It was the top of the ninth and Pat Burrell was dug in against the Dodgers’ Jonathan Broxton.
Broxton deals, and Burrell rips a laser to left that sails over the fence for a solo home run.
In my living room, I just shake my head and throw up my hands in disgust.
My wife looks at me puzzled.
“That was a Giant who hit that home run, right? So why are you upset?”
I tried to explain it was because the Giants had just allowed the Dodgers to score a second run a half inning before. But she didn’t understand, and I was in no mood to explain it her.
But I’ll explain it now.
When Santiago Casilla entered the game in the bottom of the eighth and the Giants trailing 1-0, I said “OK, guys let’s keep it a one-run game because that chump Broxton is in the bullpen and we can get a run off that Bozo.”
OK, I actually didn’t say anything because there was no one in the room at the time and that would be weird. But I thought it, loudly.
Then Casilla walked Kemp, allowed him to steal second and then score on a double to James Loney. Casilla was able to get out of the inning with no further damage, even though it took him a gazillion pitches to do the job. But in the end, that one run was enough. The Dodgers beat the Giants 2-1 on opening day.
Tim Lincecum took the loss, but I’m pinning this one on Casilla.
Actually, there was plenty of blame to go around.
The Dodgers scored their first run in the sixth without the benefit of a hit.
Lincecum walked Kemp, but then got Loney to roll a grounder to short. Even though the ball was not sharply enough for a double play, Miguel Tejada hastily tried to turn one. His errant throw shot past Freddy Sanchez into right field, putting runners on the corners.
After Lincecum hit Juan Uribe with a pitch (I had some mixed feelings there about that), Buster Posey tried to catch Kemp napping off of third base. But his throw was behind Kemp, allowing him to score.
The errors were not a byproduct of a lack of range or ability, but a result of the Giants trying to do too much. Those errors were as much mental errors as physical ones.
And then the offense struggled to mount much of a threat against the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw.
Ah well. A 2-1 loss. It’s not like Giants fans are not used to that.
A friend of mine once said the problem with baseball is that the season is too long and there are too many games. So many games, that a single result is not all that important.
But I feel that’s what makes baseball great.
A win can put a smile on your face for 24 hours. But even after a loss, you know that tomorrow can bring renewed hope.
So we’ll go with that, and try not to lament the fact that the Giants’ aspirations of becoming the first team in MLB history to go 162-0 have gone up in smoke. Guess, it’s something to aim for next season.
Alright. First pitch for opening day is quickly approaching. So I guess it’s time for a prediction.
But first, a history lesson.
In 2008, the first year of the post-Barry Bonds era, MoreSplashHits was asked to predict a win-loss record for the Giants. We said 70-92. Others scoffed, saying the Giants would be lucky avoid a 100-loss season.
The result: 72-90.
In 2009, the question was posed again. MoreSplashHits said 83-79. The reaction was: Really? A winning record?
The result: 88-74.
Last year, on this very blog, MoreSplashHits projected a 90-72 season.
The result: 92-70 .. and a World Series title.
OK, so I didn’t project that latter fact. But then, who did?
So what about 2011?
Some might look at the lineup and say the 2011 team is almost the same that ended 2010, with the exception of Brandon Belt at 1B and Miguel Tejada at SS.
But really, you need to look at last year’s opening-day lineup.
Players who are the same: Aubrey Huff and Pablo Sandoval. That’s it.
Last year’s opening eight were: 1B Huff, 2B Juan Uribe, SS Edgar Renteria, 3B Sandoval, C Bengie Molina, LF Mark DeRosa, CF Aaron Rowand, RF John Bowker.
This season, Brandon Belt is new at first base. Freddy Sanchez did not debut until May because he was recovering from shoulder surgery. Tejada takes over at shortstop. Buster Posey didn’t get called up until late May. Pat Burrell didn’t join the Giants until June. Andres Torres didn’t become a regular until May. Cody Ross joined in August.
Some critics say that Huff’s numbers last year were an anomaly and that he’s due for a drop-off. But his numbers this spring say something different.
Sandoval looks primed for a big bounce-back season.
Players who were starters last year are back as reserves this year: DeRosa and Rowand.
And the rotation is stronger because the 2011 Giants have Madison Bumgarner in the mix instead of Todd Wellemeyer.
So, the 2011 Giants have the potential to be better from start to finish than the 2010 squad.
So what does that mean for wins and losses?
Well, MoreSplashHits mantra has been “Win series at home, play .500 ball on the road.” And if the Giants follow that model, they’ll finish 94-68. So that’s what we’ll go with.
Well, MoreSplashHits was an advocate for a more conservative approach with Brandon Belt. But now that the rookie is with the big club, we wish him all the luck for success.
But however you feel about the decision, you had to think the story about his reaction to the news was pretty cool.
Belt cried when manager Bruce Bochy told him that he made the team, and remained emotional even when talking to reporters afterwards.
“I tried not to be too big of a wuss in there, but it’s hard when you’ve been dreaming of this your whole life,” Belt said.
We fans tend to treat these well-compensated professional athletes with some distance and cynicism. But we forget that they are just people, and this genuine show of emotion is refreshing.
Almost as good was the exchange between Belt and teammate Aubrey Huff.
Huff: “Hey, Belt, you crying?”
Belt: “A little bit.”
Huff: “Why you crying? I’m the one who’s gotta play right field every day.”
Well, for a while, at least. Huff will start in right with Belt on first base at least until Cody Ross returns. Then we would expect to see Huff in left field.
That is, of course, unless Belt struggles in the week or so until Ross returns. Then the Giants could consider sending Belt to Fresno and returning Huff to first base. But the Giants seem to be committed to Belt for the long run.
But with every happy story on cutdown day, there’s sad news. On Wednesday, the sad news went to Travis Ishikawa. Ishikawa’s stock slipped this spring as Belt’s rose.
The Giants designated Ishikawa for assignment, meaning they have 10 days to trade or waive Ishikawa. If he clears waivers, he could be sent to Fresno, but Ishikawa could refuse that assignment.
Ishikawa took the news with class.
“These guys brought me into the system and brought me up,” Ishikawa said of the Giants. “I’ll always be grateful for that. I wish them the best. If I’m not playing them, I’ll be rooting for them.”
And we’ll be rooting for you, Travis. Unless for some reason you ended up in Dodger Blue.
But let’s not focus on a thought so heinous. We’ll keep our minds on happy thoughts, like the promising future of Brandon Belt.
“It feels great right now,” Belt said. “Pretty much the most exciting moment of life.”
Then there was a long pause.
“Besides my marriage.”
Oh! And the rookie makes another great defensive save!
The decision on Brandon Belt will go down to the final day.
It’s been hard trying to read between the lines or interpret lineups to see if the Giants might tip their hand on which way they will go with this.
And after a couple of days, MoreSplashHits is now convinced.
The Giants have no idea of what they’re going to do.
That’s not entirely true. Giants manager Bruce Bochy has an idea. GM Brian Sabean has an idea. It’s just that they may not have the same idea.
After reading comments from Bochy and Sabean, MoreSplashHits thinks the two men of the Giants braintrust are on opposites side of this decision.
We believe Bochy wants Belt on the roster. Sabean would rather send him to Fresno.
Bochy said before Monday’s series opener against the A’s that nothing Belt did against Oakland would impact the decision to keep him on the roster. So then why start Belt as a DH if you wanted to play Mark DeRosa at 1B on Tuesday?
MoreSplashHits interpretation: Bochy doesn’t need to see more of Belt. But he wants Sabean to see more of Belt.
Consider. Bochy was asked if starting a rookie in every game so close to opening day generally mean the rookie has made the team.
Bochy’s response: “Could be.”
Sabean countered by listing all the factors in this decision.
“Has (Belt) earned his way on the club?”
MoreSpalshHits’ take: Bochy answers yes; Sabean is not so sure. If you don’t agree, consider Sabean’s next question.
“If (Cody) Ross were on the club, would we be considering him?”
MoreSplashHits’ take: Sabean is saying that Bochy doesn’t like the alternatives. And with good reason. Aaron Rowand had a bad spring and has looked particularly ugly in recent games. Schierholtz has looked a little better, but not good enough to make Bochy forget Belt. Sabean believes that such a huge roster decision shouldn’t be made because of any offensive shortcomings that may only last a week or two.
“If we start the year with him, we’re pretty much committing to him the whole year.”
MoreSplashHits’ take: Sabean is saying this is a decision for the entire season, not just the first week or two. Also, it would mean sending Pat Burrell to the bench. And Burrell has looked good in recent games.
“If you keep him, you lose somebody else from the roster.”
MoreSpalshHits’ take: That’s Travis Ishikawa. Not a huge loss. Ishikawa’s stock has dropped as Belt has grown.
“When Ross comes back, you’ll lose somebody else.”
MoreSplashHits’ take: As we’ve been saying all spring, the Giants were going to lose Ishikawa or Schierholtz at the end of spring. But the idea of losing both doesn’t sit well with Sabean.
The fact that Bochy and Sabean may not agree on this issue is no great shock.
They disagree because they are both doing their jobs.
Bochy’s job is to take one game at a time and all that. He wants to put the best team on the field that he can. And that may very well be with Belt at first base.
Sabean’s job is to look at what’s best for the team in 2011, 2012, 2013 and beyond.
Putting Belt on the big club to start 2011 could get his arbitration clock started sooner. It could move his free-agency date up sooner. If all goes as the Giants hope, that could be very costly for the Giants in 2014 and 2017.
Sabean and Bochy were set to meet after Tuesday’s game and again Wednesday morning. An announcement on a final decision won’t come until after Wednesday’s afternoon game.
Wednesday’s lineup may provide clues, as we would expect that anyone who will be in Thursday’s starting lineup won’t be in Wednesday’s lineup.
But no matter what the final decision is, it will be the right one, and it will be the wrong one — no matter whom you ask.
Giants hoping to get some answers about the opening-day lineup and roster on Monday just got more intrigue.
MoreSplashHits has been trying to read between the comments and actions of manager Bruce Bochy. But it’s not easy.
So here are the remaining questions and some potential answers.
WHO’S ON FIRST: Will it be Aubrey Huff? Will it be Brandon Belt?
Bochy said Monday’s lineup against the A’s would “be pretty close” to the opening day lineup, with one or two exceptions.
The lineup was this: CF Andres Torres, 2B Freddy Sanchez, RF Aubrey Huff, C Buster Posey, LF Pat Burrell, SS Miguel Tejada, 1B Brandon Belt, 3B Pablo Sandoval.
So then what are the “exceptions”? Well, one would assume one is Brandon Belt.
Putting Belt in the lineup raised plenty of eyebrows, fueling speculation that the Giants are still thinking about putting the rookie on the opening day lineup.
Bochy said Monday: “Now it’s up to us to decide which way we’re going to go.” That suggests the Giants haven’t decided.
But then Bochy also told Mike Krukow that nothing Belt did over these last days would impact the Giants decision. That indicates the Giants have already made decision.
Belt went 0 for 3 Monday with two weak groundouts and a strikeout.
Here’s what MoreSplashHits thinks.
The Giants have already decided to send Belt to Triple-A Fresno. They’re just waiting to see if anything weird happens Monday or Tuesday. Barring a late injury, Belt goes to Fresno.
The Giants gave him the start Monday as reward for a great spring and to give him a taste of what awaits him if he goes to Fresno and continues to develop his skills.
Bochy said that Mark DeRosa would start at 1B on Tuesday. That’s a bad sign for Travis Ishikawa, who has already resigned himself to the assumption that his days with the Giants are numbered. By playing DeRosa at first, MoreSplashHits believes Bochy wanted the veteran to get comfortable there. Here’s how we see the scenario playing out.
Belt opens at Triple-A and Ishikawa make the big club to open the season. When Cody Ross is ready to come off the DL, Ishikawa will be traded or released. DeRosa then become the lead backup to Huff at first base, at least until Memorial Day when Belt could get the call.
SO THEN WHO’S IN RIGHT? If Huff is at first base, then who plays in right field until Ross returns.
MoreSplashHits sees the Giants using a platoon of Aaron Rowand (actually in center with Andres Torres in right) and Nate Schierholtz.
Now the book says you start the RH Rowand against lefties and the LH Schierholtz against righties.
One problem, however. Schierholtz apparently never read that book.
In his career, Schierholtz hits RH pitching .249 average/.295 on base/.373 slugging. Against lefties? .354/.390/.500.
Now, Schierholtz’ sample size against lefties is about one-quarter the size against righties, but those are significant splits to consider.
THE BULLPEN: Bochy said Monday that the chances are closer Brian Wilson won’t open the season with the club. Wilson remained down in Arizona as he tries to recover from a strained oblique.
He’ll throw off a mound Tuesday in one last chance to impress the Giants and convince them that he’s ready to open the season without pitching in a live game in two weeks.
If Wilson opens on the disabled list, he won’t be eligible to pitch for the Giants until April 6, when the Giants face the Padres in the sixth game of the regular season.
If Wilson’s on the DL, that leaves room for both Guillermo Mota and Dan Runzler in the bullpen. When Wilson is ready, one of those two pitchers are off the 25-man roster. Runzler has minor league options; Mota would have to be released.
Wins and losses in spring training don’t matter. But the Giants really needed to get one win before leaving Arizona.
Well, they got two. Both on Saturday.
The Giants left Arizona with a 20-12 record after posting wins over the Reds and Indians on Saturday.
The news wasn’t all good Saturday. Tim Lincecum, making his final spring start, got smacked around pretty good by the Reds.
“I just started missing spots and pitches got up, and I wasn’t getting ahead of many batters,” Lincecum said. “My arm feels ready. It would be nice to get to some games that actually matter.”
We guess that’s the good news. Lincecum is healthy and ready for the season. We just wish he went into the regular season on a stronger note.
Lincecum gave up six runs on 11 hits in five innings. The big hits were wind-blown home runs by Juan Francisco in the second and a three-run homer by ex-Giant Fred Lewis.
On the bright side, the Giants hitters who had largely struggled in the past week got going Saturday.
Andres Torres was 3 for 4 with two doubles and four RBI. Two of those hits were right-handed, which was huge. The oblique injury Torres suffered early in the spring limited his right-handed at-bats and he had struggled since then. So Saturday’s performance was a good sign.
Freddy Sanchez was 2 for 3 before leaving the game after being kicked in the head trying to break up a double play. He was said to be OK, which was good news.
Buster Posey walked three times. Pablo Sandoval was 1 for 3, so was Pat Burrell and Mark DeRosa. Miguel Tejada’s bat continued a strong finish to the spring, going 2 for 4 with two runs.
The Giants scored six runs in the sixth, five coming off Reds reliever Aroldis Chapman.
Also good news is four scoreless innings by the Giants bullpen. Four pitchers — Shane Loux, Guillermo Mota, Jeremy Affeldt and Steve Edlefsen combined to give up just one hit and one walk.
In the Saturday evening game, the Indians announcers were belly-aching about how the fans in Goodyear were being cheated because the Giants sent out a Triple-A lineup. Then that Triple-A lineup pounded out eight runs on 13 hits in an 8-5 win.
Mike Fontenot, Brandon Crawford and Eli Whiteside were all 2 for 5. Brandon Belt was 2 for 4, including a three-run home run. Nate Schierholtz was 2 for 4 and Roger Kieschnick was 2 for 3 with a home run.
On Sunday, the Giants capped their Arizona schedule with a 7-4 loss to the Royals. Jonathan Sanchez suffered his first spring loss. He gave up five runs, four earned, on six hits in 5 1/3 innings. The good news is that he only walked one, a four-pitch walk to Kila Kaaihue that would come back to bite Sanchez.
In the fourth, Sanchez gave up a double to Melky Cabrera, who scored on a single by Billy Butler. After the walk to Ka’aihue, Sanchez got Alex Gordon to pop out and Jeff Francoeur to strike out. Sanchez was one strike from ending the inning against Wilson Betemit, who then smacked a three-run homer for a four-run inning.
The Giants again ran out a lineup devoid of regular starters.
Expect the regular to be in the lineup Monday when the Giants return to San Francisco to open a three-game series against the A’s.
If Friday’s game against the Royals were three innings long, Friday would have been a good day for the Giants.
The Giants were knocking out hit after hit in building a 3-0 lead against Royals starter Vin Mazzaro. Madison Bumgarner was sailing, retiring nine of the first 10 batters he faced.
And then things went bad. Very bad.
The Royals tagged Bumgarner for four runs in the fourth and four more in the fifth. In the end, MadBum gave up eight earned runs on 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings on the way to the Royals winning 15-3. Yikes.
“I think the biggest thing was that I was missing over the middle a lot more,” Bumgarner said. “Early on, I was hitting spots pretty well. I don’t know if it was fatigue, but obviously I’d rather have better results.”
So would we. But Bumgarner did get himself stretch out. He’s slated to pitch again on Wednesday against the A’s in the preseason finale, then make his 2011 regular season debut on April 5 at San Diego. If there was a positive note, it’s that Bumgarner didn’t walk anyone. So it was clear that he wasn’t trying to be too fine.
On the flip side, Santiago Casilla, a candidate to close in the event Brian Wilson is not ready to open the season, had a terrible outing. He gave up five runs in the sixth to the Royals, walking four in the process.
But the Giants play twice on Saturday, doubling their chances of snapping this skid of five losses and seven losses out of eight.
The Giants will roll out an A lineup against the Reds Saturday afternoon of: CF Torres, 2B Sanchez, RF Huff, C Posey, LF Burrell, 3B Sandoval, SS Tejada, 1B DeRosa, SP Lincecum.
It could be the opening day lineup. We could also see DeRosa in RF and Huff at 1B in the opener. The other option is Rowand in CF, Torres in RF and Huff at 1B. Remember, the Giants are facing lefty Clayton Kershaw in the opener.
The Giants will send the B lineup against the Indians Saturday night: 2B Fontenot, RF Schierholtz, 1B Belt, CF Rowand, LF Ishikawa, 3B Rohlinger, SS Crawford, C Whiteside, DH TBA, P Vogelsong.