Results tagged ‘ Randy Johnson ’

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Pondering ‘Willie Mac’ candidates

If you’re proud of your association with the Giants — whether you’re a player, club employee or fan — then Friday should be one of the biggest nights of the year.

Friday happens to be when the recipient of the “Willie Mac” Award, given annually to the most inspirational Giant, will be honored in a pregame ceremony. The award is named for Willie McCovey, who needs no introduction. Nor is it necessary to explain why the distinction was named for him. If you saw McCovey play and witnessed his grace, class and professionalism, or if you ever met him and realized that he possesses those same qualities off the field, you know that this isn’t any ordinary award and that Friday’s event isn’t just a routine observance.

The Giants have several worthy Willie Mac candidates this year, which helps explain why they’re destined for their first above-.500 finish since 2004. This is just my opinion, but I’d like to think others would share it. Here are the players who come to mind:

JUAN URIBE. Tales of his positive clubhouse influence followed him from Chicago, where the White Sox adored him. Uribe quickly began spreading that same good cheer among the Giants. Sometimes he has done it with the hearts games he led during Spring Training or his daily sessions of attack dominoes with Edgar Renteria, Brian Wilson and others. Sometimes he has done it with his veteran’s presence, such as when he went to the mound to counsel Jonathan Sanchez during a tight moment Wednesday night. Often he has done it simply through humor and remaining upbeat. Asked by one teammate if he ever felt down, Uribe’s response was, “Uribe’s never down.” And, of course, he has proven invaluable on the field.

BENGIE MOLINA. The Willie Mac winner in 2007-08 has remained a steady, calming influence. Pablo Sandoval admires him. Pitchers relish throwing to him. Every teammate appreciates his earnest, competitive spirit. It’s easy to say that the Giants shouldn’t re-sign Molina, who’s eligible for free agency, but they’ll miss a lot of his intangibles if they don’t. He’d be the award’s only three-time winner if he gets it again.

EDGAR RENTERIA. Since Renteria’s so quiet and unassuming, he tends to exercise his influence subtly or behind the scenes. He hasn’t delivered the offense the Giants sought when they signed him to a two-year, $18.5 million contract, but players, coaches and front-office members rave about his professionalism and impact on the team, particularly among the Giants’ younger Latin American players.

RANDY JOHNSON. Wednesday night’s telecast partially illustrated why Johnson’s on this list. There was, caught by the camera, filling Matt Cain’s ear with something. Whatever it was, it was valuable. The Giants’ pitchers have benefited immeasurably from having a 300-game winner and five-time Cy Young Award recipient in their midst who has been so willing to share his wisdom. “This is a guy we all look up to,” Barry Zito said. “I want to pattern myself after him in many ways.”

PABLO SANDOVAL. Why not? He plays hard, he’s always having fun and he’s the most effervescent Giant since Willie Mays circa 1951. Moreover, he has an appreciation for McCovey, as he revealed when he recorded his first “Splash Hit” home run on the 50th anniversary of Stretch’s Major League debut.

BARRY ZITO. This is Zito’s 10th year in the Majors, so he knows a little something about how to act as a big leaguer. He has disseminated his wisdom among younger players in tactful yet definitive fashion. Moreover, Zito has gained respect by improving his performance while ignoring the fan abuse he has prompted.

– Chris Haft

Cain’s Sunday start confirmed; Johnson needs more time

PITTSBURGH — Right-hander Matt Cain was universally pronounced fit to start Sunday’s series finale here, now that he has shaken off the effects of being hit by a line drive in his pitching arm.

“I should be fine,” said Cain, who threw a regular between-starts bullpen session Thursday during the Giants’ workout at PNC Park. “I have swelling [in the arm], but nothing out of the ordinary.”

The Giants anticipated days ago that Cain, who took a direct hit last Saturday from a line drive off the bat of San Diego’s Tim Stauffer, would be able to face Pittsburgh, though he was forbidden from performing in Tuesday’s All-Star Game. Despite the widespread confidence, prompted when X-rays taken of Cain’s arm were negative, Giants manager Bruce Bochy acknowledged that the 25-year-old’s condition was a “slight concern.”

Cain admitted that he “kind of wondered what it would be like going full speed.” Overall, though, he sensed no hidden trouble. “I wasn’t really that worried about it,” he said. “My range of motion was fine.”

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By contrast, left-hander Randy Johnson is still recuperating from his strained left shoulder and isn’t expected to join the Giants on their three-city, 10-game trip.

Obviously, Bochy admitted, Johnson will need more than three weeks — the most optimistic estimate given for his recovery — to return to the mound. Sunday will mark two weeks since Johnson grabbed his shoulder and took himself out of a game against Houston.

– 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.

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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.”

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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 

300-game winners awaken treasured memories; Seaver on vino

SAN FRANCISCO — Covering Randy Johnson’s 300th victory was a distinct privilege in and of itself. That milestone continued to pay psychic dividends Saturday for us baseball writers with long memories.

As you probably know by now if you’re reading this, the Giants invited fellow 300-game winners Gaylord Perry, Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver to help honor Johnson. These weren’t just guys brought in to give the pregame ceremony star power. These were guys who gave me enduring baseball memories, all-time greats I was lucky enough to see at the height of their skills.

Perry made it entertaining to be a Giants fan in the late 1960s and early ’70s. Every so often the umpires practically undressed him on the mound to check for whatever he was supposedly dabbing on the baseball to throw his spitter, and you knew they weren’t going to find anything.

He also won quite frequently. I’ll always remember his last victory as a Giant — Game 1 of the 1971 National League Championship Series against the Pirates. I still don’t know how my dad did it, but he got tickets for that game, in the very top row of Section 5 in the upper deck at Candlestick. As far as I was concerned, we might as well have sitting right behind the dugout. Willie McCovey and Tito Fuentes each hit two-run homers that day, and Perry did the rest by fending off Pittsburgh for a 5-4 complete-game victory. Of course, the Giants lost the next three games and the series, and then came the Sam McDowell trade that sent Perry to Cleveland. At this point I’d prefer to change the subject.

My lasting memory of Ryan was forged on Sept. 14, 1988 (thank you, baseball-reference.com), when he pitched for the Houston Astros at Cincinnati and defeated the Reds, 7-1. As I recall, talk that Ryan might be in his final days with the Astros already had proliferated. So it was a thrill to see Ryan throw a four-hit complete game and strike out 13. Memories play tricks (unless baseball-reference.com can confirm them), but I recall Ryan looking a little more jubilant than might be expected as his teammates engulfed him after the final out. After all, he had just proven that he wasn’t finished yet. His performance the next few years with the Texas Rangers indeed demonstrated that he had plenty left.

The first time I saw Seaver pitch was on Aug. 31, 1969, in the first game of a Mets-Giants doubleheader at Candlestick. Willie McCovey, who was in the home stretch of his Most Valuable Player season, hit a monstrous triple in the second inning. And that was just about it for the Giants. Seaver allowed six other hits and struck out 11 in an 8-0 Mets triumph. Oh, and he pitched a complete game, just like Perry and Ryan did. No wonder I developed an affinity for that all-too-rare feat.

Fast-forward 10 seasons. Seaver had migrated to the Cincinnati Reds, and McCovey, after a brief exile with San Diego and Oakland, had rejoined the Giants and was approaching the end of his Hall of Fame career. On this June 30 afternoon, McCovey hit two drives to the center-field warning track. And that was just about it for the Giants. Seaver pitched a three-hitter in a 2-0 Reds victory.

That ties in with Seaver’s remarks about his second career: Winemaking. He operates Seaver Family Vineyards in Calistoga, releasing his wine under the label “GTS.” For the uninitiated, that stands for George Thomas Seaver, the right-hander’s given name.

Said Seaver of his current passion, “It’s about as much fun as a three-hit shutout.”

Seaver presented Johnson with a magnum of his ’06 Cabernet to commemorate victory No. 300. On the bottle, Seaver wrote in silver Sharpie above his autograph, “R.J. — Welcome to the club!”

The wine is for Johnson to share with whomever he pleases. The memories he, Seaver and others of his ilk provided are for all to enjoy.

– 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.

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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

 

Rowand’s unruffled; take the Big Unit test

MIAMI — Giants center fielder Aaron Rowand remained his jovial self after his personal-best, 17-game hitting streak evaporated in an 0-for-4 performance Monday as San Francisco fell to Florida, 4-0.

“It’s not like it was Ryan Zimmerman’s 30-game hitting streak or anything like that,” said Rowand, whose streak was the longest by a Giant since Randy Winn sustained a 20-gamer from April 29-May 21, 2007. “But it was fun. It was cool. I didn’t feel like it was all that big a deal, honestly. I was just trying to win ballgames, trying to go up and take good at-bats. And with the exception of one today [a sixth-inning strikeout against Sean West], I felt three out of four were good at-bats.”

Rowand hit a robust .411 (30-for-73) with three home runs, 10 doubles, 11 RBIs and 10 multi-hit games during his streak, which lifted his overall average from .246 to .309. Wary of jinxing Rowand, print reporters covering the Giants avoided interviewing him as his streak reached the teens. But the intrepid broadcasting pair of Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper had no trouble quizzing Rowand on the subject during Sunday’s postgame show.

“I told them I don’t really get all that worked up about it because I know someday it’s going to end,” Rowand said.

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How well do you know baseball?

If you think you’re an expert, try to identify the most crucial juncture in Randy Johnson’s five-inning performance against the Marlins. A lot of folks probably would cite the 1-1 pitch that Brett Carroll socked for a three-run homer in the second inning, which accounted for all the scoring off Johnson.

But Johnson himself said that his real mistake was walking Ronny Paulino, the batter preceding Carroll. Had Johnson retired Paulino, Carroll would have batted with two outs, which probably would have changed the complexion of the inning.

“Anybody that knows a little bit about baseball would probably assume that,” Johnson said. “At least I felt it was.”

– Chris Haft

Big Unit to pitch Monday on short rest

MIAMI — It may lack the drama of his postseason relief appearances, but on Monday, Randy Johnson will start for the Giants against the Florida Marlins on three days’ rest. That’s one fewer than usual.

Johnson’s last appearance, of course, was a big one — last Thursday’s six-inning, two-hit effort at Washington that made him the 24th Major Leaguer to win 300 career games. That came in the first game of a doubleheader in which both Johnson and Matt Cain pitched, which threatened to disrupt the Giants’ starting rotation because one of the two would have had to work on short rest if the club didn’t add a Triple-A pitcher (most likely Billy Sadler) to start on Monday.

But Johnson, who happened to bruise his shoulder in a fall while making a fielding play in his final inning against Washington, volunteered to pitch after a successful throwing session Saturday.

“He knows himself better than anybody,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Johnson, 45.

Johnson has maintained since joining the Giants that he wasn’t consumed with collecting the five wins he needed to reach 300. The left-hander said last Friday in the wake of his milestone triumph that the post-300 portion of the season was what he signed for — doing as much as possible to bolster the Giants’ postseason bid. His willingness to pitch Monday proved that.

“It validates Randy saying that it’s not just 300 he’s after,” Bochy said. “He wants to help the organization and the team win ballgames. Here he is wanting the ball Monday after he could be pushed back a day or two. But he wants the ball tomorrow.”

Johnson last started on three days’ rest while pitching for the New York Yankees in 2005. He allowed two runs and seven hits while walking none and striking out eight in seven innings in a 12-3 Yankees victory over Baltimore on July 5. He was coming off absorbing the decision in a 10-2 Yankees loss to Detroit on July 1 in which he yielded seven runs and nine hits in five innings — and, significantly enough, threw only 80 pitches. Johnson threw 78 pitches last Thursday.

For what it’s worth, Johnson’s career record on three days’ rest is stellar. In nine starts, he’s 6-1 with a 2.84 ERA, 16 walks and 80 strikeouts in 63 1/3 innings. He averaged 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings in those games, allowed opponents to hit just .195 off him and compiled a ridiculously low .0963 WHIP (average walks and hits per inning).

Bochy’s right. Johnson knows what he’s doing.

Many moons ago, the Big Unit cemented his legend with the aforementioned relief appearances. In the 1995 AL Division Series, he threw three innings against the Yankees to help send Seattle to the AL Championship Series. In the World Series six years later with Arizona, he won Game 6 as a starter before returning the next night to earn the decision in Game 7 while recording the final four outs.

– Chris Haft  

Pick a starter, any starter, for Monday and Tuesday

MIAMI — If you’ve looked ahead to the Giants’ probable starting pitchers for Monday series finale here and for Tuesday’s series opener at Arizona, you’ll find that the same guy is pitching both games: TBA.

Finding a starter for Tuesday isn’t the issue. Monday is the predicament for the Giants, whose rotation was jumbled by last Wednesday’s rainout at Washington. That forced them to use Randy Johnson and Matt Cain on the same day for Thursday’s doubleheader, meaning that if either one pitched Monday, he’d be working on three days’ rest, one fewer than usual.

Johnson’s bruised shoulder complicated matters somewhat. But the newest member of the 300-win club felt good Saturday as he played long toss and threw from pitching distance on flat ground.

The Big Unit said that his shoulder, which he fell on while making a fielding play in his milestone start, responded better than he thought it would. “I was encouraged,” he said. “We’ll see what they have planned and go from there.”

Manager Bruce Bochy said that the Giants’ options for Monday include:

– Johnson, who threw only 78 pitches in his last start but has that shoulder to deal with;

– Cain, who was limited to 82 pitches by the rainout in his game;

– Triple-A Fresno right-hander Billy Sadler, who pitched only one-third of an inning Friday in case the Giants decide they need him.

Though Johnson might appear to be an unlikely choice given his health status and age (45), he’s renowned for doing whatever he can to help his team. Pitching on Monday might fall into that category. Because if he’s pushed back to Tuesday, the sequence of the Giants’ rotation would consist of right-handers Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, followed by three consecutive left-handers — Johnson, Barry Zito and Jonathan Sanchez. Currently, they have close to an alternating patten with Lincecum, Johnson, Cain, Zito and Sanchez.

Obviously, whoever doesn’t pitch Monday has a good chance of starting Tuesday.

– Chris Haft

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