Thursday, September 15, 2016

Giant Nightmare

If the trajectory of the SF Giants season continues as it's going now (which is down, down, down),  there might be a moment remembered as both causal and indicative.  It happened Tuesday night in the ninth inning.

SF went into the ninth leading San Diego 4-1.  Hunter Strickland was in his second audition recently as Closer; he'd done well the last time, inducing a game ending double play.

He got the first out.  Then things started dinking and dunking badly and he started losing it.  But..there came a moment when the Giants still led that he induced a double play ball that would have ended the game, heading towards the sure glove of Joe Panik--and Strickland stuck out his glove just enough to deflect the ball.

 Even at that Panik was able to get one out.  But not the two that would have saved the victory, and boosted the Giants one game closer to LA.

But it didn't happen and agonizing minutes later,a rookie reliever gave up a 3-run homer on a two-strike pitch.  The Giants went meekly in the bottom of the 9th (losing 6-4), and apparently were so disheartened the next afternoon that they could manage but one run to support their ace Bumgarner, and lost 3-1.

A crucial tuneup against a weaker team turned into a sweep for San Diego.  Someone has figured out that if the Giants second half won-lost record were extrapolated for the whole season, this would be the worst team in Giants history.

The Giants conceivably could still make the playoffs (the division title is now pretty much gone) and advancing is within the realm of possibility.  But the latter is very unlikely, and so the former might be worse.

When a series or maybe even a season definitively and finally goes south, there might be a moment in which (at least in retrospect) the story was told.  That just might be the moment the ball deflected off Strickland's glove on Tuesday night.

Monday, September 12, 2016

How Sweep It Is

The SF Giants return home after sweeping the three game series at Arizona.  Matt Moore pitched a strong, confident game, and Hunter Pence was the all out star of the series, blasting the winning runs in this one with an opposite field double.

With the wind at their back they take on San Diego before upcoming and potentially fateful series with St. Louis and six of their last 20 games with LA.  Apart from those games, the Giants' schedule is easier than the Dodgers.  The Dodgers lead by 3 games.

 Sunday's win at last felt like the first half Giants.  They weren't overpowering but they were determined and clutch.  Except for Moore, who was at times overpowering.

The other day I saw an evaluation of their second half troubles by somebody who writes about the Giants professionally.  He notes the disruption caused by the Matt Duffy trade, which is exactly what I was afraid of when it happened.  The team chemistry got thrown. It left a bad taste.

Now maybe they're overcoming it (and Duffy would probably be unavailable to them anyway, as he is out for the season requiring surgery.)  It's hard to complain about the guy they got for Duffy, Matt Moore, with a very near no-hitter and his performance Sunday.

Hunter Strickland saved Sunday's game and so may be trusted as a closer.  High hopes in that role as well for Derek Law when he returns.  Casilla and Romo may have had their day, though they can still have their excellent outings.  But Casilla can't be trusted to pitch the ninth.

A big finish is really important to this particular team.  Now it actually seems possible.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

No Longer A Sport

I've approached the NFL season warily, reading a few stories, especially about the Steelers.  But my worst fears were confirmed in accounts of the Carolina-Denver game, in which Carolina quarterback Cam Newton was hit repeatedly in the head by Denver's thug head-hunters.  In the later very weak judgment of the NFL, one merited a penalty.  Denver's thuggery lost them nothing.  Newton, visibly hurting, was not lifted or the concussion protocols followed by his own team.

From all this I conclude that the officials who didn't call the penalties should be fired,  the Carolina officials who did not invoke the concussion protocols should be fired, members of the Denver team defense and their coach should be suspended and fined or better yet, arrested, and the game should be forfeit.  And the NFL should fine itself.

None of that happened or will happen.  And I won't be watching an NFL game until this scandal is rectified.  It's not a sport anymore. It's criminal assault, and probably slow motion manslaughter.

At the moment, the SF Giants have won two games in a row on the road for the first time in this second half.  They cling to playoff possibilities but must keep winning at a first-half rate.  We'll see.  Starting pitching and Hunter Pence are carrying them at the moment, with some other bats coming around.  But even one of these games involved a blown save and a torturous 5.5 hours of 13 innings against a team on a losing streak.

The bullpen is their Achilles heel.  They won in 2014 with less than a stellar starting rotation but a supple, strong and reliable bullpen.  They fixed the rotation pretty much this year, but the bullpen --and the absence of a closer--is a significant deficiency, in the playoffs even if they get there, which is not at all certain.

The Pirates also seem to be fading from the playoff hunt though neither team is out of it yet.  Only the Dodgers seem to be getting stronger, especially with the return of Kershaw.