Results tagged ‘ Pablo Sandoval ’

All hope is not lost, but …

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants’ season and their playoff push are far from over. But after their 6-4, 14-inning loss Monday at Colorado, anybody feeling less than hopeful is excused.

In 40 years of following this team, this is among the most crushing come-from-ahead defeats I’ve witnessed (albeit on TV; I wasn’t on assignment for the Rockies series). Granted, the Giants are well-positioned to shrug off the effects of this setback and losing three of four to the Rockies, who lead them by four games in the National League Wild Card standings. If the Giants can recover against Arizona while Colorado struggles against the Dodgers in the next few days, San Francisco will be poised to regain ground when the Rockies visit AT&T Park next weekend.

After all, it’s not even September yet.

But for now, the Giants are reeling.

The bullpen that has sustained the Giants so well this season is in rough shape. Most relievers are suddenly overworked. Those who aren’t no longer inspire confidence, such as Merkin Valdez. If the Giants put second baseman Freddy Sanchez on the disabled list, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them fill his spot on the 25-man roster with a reliever, though lacking a full complement of position players handcuffed manager Bruce Bochy somewhat in the 14-inning marathon.

The Giants’ plight will be worsened if third baseman Pablo Sandoval is out for more than a few days with his calf injury.

Tuesday’s pregame hours could be intriguing as the Giants evaluate the fitness of Sandoval and their bullpen.

– Chris Haft

Looking past Reds to Dodgers? Naaah

SAN FRANCISCO — Bruce Bochy seemed horrified at the mere thought that any of the Giants might — m-i-g-h-t — be looking past this weekend’s series against the Cincinnati Reds to the three-game set against the National League West rival Los Angeles Dodgers beginning Monday.

“We’re playing the Reds right now,” Bochy said before Friday night’s 10-5 loss to Cincinnati. “That’s our focus. That’s how it has to be.”

Fresh off the disabled list and a Minor League injury rehabilitation assignment, infielder Rich Aurilia said that he’d be more than happy to help Bochy point the less-experienced Giants in the proper direction, if necessary.

“Hopefully we can instill that in some of the younger guys. Just worry about winning tonight and not about what happens Monday,” Aurilia said.

Still … as a public service, here are the pitching matchups for the Dodgers series:

Monday: Hiroki Kuroda (4-5, 4.44 ERA) vs. Jonathan Sanchez (5-9, 4.49);

Tuesday: Randy Wolf (5-6, 3.55) vs. Joe Martinez (2-0, 5.87);

Wednesday: Chad Billingsley (11-6, 3.73) vs. Tim Lincecum (12-3, 2.20)

Los Angeles right-hander Jason Schmidt was in line to face his ex-teammates, but he returned to the disabled list with a shoulder injury.

*****

Get this: Buster Posey hit his third home run for Triple-A Fresno on Friday night. As a shrewd witness in Fresno observed, the pitcher who yielded Posey’s homer, Clay Hensley, happened to allow Barry Bonds’ 755th career homer in August 2007. Hensley was then pitching for the San Diego Padres.

*****

Shortstop Edgar Renteria probably would have preferred a more pleasant 34th birthday. His double error in the fifth inning handed Cincinnati an unearned run. With two outs, Renteria fumbled Willy Taveras’ grounder, then threw wildly past first base. That allowed Taveras to reach second base and score on Alex Gonzalez’s subsequent single.

Nevertheless, I will leave AT&T Park tonight with a higher opinion of Renteria than I had when I arrived here. A Reds coach who I deeply admire told me before the game that Renteria’s positive influence, particularly on younger Latin American players, has been obvious. This echoes what a Giants coach recently told me. I suppose I feel somewhat ashamed that people had to point this out to me; this is something I should be able to observe myself. But Renteria is extremely soft-spoken and goes about his business in an unassuming manner, never calling attention to himself. I’m sure Renteria’s intangibles are an asset. I’m also sure he prefers to operate below the radar, so to speak.

*****

Also:

– The Reds have won six consecutive games against the Giants.

– Eugenio Velez extended his hitting streak to 13 games. He’s batting .429 (24-for-56) in this span.

– Pablo Sandoval recorded his fourth multiple-hit game in a row, hiking his batting average to .336.

– The last time San Francisco committed five errors in a game — June 25, 2005 at Oakland in a 6-3 loss — the club took that hangover into its next performance, a 16-0 loss to the A’s which had to have been one of the Giants’ worst defeats since moving to San Francisco in 1958. I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that the current Giants won’t follow up Friday’s dud with another one.

– Chris Haft

Villalona injured; Molina praises Sandoval; fun facts

SAN FRANCISCO — First baseman Angel Villalona, one of the Giants’ leading prospects, is expected to miss at least four weeks with a strained left quadriceps.<p/>

Villalona injured himself Tuesday while playing for the Giants’ Class A San Jose affiliate. His injury will prevent him from participating in Sunday’s Futures Game with the World team. In 74 games, Villalona, who hit .267 with nine home runs and 42 RBIs in 74 games, played in last year’s Futures Game at Yankee Stadium.

*****

Bengie Molina delivered a high compliment to Pablo Sandoval after Thursday’s 9-3 vvictory over Florida.

“I really really hope that pablo can hit 30 home runs and get 150 RBIs,” said Molina, who’s tied with Sandoval for the team lead in RBIs with 50. “I wish and hope he beats me in RBIs, homers and average … I love that kid. After Roberto Clemente, he’s my favorite player. And he should have gone to the All-Star Game.”

*****

Tim Lincecum became the third Giants starter to lose a no-hitter upon facing the first batter of the seventh inning. It also happened to Randy Johnson on April 19 against Arizona and Barry Zito on June 21 against Texas.

– Chris Haft

Giants’ youth movement a starry success

SAN FRANCISCO — A look at the podium the other day as the Giants showed off their All-Stars, Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum, and their would-be All-Star, Final Vote candidate Pablo Sandoval, reflected the club’s makeover in recent years.

Giants management said that it wanted a younger team after jettisoning Barry Bonds following the 2007. Well, that has happened. Moreover, some of their youthful players have developed more quickly than the front office might have anticipated.

Just look at San Francisco’s All-Star trio (I’m counting Sandoval, for simplicity’s sake).

Sandoval is 22. Cain is 24. Lincecum is 25. What a triumph for the Giants’ scouting and development sector. If the Giants can somehow produce a few more players like them (Buster Posey? Madison Bumgarner? Angel Villalona?), maybe, just maybe, that elusive World Series Champions banner will fly from one of the center-field flag poles sometime in the next decade.

Randy Johnson, the 303-game winner whose experience and success legitimize pretty much everything he has to say about baseball, addressed the wondrous pair of Cain and Lincecum.

“To have two pitchers like that, doing what they’re doing on a high level every fifth day, it’s pretty exciting to watch,” Johnson said. “That was one reason why I got excited every fifth day, to go out there and be a part of that. To have both of them represent the Giants [as All-Stars] and be on top of their game right now, that’s great.

“I hope they can continue to do that in the second half because that’s what it will take, especially when we start playing the Dodgers and the Colorado Rockies and Milwaukee again — teams that are right behind us in the Wild Card and ahead of us in the division.”

– Chris Haft 

Bochy gives Sandoval All-Star endorsement

OAKLAND — It was bound to happen at some point: Giants manager Bruce Bochy declared that infielder Pablo Sandoval deserves a place on the National League All-Star team, which will face its American League counterparts July 14 in the Midsummer Classic.

“He’s a guy who should be looked at real, real hard,” Bochy said of Sandoval, who ranked second in the NL entering the game with a .338 batting average. Only David Wright of the New York Mets (.349) eclipsed Sandoval.

Sandoval also had 26 multi-hit games entering Monday, tied for fourth-most in the NL.

Sandoval has virtually no chance of being elected to the team in fan voting, so he’ll have to rely on the kindness of the folks who select the reserves — among them, manager Charlie Manuel of the reigning world champion Philadelphia Phillies.

Sandoval’s free-swinging style also has impressed A’s manager Bob Geren. “He’s a tough out because he can hit so many different styles of pitching,” Geren said. “He’s one of those guys who’s difficult to put [together] any sort of a book on.”

– Chris Haft

Ishikawa continues to hit

SAN FRANCISCO — It was encouraging to see first baseman Travis Ishikawa hit so proficiently Wednesday, when he doubled and homered in three at-bats.

“I was aggressive early [in the count] and took advantage of mistakes,” the ever-humble Ishikawa said.

Though it was understandable why Ishikawa got squeezed out of the lineup when Pablo Sandoval hurt his elbow and moved to first base, it happened just as he was beginning to hit proficiently. He went 7-for-11 in a three-game stretch May 25-27. Since then, he had started exactly once until Wednesday.

It’ll be interesting to see who manager Bruce Bochy uses in the infield during the Texas series. Juan Uribe, who can play second base, shortstop and third, supposedly will be ready to rejoin the lineup Friday. Asked before Wednesday’s game whether Uribe will play second or third, Bochy coyly said, “I’ll let you know.”

Though Matt Downs has looked extremely competent at the plate in his two games with the Giants, don’t be surprised if Friday’s lineup includes Ishikawa at first base, Uribe at second and Sandoval at third.

– Chris Haft

 

Going for the Downs, but maybe not for long

SAN FRANCISCO — It’s easy to envision another change in the Giants’ second-base picture within a few days.

By next Monday, Kevin Frandsen will have spent his requisite 10 days in the Minor Leagues. As much as Frandsen impressed as the Giants in his two stints with them, they’ll likely summon him yet again — unless Matt Downs, the second baseman of the moment, plays so well that San Francisco has to keep him in the Majors.

Or the Giants could hand the job to utiltyman Juan Uribe once his hamstring heals. .

Something else to ponder: How much time will elapse before Burriss forces the Giants to recall him? I imagine they’ll give him about 100 at-bats, possibly more, to try to develop the offensive skills that manager Bruce Bochy recommended — bunting, slapping the ball on the ground, basically acting more like a true leadoff hitter.

With all due respect to Downs, he’s unlikely to become the Giants’ full-time second baseman.

– Chris Haft

Sandoval gets Kevin Mitchell’s seal of approval

SAN FRANCISCO — When it comes to hitting, Kevin Mitchell is a flat-out genius.

That was the overwhelming impression he left me with during the brief but memorable time I spent covering him — the strike-shortened 1994 season, when Mitchell hit .326 with 30 home runs and 77 RBIs in only 380 at-bats for the Cincinnati Reds. Mitchell’s 1.110 OPS that year actually exceeded his 1.023 OPS from his 1989 Most Valuable Player season with the Giants.

Anyway, Mitchell knows hitting. So when he heaped praise upon Pablo Sandoval, whose two-run homer hastened the Giants’ 7-1 victory Sunday over the Oakland A’s, it meant something.

“He reminds me of myself,” said Mitchell, one of a handful of alumni still around after Friday’s and Saturday’s festivities honoring San Francisco’s 1989 National League pennant-winning club. “He’s letting it go. He’s not scared.”

Then Mitchell added, “He’s not the mailman.”

Huh?

“He ain’t delivering no mail. He ain’t walking,” Mitchell explained.

NOW we get it.

Mitchell seems to understand hitting much more than the average baseball person. During a chat with him while watching the Giants take batting practice Friday, he complained about the preponderance of players using light bats — or bats he considered light. Hitting the ball with something behind it, he said, is essential. Mitchell himself used a 36-inch, 36-ounce club, about two inches longer and five ounces heavier than a lot of players like to swing.

Of course, not many players could handle a bat of such imposing dimensions.

Back in our Cincinnati season, Mitchell waited in the dugout before it was his turn to hit during another batting-practice session, and we watched a reserve outfielder who happened to own something like a .220 average hit line drive after line drive. Mitchell said, without citing the hitter’s name or anybody else’s, “Isn’t it funny how some guys have one kind of swing during batting practice and another kind of swing in games?” Translation: The pressure gets to some players.

Not Kevin Mitchell. And, from what we’ve seen since last August, not Pablo Sandoval.

– Chris Haft

Of Molina’s unsurpassed grace and the Unit’s tribute

PHOENIX — Among the most exasperating sights for Giants fans is watching Bengie Molina plod up the first-base line as he runs out a ground ball, force himself to stop at first base on what would be a double for any other player or put on the brakes at third base in the knowledge that he’d be thrown out at home … which was the case in Wednesday’s ninth inning, when Molina couldn’t score from first base on Pablo Sandoval’s double.

If you think Molina doesn’t care about this, you’re wrong. Making fun of Molina for being slow would be like making fun of a teenager with acne. They’re painfully aware of their flaws. In Molina’s case, his lead feet prompt him to pursue excellence in other facets of the game that much more ardently.

He addressed this eloquently after the Giants’ 6-4 victory over Arizona.

“This is what God gave me,” Molina said, referring to his ponderous pace. “I have to deal with it. If it were up to me, I’d score every time they hit. That’s why I want to do way much more than running. That’s why I want to catch, that’s why I want to block balls, that’s why I want to throw guys out, that’s why I want to call a good game for the guys, that’s why I want to hit and get RBIs. Because there’s one part of my game that I feel bad about. But I want to do so many other things to be able to overcome that.”

Lest you think that Molina was being too hard on himself, he paused and added, with a tiny grin on his face, “I think I’m doing pretty good.”

I think the Giants would agree.

*****

As promised, the Diamondbacks delivered their video tribute to Randy Johnson after the third inning. It was extremely brief, lasting about a minute. The montage of film clips included snippets from Johnson’s perfect game in 2004 and his 20-strikeout game — both of which he pitched during his first stint with Arizona (1999-2004). He also pitched for the D-backs from 2007-08.

D-backs fans, who haven’t seemed to embrace Johnson as they should, cheered as highlights of Johnson’s 300th career victory last Wednesday in Washington were shown, accompanied by Jon Miller’s call once the game ended and the Big Unit’s milestone became official.

Johnson responded by standing on the top step of the visitors’ dugout and holding his cap aloft.

– Chris Haft

 

Molina to stay at cleanup — for now

MIAMI — After collecting two hits against the New York Mets on May 17, Bengie Molina was batting .304. He entered Friday night’s series opener against the Florida Marlins hitting .247. During this slump, Molina remained in the cleanup spot in the Giants’ batting order.

This didn’t mean that manager Bruce Bochy was sitting idly by. Actually, Bochy said Friday, he considered moving Pablo Sandoval to the four-hole and even consulted Molina about it.

“Bochy’s the manager and [Brian] Sabean’s the general manager,” Molina said. “Whatever they want for this team, I don’t let that worry me.”

One can imagine that Sandoval’s two-run homer, which accounted for the sum total of the Giants’ offense in their 2-1 victory Friday over the Florida Marlins, might sway Bochy toward making a change. But Molina also stroked two singles, one of them preceding Sandoval’s homer.

Hence the slight but perceptible change in Bochy’s outlook regarding the cleanup spot …

Pregame: “We’ll see how it goes the next couple of days.” (Translation — a change is possible)

Postgame: “If I felt like [a change] would lighten the load on him … The way it went tonight, I’m going to leave it the way it is.” (Translation — Molina ain’t budging for the foreseeable future)

Meanwhile, Sandoval outdid himself with his wild hacking Friday. When he wasn’t homering, he was swinging more freely than usual — which takes a lot, in his case.

As Sandoval explained, he simply was trying to be himself: “Get my pitch, [be] the Pablo I am — aggressive at home plate. Get a pitch to hit a line drive. That [the home run] was the best swing I had in the game.”

– Chris Haft

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 104 other followers