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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Hillenbrand and Benitez Finally Contribute!

Armondo Benitez is two for his last two in save oppurtunities, and while that comes nowhere near making up for the 3 in a row he blew, he has been looking a little better. Monday night in San Diego, he held a one run lead, albeit in typical Benitez fashion allowing 2 runners to reach base before closing the door. On Tuesday night, Benitez may have looked the best I've seen him in a Giants uniform. For the first time in almost 2 seasons, I saw his fastball hitting 95-96 mph, and his splitter was actually nasty and controlled. He held another one run lead but did it perfectly. As bad as Benitez has been, we all know he's not going anywhere anytime soon so hopefully he can continue building off these last couple outings. When he was struggling, his fastball was between 90-92 and his splitter was affected by that. If he can stay up in the mid-90's like he has been in San Diego, he should be fine. Benitez is a guy who feeds a lot of success, and when his confidence is high, that's when he shows he belongs in the 9th inning. Shea Hillenbrand is another guy who hasn't been getting it done since his arrival in San Francisco, but he actually has been heating up a bit over the week as well. Hillenbrand went 2-3 Tuesday night including the game winning single RBI single in the 8th inning which gave the Giants a 3-2 advantage that Armondo Benitez made stand. Hillenbrand has now raised his average to .287 since joning the Giants, but he still has only 2 home runs, 4 RBI and a .290 on-base percentage in over 80 at-bats. Hillenbrand has always been a very streaky hitter, and if he hits a hot streak now, that trade may finally payoff.

Brad Hennessey looked very good in his first start since being officially added to the rotation. Hennessey went 5 2/3 scoreless innings giving up only 2 hits and one walk while striking out 3. He was so effecient that he only threw 70 pitches in those 5 2/3 innings. I think Felipe will want to ease him back into the rotation, and I don't expect him to be throwing 100 pitches already, but I am a little surprised Alou went to the bullpen as early as he did. It did pay off and Hennessey got the win, but I have my issues about making the Giants' bullpen get any more outs than they need to. Hennessey has really been the glue of that entire pitching staff all season long and needs to get more credit than he's getting. Not only was he the teams most consistant reliever for most the season, but he's done more than answer the bell when the Giants have asked him to start games. He's labled as the teams number 5 starter, but outside of Jason Schmidt, I'm not sure there is another pitcher on the team I'd rather hand the ball to. Matt Cain, Noah Lowrey and Brad Hennessey are giving Giants fans at least some hope for the future. Another guy who's throwing very well is Vinny Chulk. My confidence in Chulk is growing, he's only had one bad outing since he's come over from Toronto and I he is now the teams best right-handed set-up option. It seems like He's done more for the Giants than Hillebrand has in their short time here. He has contributed in both the Giants wins in San Diego and it looks like his role is starting to grow with the club as well.
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