing at him. In reality, Mota was trying to communicate with Buster Posey. “I’m not looking at you, I’m looking at my first baseman,” Mota said.

*****

The Pacific Coast League suspended Giants pitching prospect Madison Bumgarner for three games and fined him an undisclosed amount for his Monday night meltdown in which he argued with an umpire and hurled a ball into the outfield.

This probably wouldn’t affect whether the Giants would call up Bumgarner from Triple-A Fresno to replace disabled list-bound Todd Wellemeyer. Nevertheless, it looks like Joe Martinez, who was scratched from his start for Fresno on Thursday, is headed for San Francisco.

– 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

Sandoval almost salvages day

Saturday, May 22

OAKLAND — The Giants’ best offensive moment occurred toward the end of their 1-0 loss Saturday.

Facing A’s closer Andrew Bailey with two outs in the ninth inning and Edgar Renteria on first base, Pablo Sandoval battled the right-hander through a 10-pitch plate appearance to draw a walk.

Sandoval did so despite falling behind on the count 0-2. He worked the count admirably, fouling off four two-strike pitches before Bailey threw ball four.

Bailey had thrown some wicked curveballs earlier in the inning, but threw exclusively hard stuff to Sandoval. Had Bailey tried an offspeed pitch to Sandoval, the Kung Fu Panda might have screwed himself into the dirt with the force of his swing.

But that borders on downright unfair. Credit Sandoval for a restrained, patient, effective at-bat that briefly prolonged the Giants’ hopes.

*****

Manager Bruce Bochy’s potential changes in the batting order could include the return of Juan Uribe, possibly as a designated hitter. Slowed by a tight left hamstring, Uribe pinch-hit Saturday and said after the game that he might be available to play more fully on Sunday.

– 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

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 89 other followers