Thursday, June 23, 2016

Giants On Top

The Giants in Pittsburgh.  John Miller describing the evening sun lighting downtown, Dave Fleming describing the fans streaming over the Clemente bridge, and so on.  Heavy nostalgia for me, even if I've only been in that particular ballpark a couple of times.

After sweeping the Rays in Tampa, the Giants won three of four in Pittsburgh.  The one they lost--the first game--was the weirdest, as it was Madison Bumgarner pitching eight innings and giving up one run on a homer that just got over the outstretched glove of Angel Pagan in left.  But the Giants scored nada and lost.

The remaining games showcased the Pirates pitching woes and a suddenly unhittable Giants bullpen.  A 15-4 blowout, mostly against the Pirates relievers, followed by a come from behind 7-6 win, again mostly on the Pirates relievers, and in the second-weirdest game, the Giants rookies beat the Pirates 5-3.

 Mac Williamson had himself a couple of games after being called up to take Duffy's DL roster spot, including a titanic home run (460 feet or so), making it less likely that he'll be the guy sent back down next time a starter comes back on the roster. (Though Jarrett Parker is also playing well, and hitting.) Two rookies, Ramiro Pena and Conor Gillaspe, played short and third Thursday, and split third in other games, in the absence of injured Matt Duffy.  Both hit well, with Pena being the bigger surprise, showing RBI power.

Joe Panik has gotten hot finally, and was instrumental in all 3 wins in Pittsburgh.  Johnny Cueto won his 11th game, keeping pace with the league leaders, in that 15-4 bash.  Angel Pagan hit a grand slam, Gillaspe had four hits that included a homer, and Blanco was on base five times.

So while the Dodgers went on a six game win streak, the Giants won five out of six on their road trip, and the Dodgers picked up nada on them in the standings.  On Thursday the Giants went 20 games over .500, and are tied for the most wins in baseball with the Cubs and the Rangers (both of which have lost fewer games, however.)

Meanwhile the Pirates are in desperate shape.  They are still home run threats--as the Giants saw--and they have a great defensive outfield, and at times a terrific overall defense.  But key players are injured or are just coming back.  They're 14 games out of first, which doesn't bode well for contending this year.  The Cubs are running away with the division so far, 9 games ahead of St. Louis, so for a change the wild card might not come out of this division this year.

Now the Giants come home, and we'll see how resilient the rooks are.  To survive with starters Pence and Duffy, prime infield and even outfield backup Kelby Tomlinson, reliever Romo and starter Matt Cain all on the DL (with only Romo likely to be back before the All-Star break), the rooks are going to have to play above their pay grade.  And Bochy has to remain successful with his orchestration of the bullpen.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Next Year?

The stage was set, the score was tied.  Even after the debacles of games 5 and 6, the Warriors were poised to win the seventh game and the championship.  All they had to do in the final minutes was what they did so well and so often in a season without precedent: make shots.  A couple of 3s.  Or maybe just one.

And like some nightmare, the basketball version of the actor's nightmare maybe, they couldn't do it.  They could not sink even one.

For all the credit that LeBron James is getting, this was the Warriors' game and the Warriors' series to lose.  And they lost it.  Draymond Green's suspension and the back and forth between the teams and the NBA killed their game at home in the fifth game.  But all they had to do was win one more game.

They had beaten the Cavs in Cleveland just a week before, but they couldn't come all the way back from a devastating first quarter and they lost game 6, wire to wire.  Draymond was back but Andrew Bogut was down.  So the team that had beaten the Cavs three times in this series didn't take the floor.

It didn't for game 7 either--Bogut wasn't there to guard the basket. Iguodala was not himself. Draymond had an efficient game, his best since the first game.  But the Dubs needed the Splash Brothers to come up big, and they didn't.  But they've had poor shooting games and still come through at crunch time.  And they didn't.

In some weird way it may have been the price of their long winning season, and all the expectations every day.  I can't help thinking that Steph Curry trying to introduce a new product in his shoe line in the middle of the Finals was really dumb, and distracting.  But what do I know?  Nothing, really.

We'll remember the greatness of the season past, and the physical wounds hopefully will heal.  I'm still a fan, but I wonder if a team comes back from this next season, especially a team like this one that depends on confidence.

On a brighter note, Jake Peavy pitched a phenomenal game against Tampa Bay on Sunday, although the SF Giants didn't score for him, winning in the late innings with a four run outburst to take their eighth game in a row 5-1 and sweep the series.  They have a quick turnaround to Pittsburgh, though not as quick as the Pirates themselves have, after a night game in Chicago where they were swept by the Cubs.  Pirates pitching has been sagging and they are falling behind in their division.

The Pirates are hurt by injuries but the Giants so far seem to be surviving theirs remarkably well, though they are dangerously thin.  The Giants are doing it with relentless hitting but mostly with starting pitching, and they go into Pittsburgh with MadBum, Johnny Cueto and the Shark.  And an apparently rejuvenated Jake Peavy.
Brandon Belt had another homer on Sunday, he leads the team with 10--he's seems to be playing relaxed and professional since his contract.  Brandon Crawford responded that way, too--he's now the Giants' leading RBI guy.  Despite the frustrations--too many left on base, the adventuresome bullpen--it's once again a fun team to watch (even, as I do, on the radio.)