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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.