Michael Morse, Christian Arroyo give Giants most dramatic win of season, and MoreSplashHits was on fire on Twitter

Yasmani Grandal, Michael Morse

The San Francisco Giants got their most dramatic win of the season to date – and it might be the most dramatic win at season’s end.

Two dramatic home runs, rallying from a 3-0 deficit after six innings, a walk-off win, against the Dodgers. That will be hard to beat.

The Giants were 5-57 last year when trailing after seven innings. But they won last night.

This season, before last night, the Giants were 0-12 when trailing after six innings, 0-13 when trailing after seven innings.

But that didn’t keep MoreSplashHits from sharing signs of optimism.

When Dodgers manager Dave Roberts pulled starter Alex Wood after six scoreless innings and brought in former Giant Sergio Romo, MoreSplashHits tweeted.

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As much as we love Sergio and all he has done for the Giants over the year, the memory of last season was still too fresh.

To make the tweet that much sweeter was what Christian Arroyo did when he stepped up in the seventh with a runner on base.

Apart from being an exciting moment for the rookie – and Giants fans – it was also encouraging to see Arroyo with the long ball.

He had never hit more than nine home runs in any of his previous four minor league seasons. Last year, he hit only three for Double-A Richmond.

But he hit three in Sacramento so far this season, which made us worry that part of his hot Triple-A start was partially inflated by the hitter-friendly PCL and might signal that his hot start might not translate to the majors, particularly for a player hitting in the pitcher-friendly AT&T Park.

But then Arroyo went yard Wednesday.

Then in the eighth inning, with the Dodgers leading 3-2, Michael Morse came up as a pinch-hitter in his first at-bat for the Giants since the 2014 World Series and his first at-bat in the majors since being released by the Pirates in April of last year.

MoreSplashHits tweeted this.

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That was referencing one of Morse’s last at-bats at AT&T Park in a Giants uniform, when he came up as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning of Game 5 of the 2014 NL Championship Series with the Giants trailing the Cardinals 3-2.

Morse would hit a game-tying home run off Pat Neshek.

In that case, it was Morse’s first plate appearance in almost a month as he battled an oblique injury, his first at-bat at AT&T Park in about six weeks.

On Wednesday, it was Morse’s first at-bat at AT&T Park in almost two seasons. And yet, he did this.

Yasmani Grandal, Michael Morse

That means in Morse’s last four pinch-hitting appearances as a Giant at AT&T Park, he’s gone …

  • Home run
  • Walk
  • Single
  • Home run

Hmmmm, maybe we should tweet that.

Why did San Francisco Giants call up Christian Arroyo? It’s all about one number

 

No13

Recently, San Francisco Giants Bobby Evans spoke about the possibility of bringing up prospect Christian Arroyo.

“I’m not saying that Arroyo is not ready. I’m not going in that direction,” Evans told reporters. “I’m just saying you want him to push you to make that decision. What he’s done so far is a great beginning to that, but we’re only two weeks in.”

That was just five days ago.

On Monday, the Giants called up Arroyo to the big league and put him in the starting lineup at third base against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He’ll wear No. 22.

Arroyo

So what happened between then and now?

Well, Madison Bumgarner fell off a dirt bike in Denver and the Giants were swept by the Rockies, falling to 6-13, their worst 19-game start since moving to San Francisco.

Oh, and Arroyo kept on hitting in Sacramento, including going 4-for-6 on Sunday.

This decision by the Giants really boils down to one number: 13.

In their past seven games, that’s the total number of runs the Giants have scored.

It is also the total number of hits Arroyo has collected in his past seven games with the RiverCats.

With Brandon Crawford expected to leave the team on a bereavement leave for his sister-in-law’s funeral later this week, the timing made sense to call on Arroyo.

The Giants actually made two moves on Monday, also calling up outfielder Drew Stubbs. Stubbs also was in Monday’s starting lineup, batting eighth and playing center field.

Chris Marrero was designated for assignment, and Aaron Hill was placed on the disabled list with a forearm strain.

Why was Marrero and his .132 average DFA’d instead of Gorkys Hernandez and his .108 average? Well, Gorkys can play defense, and his bat has shown a little bit more life recently (which is not saying much, I know).

It also means Denard Span’s shoulder injury must not be that severe. The Giants will continue with a four-player bench. Monday night it consists of Span, Hernandez, Conor Gillaspie and Nick Hundley. Not a lot of pop there.

So what can expect from Arroyo, the first 21-year-old position player to be called up by the Giants since Hector Sanchez in 2011?

Well, his game is a lot like that of Joe Panik or Matt Duffy.

Although Arroyo has three home runs already for the RiverCats, he only hit three homers all of last season with Double-A Richmond and has never hit more than nine in any of his four professional seasons (that came In 90 games at High-A San Jose in 2014). He’s a put-the-bat-on-the-ball guy, striking out once every 6.7 plate appearances as a pro.

By comparsion, Marco Scutaro, a prolific bat-on-ball guy, struck once every 9.6 PAs in his big-league career. Free-swinging Jarrett Parker fans once every 3.04 PAs in his short big-league career.

Arroyo also doesn’t walk much (one walk in every 17.5 PAs).

He turns 22 on May 30, so much of that minor league resume came at age 18, 19, 20 and 21.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy has him hitting sixth between lefties Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik. And he’s playing third base, where the Giants hope he finds a permanent home with them. Eduardo Nunez moves to left field to make room for Arroyo in the starting lineup. Look for Nunez to cover shortstop when Crawford goes on leave.

Arroyo’s arrival also means they will have four of their own first-round draft picks in the lineup Monday

  • SP Matt Cain (2002)
  • C Buster Posey (2008)
  • 2B Joe Panik (2011)
  • 3B Christian Arroyo (2013)

Not to mention 2012 top pick Chris Stratton is in the bullpen.

So good luck, Christian Arroyo. We hope you’re here to stay.

Black Friday: How do the Giants survive without Madison Bumgarner?

Bum2014You’ve heard of Orange Fridays, right San Francisco Giants fans?

Well, April 21, 2017 was Black Friday for the Giants.

First came news that – actually when I saw the first tweet about this I thought it was a joke, a bad, bad joke – that Madison Bumgarner would be placed on the disabled list with sprained pitching shoulder and bruised ribs sustained in a dirt-bike accident during the Giants off day Thursday in Denver.

Then, on Friday night, when Giants fans needed a glimmer of hope to raise their spirits, the Giants lost in particularly painful fashion to the Colorado Rockies.

It started with the Giants’ team bus backing into a parked car on the way to Coors Field.

First the Giants teased their fans by taking a 3-0 lead in the second inning thanks to contributions from players who hadn’t contributed much of anything over the last week (or three weeks) – Eduardo Nunez, Chris Marrero and Denard Span.

But that all unraveled in the fourth inning when the Rockies became the first National League time in 67 years to hit a grand slam and an inside-the-park home run in the same inning. And just to make matters more painful, in 29 other big-league parks, both home runs likely would have landed in the glove of Hunter Pence.

The first was Trevor Story’s grand slam to right, which off the bat looked like a routine fly ball to right. But it kept carrying to the short porch to right – a lot like Miguel Cabrera’s home run in the 2012 World Series – for a grand slam. It was the first grand slam that Johnny Cueto has allowed in his career.

Later in the inning, Charlie Blackmon hit a line to Pence in right. Pence, fighting the lights the entire way, slipped on the soggy turf and the ball shot past him for a two-run inside-the-parker. To make matters even more fun, Pence said his knee was “a little twisted” on the play. Pence was out of the lineup Saturday.

But the fun didn’t end there. The Giants were in position to tie the game in the eighth with two on and nobody out. Bruce Bochy pulled back Conor Gillaspie as the pinch hitter and sent up Gorkys Hernandez with his .067 batting average (0-for-23 since the 2nd day of the season) to bunt.

Hernandez took two balls, tried to take a third but couldn’t get out of the way and the high-and-tight pitch went off his bat for a foul ball. Then with a 2-1 count, he TOOK a strike instead of bunting, then flied to right. The Giants didn’t score.

And it does not stop there. Melvin Upton Jr., signed to a minor-league deal to add depth to the Giants’ suffering outfield, was hit on the hand with a pitch at extended spring training. He’ll be out eight weeks after having surgery.

Ugh.

It all left Giants fans asking one question: Now what?

And by “now what” they meant what will the Giants do without their best pitcher for two months.

Two months. That’s estimated time Bumgarner will be out, according to a couple of national baseball writers.

But Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle says such estimates are pure projections until Bumgarner is seen by the team doctor. That won’t happen until next week.

In the short term, the Giants called up Chris Stratton from Triple-A Sacramento fill Bumgarner’s spot on the roster. Stratton will be used in relief, likely just long relief as he has been starting for the RiverCats.

Ty Blach will take Bumgarner’s spot in the rotation on Tuesday against Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers.

For anyone looking for a ray of sunshine, the last time Blach and Kershaw went head-to-head on Oct. 1 of last season, Blach held the Dodgers to no runs on three hits over eight innings as the Giants won 3-0.

Blach has been pitching out of the bullpen this season, allowing three runs (all earned) on two hits and three walks over 5.2 innings. However, three runs, two hits and two walks came in one outing in Arizona. Take that out,and Blach has thrown 4.2 scoreless innings, allowing one hit and one walk.

But replacing Bumgarner isn’t about replacing him strikeout for strikeout, earned run for earned run.

It’s about giving the Giants the chance to win.

As I mentioned, tongue in cheek, in a tweet: “Just remember that without Bumgarner, the Giants would be 6-10 right now.”

That’s because that Giants are 0-4 in Bumgarner starts this season — not that any of that was Bumgarner’s fault.

But last season, the Giants were 20-14 in Bumgarner’s start, which is on par for most seasons. They were 19-13 in his starts in 2015 and 2012, 20-13 in 2014 and 11-7 in 2010.

So 20-14 is a .588 winning percentage. Now if Bumgarner misses two months, that would be about 12 starts.

To maintain a .588 winning percentage over those 12 starts, the Giants would need to 7-5 in the starts that Blach (or potentially Tyler Beede) makes during Bumgarner’s turn in the rotation.

That doesn’t seem unattainable.

Baseball is a team sport. And when one players goes down, it’s up to the team to pick up the slack.

If the Giants could stay in the playoff hunt well into September without Buster Posey in 2011, they could certainly stay in the mix until late June without Bumgarner.

But they need contributions from up and down the roster. That includes the five players who were projected to make up the Giants’ bench when the season started – Nick Hundley, Aaron Hill, Conor Gillaspie, Chris Marrero and Gorkys Hernandez.

Right now, only Hundley (.257) is holding up his end of the bargain. The other four have combined to hit .126.

Buster Posey is back, Bruce Bochy is out as Giants return to Kansas City

bustawin

The San Francisco Giants are back in Kansas City, seeking some good karma.

And the last time the Giants were in K.C., there was a lot of good feelings, plus technology and stuff.

The Giants make their first appearance at Kaufman Stadium since beating the Royals in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series with a historic performance from Madison Bumgarner.

But that was 2.5 years ago, and things are not going so well for the Giants now.

They are 5-9, in last place in the NL West, their starting left fielder is out more than two months with a broken collarbone, their best player hasn’t been in the lineup in more than a week, they haven’t won a game this year started by their ace Bumgarner, and now their manager is out after having a procedure performed on his heart.

Bruce Bochy will miss the series in Kansas City after having a minor heart procedure (yeah, we say “minor” because it wasn’t our heart that the procedure was being performed on) to alleviate some discomfort he was experiencing due to an atrial flutter. He will rest at home for a couple of days before rejoining the club Friday in Colorado.

Ron Wotus will assume managerial duties in Kansas City. And if you’re looking for a good sign through all this gloom, Wotus has a good record as Giants skipper. Last season, when Bochy was admitted to a Miami hospital for an undisclosed illness, Wotus took over the reins and led the Giants to an 8-7 win over the Marlins in 14 innings during which Brandon Crawford became the first MLB player in 41 years to get seven hits in a game.

And if you want more good news, Buster Posey is back.

lineup

Posey was activated off the 7-day concussion disabled list and will bat fourth in the lineup vs. the Royals as the designated hitter. Posey said he was unsure if he would catch Bumgarner on Wednesday or not. It’s probably a wait-and-see thing.

The Giants didn’t announce a corresponding move to make room for Buster on the 25-man roster. But we can assume that Tim Federowicz will be designated for assignment. The Giants hope he clears waivers and will return to Sacramento for added depth.

In unsurprising move, Bruce Bochy sticking with Matt Cain after solid outing

Joe Panik

San Francisco Giants pitcher Matt Cain throws against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the second inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Wednesday, April 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Before Wednesday’s game with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Giants manager Bruce Bochy was noncommittal about the prospect of skipping Matt Cain’s spot in the rotation next week when the Giants have off days around a two-game series in Kansas City.
But the Giants beat writers seemed pretty certain that they would.

 

 

But I was less certain.

In fact, I wasn’t even so sure that if Wednesday’s game had been rained out – it was a soggy, windy night – that Bochy would not have skipped Cain and started Madison Bumgarner on his normal rest on Thursday.

But the game was played and afterwards Bochy was unequivocal – Cain will start next Tuesday in Kansas City after giving up one run on five hits and three walks over five-plus innings of work.

“I think you have to (change your thinking), the way he threw the ball,” Bochy said. “His command, he had four pitches going tonight, he had a good curveball along with the changeup and the fastball command. If you look at his last few games, here he gives up a run but he just bowed his neck and went out there and pitched very well. He found a way to get it done.

“I thought that was just a huge outing for him and a good one to build on.”

In his report for the San Jose Mercury News, Andrew Baggarly hit the nail on the head when he wrote “When a manager has a predilection for loyalty, he doesn’t need to see much to be convinced.”

Bochy said of Cain: “Well, I think it’s something he’s earned. You look at what he’s done for us. We’ve got some championships because of this guy. Some guys earn certain things.

“I go back to Barry Zito. He had his ups and downs, but we stayed with him, and he helped us win a World Series (in 2012), with those starts at St. Louis and then against Detroit. I feel the same about Matty. I think we all do. He’s well-liked. He’s a Giant. He’s a big part of our success. He deserves a longer look.”

But it’s more than loyalty. Yes, Bochy has struck with struggling veteran pitchers with a long track record with the club like Cain, Zito and Barry Zito. But in the past, he has also chosen not to skip the No. 5 spot in the rotation regardless of who is pitching in that spot. He just doesn’t like to do it.

But in this particular case, it seems to make good sense, even before Cain’s solid effort on Wednesday.

By staying on turn and pitching Cain next Tuesday – and again a week from Sunday — it means the Giants will send their top four into the series against the Dodgers – Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Matt Moore and Jeff Samardzija. That includes two lefties against the lefty-vulnerable Dodgers.

Looking even farther into the future, if the Giants stay one turn, they would throw Moore, Samardzija and Cain against the Dodgers on May 1-3 in Los Angeles.

Bochy has said that, while he prefers to keep his pitchers on turn, he would consider inserting lefty Ty Blach into the rotation in certain situations. May 3 in Los Angeles could be such a situation.

But that’s a long way off. And for now, with Cain in the rotation, it allows Blach to remain in the pen as the Giants’ lone lefty.

While Cain, the Giants and Bochy were buoyed by Cain’s start on Wednesday, it’s important to remember that in recent years the key to Cain’s success has been his ability to keep the ball in the yard.

On a cold, wet, windy night, the chances of anyone hitting the ball over a wall were not good. And that helped Cain.

Last season, in starts in which he did not allow a home run (excluding an injury-shortened start in Colorado), Cain was 2-1 with a 2.59 ERA. His lone loss came in a game in which he got “Cained” – the Giants lost 3-0.

So pitching at home helped Cain. But dating back to 2015, Cain has allowed 18 home runs in his last 15 road starts, excluding the injury-shortened start.

Cain’s next two starts come on the road – in Kansas City and (gulp!) Colorado.

We told you so: Giants place Buster Posey on 7-day concussion DL

Bruce Bochy, Buster Posey

San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy, left, checks Buster Posey on the ground at home plate after he was hit by Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Taijuan Walker in the first inning of a baseball game Monday, April 10, 2017, in San Francisco. Posey was taken out of the game. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

We hate to say “we told you so” but we told you so.

Tuesday, the San Francisco Giants placed Buster Posey on the 7-day concussion disabled list and called up Tim Federowicz from Triple-A Sacramento.

To make room for Federowicz on the 40-man roster, pitcher Clayton Blackburn was designated for assignment.

We sort of predicted this move on Monday.

Screen Shot 2017-04-11 at 4.19.05 PM

The one surprise in this move is the choice of Clayton Blackburn as the player to be DFAd.

A 16th-round pick out of Edmond (Okla.) Santa Fe High School, Blackburn became one the Giants’ top pitching prospects. Prior to the 2013 season, Baseball Prospectus listed him as the 95th best prospect in baseball.

After posting a 10-4 season with a 3.37 ERA with Triple-A Sacramento in 2015, it was thought that Blackburn could see time with the Giants in 2016. That didn’t really materialized, although Blackburn did spend four days with the big club last May, never seeing any game action.

Blackburn went 7-10 with 4.36 ERA for the RiverCats last season.

It’s not unheard of that players DFAd could clear waivers and return to Sacramento. It happened to Chris Heston two seasons ago. He later returned to throw a no-hitter for the Giants.

In the meantime, it will be Hundley as the Giants’ No. 1 catcher with Federowicz the backup for at least the next week.

Here’s another prediction. The best-case scenario for the Giants is for Posey to spend the next week resting up and be ready to return April 18 in Kansas City. Posey could then DH for two games before returning behind the plate on April 21 in Colorado.

The worst-case scenario? Well, with concussions, it’s hard to say.

Buster Posey “doing good … fine” after beaning; Giants doing fine after winning home opener

San Francisco Giants’ Buster Posey, right, goes falling after getting hit by Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Taijuan Walker in the first inning of a baseball game, Monday, April 10, 2017, in San Francisco. At left is Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Jeff Mathis. Posey was taken out of the game after being hit. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

It was yet another Happy Home Opener for the Giants on Monday. Well mostly happy.

It got a little scary in the first inning when Buster Posey was hit on the top of the head with Taijuan Walker fastball.

The ball hit Posey on the top, back part of the batting helmet. He sat on the ground for a while, adjusting his jaw. Trainer Dave Groeschner talked to Posey for a bit, then escorted the Giants catcher off the field, walking under his own power.

Given the Giants’ experience with concussions – last season Joe Panik had a DL stint after being hit in the head with a pitch from Matt Moore when the lefty was pitching with the Rays – it was not surprising for the Giants to take the cautious approach.

After the Giants’ game – a 4-1 win over over the Diamondbacks – Giants manager said Bruce Bochy said Posey was “doing good, he’s doing fine,” adding that if Posey weren’t a catcher, he might have been OK to stay in the game.

Translation: Given the number of foul tips catchers take off the mask in a normal season, the Giants were taking no chances with a pitch to the noggin.

Bochy said Posey is likely to sit out Tuesday game. And considering that backup Nick Hundley has been catching Matt Cain, Wednesday’s starter, most of the spring, we can expect the Giants to take the very cautious route and give Posey Wednesday off as well.

“It’s a scary moment, dangerous moment,” Bochy said. “It’s one of the worst sounds you can hear in baseball, the ball hitting the helmet. It’s a scary moment. There’s been a lot of damage to hitters hit in the head.”

True, and sometimes that damage is not quickly revealed.

When Panik was plunked in the head by Moore, he bounced right up and headed down to first base, remaining in the game. It wasn’t until eight days later when Panik complained of not being able to track pitches that the Giants placed him on the concussion disabled list. He spent a month on the DL.

So if Posey ends up just missing two-plus games, that would be great. But don’t be surprised if the Giants decide in a day or so  to place Posey on the 7-day concussion DL. That would sideline him through the last six games of his homestand and be ready to return on April 18 for a two-day series at Kansas City.

It would also require someone the Giants clearing a spot on the 40-man roster to clear room for catcher Tim Federowicz, who is currently at Triple-A Sacramento.

We’ll wait and see.

Also we learned that Aaron Hill is next in the line of catchers for the Giants behind Posey and Nick Hundley.

“He just found out today,” Bochy said. “Found out late.”

In the meantime, we’ll celebrate another win in the home opener, making it eight wins of the past nine.

Matt Moore was excellent, limiting the Diamdondbacks on one run on three hits over eight innings. Mark Melancon came on in the ninth to record his second save in two days.

Moore also had the biggest “hit” of the season.

Coming to the plate with the bases loaded and one out, Moore hit a swinging bunt to the right of the mound. Walker fielded the ball and threw wildly to the plate in an effort to get Brandon Crawford trying to score. The wild throw allowed Joe Panik to score. Catcher Jeff Mathis’ errant throw trying to get Panik allowed Jarrett Parker to score all the way from first on a ball that traveled 45 feet.

The play was set up by Parker drawing a walk right before Panik. Parker later added his first hit of the season in the sixth.

The Giants also went 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position. But the Giants got the win, and that’s all the matter.

And we’ll just wait and see about Buster.

Happy Home Opener? It’s been that way six of past seven seasons for Giants

Hunter Pence

San Francisco Giants’ Hunter Pence hits a grand slam home run off Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Pedro Baez in the eighth inning of their baseball game Thursday, April 7, 2016, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

It’s been eight years since the San Francisco Giants have opened the season at home.

That’s by choice by the Giants. They’d rather play games at home later in the season than earlier, so they are willing to give Opening Day to other clubs.

But it’s worked for the Giants. In the seven home openers since the Giants’ last Opening Day at home, they have won six times — twice in walk-off fashion.

What kind of excitement will the home opener in 2017 bring? Who knows, but let’s take a look at the past seven home openers.

April 7, 2016 – GIANTS 12, DODGERS 6

Jake Peavy made the start as the Dodgers took a 4-0 lead in the fifth before the Giants scored three in the fifth and four in the sixth to rally. Joe Panik and Buster Posey were 3 for 5, and Hunter Pence went deep.

Bum2014

April 13, 2015 – ROCKIES 2, GIANTS 0

After seven games on the road in Arizona and San Diego (sound familiar?), the Giants hoisted their 2014 World Series championship banner. Then they were shut out by Eddie Butler and four relievers as the Giants would lose their first five home games of 2015, part of an eight-game losing streak.

April 8, 2014 – GIANTS 7, DIAMONDBACKS 3

The Giants scored twice in the first inning, Brandon Belt hit a two-run home run — batting in the No. 2 hole — and Tim Hudson won his AT&T Park Giants debut.

2012flag

April 5, 2013 – GIANTS 1, CARDINALS 0

The Giants raised their 2012 World Series banner, then shut out the Cardinals as Barry Zito re-created his gem from Game 5 on the National League Championship Series from the previous fall.

April 13, 2012 – GIANTS 5, PIRATES 0

The Giants scored twice in the first inning and Matt Cain did the rest, throwing a one-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts.

Bwilly

April 8, 2011 – GIANTS 5, CARDINALS 4, 12 inn.

The Giants hoisted their 2010 World Series banner, then pulled out the first of two back-to-back walk-off wins as Aaron Rowand, again, singled home Nate Schierholtz in the bottom of the 11th.

April 9, 2010 — GIANTS 5, BRAVES 4, 13 inn.

Trailing 4-2 heading into the bottom of the ninth, Edgar Renteria offered a preview of future heroics with a two-run home run off Braves closer Billy Wagner to tie. In the 13th run, Aaron Rowand singled home Juan Uribe with two outs for the walk-off win.

Seeking outfield help, San Francisco Giants reportedly sign Melvin Upton Jr.

Toronto Blue Jays’ Melvin Upton Jr., center, celebrates his two-run home run with teammate Jared Saltalamacchia as Pittsburgh Pirates’ catcher Elias Diaz looks on during the fourth inning of an exhibition baseball game in Montreal on Saturday, April 1, 2017. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Almost one week into the season, the San Francisco Giants have discovered that maybe Chris Marrero isn’t their best option in left field against left-handed pitching.

Heading into Saturday’s game against the San Diego Padres, Giants left fielders collectively — and that includes Marrero, Jarrett Parker, Gorkys Hernandez and Aaron Hill — are 0 for 20 with 10 strikeouts, one walk and one sacrifice fly.

By comparison, Giants pitchers are 3 for 10 with just four strikeouts.

With other options like Michael Morse and Mac Williamson still battling injuries and maybe a month away from being options, the Giants continued to seek out alternatives.

On Saturday, they found one in Melvin Upton Jr. (aka B.J. Upton).

Upton was released by the Blue Jays out of spring training last week. And when that happened, the Giants didn’t appear interested. Instead, they signed Drew Stubbs, who released by the Twins.

But when Marrero’s early struggles led manager Bruce Bochy to give Aaron Hill his first career start in left field on Friday, it became clear the Giants would need to explore other options.

And that led them to sign Upton.

Upton has had a very up-and-down career. After a solid start with the Rays, his move to the National League was a disaster during his two seasons with the Braves, with whom he hit .184 and .208 in 2013 and 2014.

Things got better when he moved to San Diego, where he hit .259 in 2015 and .256 with 16 home runs and 45 RBI in 92 games with the Padres before being traded in a deadline deal to Toronto. Things didn’t go so well there. He hit just .196 in 57 games for the Jays before being released at the end of spring training this season.

Upton not only gives the Giants a right-handed hitting option to throw into the left field mix, but he’s also made more than 1,112 career starts in center, providing some needed depth there.

According to Twitter reports, Upton signed a minor-league deal with the Giants and will report to Triple-A Sacramento to shake off some of the rust.

Before you think of it, Giants manager Bruce Bochy has long history of not skipping No. 5 starter

San Francisco Giants’ Matt Moore warms up during the first inning of a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks Wednesday, April 5, 2017, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

An interesting dialogue occurred before Wednesday’s game between the media and Giants manager Bruce Bochy.

The topic of discussion was the manipulation of the starting rotation for the Dodgers series on April 24-27.

Most interesting was that Bochy didn’t respond to the media inquiry by saying: “Dudes! I’m worried about today’s game, not one three weeks away.”

But the skipper took a different tact and fielded the questions.

The question revolved around whether Bochy would use two off days that bookend a two-game series in Kansas City on April 18-19 to skip the No. 5 spot in the rotation (currently occupied by Matt Cain) to set up the possibility of the Giants sending their top four starters into that series vs. their NL West rivals.

If the Giants stay on their regular turn, the Giants would send Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Matt Moore into the April 24-27 series at AT&T Park.

Bochy responded that he generally doesn’t like to monkey with the rotation so that his pitchers stay on their normal routines. And that’s true. In his years as Giants skipper, Bochy has rarely used off days to skip spots in his rotation, unless injury forced his hand.

However, Bochy added that he would consider having Ty Blach start in place of Cain in certain situations. One of those situations could be against the Dodgers, who struggle notoriously against lefties. That was evidenced by their shutout loss against the Padres’ Clayton Richard on Tuesday.

But another thing to consider is that Giants have two series against the Dodgers over the next few weeks. San Francisco travels into Chavez Ravine for three games on May 1-3.

If the Giants skipped Cain in Kansas City and started their front four in the April series at AT&T Park, it would mean they would start Moore, Jeff Samardzija and the No. 5 spot in the May series.

However, if they stayed on turn, then it would be Cueto, Moore and Samardzija.

So, either way, the most lefties that Giants could throw at the Dodgers over those seven games is four, and both would involve swapping Blach for Cain.

Bochy did qualify his remarks by adding that the Dodgers series was still a long way off.

And he’s right. We don’t what decision the Giants may arrive at, or be forced to arrive at, by then.

Cain’s first two starts of the season will come Friday in San Diego and next Wednesday at home vs. Arizona.  If those two starts don’t go well for the veteran, the Giants could use the off days around those Kansas City dates to reassess their starting rotation, regardless of potential matchups against the Dodgers.

Wednesday’s takeaways

Hot takes after the Giants’ 8-6 loss to Arizona on Wednesday.

  • Many fans were upset that Brandon Belt’s error in the fifth inning that allowed Arizona two score two runs cost the Giants the game. But remember that on Tuesday it was an Arizona error on a potential inning-ending double play ball off the bat of Cueto that sparked the Giants’ five-run inning. So you win some, you lose some.
  • I was actually surprised that Bochy send Matt Moore out to pitch in the sixth. The error notwithstanding, the Diamondbacks were starting to make solid contact in the fifth when they tied the game. At 85 pitches and having to labor through the fifth in his first start of the year, I would have thought Bochy would have hooked Moore and gone to the pen. Remember, he pulled Bumgarner after 88 pitches on Sunday, although that was after seven innings of work. Moore may have been pulled had the Giants not gone 1-2-3 in the top of the sixth. Moore was slated to bat fourth that inning. As it was, Moore was charged with two more runs in the sixth, although the bullpen didn’t help him with inherited runners.
  • The struggles in left field continued Wednesday as they went 0 for 5 with two more strikeouts, making LFs 0 for 14 with 10 strikeouts on the season. Chris Marrero should get the start against Thursday against lefty Robbie Ray.
  • The Giants signed another veteran outfielder Wednesday. Drew Stubbs was signed to provide organizational depth at center field. The Giants currently carry two true center fielders in Denard Span and Gorkys Hernandez, although Jarrett Parker can play center in a pinch. Justin Ruggiano is at Triple-A Sacramento and can play all three outfield positions. Stubbs, who was recently cut by the Twins, can make $1 million plus bonuses if he gets called up by the Giants. He’ll start at extended spring training before joining Sacramento.

 

 

Calling Barry Bonds! San Francisco Giants left fielders being outperformed by pitchers — at the plate

Giants Diamondbacks Baseball

San Francisco Giants’ Gorkys Hernandez (66) celebrates his run scored against the Arizona Diamondbacks with teammates, including Jarrett Parker, right, during the fifth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, April 4, 2017, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

It’s early. Two games. And as such, it’s easy to read too much into early stats and trends.

But there’s one that could be a worrisome harbinger for the San Francisco Giants.

Coming into the 2017 season, the Giants had one unsettled position in their starting lineup: left field.

And while many Giants fans had hoped the team would improve that position through free agency or trade, the Giants preferred to fill that spot from within — with Jarrett Parker or Mac Williamson or both.

The Giants entered camp with that intention, bringing in some veterans for support.

By the end of spring, all had performed well — Parker, Williamson, Mike Morse and Chris Marrero. Williamson (quad) and Morse (hamstring) had their springs ended early by injury and aren’t expected back until late April at the earliest.

That left the Giants to open the season with a left-field platoon of Parker and Marrero, but early results have not been good — proving once again that success in spring training does not always translate into success in the regular season.

In 10 plate appearances in the first two games of the season, Giants left fielders — which includes Gorkys Hernandez — had struck out eight times.

Eight Ks in 10 PAs.

The left fielders have represented 42 percent of all Giants strikeouts in the first two games of the seaso (8 of 19).

By comparsion, Giants pitchers (Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto) have not had a single strikeout in six plate appearances in two games.

Here’s how they compare:

  • LF 0-9, SF, RBI, 8 Ks, 0 BB
  • SP 3-5, 2 HR, 3 runs, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 0 K

Again, it’s early. A 3-for-5 game can change these numbers quickly for Giants left fielders. But the lopsided nature of all those Ks is disturbing.

The Giants will see a mixed bag of righties and lefties over the next few days.

Arizona

  • RH Taijuan Walker (Parker)
  • LH Robbie Ray (Marrero)

San Diego

  • RH Luis Perdomo (Parker)
  • RH Jhoulys Chacin (Parker)
  • LH Clayton Richard (Marrero)

2017 starts exactly like how 2016 ended for San Francisco Giants — with a 6-5 loss

APTOPIX Giants Diamondbacks Baseball

Arizona Diamondbacks’ Jeff Mathis, right, reaches up to catch a high-hopper hit by San Francisco Giants’ Joe Panik (12) during the fourth inning of an Opening Day baseball game Sunday, April 2, 2017, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The calendar says 2017, but it still feels a lot like 2016.

The San Francisco Giants blew a major league-high 32 saves in 2016.

So far in 2017, they have two blown saves, and they’ve only played one game.

Derek Law gave up the tying run in the bottom of the eighth against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

And then after the Giants seized the lead back in the top of the ninth thanks to a Joe Panik triple, the Giants blew another save in the ninth when new closer Mark Melancon gave up two runs – all with two outs – as the Giants fell to the Diamondbacks 6-5.

Yes, 6-5 – the same score that ended the Giants’ 2016 campaign.

All of this overshadowed a history-making day by Madison Bumgarner when the big lefty became the first pitcher in major league history to hit two home runs on Opening Day.

He became the first Giant to hit multiple home runs on Opening Day since Barry Bonds in 2002.

He became the fifth Giant since 1920 to hit multiple Opening Day home runs, joining Bonds, Matt Williams, Willie Mays and Bob Elliott.

But all of that was long forgotten because the Giants have not yet solved their bullpen issues.

It started in the eighth when Bumgarner was pulled after seven innings and 88 pitches.

Manager Bruce Bochy’s first option out of the pen was Derek Law. That’s not a bad choice looking at Law’s 2016 body work. Law was 4-2 with 2.13 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 55 innings with 0.964 WHIP.

But Law has looked off this spring, posting 5.06 ERA in 10.2 innings.

Yes, we know that spring stats don’t mean anything. But it also must be taken into consideration that just because games go from being exhibitions to counting doesn’t mean that a struggling pitcher can just flip the switch and be good again.

Law walked almost as many batters in 10.2 innings this spring (8) as he did all of last season (9).

Even Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle was surprised that the Giants sent Steven Okert to the minors instead of Law to open the season, just to give Law a little more time to find his touch.

But no. The Giants kept Law. And then to put a cherry on top, Bochy put him into the first game as the eighth-inning set-up guy.

And guess what? I didn’t work out.

Law gave up two crisp singles to AJ Pollock and Chris Owings. Then he gave up a seeing-eye single to Paul Goldschmidt to tie the game. Three batters, three hits, no outs.

Lefty Ty Blach came in to face Jake Lamb and got Lamb to hit into a double play. Hunter Strickland entered and got Yasmani Tomas to hit a comebacker. Inning over.

The Giants went up 5-4 in the ninth and brought on new closer Mark Melancon to close it out. Melancon got two quick outs before giving up a double to Jeff Mathis (aided by some less-than-stellar outfield defense by Gorkys Hernandez, in the game for his defense), a single to Daniel Descalso, a single to Pollock and a game-winning single to Owings.

Ouch.

Of course, all of these bullpen struggles could have been a non-issue if the Giants also have brought out another big piece of their 2016 woes – batting with runners in scoring position.

The Giants were 1 for 10 with RISP on Sunday, and that doesn’t even include the two outs they made that scored runs – sacrifice flies by Panik and Conor Gillaspie.

The Giants had the bases loaded and one out in the ninth off a struggling Fernando Rodney with Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford coming up. But Posey flied to shallow right and Crawford hit a one-foot groundout in front of the plate.

Ugh. Enough with 2016 already.

Let’s move on with 2017. The season continues Tuesday.

Look at Giants’ roster battles, part III: The outfield

San Francisco Giants’ Jarrett Parker hits during a spring training baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Sunday, March 12, 2017, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Opening day is less than two weeks, there appears to be one position battle that appears to be over.

Barring some unforeseen turn of events, Jarrett Parker will be the starting left-fielder for the San Francisco Giants in 2017.

Parker came into spring training expected to battle Mac Williamson for the left-field job. They both put on spirited battle this spring.

The numbers (through Sunday)

Parker – 12 for 38 (.316), 4 HR, 12 RBI, 7 BB, 10 Ks, .435 OBP, .658 SLG

Williamson – 11 for 34 (.324), 2 HR, 7 RBI, 2 BB, 7 Ks, .378 OBP, .559 SLG

Considering that Parker is out of minor league options (and Williamson still has one left) and the fact that Williamson is now hampered by a quad injury, it would only take an injury by Parker in the last couple weeks of spring to keep him out of the Opening Day roster.

Ever since he was drafted in second round out of Virginia in 2010, Parker has been a free-swinging, all-or-nothing power hitter who struck out nearly 30 percent of the time in six minor league season.

But this spring, Parker has displayed greater discipline at the plate, resulting in .435 OBP.

“His discipline has improved so much,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy told the San Jose Mercury News. “Even though he’s shortened up, he’s not sacrificing power. It’s maturing as a hitter, and he’s doing that. Coming into this spring, he knew what was at stake and he’s doing the job.”

The biggest question remaining for Parker is can he be an everyday left-fielding.

He has a.267/.371/.494 slash line in 205 big league plate appearances over the past two seasons. But his splits against righties and lefties remain a concern.

Vs. righties: .294/.411/.532 in 151 PAs.

Vs. lefties: .200/.259/.400 in 54 PAs.

And that makes the decision regarding the backup outfielder positions key.

Assuming Williamson starts the season in Triple-A (because he has the option) or on the DL, Michael Morse appears to be the frontrunner in the home stretch to secure a reserve role. Morse has 2 HRs, 6 RBI and is hitting .276 this spring, and has the edge of the fading Chris Marrero.

The question regarding Morse is whether makes the team depends on what decision the Giants make regarding the bullpen.

In past season, Bochy has opted to leave Arizona with an eight-man bullpen, leaving four position players on the bench.

If the Giants do that, a four-player bench likely means a four-man outfield. And if the Giants go with Hunter Pence, Denard Span, Parker and Morse, it will leave them on shaky ground in center.

Span is not the most durable center fielder, and Parker has only logged 11 innings in the majors in center.

That leads you to believe the Giants would lean with someone with center field experience. And that leaves Gorkys Hernandez and Justin Ruggiano, neither of whom is impressing at the plate this spring. Even so, Hernandez would have the edge here.

But if the Giants go with a five-player bench, they could break camp with Pence, Span, Parker, Morse and Hernandez.

Look at Giants’ roster battles, part II: The bullpen

FILE – In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Mark Melancon throws during spring baseball practice in Scottsdale, Ariz. The closer got a big free-agent contract from the Giants. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File)

In the past years, Giants manager Bruce Bochy has generally chosen to break camp with an eight-man bullpen and a four-man bench.

But this year, the schedule is a bit more favorable. The Giants open on Sunday, April 2, get April 3 off, and then play games over the next 13 days before getting two days off around a two-day trip to Kansas City.

The Giants first 14 games are played in Arizona, San Diego and San Francisco, meaning a call to Sacramento will be quick and convenient if reserves are needed. So the Giants may opt for the more traditional 7-man bullpen.

Working off that premise, let’s start building a bullpen. We’ll begin with the gimmes: Closer Mark Melancon, righties Derek Law and Hunter Strickland and lefty Will Smith – although Smith has been slowed this spring by elbow soreness. Smith expects to pitch in games later this week, which should give him time to be ready by opening day. Still, it’s something to watch.

Assuming Smith will be ready, that leaves three spots left. And as I can’t remember a time when the Giants didn’t have at least two lefties in the pen, we’ll assume one of those three spots goes to a lefty.

And the lefty candidates include Josh Osich, Steven Okert and non-roster invitee Mark Reynolds. Osich made a solid debut in 2015 but struggled last year, leading the Giants to acquire Smith. Okert impressed in his September call-up with his 14 Ks in 14 innings. Reynolds seems like a candidate for Triple-A. The edge here has to go to Okert.

That leaves two spots left to righties. The candidates are George Kontos, Cory Gearrin, Albert Suarez and non-roster invitees David Hernandez and Bryan Morris. None of these players can be sent to Triple-A, at least without their consent. Kontos, Gearrin and Suarez would need to clear waivers.

Conventional thinking is that the last two righty spots will go to Kontos and Gearrin. But that would leave the Giants without a long man in the pen.

And that’s where Ty Blach could be a factor. Assuming Cain claims the No. 5 starter job, the Giants could opt to keep the lefty starter in the pen as a potential long man option, but also a sixth-inning guy or used against a specific righty.

If we had to make a call right now, we’d say the final bullpen spots go to Kontos, Gearrin and Blach, with Okert in the wings if Smith has any continuing elbow issues.

Look at Giants’ roster battles, part 1: The No. 5 starting pitcher

Yaaaaaaaaawwwwwn. What time is is?

March 7? Well, I guess it’s time MoreSplashHits emerged from our winter baseball hibernation and start blogging about the San Francisco Giants.

Let’s start with some key positions battles as the Giants work toward their opening day 25-man roster for their April 2nd opener in Arizona.

And we’ll begin with the No. 5 spot in the starting rotation.

This past offseason, the Giants lost three members of the Three Ring Club – i.e. players who were on all three of the Giants World Series championship teams of 2010, 2012 and 2014 – when Sergio Romo left to sign with the Dodgers, Santiago Casilla left to sign with Oakland and Javier Lopez retired.

That leaves just three remaining – Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain.

The big question now is whether or not Cain will be part of that club when the team opens the season in less than four weeks.

The Giants certainly hope so. Cain is in the final guaranteed year of the five-year contract he signed prior to Opening Day in 2012. The Giants owe him $28.5 million between the $21 million for 2017 and the $7.5 buyout of the $21 million option for 2018 that the Giants are certain to pay Cain.

But the Giants will pay Cain that money whether he’s pitching for them or not. And now the 32-year-old right-hander must prove he can recapture some of his old form.

Cain is the longest-tenured Giant, making his debut in 2005. When the Giants signed him to that five-year contract in 2012, it started out looking like a good deal.

In 2012, Cain had a career year, going 16-5 with 2.79 ERA. He started the All-Star Game, placed sixth in Cy Young voting, threw a perfect game that June and started all three of the Giants’ postseason clinching series.

He was the Opening Day starter in 2013, but got completely lit up in his second start that season. And things didn’t get much better.

After going 14-8, 13-11, 12-11, 16-5 In 2009-2012, he’s gone 8-10, 2-7, 2-4 and 4-8 since. His ERA, which was 2.89, 3.14, 2.88 and 2.79 from 2009-12, has inflated to 4.00, 4.18, 5.79 and 5.64 since.

He’s struggled to stay healthy and the early returns this spring did not been good.

His fastball lacked life and location. And with decreased velocity over recent seasons, Cain has to have command to be successful.

Luckily for Cain, the World Baseball Classic has prolonged spring training this season, which will give him more time to get himself ready.

In Cain’s third spring start on Monday, things appeared to make a turn for the better. Cain became the first Giants pitcher to throw into the fourth inning this spring, giving up two runs on two hits in 3.1 innings pitched.

The first run Cain allowed was aided by a bloop single that Hunter Pence lost in the sun. The second run came in when Cain walked the final batter he faced, and Ty Blach allowed an RBI double two batters later.

Blach followed with 2.2 scoreless innings of work, allowing three hits.

Make no mistake: The Giants want Cain to win the No. 5 spot. Loyalty and sentimentality aside, they feel better off with Cain in the No. 5 hole, Albert Suarez in the long-man role and lefty Ty Blach in Triple-A in reserve.

But Cain must show he can get big-league hitters out. And in the early results, Blach has shown a better ability to do that.

Blach impressed the Giants late last year by sporting a 1.06 ERA in four games – two starts – earning a spot on the postseason roster. The 26-year-old lefty would be the Giants’ No. 1 option if Cain falters, although Suarez, former top prospect Clayton Blackburn or current top prospect Tyler Beede would be options.

But Monday’s outing seemed to show Cain is starting to work things out.

“I feel like we’re moving in the right direction,” Cain said. “Instead of sitting there hoping I can physically make the next start, it’s nice to be able to work on things between starts and be able to fine-tune things.”

It should be noted that the lineup the Indians rolled out Monday we made up for mostly players who are not expected to make the big-league roster.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy noted that the Giants could consider keeping Blach on the big-league roster in a relief role. Blach has been relieving Cain in the previous two starts, but Monday was his first in which Blach came in mid-inning.

“I think a guy like Tyler can give you some different options,” said Bochy, who proceeded to name them: starting, working in long relief, becoming a specialist against opposing left-handed batters, or being the first man out of the bullpen in the sixth or seventh inning.

It’s an interesting revelation as the Giants’ bullpen options are limited in lefties. Right now, they are limited to Will Smith, almost certain to make the big-league club, and Josh Osich, who is less certain. Steven Okert is another lefty bullpen option.

Giants fans, looking for a good sign for Game 4? Here you go

Joe Panik

San Francisco Giants’ Joe Panik, center bottom, is congratulated by teammates after hitting a double to score Brandon Crawford during the thirteenth inning of Game 3 of baseball’s National League Division Series against the Chicago Cubs in San Francisco, Monday, Oct. 10, 2016. The Giants won 6-5. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

If you are looking for a sign for the San Francisco Giants in Tuesday’s Game 4 of the NL Division Series against the Cubs, we’ve got one.

The San Francisco Giants have played eight best-of-5 playoff series, and each one has ended  with one of two results.

Result No. 1 – The Giants are eliminated by losing three consecutive games.

Result No. 2 – The Giants win and advance.

Check is out.

THREE STRAIGHT LOSSES

1971 NL Championship Series

Giants win Game 1.

Pirates win Games 2, 3 and 4.

1997 NL Division Series

Marlins win Games 1, 2 and 3.

2000 NL Division Series

Giants win Game 1.

Mets win Games 2, 3 and 4.

2003 NL Division Series

Giants win Game 1.

Marlins win Games 2, 3 and 4.

GIANTS WIN AND ADVANCE

2002 NL Division Series

Giants beat the Braves in 5 games

2010 NL Division Series

Giants beat the Braves in 4 games

2012 NL Division Series

Giants beat the Reds in 5 games

2014 NL Division Series

Giants beat the Nationals in 4 games

 

Real question: Should have Cubs manager Joe Maddon even pitched to Joe Panik?

Brandon Crawford, David Ross

San Francisco Giants’ Joe Panik (12) hits a double to score Brandon Crawford in front of Chicago Cubs catcher David Ross during the thirteenth inning of Game 3 of baseball’s National League Division Series in San Francisco, Monday, Oct. 10, 2016. The Giants won 6-5 in 13 innings. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Everyone wanted to talk about about Joe Maddon’s decision to bring Aroldis Chapman for a six-out save on Monday night.

It’s a decision that didn’t work out for the skipper as the Giants beat the Cubs 6-5 in 13 innings for the 10th consecutive elimination game win

But I want to talk about another decision Maddon made.

It’s the decision to pitch to Joe Panik in the 13th inning.

Brandon Crawford led off the bottom of the 13th by hammering a hanging curveball by Mike Montgomery into the right field corner for a leadoff double.

Then Panik came to the plate.

First base is open, and Panik’s run doesn’t mean a thing.

Walking Panik puts runners on first and second and no outs. It would set up a force play at third and second.

It would set up a possible double play.

But more importantly, it pushes the Giants deeper into their lineup.

It would have brought up Gregor Blanco, who was 0 for 4 with a sacrifice bunt.

Does Blanco bunt again with runners on first and second?

Normally, yes. But if he does that in this situation, next up is the pitcher’s spot – Ty Blach.

If Blanco’s bunt is successful, do you hit for Blach?

Again, normally, yes. But with Angel Pagan a late scratch, Giants manager Bruce Bochy presumably had no position players left to hit.

So if he hits for Blach, then it has to be one of the pitchers. And with Madison Bumgarner out of the game, that would be Jeff Samardzija. And if the move doesn’t work and the Giants don’t score, then Blach is out and George Kontos is in.

Or you let Blach hit for himself with a drawn-in infield. He did get two hits in his most recent start against the Dodgers.

If Blach doesn’t get the job done, then it falls on Denard Span to get a two-out hit.

And that’s all assuming that Blanco is bunting, and given who is coming up behind him, Blanco may have been swinging away.

But instead of setting all of that up, Maddon chose to have Montgomery pitch to Joe Panik, who was 2 for 3 and two walks coming into that last at-bat.

Panik hit the ball of the Willie Mays Wall for the game-winning hit for just the fifth walk-off postseason win in San Francisco Giants history.

POSTSEASON WALK-OFF WINS BY SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

  • Game 5 of 2002 NL Championship Series, 2-1 over St. Louis Cardinals, Kenny Lofton singles home David Bell.
  • Game 4 of 2010 NL Championship Series, 6-5 over Philadelphia Phillies, Juan Uribe sacrifice fly drives home Aubrey Huff
  • Game 3 of 2014 NL Championship Series, 5-4 over St. Louis Cardinals in 10 innings, Gregor Blanco reaches on error, scoring Brandon Crawford
  • Game 5 of 2014 NL Championship Series, 6-3 over St. Louis Cardinals, Travis Ishikawa three-run home run.
  • Game 3 of 2016 NL Division Series, 6-5 over Chicago Cubs, Joe Panik doubles home Brandon Crawford

Story of Giants’ wild-card win over Mets: CG & CG

cgcg

In his post-game remarks, Mets manager Terry Collins pointed out how the Mets only had three players on the field for Wednesday’s NL wild-card game who played in the World Series last year.

“We overcame a lot of things,” Collins said of the Mets’ injury problems this season. “So to get here took a lot of character. … We’re disappointed, but we’ll go get healthy and we’ll be back.”

The irony of that remark was that the player who beat them on Wednesday started the season at Triple-A and was in the lineup Wednesday because of an injury.

Conor Gillaspie signed a minor-league deal with the Giants in the offseason. He opened the season in Sacramento and got the call-up on April 22.

In July and early August, when the Giants were having players coming off the DL and being acquired by trade, some Giants fans wondered if Gillaspie might be a candidate to be designated for assignment.

But the Giants knew his value.

Gillaspie has not been spectacular, but he’s been solid. And that’s what you want for a bench guy.

He had 6 home runs and 25 RBI in 205 plate appearances, hitting .262 with .307 OBP. Project that out over a full season with 600 PAs, that’s 18 HR and 75 RBI.

Solid.

Gillaspie followed in the paths of Cody Ross, Marco Scutaro and Travis Ishikawa, as unlikely postseason hero when he delivered a three-run home run off Jeurys Familia.

Gillaspie was in the lineup because Eduardo Nunez was left of the roster for the wild-card game with a lingering hamstring injury. It is unclear if Nunez will be on the roster for the next round.

So Conor Gillaspie was one CG for the Giants.

The other belonged to Madison Bumgarner. CG as in complete game.

Bumgarner tossed his third postseason shutout to go with the 2014 wild-card win over the Pirates and Game 5 of the 2014 World Series vs. the Royals.

Combined with his five innings of relief in Game 7 of the World Series, Bumgarner has thrown 23 consecutive shutout innings in the postseason.

On the road in the postseason, Bumgarner has been historic.

His 0.50 ERA is the most in baseball history for a pitcher with 20 or more innings thrown. Next on the list?

Oh, just Bob Gibson (0.97), Mariano Rivera (1.02) and Sandy Freakin Koufax (1.04).

With a 3-0 lead and Sergio Romo in the bullpen, Bumgarner made quick work of the Mets in the ninth, retiring the side in order on 12 pitches.

And if not for one CG, we might have not seen the other CG.

If Gillaspie doesn’t come through in the ninth, it looked like Bruce Bochy was planning on hitting for Bumgarner with two on and two out.

Instead, we got CG and CG.

Like he’s done twice before, Vin Scully makes his final call in San Francisco

vinny

I watched the Giants clinch their fourth postseason berth in seven years on Sunday. But when I did, I was not watching the CSN Bay Area feed with Kruk and Kuip.

I watched the Dodgers feed to see Vin Scully’s final call.

Growing up a Giants fan in Dodger Country, I always appreciated Scully as a broadcaster. He was never a “homer” broadcaster. He remained fair to the game. If a big play was made by the opposition, he called it as a big play.

So I wanted to watch as he made his final sign-off.

Scully has made several goodbyes over his almost 70 years as a broadcaster. And when I thought about it, some of the most significant goodbyes — whether he knew it was a goodbye at the time or not — came in San Francisco with good results for the home team.

In addition to his 67 seasons as a Dodgers broadcaster, Scully has also had long stints calling games for a national TV audience.

From 1975 to 1982, he called golf and NFL games for CBS. The final NFL game he called was on Jan. 10, 1982 in San Francisco.

The 49ers beat the Cowboys and went on to win Super Bowl XVI, their first Super Bowl championship.

But after that game, Scully decided to move to NBC to call baseball games. He would call All-Star Games in 1983, 1985, 1987 and 1989, the World Series in 1984, 1986 and 1988 and the National League Championship Series in 1983, 1985, 1987 and 1989.

The final national TV broadcast of his career came on Oct. 9, 1989 in San Francisco.

The Giants would go on to beat the Cubs 3-2 to advance to the World Series for the first time in my lifetime.

After 1989, Scully returned largely to broadcasting just Dodgers games on TV.

And that long career came to an end on Oct. 2, 2016 in San Francisco, once again.

The Giants clinched the wild-card spot.

So thank you, Vin, for all you gave over the years.

And thanks for being part of some big moments in San Francisco sports history.

 

No big surprise: Just another stellar start by Giants lefty in October

lefties

The San Francisco Giants proved once again that they have a lot “left” in October.

Rookie left-hander Ty Blach kept the Giants in the lead for the final NL wild-card berth with a masterful performance against the Dodgers.

Blach pitched eight innings, giving up no runs on three hits with one walk and six strikeouts as the Giants beat the Dodgers 3-0 to remain one game ahead of St. Louis with one game to play.

While a rookie out dueling Clayton Kershaw would come as a surprise to many, the very fact the Giants had a lefty on the mound in October should have made Giants fans very confident.

Over the last 10 starts in October by a left-handed pitchers, those pitchers are 8-1 with an 0.83 ERA and 65 strikeouts over 76 innings.

While the bulk of those starts have come from Madison Bumgarner, that list now includes Blach and Barry Zito.

Here is how the previous nine starts break down:

Madison Bumgarner, Oct. 26, 2014

Game 5 World Series vs. Royals

9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 8 K, WIN

Madison Bumgarner, Oct. 21, 2014

Game 1 World Series vs. Royals

7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, WIN

Madison Bumgarner, Oct. 16, 2014

Game 5 NLCS vs. Cardinals

8 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, ND

Madison Bumgarner, Oct. 11, 2014

Game 1 NLCS vs. Cardinals

7.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K, WIN

Madison Bumgarner, Oct. 6, 2014

Game 4 NLDS vs. Nationals

7 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, LOSS

Madison Bumgarner, Oct. 1, 2014

NL Wild Card Game vs. Pirates

9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 10 K, WIN

Madison Bumgarner, Oct. 25, 2012

Game 2 World Series vs. Tigers

7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 K, WIN

Barry Zito, Oct. 24, 2012

Game 1 World Series vs. Tigers

5.2 IP, 6 H 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, WIN

Barry Zito, Oct. 19, 2012

Game 5 NLDS vs. Cardinals

7.2 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K, WIN

On Sunday, the starting pitcher for the Giants will be Matt Moore, a left-hander.

And if the Giants win that game, their next game will be Wednesday in New York against the Mets. The starter that day? Bumgarner.

Are trades that brought Eduardo Nunez, Matt Moore and Will Smith good deals for San Francisco Giants?

AP16214718535350.jpg

The San Francisco Giants made some big moves in the past few days, adding the likes of Eduardo Nunez, Will Smith and Matt Moore.

So are they deals good for the Giants?

Well, it depends on who you ask, and it also depends on how you rate trades.

If you look at the deals from the perspective of “Did the Giants make their 2016 roster better for the stretch run?” the consensus is these deals are good for the Giants.

Peter Gammons on MLB Network said the moves were “very good” for the Giants.

“Under the radar, I thought they were really good moves,” Gammons said. “First of all, I think Matt Moore (has been) throwing better and better as the season has gone on, coming off Tommy John surgery.  … Pitching in that ballpark (AT&T Park), which is really important, having Buster Posey behind the plate, who builds relationships with pitchers as well as anybody in the game, and it’s a great park to give up fly balls in. So it should be great for him. After (Madison) Bumgarner and (Johnny) Cueto, their starting pitchers had an ERA of almost 5.00, so getting this extra starter, particularly one who can match up, is important.”

Gammons pointed out that Will Smith has not been great this season against left-handed hitters, but added that he’s “battle-worn.”

“I think what’s really important is he just gives Bruce Bochy another way to go in the sixth to the ninth inning,” Gammons said.

Critics also called the addition of Nunez a perfect fit for the Giants, adding some needed pop and speed.

So the players the Giants added make them better.

But if you look at the deals from the standpoint of what they gave up, then the analysis is not so favorable.

Guys who rate prospects didn’t think the Giants did so well.

Jonathan Mayo of MLB Pipeline said for the Brewers to get Phil Bickford for Will Smith was a good trade for the Brewers. But to get Andrew Susac on top was a bonus.

Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline said the Brewers getting Bickford for Smith “boggles my mind.”

But anytime a team makes a trade, the team not only considers the value of the players they are giving up, but also whether the voids left by those players in the system can be filled.

Now if you looked at a consensus of a variety of prospect rankings, Bickford rated as the No. 2 propsect in the Giants’ system. But right with him, tied at No. 2, is Tyler Beede, and Beede is further along than Bickford, pitching in Double-A as opposed to just making the move to High-A ball. Infielder Lucius Fox was the No. 4 prospect. But their top prospect is also an infielder in Christian Arroyo.

Last week, Giants executive vice president Brian Sabean went to Richmond to look presumably at Arroyo and Beede, and many thought it was to decide if the Giants would deal those players.

Instead, it was to decide how close to ready Arroyo and Beede were, so the team could decide to deal other prospects.

With Joe Panik at second, Brandon Crawford at short and Nunez at third through 2017 – then Arroyo in the system to move in at 3B – the Giants felt they were covered well enough to deal Matt Duffy and Fox to Tampa for Moore.

With Beede in the system, as well as others, the Giants felt they could part with Bickford.

And here’s one thing to keep in mind. None of the trades the Giants made this past week will be able to be rated in the ways that the Carlos Beltran/Zack Wheeler deal was or the Mike Leake/Adam Duvall trade.

In both of those deals, the players the Giants got were two-month rentals and eligible for free agency at the end of the season in which they were acquired.

Nunez is under club control through 2017. Moore and Smith are both under club control through 2019.

So these deals not only were made for the stretch run of 2016, but into the future as well.

And that’s why the price for these players were as high as they were.

San Francisco Giants take a turn to the left on wild trade deadline day

AP497209442070.jpg

I went into Monday thinking that if the Giants didn’t make a deal at the trade deadline, that wouldn’t be the most terrible thing in the world.

But then things took a turn to the left.

The Giants made the biggest splash on trade deadline day perhaps ever, acquiring two left-handed pitchers – starter Matt Moore from the Rays and reliever Will Smith from the Brewers.

And the price for both was steep. Heading to the Rays is third baseman Matt Duffy, infield prospect Lucious Fox and minor-league pitcher Michael Santos.

Going to Milwaukee is pitcher Phil Bickford, the Giants’ top prospect, and Triple-A catcher Andrew Susac.

So let’s break down these deals.

Who the Giants got?

MATT MOORE: Moore is a 27-year-old left-hander who is 39-28 with 3.88 ERA in six big league seasons. He was an All-Star in 2013 when he went 17-4 with 3.29 ERA. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2014 and came back to make 12 starts in 2015, going 3-4 with 5.43 ERA.

This season, he is 7-7 with 4.08 ERA. But in his last six starts since June 29, Moore is 4-2 with a 1.99 ERA.

He has a very friendly contract. He is making $5 million this season and the Giants hold team options of $7 million in 2017, $9 million in 2018 and $10 million in 2019.

WILL SMITH: Smith is also a 27-year-old lefty who has a 3.94 ERA in five big-league seasons. He began his career in 2012 as a starter with the Royals, going 6-9 with 5.32 ERA. After moving the bullpen in 2013, he was traded to the Brewers for the 2014 season. That year, he led the league in appearances with 78. Last year, he went 7-2 with 2.70 ERA.

He had a very Jeremy Affeldt-like start to the 2016 season. During spring training, he was heading to the shower when he stood on one foot to remove his cleat. But the shoe didn’t come off easily – loosen the laces, Will? – and he twisted his knee. That led to arthroscopic surgery, and he didn’t make his 2016 debut until June. He’s been pitching with a knee brace since the surgery.

He is 1-2 with 3.68 ERA and 12 holds this season. But on June 23, he had a 1.93 ERA, then he had an ugly outing, giving up five runs, four earned, without recording an out against the Cubs. With just 22 innings worked this season, that outing caused his ERA to balloon.

But I took a closer looking at that outing, something that sabermetricians often do not do.

In that outing, Smith came into the game with one out and no one on base. He gave up a solid single to right by Miguel Montero. Then Matt Szczur hit a ball sharply to third, which was booted by the third baseman. So instead of an inning-ending double play, there are now runners on first and second. Tommy La Stella followed by hitting a ball – not especially hard – over the first baseman’s head for a double, and one scored. Kris Bryant was walked intentionally, then Anthony Rizzo followed with the double to the right-center field wall, clearing the bases. Again, Rizzo’s ball was not scorched. It went about 270-300 feet, then rolled the rest of the way to the wall, perfectly placed. Smith was pulled, and Rizzo eventually scored the fifth run of the inning.

So if the third baseman turns the double play – as he should have – Smith’s ERA right now would be 1.99.

Over his career, Smith has been able to get lefties out as well as righties, much like Affeldt. But this season, things have been kind of backward. Lefties are hitting .316 against Smith, while righties are .143. However, the OBP split is .333/.288 lefty-righty.

Smith is make $1.475 million this season and is arbitration eligible 2017-2019.

Where do the new guys fit on the roster?

MOORE: He goes into the rotation. Moore last pitched last Wednesday vs. the Dodgers. It would not be a surprise to see Bruce Bochy drop Moore into the rotation right after Johnny Cueto, which would make his Giants debut on Thursday against the Phillies.

Jake Peavy or Matt Cain go to the bullpen as the long reliever/swing man. It’s a role neither has played. Peavy has only made one relief appearance in his career (in 2011). Cain has only made three relief appearances, and two came last season when he was coming back from injury. I would bet it’s Peavy who gets bumped for the rotation. He is a free agent after this season, while Cain is under contract for three more seasons. Maybe Peavy could be moved in a waiver trade.

Look for Albert Suarez to head to Sacramento to make room for Moore on the 25-man roster. No need to clear spot on 40-man as Moore replaces Duffy.

SMITH: He goes into the pen. With Josh Osich on the DL, Smith will fill the role as left-handed set-up man, pitching in the seventh or eighth inning. Matt Reynolds will return to Sacramento. No need to clear spot on 40-man roster, as Smith replaces Susac.

Who did the Giants give up?

MATT DUFFY: Duffy became a more movable piece after the Giants picked up Eduardo Nunez last week. Nunez will be the Giants’ third baseman for the rest of the season. Duffy was runner-up for NL Rookie of the Year in 2014. He was hitting .253 with 4 HR and 21 RBI in 70 games before going on the DL with a strained Achilles in mid-June. Duffy had been hitting well early in his rehab stint in Sacramento. He is not arbitration eligible until after the 2017 season. Nunez is under contract for 2017, then the Giants could possibly turn to Christian Arroyo, their new No. 1 prospect, at 3B.

LUCIUS FOX: A shortstop, Fox signed a $6 million international contract last summer after graduating high school in Florida and moving back to his native Bahamas. At 19, he was hitting .207 with 25 steals in 75 games for low-A Augusta. He was rated as the Giants’ No. 4 prospect by MLB.com before Monday’s trades. But was not rated a top-100 prospect by MLB.com or Baseball America.

MICHAEL SANTOS: The 21-year-old right-hander was rated as the Giants’ No. 24 prospect at the trade. He was 4-2 with 2.91 ERA in 10 starts to low-A Augusta. He missed some time this season after being hit in the head by a line drive.

PHIL BICKFORD: The 21-year-old righthander was the Giants’ No. 1 prospect. He was rated No. 65 prospect overall by MLB.com after not being in the top 100 at the start of the season. The No. 18 overall pick in the 2015 draft, he can 98 mph with his fastball. He was 3-4 with 2.70 ERA with low-A Augusta this season before being promoted to high-A San Jose, where he was 2-2 with 2.73 ERA. He has 105 strikeouts in 93 innings at both levels this season.

ANDREW SUSAC: Drafted in the second round of the 2011 draft after an injury-filled season at Oregon State, Susac made it to the majors in 2014, when he hit .273 with 3 HR and 19 RBI in 35 games. Injuries limited his time in the bigs in 2015, when he hit .218 with 3 HR and 14 RBI in 52 games. Injuries again played a role in Susac falling behind Trevor Brown on the Giants’ depth chart. He was hitting .273 with 8 HR and 36 RBI in 58 games in Triple-A Sacramento. With Buster Posey a fixture at catcher and Trevor Brown playing well as his backup, there was not much room for Susac. Plus Aramis Garcia, currently at high-A San Jose, is now the Giants’ No. 6 prospect.

Hunter Pence returns: San Francisco Giants’ stretch run begins today

Hunter Pence

San Francisco Giants’ Hunter Pence, center, rallies the crowd in a post-game cheer for the postseason, after the Giants defeated the San Diego Padres 9-3 in a baseball game in San Francisco, Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

It’s been a bleak couple of weeks for San Francisco Giants fans.

The Giants are 2-11 since the All-Star break.

In eight of their 13 games since the break, the Giants have failed to score more than two runs.

The depression hit a new low Friday when the Giants had the bases loaded and no outs in the eighth and hit into a triple play.

But help arrives today. Hunter Pence was activated Saturday after almost two months on the disabled list.

So I thought I would share a little perspective with disheartened Giants fans.

Since the last game that Hunter Pence appeared in (on June 2), the Giants have gone 25-22 and are still in first place in the NL West.

If we had told you that back on June 3, would you have taken it?

I would.

Pence is back in the lineup. So is Eduardo Nunez, the infielder acquired in a trade with the Twins on Thursday.

Joe Panik came back on Thursday. The Giants’ lineup is almost whole again. Matt Duffy begins his rehab assignment today.

To make room for Pence on the 25-man roster, Ramiro Pena was designated for assignment.

Giants fans were excited to see what the lineup might look like on Saturday, with Pence and Nunez in it.

Instead, they got another lesson in the value of depth.

Brandon Crawford got a day off to rest a sore hand. Denard Span got the day off with a sore quad.

The lineup will go:

SS Eduardo Nunez
LF Angel Pagan
3B Conor Gillaspie
C Buster Posey
RF Hunter Pence
1B Brandon Belt
2B Joe Panik
CF Gregor Blanco
P Jake Peavy

Gillaspie in the No. 3 hole is a good indication that when Ehire Adrianza comes off the DL on Tuesday, Mac Williamson will head back to Sacramento. Also, Cory Gearrin started his rehab stint.

So wipe the slate clean. The stretch run to the postseason starts today.

Eduardo Nunez could be the 2016 version of Marco Scutaro for the San Francisco Giants

Rougned Odor, Eduardo Nunez

Texas Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor, top, goes up for an overthrow as Minnesota Twins’ Eduardo Nunez (9) slides safely into the bag for a double in the first inning of a baseball game, Thursday, July 7, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

I was on vacation on July 24, 2012, camping with my family in Lassen National Park.

As my family went to bed, I stayed up late to listen to the San Francisco Giants beat the San Diego Padres 3-2 in walk-off fashion.

The next afternoon, I heard the news. The Dodgers had acquired Hanley Ramirez from the Marlins.

I remember thinking “OK, Giants, you’re move.”

That move came two days later. The Giants had acquired Marco Scutaro.

Marco Scutaro?!?

The Giants had been starting the likes of Gregor Blanco, Nate Schierholtz, Aubrey Huff as the third outfielder. And the Giants counter move to the Dodgers picking up Hanley was to get a veteran infielder seemingly for bench depth?!?

At the time, Pablo Sandoval was on the DL with a hamstring strain, so Scutaro figured to fill in at 3B until the Panda returned. After that, he’d split time at 2B with Ryan Theriot.

Instead, Scutaro became the most valuable Giant in the final two months of the season, hitting .362 in 61 games and their starting second baseman during their run to the 2012 world championship.

NLCS Cardinals Giants Baseball

That thought came to me Thursday when I heard the Giants had acquired infielder Eduardo Nunez.

To be honest, I was not familiar with Nunez. I’m an NL guy, so I don’t know many AL players, particularly those on the Twins.

When I heard the Giants had sent Adalberto Mejia to the Twins for Eduardo Nunez, I wondered if Nunez was a relief pitcher.

When I found out he was an infielder, I was surprised. So were many Giants fans, who began to wonder if perhaps Matt Duffy’s injury were worse than the Giants were saying.

But Duffy is slated to start a rehab assign on Saturday. So why then get Nunez?

Giants GM Bobby Evans said: “As we look at the rest of the season, we just want to have the protection of (Nunez’s) experience — given the time these guys (Joe Panik, Duffy, Hunter Pence) have missed and how much time they may need to have off down the stretch.”

So here is what can expect of Nunez for now.

Yes, Duffy begins a rehab assignment on Saturday. But the Giants have taken a conservative approach with Duffy, so we can expect that rehab stint to last at least a week, maybe more.

Nunez will be the Giants’ starting third baseman for the next week or so. And so long, Conor Gillaspie, who seems the most likely candidate to be DFA’d to make room for Nunez.

After Duffy returns, look for Bruce Bochy to get Nunez into the lineup as often as possible, at as many different spots as possible. He could give Duffy a rest at third. He could give Brandon Crawford an occasional break at short. He could start for Panik at second, particularly against lefties. Nunez is hitting .311 vs. lefties this season and five of his 12 home runs have come against lefties even though he’s had a third as many plate appearances against lefties as righties.

Nunez is hitting .296 with 12 home runs, 47 RBI and 27 stolen bases. He was the Twins’ representative at the All-Star Game. His home run total matches the Giants’ team leader (Buster Posey). His stolen base total is more than the top three Giants combined (Angel Pagan, Denard Span and Duffy).

Nunez has played 51 games at shortstop this season, 33 at third base and five at second. In his career, he’s played 29 games in the outfield. He is also under team control through 2017.

The Giants may have picked up their super utility player they have lacked for many years.

To get Nunez, the Giants  gave up Mejia,who was rated by MLB.com as the Giants’ No. 5 overall prospect and No. 3 pitching prospect.  The 23-year-old is 7-3 with 2.81 ERA in 29 starts between Double-A and Triple-A. He was 4-1 with a 4.20 ERA with Sacramento. Mejia was rated the 91st best prospect in baseball according to Baseball America’s midseason rankings.

The Brewers were said to have been interested in Mejia, which may tell us about the price the Brewers were looking for in exchange for relievers Will Smith or Jeremy Jeffress. So then we can assume the Brewers were looking for Mejia AND someone else to give up Smith or Jeffress.

The Nunez trade could be an indicator of the steep price teams are asking right now for pitching, at least right now. The trade deadline is still a couple of days away. If the Giants make a deal for relief help, it likely won’t happen until right up against the deadline.

Nunez is slated to arrive today. Gillaspie will be gone. Hunter Pence is supposed to be activated Saturday. Jarrett Parker will head to Sacramento. Ehire Adrianza will be activated Tuesday. Ramiro Pena will be DFAd.

The Giants will hope at least two of the four DFA candidates (Tejada, Green, Gillaspie, Pena) will clear waivers and accept an assignment to Sacramento. And they still have Kelby Tomlinson at Triple-A.

I’m not entirely sure who leaves the 25-man roster when Duffy gets activated. Provided no one else goes on the DL before then, Mac Williamson could go back to Triple-A for a couple weeks before returning when rosters expand.

Eduardo Nunez’s acquisition surprised many Giants fans. But he may just be the 2016 Marco Scutaro. And with the return of Panik, Pence, Adrianza and Duffy, may help provide the offensive spark the Giants have been so badly missing since the All-Star break.

People say pitching wins championships. Maybe so. But depth also wins championships.

And each of the Giants’ three title runs including key contributions from unexpected sources — Cody Ross, the 2010 NLCS MVP; Scutaro, the 2012 NLCS MVP; Travis Ishikawa, clinching home run in the 2014 NLCS.

We can only hope Nunez is that surprise hero of 2016.

Joe Panik expected to be in San Francisco Giants’ lineup tonight; Hunter Pence this weekend

Hunter Pence

San Francisco Giants’ Hunter Pence hits a grand slam home run off Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Pedro Baez in the eighth inning of their baseball game Thursday, April 7, 2016, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Things have been bleak lately for the San Francisco Giants, but it appears — FINALLY — help is on the way.

Giants general manager Bobby Evans told KNBR radio this morning thatJoe  Panik likely will be in the starting lineup TONIGHT when the Giants open a four-game series against the Washington Nationals.

Panik has been out since June 28 with a concussion after being hit in the helmet with pitch. He started a rehab assignment on July 19, played two games, then sat after he “didn’t feel right.” He got cleared to play again, and has played the past two nights in Sacramento, including a full nine innings on Wednesday when he went 2 for 4.

Evans also said that Hunter Pence likely will be activated some time this weekend. Pence has been on the DL since early June after having hamstring surgery. Pence has hit .450 for Sacramento in six games and has homered in each of the past two games.

The next question is: Who will the Giants jettison from the 25-man roster to make room for Panik, then Pence?

Here’s my best guess:

I think it’s Jarrett Parker. Yes, sending down an outfielder to call up an infielder may seem a bit odd, but Parker has options left. Parker likely gets sent down when Pence gets activated anyway, and this will allow the Giants to hang onto other reserves without options like Grant Green, Ramiro Pena or Conor Gillaspie, even if it’s just for a couple of days.

It would leave the Giants with just four outfielders for the next couple of days, until Pence gets the call. But the Giants have done that before, plus Brandon Belt and Green are outfield options in a pinch.

However, when Pence gets activated, next on the chopping block is Green.

Green made some nice contributions when he got called up from Sacramento. But since the All-Star break, he’s 3-for-16 (.188) and made just three starts.

Green would need to clear waivers and accept the assignment to be sent to Triple-A, just as Ruben Tejada was eight days ago. Pena and Gillaspie are in the same boat. Tejada should clear waivers in a couple of days, and could be headed back to Sacramento if he does. So it’s possible they could have Tejada back in the system on the same day they DFA Green.

Oh, and the Giants also have Ehire Adrianza and Matt Duffy on the mend.

Adrianza is about 13 days into his 20-day max minor league rehab stint, meaning the Giants will have to make a decision quickly with him. He’s hitting .368 with three homers on his rehab stint.

If figures Pena goes when Adrianza is ready. Gillaspie is on the block when Duffy is ready. Duffy is slated to start his rehab assignment this weekend.

I just don’t see the Giants sending down Mac Williamson, who has options left. But Bruce Bochy likes his right-handed power bat off the bench, as well he should.

And no one in the bullpen goes anywhere unless the Giants make a trade for more pitching help.

Six positive points to be drawn out of dark road trip of San Francisco Giants

San Francisco Giants' Mac Williamson connects for an RBI-base hit against the New York Yankees during the twelfth inning of a baseball game, Saturday, July 23, 2016, in New York. Giants' Trevor Brown scored on the play. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

San Francisco Giants’ Mac Williamson connects for an RBI-base hit against the New York Yankees during the twelfth inning of a baseball game, Saturday, July 23, 2016, in New York. Giants’ Trevor Brown scored on the play. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Ugh. That was a miserable roadtrip.

The Giants went 1-7 on their return to play from the All-Star break.

There was plenty of blame to go around, even though Brandon Belt was falling on the sword for his teammates.

Belt went 2 for 33 with 17 strikeouts – 17 STRIKEOUTS – during the road trip. After Sunday’s game, Belt said: “I can attribute a lot of these losses we had … to me. I’ve had plenty of chances to drive in runs and didn’t get the job done.”

While that’s true, we can look elsewhere. Brandon Crawford, the team’s RBI leader, didn’t drive in a run on the road trip. As a team, the Giants hit .125 in 72 at-bats with runners in scoring position.

And, of course, the Giants were hoping to get players back from the DL on the road trip. And the only player they actually got back was Matt Cain, and that didn’t go well.

But rather than curse the darkness, I’d rather cast some light in a dark time.

So here are six bright spots we can draw from a dark road trip.

THE GIANTS ARE STILL THREE GAMES UP: Despite a 1-7 road trip, the Giants still lead the Dodgers by three games. And it’s better to be up three than down three. But it’s been almost three weeks since the Giants padded their lead with a win – that came on July 6 when a win over the Rockies pushed their lead from 5 to 6 games. That needs to happen again.

CLAYTON KERSHAW: Kershaw has been out a month with a bad back. He looked like he was ready to return last week. But after his final rehab session, he complained off back pain again. Now he is out indefinitely and surgery may be necessary. At the very least, he’ll be out a little bit longer, and that’s good news for the Giants.

MAC WILLIAMSON: The rookie outfielder may be the only Giants hitter who saw his batting average go up during the road trip. At the All-Star break, Williamson was hitting .209. Williamson reached base in all eight games of the road trip. Williamson was 8 for 18 (.444) with three home runs and seven RBI. His OBP was .500. He’s now hitting .259 for the season. It’s pretty clear when Hunter Pence comes back, Williamson will remain as the coveted right-handed power bench Bruce Bochy so desires on his bench.

HOME FINALY HOME: The Giants are home, where they are 29-17 this season. They start a seven-game homestand with three vs. the Reds and then four vs. Nationals. The Giants have a current four-game win streak at home and have won five of their last six at home and 12 of their last 16.

THE BULLPEN: While the Giants went into the break with the bullpen being the prime area needing improvement. And while Aroldis Chapman ended up going to the Cubs, it’s worth noting the bullpen was actually pretty good on the trip. As a whole, the Giants bullpen was 1-2 with nine walks, 19 strikeouts and a 3.46 ERA over 26 innings on the roadtrip. But remove Albert Suarez’s outing in Boston, and the pen’s ERA drops to 1.96. Remove Santiago Casilla’s balk-off outing in San Diego, and it drops to 1.17. Here is how each reliever breaks down since the break.

breakit

HELP IS ON THE WAY: We’ve been saying this for a while, but help is on the way in the form of rehabbing players. It was hoped Joe Panik would be back last Friday. But then he didn’t feel well after playing Tuesday and Wednesday. Panik got cleared again on concussion protocol and is expected resume his rehab stint later this week. Hunter Pence is 5 for 11 with one home runs and two RBI in four rehab games with the Sacramento RiverCats. He’ll get a day off Monday and resume his rehab stint Tuesday. He could get called up this weekend, or when the Giants head out on the road next week. Ehire Adrianza is hitting .378 (14 for 37) with six home runs and 12 RBI in his rehab stint. Matt Duffy could start a rehab stint later this week. Reliever Cory Gearrin threw a bullpen session in Arizona last week, but has yet to start his rehab stint.

San Francisco Giants’ second-half schedule gets tougher, but help is on the way

Hunter Pence

San Francisco Giants’ Hunter Pence hits a grand slam home run off Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Pedro Baez in the eighth inning of their baseball game Thursday, April 7, 2016, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

The San Francisco Giants come out of the All-Star Break with the best record in all of baseball at 57-33.

That’s the good news.

And the Giants have done that without Hunter Pence since June 2, without Kelby Tomlinson since June 10, without Matt Duffy since June 21, without Joe Panik since June 29, largely without Matt Cain since May 28 and they just recently got Sergio Romo back after being out since mid-April.

That’s also the good news.

But on the flip side, the Giants have built their fine record on the backs of weak teams.

They have not played a team with a winning record since June 12 — a stretch of 26 games. They have gone 19-7 in those games.

That stretch will continue after the All-Star Break with three games against the Padres — a team the Giants have gone 9-0 against this season.

Then things get a bit tougher.

After the series in San Diego, the Giants will finish the season with 39 games against teams currently above .500, three games against a team currently at .500 (Yankees) and 27 games against sub-.500 teams (the bulk of those coming within the division).

The most challenging stretch of games in the second have is a 19-game stretch beginning Aug. 5 all against teams with winning records. It starts with three in Washington, three in Miami, continues with a 10-game homestand against the Orioles, Pirates and Mets and concludes with a three-game set at Chavez Ravine.

The good news is that the Giants are getting healthy again.

JOE PANIK: Out with concussion symptoms, Panik resumed baseball activities and is expected to begin a rehab assignment this weekend. He could rejoin the Giants next week during their trip to Boston and New York.

KELBY TOMLINSON: The infielder is actually back. But the Giants sent him to Triple-A to find his stroke after being out a month with a thumb injury. Also he had options and the Giants didn’t want to expose their current infielders to waivers. Maintaining depth is important.

HUNTER PENCE: The outfielder is progressing well, and manager Bruce Bochy says he could be back when the Giants play their first post-All-Star Break home game on July 25.

MATT CAIN: Cain made a solid rehab start with Triple-A Sacramento last Friday. And he could make another before rejoining the Giants next week.

CORY GEARRIN: The righty went on the DL July 6 with shoulder fatigue. He should be ready to return when his 15 days are up, which could mean rejoining the Giants during the Yankees series.

MATT DUFFY: Duffy’s timetable is a little less certain. The third baseman experienced soreness in his Achilles, which Bochy termed a “mild setback.” He could resume running on Monday, which may give a better indication of when he might return. It would be surprising if he’s back before August.

The average final record of Giants when one of their pitchers starts All-Star Game: 94-68

Johnny Cueto

San Fransisco Giants’ Johnny Cueto pitches to a Milwaukee Brewers batter during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, April 5, 2016, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Tom Lynn)

Johnny Cueto has picked to star the All-Star Game on Tuesday, and that’s a good harbinger for the San Francisco Giants.

Cueto became the eighth different Giants pitcher to be selected to start the All-Star Game. Juan Marichal started two All-Star Games.

In the previous eight seasons when a Giants pitcher started on the mound in the midsummer classic, the Giants have finished the season with an average record of 94-68.

In three of the last four times a Giants pitcher started the All-Star Game, the Giants went on to win the NL West (1989, 2003, 2012).

The results from Giants starters in All-Star games have ranged from really, really good (from Carl Hubbell’s fanning of five Hall-of-Famers in 1934 to Marichal’s MVP performance in 1965) to not so hot (see Rick Reuschel 1989).

But overall, the results have been good. Giants pitchers starting the All-Star Game have given up six earned runs in 19 inning for a 2.84 ERA.

Here are the individual outings.

hubbell

1934 – Carl Hubbell

At Polo Grounds, New York

3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K

Hubbell struck out Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin in succession. The AL All-Stars rallied to win 9-7. The Giants were in first place in the National League by two games. The Giants finished 93-60, two games behind the Cardinals for the pennant.

juan

1965 – Juan Marichal

At Metropolitan Stadium, Minneapolis

3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB 0 K

Marichal left the game with 5-0 lead, helped in part to a leadoff home run from Willie Mays. Jim Maloney of the Reds gave the lead back, but the NL ended up winning 6-5. Marichal was selected the MVP. The Giants were 3.5 off the NL lead at the break. They finished 95-67 in second place.

1967 – Juan Marichal

At Anaheim Stadium, Anaheim

3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 BB

The game ended up going 15 innings before Tony Perez’s home run lift the NL to a 2-1 win. The Giants five games out of first place at the break. They would finish in second place at 91-71.

vida

1978 – Vida Blue

San Diego Stadium, San Diego

3 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 K

Blue spotted the AL a 3-0 lead, but the NL tied it in the bottom of the third. A four-run bottom of the eighth gave the NL a 7-3 win. The Giants held a two-game lead in the NL West at the break. They would finish in third place at 89-73.

RickRush
1989 – Rick Reuschel

At Anaheim Stadium, Anaheim

1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 0 K

After being spotted a 2-0 lead, Reuschel gave up back-to-back home runs to Bo Jackson and Wade Boggs to open the game. Jackson’s home run landed in San Dimas. The AL won the game 5-3. The Giants were leading the NL West by two games at the break. They would finish 92-70, win the NL West and eventually the NL pennant.

Jingleheimer

2003 – Jason Schmidt

At U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago

2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K

The NL looked to be on its way to victory until the Dodgers’ Eric Gagne gave up three runs in the bottom of the eighth. The AL won 7-6. Friggin Dodger. The Giants held a five-game lead at the break. They would finish 100-61 and win the NL West.

TimmyJim

2009 – Tim Lincecum

At Busch Stadium, St. Louis

2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K

Lincecum opened the game by giving up a single to Ichiro and hitting Derek Jeter. Two runs would score on an error and a groundout. The NL would tie the game, but the AL sealed the 4-3 win with one run in the eighth. The Giants were seven games out of first at the break. They would finish 88-74 and in third place in the NL West.

cainer

2012 – Matt Cain

Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City

2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 B, 1 K

The NL All-Stars spotted Cain a 5-0 lead, thanks in large part to a three-run triple by Pablo Sandoval. Melky Cabrera would win MVP honors in an 8-0 NL win. The Giants were a half-game out of first at the break. They would finish 94-68 to win the NL West and eventually the World Series.

On a crazy day, San Francisco Giants’ bullpen strangely restores order

Saturday’s 4-2 victory for the San Francisco Giants over the Arizona Diamondbacks was filled with oddities.

It started in the first inning when Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt hit a foul ball in the stands and a woman tried to catch it with her lunch tray.

As you can assume, it didn’t end well (see above video).

Then in the top of the fourth, Jake Peavy got Jake Lamb to check swing on a pitch. On the appeal, third-base umpire Quinn Wolcott ruled no swing. Peavy was barking at Wolcott when Buster Posey returned the throw to Peavy.

Peavy was not even looking at the throw, which hit the pitcher on the shoulder and dropped right into his glove (see above video).

Posey’s reaction to the play: “It doesn’t look real. It just doesn’t look real.”

He added: “I laughed. It was hard not to.”

Peavy said of Buster: “I’m still waiting for him to do something wrong. It’s been two years now.”

In the bottom of the fourth, Brandon Crawford led off the inning with a pop-up to Lamb, who lost the ball in the sun and it hit him in HIS shoulder and landed for a single (see above video).

Two outs later, Grant Green hit his first home run as a Giant, and the Giants took a 3-2 lead.

In the fifth, Javier Lopez left the dugout to head to the dugout. But he tripped on the top step and fell to the track. Lying on his back for a moment, he got up and acknowledged the crowd of 41,000 (see above video).

When asked if known-clutz Jeremy Affeldt contact Lopez, Lopez said: “Of course I did. He sent me the video. I told him at least I didn’t get hurt.”

Touche, Javy.

Also, in the third inning, Angel Pagan got hit in the head by the throw when he tried to steal second. He was OK.

Manager Bruce Bochy said of Pagan: “He said he’s done some boxing in his days, so he can take a shot.”

DIAMONDBACKS GIANTS BASEBALL

San Francisco Giants’ Angel Pagan is struck by the relay throw intended for Arizona Diamondbacks’ Nick Ahmed as Pagan steals second base during the third inning of baseball game on Saturday, July 9, 2016, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)

Arizona right fielder Brandon Drury did a faceplant into the bullpen mound in the sixth (see above video).

But then the strangest thing of all happened.

The Giants bullpen saved the day.

Javier Lopez, George Kontos, Albert Suarez, Josh Osich, Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla combined on 4 2/3 innings of shutout relief, allowing only one hit to seal the victory.

So go figure.

Regardless of outcome, supporting Brandon Belt’s #VoteBelt campaign on Twitter was fun

Brandon Belt, Joe Panik

San Francisco Giants’ Brandon Belt, right, celebrates with Joe Panik (12) after hitting a two run home run off Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias in the sixth inning of a baseball game, Sunday, June 12, 2016, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

First, Brandon Belt took the lead in the Final Vote for the All-Star Game. Then Starling Marte took the lead. Then Belt took it back. Then Marte took it back.

Finally, at the last update, Belt was in the lead most of the day Friday. And we can thank an aggressive effort on Twitter by San Francisco Giants fan.

The final results have yet to be announced. But regardless of the final outcome, it sure was fun supporting Brandon Belt’s #VoteBelt campaign on Twitter.

Here are some of my favorite tweets of my effort to support the campaign.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brandon Crawford won’t be added to All-Star roster to replace Matt Carpenter

craw

San Francisco Giants fans have been up in arms since Tuesday when shortstop Brandon Crawford was not added to the All-Star team.

Fans voted the underwhelming Addison Russell of the Cubs to be the starter at shortstop for the National League in next Tuesday’s All-Star Game in San Diego.

The players then voted the Dodgers’ Corey Seager in as a reserve at shortstop.

Now you could argue that Crawford was more deserving of that honor than Seager — and Giants fans have done that.

According to ESPN, Seager has the eighth-best WAR in the National League at 3.43; Crawford is 12th at 3.24. Seager holds a big edge offensively (3.49-1.38), while Crawford holds the edge with the glove (2.27-0.37).

According to Baseball Reference, Seager is 10th in the NL in WAR (3.4), with Crawford just behind (3.2). Seager is second in offensive WAR (3.5), while Crawford leads the NL in defensive WAR (2.3) and it’s not even close (next is 1.6).

And FanGraphs says Seager is No. 2 in the NL in WAR at 3.9, and Crawford is eighth (3.3), with similar offensive/defensive splits.

The problem I have with WAR as a stat is two-fold: 1) I have no freakin’ idea how it is computed; and 2) people can’t seem to agree on how it is computed because different sites come up with different computations on it.

Anyway, I believe both Seager and Crawford are deserving of All-Star selections. If Seager were the starter and Crawford the backup, I’m cool with that. If Crawford started and Seager backed up, that’s cool, too.

But the fans piggie-backed Russell to be a starter along with four other Cubs, so it is what it is.

Some Giants fans felt Crawford should have been on the ballot for the Final Five. But MLB didn’t want two teams on that ballot, so the honor went to Brandon Belt.

Then fans were hoping Crawford could make the team as a replacement. So when Matt Carpenter of the St. Louis Cardinals left Wednesday’s game with an oblique strain, there was hope.

Then Carpenter was placed on the DL Thursday morning. More hope.

And …. and…. and……

MLB announced the Cardinals shortsotp Adelmys Diaz would replace Carpenter on the All-Star roster.

Now, Diaz is having a solid rookie season for St. Louis. But this isn’t about comparing Diaz’s credentials with those of Crawford.

This had more to do with Carpenter was the lone Cardinal representative on the All-Star team. So the Cardinals lobbied hard that another Cardinal replace him on the All-Star roster.

And MLB acquiesed to the Cardinals’ request.

So now it looks more and more likely that Crawford will spend the All-Star break resting at home.

And given the fact he will likely enter the break having played 700 innings at shortstop this season, maybe a break isn’t the worst thing in the world.

The Giants’ Buster Posey hit a home run Wednesday, and there was something familiar about it

AP16189144223430

Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants hit a big home run to left Wednesday in the Giants’ 5-1 win over the Colorado Rockies.

Here is what it looked like (click on link to watch video)

BustaHR

When you watch the video, take a look at Rockies catcher Tony Wolters.

His reaction to Posey’s deep drive to left reminded me of something very familiar.

But what was it?

Let me think…..

Oh yes. Here it is!

Our prediction on what the National League all-star team will look like

Buster Posey

San Francisco Giants’ Buster Posey takes his catching gear off in the dugout prior a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks Saturday, July 2, 2016, in Phoenix. The Diamondbacks defeated the Giants 6-5. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The 2016 National League all-star team will be unveiled tonight at 4 p.m. Pacific on ESPN.

So let’s have fun trying to piece together what the team will look like.

First, let’s talk about how the team is constructed.

FAN VOTE: The fans get to vote on the starting eight position players.

PLAYERS VOTE: The players vote on the eight position subs, five starting pitchers and three relievers. If the players’ top choice on a position player is also voted in by the fans, then the players’ No. 2 choice gets the spot.

MANAGER PICKS: Mets manager Terry Collins gets to add nine players to the roster — five pitchers and four position players. But Collins must ensure that every team is represented.

FINAL VOTE: Collins and the league offer up five players to be placed on a ballot from which the fans will vote in the 34th player on the roster.

REPLACEMENT: If a player is unable to participate, Collins gets the choice for replacements.

So everything here is dependent on what the fans do. In the latest vote update before balloting closing showed must spots pretty much secured. Buster Posey held the narrowest lead (over the Cardinals’ Yadier Molina) in the final vote announcement (about 100K votes) at catcher. The Cubs’ Ben Zobrist (2B) and Kris Bryant (3B) could also be overtaken (Nationals’ Daniel Murphy and Rockies’ Nolan Arenado).

But these selections are based on the notion that the final leaders in fan voting end up winning the vote.
FAN VOTE

1B Anthony Rizzo, Chi
2B Ben Zobrist, Chi
3B Kris Bryant, Chi
SS Addison Russell, Chi
C Buster Posey, SF
OF Dexter Fowler, Chi
OF Bryce Harper, Was
OF Yoenis Cepedes, NYM

PLAYERS CHOICES

1B Paul Goldschmidt, Arz
2B Daniel Murphy, Was
3B Nolan Arenado, Col
SS Brandon Crawford, SF
C Wilson Ramos, Was
OF Carlos Gonzalez, Col
OF Ryan Braun, Mil
OF Gregory Polanco, Pit

SP Clayton Kershaw, LAD
SP Madison Bumgarner, SF
SP Jake Arrieta, Chi
SP Nolan Syndergaard, NYM
SP Johnny Cueto, SF
RP Jesus Familia, NYM
RP Kenley Jansen, LAD
RP Mark Melancon, Pit

Provided the vote leaders don’t change, here are our projections for the players choices. Kerhawn (injured) and Bumgarner (pitching Sunday) are candidates to be replaced.

MANAGERS PICKS

Jose Fernandez, Mia
Stephen Strasburg, Was
Jon Lester, Chi
Jeanmar Gomez, Phi
Jacob DeGrom, NYM
Matt Carpenter, StL
Will Myers, SD
Freddie Freeman, Atl
Jay Bruce, Cin
Fernandez, Gomez, Carpenter, Myers, Freeman, Bruce would fulfill requirements for every team to be represented. DeGrom gets a spot because Mets manager Terry Collins is make the pick.

FINAL FIVE

C JT Realmuto, Mia
2B DJ MeMahieu, Col
OF Starlin Marte, Pit
OF Christian Yelich, Mi
3B Jake Lamb, Arz

San Francisco Giants activate Sergio Romo, which means Madison Bumgarner won’t start in the All-Star game

World Series Tigers Giants Baseball

San Francisco Giants’ Sergio Romo reacts after striking out Detroit Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera in the 10th inning of Game 4 of baseball’s World Series Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012, in Detroit. The Giants won the game 4-3 to win the World Series. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

The San Francisco Giants activated reliever Sergio Romo for the 60-day disabled list prior to Monday’s game against the Colorado Rockies.

Romo had been sidelined since mid-April with a flexor strain in his elbow.

To create room on the 25-man active roster, pitcher Albert Suarez was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento. To create room on the 40-man roster, reliever Mike Broadway was designated for assignment.

The decision to option Suarez confirms a report earlier that the Giants would use Thursday’s off day to skip Suarez’s spot in the rotation.

That means the Giants will go into the All-Star break by starting Jake Peavy (today), Madison Bumgarner (Tuesday), Johnny Cueto (Wednesday), Jeff Samardzija (Friday), Peavy (Saturday) and Bumgarner (Sunday).

That means Bumgarner won’t pitch in the All-Star game in San Diego, let alone start in it.

Broadway was the most likely candidate to be DFA’d. He was the oldest pitcher (29) on the 40-man roster who was pitching in the minors. Broadway was lights-out in Triple-A in 2015, but hadn’t really done much in the majors.

He was 0-2 with 6.75 ERA in 25 appearances in 2015-16. He was 0-3 with 3.94 ERA for Sacramento this season with five saves. There’s a good chance he’ll be claimed on waivers.

Other injury news

DENARD SPAN: The Giants also announced outfielder Denard Span got a shot to help with his sore neck, but they did not place him on the DL.

Chances are the Giants are hoping the shot helps in a day or two. If not, Kelby Tomlinson was moved from San Jose to Sacramenton on his rehab stint, and he could get activated in a couple days and Span could go on the DL retroactive to last Friday. He’d then be eligible to return the second day after the Giants return from the All-Star break.

JOE PANIK: The Giants announced Panik would not be activated from the 7-day concussion DL until after the All-Star break. This kept the Giants from releasing one of the infielders recently added to the 40-man (Grant Green and Ruben Tejada) to make room for Romo.

MATT CAIN: After pitching in an Arizona Rookie League game over the weekend, Cain is expected to pitch for Sacramento later this week. With off days on July 18 and July 21, the Giants don’t need a No. 5 starter until July 26, so they can take their time with Cain.

As San Francisco Giants bullpen falters again, Sergio Romo can’t return fast enough

AP16185830024412The San Francisco Giants won their major league-best 20th one-run victory of the season and their NL-best sixth extra inning victory.

They have played 30 one-run games this season, also a major league high.

But there is a factor in the Giants’ success in close games — and the amount of close games they have played — that should not be overlooked.

Sunday marked the 16th time this season the Giants bullpen has surrendered the lead — second-most in the majors to the Reds, who have 17.

Oh, and by the way, the Reds SUCK!!!!

In eight of the Giants’ 10 extra-inning games this season, the bullpen has coughed up the lead.

It was a second day in a row that Giants gave up the lead with a big home run in the eighth inning.

The eighth inning is normally Sergio Romo’s. But Romo has been on the DL since mid-April.

But manager Bruce Bochy said Saturday that Romo could be activated from the DL when the Giants return home to open a series against the Rockies on Monday.

A healthy Romo will lengthen a beleaguered bullpen and strengthen up an area of weakness for the stretch run of the season.

And given how many close games the Giants have played this season, that could be crucial.

Now as we mentioned before, activating Romo will require the Giants to create some room on the 40-man roster, as Romo would be coming off the 60-day DL.

With Ramiro Pena coming off the bench Sunday, that roster spot could very well be created by designating one of the Giants’ infielders for assignment, either Ruben Tejada or Grant Green.

We would expect the Giants to DFA Green, which means he’ll need to clear waivers before he can return to Triple-A Sacramento. That will put him into limbo for 10 days.

But with Joe Panik expected to return from his 7-day concussion DL soon that shouldn’t be an issue.

Regardless of who gets dumped from the 40-man, the Giants seriously need Romo back … SOON.

Activating Sergio Romo is not as easy as you might think

Sergio Romo

San Francisco Giants’ Sergio Romo celebrates the final out against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the ninth inning of an opening day baseball game, Monday, March 31, 2014, in Phoenix. The Giants defeated the Diamondbacks 9-8. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

There’s some good news in the injury front for the San Francisco Giants, which has been a bit of a rarity recently.

Reliever Sergio Romo appears very close to being ready to being activated from the disabled list.

Romo has been on the DL since mid-April with a flexor strain in his right elbow.

Romo pitched a scoreless inning for Triple-A Sacramento on Friday in the second of back-to-back appearances for the reliever. Romo had a 3.18 ERA with 19 strikeouts and one walk in 11.1 innings during his minor-league rehab stint which began in late May, then put on hold until mid-June.

Assuming Romo shows no ill effects from his back-to-back outings, he appears ready to be activated by the Giants, a nice boost to a beleaguered bullpen.

But there’s a catch.

When Romo experience his setback in late May, the Giants transferred him to the 60-day DL, temporarily removing him from the Giants’ 40-man roster.

When the Giants put Joe Panik on the seven-day concussion DL, they activated Ruben Tejada from Triple-A, adding him to the 40-man roster. Pitcher Chris Heston was moved to the 60-day DL to create room on the 40-man roster for Tejada.

Then a couple of days later, infielder Ramiro Pena suffers a sprained ankle in a collision with outfielder Mac Williamson, sidelining him for 5-7 days. So the Giants called up infielder Grant Green. To create room for Green on the 40-man roster, pitcher Jake Smith was designated for assignment.

Those moves have left the Giants with limited options when it comes to creating a spot on the 40-man for Romo if he is activated from the 60-day DL.

So here are the options.

Place Hunter Pence on the 60-day DL: When Pence went on the DL with a hamstring injury, he was expected to be out until August, so putting him on the 60-day DL would make him eligible to return Aug. 1. However, Pence is healing quickly, so the Giants want to leave the option open for him to return in July if possible.

DFA another minor leaguer: The minor league players on the the 40-man include pitchers Ty Blach, Ray Black, Clayton Blackburn, Mike Broadway, Kyle Crick and Joan Gregorio, Adalberto Mejia and Chris Stratton, and catcher Andrew Susac. Crick, a former top prospect, is the only player still in Double-A. Blach, Blackburn, Gregorio and Mejia have been starting at Triple-A Sacramento. Broadway and Stratton have had stints in the majors this season. There isn’t a player on this list who jumps out as a DFA candidate.

DFA Green or Tejada: Tejada is 0 for 7 with three walks in three games since joining the Giants. Green is 4 for 9 in two games. Tejada is better the glove man. If either is DFA’d, it’s likely both would clear waivers and could return to Sacramento. But before the Giants do that, they need to know that Pena or Panik is ready to return. But that won’t happen until Tuesday or Wednesday.

So Sergio’s return may have to wait until the Giants have some better answers elsewhere on the roster.

Designated hitter, schmesignated hitter: Madison Bumgarner to hit for himself vs. A’s

bumhitzzThis is an issue that comes up on Twitter every time the San Francisco Giants play in an American League park.

Why not just let Madison Bumgarner hit for himself instead of replacing him with a designated hitter?

I don’t think we ever thought it would go beyond Twitter banter. But today it did.

The Giants will become the first team to intentionally opt against using a designated hitter when playing in an American Park since 1976 when Bumgarner will bat for himself against the Oakland A’s on Thursday night.

Ever since the DH was first inacted by the American League in 1973, only four pitchers have hit for themselves instead of using a designated hitter: Fergie Jenkins of the Texas Rangers (1974), Ken Holtzman of the Oakland A’s (1975) and Ken Brett of the Chicago White Sox (twice in 1976). Andy Sonnanstine of the Tampa Bay Rays did it in 2009, but that was not by design but become of a lineup mixup.

Oddly enough, Sonnantine was one of only two pitcher to get a hit when hitting for the designated hitter when he went 1 for 3 in a 7-5 win over the Indians on May 17, 2009. Jenkins got that other hit.

So pitchers hitting in place of DHs are 2 for 13 (.154), which is probably why no one has done it on purpose in 30 years.

And then there’s the Giants.

“He’s a good hitter, he’s dangerous and we’re facing a lefty (in Oakland’s Dillon Overton),” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

Bumgarner is only hitting .175 this season, after hitting .247 last year and .258 in 2014. But he does have two home runs, five RBI and five walks.

But this decision has as much to do with the sorry state of affairs with the Giants lineup as anything.

Hunter Pence on the DL. Matt Duffy on the DL. Kelby Tommlinson on the DL. Joe Panik on the 7-day concussion DL. To make matters worse, Ramiro Pena left last night’s game after colliding with outfielder Mac Williamson.

So the options are limited.

No lineup has been announced, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see it look something like this.

CF Denard Span
LF Angel Pagan
1B Brandon Belt
C Buster Posey
SS Brandon Crawford
RF Mac Williamson
3B Conor Gillaspie
P Madison Bumgarner
2B Ruben Tejada

So Bochy’s decision boiled down to this: Do you want Trevor Brown in the DH spot (as Buster usually catches MadBum)? Or do you want MadBum hitting?

  • Trevor Brown has a slash line of .258/.301/.412; Bumgarner .175/.261/.350
  • Trevor Brown hits a home run once every 24 plate appearances this season; Bumgarner once every 20.
  • Bumgarner strikes out 42.5 percent of the time; Brown 21.6 percent of the time.
  • Bumgarner walks 12.5 percent of the time; Brown 5.2 percent.

But because the Giants have been going with the lean four-player bench, having Brown DH would leave them with two healthy players on the bench: Gregor Blanco and Jarrett Parker.

Given that the Giants are in a three-game skid with two games of paltry offense, Bochy is looking for anything to provide a spark.

That’s why MadBum hits.

San Francisco Giants’ stretch of easy games just got a little easier

Madison Bumgarner

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner throws against the San Diego Padres in the first inning of a baseball game Saturday April 11, 2015, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

When Hunter Pence went back on the disabled list on June 2 — and expected to miss two months — the question was raised.

How would the San Francisco Giants survive without Hunter Pence?

The answer so far has been: Not so bad.

The Giants are 11-4 since June 2, thanks largely to their current eight-game winning streak.

The Giants are 27-8 in their last 35 games, the best 35-game mark for any San Francisco Giants team, best for the franchise since 1954.

They now have two eight-game winning streaks, which bookend that 27-8 stretch. They are 16-6 without Hunter Pence in the starting lineup for that 35-game stretch.

So how are the Giants pulling this off?

Two things: Excellent starting pitching and a weak schedule.

After the Giants took two of three from the Dodgers last week, they embarked on a 25-game stretch in which they would play 21 games against teams with sub-.500 records.

The only games against teams with winning records were the upcoming four against the Pirates.

That’s because when the Giants started on the 25-game stretch, the Pirates were hovering just above .500.

But now the Pirates have lost five straight and 10 of their last 11, and their record sits at 33-36 as the Giants arrive in town.

That makes 25 of 25 games against teams with losing records.

And the Giants are set up nicely heading into Pittsburgh with Madison Bumgarner (8-2), Johnny Cueto (10-1) and Jeff Samardzija (8-4) slated to start the first three games, while the Pirates counter with Jeff Locke (5-5), the celebrated TBA and Francisco Liriano (4-7). The Pirates’ ace Gerrit Cole is on the disabled list (So no shots of Cole facing his brother-in-law Brandon Crawford. Sorry).

Monday’s starter Locke has allowed 18 earned runs over his last two starts. Bumgarner has allowed 20 earned runs ALL SEASON.

This 25-game stretch (with games against the likes of the Brewers, Rays, Bucs, Phillies, A’s, Snakes, Rox and Padres) for the Giants would take them through July 17.

The Giants hope to have Pence back two weeks later.

Ichiro Suzuki vs. Pete Rose: Who is the REAL all-time hits leader?

Ichiro Suzuki

Miami Marlins’ Ichiro Suzuki takes batting practice prior to a baseball game against the San Diego Padres Tuesday, June 14, 2016, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

There are a lot of headlines around baseball today that go something like this.

“Ichiro Suzuki all-time hits leader”

That statement can be made on the presumption of combining Ichiro’s 2979 hits in the major leagues and adding the 1,278 hits he collected in nine seasons in Japan’s Pacific League.

And as you may expect, that idea doesn’t warm the heart of one Pete Rose.

“I’m not trying to take anything away from Ichiro,” Rose said. “He’s had a Hall of Fame career. But the next thing you know, they’ll be counting his high school hits.”

When it comes down to deciding who is the hits king of baseball, perhaps it’s not best to try to compare Ichiro to Pete Rose. Maybe it’s better to try to compare Rose to Ichiro.

If Ichiro collects another 21 hits and reaches 3,000, he would become only member of the 30-man 3,000-hit club who made his major league debut in his age 27 season.

In fact, no current member of the 3,000-hit club ever made his debut after his age 24 season (Cap Anson and Wade Boggs).

So what if you compared the members of the 3,000-hit club on how many hits they collected after the age-26 season.

Obviously, Ichiro has 2,979 hits using that metric. But he would not be the all-time MLB hit leader by that measure.

That title belongs to … Pete Rose with 3,357. Ichiro would be second. The next on the list is Honus Wagner with 2,766.

Now Rose topped the list because he played into his 45 season. If you also pulled out the hits he collected after his age-42 season (Ichiro is in his age-42 season), Rose still leads with 3,091. And that means Ichiro would need to collect another 112 hits by the rest of the season to catch Rose by that measurement, giving him 156 for the season. He is currently on a pace to finish the with 129.

So, Pete Rose still reigns as the all-time hits leader.

But the accomplishments of Ichiro Suzuki should not be understated.

How many San Francisco Giants does it take to equal one Barry Bonds? 19

San Francisco Giants' Denard Span, right, celebrates after hitting a home run off Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Chase Anderson during the first inning of a baseball game Monday, June 13, 2016, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

San Francisco Giants’ Denard Span, right, celebrates after hitting a home run off Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Chase Anderson during the first inning of a baseball game Monday, June 13, 2016, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

History was made Monday night at AT&T Park.

The Giants’ Denard Span hit the first leadoff Splash Hit by a San Francisco Giant in the 17-year history of AT&T Park when he opened the bottom of the first Monday by putting a ball into McCovey Cove. The Giants went on to win 11-5, improving the franchise’s record to 48-20 in games they hit a Splash Hits, including the last eight.

You can watch it here.

After going 112 games between Splash Hits – the longest such drought in stadium history – it only took only four games for the Giants to get another.

Brandon Belt his Splash Hit No. 69 on Wednesday. Span hit No. 70 on Monday.

In doing so, Span became the 20th Giant to record a Splash Hit.

It also meant the number of Splash Hits by Barry Bonds matched the number by players other than Bonds: 35 each.

So in other words, it takes 19 Giants to equal one Barry Bonds. Here is how it breaks down.

Barry Bonds 35

Everyone else 35

  • Pablo Sandoval 7
  • Brandon Belt 5
  • Brandon Crawford 2
  • Aubrey Huff 2
  • Andres Torres 2
  • Ryan Klesko 2
  • Michael Tucker 2
  • Felipe Crespo 2
  • JT Snow 1
  • Jose Cruz Jr. 1
  • A.J. Pierzynski 1
  • Randy Winn 1
  • Fred Lewis 1
  • John Bowker 1
  • Nate Schierholtz 1
  • Carlos Beltran 1
  • Tyler Colvin 1
  • Travis Ishikawa 1
  • Denard Span 1

Is it too much to ask for San Francisco Giants fans to enjoy a nice relaxing lopsided win?

Brandon Belt, Joe Panik

San Francisco Giants’ Brandon Belt, right, celebrates with Joe Panik (12) after hitting a two run home run off Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias in the sixth inning of a baseball game, Sunday, June 12, 2016, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

San Francisco Giants fans can’t complain (but that doesn’t stop them). It’s been a good season so far for the Giants.

Entering Monday’s game against the Brewers, the Giants are 38-26 and hold a five-game lead over the Dodgers in the National League West.

But can I make one little suggestion?

Dear Giants, how about a nice, six-run victory every once in a while?

The Giants have supplied their fans with a lot of excitement in 2016. Maybe too much for our blood pressure.

Examples:

  • The Giants’ win over the Dodgers on Sunday night was their 15th one-run win of the season, tying the Phillies for the most in the majors.
  • It was the 22nd one-run game the Giants have been involved in this season, putting them fourth in the majors behind the Reds (24), Astros (23) and Padres (23).
  • Saturday’s win over the Dodgers was the Giants’ fifth extra-inning win of the season, second-most in the majors behind the Astros (6).
  • Saturday’s win was also the Giants’ sixth walk-off win of the season, most in the majors this season.
  • In fact, the Giants have won just three of their last seven games – all three wins were by one-run, including two 2-1 victories.

So, either you can say the Giants are clutch or fortuitous.

Their +3 record against their pythagorean record might indicate that latter.

But there could be good news ahead.

Starting with Monday’s game against the Brewers, the Giants will play 21 of their 25 games against teams currently with a losing record.

The Giants are 24-13 against teams with a losing record this season. Of course, if you removed the Padres from that, the Giants are just 15-13.

So there’s a chance for the Giants to actually pad their lead in the NL West, while they wait for injured players like Hunter Pence and Sergio Romo to return.

How will San Francisco Giants’ top pick Bryan Reynolds fare? Let’s take a look at history

BRey

The Commodores play Virginia in Game 2 of a best-of-three series to determine the winner of the College World Series. Photo by Joe Howell.

  • For the first time in more than a decade, the San Francisco Giants didn’t have a top-30 pick in the first-year player draft.So the Giants were pleasantly surprised to see Vanderbilt outfielder Bryan Reynolds still on the board when they made the 59th pick in the 2016 draft.

    “We were very happy he was available for us in the second round, and I must say we wer surprised he was getting to us,” Giants scouting director John Barr told the San Jose Mercury News. “We felt he was a guy more than likely would be gone before we could select.”

    The Giants had Reynolds, a switch-hitting center fielder, rated as a first-round player. But they forfeited their first-round pick when they signed Jeff Samardzija as a free agent last winter.

    A three-year starter at Vanderbilt, Reynolds hit .346 in the Cape Cod League, and the Giants see him as a top-of-the-lineup player.

    The scouting community rated Reynolds as a safe pick with somewhat low ceiling, much like the way Joe Panik was rated when the Giants were said to “reach” to pick him in the first round in 2011.

    But the Giants actually have a decent track record in the draft in recent years. Every first-player-drafted by San Francisco Giants from 2006-2012 made it to the majors, even Gary Brown.

    So how might Reynolds fare? Well, let’s take a look at how players take in the top-60 picks by the Giants have fared in the last 10 years.

    Certainly, the Giants have struck gold in the draft, but those have largely been top-10 picks: Tim Lincecum (No. 10, 2006), Madison Bumgarner (No. 10, 2007) and Buster Posey (No. 5, 2008). I’d also rate Joe Panik (No. 29, 2011) is a solid find.

    Several other players taken in the top-60 in recent years have used to acquire key players in trades. Charlie Culberson (No. 51, 2007) was traded for Marco Scutaro in 2012, Tim Alderson (No. 22, 2007) was dealt for Freddy Sanchez in 2009, Zach Wheeler (No. 6, 2009) was traded for Carlos Beltran in 2011 and Tommy Joseph (No. 55, 2009) was part of the Hunter Pence deal in 2012.

    But, of course, there have been players who made marginal or no big-league contributions to the Giants: Emmanuel Burris (No. 33, 2006), Wendell Fairley (No. 29, 2007), Nick Noonan (No. 32, 2007), Jackson Williams (No. 43, 2007), Conor Gillaspie (No. 37, 2008) and Gary Brown (No. 24, 2010).

    The jury is still out on players drafted since 2011.

 

  • RHP Kyle Crick (No. 49, 2011) was a top-100 prospect in 2013-15. But his inability to harness his control has not allowed him to rise above Double-A. He’s currently 1-4 with 4.91 ERA at Double-A Richmond.
  • RHP Chris Stratton (No. 20, 2012) made his big-league debut this season for the Giants. He has thrown two scoreless innings out of the bullpen and currently remains in the bullpen, although he seems like Bruce Bochy’s last option there.
  • SS Christian Arroyo (No. 25, 2013) was drafted right out of high school and he’s produced all along the line in the minors. He’s currently the No. 62 prospect by Baseball America. He’s hitting .288 for Double-A Richmond, similar to what Matt Duffy hit when he got called up two years ago. Don’t look for that with Arroyo, as he’s only 21.
  • RHP Tyler Beede (No. 14, 2014) was drafted out of Vanderbilt two years ago. After a bumpy start this season at Double-A Richmond, he currently 4-3 with 3.05 ERA. But he has produced quality starts in his last five outings. Since the start of May, his ERA is 2.25.
  • C Aramis Garcia (No. 52, 2014) has been on a slow track since being drafted out of Florida International University. But he’s having his best offensive season of his minor league career. He’s hitting .298 with .359 OBP with one home run and 14 RBI in 84 at-bats for Long-A San Jose.
  • RHP Phil Bickford, No. 18, 2015) is at Low-A Augusta, where he is 2-4 with a 2.89 ERA in 10 starts. He has 62 strikeouts to 14 walks in 53 innings. And he’s only 20 years old.
  • 1B Chris Shaw (No. 31, 2015) is turning heads in down at Class A San Jose, where he has 13 home runs, 46 RBI, batting .294 with a .363 OBP in 55 games. He hit 12 home runs in 46 games in Shortseason-A Salem-Keizer last season.

Brandon Belt snaps Splash Hit drought, so we start blogging again.

Brandon Belt

Brandon Belt

I feel like Gandhi with a big cheeseburger.

Wait. He was a Hindu. A nice bowl of chutney.

After two months of a self-imposed hiatus on blogging, I’m back at after Brandon Belt ended the longest drought of Splash Hits in the 16-year history of AT&T Park.

I mean, after all, this blog is called MoreSplashHits.

When Belt hit a David Price pitch into McCovey Cove in the fourth inning on Wednesday, it broke a 112-game drought without a Splash Hit.

It was Splash Hit No. 69. Belt also hit Splash Hit No. 68, but that was on Sept. 25, 2014.

The 112-game drought was the second-longest drought between two non-Barry Bonds Splash Hits. That was 146 games between 2001 and 2003.

It also means that there are almost as many Barry Bonds Splash Hits (35) as non-Barry Bonds Splash Hits (34).

There was some symmetry with this home run. For example:

It was Belt’s fifth Splash Hit, putting him third on this list of players with the most Splash Hits. Next on the list is Pablo Sandoval, who had seven. Sandoval now plays for the Red Sox, the team against whom Belt homered on Wednesday.

The last Splash Hit by someone other than Belt was by Travis Ishikawa on Sept. 12, 2014.

Ishikawa, who was released by the White Sox on May 24, signed a minor league deal with the Giants on Wednesday. He’ll head to Triple-A Sacramento.

Belt’s home run Wednesday tied the game at 1-1. The Giants went on to win 2-1 on Mac Williamson’s first career home run, which went over the cars on the left-field wall.

Best possible tribute for the return of Barry Bonds to AT&T: A Splash Hit

MVPBonds

Barry Bonds is returning to AT&T Park in uniform for the first time since playing the final game of his major league career on Sept. 26, 1997.

By the way, he went 0 for 3 in a loss to the Padres that day.

But Friday he returns in a different uniform, that of the Miami Marlins. He took a job as one of the Marlins’ hitting coaches, and the Marlins come to town with the Giants riding a five-game losing streak.

And what would be a better tribute to the all-time home run leader — yeah, it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks, one thing is unequivocal: Barry Bonds hit more home runs than any other player in Major League history — than for a member of the San Francisco Giants to hit a ball into McCovey Cove.

There have been 68 Splash Hits since the Giants opened their bayside ballpark in 2000 — 35 of those were supplied by Barry Bonds.

But it has been 92 games since the last Splash Hit.

The 2015 season was the first season in which the Giants went Splash Hit-less.

The 92-game Splashless streak is the longest in stadium history for the Giants.

But the current streak is just the fourth-longest streak between two Splash Hits not hit by Barry Bonds.

Here’s the list

  • 146 — between Felipe Crespo’s Splash Hit on May 28, 2001 and J.T. Snow’s Splash Hit on June 5, 2003.
  • 109 — between Randy Winn’s Splash Hit on Sept. 14, 2005 and Ryan Klesko’s Splash Hit on May 21, 2007
  • 105 — between the opening of the stadium on April 11, 2000 and Felipe Crespo’s Splash Hit on May 28, 2001.
  • 92 — between Brandon Belt’s Splash Hit on Sept. 25, 2014 and now.

Barry Bonds’ final Splash Hits came on Aug. 8, 2007. That was career home run No. 757, and it came one day after he hit his record-breaking 756th home run.

There have been 23 Splash Hits since then, six by current Giants — four from Belt and two from Brandon Crawford.

There could be no better tribute for Barry’s return to AT&T than to end the drought and have someone, anyone, deliver Splash Hit No. 69.

For Barry.

An open letter of thanks from a Giants fan to the Boston Red Sox for signing Pablo Sandoval

Boston Red Sox' Pablo Sandoval, left, and David Ortiz talk before the Red Sox plays the Cleveland Indians in a baseball game, Tuesday, April 5, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Boston Red Sox’ Pablo Sandoval, left, and David Ortiz talk before the Red Sox plays the Cleveland Indians in a baseball game, Tuesday, April 5, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Dear Boston Red Sox,

 

I know times might be a little bit tough right now in Beantown, so I just wanted to drop you a line to let you know that you are appreciated.

So, from a four-decade-long San Francisco Giants fan, I would just like to express my sincere and heartfelt thanks to you, on behalf of all Giants fans, for signing Pablo Sandoval away from the Giants in November 2015.

Sandoval, aka Kung Fu Panda, was a fan favorite in San Francisco for seven seasons. Panda Hats were everywhere. He was a two-time all-star, the 2012 World Series MVP, he joined Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols as the only players to hit three homers in a World Series game, he was one of only two position players to play on all three of the Giants world championship teams and he caught the final out of the 2014 World Series.

But through all those good times, there were issues with Sandoval. The Giants were well aware about how Sandoval’s weight would fluctuate more than Kirstie Alley. Truly, Sandoval could have landed a spokesman gig for Jenny Craig, if anyone could understand what the fudge he was saying (OK, given the context of this letter, we understand that the use of the word “fudge” was probably insensitive. I apologize.)

Sandoval’s weight struggle would often correlate to becoming a defensive liability and prolonged slumps at the plate. It was evident during the 2010 World Series run when Sandoval was relegated to the bench.

So Sandoval spent that offseason on an exercise regimen that produced a sleeker and more slender Panda for the 2011 season.

But by the end of that season, the plumper Panda began to return. While his agents and the Giants were working on a new contract that would cover his arbitration years, Sandoval saw his weight jump 21 pounds in 21 days during the holidays in his native Venezuela.

Knowing that the Giants would have eyes on him, Sandoval went back to his trainer in Arizona to embark on a crash course in fitness, working out seven days a week, often three times a day.

The result of that offseason was a three-year, $17 million contract. Sandoval was an All-Star in 2012 and World Series MVP.

But video emerged in the offseason after the 2012 season showing Sandoval in the Venezuela World Series, as big as ever. After manager Bruce Bochy threatened to sit him the following spring training until he got in shape, Sandoval said he needed to get his weight under control.

By August 2013, Sandoval revealded that he had lost 22 points in six weeks after hiring his brother to be his personal chef. “Everything healthy,” Sandoval said at the time. His brother “goes everywhere with me.”

Fast-forward to spring training 2014 when the Giants and Sandoval were working on a contract extension that would keep him in a Giants uniform for years to come. Sandoval’s agent wanted a deal similar to the one the Giants gave Hunter Pence the previous fall.The Giants were so sure.

Then Sandoval’s agent, Gustavo Vazquez, said:

“The weight issues he had before, you’ll never see that again. He will have his trainer with him until he retires.”

That’s like an addict, while leaving rehab, saying that his dependency issues are a thing of the past. In fact, that’s exactly what Sandoval’s former trainer, Eric Banning, told the Boston Herald earlier this week.

On Sandoval’s eating issues, Banning said: “He needs to be smart enough to say there’s a problem. It’s like the alcoholic that won’t admit he’s an alcoholic. Well, you can’t address that you’re an alcoholic if you don’t ever admit there’s a problem.”

Banning went even further, adding: ““He’s proven to me and shown consistently that he’s got to have somebody like me holding his hand doing that (monitoring his eating). And it’s not an exercise thing, it’s an eating thing.”

Banning worked with Sandoval during the winters of 2011 and 2012. But Banning hasn’t been in contact with the Panda since he got that three-year deal from the Giants prior to the 2012 season.

That should have been a red flag on a major concern the Giants had: What would Sandoval do about his weight after being given a long-term deal?

Despite that, the Giants were in the mix to re-sign Sandoval after the 2014 season, along with the Red Sox and Padres. They matched the Red Sox offer of six years, $95 million and reportedly showed a willingness to go to $100 million.

But Sandoval turned them down and took the Red Sox offer, saying he wanted a “new challenge.”

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Red Sox.

The Giants left Sandoval go. That opened the door for Matt Duffy, who was the runner-up for the 2015 NL Rookie of the Year award.

With the draft pick they got from Sandoval signing with the Red Sox, the Giants took Chris Shaw, a left-handed hitting first baseman from Boston College. Shaw hit .287 with 12 home runs and 30 RBI in 46 games with short-season Class A Salem-Keizer last summer. He’s hitting .292 early this season with High-A San Jose.

Meanwhile, in Boston, Sandoval – after saying that he didn’t miss anyone back in San Francisco except Bruce Bochy and maybe Hunter Pence — labored through the 2015 season, hitting .245 with 10 home runs and 47 RBI – all career lows for Sandoval since becoming a full-time player in 2009, despite playing in the far more hitter friendly confines of Fenway Park. And Sandoval had become a defensive liability at third base.

Sandoval’s struggles continued into this spring, leading the Red Sox to have the Panda start the 2016 season as a bench player.

That led Sandoval’s new agent, Rick Thurman, to declare:  “That’s like leaving a Ferrari in a garage.”

Wait, Rick. Is Sandoval the Ferrari or the garage in that analogy?

Then last week there was the video of Sandoval swinging at a pitch and popping his belt.

//players.brightcove.net/3921507366001/73568996-99ce-4b17-abd9-39751fa59035_default/index.html?videoId=4839346150001

A couple of days later Sandoval developed a mysterious shoulder injury, and the Red Sox putting him on the DL without him even having an MRI. It’s almost like if Sandoval had complained of the sniffles, the Red Sox would have claimed he had pneumonia without taking his temperature.

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Herald wrote: “Certainly, this new, mysterious shoulder ailment has set the team back as far as trying to deal him. It also raised a few eyebrows from Sox rivals, even in the procedural manner in which they placed him on the disabled list, and the league is reviewing that process.”

The Red Sox will send Sandoval to see Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion on Monday. We have no doubt that Andrews will recommend Sandoval lose some weight.

The DL move has allowed the Red Sox to kick the Panda issue down the road, as the option of trading doesn’t seem in play, even as rumors involving the Padres continue to circulate. Cafardo said on AL executive doesn’t think Sandoval has any value.

The Red Sox still owe Sandoval $77 million. And while we know the Sox have deep pockets, deep enough to eat the rest of Sandoval’s contract (again, we’re sorry if the use of the word “eat” given the context of this letter is insensitive), we Giants fans are left with the relief that it’s issue the Giants don’t have to deal with.

And that’s all because of you, dear Red Sox, for stepping in during November of 2014 and saving us.

So, once again, thank you.

Sincerely

A San Francisco Giants fan since 1973

 

 

 

MLB Network’s Billy Ripken is 100 percent, absolutely spot-on with analysis of slide rule

Daniel Murphy, Nick Markakis

Washington Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy, left, avoids Atlanta Braves’ Nick Markakis, right, while turning a double play on a ground ball hit by Hector Olivera in the seventh inning of a baseball game Monday, April 4, 2016, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

There has been a lot of chatter by baseball analysts on the new slide rule at second base after the first week. A lot of noise from former players.

Harold Reynolds, Mark DeRosa, Preston Wilson, Eric Byrnes, Eric Karros, Frank Thomas, et al. And almost uniformly, former players don’t like the new slide rule, basically because it is not the style of baseball they were used to playing.

Well, no duh. It isn’t. There has been a rule change.

Finally, we got some analysis that is absolutely, 100 percent, complete accurate, spot-on from a very unexpected source … MLB Network’s Billy Ripken.

Ripken broke down the new slide rule with examples of its enforcement in the opening week of the season, and every point he makes is excellent.

Here’s is his breakdown:

In his breakdown, Ripken said:

MLB is being consistent with its interpretation of this rule, calling to the letter of the law.

YES! MLB learned this two years ago with the home plate collision rule. MLB tried to give players some latitude in the enforcement of the rule. The result was sometimes it was ruled one way, then the next day it would be called the other way. This caused a lot of confusion. By enforcing the rule as it is written causes no confusion, and players and teams will learn it faster.

Ripken says he was not on board with the rule at home plate a couple of seasons back. Then he says “But last year, I didn’t miss any blow-ups. No catcher go steam-rolled, and I didn’t miss it.”

YES! We’ve been saying this for years. In fact, we even blogged about it TWO YEARS AGO. Read it yourself.

On the Colby Rasmus play, which was not going to be a double play, Ripken says MLB needs to put the onus on the baserunner and the team. “Have some court awareness. If it’s not going to be a double play, slide into the second base.”

YES! That’s the one thing people upset about this call that people weren’t saying. They didn’t like it was a tough way to end the game. They didn’t like that the Brewers weren’t going to turn a double play. But no one was saying that then made Rasmus’ slide a dumb slide. The fault there was on Rasmus. And that’s what MLB is trying to teach players: There is no advantage in breaking this rule, so you’re better off following it. Rasmus would have been better off following the rule here.

He showed an example of Jose Bautista adjusting his slide from last week, when he was called for interference, to this week, when he successfully broke up a double play with a legal slide, by the new rule. Ripken said he liked how Bautista learned from one situation to another “whether he likes it or not, it is the rule.”

YES! We’ve said this, too. Players and teams must learn the rule and abide by it. Here’s another blog post.

If MLB keeps calling it the same way, within two weeks, we won’t be seeing this controversial plays because players will begin to adhere to the rule.

YES! Completely agree. Once players learn there is no advantage in breaking the rule, they won’t break the rule. And, guess what? You won’t miss it. The only time you will notice it is when players break the rule.

Ripken said he was never a supporter of the neighborhood play. “The base is there for a reason.”

YES! I have never been a fan of the neighborhood play. That’s because the neighborhood plays doesn’t — and more importantly HAS NEVER — resided in the rulebook. Neither has the idea of the a “legal slide” is one in which the runner can reach out and touch the base. Look it up. They aren’t there. In fact, the opposite is there. Here is the rulebook.

Rule 5.09 (a) Retiring a batter

The batter is out when:

(13) A preceding runner shall, in the umpire’s judgment, intentionally interferes with a fielder who is attempting to catch a thrown ball or to throw a ball in an attempt to complete any play.

Well, that seems pretty clear. Why are we even having this discussion? Oh, there is a comment after the rule, which reads:

Comment: The objective of this rule is to penalize the offensive team for deliberate, unwarranted, unsportsmanlike action by the runner leaving the baseline for the obvious purpose of crashing the pivot man on a double play, rather than trying to reach the base. Obviously, this is an umpire’s judgement play.

See, that’s where we get into trouble. The play has to not only be “deliberate” but also “unwarranted” and “unsportsmanlike.”

So the interpretation of this rule is born about of the rough and tumble days of the early 20th century when Ty Cobb would sharpen his spikes and gash at infielders. So baseball rules that Cobb’s actions are now unwarranted and unsportsmanlike. And now the interpretation is broadened to allow take-out slides as long as runner can slide and reach out and touch the base. This falls under the “umpire’s judgment” and a very loose interpretation of the three-foot wide baseline rule. But then you also need to protect the infielders, so the umpire’s judgment also included the neighborhood play. This wasn’t written into the rule, but adopted as practice by umpires under the “umpire’s judgment.” But what it actually did was move baseball further away from the original letter of the rule to protect players, when all you needed to do was enforce the rule as written.

And you do that by sticking with “deliberate” and removing “unwarranted” and “unsportsmanlike.”

The advent of replay allows us also to remove the umpire’s judgment. In an age when baserunners can be called off from coming off the bag for a fraction of a second, we can also take a look a plays at second base.

While safety is a big part of this new rule, you can’t underplay the impact that replay has made and a return to the true, original intent of the rulebook.

Last week, Giants fans were upset when second baseman Joe Panik was ruled to have come off the bag early. I responded that if first baseman Brandon Belt’s foot had come off first base before receiving the throw from Panik — and replays confirmed that — no one would have been upset. The same idea is at play at second base.

I also heard Eric Karros, sighting a comment by Mets manager Terry Collins, that he felt this new rule would result in infielders being hurt by “being comfortable around the bag.”

Having covering amateur baseball for 25 years, where the take-out slide is not legal — I can tell you this is utter hogwash. Like the home plate rule, in time, you won’t miss take-out slides, and this is just an attempt by a player lost in the past grasping at straws to try to make an argument against a change.

We will see far fewer injuries around second base under this year’s rule than we would under previous years’ rules.

And that’s the point.

So well done Billy Ripken. You are my new favorite baseball analyst.

Until you say something stupid.

After tough loss, here are projections sure to cheer up San Francisco Giants fans

Bruce Bochy

San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy during a baseball game between the Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers in San Francisco, Saturday, April 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Any loss is tough.

Any loss to the Dodgers is especially hard.

A loss to the Dodgers when it looked like the Giants had it won, well that’s almost unbearable.

But that’s what San Francisco Giants were faced with Saturday afternoon when the Dodgers rallied to beat the Giants 3-2 in 10 innings.

Things looked sticky when Santiago Casilla loaded the bases with one out and Adrian Gonzalez coming to bat while protecting a 2-1 lead in the ninth.

Casilla was looking for a strikeout or a pop-up. But what he really wanted was a double-play ball. And that’s exactly what he got when Gonzalez hit a grounder to second. But on a slick and rainy infield, second baseman Kelby Tomlinson mishandled the grounder, leading to only one out instead of two, and allowing the Dodgers to tie the game.

Rough.

Luckily, MoreSplashHits’ team of analysts have come up with some projections based on trends so far this young 2016 season that may brighten the hearts of any Giants faithful.

Our analysts are projecting:

  • The Giants will win on Sunday.
  • The Giants will score 12 runs on Sunday.
  • The first two things will happen provided the Giants don’t score first on Sunday.

Let’s take a closer look at these projections.

GIANTS WILL WIN ON SUNDAY: The trend so far this season has gone like this: The Giants won on Monday, they won on Tuesday, but they lost on Wednesday. The Giants won on Thursday and won on Friday, but lost on Saturday. So the trends say the Giants will win on Sunday … on their way to 108-54 season.

GIANTS WILL SCORE 12 RUNS: The Giants scored 12 runs on Monday, then played a one-run game on Tuesday and played another one-run game on Wednesday. The Giants scored 12 runs again on Thursday, then played a one-run game on Friday and another one-run game on Saturday. So trends indicate the Giants will score 12 runs on Sunday, with a five-run eighth inning.

GIANTS SHOULDN’T SCORE FIRST: Scoring first in a game is generally regarded as a good thing. It’s no fun trying to play from behind. In fact last season, the Giants were 57-32 when scoring first, and 27-46 when the opponent scored first. But this season, it’s the exact opposite. The Giants are 0-2 this season when they score first, but 4-0 when the opponent scores first. So our analysts project that the Dodgers will score first on Sunday, but will still lose. And that makes perfect sense, considering that they will be giving up 12 runs to the Giants.

So rest well, Giants fans, tomorrow will be a brighter day.

Brandon Belt’s contract extension offers insight into Giants’ future

NLCS Giants Cardinals Baseball

San Francisco Giants’ Brandon Belt hits a sacrifice fly during the third inning in Game 1 of the National League baseball championship series against the St. Louis Cardinals Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Do you like the look of the 2016 San Francisco Giants? Hopefully you do because they are going to be together for a while.

The San Francisco Giants and first baseman Brandon Belt have come to terms on a contract extension for six years, $79 million.

The deal locks in seven of their eight starting position players through the 2018 season. Consider:

  • 1B Brandon Belt (signed through 2021)
  • 2B Joe Panik (team control through 2020)
  • SS Brandon Crawford (signed through 2021)
  • 3B Matt Duffy (team control though 2020)
  • C Buster Posey (signed through 2021)
  • LF Angel Pagan (signed through 2016)
  • CF Denard Span (signed through 2018; team option 2019)
  • RF Hunter Pence (signed through 2018)

On the good side, it means consistency over the next couple of years. The down side is, there’s a logjam for players coming up through the system.

Here are positions players listed among the Giants’ top 30 prospects, according to MLB.com, and where they are opening the 2016 season.

  • SS Christian Arroyo (AA)
  • SS Lucius Fox (low-A)
  • 1B Chris Shaw (high-A)
  • OF Mac Williamson (AAA)
  • C Aramis Garcia (high-A)
  • SS Jalen Miller (low-A)
  • OF Jarrett Parker (AAA)
  • OF/IF Hunter Cole (AA)
  • 2B Austin Slater (AA)
  • OF Ronnie Jebavy (high-A)
  • OF Dylan Davis (low-A)

And this list doesn’t include players no longer considered prospects like IF Kelby Tomlinson and C Andrew Susac.

It’s great to have depth in the system, and it also allows that none of the Giants’ current prospects will be rushed to the majors.

It also means you likely won’t be seeing many of the above listed players in San Francisco black and orange any time soon, except for perhaps the outfielders like Williamson or Parker.

The Giants made a major offseason commitment with free agents. They are committing a fair amount to their own products.

Belt’s signing means the Giants aren’t likely to make a big splash in free agency in the near future.

Pitchers Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and Matt Cain are under contract through 2017 (Cueto has an opt-out; Cain has a team option the team is likely not to exercise). Jake Peavy will be a free agent, and the Giants are hopeful that some within the system can fill that void like Chris Heston, Clayton Blackburn or Chris Stratton.

In the bullpen, Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo and Javier Lopez are potential free agents after 2016. But the rest of the bullpen is under team control through 2019, and the Giants have a ton potential bullpen candidates in the system.

Great home opener for Giants capped by epic call from Jon Miller

San Francisco Giants' Hunter Pence hits a grand slam home run off Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Pedro Baez in the eighth inning of their baseball game Thursday, April 7, 2016, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

San Francisco Giants’ Hunter Pence hits a grand slam home run off Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Pedro Baez in the eighth inning of their baseball game Thursday, April 7, 2016, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Jon Miller is a Hall of Fame announcer, and he proved it Thursday during the Giants’ home opener against the Dodgers with a Hall of Fame save.

The Giants were leading 8-6 in the bottom of the eighth and had the bases loaded. Hunter Pence came to the plate against the Dodgers’ Pedro Baez.

On a 1-0 pitcher, Pence sent the ball sailing over the left-center field fence for a grand slam and a 12-6 lead.

This is Jon Miller’s epic call.

If you didn’t want to listen, it went something like this:

“Swing and there’s a high drive, deep left-center field.

It’s on its way.

Adios Pelota!

A grand slam for Buster Posey …. ‘s good friend, Hunter Pence.”

Whoops. Posey had just struck out ahead of Pence.

Anyway, the blast capped a five-run eighth inning – the second five-run eighth inning for the Giants in this new season – as the Giants rallied from a 4-0 deficit to beat the Dodgers 12-6.

If you want to watch, Pence’s blast with Duane Kuiper’s call, it’s here.

Notes

BUNTING ON OPENING DAY: The Giants used three of their four bench players as pinch-hitters Thursday. And the first two bunted. Kelby Tomlinson bunted for a single in the fifth inning, and Ehire Adrianza sacrificed two runners over in the sixth, setting up Angel Pagan’s go-ahead two-run single.

THIN BENCH: The use of Adrianza in the sixth was interesting because if left manager Bruce Bochy with no available reserve infielders. Had Joe Panik, Brandon Crawford or Matt Duffy been hurt or ejected in the last three innings, Gregor Blanco would have had to play the infield. Or, I suppose, they could have moved Buster Posey around the infield. He did play all eight positions in a college game at Florida State.

OUT HELPS GIANTS: While there were a lot of key at-bats that produced hits, one overlooked at-bat the produced an out for the Giants also proved pivotal. In the fifth after the Giants had scored three runs off Dodgers’ starter Alex Wood and had runners on first and third, Brandon Belt grounded to second to end the inning. That allowed Wood to stay in the game. He likely would have come out if Belt had reached. Wood then batted in the top of the sixth, a 1-2-3 inning by Chris Heston. He came out to pitch the sixth, gave up singles to Matt Duffy and Brandon Crawford before getting the hook. Those hits sparked a four-run inning that gave the Giants a 7-3 lead.

IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD: The death of the neighborhood play proved costly for the Giants in the second inning. An apparent inning-ending double play was wiped out when a replay review confirmed that Joe Panik’s foot came off the bag before receiving the throw from Crawford, resulting in a run scored by the Dodgers. While many Giants fans voiced their frustration, that is the rule now. But here’s another way of looking at it. If Brandon Belt’s foot came off the bag while receiving a throw, and replay confirmed that, no one would have made a peep. This play at second is exactly the same thing.

FRIDAY: Matt Cain makes his first start of the season when he faces Dodgers rookie Ross Stripling, who will be making his big-league debut. Stripling has never pitched above Double-A, going 3-6 with 3.88 ERA for Double-A Tulsa in 2015. Game time is 7:15 p.m.

Welcome to the San Francisco Giants, Johnny Cueto

Johnny Cueto

San Fransisco Giants’ Johnny Cueto pitches to a Milwaukee Brewers batter during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, April 5, 2016, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Tom Lynn)

Johnny Cueto, who signed a six-year, $130 million contract in the offseason, made a solid debut for the Giants, holding the Brewers to one run on six hits, no walks — we’ll say that again NO WALKS — and four strikeouts over seven innings as the Giants beat the Brewers 2-1 on Tuesday.

Cueto said he felt no pressure going into his Giants debut.

“No, no, why should I feel any type of pressure? That’s just another game,” he said.

Cueto got into a bit of trouble in the second inning after the Brewers puts runners on the corners with no outs. Cueto got Ramon Flores to hit into a double play, allowing Jonathan Lucroy to score. But that was it as Cueto kept the Brewers hitters off-balance.

“He just has great savvy, stuff, everything,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s enjoyable to watch.”

Cueto said it was a great start to his Giants career.

“I felt very comfortable since Day 1. I’m going to be here for a long time based on the contract that I signed,” Cueto said. “It’s good that I had a good outing, especially the first one.”

Wait?!? A long time?? Doesn’t Cueto’s contract have an opt-out clause after 2017??

Hmmmmm.

Cueto’s win was the first by a Dominican Giants pitcher since Sergio Valdez did it 21 years ago.

It was also a far better debut than the Giants’ last big free-agent pitcher they signed: Barry Zito.

After signing a seven-year, $126 million deal in 2007, Zito gave up two runs in five innings in a 7-0 loss to the Padres. It didn’t get much better after that.

Cueto also had a fun exchange with the Brewers’ Ryan Braun.

In the third inning, Cueto struck out Braun on a 3-2 changeup. Afterwards, Braun smiled at Cueto and said “Good pitch.”

When Cueto started Braun out with the same changeup in the sixth, Braun smacked it into left-center for a double. Cueto smiled back at Braun.

Watch the exchange here:

http://m.giants.mlb.com/shared/video/embed/embed.html?content_id=574650783&topic_id=8878828&width=400&height=224&property=mlb

THE OFFENSE: The Brewers’ Jimmy Nelson did well to keep Giants hitters off-balance. After scoring 12 on Opening Day, the Giants managed just two on Tuesday. Brandon Crawford belted a solo home run in the second, and Matt Duffy added an RBI groundout in the third.

THE BULLPEN: After Cueto left after the seventh inning, Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla went six up and six down in the eighth and ninth innings.

THE DEFENSE: Right fielder Hunter Pence couldn’t catch a liner by Chris Carter in the second. But by keeping the ball for going to the wall, he was able to hold Carter to a single. That proved to be a key play when Carter was a erased on a double play that scored Lucroy.

The Brewers got Jonathan Villar to third in the bottom of the third. But Villar was erased at home trying to score on a grounder by Domingo Santana. Crawford, playing in, fielded the grounder but threw home on the wrong side of the plate. Buster Posey caught the ball and placed a perfect sweep tag on Villar for the out.

“It was a great, great tag there by Buster,” Crawford said. “Obviously if that doesn’t happen, it’s the tying run and who knows, we might still be playing right now. So, that was definitely a little thing early in the game that ended up mattering in the outcome.”

WEDNESDAY: Jeff Samardzija makes his Giants debut. Instead of facing Matt Garza, who was placed on the DL with shoulder troubles, he will face Taylor Jungmann. Samardzija may have some different faces playing behind him as Bochy said he planned to rest some starters after the flu bug swept through the clubhouse and the Giants return to San Francisco for their home opener on Thursday. Wednesday’s first pitch at 10:40 a.m.