So you’d think since we were advocating for Ryan Vogelsong to be the opening day starter that we’d be upset with Bruce Bochy’s announced rotation.
Bochy said the rotation will go like this:
- RHP Matt Cain
- LHP Madison Bumgarner
- RHP Tim Lincecum
- LHP Barry Zito
- RHP Ryan Vogelsong
But we don’t have any problem with this rotation, and here are six good reasons why we like this rotation.
NO. 1: Barry Zito earned the right to open the home opener when the Giants will hoist their 2012 World Series flag. It was Zito who saved the season in Game 5 of the NLCS with his gem in the fourth of the six elimination games the Giants faced last fall.
NO. 2: It sets up the right-left-right-left-right format in the rotation.
NO. 3: Putting Lincecum at the No. 3 slot instead of Vogelsong keeps Timmy’s fragile psyche in place. Vogey can handle being the No. 5 better than Lincecum, who has been the No. 1 guy the past four seasons.
NO. 4: The Giants have won the past 14 games started by Zito, and the Giants want to win their home opener.
NO. 5: Last weekend when Cain, Bumgarner and Lincecum started the season opening series in Arizona — not necessarily in that order — and the Giants lost all three games, it was Zito who pitched a shutout in his season debut in Colorado. Pitching in San Francisco will be much easier.
NO. 6: It’s sets up the rotation against the Cardinals exactly as it aligned in Games 5, 6 and 7 of the NLCS: Zito, Vogelsong, Cain.
Pablo Sandoval was the MVP of the 2012 World Series. And that was an easy call.
The Panda hit .500 (8 for 16) with three home runs, four RBI, a double and only two strikeouts. And, of course, he had the three-homer game.
But there were a lot of MVPs in the World Series for the Giants. Here are others:
RHP Tim Lincecum 4.2 IP, 0 hits, 0 runs, one walk, eight strikeouts
RHP Sergio Romo 3 IP, 0 hits, 0 runs, 0 walks, five strikeouts, three saves
LHP Madison Bumgarner 7 IP, 2 hits, 0 runs, 2 walks, 8 strikeouts, 1 win.
RHP Ryan Vogelsong, 5.2 IP, 5 hits, 0 run, 4 walks, 3 strikeouts, 1 win
OF Gregor Blanco, 4-15 (.267), 3B, RBI, three great catches, great relay throw to Marco Scutaro to get Prince Fielder at the plate
C Buster Posey, 4-15 (.267), HR, 3 RBI, caught outstanding series, two shutouts.
LHP Barry Zito, 5.2 IP, 6 hits, 1 run, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts, 1 win, 1-2, RBI
LHP Jeremy Affeldt, 2 IP, 0 hit, 0 run, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts
SS Brandon Crawford, 3-12 (.250), RBI, stolen base, outstanding defensive shortstop
Game 1 of the 2012 World Series featured three Cy Young Award winners, and one of them got rocked.
It wasn’t Barry Zito.
It wasn’t Tim Lincecum.
It was Justin Verlander.
On an amazing night at AT&T Park, Zito had another amazing outing. Zito gave up one run on six hits and one walk in 5 2/3 innings, striking out three.
Zito didn’t want to come out with two outs in the sixth, after throwing 81 pitches.
Eighty-one pitches to get through almost six innings?!?!? From Zito!?!? He needed 76 to get through 2 2/3 in Cincinnati two weeks ago.
But in the past two postseason starts, Zito has been efficient with his pitches. He’s stayed in the strike zone, pitched to contact and trusted his defense.
On Wednesday, they helped him out. Gregor Blanco made two very nice sliding catches on sinking liners off the bat of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. He got Dmitri Young to hit into a double play with a chop off the plate that was fielded nicely by Buster Posey.
When Zito averages fewer than four pitches per batter faced, good things happen.
In Game 5 of the NLCS, he averaged 3.97 pitches per batter. In Game 1 of the World Series, it was 3.52. In Game 4 of the NLDS vs. the Reds, it was 4.75.
In his final five starts of the regular season (all Zito wins, four of which were quality starts, the other one out from a quality start), Zito averaged 4.15, 3.81, 3.54, 3.78 and 3.88.
And then there was Tim Lincecum, who retired all seven batters he faced in 2 1/3 innings of relief, striking out five of them.
In Lincecum’s one postseason start, he gave up four runs on six hits with three walks and three strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings. In his four postseason relief appearances, he’s given up one run on three hits with one walk and 14 strikeouts in 10 2/3 innings pitched.
“For me, it’s just getting mentally locked in,” Lincecum said. “When I’m starting, I fall off. I start thinking about the wrong things. When I’m in the bullpen, I’m just out there, just thinking about getting outs.”
Clearly, the bullpen is the place for the Freak this October. And Bochy was brilliant to leave him there.
If there was one complaint about Bochy’s usage of Lincecum, it’s that I would have rather seen Lincecum not used in Game 1 to nurse a 6-1 lead when there were only 10 outs to get.
I felt like the Giants could have managed the relief innings Wednesday with the likes of George Kontos, Jeremy Affeldt, Jose Mijares and Santiago Casilla.
I would have felt much better with the Freak in the pen in Game 2, behind the out-of-whack Madison Bumgarner.
After Lincecum had only needed 19 pitches to get four outs, I thought Bochy should have gone to another reliever after the Giants added some insurance runs. But Lincecum came back for the eighth. Apparently Bochy made a commitment not to use Lincecum on back-to-back days, however many pitches he used.
But Bochy’s thought process probably was that it was better to use a committee of 4-5 relievers in the event of another meltdown by MadBum in Game 2, given the day off on Friday, than to use the pen heavy in Game 1.
We’ll see if he’s right.
Or ever better, we won’t have to see … provided that Bumgarner can give the Giants 5 or 6 quality innings. But that’s something we haven’t seen a lot of in the past two months.
Last Friday, prior to Game 5 of the National League championship series, someone asked me if I was confident with Barry Zito on the mound vs. the Cardinals.
I responded that no Giants fan is ever confident with Zito on the mound.
That’s because you just never seem to know which Zito is going to show up: the one who keeps hitters off-balanced or the one who walks in runs.
So to make Giants fans feel better about this Barry Zito vs. Justin Verlander matchup in Game 1 of the World Series, we came up with seven good reasons why you should feel good about Barry Zito.
NO. 1: We’ll start with the obvious one. The Giants have won their last 13 games when Zito has started on the mound.
NO. 2: It’s true that the Giants have won each of Zito’s last 13 starts sometimes in spite of Zito — he has a 3.56 ERA over that stretch. But since Sept. 9, he is 6-0 with a 2.57 ERA.
NO. 3: Against teams that advanced to the postseason this year (Reds, Cardinals, Braves, Rangers and A’s), Zito was 4-2 with a 2.98 ERA in eight starts.
NO. 4: Zito has 2.96 ERA in 9 postseason starts. It would be much less if we took out Zito’s lone postseason start vs. Detroit (in 2006).
NO. 5: The Giants score runs when Zito pitches. After giving Zito 3.7, 3.0 and 3.5 runs of support per start in 2008, 2009 and 2010, the Giants gave Zito 4.8 runs of support in 2012. During the 13 game win streak in Zito starts, the Giants have averaged 6.23 runs.
NO. 6: Zito’s last start against the Tigers in 2011, he gave up no runs on five hits in six innings of work. The Giants won that game 15-3 over Max Scherzer. Brandon Crawford and Pablo Sandoval homered in that game. To put the game into context, Zito opened his season by injuring his ankle in his third start of the season in Arizona. He then missed the next 2.5 months. Actually, he was hurt the next six weeks then he spent nearly a month in Fresno on a rehab stint after Ryan Vogelsong had seized Zito’s spot in the rotation. But the Jonathan Sanchez imploded, so Zito came off the DL. He gave up 2 runs in 7 innings vs. the Cubs, then the start in Detroit, then gave up one run in eight innings vs. the Padres. Then Zito’s season went to heck and he didn’t make another start after July 31.
NO. 7: In Justin Verlander, the Giants are facing a pitcher with an ERA of 0.74 in his three previous postseason starts. In 2010, the Giants faced Texas’ Cliff Lee in Game 1 of the World Series. Coming into that game, Lee had an ERA of 0.75 in his three previous postseason starts that year. The Giants jumped on Lee for 7 runs (6 earned) in 4 2/3 innings en route to an 11-7 win.
Game 1: Cardinals 6, Giants 4
Game 2: Giants 7, Cardinals 1
Game 3: Cardinals 3, Giants 1
Game 4: Cardinals 8, Giants 3
Game 5: Giants 5, Cardinals 0
Game 6: Cardinals (Carpenter) at Giants (Vogelsong), 4:45 p.m. Sunday
Game 7 (if necessary): Cardinals (Lohse) at Giants (Cain), 5:07 p.m. Monday
I didn’t blog after the Giants’ 8-3 loss to the Cardinals on Thursday — not entirely because I was depressed. I was actually busy with other things.
But if I had found the time to blog, this is what I was planning to write.
All hope was not lost, not even with the fact the Giants were behind 3-1 in the National League Championship series, needing once again to win three consecutive games to advance.
And not because Barry Zito was pitching.
Jayson Stark of ESPN said Wednesday that Game 3 was the game the Giants NEEDED to win, because Matt Cain was on the mound. After Cain came the enigmatic Tim Lincecum (he was right about that one) and then the equally puzzling Barry Zito.
But as someone who has blogged about the Giants all season, I kept thinking back to similar feelings I had about upcoming Zito starts this season.
The situation was this: the Giants were coming off a loss — sometimes a couple of losses — and, oh great, now Zito is pitching.
Then Zito turns in a pearl.
Seven of Zito’s 15 wins this season — that’s almost half — have come on days that followed a Giants’ loss.
It started with his first win of the season way back on April 9. You remember? Zito was gawd-awful in the spring, stayed in Arizona to “work on some things,” the Giants drop their first three games to the Diamondbacks, then they get Zito pitching in Colorado.
And what did he do? He pitched a shutout, being the Rockies 8-0.
He would do it six more times following a Giants’ loss, including two more when he didn’t allow the opponent to score:
- June 25 vs. Dodgers, Giants win 8-0
- July 6 at Pirates, Giants win 6-5
- August 7 at Cardinals, Giants win 4-2
- September 9 vs. Dodgers, Giants win 4-0
- October 2 at Dodgers, Giants win 4-3
Well, Zito did it again on Friday, when the stakes were far higher than they had ever been previously.
He held the Cardinals to no runs on six hits and one walk (which was an intentional walk) while striking out six in 7 2/3 innings, sending the Giants back to San Francisco with the hopes of a pennant still alive.
“I couldn’t be happier for him,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “I don’t know how many times we needed to win this year, he found a way to get it done for us.”
Afterwards, Zito knew what the victory meant to him and his team.
“This is definitely it for me,” Zito said. “Coming here, really doing it in a Giants uniform. A lot of people were saying stuff about my A’s days. And for me, the most important thing is doing everything for San Francisco right now.”
And as they have so often this season, the Giants did something for Zito. They got him some runs.
For the second time in this NLCS, the Giants went hitless against Cardinals’ starter Lance Lynn the first time through the lineup.
And for the second time in this NLCS, they jumped on him for a four-run fourth inning.
Marco Scutaro and Pablo Sandoval opened the inning with singles before Buster Posey struck out. Hunter Pence hit a high chopper back to Lynn, who fielded the ball, spun and threw to second. But the ball was low, shortstop Pete Kozma was late in covering, and the ball bounced off the bag and into the outfield, allowing Scutaro to score the game’s first run.
After Brandon Belt popped out — failing to get a runner home from third with less than two out — Gregor Blanco walked. Then Brandon Crawford delivered in the clutch again, as he has before this postseason, smacking a single up the middle to score Sandoval and Pence.
Then Zito made the offensive play of the night for the Giants. After falling behind in the count, he saw David Freese playing deep at third and punched a bunt up the third base line, then hustling down to first for an infield single that scored Blanco with the fourth run.
The play stunned the Cardinals, and even some Giants, too.
“Shocked,” third-base coach Tim Flannery said. “We work on it. We talk about it. But he did that all on his own. It was beautiful – brilliant.”
Said Blanco: “I was thinking, maybe, ball in the dirt, I’ve got to be ready. But I wasn’t expecting that. It was awesome, unbelievable. That’s what I told him: ‘Awesome! Awesome! You’ve got to do it again!’ ”
It wasn’t all Zito after that. Pablo Sandoval added another home run, and the Giants’ defense behind Zito was superb.
But the bottom line is that for the 13th consecutive game that Zito has started, the Giants came away winners.
Incredible. Amazing. Unbelievable.
Now the Giants return home where they will throw Ryan Vogelsong in Game 6, and hopefully Matt Cain in Game 7.
And here’s another amazing thought. If the Giants can pull off another comeback and advance to the World Series, who do you think might get the call at AT&T Park next Wednesday against the Tigers?
Could it be Barry Zito?
Oh, and the last time Zito faced the Tigers, he delivered his only scoreless start of the 2011 season, pitching six scoreless in Detroit on July 2, 2011.
And the Giants scored runs for him, winning 15-3.
I’m stunned. Absolutely stunned.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy announced Sunday who will start Game 3 in Cincinnati: Ryan Vogelsong.
After Vogelsong pitched last week in Los Angeles — his third consecutive solid start after a very rough patch in August and early September — I felt Vogelsong was the best option for Game 3.
He has allowed one earned run in 17 innings over his last three starts. He’s back to the Vogelsong of old.
Tim Lincecum has just been to inconsistent this season, especially of late.
In his final two starts of the regular seasons, Lincecum got tagged for 11 earned runs in 10 innings.
And Barry Zito is, well, Barry Zito.
I felt best about Vogelsong in Game 3, regardless of the situation. I’m sure most Giants fans feel the same way.
I just wasn’t sure if Bruce Bochy would feel the same.
Bochy’s M.O. over the years have been to go with players who have success in the past — not necessarily in the present.
We saw it all last year when he sided with a struggling Aubrey Huff, instead of Brandon Belt. And there have been numerous others examples.
With Bochy, sometimes it seems more about loyalty than results.
I thought Bochy would go with Lincecum in Game 3, and Zito in Game 4, with Vogelsong coming out of the pen.
There is some logic to that strategy as Vogelsong is probably the best suited of the three to work out of the pen.
Bochy did not announce who would pitch Game 4, “but we have a pretty good idea of what we want to do,” he said.
Translation: Barry Zito pitches Game 4. But Bochy is leaving that option open, depending on what happens in Games 2 and 3.
The Giants have won the last 11 games in which Barry Zito has started, dating back to Aug. 7 in St. Louis. Zito was 5-0 in his last five starts, allowing eight earned runs in 30.2 innings (a 2.35 ERA). And the Reds have several key left-handed bats in their lineup.
Bochy said he talked to Lincecum and he’s ready to do anything he can to help the team, which Bochy said includes coming out of the pen.
Again, another sign that Zito is the Game 4 option.
But Lincecum out of the pen? I’m not so sure about that.
Lincecum posted a 7.64 ERA this season in the first inning of games. That doesn’t speak to a lot of confidence of him coming out of the pen. He’s struggled to find his rhythm early.
So is Lincecum only an option to pitch as an innings eater in the event the Giants fall behind big early in the game?
If so, it seems like a waste of a roster spot. But he is a two-time Cy Young winner. Although those trophies don’t get you any outs this October.
So it’s Ryan Vogelsong in Game 3, Barry Zito probably in Game 4, Matt Cain in Game 5. And Tim Lincecum in the pen.
I bet you Chris Lincecum, Timmy’s daddy, is going nuts right about now.
Magic number: 17
Entering Sunday night’s game, the Giants were still nursing the soreness of missing an opportunity to really stick it to the Dodgers, wasting a solid outing from Matt Cain on Saturday.
Then they had Barry Zito going up against Clayton Kershaw. So the odds of the Dodgers leaving town with a 3.5-game deficit were looking good.
Then the Dodgers announced that Kershaw was nursing a sore hip, and they decided to stick with Joe Blanton in his regular turn in the rotation, giving Kershaw two more days to make his regular turn Tuesday in Arizona.
That was the first bit of good news.
With Blanton on the mound, the Giants struck early with Hunter Pence delivering a two-out, two-run double in the first. Angel Pagan’s triple led to a third run, and Buster Posey’s 20th home run of the season made it 4-0.
Then Zito did what he’s done a number of times this season — he shut down a contending team.
Zito shut out the Dodgers before leaving with two on and one out in the seventh.
Santiago Casilla pitched out of that jam. Jose Mijares, Guillermo Mota, Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo finished out the shutout.
It was the fourth time this season the Giants have shut out the Dodgers. To make that sweeter, the win was the rubber match for games at AT&T Park for the rivals. The Giants won 5 of 9.
The Giants have 22 games left. The Dodgers have 21. We were incorrect in any earlier post in saying the Dodgers now head to Washington and Cincinnati. That trip will come in another week. Now the Dodgers head to Arizona for two-game before a brief four-game homestand against the Cardinals.
Now if the Giants finish the season 11-11, the Dodgers’ hope of winning NL West ends with their sixth loss. Done at 15-6.
Those are long odds for a team that is 6-9 since their blockbuster trade that was supposed to put them over the top. Long odds for a team that still has 13 games left against playoff contenders. Long odd for a team whose ace has a sore hip, whose No. 2 pitcher is done for the year, whose closer’s status is uncertain, whose best player has a sore shoulder.
It might be to stop looking back at the Dodgers and start looking up at the Reds and National. See if they can’t catch those guys and secure some home cooking in October.
First things first. Let’s beat the Rockies on Monday, extend Colorado’s five-game skid and officially eliminate the Rockies from the NL West race. And it would be nice to get Ryan Vogelsong right.