Results tagged ‘ Tim Lincecum ’
SAN FRANCISCO — After four consecutive winning seasons and two World Series titles in the last three years, the Giants have fallen from their perch alongside the Major Leagues’ elite ballclubs.
Only a dramatic reversal will enable them to finish .500 this year. As for returning to the postseason, that’s pure fantasy.
The Giants are playing without any apparent sense of urgency, perhaps because they have virtually no hope of contending in the National League West. New additions Jeff Francoeur, who reported to Triple-A Fresno, and Kensuke Tanaka might marginally improve the club’s depth. But they probably won’t accomplish more than that. Giants general manager Brian Sabean indicated to San Jose Mercury News columnist Tim Kawakami that trying to upgrade the roster with major trades is pointless, since the organization lacks the surplus of prospects necessary to engineer deals. Moreover, the team’s performance doesn’t warrant acquiring a couple of handy veterans to accelerate a push for the division title.
Nor should the Giants adopt a scorched-earth policy and gut the roster. There’s always next year, and with it a fresh opportunity to compete in the always-balanced NL West. But implementing the quick fix of free-agent signings might be complicated, because the Giants’ payroll flexibility is limited. The likely departures of impending free agent Tim Lincecum (2013 salary: $22 million) and Barry Zito ($11 million net savings, if the club declines its $18 million option on his 2014 contract and pays him a $7 million buyout) will have limited economic impact, given the raises that Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Pablo Sandoval and Sergio Romo will receive.
Moreover, the potential free-agent class isn’t oozing with talent. There probably will be few helpful performers available besides Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo, Brian McCann and the Giants’ own Hunter Pence. The Giants might be wise to forge a deal with Pence, the intense right fielder who seems sincere about wanting to stay here.
Or they can trade him in the next few weeks, which would mark the third year in a row for Pence to switch teams before the July 31 Trade Deadline. A critical factor here, obviously, is determining Pence’s signability.
That leads to the biggest name the Giants could jettison: Lincecum. The notion of trading the charismatic right-hander sounds almost blasphemous, given his popularity and everything he has done for the franchise. But this is a business. The Giants might be able to receive a useful prospect or two in exchange for Lincecum, who has value despite his 4.61 ERA and 1.407 WHIP. At least one American League contender has expressed interest in Lincecum as a reliever, the role he filled spectacularly in last year’s postseason. It’s not known whether that team has proposed a trade to the Giants involving Lincecum. But if one club has hatched this idea, it’s likely that at least a couple of others share that thought.
The schedule offers a shred of hope. The Giants play their first nine games at AT&T Park after the All-Star break. A strong homestand could advance San Francisco to the fringes of the division race.
But the mathematics of returning to respectability — widely defined as a .500 record — are daunting. To climb to .500 by the end of the season, the Giants must finish 41-31. That’s a winning percentage of .569, a pace the Giants haven’t come close to approaching recently. Remember, San Francisco owns the Major Leagues’ worst record (17-35) since May 14.
Reaching .500 sooner would require vast improvement. The Giants would have to win 13 of their next 16 games to climb to .500 by the end of the month. Push back the deadline to Sept. 1, Game No. 136. The Giants must go 28-18 from Thursday until then to hit the .500 level.
Next, forget the arithmetic and employ common sense. The Giants have done nothing — nothing — to indicate that they’re capable of executing such a turnaround.
Their pitching staff is no longer elite. The starting rotation has become unreliable. Matt Cain, once indomitable, is decidedly vulnerable. Nobody wants to admit that Cain is injured to some degree. If he isn’t hurt, he has forgotten how to pitch. Anybody who have followed his career know that’s not the case.
Lincecum and Zito can’t win on the road. Rookie left-hander Mike Kickham has good-looking stuff but an incomplete understanding of how to use it. Only Madison Bumgarner has maintained his excellence, and he can’t do more than pitch every fifth day.
Injuries and ineffectiveness have dulled the bullpen. The Giants miss Santiago Casilla, who hasn’t quite recovered from knee surgery. Ryan Vogelsong’s fractured right hand robbed the relief corps of Chad Gaudin, who’s in the rotation. Manager Bruce Bochy thus must rely on a group that includes rookies Jake Dunning and Sandy Rosario. Both have shown flashes of competence and could turn out to be keepers. But such inexperience does nothing for a World Series title defense.
On to the offense, or lack of it. Collectively, the Giants have misplaced the situational-hitting skills that sustained them in last year’s second half. They went 3-for-11 with runners in scoring position Tuesday, ending a 16-game stretch in which they hadn’t collected more than two hits in those instances. Overall, their .250 batting average with runners in scoring position actually places them in the top half of the NL team rankings. But it’s a sharp decrease from the .296 RISP average they compiled after last year’s All-Star break.
Individually, numerous players are is struggling to some degree. Sandoval is batting .140 (8-for-57) since returning from the disabled list. Pence is in an .098 skid (5-for-51) over his last 13 games. Gregor Blanco is in a .136 tailspin (6-for-44) spanning 12 games. Fellow outfielder Andres Torres’ past nine appearances have yielded a .154 average (4-for-26).
Monday, the Giants’ pitching excelled but the offense floundered. Tuesday, the offense improved while the pitching regressed. Wednesday, nothing went right. The Giants insist that they get along great, and that’s the way it seems when reporters are allowed in the clubhouse. But they can’t coordinate their efforts on the field.
That’s a glaring sign of a poor team. At the current rate, we’ll see more in the next couple of months.
– Chris Haft
Wednesday, June 27
SAN FRANCISCO — A month ago to this day, May 27, the Giants trailed the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers by 7 1/2 games in the National League West. The Giants defeated Miami that day, and that victory launched a 19-10 binge that has tied them with Los Angeles atop the division standings.
The Giants downplayed their ascent. Constant success since 2009, including the surge to the World Series in 2010, has taught them all about season’s challenges and pitfalls. Wednesday was not a time to celebrate, despite the 3-0 victory over the Dodgers that completed a three-game sweep and rewrote, revived or revisited all kinds of shutout-related records.
Until Matt Kemp and others were sidelined with injuries, the Dodgers appeared poised to run away with the West title. Now, Giants manager Bruce Bochy expects the standings to remain bunched through the rest of the regular season.
“I’ll tell you what I expect: This is going to be a tight race,” Bochy said after Wednesday’s 3-0 victory over Los Angeles. The Dodgers, Bochy said are “a good ballclub. Arizona, you see how they’re playing now. This is going to be a tight race in September with these three teams. Not that I’m forgetting the other teams. It’s going to be this way the whole way. We’re all going to have our ups and downs, including us. Hopefully [the "downs" are] short ones.”
Catcher Buster Posey repeated the “There’s a lot of baseball left” bromide. Right-hander Sergio Romo used different words to say essentially the same thing.
“Standings are standings. We’re just focused on one game at a time,” Romo said. “We’re a good team. We know we’ll be in contention at the end of September.”
Dates to circle on the calendar: The Giants and Dodgers next meet July 27-29 at AT&T Park. They’ll play at Dodger Stadium Aug. 20-22. San Francisco doesn’t confront Arizona until September. At that point, the Giants will face the Diamondbacks for three series in a seven-series stretch.
Hector Sanchez looked at the bruised, scraped area near his left elbow as if it were a whisker. “That’s [what happens] when you play hard,” he said.
Sanchez indeed delivered a sincere effort on Wednesday, particularly when he raced toward the backstop and dove to snare Elian Herrera’s fourth-inning popup on a bunt attempt. Sanchez was knocked dizzy as he fell to earth, but he remained in the game.
Whether Sanchez is earning more playing time remains to be seen. Obviously, he isn’t hurting his cause. Asked if he’d have trouble separating Sanchez from Tim Lincecum, who have collaborated smoothly in the right-hander’s last two starts, Bochy said, “Could be.” Bochy repeated that Posey will continue to handle most of the catching. But Sanchez has continued to remind the Giants that there’s not much of a dropoff, if any, when he’s behind the plate.
– Chris Haft
Wednesday, Feb. 1
SAN FRANCISCO — Virtually everything Buster Posey does during the next few months will make news. That includes his radio appearance Wednesday on KNBR, the Giants’ flagship station.
Posey said nothing outlandish or overly revealing during his 15-minute question-and-answer session with adept morning hosts Brian Murphy and Paul McCaffrey. But Giants fans are hungry for anything involving Posey, the gifted catcher whose 2011 season ended in a collision resulting from a wayward slide near home plate by Florida’s Scott Cousins. Posey painfully emerged with a fracture and torn ligaments in his left leg.
Posey, the National League Rookie of the Year during the Giants’ charmed 2010 season, is poised to return behind the plate. He and San Francisco’s medical staff aren’t sure how his ankle will handle the rigors of catching, and Giants manager Bruce Bochy has said that Posey might spend ample time at first base to keep his bat in the lineup and avoid the inevitable physical erosion of his primary position.
Here’s what’s certain right now: Posey, who became a father of twins while sidelined, is eager for any and all challenges. That became clear in his chat on the Murph & Mac show. You can hear the interview in its entirety on KNBR’s website, or you can read the following excerpts:
(Posey will encounter plenty of adoration and love at Saturday’s FanFest at AT&T Park. Does he find it overwhelming?) “I don’t know if it’s overwhelming. It’s a blast. I know it’s something we all look forward to. As much as it is to get the fans fired up, it gets us fired up as well. And we enjoy every bit of it.”
(On fatherhood) “It’s great, it really is. I was just telling my wife the other day that it’s going to be quite an adjustment for me once the season gets going and I’m away a lot and traveling because I’ve been with them a lot these first six months. I’ve enjoyed it; I definitely have.”
(Was that the silver lining to your injury?) “Oh, there’s no question. It’s funny how things work out. Obviously, if I could have avoided the injury, there’s no doubt I would have. But the timing of it, for where we were in our life, really worked out well. Because looking back on it, the team was in Miami when my wife gave birth, so there’s a pretty good chance I wouldn’t have been able to make it back in time. So I felt really fortunate to be there and to have as much time (with the children) as I’ve had these first six months.”
(How much recovery time has he spent in a catcher’s crouch) “I’ve done as much as I think I can without getting in there and playing some games. I think that’s the next step, and fortunately that’s not too far away with Spring Training right around the corner. So I’m very, very happy and pleased with where I am. Obviously, the game situation’s going to be a little bit different, but I’m optimistic and positive that it’s going to be great, just like the rest of this recovery process has been.”
(What were the targets head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner and his staff set for you? Are you 100 percent healthy?) “The 100 percent question, it’s tough to say without … To me, you can tell if you’re 100 percent if you can catch 10 games in a row. That’s still to be determined and I’m not sure if that’s realistic or not, but I’m going to do everything I can to be out there as much as I can. But to answer your question about hitting the targets, I think we’ve done that throughout the whole process for the past whatever it’s been — eight months, nine months. Whatever Dave’s laid out there, I feel like we’ve met that and exceeded it at times.”
(Have you been able to block pitches in the dirt?) “Yeah, actually, when I was finishing up my rehab in Arizona in October, I did a little bit of blocking, just straightforward blocking. To be honest with you, I was pleasantly surprised, because I didn’t think I was going to be that far along at that point. I was hoping just to be taking some BP on the field and running. For my ankle to respond that well, at that point I was happy. Again, I’m positive, but at the same time I want to make sure I keep in my mind that there might be some bumps. Once the games start going, there might be some soreness or whatnot. But I just have to keep that positive attitude and continue pushing forward.”
(If you can’t catch 10 games in a row, are you comfortable with playing first base?) “Yeah, definitely. I think that when I got called up in 2010 and played whatever it was, 30 or 40 games over there at first, just having that in my back pocket will be nice for this year, knowing that I do have a little bit of experience over there.”
(Mike Krukow said you take pride in catching the pitching staff. Would it be difficult to give up those reins? Is it a challenge mentally, more than you’d like, to give it up?) “I don’t know if it’ll be a challenge, because I think that I have to do whatever’s going to be best for the team and what’s best for myself in the long haul of the season. We know it’s a long year. But you’re exactly right. That’s the part about catching I enjoy the most — the thinking, working with the staff and how lucky I am to work with these guys, the caliber of arms that we have. I think you could ask any catcher in the league and the part about catching they enjoy is that, kind of being in control and working through tough situations. Nobody really likes taking a foul tip off the shoulder or anything, but that’s part of it sometimes.”
(So the number of times you catch is something you and Bruce Bochy will discuss. Are you going to fight him or try to argue with him about some things, kind of like you did with your mom and dad to stay up late?) “Oh, I never argued with my mom and dad.”
(Or does what the skipper says, goes?) “I really do think it’s hard to answer that question just because so much is still to be determined. It’s just going to be a matter of how my ankle responds. Like I said before, I want to be behind the plate as much as I can. But I have to be smart about it at the same time.”
(How do you anticipate Spring Training will be different for you?) “… I think the biggest difference will be that there is going to be a schedule, I guess, or more so of a game plan of how much I’m going to catch, when I’m going to catch, because ultimately the most important thing is being ready to go on Opening Day in Arizona. Whatever we have to do in Spring Training to get to that point, that’s what we’re going to do.”
(Do you think last year’s team was on its way to the postseason? Was the late-season collapse frustrating to watch? Did you observe something?) “I think sometimes you just can’t explain why things happen. That’s the beauty of this game. It’s a crazy game. It’s hard to explain sometimes. I do know that I was in the clubhouse and I saw how bad the guys wanted it and how hard they were preparing before games and what they were doing after games, watching video and stuff. It was tough. It was tough on everybody. But it’s a new year now and we’re excited to get back to work and hopefully win as many games as we can this season and get back to the playoffs.”
(On the acquisitions of Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan) “I haven’t had a chance to play against Melky, but playing against Pagan a little bit, he’s a tough out. He’s a guy who’s going to grind out at-bats. He’s not somebody I really enjoyed seeing coming to the plate, because I felt like if you get him down to two strikes, he’s going to chip away, he’s going to slap the ball the other way, he’s going to do what he can to get on base. I’m excited for him to be there. And then if you’re a baseball fan, you saw what kind of year Melky had last year. He had a great year. I think with our ballpark, they’re going to be good fits. At the same time, I know I’m going to miss (Andres) Torres. It’s just part of it, but he was a great guy to have around. Same with Ramon (Ramirez). They’ll be missed. But we’re excited to have Pagan and Cabrera coming to the team.”
(Did you observe anything about Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain from the sidelines that gave you a different perspective on them?) “I don’t know. I’ve always felt like to learn, you have to be in the middle of it. There are certain things you can sit back and watch, I guess, but I don’t think there’s any replacement for getting out there and being in the middle of it. Those two guys, they’re such workhorses. You look at the number of innings they throw every year and you talk about their stats and strikeouts and ERA. But to me the impressive part is they’re out there every fifth day. We’ve got that in Madison Bumgarner, too. We’re pretty fortunate to have guys who are such competitors and want to go out there and win each time.”
(Bumgarner: The sky’s the limit for that kid, right? Didn’t you see him grow last year?) “Yeah … I guess that one rough outing with, was it Minnesota, I think, after that — to me, that was a defining moment because it’d be easy to — I guess he gave up eight runs in one-third of an inning or two-thirds of an inning … and then the next time out came out and just dealt. That just shows you what kind of character this guy has. It’s exciting. It’s fun to work with those type of pitchers.”
(How at peace are you with dealing with that night against Marlins? How have you psychologically dealt with that night against the Marlins and how are you psychologically compartmentalizing it in your career?) “It’s done. It’s over with. I feel fortunate that I feel the way I do today. I’m excited to be able to compete and get out and play again. If anything, I think it’ll make me appreciate the game even more, make me appreciate being healthy and able to play. Fortunately, I hadn’t been hurt before that. Something like that really lets you know how quickly the game can be taken away from you. I’m going to enjoy every bit of it and just go with it.”
– Chris Haft
SAN FRANCISCO — You knew that Madison Bumgarner has outstanding control of his pitches. You might not have known that his excellence this year reached historic proportions.
Bumgarner began the season at age 21. According to researcher Roger Schlueter of Major League Baseball Productions, Bumgarner’s 4.15 strikeout-to-walk ratio (191 Ks, 46 walks) was the second best since 1893 for any pitcher that young. The only pitcher in his age-21 season to eclipse Bumgarner in this category was Kansas City’s Bret Saberhagen, who had a 4.16 ratio (158 Ks, 38 walks) in 1985. Bumgarner moved onto this list ahead of Don Sutton, who recorded a 4.02 ratio (209 Ks, 52 walks) as a Dodgers rookie in 1966. Bumgarner turned 22 on Aug. 1.
Of course, no discussion of strikeout-to-walk ratio is complete without mentioning Sergio Romo. The Giants right-hander posted a ridiculous ratio of 14 (70 Ks, five walks) in 48 innings. His figure led all Major Leaguers who pitched at least 35 innings.
Despite Bumgarner’s and Romo’s best efforts, Giants pitchers walked 559 batters, third-highest in the National League. Tim Lincecum issued a career-high 86 walks — a figure he vowed to trim. Aside from Romo, the relief corps of Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez, Guillermo Mota, Ramon Ramirez, Dan Runzler and Brian Wilson walked 154 in 336 innings. Despite this, San Francisco’s bullpen ranked second in the league with a 3.04 ERA.
More stats and history: The Giants’ abysmal total of 570 runs was their lowest in a non-strike-shortened season since they accumulated 556 in 1985.
You’ll remember that the ’85 club remains the only outfit in Giants history to lose 100 games.
Pablo Sandoval scored a club-high 55 runs. That’s the Giants’ lowest team-leading total, including strike-shortened years, since Heinie Smith scored either 46 runs (source: Giants media guide) or 48 runs (source: baseball-reference.com). Even in 1981, when the Giants played only 111 games, Jack Clark scored 60 runs.
Mark DeRosa, who possesses the gift of gab in abundance, will provide commentary during the postseason for MLB Network.
“That’s something I’ve had my eye on for a little bit,” DeRosa said. “They offered me a chance to come up there and help them out. Just to see if I enjoy it.I love being around the game. I love talking baseball. I’m not a guy who goes home in the offseason and forgets about it. I religiously watch every playoff game and World Series. I’ve got a lot of friends who have been playing in the league a long time with a lot of different teams. I’ve gotten to know a lot of guys around the league. I feel like I have a feel for what makes them tick.”
Here’s a not-going-out-on-a-limb-at-all prediction: DeRosa will do a heck of a job and set up a promising future for himself in radio or TV … once he finishes playing.
– Chris Haft
Wednesday, March 9
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The San Francisco Giants are the defending World Series champions.
That undeniable fact begs repeating upon examining the first two months of the “Sunday MLB on TBS” schedule.
TBS opted to televise the Giants — whose roster includes telegenic performers such as Tim Lincecum, Brian Wilson, Buster Posey, Andres Torres, Cody Ross and Aubrey Huff — exactly zero times through May 29.
We’ll give TBS a little bit of a break. ESPN grabbed the Giants for the regular season’s first Sunday, when they visit the Dodgers. Yours truly neglected to check with TBS’ media relations representatives to determine whether there’s a good reason for the Giants to be overlooked.
But at first glance, this looks like a classic case of East Coast bias.
TBS will show the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees three times apiece, the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays twice each, and the Dodgers, Cubs, Mets and Tigers once.
Didn’t the Giants defeat the Braves, Phillies and Rangers in last year’s postseason? Just checking.
The Giants played some excellent defense in Wednesday’s 4-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox.
Barry Zito and Freddy Sanchez collaborated on the game’s first out. Zito pounced on Juan Pierre’s bunt and made a quick, risky yet accurate throw to Sanchez, who was covering first.
Third baseman Pablo Sandoval demonstrated the benefits of his weight loss by pouncing on Alexei Ramirez’s fifth-inning bunt and whipping an off-balance throw to first for the out.
Buster Posey threw out Lastings Milledge, who tried to steal third base in the sixth inning.
The Giants are 10-4 in Cactus League play, largely due to their pitching. Kind of like the regular season.
They trimmed their ERA to an even 3.00 on Wednesday. The starters’ ERA in the last eight games is 1.27.
– Chris Haft
Wednesday, Nov. 10
Tim Lincecum picked up another honor from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, though it wasn’t the Cy Young Award.
Lincecum was elected winner of the Babe Ruth Award as Most Valuable Player of this year’s postseason by the BBWAA’S New York chapter, which is far and away the organization’s most august contingent.
Lincecum posted a 4-1 record with a 2.43 ERA in six postseason appearances (five starts). In 37 innings, Lincecum walked nine and struck out 43.
The right-hander bookended the Giants’ surge to their World Series triumph with impressive outings. On Oct. 7, he opened the Division Series with a breathtaking two-hit, one-walk, 14-strikeout effort in San Francisco’s 1-0 victory over Atlanta. Lincecum concluded his postseason excellence, as well as the team’s, by pitching eight innings while allowing one run, three hits, walking two and striking out 10 in the Giants’ 3-1 World Series-clinching win at Texas on Nov. 1.
Lincecum, who won the BBWAA’s National League Cy Young Award in each of the previous two years, compiled a 20-11 record, with the postseason added to his regular-season performance.
As fabulous as Lincecum was, the New Yorkers could have selected two other Giants pitchers and nobody would have complained. Matt Cain allowed one unearned run in 21 1/3 innings spanning three starts. Brian Wilson also yielded only an unearned run in 10 appearances while converting six of seven save opportunities and striking out 16 in 11 2/3 innings.
Calling all shrinks! Calling all shrinks!
Every morning since the Giants won it all, I’ve awakened from some sort of World Series-related dream. Today made it nine days in a row.
These subconscious dramas run the gamut from the Series still being in progress to the Giants encountering pitching shortages. As much as I enjoyed covering the Series, I’d like to be free from it for a little while. Something inside of me just won’t let it go. I’m hoping that any day now I’ll rise after imagining that I’m the night watchman at the Playboy Mansion or just finished wandering naked through Union Square or something normal like that.
– Chris Haft
Wednesday, Nov. 3/Thursday, Nov. 4
SAN FRANCISCO — Tim Lincecum was a 20-game winner this year. Though he didn’t reach that number in the traditional sense, every victory helped.
When I mentioned his 20-game milestone to him Wednesday, he said self-deprecatingly, “I had 40 chances at it.”
Well, not quite, but close. Lincecum was 16-10 in 33 regular-season starts and 4-1 in five postseason outings.
He wasn’t a 20-game winner in the true sense of the phrase. But every victory counted — especially the last nine, given the tightness of the National League West race and the must-win atmosphere of the postseason.
“Having the opportunity and the chance to pitch in postseason makes everything that much more sweet,” Lincecum said.
Aubrey Huff’s seventh-inning bunt in Game 5 of the World Series that advanced Cody Ross and Juan Uribe was an anomaly. It was Huff’s only sacrifice bunt in Major League competition and his first since 2000, when he played for Triple-A Durham in Tampa Bay’s system.
Though Huff must have discussed his bunt after the Series clincher, I wasn’t sharp enough (nor have I had enough time) to find an article that included his side of the story. So I coaxed this brief but suitable explanation from him Wednesday.
“It [the bunt sign] was given to me, but I was doing it anyway,” he said. That is, he fully intended to give himself up for the team.
Though Edgar Renteria’s homer rendered Huff’s bunt moot, there was no doubt that the sacrifice accelerated the Giants’ momentum. It left you KNOWING that the Giants would score in that inning.
Huff said that he might have had trouble pushing the bunt to third base. But directing it toward first, as he did, was no problem. “I do that bunt pretty good in batting practice,” he said.
The wait to cram yourself inside a Dugout Store to buy World Series merchandise approaches three hours at times. Too late now, but do you know when was the best time to shop? Right before Wednesday’s parade began! Less than an hour prior to the scheduled start, there was no wait to get inside the main store at AT&T Park, though the checkout lines stretched deep.
– Chris Haft
Wednesday, Oct. 27
If you listen to the experts, there’s no way the Giants should win the World Series.
My employers, MLB.com, polled 15 writers or analysts; nine picked the Texas Rangers to win the Fall Classic. The disparity was much greater over at ESPN. Of the 28 wise people they surveyed, 22 predicted that the next champagne-and-beer shower will occur in Texas’ clubhouse.
It makes sense. Texas appears to play better defense, certainly possesses more speed and has more offensive thump.
But, as right-hander Matt Cain said, “If that’s what they’re writing, I guess we’ll have to change it.”
Moreover, the Giants have two equalizers: Their pitching and their pluck.
The American League boasts some strong pitching staffs — Minnesota, Boston and Tampa Bay are all above average. But when the Giants’ hurlers, particularly the starters, are on their game, they’re downright dominant.
Don’t be surprised if Tim Lincecum delivers a performance tonight that approaches his two-hit, one-walk, 14-strikeout gem against Atlanta in Game 1 of the Division Series. I doubt that the Rangers have seen many pitchers like him, and pitches like his, in the American League.
Then there’s the matter of the Giants’ attitude. General manager Brian Sabean said after the Game 6 NLCS clincher at Philadelphia that this team might not always hit or pitch more effectively than its opponents, but it competes far better than most.
That resolve and spirit are what made the difference for the Giants down the stretch as they outlasted the Padres and Rockies. Their resolute approach has remained intact during the postseason, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t continue against the Rangers.
Finally, some personal observations: People keep reminding me to enjoy this experience, to savor it. I’m trying my best, though deadlines and commitments (thank you, Bob Seger) make it difficult to share the fans’ excitement and stop to smell the hot dogs all the time.
So today, as I approached AT&T Park, I took special care to appreciate as much as I could. I was amazed as I turned onto Third Street how many people were already surrounding the ballyard, though the first pitch was more than four hours away. I marveled at the boats beginning to fill McCovey Cove as I strolled across the Lefty O’Doul bridge. And I drank in the shouts of the vendors and the buzz of the fans, just as I did during my “formative baseball years” while attending games at Candlestick Park.
I don’t think I’ve ever sensed as much energy at a baseball venue as I did this afternoon. Anticipation is a wonderful tonic.
As I’m sure you’ll all agree, Play Ball!
– Chris Haft
Early Thursday morning, Sept. 30
SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants’ decision to move Matt Cain ahead a day in the pitching rotation so he can start Friday night’s opener of the climactic series against the San Diego Padres made complete sense.
The move wasn’t engineered solely to give Cain his usual four days’ rest. He actually has started almost as often on five days’ rest (14 times) this season as he has with four days in between (16). He owns a better record on four days’ rest (8-5) than on five (4-5). But Cain’s ERA and WHIP (2.57, 0.982) on five days’ rest are superior to his corresponding figures on four days’ rest (3.34, 1.153).
One reason to hasten Cain’s start by a day is to maximize the Giants’ chances of winning the first game and establishing control in the series. He has been San Francisco’s best pitcher since the All-Star break, as the club has captured 12 of his 14 starts. Personally, he’s 7-2, 2.48 in that span, compared to 6-8. 3.34 before the break.
The shift also keeps Cain and Tim Lincecum separated by two days in their respective turns. When it comes time to set the postseason pitching rotation, it’ll be that much easier for manager Bruce Bochy to make one little tweak and schedule them back-to-back — unless he and the rest of the braintrust decide that continuing to separate them with a left-hander throws enough different looks at the opposition.
Bottom line: These days, when Cain pitches, it seems like a sure win for the Giants.
You, Joe or Josephine Fan, deserve a salute.
You’re showing up at AT&T Park in big numbers, but moreover, you’re enthusiastic as hell. The ballpark atmosphere is intoxicating (in a positive way), and it’s fun to be around.
Moreover, the players have noticed.
“We feed off of that every day,” said closer Brian Wilson, who’s one save shy of tying Rod Beck’s record of 48 set in 1993. “You can feel the crowd getting pumped up through the course of the game. … “They believe in us. And when you have that kind of fan support, it makes baseball a little easier.”
We’ll give San Diego right-hander Mat Latos a break and assume that he’s a poor misguided young soul who just doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
As you probably have heard by now, Latos told CBSsports.com’s Scott Miller, “Baseball works in funny ways. The only way I can honestly put it is, we could be like the Giants and go and change our whole lineup, put guys with ‘San Francisco Giants’ across their jerseys. We didn’t. We added two guys [Ryan Ludwick and Miguel Tejada]. We’ve been the same team all year. We haven’t just gone and grabbed guys from other teams.”
So, in the world according to Latos, there’d be no trades, certainly no Trade Deadline, maybe even no Minor League callups — none of the time-honored practices that ballclubs engage in to improve themselves.
Again, maybe Latos was speaking simply out of frustration or sour grapes. One thing’s for sure: If current trends hold up, it looks like the Padres should have added more than two players!
– Chris Haft
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