Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Billingsley v. Lincecum's a sweep!

Right now, if you're the Giants, you've got Dusty Baker on the phone, asking him if the Reds wouldn't mind hosting the Mets down in Los Angeles, because you want another four games against Dodgers.

Over the last three games, the Giants scored thirteen runs, while the Dodgers scored none. None. Kruk and Kuip mentioned that the Giants have never previously completed a three game shutout sweep against the Dodgers. There it is. You'll always have that. Hold on to it until the next series. Let it guide you.

Tim Lincecum was Tim Lincecum in that pre-2012, non-August 2010 kind of way: 7IP (115 pitches/70 for strikes), 0ER, 4H, 2BB, and 8K.

And now the Giants are tied for first place. What more could you want at the moment?

Soak it up, Giants fan. Tomorrow San Francisco faces Johnny Cueto (9-3, 2.21 ERA), who is 2-0 against the Giants, with a 1.64 ERA in 22 IP (3 games).

The Rematch: Kershaw v. Vogelsong

"Nobody tells you that you have to not like the Dodgers, but it kind of rubs off on you." ~Ryan Vogelsong

Clayton Kershaw has put up some ridiculous numbers against the Giants in the past two years. Melky Cabrera's home run in the 4th snapped his streak of 35 2/3 innings without giving up an earned run at AT&T park. I told you. Ridiculous.

This is all you need to know this year: in 18 innings at AT&T Park, the Dodgers have yet to score a run. Credit that to Zito, Vogelsong, and the bullpen. It's getting to the point where I'm starting to think that even Tim Lincecum is going to give them hell tomorrow. (It's so strange to type that, but that's how the season has panned out thus far).

After facing Jered Weaver, Ryan Vogelsong said (updated with full quote):
For me to get people to start to believe that I’m for real, I’ve got to beat the Kershaws, the Weavers. I wasn’t able to do that tonight and that’s disappointing. I still feel I’ve got something to prove every time I step on the field.
For people to stop thinking last year was a fluke…those are the games I’ve got to win.
He should have been the comeback player of the year in 2011, and the baseball establishment, who couldn't see past the playoffs, handed it to Lance Berkman. Now it's the second year around, and Vogelsong's no fluke. In fourteen starts, he's 7-3 with a 2.23 ERA. And he's beat Kershaw twice already. Could he be a two-time all star?


In other news, Doc Ellis is the new pitching coach for the Cincinnati Reds...

It's better with sound, but MLB is getting stingy with the embed function. The announcer calls it like this happens every night--"The forward roll! Two of them!"--and then he starts wondering what the hell just happened.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Zito v. Eovaldi

After hyping the rivalry in the last post, I may as well talk about the games themselves. Admittedly, this is much easier to do when the Giants win. Let's face it. We didn't know what Barry Zito was going to bring to this game. Down in Los Angeles, on May 7th, in six innings he gave up 3 runs on 8 hits and four walks, striking out 3. 

Maybe you'll want to stop here and look at the box score for a moment. It will all come back to you--the game with late inning errors by Conor Gillaspie,  Steve Edlefsen, and Buster Posey. By the end of it all, the Dodgers had blown it open (with a handful of bunts!), winning 9-1. You might  also recall that Travis Blackley and Brett Pill also made appearances in this game, and Blanco was still a bench player back then. Things can change quickly, can't they?

Tonight, the Giants turned the deficit around and won 8-0. That's more like the answer to the trivia question than it is a proposition concerning the iron law of baseball necessity, since I wouldn't want the Dodgers to turn around Ryan Vogelsong's 2-1 victory over Clayton Kershaw in their rematch tomorrow. Not at all. Zito struggled a bit with command, but in seven innings, he gave up only three hits (with two coming in the seventh), three walks, and struck out four.

What's more important after a disappointing road trip is that the Giants jumped out front early on offense. Gregor Blanco, Melky Cabrera, Angel Pagan, and Pablo Sandoval all had multi-hit games, snapping out of their more-or-less slumps at the same time. Joining them in the parade was Hector Sanchez, who went 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Despite the odd fact that Sanchez has a higher batting average than on base percentage, we should recognize that he continues to be one hell of an overachieving backup catcher. 

Revel in those eight runs and thirteen hits while you can. Tomorrow is Kershaw.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Dodgers Preview

Rivalries mean more when teams are competing. That's why, over the past few years, some of us, who might never regularly do so, end up watching a Yankees v. Red Sox series. Or two. Or three. For some time, Giants haven't had that kind of series against the Dodgers. Sure, playing the Dodgers was never going to be easy--but while they managed to fit Clayton Kershaw into each series (or it least it seemed that way), they weren't going to make a run for the National League West. They were just going to make it difficult for some other team--such as the Giants.

This year, it's different. The Dodgers are three games up on the Giants coming into San Francisco for a three game series. You know what that means. 

Of course, it's June, so counting up games-back in the division standings doesn't quite mean what it does in August or September and all those other caveats...I'd keep typing, but I know what you're thinking. Sweep. Nothing like crushing the Dodgers and marching to the top (albeit with a tie) of the division. As we all know, the A's just swept the Dodgers, and the Giants almost swept the A's, so there's got to be some kind of syllogism that guarantees success. 

Except that there isn't. A quick look at the Dodgers' lineup shows that Matt Kemp isn't back yet. That's a good sign for the Giants. So don't look at the probable pitchers, lest--
6/25: Eovaldi (0-3, 2.35 ERA) v. Zito (5-5, 4.35 ERA)
6/26: Kershaw (0-1 against Vogelsong) v. Vogelsong (6-3, 2.41 ERA)
6/27: Billingsley (4-6, 4.15) v. Lincecum (nothing to see here)
So you had to look. The Dodgers rolled the dice and miss Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain. Well, think sweep all you want, but if the Giants gain a game out of this series, that's a victory, too.

By the way, you shouldn't miss this GIF (via McCovey Chronicles):

You just have enough time to start collecting your thoughts and then it cuts to the part where the swings are in sync, and...what was I saying?

Oh, of course, during the month of June, Brandon Belt has posted a .340/.463/.642 slash line. This is the kind of GIF that makes you think that there will be more of that, and less of the uneven part of his season.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Giants Pick Up Lincecum

Aside from their 3-1 record against the Athletics, interleague play has been mostly disappointing for the Giants, and especially Giants fans. Fortunately, the only interleague games that remain are against the A's. Tonight, Madison Bumgarner takes on Tyler Ross, and tomorrow, Matt Cain faces Brandon McCarthy.

But last night, at least at first, was about Tim Lincecum. His season remains baffling. He gives up three straight hits, walks Cespedes, there's that odd fielder's choice, and with a walk to Inge, it's 3-0 Oakland. No outs.

The A's had won eight of their last nine games. Hell, they swept the Dodgers. Tim Lincecum's on the mound, and that hasn't been a comforting thought this season. And then he strikes out the next three batters. And that was pretty much all the A's accomplished until Josh Reddick hit a home run to center in the bottom of the ninth.

And the only reason the game reached the bottom of the ninth is because the Giants unexpectedly scored four runs in the top half of the inning. They haven't exactly been putting together ninth inning come from behind victories very frequently this season. How about once: Angel Pagan's game winning home run in Cincinnati on April 26th.

If you watched the whole game, you felt like you deserved it. Yet there's not much to take from this game, except that the Dodgers lost in Anaheim. Giants are three back.

Has Lincecum turned his season around? Who knows. 

Something, Giants offense, something, something? Yeah, me neither.

Whatever it is, keep beating the A's.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Matt Cain's Perfect Game

Three innings in, the Giants were up on the Astros, eight to nothing. By the fifth, it was ten to zip. After a long home run drought at home for the Giants offense, Cabrera, Belt, and Blanco put up three to follow Bumgarner's and Belt's last night.

And then, by the top of the sixth inning, it was clear that something bigger could be happening. By the seventh, they needed everything to keep it alive...

...and Gregor Blanco was there just in time. (Can somebody make a GIF of that?)  Update:

By the end of the ninth, the only numbers that mattered were: Matt Cain, nine innings pitched, no hits, no runs, no walks, and a career high fourteen strike outs, in 125 pitches.

The twenty-second perfect game in Major League history, and the very first in the one hundred and twenty nine year history of the New York/San Francisco Giants team.

All star games, Cy Young awards, people get those every year. Matt Cain's got a perfect game.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Mariners Throw No Hitter Against the Dodgers

Tonight was the first time that the Giants were shutout this season. You knew it was going to happen, I knew it was going to happen, maybe even the Giants knew, after the first few innings, that it was bound to happen. The lineup, as you know, lacked Melky Cabrera, Buster Posey, (Brandon Belt,) and Pablo Sandoval. Not that the rest of the guys are too shabby...but--

Oh, look at that, the Mariners just threw a combined no hitter against the Dodgers. See, things could be worse. The Mariners could have done that to the Giants. Instead, tonight they offer consolation for our ennui. Be sure to send thank you cards to Kevin Millwood (who pitched the first six innings, but was pulled due to an injury), Charles Furbush, Stephen Pryor, Lucas Luetge, Brandon League, and Tom Wilhemsen. Or, perhaps, save those cards until after June 17th, to avoid some kind of cognitive dissonance if they happen to embarrass the Giants.

Now, where was I? The Giants, of course. Well, before tonight's game, the talk was that we wouldn't see Pablo Sandoval until Tuesday. After nine innings of the Giants providing live infield drills, management has decided to end his rehab stint. To make room for the Panda, Brett Pill has been optioned back to Fresno. You'd think that this would open some space for Brandon Belt, even against lefties, but the Giants don't want to clear up too much confusion just yet:

Friday, June 8, 2012

Texas Rangers Preview

At some point over the last week I got caught up in the Giants' 6-1 run against the Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres. A majority of these games were so fun to watch that I hadn't really been thinking of stats and standings or even snark. Who knew, for instance, that the Giants would head down to Petco Park and there would be, relatively speaking, a home run derby? (Of course, that's easier to say when the Giants took the series--and since Steve Edlefsen was nice enough to give up a walk off home run after only two pitches in the bottom of the ninth I didn't even have time to get angry).

Next thing I know, the Giants are 33-25, which is the third best record in the National League. It's also the same record as the Texas Rangers. All things considered, the Giants could be catching a break this weekend. The Rangers are 3-7 over their last ten games. With Pablo Sandoval out, the lack of a designated hitter takes one bat out of the hands of the Rangers. And, while he's been a bit of a wild card, the Giants will dodge Yu Darvish (and the injured Derek Holland). Instead, they face Matt Harrison (4.37 ERA), Scott Feldman (7.01 ERA), and Alexi Ogando (2.27 ERA). I've followed San Francisco closely enough to know that listing these ERAs won't do much in the way of predicting how the Giants' offense will fare. Especially this lineup:
Blanco LF, Theriot 2B, Pagan CF, Sanchez C, Pill 1B, Arias 3B, Schierholtz RF, Crawford SS, Zito SP
But I'd like to think, after the last seven games, that they've got a good chance of winning this series.

As always, whether the Giants take this series of not rests, as it often does, on the pitching. Lately, I should probably stipulate, the starting pitching. I don't usually say negative things about members of the Giants, but with the recently hobbled bullpen, I don't exactly look forward to seeing Steve Edlefsen or Shane Loux warming up, let alone taking the mound. I suppose this is a very roundabout way to say that I look at George Kontos's Fresno numbers--1.71 ERA in 31.2 IP with a 7.4 SO/9--and I think, "now there's an alternative to sink that doesn't sink, and sliders that don't slide. And he's on the 40-man roster!"

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Giants Edge Past the Cubs

Until tonight's game started, I didn't really know what to say about the Chicago Cubs. They had a twelve game losing streak until the Padres visited Chicago, and then they swept the Padres. Now they're in San Francisco for four games. Were the Giants going to face a team that's getting hot? Were the Padres a fluke? Did I just kick two different teams while they're down?

Theo Epstein is their President. Starlin Castro is the shortstop, Darwin Barney is at second, and I'd remember a few more of their players if they had more names like Darwin or Castro. Maybe a Galileo Malone. A Mike Leibniz. An Ernie Banks.

In any case, like many of the other posts, I have a strong urge to talk offense. Blame 2011, but I've spent most of my time commending the likes of Buster Posey, Melky Cabrera, and Gregor Blanco, while taking the pitching for granted. The quick cure for this is to sit through any number of hobbled rotations and bullpens touring around the AL East or even, as we will next week, watch the Padres.

But after letting Ryan Vogelsong's last quality start slip by (7IP, 6H, 1ER, 3BB, 8K, with lots of gutsy pitch selections to get those Ks), I vowed to talk pitching. Through eight innings, it looked like a great night to do so. Madison Bumgarner had eleven strikeouts, no earned runs, no walks, but six hits (two of which were erased by the two double plays that Steve Clevenger grounded into). It looked like he might pitch his first shutout. After two hits in the ninth, and an Alfonso Soriano home run given up by Santiago Casilla, we could question whether or not Bochy should have pulled Bumgarner (whose final line is 8IP, 8H, 2ER, 11K). Fortunately, Javier Lopez made it a moot point.

For a moment there, I thought I'd have to rewrite this whole entry--as you can't really make bad jokes about a team when they come back from a four run deficit. Instead, I get to mention that after five straight losses by the Dodgers, the Giants are only four games back.

So, back to the offense. Although things quieted down after the first three innings, Melky Cabrera had another multi-hit game. Angel Pagan now has a twenty-five game hitting streak at home, which is the longest streak in the Giants' organization since at least 1918 (apparently the data wasn't so Baseball Reference and #SFGStats ready back then). 

Cabrera and Pagan have been hot at the plate, so how about some less likely news? Ryan Theriot reached base on every plate appearance, with three hits and a walk. Looks like he might want to keep his sorta-starting second base job when Pablo Sandoval returns. If the Cubs keep things up--they're 18-33 at the moment--do you think they'd be willing to give up Darwin Barney? The Giants already have a Christopher Marlowe in their organization.