Here’s one stat the San Francisco Giants fans aren’t talking about right now.
The Giants are 0 for their last 21 at-bats with runners in scoring position over their last five games.
In Saturday’s game in Atlanta, the Giants didn’t get a chance to fail with a runner in scoring position because they never put a runner into scoring position.
Yet the Giants are on a five-game winning streak thanks to home runs and outstanding pitching.
Madison Bumgarner joined the parade of quality starts by limiting the Braves to one unearned run over six innings in a 4-1 win on Saturday.
The win completed the Giants’ first sweep in Atlanta in 1988. That was a really, really, long time ago. How long ago?
It was so long ago that 1988 was the last time the Dodgers won a World Series.
Yeah, like we said, a looooooooooooooooong time ago.
It was good to see Bumgarner regain his form as the ace of the staff. Prior to Sunday’s start, Bumgarner had allowed as many earned runs (four) in his last start (5 IP) as Ryan Vogelsong, Tim Linecum, Tim Hudson, Yusmeiro Petit and Vogelsong had allowed combined in the 33.2 innings over the Giants’ previous five starts.
Bumgarner allowed three hits and one walk, while striking out nine over his six innings of work. He threw 95 pitches and lowered his season ERA to 3.18.
From there, the bullpen continued its streak of scoreless relief. The Giants’ pen has not allowed a run since the ninth inning of Monday’s loss to the Padres.
Since then, they’ve pitched 13 consecutive scoreless innings, allowing only three hits over that stretch.
And the Giants continue to hit the long ball. They added two more on Sunday, both off the bat of Brandon Crawford. He had a solo home run in the fourth, then broke the Giants’ long stretch of hitting just solo homers in the eighth with a two-run shot.
The Giants’ other run came on a run-scoring groundout by Buster Posey in the first inning, meaning that Angel Pagan remains the only Giant to have a run-scoring hit on the road that was not a home run since April 5. Pagan has two such hits.
It’s an odd combination, especially for the Giants — home runs, solid starting pitching and outstanding relief pitching. But it’s produced the first five-game winning streak of the 2014 season, and the longest winning streak since winning six in a row from April 29-May 5, 2013.
Now, it’s a happy flight to Pittsburgh as the Giants have opened this tough 10-game road trip against three playoff teams from 2013 at 3-0.
It was a busy weekend for MoreSplashHits. Hey, it was Mother’s Day weekend, so we weren’t blogging much.
But we were stilling watching the Giants, and Sunday’s game provided us with another Splash Hits.
It was Sandoval’s first Splash Hit since Aug. 31, 2011 and the seventh of his career. That ranks him second all-time behind …. some guy named …. Bonds, whoever that is.
Brandon Belt had delivered the last three Splash Hits. Belt also homered Sunday, but he hit his the other way to left field. Here’s a list of Splash Hit leaders.
- Barry Bonds 35
- Pablo Sandoval 7
- Brandon Belt 3
Sunday’s home runs helped cap a relaxing weekend for Giants fans. Prior to Friday, the Giants had only won two games without the need of a save or walk-off win.
None of the three wins against the Braves over the weekend required a save or walk-off win, with the Giants winning 8-2, 10-1 and 5-1. Before Friday, the Giants’ run differential was 0. Now, it’s +19.
A big sigh of relief was released by San Francisco Giants fans on Friday.
For the first time since April 21, they didn’t have to sweat out a victory as Matt Cain pitched eight solid innings and the Giants tallied a six-run fourth inning to beat Tim Hudson.
It was the second consecutive solid start from Cain, who looks more and more like he’s returning to his ace form. Here are a series of tidbits about Friday’s game.
- The Giants fans finally got a breather. It was only the third time the Giants have won a game that didn’t require a save or a walk-off win. The other two came in shutout wins in games started by Barry Zito.
- The lone two runs allowed by Cain came on a two-run home run in the fifth by Brian McCann. Sixteen of the last 20 runs Cain has allowed has come via the home run.
- McCann’s home run was the 26th time an opponent has hit a home run on the fly into San Francisco Bay. We don’t call it a Splash Hits, because those are just reserved for blasts of Giants’ bats.
- It was the first win by the Giants over Tim Hudson since April 8, 2006. Hudson had gone 6-0 with a 2.48 ERA against the Giants since then.
- Cain contributed to the six-run fourth with his first RBI of the season. Cain was the last of the five Giants starting pitchers to record an RBI.
- Including last season’s postseason, the Giants have won 22 consecutive games, dating back to May 9 of last year, in which a pitcher has recorded an RBI.
- Marco Scutaro had two hits in the fourth inning, extending his hitting streak to 10 games. He will likely get the day off on Saturday.
- The Giants improved to 4-0 at home on games played on Friday.
Ryan Vogelsong’s ERA started at 8.44 after giving up five runs in 5.1 against the Cardinals in his first start of the year.
Then Vogelsong started dropping his ERA over the next three starts to 7.15, 5.89 and 5.68. You would have expected that trend to continue this early in the season.
And yet, Vogey’s ERA has gone the other direction over his last three starts: 6.23 after 5 ER in 5 IP vs. the Padres, 7.20 after 7 ER in 4.2 IP vs. the Dodgers and 7.78 after 6 ER in 4.1 IP vs. the Braves on Thursday.
To his credit, Vogelsong says he expects to make his next start Wednesday in Toronto. “Why wouldn’t I?” he said. He says his health and stamina are fine, and he feels “he’s close” to being where he needs to be.
And, of course, he’s overcome his share of adversity in his career.
I came through it after 13 years,” Vogelsong said. “I came through it after August of 2011. I came through it after August and September of 2012 , and I’ll come through it again this year.”
OK, let’s examine that.
When Vogelsong mentioned August of 2011, my first reaction was “He was bad in August 2011? I don’t remember that.” And there was good reason for that: He wasn’t that bad.
After his first start in August of 2011, Vogelsong was 9-1 with 2.19 ERA. He then lost six of his next seven starts, but his ERA rose to just 2.66. He had one start in which he gave up five runs in five innings, but did not allow any more than three runs in any of those other starts. So the issue wasn’t Vogey; it was the Giants offense.
But August-September of 2012 was something completely different. In a seven-start stretch, he went 2-4 with a huge 10.31 ERA. Vogelsong responded by giving up just one earned run in his final three starts (17 innings) of the regular season. Then in the postseason, he was 3-0 with a 1.09 ERA in four starts.
The Giants didn’t skip Vogey during that ugly stretch, and the Giants were in the middle of a pennant chase. But manager Bruce Bochy said the Giants were considering all options when it come to Vogelsong.
That fifth inning has been ugly, no doubt. Hitters are batting .500 in the fifth. While home runs allowed have been balanced, opponents have six doubles and triples in the fifth to only two in innings 1-4.
Opponents hit Vogelsong better each time they face him: .271 first time through the lineup, .333 second time, .367 third time. And strikeouts have gone down: 20 first time, 11 second time, 6 third time.
There is one caveat to these numbers. Of the 12 fifth-inning runs allowed in the fifth inning, 10 have come in his last two starts (6 vs. Dodgers, 4 vs. Braves). Also four of those runs were scored after Vogelsong left the game because the reliever could not keep the inherited runners from scoring.
Still, the numbers are ugly, so it’s time to consider the options. So here they are:
BACK OFF BETWEEN STARTS: Vogelsong is a hard worker, a by-product of his path back to big leagues. He takes nothing for granted, and that’s why we love him. But that attitude could have a flip side. “If anything, he might work too hard at times,” Bochy said. So the Giants might monitor his throwing sessions between starts.
SKIP HIS NEXT START: The Giants have a off day on Monday, so they could skip Vogelsong’s turn in the rotation to give him time to work on things in the bullpen. But that would only move his next start from Wednesday in Toronto to Saturday (May 18) in Colorado. But how much good would three extra days rest do? Also, do you want to skip a start in Toronto to make one in Colorado? If he pitches on his normal turn, he would miss the four-game series at Coors.
SEND HIM TO THE PEN, FIND A REPLACEMENT: Vogelsong’s struggle set off calls to find someone in the minors to replace him. Well, this has been weakness of the Giants since spring training, and it hasn’t gotten much better. At Fresno, the starters include Chris Heston (3-2, 5.82 ERA), Mike Kickham (0-4, 5.65), Yusmeiro Petit (2-3, 6.69) and Boof Bonser (1-2, 5.45). The best option might be Shane Loux (3-1, 4.21), if that idea excites you. The numbers are better at Double-A where you have Justin Fitzgerald (3-0, 1.09) and Jack Snodgrass (3-0, 2.60). But the AA Atlantic League is a pitcher-friendly league, while the PCL is hitter-friendly. We’ve seen what making the jump from AA to AAA has done to the likes of Heston and Kickham. Making the jump all the way to bigs is a larger leap. Plus moving Vogelsong to the pen thins out an already overtaxed bullpen. Using long reliever Chad Gaudin as a spot starter is iffy. He’s only made one appearance of 3 innings, so stretching him out is no given. Plus, again, it thins out the pen.
KEEP HIM IN THE ROTATION AND LET HIM WORK IT OUT: These appears to be the most likely option, at least for now. While Bochy did talk about “options” he also said: “I do think the pitches caught up with him in the fifth,” Bochy said. “He worked pretty hard and he was up to 90 pitches in 4 1/3 innings. Up to that point, he was pretty good.” So while the Giants would love to get 6 or 7 solid innings from Vogey in Toronto, where the DH allows pitcher to go deeper into games, he may be on a very short leash, with Gaudin ready to pick up the innings on the back side.
The Giants went 6-0 last week, leaving them 19-12 for the season, 1st in the NL West , 1 game behind of the Rockies.
- Monday: W, 6-4 vs. Diamondbacks; WP: Machi (1-0); HR: Belt (2).
- Tuesday: W, 2-1 vs. Diamondbacks; WP: Rosario (1-0); HR: Sandoval (4).
- Wednesday: W, 9-6 vs. Diamondbacks; WP: Kontos (2-1); HR: Pagan (1), Pence (5), Belt (3).
- Thursday: idle.
- Friday: W, 2-1 vs. Dodgers; WP: Romo (2-2); HR: Posey (4).
- Saturday: W 10-9, vs. Dodgers; WP: Casilla (3-2); HR: Torres (1), Quiroz (1)
- Sunday: W, 4-3 vs. Dodgers; WP: Cain (1-2).
Six wins, five come-from-behind wins and one hang-on-to-win. Lots of excitement (maybe too much). Brandon Belt’s two-run single in the eighth, Pablo Sandoval’s two-run homer in the ninth, Belt’s three-run homer in the eighth, Buster Posey’s walk-off homer in the ninth, Guillermo Quiroz’s walk-off homer in the 10th, Hunter Pence’s four-RBI game.
PHILLIES (14-18) AT GIANTS
- Monday: Phillies (Lee 2-2) at Giants (Bumgarner 3-0), 7:15 p.m.
- Tuesday: Phillies (Kendrick 3-1) at Giants (Lincecum 2-1), 7:15 p.m.
- Wednesday: Phillies (Pettibone 2-0) at Giants (Barry Zito 3-1), 12:45 p.m.
We can tell you this much about the opener to this series: expect a low-scoring game. Bumgarner has a 1.55 ERA, but he has no decision in his last three starts. Why? The Giants don’t like scoring runs for him. When he’s left his last three starts, the score has been 2-2, 1-1 and 1-1. The Giants have given him 2.83 runs of support. But the Phillies have give Cliff Lee 2.67 runs of support. Bumgarner is 1-1 with 2.57 ERA in two starts vs. the Phillies. However, Lee is 4-0 with 0.63 ERA in 5 starts vs. the Giants (that doesn’t include Game 1 of 2010 World Series). It does include his 10 shutout innings in a game at AT&T Park last year (that the Phillies eventually lost in 12). … The Giants went 4-2 against the Phillies last year, winning 2 of 3 at hom and 2 of 3 in Philly.
BRAVES (18-12) at GIANTS
- Thursday: Braves (Teheran 1-0) at Giants (Vogelsong 1-2), 7:15 p.m. MLB Network
- Friday: Braves (Hudson 4-1) at Giants (Cain 1-2), 7:15 p.m.
- Saturday: Braves (Maholm 3-3) at Giants (Bumgarner 3-0), 1:05 p.m., MLB Network
- Sunday: Braves (Medlen 1-4) at Giants (Lincecum 1-2), 1:05 p.m.
Giants won 4 of 7 games vs. the Braves last season, splitting a four-game set in San Francisco in August. … The Braves are second in the NL in home runs. They face Cain on Sunday, who has surrendered nine homers this season. … Catcher Brian McCann comes off the DL this week, but Justin Heyward remains on the DL. … The Braves opened the season 12-1, but have gone 6-11 since then. They’ve lost 7 of their last 10.
Barry Zito. What can you say about Barry Zito.
Well, he’s done what he needed to do this season.
He didn’t need to be the ace.
He didn’t need to be an All-Star.
He didn’t need to be the guy deserving $20 million a season.
He was going to get paid regardless.
What he needed to be is a serviceable end-of-the-rotation guy.
Zito is now 10-8 with a 4.31 ERA. Match that up with other No. 5 pitchers around the league, even No. 4 pitchers, and that’s right on line.
But here’s a stat that might surprise some.
Zito actually posted better ERAs in 2009, when he was 10-13, and 2010, when he was 9-14. ERAs those years 4.03 and 4.15.
The big difference this season it is that Zito has been hit-and-miss this season.
In Zito’s 10 wins this season, he has an ERA of 2.21.
In Zito’s eight losses this season, his ERA is 8.31.
Thursday was a good start as he took a shutout into the ninth inning. Manager Bruce Bochy sent him out in the ninth despite having thrown 108 pitches. Back-to-back hits to open the ninth led to Zito’s exit, and Zito finished with two runs allowed in eight-plus innings.
Here’s an interesting twist in the Zito story.
If Zito pitches 400 innings combined over the 2012 and 2013 seasons, an $18 million player option kicks in for 2014.
Some fans have expressed some concern that if Zito continues to pitch well, he might actually approach that 400 inning milestone.
Well, the numbers say otherwise.
Zito has pitched 146.1 innings this season in 25 starts, an average of 5.9 innings per start. He is slated to make seven more starts. If he pitches his average of six innings per start, that would push his 2012 season total to 188 innings.
That means he would have to pitch 212 innings in 2013 for that option to kick in. Zito has not pitched more than 199.1 innings during his stint with the Giants.
By the time Wednesday’s wild game in Atlanta ended, I needed to be reminded that the Giants have a five-game winning streak, their longest winning streak of the 2012 season.
That’s because the Giants seem to lose, then win, then lose, then win this game so many times on Wednesday that it was hard to remember they are still riding a hot streak.
Here is a rundown of Wednesday’s weirdness:
MINOR SETBACK: Tim Lincecum opened the night with the second-worst ERA by a starting pitcher in the NL with qualifying innings. He finished the night with the worst. That’s because the Giants could only manage one run in six innings off Mike Minor, who entered the game with 5.97 ERA and finished the game with 5.69 ERA.
GOT MELK? The Braves don’t anymore. But the Giants do. His solo home run in the sixth tied the game at 1-1. He finished 2 for 5 for his 42nd multi-hit game of the season.
RUNS FOR RYAN? Ryan Vogelsong pitched his ninth quality start of the season in which he either took a no-decision or was saddled with a loss. He’s 7-4, but really should have 11 or 12 wins by now.
RUNNING FOR BUSTER: Manager Bruce Bochy decided to pinch-run for Buster Posey after Posey had a lead-off single in the top of the ninth. Gregor Blanco almost got picked off several times by Craig Kimbrel before Pablo Sandoval hit into double play. Pulling Posey in a 1-1 game in the ninth makes sense only if Bochy plans to start Posey in Thursday’s day game. If Posey sits, the move made little sense.
ESCAPE ACT IN NINTH: Two balls that clanked of Giants gloves in the ninth almost allowed the Braves to win without the benefit of a hit. Sergio Romo hit Dan Uggla with one out. Chipper Jones hit a slow roller to Ryan Theriot, who flubbed the ball. Both Uggla and Jones moved up 90 feet when a Romo pitch clanked off Eli Whiteside’s glove. It was ruled a wild pitch, but could have easily been a passed ball. After Romo fanned Paul Janish, Javier Lopez intentionally walked Tyler Pastornicky to load the bases, then struck out Michael Bourn in a nine-pitch battle to end the inning.
BOCHY’S MOVE-A-RAMA: By this point in the game, Bochy had thinned out his bench. He had Nate Schierholtz bat for Vogelsong in the seventh; Blanco stayed in the game and played center when he ran for Posey, so then Posey and Angel Pagan were out of the game, with Whiteside replacing Posey at catcher. Brandon Crawford entered the game in a double switch when Lopez relieved Romo in the ninth, and Sandoval was out of the game. In the 10th, when the Giants sent eight batters to the plate, Emmanuel Burriss hit for Lopez, exhausting the last of the available position players. Bochy ended up using 20 of 24 available players (Thursday’s starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner was sent back to the team hotel to prepare for his mid-day start) and the skipper was even contemplating having Matt Cain play right field if the game lingered on.
TWO-RUN RALLY IN TENTH: Joaquin Arias got things going with a one-out triple. After Brandon Crawford was intentionally walked — setting up a potential inning-ending double play, Justin Christian hit a swinging bunt that scored Arias. When Chipper Jones’ lob home to get Arias was errant, Crawford went to third. After a Ryan Theriot walk, Cabrera blooped a single to score Crawford. With a chance to add on, Blanco struck out and Burriss hit a liner to Jones.
WOE IS SANTIAGO: Given a two-run lead, Santiago Casilla appeared headed to an easy save after quickly erasing Martin Prado and Jason Heyward. But then he gave up a double to Freddie Freeman, then a two-run home run to Brian McCann. Bochy said he would talk to pitching coach Dave Righetti about replacing Casilla as the team’s closer. Bochy suggested that when he gets two outs, Casilla often stops pitching and just tries to throw balls past hitters. This time, the Braves were ready.
WELCOME BACK WHITEY: Eli Whiteside had an interesting day. It started with him flying from Las Vegas to Atlanta as he was called up from Triple-A to replace Hector Sanchez on the active roster. He arrived at the stadium before game time only because the game was delay almost 90 minutes by rain. Whiteside looked like he might be the goat when a pitch clanked off his glove in the ninth. But then he helped start a six-run rally in the 11th when he hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and alertly advanced to second on a wild pitch.
BLASTS BY BENCH PLAYERS: We’ve mentioned how the Giants’ bench is a weak spot. But two players not in the starting lineup had two BIG hits. First with two one and one out, Brandon Crawford fouled a ball off his foot. He hobbled around as the team trainer came out to look at him. Coming out of the game was not an option as their were no position players left on the bench. On the next pitch, Crawford belted a three-run home run into right for a 6-3 lead. Christian then reached on an error. After Theriot grounded out, advancing Christian, the Braves intentionally walked Cabrera. Blanco came up with two on and two out and Matt Cain on deck to hit for Casilla. Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow were talking how the Braves would walk Blanco to pitch to Cain. But then they didn’t and Blanco spanked another three-run shot into the right-field bleachers for a 9-3 lead.
- The win clinched the Giants’ first series win in Atlanta since 2008. It’s only their second series win at Turner Field since it opened 16 years ago.
- If the Giants win Thursday, it will be their first series sweep in Atlanta since 1988.
- The victory allowed the Giants to maintain their three-game lead over the Dodgers in the NL West.
The Giants are now 6-1 in extra-inning games.