Game 3, 2-1 Win, Lincecum, Valdez & the little things

What a strange night. You had a matchup of 2 young starting pitchers with a ton of promise. Tim Lincecum vs Clay Billingsley. You have rain forecast but the thought is that they’d get the game in. Torre decides to not stat Billingsley & Bochy decides to follow that pattern.

The game starts and It’s Merkin Valdez versus Hong-Chih Kuo. Valdez throws two perfect innings striking out 4. Jack Taschner goes 1 scoreless inning. So it looks like a bullpen game which typically means one team will blow it open in an inning versus the one reliever that simply doesn’t have it that night. That never happened. The rain lessened so Bochy goes to Lincecum to start the 4th inning.  He gives up a run and the Dodgers go to Billingsley to start the 5th. The rain is now coming down harder. Watching on TV I’m thinking, “great, Billingsley holds us here, it starts to pour and we’re 0-3″ as 3 more outs and it’s an official game. Once the game is official I believe the umpires are a lot more likely to call it due to rain. With 1 out Randy Winn singles and moves to 3rd on a Molina single bringing up Aaron Rowlan. It’s now pouring and Rowlan hits a fly ball, definitely deep enough to score Winn and tie the game. Turns out that Ethier drops the ball but it made no difference in the game at all. The game would have been tied either way so at least if it rains now, it won’t be an “L”.

The game resumes a little over an hour later. BIllingsley is removed from the game but Lincecum goes back out there. He ends up throwing 4 innings for his first win of the year and at times made some phenomenal pitches. He struck out Russell Martin to end the 5th on a breaking ball. In the 7th, he struck Martin again on a perfectly placed fastball on the outside corner. Martin didn’t like the call but it was a grat pitch and with 2 strikes on you, you better be swinging at that pitch.

In the Giants half of the 6th inning Lincecum laces a single up the middle with 1 out. Eugenio Velez singles to put runners on 1st & 2nd. Rich Aurilia walks to load the bases bringing up Randy Winn. All off season we’ve been hearing about playing the game right. Moving guys over, scoring a runner from 3rd with less than 2 outs type stuff. Winn hits a sacrifice fly to score Lincecum and Giants take a 2-1 lead.

Bochy goes to Tyler Walker to start the 8th and he quickly got the first two outs bringing up Andrew Jones who doubled. The Giants walked Loney intentionally and then called on Brian Wilson to face Matt Kemp who grounded  back to Wilson.

Wilson gets lead off hitter Blake Dewitt to ground to Rich Aurilia in the hole between 1st & 2nd, Aurilia has trouble with the ball and the tying run is on base to start the 9th. Its the Giants & Dodgers, nothing is routine or easy in the games it seems. Juan Pierre is called on to hit and asked to bunt. He bunts it right at Wilson who turns a fires a seed to Brian Bocock at 2B for a force play on the lead runner. Great play, very risky but a great play. As is often the case, you’ve got to get through the hottest hitter on the other team which brings up Rafael Furcal. You had to figure Pierre would be running to get into scoring position. He didn’t go early in the count. Then with 2 strikes on Furcal, Pierre is going. Furcal gets called out looking and Molina throws out Furcal on a play that wasn’t even that close. Molina’s throw short hopped Bocock who made a nice play to dig it out and tag Pierre for out #3 and the ballgame. The inability to get the bunt down kills yet another MLB rally. Who knows what would have happened, had Pierre gotten the bunt down, but after watching enough last at bat Dodger wins over the years I was perfectly OK with how it turned out.

What conclusions can one make at this point in the season? Not many, but one thing appears to be playing out as expected. When Cain & Lincecum are scheduled to pitch, the Giants should have a decent chance to win those games. They are the one part of this team that excites a fan about the present and certainly about the future.

Now it’s an off day today and 3 games against the Brewers over the weekend. No Cain, No Lincecum in that series so we’ll see how it goes. My gut is we’ll need to score more than 3 runs to win each of those games and right now it’s tough to see this team really doing that consistently. Granted the Dodgers have very good pitching but we scored, 0, 2 & 2 runs so far. Averaging 1.33 runs per game isn’t gonna get you a lot of wins in this league or any league for that matter. The good news is so far we’re only giving up 3 runs per game which will keep you in many games at this level. 

 

 

 

Lack of execution kills :-)

Less than 2 outs and a runner on third should mean look for a pitch to at minimum bring the runner in from 3rd with a sac fly. Two games into the season, the Giants have grounded into 3 double plays in crucial situations.

So far the offense has managed 15 hits in 2 games, all singles. Here’s to hoping it turns around soon.

With 2 outs in the 9th in a tie game and the winning run on 2nd base, you’re primary job as an infileder is to do anything to prevent any ground ball from getting to the outfield. Ray Durham did all he could to keep a ball from getting through knocking it down, one little problem was that the whole world knew Furcal was going to keep coming around 3rd AND since he bobbled it when he smothered it, there was no WAY he was going to get the runner at first. If he had come up firing home he had a shot at Furcal.  Relaying a weak off balance throw through Rich Aurilia at 1B was a poor choice and was a tough way to lose a game.

Hopefully Lincecum can bring home a win today in the series finale. It sounds as though Velez and Lewis will start today in place of Roberts & Durham. Hopefully they’ll inject the lineup & team with a fire they’ve been missing for sometime now. 

Give me the young guys

Some people have suggested that the Giants are playing the veterans in an effort to showcase them for a team that might need a seasoned vet for the stretch run. In this fans eyes it’s simply an inability to make a serious commitment to the young guys. Now granted, we’re not talking “can’t miss” level young players but the alternatives are:

A backup OF’er, at best, in Dave Roberts 

A VERY fragile average fielding second basemen in Ray Durham 

A utility IF’er in Rich Aurilia

A third basemen that couldn’t find a home in Pittsburgh AND was just released by the Marlins.

Does anyone REALLY believe that by allowing these guys to be your starters that you’re actually increasing their trade value?  My gut tells me the more opportunities they have to showcase their diminished talents the less likely they are to be traded.

I’ve backed the management group for years and I really do appreciate the fact that they built a stadium with private money since the city of SF and San Jose both shot down proposals to fund a ballpark for them. I really do appreciate the fact that current ownership essentially saved this team from moving to Tamp Bay at the 11th hour. I really do appreciate the fact that we’ve been competitive most years since 1997. I really do appreciate that this team has a major debt to pay each and every year for the ballpark.

There have been some signs in the last few years that it’s much more about the business side of things then it is the winning side of things.

Example #1-  The Michael Tucker signing 1 day BEFORE the deadline for which it costs you a draft pick. To borrow from an often used Allen Iverson rant ” We’re talkin about Michael Tucker, not a bona fide difference maker, we’re talkin about Michael Tucker. This is not an attack on Michael Tucker by any means. The reason given at the time as I recall was that they probably wouldn’t have been able to sign the player they were going to draft anyway.

Example #2- Fresh off the Marvin Benard fiasco, where we signed him long term after less than ONE full good year, we trade for and sign Randy Winn after 2 VERY good months. History would suggest that Randy was nowhere NEAR the player he showed when he first came over in the trade. Don’t get me wrong, Randy Winn is a good player, but 2-3 months does NOT justify tying up big bucks on him for years to come.

Example #3- Ray Durham re-signing. Ray Durham is a shadow of his old self in many ways. While he’s driven in more runs as he’s gotten older, mostly due to being moved into RBI spots in the batting order as opposed to when he used to lead off. Form 03 to 06 (06 being a contract year) Durham averaged 126 games played, averaged .287, averaged 16 HR and averaged 63 RBI. He had a very good 06 year going into free agency and was rewarded for it with a 7 Mil/Yr 2 year deal. This is a tough one because at this point Barry Bond was still with the team and the team was under pressure to surround Barry with some talent to try and win now and frankly Durham may have been the best choice. Obviously when he slid to .218 in 07 it made the signing seem obviously poor. Sometimes we’re ALL geniuses after the facts have come out.

Example #4- Dave Roberts- a career 260-ish hitter who has never played in more than 129 games in a season is given a 3 year deal worth 18 Million.  The duration AND the amount of this contract is absurd and beyond comprehension in my opinion.

Example #5- The inability to draft AND develop ONE offensive force in the last 10 years. This is in MY opinion the single biggest flaw in this organization, lack of player development. I’ve never understood the reasoning behind paying a AVERAGE player 3-8 Mil per year when you could draft a kid, develop them and have their services for the league minimum for year 1, a notch above for year 2, a VERY reasonable increase in years 3-4.  In MY opinion, with a young prospect comes excitement. It excites a fan base. It excites the other guys on the team, it shows the other teams that there’s more where that came from. It makes it MUCH easier to acquire that one player you need for the stretch run.

The handling of the whole Barry Bonds fiasco is for another day. :-)

Here’s to hoping Cain can shut down the Dodgers tonight AND we can score a run so we can get to 1-1.

Game 1 @ LA 5-0 Loss

Game 1 of the 2008 Giants season is in the books and it’s not tough to see how things played out as many of us knew going in that it would be like this.  A couple of mistakes coupled with a feeble offensive showing and we’re 0-1.

Newly acquired Aaron Rowand overthrew the cutoff man twice and both runners came into score. That said,it wouldn’t have mattered in the first inning as Jeff Kent hit a 2 run HR which would have scored the runner from any base, but it DOES set a bad tone from the get go.

Later in the game Ray Durham dropped a ball that hit him in the glove allowing Brad Penny to score which made it 5-0. Although it was ruled a fielder’s choice it was clearly a mistake. In that inning there was a wild pitch, a passed ball and the above mentioned mistake.  A BAD combination for a team having trouble scoring runs.

Overall Zito had only one 1-2-3 inning out of the 5 he was in the game. Also, not a good sign. Nine runners reached either via hit or walk in 5 innings. At almost 2 runners per inning, it’s a bad recipe for success.

What is with the Giants and their third baseman grounding into inning ending double plays?

On the positive side, Brian Bocock reached base twice via walks and both Merkin Valdez and Eric Threets were able to get rid of first game jitters. Valdez allowed the one run, discussed above, in 1 inning of play. Yabu & Threets each worked a scoreless inning.

All in all it could have been much worse. The Dodgers left 15 runners on base while the Giants only managed 5 hits & 3 walks.

Tomorrow it’s Matt Cain going against Derek Lowe. Cain was arguably the Giants best pitcher last year so let’s hope he gets off to a good start and the team plays well behind him. If Cain can get us a win tomorrow then it’s up to Tim Lincecum to give us a shot at a series win.

Keep your chins up Giants fan, we’re in a bad part of the cycle that many teams have to endure. We’ve had many years of competing so maybe it’s now our turn to take it on the chin so to speak as we re-build with an eye towards the future. 

Opening Day

It’s March 31st and the opening day of the baseball season, at least for the majority of teams in MLB. For 50 years now the Giants & Dodgers have been on the west coast. While in many ways it’s been one sided success, in terms of Championships, over the years there are so many fond memories from Giants & Dodgers games that I won’t even try to list them all.

While the Giants are clearly in a transition mode, and almost certain to lose a LOT more than they win, sometimes as a fan you have to look for those positive signs and/or the little things one can take from a game that will last a long time.  We still on occassion talk about a John Montefusco win, a Mike Ivie Grand Slam, or a Joe Morgan HR to beat the Dodgers.

I’m afraid that the 2008 season will be a very long season for the Giants.  While they have the potential to be a very good pitching staff, the offensive side of the game will be well below average and on many days scrathicng out a few runs will be a challenge.  Couple that with the fact that they are not playing good defense, at least so far in spring training, and you have the makings for a very longseason from a fans standpoint.

Many fans have wondered why the Giants simply didn’t trade some of their veterans for some up & coming & younger players. In this fans opinion it’s simply because other teams did not want or need them.  I often ask fans/friends, if you think a certain player isn’t very good then WHY would you think anyone else would want them AND give you back something of ANY value?

The way I see it, we have to weather this storm and brace ourselves for a long year in terms of wins measuring our success. Some of the success will be the growing of some of the young pitchers. Watching Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum grow one year wiser is a step towards the future. Watching players Like Eugenio Velez fly around the basepaths will be something we haven’t had in SF for years.  Can you name the Giants last legitimate speed guy? I’ve often felt that in our home park the team should be built around Pitching, Defense and Speed more than power.

With Barry Bonds no longer in the lineup, the ability to wait for the big guy to pick us up is also gone. It’s time to manufacture runs via the stolen base, hit & run, moving runners via a bunt or hitting behind the runners. We had become SUCH a station to station team that we cost ourselves a lot of runs over the years afraid of running into outs. That was in large part because the team speed was almost non-existant. 

As fans we can all hope for 2008 as a stepping stone to the future but I think we’re probably still a couple of years away from seeing the future. Many of the so-called experts look to 2010 as a more realistic timeframe for the Giants to turn things around and vie for a division crown again.

In the meantime, look for those positives, cheer a great play, boo a half hearted effort and hope. What we have to have as Giants fans is hope, and of course, PATIENCE.

 

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