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Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Giants Notes: Bullpen the unsung heroes

Through the first month-plus of the regular season, every starter in the Giants rotation aside from Tim Hudson would tell you they need to be pitching better. A huge reason why the Giants are 10 games above .500 despite the hot-and-cold starting pitching has been because of their rock solid bullpen.

Look no further back than Monday night's slug-fest with Pittsburgh in which Yusmiero Petit couldn't get the job done filling in for Cain, yet the bullpen came in and combined for 8 2/3 innings of 2 run ball. Juan Gutierrez had a rare hiccup in his 1.2 innings of work, allowing the two runs to score, but the other five relievers went the remaining 7 shutout innings allowing 5 hits, 2 walks and 8 strikeouts. Everybody in that bullpen is doing their job, top to bottom. Petit had a forgetful outing Monday, but was dominant upon being pressed into duty for Cain last week, and should rebound in his next start. The three guys who have really been nails in getting the ball to Romo have been Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla and Jean Machi. Affeldt came off the DL towards the end of April, and all he's done since has thrown 10 scoreless innings in 9 games, allowing just 5 hits and 3 walks with 10 K's. Casilla has been as tough to hit as any reliever in baseball, period. He's thrown just under 20 innings, allowing just 2 runs on 12 hits. He's started to really rack up the strikeouts of late too and has opposing hitters at just .182 against him.

The true unsung hero in that bullpen though has to be Jean Machi. This guy kind of came out of nowhere last season and threw up some pretty solid numbers. That pretty much ensured him a spot in the 2014 bullpen but he still had to do his part in the spring. Now, all of the sudden, he's probably the Giants most dominant reliever, closer or otherwise, and seems to be thriving in key situations, as evident by his 5-0 record. He's pitched in 17 games, throwing 17 innings and allowing just 1 run (0.53 ERA) and 12 hits while carrying a 13:3 strikeout/walk ratio. The 5-0 tells a bigger story though, as he's amongst the league leaders in wins as a middle reliever. For him to be pitching in that many tight situations with the game on the line and come up on the winning end 5 times already speaks volume for how he when the games on the line. He hasn't coughed one up yet. For now, Casilla will continue to be Romo's set-up man in the 8th, but it wouldn't surprise me to see Machi used there more and more too in real tight situations.

Now, getting back into the rotation a bit, I wanted to talk a little about Ryan Vogelsong and Tim Lincecum. Don't look know, but Ryan Vogelsong may in fact have finally found a consistent release point again, and his
last few outings have been vintage 2011-12 Vogey. He had the one rough outing in Colorado last week, but if you take that blow up out of the equation he's had three other starts since April 16th, and has been really strong in all of them. In those three starts vs. the Dodgers, Braves and Indians, Vogey went 19 innings allowing just 11 hits and 2 runs with 14 k's. Unfortunately, lack of run support only allowed him to claim a victory in one of those outings, but if these last few starts are any indication, Vogey just may have re-found his formula for success. His stuff does look better, as he's staying down in the zone and his heater is back in the low-90's consistently. Lincecum, on the other hand is coming off his best start of the 2014 season by far vs.Atlanta and the Giants are hoping this kick starts him after a rough first month. Despite Lineceum's struggles, he still has some decent numbers, including his 2-1 record and 31:9 strikeout/walk ratio. Everything else though, needs to improve, including the 5.12 ERA, 1.6 WHIP, .318 BAA and his 6 big flies allowed in just 30 innings of work. He'll have a great opportunity to go out and build momentum from his last start Wednesday vs. a run-of-the-mill Pittsburgh offense.
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