Saturday, July 02, 2016

Revenge of the Rooks

When five of your eight starters in the field aren't playing, and a few of their backups can't either, a lot of teams wouldn't be expecting to win.  SF Giants manager Bruce Bochy had an ace in the hole, i.e. on the mound, in Johnny Cueto.  But he wasn't feeling all that great either, with a stomach virus.  He gave up four runs before settling into a quality start, seven innings with nine strikeouts.

You might look to Crawford, Belt and Pagan to get you going, but they all went hitless. Yet the Giants came back to win 6-4, and it was just about all because of the rooks (and the semi-rooks who had some playing time late last season.)  Conor Gillaspie had another fine day, going 3 for 4, a homer shy of a cycle.  The homer--a big fly to the opposite field--came from the powerful bat of Jarrett Parker.  Catcher Trevor Brown had a key hit, and so did the rookiest of the rooks, Grant Green, up from the minors and playing his second game as a Giant, subbing for DL Joe Panik at second.  Green had two hits Friday, including a key single with two outs in the fourth inning that drove in two runs. He also had two hits in his first game.

Even rookie Cody Gearrin pitched a hitless eighth, while Casilla's ninth was another adventure, aided by a tough Belt to Crawford to Belt double play.

The day before in Oakland, the Giants salvaged the last game of the home-and-home Bridge series behind Madison Bumgarner's pitching--and his double that got the hit parade started, 12-6.  Buster Posey had a three run homer.  As of Friday the Giants are again 20 games over .500, leading the Dodgers by 6 games.  LA got bad news when their ace Clayton Kershaw went on the 15 day DL.  My Pirates have been winning more lately and are now just three games under .500, creeping up on the slumping Cards for second place, and the first place Cubs have been slumping as well (though they still have the best record in baseball, along with the Texas Rangers.)


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

When the Wheels Came Off

What happened to the San Francisco Giants in their two games hosting the Oakland A's was shocking but perhaps not so surprising.  That Jeff Samardzjia was ineffective again on Monday is troubling enough, giving up 6 of the A's 8 runs.
But much worse on Tuesday, when Suarez started and pitched well, the bullpen fell apart completely. .  The bullpen gave up all but one of Oakland's 13 runs. They gave up multi-run leads three times. The Giants actually outhit the A's but what killed their chances was walks.  The failures included this year's two most reliable relievers, Cory Gearrin (who walked the first two batters in the eighth, when the Giants lost a 3 run lead) and closer Casilla (who let a one run lead for the As balloon to 4.)

No matter how carefully Bochy has managed this bullpen, it has been stretched, and so a total meltdown, while it wasn't inevitable (and certainly wasn't pretty), wasn't against the odds.

Then the series moved to Oakland and the Giants incredibly found another way to lose--with an epidemic of errors and bad plays.  The makeshift infield was probably due, but the outfield?  Matt Williamson had a terrible day in the field and at the plate, but he's a rook.  It was Angel Pagan in left, who had one of those games he used to have in center field.  Is there a more schzoid player on the Giants?  He's been the hero with timely hits and some dazzling catches.  But on Wednesday he was just plain sloppy.  He so clearly cost Jake Peavy the game that even Peavy was visibly and audibly angry.

As if all that wasn't bad enough, since the series started the Giants have lost two more players to injuries.  Another infield starter, Joe Panik, began experiencing concussion symptoms from a fastball to the head several games ago.  He's on the five day DL.  Now the promising infield replacement, rook Pena, got stomped on in a collision with Williamson in the field, and is out for an undetermined time.

The Giants already had to bring up Ruben Tejada, who they acquired and sent to the minors where he has been less than impressive, and his first day in the field was not good either.  Kelby Tomlinson is starting to play in his recovery regime in the minors but he's not yet available.

Is it surprising then that for the last game of this series in Oakland, the Giants aren't using a DH--Madison Bumgarner is pitching, and he's hitting.  He's one injured player away from being asked to play third base.

The sort of good news is that while the Giants have lost three straight, the Dodgers have lost two of three.  

Sunday, June 26, 2016


The SF Giants left Pittsburgh with a 6-1 road trip, looking forward to a couple of home series against non-contenders, beginning with one of the weakest teams in the majors, the Philadelphia Phillies.  Plus two of the three games would be pitched by their aces, Bumgarner and Cueto.

But it turned out to be not that easy.  All three games were decided by one run.  As happened in Pittsburgh, the Giants couldn't score for MadBum and he took the 3-2 loss.  The others were victories, and on Sunday, it came down to the last of the ninth--with an erratic Cueto long gone-- and consecutive doubles by the rooks Pena and Gillaspie to notch Bruce Bochy's 800th win as Giants manager, 8-7.

Meanwhile back in Pittsburgh where the Giants had taken 2 of 3, the Pirates beat the Los Angeles Dodgers three games straight (with a fourth coming up Monday), and the Giants division lead is extended to 8 games.  Sunday's game saw yet another brand new pitcher on the mound for Pittsburgh, as the Pirates touched Clayton Kershaw for 4 runs and only his second loss of the season.

Sunday's game in San Francisco was out of kilter, with 4 hit batsmen, numerous lead changes and strange plays.  The root of it all may well have been the unpredictable calls behind the plate.  It unnerved everybody when balls were called strikes, and some highly obvious strikes were called balls.  There's nothing that can turn this game unstable more than an erratic plate umpire.

Besides Gillaspie's winning hit, the game featured four hits by Angel Pagan, who came very close to homering twice.  The first time it was barely foul, the second hit off the top of the wall, which scored a run but which ended up with Pagan called out trying to stretch it into a triple, although possibly trying to draw the throw to make sure the run got in.

The Giants' bullpen was tested in this series and seemed tired.  Denard Span seems to need a day off badly, judging from his plate appearances on Sunday.