Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Giant Streak

This streak has to be said.  The Giants beat the Padres 6-0 on Tuesday evening, for their fifth victory in a row.  It was also their third consecutive shutout, including the last two blanking the Padres, statistically the hottest hitting team in the National League.  And suddenly the Giants are in second place, 3.5. games behind the Dodgers.

As in the previous games, the Giants got excellent starting pitching deep into the game.  This time it was Ryan Vogelsong, starting only because of injuries, but with streaks of solid and even great starts in his past with the Giants.  He pitched a shutdown seven innings. In the final two innings  Kontos and Petit challenged the Padres hitters and struck them out.

That much was the same, but there were three notable differences from yesterday: first, they fielded well with some excellent plays, including one by Brandon Belt, and second, speaking of Belt, his hitting came around.  Third, they got hits to bring in baserunners pretty efficiently.  It was 5-0 after 5, and Joe Panik made it six with his second home run in the past three days.  Which puts him on pace for, what, 55? Okay, maybe not.

On the downside, Pagan was out of the lineup with an injury to his finger that hampers his ability to swing the bat.  Tomorrow a day game so he's unlikely to play then either.

On the other side of the continent, the Pirates are going the other way--still not scoring runs but giving up even more.  Their streak is a losing one, I think at four now.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Giants de Mayo

More on the Giants, after their Monday night 2-0 victory over the hot-hitting San Diego Padres--another shutout, this one while committing four fielding errors, the first time in more than 80 years a Giants team has shut out the opponent with that many errors.  The difference: Madison Bumgarner, who took a no-hitter into the seventh, went 7 and a third giving up two hits.

Besides contagious high level of starting pitching and consistent relief pitching, what other factors account for recent success?  Overall the new lineup is working, with Aoki replacing Pagan at leadoff, and Pagan feasting at .350 hitting third.  And so far staying healthy.  There's a nice rhythm to it, and at its best it works as last season's club did in the postseason.  Run production is the chief problem--missing the key hit.

Panik in his second season is still very solid, Susac is a valuable addition again this year and deserves to stay with the club, Maxwell is fielding well and hitting for power, McGehee is not yet consistent at the plate, Crawford is off to a very good start, Posey's batting average is moving up closer to normal.  Brandon Belt however is still floundering.  He made two of the four errors tonight (though charged with only one of them), and though he had a double and is showing some signs of regaining power, he's still a bit flummoxed at the plate.  If his fielding deteriorates and his hitting doesn't sharpen, it's a problem.

And even in this relative prosperity the Giants are still not hitting much, especially with runners aboard.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Giants Weekend

It's been a baseball weekend for me.  Saturday listening to SF Giants day game, then later through the miracle of YouTube I finished watching the 2004 ALCS in which the Red Sox came back from three to none to win four in a row over the Yankees, propelling them into a four game sweep and the first Boston World Series victory since 1918.  Then rewatched the 30-30 docu on that historic ALCS. At the time, with a crucial election coming up etc. I hadn't watched the ALCS until the 7th game, when I finally caught on to the historic possibilities for the team that had once been my home team, in the years I lived in Cambridge MA.

Then today listened to another Giants day game, another victory, with another twist of history.  Saturday the game ended with a baserunner hit by the ball, a bizarre finish that none of the experienced announcing team nor any of the players interviewed could remember ever seeing before.  It turns out it had happened, but was very rare.  And then, before the day was out, it happened again, in the Dodgers game. Oh the wonders of baseball.

The weekend victories completed the Giants 3 game sweep of the Angels, drawing them ever closer to a .500 record.  The most promising aspect was the starting pitching--Tim Hudson a strong 8 innings plus, Tim Lincecum a strong 8 and a shutout.  The game began with the first two Giants at the plate hitting home runs--the first time that quirk had happened on Giants teams in 51 years.  The 2-0 lead became 5-0 by the late innings.

The Giants aren't the only team struggling with a number of key injuries or gaps--arguably the Angels are, and the Dodgers certainly are.  But at the moment the Giants seem to be adapting to adversity the best.  But they will be tested with the hot bats of the Padres coming into town, a team that some project to win the division they share with the Giants, and most place ahead of the Giants.  Hunter Pence is taking batting practice but the two starting pitchers who are down are still weeks away.

Meanwhile the Pirates seem to have lost the ability to hit, and have lost three tight low scoring games to St. Louis.  Given each team's circumstances, the Giants are probably overperforming but the Pirates are underperforming.

Anyway, I enjoyed this baseball weekend.  It's just a joy to listen to the Giants announcing team (and fun to hear Jon Miller's voice on 30-30 calling some of the 2004 Red Sox moments, probably for ESPN radio.)  Baseball and the radio go together for me, and these guys are knowledgeable, informative during the game (an eye for pitches that I envy) and a lot of fun, especially when teamed up and for the post-game show when they all gather.  It's usually the only time I hear Mike Krukow, and he's the most interesting about aspects of the game, particularly the pitchers. Plus you get seagulls in the background--how great is that?  I've said all this before but it's still true.  I still enjoy them.