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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Offense Hits a Wall

We all knew the shutout streak would come to an end, but I don't think anyone foresaw the tables being turned on the Giants the way the have been the last few games. Ever since the Giants moved into sole possession of first place atop the NL West, they've gone into an offensive rut that's yielded them just 2 runs over the last two games vs. Cinci.

Zito Throws Well in Loss Sat.
They started off the series in terrific fashion Thursday night behind a strong performance from Madison Bumgarner, but Barry Zito and Matt Cain could not do enough in their starts on Friday and Saturday to overcome a couple of slow offensive games for the Giants. One part of the new-look Giants lineup that was working so well was that they've avoided pro-longed team slumps. I know 2 games isn't a huge slide, but coming up with just 2 hits off of Mat Latos on Saturday brought back some very unpleasant memories. The only run the Giants manufactured Saturday came on an RBI groundout by Gregor Blanco in the bottom of the 9th inning, knocking in Brandon Belt who the Reds were allowing to score in order to get the sure out at first base. In Friday night's game, they managed to pile up a few more hits, but they were just miserable with runners on base. Ryan Theriot, Melky Cabrera and Buster Posey combined to leave 6 guys on Friday, and they came into this series as arguably the hottest hitters on the team. The only reason they avoided the shutout was because of Pablo Sandoval's big fly in the bottom of the 9th.

Unfortunately, everyone's seen their batting average take a dive over the last few days though, including Gregor Blanco, who was up in the .290's about 10 days ago, and now is just above .250. It's not just Blanco either, the whole top of the order, from 1-3, is what sparks this offense and Blanco, Theriot andCabrera have been a bit off lately. Melky is in danger of seeing his average dip below .350 for the first time in a month. One of the hitters who has stayed pretty consistent of late has been Brandon Belt, who 
Belt and Panda
busted out of his slump a few weeks ago and hasn't really looked back. Surprisingly, Bochy is still not comfortable playing Belt against a lot of left-handers, and didn't have him in the lineup Saturday. Belt came on to pinch hit and ended up with one of the only hits, and the only run of the game for San Francisco. He's picked a good time to get hot, as Aubrey Huff is getting ready to start his rehab assignment, but I'm still not clear on why Bochy isn't displaying more confidence in the young hitter. Same thing can be said for Pablo Sandoval. I understood hitting him lower in the order upon his return from a month layoff, but Pablo's back now and hitting well (his defense has been another story). There's no reason he should be any lower than 5th in the order.

Notes: There are a couple other things I wanted to quickly mention. The Giants purchased the contract of Brad Penny before Friday's game, bringing the big right-hander back to San Francisco, this time in relief duty. The Giants DL'd Shane Loux to make way for Penny. The Giants have been looking to upgrade in the bullpen anyway they could, and Penny went 2 1/3 perfect innings in relief Saturday... Also, down in LA, the Dodgers are attempting to fill some of their outfield void by trading for Houston slugger Carlos Lee. The funny thing is, Lee looks set on using his no-trade clause in order to stay in Houston, where he lives in the offseason and has a large ranch. I haven't yet gotten anything official on that, but last I checked, it was a no-go on Lee's end.
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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Giants Move Into First, Now Time to Separate

The Giants just completed a near perfect series against NL West leading Dodgers to move into a tie atop the division. With the Giants playing well and the Dodgers' two best hitters banged up, the time is now for the Giants to create some separation.

Giants Sweep LA
Back when Matt Kemp went on the DL for the first time this season and the Giants were within striking distance of LA, the Dodgers continued to play well even without their superstar. This time around, they haven't been as lucky, as the team has hit a tailspin over the last 2 weeks and just aren't the same without #27 patrolling center field for them. Then on top of that, they got news yesterday in the series finale that their other star outfielder, and guy they just gave an $85MM contract to, Andre Eithier, could be joining Kemp on the DL after straining his oblique Wednesday. Now the door has really opened for the Giants, and they've at least gotten their foot in this time. Watching them take care of the Dodgers at AT&T and the way they did it was extremely reassuring if your an orange and black fan. They did a bit of everything in this series. After a big offensive showing in Monday nights game, it was the Giants pitching and defense that rose to the challenge, and didn't allow LA to cross the plate once during the three-game set. I haven't yet checked recent records or anything, but that's probably the first time the Giants have shut out a first place team throughout a series in a long, long time.

We talked about Barry Zito getting it started Monday, and the offensive showing up in droves early on, but it was the final two games of this series that impressed me the most. The Giants went up against the Dodgers ace and their #2 in those last two games, countering with Ryan Vogelsong and Tim Lincecum, and Vogey and
Lincecum Gets Back on Track
Timmy dominated. This series just had a special feel to it, especially after the blowout Monday night. It was as if the Dodgers could summon a young Sandy Koufax to come in and start for the, and the Giants would have still figured out a way to win. In game 2 and 3, they didn't provide near the offensive support they gave Zito on Monday, but it didn't matter because Vogelsong was on like he has been all year, and Timmy stepped up to have far and away his best start since April. It was such a fitting start for Lincecum to break his losing streak in too, as the Giants had the Dodgers on the ropes and needed that win in order to move into the tie and you know Lincecum was feeling the pressure after the way the rest of the staff has been throwing. Tim Lincecum showed you something about himself in that game Wednesday, and over his last two starts, he's given me reason to believe he's really starting to pull out of his rut.

Now that they're tied atop the West with LA, something will have to give in the next couple of days, and with the Dodgers struggling and hurting and the Giants headed in the opposite direction, now really is the time for them to put some separation between them and LA. I know we're still not even halfway through the season, but you always want to move ahead in your division if you can, no matter the point in the season. It won't be easy though, as the Reds roll into town for four games. Last June, the Reds came in and disrupted a Giants winning streak, hopefully that won't be the case this time around.
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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Giants Take Gm. 1, Vogey/Kershaw in Gm. 2

The biggest series to date this season has arrived, and after a strong weekend over in Oakland, the Giants look up to the task at making a run at the first place Dodgers.

Sandoval Rounding into Form
The Dodgers came into AT&T Park limping and struggling, and the Giants jumped all over them Monday night, like a wounded animal. They pounced early with their bats and got a helluva performance out of Barry Zito in one of his most important starts as a Giant. The Dodgers looked completely flat, and the Giants took advantage. They scored 7 runs in the first two inning, basically wrapping the game up while fans were still trickling into their seats. Gregor Blanco, Melky Cabrera, Angel Pagan, Pablo Sandoval and Hector Sanchez all had multi-hit games. Sandoval was the standout though, going 3-3 with 3 RBI and 2 doubles. It was his most impressive day with the bat since he returned from the DL earlier this month, and helped make up for the fact that Bruce Bochy still insists on the Sanchez/Zito combo and sat Buster Posey. I get having to give Buster a day off here and there, but against the Dodgers who your chasing for first place, I don't get how you can sit your team-leading home run hitter? Buster will be back in the lineup for Tuesday and Wednesday's games, in which the Giants have a chance move into a tie with LA atop the NL West.

Gm. 2: Vogey vs. Kershaw
These next two games are going to be huge now that Zito got game one out of the way. Both of these next two games also pose some terrific pitching matchups, starting with Ryan Vogelsong and Clayton Kershaw facing off Tuesday night. Kershaw is the Dodgers ace, but he isn't throwing like he was last season and if the Giants show up with the same jump in their step offensively, I think they'll be able to scrape together some runs off the star lefty. Vogelsong has been nothing short of rock solid over his last 10 starts, and is carrying a home ERA of 1.47 into Tuesday's start. However, even with Tuesday night's impressive pitching matchup, most people are focusing on Wednesday's pairing of Tim Lincecum and Chad Billingsley as the game of this series. After Lincecum's last outing, it's gotten some people optimistic again about the right-hander, who will try and put together a solid, full game this time around, and avoid that one bad inning that's seems to haunt him in every start he takes lately. The best part of Monday's game, aside from the Giants moving to within 2 games of LA, was that they got out to an early lead, and you saw how that lead enhanced the way Barry Zito pitched. He was pitching without fear, and that's what Timmy has to embrace on Wednesday. 7 runs in the first couple innings won't hurt either.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Giants Closing in on Dodgers in West

Although the Giants narrowly missed sweeping the A's this weekend, there were still some good things to come out of this weekend's set in Oakland, including gaining another game on the Dodgers in the West.

Cain just misses 10th win
I think the best thing to come out of this weekends series obviously has to be the performance that Tim Lincecum provided after just a terrible first inning on Friday night. After giving up 3 runs in that first inning though, he rebounded to throw 5 straight, no-hit innings, allowing the Giants to climb back into the ballgame. Although he didn't get credit for the win, it was the first time since April in which the Giants won a Lincecum start. That coupled with the fact that he really started looking like the old Timmy in the middle of that game definitely gives reason for optimism. Matt Cain also threw a gem in Sunday's finale, though the Giants bullpen, which had a really rough weekend, failed to hold the lead for him. In Saturday night's game, the Giants pen almost blew a 9-4 lead that Madison Bumgarner and the offense provided them, barely hanging on to win the game 9-8. Cain wasn't as lucky, as he had the best start over the weekend, with 7 innings of 3-hit, 1-run ball, but the Giants failed to do much offensively, and Santiago Casilla blew a 2-1 lead for his 2nd blown save of the season. The big blow came off the bat of rookie Derek Norris, who took Casilla deep for the game-winning three-run homer with 2 out in the bottom of the 9th inning.

The Giants' starting pitching wasn't the only good thing to come from series. The Lincecum start was huge, and it was nice to see Cain return to dominance after his so-so outing in his last start, but the Giants also got a few guys going with the bats. We've talked about Brandon Belt in the last few posts, and he just continues to look like a brand new player in June. In the month, he's hitting .360 with 4 jacks, 15 RBI and a 1.164
Posey: 5 HR's in June
OPS. It certainly looks like he's coming around. Also, Buster Posey seems to be finding his power stroke as well. He hit his 10th home run of the season on Sunday, and now has 5 this month. Unfortunately, while Belt and Posey have been producing, Melky Cabrera has seen his average take a bit of a dive, and Pablo Sandoval continues to have up-and-down games. One thing I was curious to watch for when Sandoval returned, was whether or not the Giants outfield would keep producing at the rate they were while the Panda was down. Unfortunately, they haven't, but they're still helping the team win, and Pablo hasn't performed consistently yet either. Right now, with the starting pitching dominating, balls bouncing off Posey and Belt's bats like golf balls, and the Dodgers spiraling without Kemp, the Giants need Melky, Pablo and Pagan to be on their games.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Friday, June 22, 2012

Giants Return To Bay Area in a Rut

The Giants tour through the AL West that started out in Seattle, then went through LA, has gotten off to a rough start. Luckily for them, although the series is in Oakland this weekend, they got a much needed return home and off-day Thursday as they try to right their ship vs. the surging Athletics.

Weaver Shuts Down SF
The A's are coming off a series themselves where they helped the Giants stay within striking distance of the first place Dodgers by sweeping them during the week. They'll be rolling into the weekend set with a full head of steam and on the heels of some pretty outstanding starting pitching. They held the potent Dodgers attack, albeit without MVP-candidate Matt Kemp, to just 2 total runs in the three game series. Unfortunately for the Giants, at the same time that was happening, they were having offensive troubles of their own in LA as they were shut out in the rubber match by Angels' ace Jered Weaver. Friday night's matchup at The Collesium should be a dandy, as Tim Lincecum will take the hill for the first time since his dad went on a tirade to Bob Nigthengale about the SF media crucifying his son in the middle of Timmy's struggles. Lincecum will go up against the A's new ace, Jarrod Parker, who, opposite of his Friday night counterpart, has been on a tear recently. The key for the Giants in this one, as will be until Lincecum gets back on the right path is to jump out to an early lead to allow Lincecum to pitch with and take away a lot of the pressure. It won't be easy either, as the Giants have notoriously struggled on that side of the water over the years.

I just wanted to touch very briefly on Chris Linceucm's interview with Nightengale, cause I don't really like talking off-field nonsense at this site. The only reason I'm doing so, is because I do understand where Chris is coming from, I written a lot of the same arguments he was making on this site, yet at the same time, he better be careful what he wishes for. He's telling the San Francisco media that they're going to "run Lincecum out of
Lincecum's Father Goes on Tirade
town" with their crucifying, but what does he think it would be like in New York, Boston, Miami, LA, Chicago or any other market with an extensive fan base and media coverage. I'll tell you one thing, if Lincecum was throwing like this for the Yankees, it wouldn't matter that he's had two Cy Youngs in the past, he'd be ridiculed because, like every other major pro sport this is a "what have you done for me lately" format. Also, if Lincecum keeps pitching like this, not that I think he will, but if he did go on to finish out this year in this rut, then start off next year in similar fashion, his "walk year", then it won't matter that he won a CY Young or has been an All-Star. Right now, the Giants are looking like the winners for Lincecum declining that 5-year/$100M deal over the winter, and it's on Lincecum to prove otherwise, not the San Francisco media base.

That's my thought on the recent Lincecum outrage, and I personally think it was uncalled for on his father's part to go off the way he did. Everybody in Northern California is pulling for Lincecum, the Giants need him, and if he thinks otherwise, I suggest he show up at Lincecum's next home start and see the love the fans pour onto him... Back to baseball! The Giants are slipping back to .500 territory and they blew a chance at closing some space between them and the Dodgers this week. Now's their chance to get back on track.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Brandon Belt Finding His Stroke

Anytime the Giants and Angels get together to play in Anaheim, it always brings back memories of that memorable and excruciating 2002 World Series. 10 years later, and with all new players, the rivalry still lives on.

Belt Quietly Has .800 OPS
The Giants got the better of LA in game one of the series Monday, as Matt Cain made his first start since throwing his perfect game at AT&T Park last week. He still looked like he was in a bit of a daze from his last start, and had one of his worst starts of the season but it didn't matter as the Giants offense was there to support him. Although Cain allowed 10 base runners to reach in his 5 innings of work, the Giants banged out 13 hits on offense including 3-hit efforts from Melky Cabrera and Ryan Theriot and another multi-hit game from the newly reformed Brandon Belt. Just a week ago, the Giants first baseman's lack of production was prompting talk all over the internet and bay area radio waves that it was time for a change at first base. Some fans wanted to trade for whoever they could get and some wanted to see guys like Nate Schierholtz and Hector Sanchez get more of a look at first base. However, right when the criticism on him was hitting it's peak, Brandon Belt has all of the sudden turned into the hitter the Giants were hoping he'd be. I mentioned in a post a week back after Belt hit his first home run of the season that he's streaky player and could go on a tear and right his season within a week or two, and it's looking like he's doing just that. In his last 8 games, he's taken a .220 average up to .261, knocked out his first three homers of the season and has driven in 7 runs. Know the guy who was one the verge of possibly being replaced is 4th on the team in OPS! That's what talent can do.


Unfortunately, the other talented piece of the Giants underachieving duo has yet to rebound like Brandon Belt has, but he still thinks it's coming. Tim Lincecum had his homecoming start over the weekend, as we discussed in our last post, and it was a bit of a nightmare. I worried about him coming home and pitching in front of all his friends and family at this time because I believe most of his mistakes right now are stemming
Vogey/Weaver Go Wednesday
from his mind and the last thing he needed in the midst of this 9-game nightmare was the distraction of his first hometown start. His struggles were the same they've been the last two months, but Bruce Bochy killed any speculation of skipping his ace saying that he'd let Lincecum "pitch his way out of this". So that's that on the Lincecum front. We've talked about him so much lately that there really isn't much else to say at this point that would be new ideas or thoughts on what's wrong with Timmy or how to fix him. Ryan Vogelsong on the other hand, needs no fixing, and the Giants will be turning to their staff veteran to wrap up the Angels series Wednesday night. After the Giants rough starting performances in game one and two, it's a surprise they're in a position to take this series. Vogelsong is the guy to have going though, as he's in the midst of 9 straight quality starts and has won his last 6 decisions, but will be going up against Angels' ace Jered Weaver, so it certainly won't be a walk in the park.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Giants Tumble in Seattle

After a commanding victory in game one Friday night at Safeco Field, the Giants took a turn for the worse in the final two games of the series. Tim Lincecum lost his 9th straight start on Saturday, followed up by an offensive meltdown in Sunday's rubber match.

Timmy Loses Homecoming
Now, I know that most people want to keep harping on Tim Lincecum after yet another bad outing Saturday, and even though I'm a big supporter of letting your star players work out their own mistakes, I wouldn't be opposed to maybe sitting Timmy down for his next scheduled start and give him 10 days to just clear his head and work on the side in the bullpen. They're not going to exile him to the bullpen or send him to the minors, so why not give him a breather? I've said many times here that in order for the Giants to be a legit contender, they need Timmy throwing like he can. I don't really want to say much more about Lincecum cause it'll just be beating a dead horse. There aren't any Giants fans that dispute the fact that they believe in him, but right now, their confidence in him is at an all-time low, and it's going to take more than just a good start or two in order for him to regain that trust. They do have an off-day coming up on Thursday, so this could be an opportune time to skip Lincecum's next scheduled start (Friday vs. the A's). The only problem with that is that it skips over the A's, one of the easier lineups to face in all of baseball, and places his following start against the Dodgers on June 27th, not exactly an easy assignment. My guess is that they keep him in there and don't skip him, yet. If he fails against the A's then bombs against LA, however, then all bets are off.

In Sunday's game, Madison Bumgarner pitched a helluva game, going 8 innings and allowing just 3 hits and a run, but for the first time in weeks, the Giants late-inning relief did not come through for them. Sergio Romo, the guy who's been the glue in that bullpen and really stepped up his game after the Giants lost Brian Wilson, got the loss. He gave up two hits to the only two batters he faced in a tied game in the bottom of the 9th
Romo's Rare Failure Sunday
inning, only to have Javier Lopez come in and surrender the game winning hit to Justin Smoak. That's not where this game was lost though, this game was lost because the Giants failed to cash in when they had opportunities on offense. They left 22 guys on base, which has to be close to a season-high for them. Everybody in the starting lineup besides catcher Hector Sanchez got at least one hit, but the only guy to cash in with a runner in scoring position was Angel Pagan, who put the Giants on the board in the first inning. After that, the Giants bats just could not sustain any sort of rally against the Seattle Mariner ace, Felix Hernandez. Bruce Bochy mixed his lineup a bit as well Sunday, placing Pablo Sandoval in the two-hole, a place I don't believe he's ever occupied in his big league career. Ryan Theriot has been doing a solid job hitting 2nd for the Giants but got the day off Sunday, but I'm surprised Boch didn't move Pagan into the spot for the day, or someone with experience hitting at the top of the lineup.

Next Up: Now the Giants head back down to California for more interleague play with the Angels, then the A's before a big series next week against the LA Dodgers. That's the series I'm sure every Giants fan has circled around their calendar, as it will be the first matchup between the two teams at AT&T Park for the 2012 season. Hard to believe, being that we're in the middle of June, but these next 9 games are a very key stretch of ball for the Giants. This is their chance, facing teams with lesser records then them, to possibly gain a few games on LA before the two start their series on June 25th.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Friday, June 15, 2012

Vogelsong, Posey and Cabrera Lead Giants

The Giants launched a critical weekend series in Seattle Friday night with a big win, as Ryan Vogelsong got the team back on track after a wild week at AT&T Park with his token 7-inning, 2-run performance.

Melky: 6 HR, .365 AVG.
I haven't checked the stats on all of Vogelsong's starts for the year, but I'd bet that he's gone 7+ innings while allowing 2 or less runs in over 3/4 of them so far. It seems like every start lately he goes 7 strong and gives the Giants a great opportunity to win and it was no different Friday night at Safeco. While Vogey didn't quite match the masterpiece we saw Matt Cain paint Wednesday night, but he did take a 2-hitter into the 7th inning. He's still having a bit of trouble getting past the 7th though, as it seems like either pitch count and/or fatigue start catching up with him around the 6th and 7th innings. Still, with his win Friday, it not only started the Giants out on the right track vs. the Mariners, but also gave him his 7th victory of the season and lowered his ERA to 2.29, good for second in the starting rotation behind only Matt Cain. Vogey got just enough run support, as Buster Posey and Melky Cabrera each had big flies. Posey got the Giants on the board with a solo job in the 2nd (his 8th on the season), then 'The Melk Man' connected for his 6th, a 2-run shot in the 8th which pretty much sealed the deal for the Giants. Brandon Belt, who has all the sudden found his stroke, also pitched in with a multi-hit effort raising his average up to .246, and climbing.

Santiago Casilla came on to shut the door in 1-2-3 fashion in the 9th inning to preserve the win. Now the focus obviously shifts to the crucial Saturday night outing in which Tim Lincecum will take the mound for the first time as a 28 year-old, as I'm sure all he was wishing for on his birthday Friday was for a win in his hometown. It will be Lincecum's first ever outing in Seattle as a Major League pitcher, against the team he
Timmy Back in Hometown
grew up rooting for as a kid and in close proximity to the University of Washington where he was one of the best college arms in the nation. I'm sure Timmy will have no shortage of friends and family out there Saturday night, but he's gonna have to tune everything out and focus on his location and getting ahead in the count early. Hopefully, once the game starts, he can turn into focus mode, because I know emotions will be riding high for him. This is probably the longest he's ever gone in his life without pitching up to his expectations, and know he's coming home while in the biggest rut of his career. I don't want to put to much on a start in the middle of June, but I have a feeling Saturday night's start will give us a good indication as to how the rest of the season will unfold for Mr. Lincecum.

Huff Done? In other news, Aubrey Huff's stint with the Giants may very well have come to an end Wednesday night, as the first basemen was hurt during Matt Cain's perfect game celebration. Huff sprained his knee, and the Giants didn't release a timetable for his recovery. However, it'll likely be a month or more, depending on the severity, and even if it's minor, this could be the straw that breaks the camels back for Aubrey in San Francisco. He's hitting .150 and contributing nothing to the team right now. I'll always appreciate what he did in the 2010 season for this team, but he's fallen off quickly and had become a waste of a roster spot.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Matt Cain. Perfect!

Matt Cain exemplified perfection Wednesday night at AT&T Park, as the man who's come so close to no-hitters in the past, finally went the distance, throwing the first perfect game in Giants' history.

Matt Cain In Midst of Perfection
Cain struck out a career-high 14 batters in route to his perfect outing, as Houston hitters looked lost at the plate all night long. I've been to a few games when Cain has taken no-hitters into the 8th and 9th innings before, but I've never seen him in the form he was in Wednesday night at AT&T Park. The 27 year-old right-hander is the one that got the big contract in the winter, not Tim Lincecum, and the early dividends have paid off huge for San Francisco. With Cain's perfect outing, he moved his record to a dominant 8-2, coupled with a 2.19 ERA and 0.85 WHIP. It was his 7th straight victory, and he's allowed 1 or less runs in 5 of those 7 outings. This game also has to put him on the map as the potential starter for the NL in the All-Star game in July. With the way he's been going since back-to-back 4-run outings a month ago, there really hasn't been a better starting pitcher in the league. I know R.A. Dickey is having an incredible season for the New York Mets and even Aroldis Chapman has been mentioned as a possible starter for the NL, but Matt Cain is on fire right now, and has really become may be the NL's most dominant starting pitcher at the moment.

I'll tell you one person who will definitely be happy with Cain's performance, and that's Lincecum. He better be thanking Matty for helping take some of the spotlight off him. It was a game that will forever go down in the history books, not only in San Francisco Giants history, but Major League baseball history as well. It wasn't just Matt Cain that did his job to perfection Wednesday, as the Giants offense rattled off 10 runs vs. J.A. Happ and the Houston bullpen. Gregor Blanco, Melky Cabrera and Brandon Belt (for a 2nd consecutive game) all went yard, and 7 of the 8 starters had multi-hit games. Pablo Sandoval reacted to being moved down to the 6th spot with some anger, going 3-4 with a double and 2 RBI, by far his best game since being activated over the weekend. It was a rare night when everything lined up perfectly, the offense, the defense and of course, the pitching. This is the type of victory that can really spark a season!
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Giants Beat Houston, Sign Stratton

The Giants accomplished two key things Tuesday, taking the first game of their 3-game set with the Astros and before the game, announcing that they had come to an agreement with first round selection, Chris Stratton.

Bugmarner Homers then Wins
We'll start out with the game, in which the Giants offense woke up a little after a rough weekend set vs. Texas. They got a big fly and a great outing from starter Madison Bumgarner, who improved his record to 8-4 on the season with an absolute gem vs. Houston. The Giants' young lefty went 7 2/3 allowing just 6 base runners while striking out a season-high 12 batters. He also sparked the Giants offense with a solo home run in the bottom of the third inning which put the Giants on the board. After that, their offense which was shut out twice over the weekend, got rolling. The lineup got the return of Melky Cabrera and the Giants' potential all-star right fielder responded with a 2 for 4 line and an RBI. Perhaps the most important development in this game though was from another Giant who connected for his first, long-awaited home run of the season. Brandon Belt, who's a big reason why the Giants are near the bottom of the league in home runs, finally knocked the goose egg out of that column and hopefully this spurns a run in which he gets himself back to offensive relevance. I think the Giants were asking him to change too much early on in the year, and they need to back off him a little bit and just let him go. He's a streaky hitter so although he just hit his first homer of the year, it wouldn't surprise me if he's at 5 by the end of the month.

San Francisco also inked their first round selection and the 20th pick in this years MLB draft, Tuesday, agreeing to terms with MSU right-hander Chris Stratton. The Giants gave the big right-hander a $1.85M deal which is no small number for a 20th selection. We talked a bit about Stratton after the draft, in this post here, and we'll get back into the draft later this month after we connect with The College Baseball Daily's
Stratton Signs
Brian Foley. The big thing about this signing though, is the Giants accomplished it so early on in the signing process, that hopefully they can ship Stratton out to an affiliate and have him throwing for the organization within a month or so. They have until August 15th to sign all their draftees, so them coming to terms with their first rounder within a week of the draft is huge. Stratton is the first pitcher the Giants have taken in the first round since Zach Wheeler, and they've had tremendous success with first round arms in recent years, so I'm expecting much of the same from Stratton. He's already got the body to digest a bunch of innings, and he's gotten experience with a few years playing for a powerhouse in Mississippi State, Alma mater of another famous first round pick of the Giants, Mr. Will Clark. This kid can mix up pitches, throw all four of his pitches for strikes and can crank it up to the mid/high 90's when he has to. He's also said he tries to pattern his game after Matt Cain, who is a pretty good role model for a young arm. Only time will tell, but as I said after the draft, I like this pick and believe this kid will be a good big leaguer.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Monday, June 11, 2012

Rangers Get Revenge on Lincecum, Giants

In their first appearance in San Francisco since the 2010 World Series, the Rangers showed up with a chip on their shoulder and thoroughly outplayed the Giants to take their 3-game set. They also beat up Tim Lincecum, who lost his 5th straight and has fans wondering aloud what is going on with the 27 year-old ace.

Lincecum's Struggles Continue
First off, I want to talk about Lincecum. I know we've talked a lot about his struggles here lately, as they've been a big reason why this team hasn't taken off and is up their with LA in the West right now. He's been bad, there's no denying that, but his struggles are specific and ones that should be smoothed out with more time. It's not like this guy hasn't gone through a funk before. Never has it lasted quite this long, but he went through a very similar grind in August of 2010 before the Giants took off down the stretch. As I've been saying all along, the Giants need Lincecum to right the ship, they need him to be an ace for them to really compete for a playoff spot. What I don't understand is how fans can turn on him so quickly and count him out after a rough stretch that's gone on for all of 5-6 weeks. There were people calling into the Giants' flagship station, KNBR, all evening after that game Sunday, asking for Timmy to be sent down or taken out of the rotation for a period of time in order to work things out. I wouldn't be totally opposed to giving him a start off to clear his head, as I do believe most of his mistakes right now are mental, but I would never consider sitting down the guy who's been your ace and best pitcher up until the last month or so. Yes, this is a "what have you done for me lately" league, but Lincecum's age and past success alone should give him more than enough benefit of doubt. Not all his starts over the last month have been nightmarish either. Sunday's wasn't good, I'll give you that, I can't take it when he gets into a rut and can't find the strike zone. That said, his last two starts weren't that bad, save for one bad inning in San Diego, and I believe him when he says he feels he's "crawling out of it". Give Timmy a break, he'll be back to form soon enough, his track record proves it.

Now, for the rest of the Giants, who lost a big series over the weekend to Texas and had their offense shut out twice in three games. They played the weekend set without Melky Cabrera, and their run production suffered mightily because of it. It kind of gives you an idea of what this Giants team would look like had Brian Sabean not pulled the trigger on the Jonathan Sanchez trade back in November, and it ain't pretty. It's almost like the Giants order stopped functioning without Melky. Even the return of Pablo
Melky To Return Tuesday?
Sandoval didn't help offset the lose of the .368-hitting right fielder. Sandoval went just 1-7 in his first two games back in the Giants lineup after missing over a month with a broken hand. He added a bunch of weight in his time off, and he's going to have to knock those pounds back off in order to get back in the form he was in before the injury. Balls were jumping off his bat before he went down, and his bat speed and overall quickness seemed a little slow this weekend. Also, Buster Posey's bat was nowhere to be found this weekend, as he to went 1-7 in the series. The Giants are hoping to have Cabrera back in time for Tuesday's series opener vs. Houston, but he's still not 100 percent clear. Regardless, with our without Melky, the Astros are a team the Giants should cleanup on. Another tidbit for the series to keep an eye on is Houston infielder Jed Lowrie, who's been an offensive juggernaut for the Astros and could be a guy the Giants look into if they feel a need to upgrade a spot in their infield again.
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Saturday, June 09, 2012

Panda Returns, Giants Even Up Series

The Giants originally had their star third baseman's return scheduled for Tuesday next week, but after suffering through a scoreless game one vs. Texas Friday night, the Giants decided to pull the trigger earlier than expected.

Pablo Starts Saturday
After an offensive explosion of sorts in San Diego Thursday, the Giants returned home Friday night only to be shut down by Matt Harrison. It also didn't help matters that Barry Zito descended back into pre-2012 Zito for the start, as the Rangers knocked him around for 9 hits and 4 runs over 6 innings. Not the worst numbers from a number 5 starter, but it really didn't matter as the Giants hitters just couldn't figure out the Rangers' lefty. Harrison went the full nine, holding the Giants to just 5 hits with 5 K's. His outing kind of reminded me of classic Kirk Rueter performance when Rueter was on. He didn't overpower guys with a bunch of K's, but really neutralized the Giants bats with timely off-speed stuff and pin-point location. Now, that said, Harrison was hardly facing the Giants best lineup, as both Melky Cabrera and Buster Posey spent the night on the pine. Also, Pablo Sandoval hadn't been activated for the game so they were again without Panda, so Harrison beat the Giants, but he beat them without their three best hitters in the lineup. Specifically the guy who's been on fire lately and leads the Majors in hits, Melky Cabrera. Melky also was held out of Saturday's starting lineup as he's still recovering from hamstring tightness he suffered in Thursday's finale in San Diego. Taking his spot in the lineup has been the struggling Nate Schierholtz, who went hit-less in Friday's game. With Melky hurting, I think it was the final straw for the Giants in the decision to activate Sandoval.

Vogelsong Dominates Texas
The team had originally wanted Pablo down in the minors until Tuesday mainly for conditioning reasons, as he's admittedly added some weight since he went down with the broken hand on May 2nd. He looked a little anxious in his first game back, but did manage to come up with an RBI single to help put the game away for the Giants Saturday. The team got another fine performance from Ryan Vogelsong, who went 7 2/3 strong, holding the potent Rangers attack to just one run and 3 hits with 3 K's to pick up his 5th win of the season and sink his ERA down to 2.26. Clay Hensley ran into a little trouble in the 9th inning, giving up a solo homer to Mike Napoli then a walk, but Santiago Casilla, who looks completely healed from his knee issue he had last week, came in to shut the door for his 16th save. It was a complete 180 from the performance Friday night as the pitching, defense and hitting all aligned to produce a win. Another key to Saturday's victory was another great game from Angel Pagan, who reached base 3 more times and has now hit safely in 47 of his last 50 ballgames. Before the game Saturday, Bruce Bochy eluded to the fact that he still hasn't figured out how his lineup will shake out when Melky comes back, most likely Tuesday, but he did clarify that Cabrera will stay in the 3-spot. My guess is Pablo goes to cleanup, Posey to 5th and Pagan down to 6th. I think Boch likes what he's getting from Theriot in the 2-hole right now and won't want to mess with that either.

Roster Moves: So, Pablo Sandoval's activation wasn't the only roster move the Giants made before Saturday's game. In addition to sending Brett Pill back down to Fresno, they also swapped out Fresno reliever George Kontas (acquired from the Yankees for Chris Stewart in Spring Training) with Steve Edelfsen. Kontas pitched well for the Yankees in his lone, brief stint in the bigs last season, and the Giants think he'll be better equipped to handle multiple-inning roles when needed. Also, Pill had been in a bad slump of late, so his demotion shouldn't be much of a surprise. It was between he and Manny Burris and Burris won out because he has no options left.
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Thursday, June 07, 2012

Giants' Bats Go Off in San Diego

The Giants have used the "small ball" formula for much of their offensive success this season, but they had a power outburst in the most unlikely of all places, lighting up Petco Park this week to take 2 of 3 from the reeling Padres.

Blanco Goes Deep Twice in SD
The Giants connected for 37 hits in the three-game set, including 5 big flies, which is normally about a seasons worth of home runs for them at Petco Park. This week, the air was thin down south though, and one guy who really took advantage of that was Gregor Blanco, who went deep twice in the series after connecting for just one in his previous 130 at-bats in 2012. It wasn't just the long ball that Blanco was supplying either, as the leadoff man went 7-15 with 5 extra-base hits vs. San Diego. He narrowly missed a two-homer game in the rubber match Thursday, as he knocked one off the wall in deep center after going yard earlier in the afternoon, but Gregor Blanco did a bit of everything in this series, and showed you exactly why he's the ideal leadoff hitter and helping catalyze this offense. Speaking of offensive catalysts, the Giants have sort of stumbled upon another diamond in the rough in Ryan Theriot, who like Blanco has hit his way into a regular role with this team. Theriot has been the hottest hitter in baseball since coming off the DL and has raised his average from .183 up to .286 over the last 10 days. He too had an incredible showing in San Diego, as the Giants top of the order really got things going for them and helped them score early and often. In the win Thursday, Buster Posey and Angel Pagan, two other studs who could be on their way to the all-star game each had 2-hits and a home run. The Giants used the long ball to support Matt Cain, who didn't quite have his best stuff Thursday, but thanks to the offensive support, hiked his record up to staff leading 7-2.


Madison Bumgarner won Wednesday's game in much of the same fashion as Cain did Thursday. He didn't have his best outing on the year, but thanks to early offensive support, he was able to pull out his second consecutive victory. Unfortunately the same can't be said for Timmy Lincecum's start in the opener Tuesday. I was so wrapped up in the draft the last few days, that I didn't get a chance to write about Lincecum's
Pablo Ready to Return
outing Tuesday, but once again the ace was plagued by the big inning. It seems like Lincecum's gotten into a pattern of pitching very good baseball each start, except for one bad inning which ends up biting him in the rear. He gave up 4 runs in the 2nd inning Tuesday, then locked in for the remaining 4 innings of his start and looked like two completely different pitchers in one ballgame. On a positive note, his last two starts have been indicators that he's on the mend as they've clearly been his two best since April. This weekend, he won't get much of a break going up against the powerhouse Texas Rangers, which will be a nice test, and also a chance to gain some confidence back with a win. The Giants also announced Wednesday that they expect the return of Pablo Sandoval to come after the weekend, as they've tentatively set his return date for Tuesday vs. Houston. Panda started his rehab assignment down in San Jose and went deep in his first game. The Giants think the wrist is physically ready now, but they want Pablo to try and get back into game shape over the weekend as he's apparently added a few extra pounds while recovering.

The Giants also saw the return of their closer Thursday, as Casilla closed out the series clinching victory after Sergio Romo was perfect in his place. Romo's performance Wednesday was especially admirable, as the right-hander tweaked his knee while warming up, added a knee brace, and proceeded to shut down San Diego on two faulty knees. After the game the guy was covered in ice with a pack on his shoulder, elbow and both knees. Hopefully with Casilla returning, it will take some pressure off Romo and give Bochy a few days to rest him. With B-Weez already down for the count, the last thing this team needs is something happening to their most important bullpen arm.
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Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Giants Take MSU's RHP Chris Stratton at 20

Well, the Giants pick just rolled in and they got themselves a good one. I mentioned a few posts back in our draft preview that this guy would make a lot of sense, and I think the Giants were real surprised he lasted until pick 20 with all the arms that were going off the board.

Here's a little piece we did on him in the Draft Preview, along with a link to a video.

"RHP, Chris Stratton, Miss. St.: Stratton could also make a lot of sense for the Giants as most believe he'll last into the 20's and could be the best college arm available when the Giants choose. He's almost like a right-handed version of Andrew Heaney, who I think would be a great choice at 20 if he fell as well and we'll discuss in a moment. Stratton started as a reliever at Mississippi St., but became a starter this year and quickly became the team's ace. He's got a mid-90's fastball and three average to above-average pitches to go with it, which if he refines, would give him four plus-out pitches. The MSU ace had an 11-2 record and 2.21 ERA heading into the NCAA tournament that started a few days ago."

2012: 11-2, 2.21 ERA, 129 K's
Adding to that, Stratton averages about 93 mph with his heater, but can get up to 96. He's also got a nice breaking ball and a solid change-up. The cast hosting the draft at MLB TV thought him to be a good candidate to rise quickly through the system and I'm with them on that. I didn't know how good of strikeout numbers he had until the pick. He K'd 129 compared to just 27 walks over 107 innings of work in '12, coupled with that nice win-loss record and ERA posted above. For an organization that desperately needed a new #1 pitching prospect, the Giants got themselves just that in this fella. He's got a good pitchers size to him at 6'3" and 220 pounds. He's both relieved and started at MSU, but came into his own as their ace and full-time starter this year. Now the key for the Giants will be getting the kid signed and off to work. They don't select again until tomorrow, and there are still a lot of projected first rounders left on the board, so maybe they'll get lucky and have one of them they like slip to them in round 2. Stratton fills a big void this team has in the lower minors, and he should make an instant impact. I have to give the Giants an A- for this pick, based on value and potential. Of course we'll have to wait and see how he turns out, but a lot of scouts had this kid going in the top-10 to 15 picks, so the Giants got themselves a steal. It should also be noted that in his first start this season, he struck out 17 to out-duel top-10 pick Kevin Gausslen.

RHP Martin Agosta
Other Giants Selections: Day 2 of the draft has gotten started, and the Giants have made it quite clear as to the approach their taking in this draft. As I write this, the draft is in round 7, and with their first 6 picks, 5 have turned out to be starters. We talked about Stratton, a great value at 20 just above, but the Giants pulled out another nice grab after a long compensation round, nabbing St. Mary's ace Martin Agosta. The 6'1" 180 pound right-hander doesn't have the ideal size teams were looking for in a top-end pitcher, but he's got the stuff. Much like Stratton, he'll sit around 92-94 with his heater, and he's got three average to above-average pitches to go along with it. His fastball is really his bread and butter though, as he can sink it and cut it a bit and just about everything he throws has some nasty movement. The Giants obviously had the thought in mind that they were going to rebuild the lower ranks of their pitching and they've done a pretty good job so far. The one non-pitcher the Giants have selected so far is right fielder Jonathan "Mac" Williamson out of Wake Forrest. This is a guy who could have a very bright future after hitting 17 jacks in his JR. year for the Deacons and he's also a base-stealer At 6'4" and 230 pounds, he's a five-tool talent and gives the Giants a true power-hitting prospect for their outfield, something they've had trouble finding. Just from the brief glimpses I've seen, he looks a lot like a Jeff Franceour-type.

The rest of their top-7 picks have been pitchers. Left-handed reliever Steven Okert, who served as closer for Oklahoma in 2012, went after Williamson. He's a power armed lefty and another college guy who should be able to move through the system at a nice pace. College arms Ty Blach, Steven Johnson and Eduardo Encinosa have been selected since, and I don't know much about them yet, but we'll have more once we catch up with our college baseball insider, Brian Foley.
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Monday, June 04, 2012

Giants Sweep Chicago to Improve to 31-24

Giants take care of business vs. one of the NL's worst teams, as the pitching staff shut the down when need be and the offense came up with just enough support to yield positive results. Won 14 of 21 and now 31-24?

Zito: 5-2, 2.98 ERA
As has been the case for the starting pitching in general this year, it was again brilliant this last week. Even Tim Lincecum finally shook off some of his struggles in Thursday's game (despite getting another loss) to set the tone for the weekend, and it continued through Vogelsong's start Monday. Perhaps the most impressive start of the weekend though, came from the arm of Barry Zito on Sunday to shore up the series win for the Giants. Zito turned in his best outing of the season, throwing 8 1/3 innings of shutout ball, allowing just 4 hits with 5 strikeouts. Zito improved to 5-2 and dropped his ERA under 3.00. This all came on the heels of nearly an identical performance out of Matt Cain on turn back the clock day Saturday. Cainer came remarkably close to Zito's encore with an 8-inning, 1 run start collecting 7 K's along the way. We talked about Lincecum's bounce back outing and Bumgarner's last start in our previous post, each of which were brilliant in their most recent assignments. Then it came full circle Monday afternoon with Ryan Vogelsong, who pitched in his typical 7-inning, 2-run outing which has become almost routine for him. Eric Byrnes has talked about Vogey extensively on his show at KNBR and he believes the Giants elderly stopper would be the #1 choice for Bochy in a must-win situation. For example, if the Giants reach the postseason as a wild card team and need to beat out an opponent in a one-game playoff. The starting pitching indeed lived up to their expectation this weekend, and the bullpen didn't do too shabby either.

The Giants are still taking it slow with Santiago Casilla as they figure out what his problem is and whether or not he'll need a DL stint, but the fact that he hasn't been placed there yet is a good sign. Plus, in his absence, Sergio Romo is 2-2 in save situations and the Giants appear equipped enough to get by a few more games without their closer. Jeremy Affeldt has also stepped up his game and locked down the 8th inning Monday. I've mentioned before, and still believe, that the Giants will need to reinforce the pen at some point with an arm or two, but one guy they've now publicly been reported as pursuing is Boston Red Sox 1B/3B/DH,
Giants Looking Into Youkilis
Kevin Youkilis. This shouldn't be much of a surprise seeing that the Giants are getting a league's worst production out of their collective group of first basemen, but I hardly think Youkilis is the answer. It's been a few years since he's put up real good numbers, and many argue those are largely a byproduct of playing at Fenway Park. There's more than a realistic chance he comes here and has trouble adapting to NL pitching (Ryan Garko ring a bell?) or go into a rut after being uprooted from Boston. I know his track record is there, but I personally would steer clear of Youkilis, especially since the Giants have little resources to deal and the Sox will likely want a nice package for him. I'm still all for waiting it out another few weeks to a month and see what teams fall out of it and become desperate in July. A good hitting first basemen is really just what this team could use, especially a right-hander, but I'd give Belt a few more weeks, and also try and find out what other options are out there besides Youkilis.

Draft Day: Don't forget, round one of the draft is starting at 4 PM Thursday. We did a brief preview of possible targets and guys linked to the Giants in our post below this one, here, and we'll be back tonight or tomorrow afternoon with the early round results for the Giants, who have pick 20, but no compensation picks in this draft and don't select again until around 80th.
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MLB Draft Day: Possible Targets for the Giants

With the Giants on a red hot streak lately, I almost forgot about today's upcoming MLB's Amateur Draft. I'm not as well versed with this class as I've been the last couple of drafts, mostly because the Giants aren't selecting at the top like they were before 2011, and because baseball's draft is the biggest crap-shot of all drafts in professional sports. So the chance of the Giants actually drafting one of these guys is very slim. I've only seen small amounts of some of the projected first rounders, either through video or in actual game play (for a few of the collegiate players that is), and I came up with a short list of five players who could be available for the Giants at 20.

RHP, Zach Eflin, HS, FLA: Eflin is one of the higher touted prep right handed starters in this draft, and really reminds me a lot of another Zach the Giants drafted then dealt away last summer for Carlos Beltran. Eflin has a quiet, compact motion but the ball explodes out of his hand. He could go higher than 20, but if he falls there, the Giants should jump. He's 6'5" and 200 pounds, and has a frame and motion very similar to Giants' horse Matt Cain. The Giants have done terrific with their first rounders when picking pitchers in recent drafts, and they don't have the depth in the minors like they did 2-3 years ago. They've got to where they are now by drafting pitching early, and they need to continue that formula. Here's a short video of him overpowering his competition last fall.

RHP, Chris Stratton, Miss. St.: Stratton could also make a lot of sense for the Giants as most believe he'll last into the 20's and could be the best college arm available when the Giants choose. He's almost like a right-handed version of Andrew Heaney, who I think would be a great choice at 20 if he fell as well and we'll discuss in a moment. Stratton started as a reliever at Mississippi St., but became a starter this year and quickly became the team's ace. He's got a mid-90's fastball and three average to above-average pitches to go with it, which if he refines, would give him four plus-out pitches. The MSU ace had an 11-2 record and 2.21 ERA heading into the NCAA tournament that started a few days ago.

OF Victor Roache, Georgia Southern: Roache presents an option that the Giants haven't taken in a long, long time. A natural power hitting outfielder who projects out to hit 25+ home runs per year at the next level. His stock is sky rocketing though, and he could go as early as 8-10, or as late as 25-30. The Giants have some good young hitters in their system, but they don't have any outfielders with plus power, and Roache may be their best bet for just that. He's also coming out a Junior, so he's had some experience and should be ready to move through the system. The only reason Roache isn't considered a sure-fire top-10 pick is because he hurt his wrist back in February. He really reminds me of  the White Sox impressive rookie outfielder, Dayan Viceido.  Here's a couple of videos showing him in action.

RHP Ty Hensley, HS, OK: Hensley isn't quite the overpowering arm that some of the other high school players in this draft are, but I've seen some of his work and the kid makes it look easy out there. I like Eflin a lot, but wouldn't at all be opposed to Hensely if the Giants can't get Efrin. Both are prep arms that would likely take 3 years of seasoning before being ready for big league duty, but both guys project out to be #3 starters or better, and again, the Giants have had most their success in recent drafts taking prep arms early. In a draft class rich with prep starters, Hensely and Efrin could represent the two most plausible and talented options for the Giants at pick 20, and if I were betting, I'd say they end up with one of them

LHP Andrew Heaney, Oklahoma St.: There's a lot to like about Heaney. He's big, left-handed and sustains his sharpness deep into starts. He's not an overpowering thrower, but consistently in the 92-93 MPH range, and had a few other pitches he can get hitters out with. His stuff reminds me a bit of Madison Bumgarner's and he's got uncanny command as well. He could go before the Giants pick, but if he lasts, he'll be a tough guy to let slip by for a team in need of pitching prospects that they can fast-track to the big leagues.

Other Names to Keep An Eye On: A few other guys to watch for, though are LHP Brian Johnson, Florida (MLB.com draft guru Jonthan Mayo believes he'll be the guy the Giants call at 20); 3B/OF Stephen Piscotty, Stanford (Very solid all-around hitter, but hasn't found his power stroke yet, and seems like a similar player the Giants drafted last year in Joe Panik) and 1B/3B Richie Shaffer, Clemson (very good all-around talent, with a strong bat and flexability to play multiple positions).

We'll be back a little later today wrapping up the Giants/Cubs series, and we'll likely have the Giants draft selection at that time as well, so be sure to check back later this evening!
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Saturday, June 02, 2012

Bumgarner K's 11, Panda Ready to Rehab

The Giants continued their strong play of late, winning 13 of their last 20 games, with a game one victory over the reeling Chicago Cubs. I said in our last post that this is a series the Giants should be able to sweep this three-game set, and they certainly got off on the right foot.

Casilla Hurt Friday Night
Madison Bumgarner, who was the Giants' pitcher of the month in April, had a hard time finding victories in May, collecting just one. However, he showed up Friday night at Wrigley in complete focus mode, striking out a season-high 11 batters over 8 terrific innings of work. The Giants ace lefty did not walk a single Cubs hitter, and allowed just 2 runs over the 8 innings before yielding to Santiago Casilla and Javier Lopez in the 9th. After winning 5 straight games from April 12th through May 5th, Bumgarner had gone win-less in his last 4 starts before Friday's gem. The win raised his record to 6-4 and dropped his ERA down to 3.04. The biggest surprise to come out of Friday's game for me was that Casilla failed to nail down a save for only the second time this season after hurting himself on Darwin Barney's base hit. I've raved here about the huge success Casilla's had in the closer role, and even with his hiccup Friday night, he still is sitting pretty with 14 out of 15 saves converted and a ridiculously low 1.54 ERA. Hopefully it was just a precautionary relief move as the Giants really need Casilla out there. He's been dominant as a Giant, rocking a 1.95 ERA in 2010, then dropping it to 1.74 last season and this year has it falling even further. His strikeout rate isn't through the roof, but he's efficient, and to have 14 saves on June 1st, when you weren't even the teams closer to begin the year, is pretty impressive stuff. Also, the guy who's taken over Casilla's previous role, Clay Hensley, hasn't missed a beat as he's been nearly as impressive as the Giants closer with a 1.77 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. I still think the Giants pen will need another reinforcement at some point, but they've been the glue to this teams latest win streak.

Now in Saturday's game, Matt Cain will try and continue his hot streak and match Bumgarner in the win column with 6, but it won't be an easy task going up against Matt Garza. Luckily for Cain though, the Giants' bats have been up to the task lately, with just about everyone in that lineup contributing on some front. The team got some very good news as well this weekend, as they expect Pablo Sandoval to go out on a
Panda Back on Field Rehabbing
rehab assignment next week with a target return date as soon as June 10th. I can only hope guys like Melky Cabrera, Buster Posey and Angel Pagan keep hitting like they've been once the Panda does return, because if they do, I don't think this team will have any issues with their offense. They've found a solid leadoff man in Gregor Blanco, and now they look to have at least temporarily solved the 2nd base problem with a healthy Ryan Theriot who's done nothing but rake since he coming off the DL. He's done a nice job in that 2-hole and I'm going to be curious to see what Bochy does with the lineup when Sandoval does return. After Cabrera has gone crazy at the plate and raised his averaged to .370 from the 3-spot, I doubt Boch will want to move him out of there. That was Sandoval's spot before he went down, so things could be in flux a little bit. My guess is they move Panda to cleanup, Posey down to the 5th spot and Angel Pagan up to the 2-hole or into the 6th hole. Either way, the Giants are going to be looking at a much more complete lineup card in the next week or two.

Breaking News: Well, I wasn't even aware at the time I wrote this piece, but apparently Pablo Sandoval has been brought up as a person of interest in a sexual assault case in Santa Cruz County regarding an incident at a hotel Friday morning. Pablo has cooperated with authorities and answered all questions, and according to the Giants Press Release, is still on target to start his rehab assignment this weekend. Still, this is disturbing news to come out and it surrounds the last possible guy you'd think would be caught up in something like this. I've met Panda a few times at team events, and I've never seen him without a smile and treating everyone well. Hopefully this turns out to be a big misunderstanding, but even if that is the case, this news still drags the third baseman's name through the mud... Also, the injury to Santiago Casilla is in his right knee and he's going to have an MRI. The Giants are hoping he'll avoid a DL stint, but with a short pen already, it may be inevitable. Tough news coming out of San Francisco Saturday and just when the team appears to be getting on a role!
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Friday, June 01, 2012

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