Tagged: Chicago Cubs

Loss to Cubs makes it official: Time for San Franciso Giants to look toward 2014

San Francisco Giants fans have been talking about rock-bottom for a month now.

Sergio RomoSome said it was when they got swept by the Dodgers after dropping three of four to the Marlins.

Others said it was when they got no-hit by Homer Bailey.

And more said it was when they got shut down by Zach Wheeler on a day when Matt Cain didn’t pitch out of the first inning.

Well, for MoreSplashHits, it was Friday night.

It’s rock-bottom because no matter how many games the Giants lose from this point forward, they won’t matter a bit. Because Friday night is when the last of my hope of the Giants making something out of the 2013 season when right out the window, or more precisely, right between our legs.

From this point on, it would take a miracle for the Giants to make the postseason. And, yes Al Michaels, I do believe in miracles. But they just don’t happen all that often.

The Giants lost to the Cubs after blowing a 2-1 lead with two on and two out in the ninth when Anthony Rizzo hit a ball right at Brandon Belt at first and the Giants’ sure-handed first basemen let it go right between his legs, allowing the Cubs to score the tying and go-ahead runs for a 3-2 win.

On the same night, the Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Rockies — the three teams ahead of the Giants in the NL West — won. The Giants are now eight games out of first place and 10 games under .500. They have the worst record in the majors over the past two months.

And the win allowed the Cubs to have a better record than the Giants. Ponder that for a moment.

After I pondered that fact for a moment, I discovered it was a good thing. Because I’m not looking at 2013 anymore. I’m looking at 2014. Here are the standings I’m looking at.

  1. Astros 34-68 .333
  2. Marlins 39-62 .386
  3. White Sox 40-60 .400
  4. Brewers 42-60 .412
  5. Twins 43-56 .434
  6. Padres 46-58 .442
  7. Giants 46-56 .451
  8. Cubs 46-55 .455
  9. Mets 46-54 . 460
  10. Blue Jays 47-55 .461
  11. Angels 48-53 .475

The Giants have the seventh-worst record in all of Major League Baseball.

That’s not so important to just pick up the No. 7 pick in next June’s draft. But remember, if the Giants go after a free agent next offseason who has been tendered a qualifying offer, it won’t cost the Giants a first-round pick to sign that player if the Giants have a top-10 selection in the draft. It will cost them a second-round draft pick.

It’s very likely the Giants could be looking to fill four spots on their roster vacated by free agents: a right fielder (Hunter Pence), two starting pitchers (Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito) and a reliever (Javier Lopez).

While it doesn’t appear there will be more than about a half-dozen players who will actually receive qualifying offers this offseason — recent trades of Ricky Nolasco and Matt Garza make them ineligible to receive one, and one of those qualifying offers may be made to Pence if the Giants opt not to trade him — it still takes a least one hurdle out of the Giants’ way if they want to go after a player like Shin-Soo Choo, who we fill would make a nice fit in right field.

And when you start looking toward 2014, these tough losses won’t seem so tough.

Giants 10, Cubs 7 (10 inn.): Captain Underpants (aka Hunter Pence) to the rescue

On Sunday in Chicago, the Giants needed a hero. They found one in Hunter Pence.

In doing some research on nicknames for Giants players, I discovered that Hunter Pence’s nickname is Captain Underpants. Well, at least according to Baseball Reference.

upantsThe only nickname I was aware for Pence was “The Reverend” for his inspirational pre-game pep talks during last season’s postseason run. Apparently, that nickname hasn’t reached Baseball Reference.

I searched for an explanation on the Underpants moniker and all I could find was a story when Pence played in the minors, a heckler mistakenly thought the stadium P.A. guy said “Underpants” when introducing “Hunter Pence.” The heckler then called Pence “Underpants” the rest of the game.

From Underpants, the title “Captain” was added, a reference to the children’s novel series in which two 4th graders hypnotize their mean principal to become the pseduo-superhero Captain Underpants.

Well, whatever you want to call him, he’s been a hero for the Giants in 2013.

Pence belted his fourth home run this season for the Giants. In 59 games after being acquired in a trade with the Phillies last season, Pence hit seven home runs for the Giants.

He came through in the clutch Sunday when with two outs and on a 2-2 pitch from Shawn Camp, Pence launched a homer to left-center to tie the game at 7-7.

The Giants added three runs in the 10th for a 10-7 and take the series from the Cubs, 3-1.

Amazingly, the Giants won for the third consecutive time that Tim Lincecum has started. In all three games, the Giants have had to come from behind.

After rallying from a modest 1-0 deficit to beat the Dodgers on April 3, the Giants had to erase a 6-2 deficit against the Rockies to win 9-6 on Tuesday.

On Sunday, after surrendering two-run homers to Starlin Castro and Nate Schierholtz in the first inning to give the Cubs a 4-1 lead, Lincecum settled down to four scoreless innings to keep the Giants in the game. He was actually in line to get the win after the Giants scored four runs in the sixth.

The Giants got creative with their runs scored, or should we say the Cubs did. The Giants scored runs on a passed ball, a wild pitch and a balk.

The Giants’ sixth alone consisted of four walks, five wild pitches, a run-scoring double by Gregor Blanco and a two-run, pinch-hit single by Nick Noonan.

But the Cubs rallied to take the lead themselves by scoring two runs in the bottom of the eighth off just one hit. Jeremy Affeldt issued three walks, including one with the bases loaded, and Alberto Gonzalez added a sacrifice fly.

After Pence tied it in the ninth, the Giants tallied three runs in the 10th on singles by Hector Sanchez, Brandon Crawford, Buster Posey and a double by Marco Scutaro — as well as the aforementioned balk from Camp.

Sergio Romo came in to save it in the bottom of the 10th. Although we’ve stated we don’t like using Romo to save three-run leads, with the day off Monday, we had no problem with going to Romo in this situation.

The win gave the Giants a 3-1 series win. The series opened and closed with Giant comebacks. The Giants rallied from 5-0 down to beat the Cubs 7-6 in the series opener. They even erased a 2-0 deficit in the top of the ninth Friday, before giving the lead back in the bottom of the ninth for their lone loss in the series.

Giants 3, Cubs 2: Apparently every 2012 Giant loses on the day when he gets his World Series ring

Nate Schierholtz receives his World Series ring from Bruce Bochy on Saturday.

Nate Schierholtz receives his World Series ring from Bruce Bochy on Saturday.

Saturday started with smiles for Nate Schierholtz. It ended with a loss.

Now you know how the rest of your ex-teammates on the Giants feel.

During batting practice Saturday, Giants manager Bruce Bochy presented Schierholtz with his World Series ring.

When presenting the ring, Bochy told Schierholtz: “Thanks for everything you did for us. If not for you, we never could have rallied around Hunter Pence‘s inspiring pre-game speeches.”

OK, so he didn’t say that.

But as a member of the 2012 Giants, Schierholtz received his ring Saturday. It was cool that Bochy packed away Schierholtz ring on the trip to Chicago. It was a little odd that he would decide to wait until before the third game to give it to him.

Oh well, better to wait two days than three months, when the Cubs visit San Francisco in late July.

It could have been that Bochy was waiting to give the ring to Schierholtz in the first game that Nate was not in the lineup.

And even though he was on the bench, Schierholtz (or his absence) factored in Saturday’s game.

In the seventh with one out and pitcher Madison Bumgarner on second, Marco Scutaro looped a single into right. Bumgarner waited to see if the ball would fall, so he got a late break off of second. Still, third-base coach Tim Flannery sent Bumgarner. Any kind of a good throw would have easily got MadBum at the plate. But right-fielder Scott Hairston‘s throw was anything but good, and Bumgarner scored to make it 3-0.

If Schierholtz is in right, there’s no way Flannery sends Bumgarner home. Pablo Sandoval followed by grounding into an inning-ending double play. So instead of being 3-0, it might have been 2-0, and Dioner Navarro‘s pinch-hit homer in the seventh might have tied the game.

Schierholtz again could have been a big factor in the eighth. The Cubs put the first two runners on, and Alfonso Soriano hit a ball sharply off the chest of Sandoval. But shortstop Brandon Crawford picked up the ricochet and threw out Soriano at first. BARELY (if at all). If Soriano had been called safe, then Schierholtz comes to the plate as a pinch-hitter with a chance to do big damage.

But with the out called, it left first base open. So Bochy walked Schierholtz. Then Wellington Castillo hit the first pitch into a double play to end the inning.

OTHER NOTES

  • Bumgarner had his third outstanding start of the season, giving up just the two-run pinch-hit homer to Navarro on his 110th pitch of the day. He finished allowing two runs on six hits and two walks in 6.2 innings. He fanned six and has a 1.77 ERA on the season.
  • Santiago Casilla was outstanding in posting a six-out save. He only allow one baserunner, and that was on the intentional walk to Schierholtz.
  • Marco Scutaro is back. After starting the year 2 for 23, he’s now hitting .286 after going 3 for 4 on Saturday.

Cubs 4, Giants 3: Has Bochy gone to the Romo well a bit too much this season?

Well, you knew it couldn’t last forever.

Sergio Romo was absolutely brilliant through the first 10 games of the year. He was 6 for 6 in save opportunities, had an ERA of 0.00 and had only allowed two baserunners.

But Wrigley is Wrigley, and the Cubs used the wind to their favor.

Chicago Cubs' Starlin Castro, right, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after hitting a game-winning double against the San Francisco Giants during the ninth inning of a baseball game in Chicago, Friday, April 12, 2013. The Cubs won 4-3. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Chicago Cubs’ Starlin Castro, right, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after hitting a game-winning double against the San Francisco Giants during the ninth inning of a baseball game in Chicago, Friday, April 12, 2013. The Cubs won 4-3. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

After the Giants rallied for three runs in the top of the ninth to take a 3-2 lead, Dioner Navarro greeted Romo in the bottom of the ninth with a wind-blown solo home run to right.

It was the third wind-blown homer of the day for the Cubs. All three would have been outs on Thursday. All three would have outs at AT&T Park — well, at least two would have been for sure.

It spoiled what looked to be another great day to be a Giant. After being stifled for 7.1 innings by Carlos Villanueva, the Giants finally got into the Cubs’ shaky pen and it paid off in the ninth.

Marco Scutaro started the rally with a one-out double to left-center. Pablo Sandoval followed with a bloop single to right, scoring Scutaro. Buster Posey was hit by a pitch. After Hunter Pence forced out Posey at second (on a play that look REALLLLY close to being a double-play), Brandon Belt lashed a double to right, scoring Sandoval and then Pence all the way from first for the lead.

With Romo in the ninth to close it, it looked like game over. But not on Friday. Not at Wrigley.

But Romo then got the next two Cubs out, and announcers Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow raised a good point.

Lefty Javier Lopez was warming up in the bullpen, and they wondered whether manager Bruce Bochy would bring in Lopez to face the left-handed DeJesus.

Krukow’s point, and I would agree, was that Romo’s job was to get the save. Now, with that gone, there’s no point taxing Romo with more pitches, especially when he was pitching in his fourth game in five days. (I would also argue that Bochy should not have used Romo to protect a three-run lead in the ninth inning Tuesday against the Rockies).

But Bochy left Romo in to face DeJesus. Romo was one strike away from ending the inning. But he tried to sneak a fastball by DeJesus, which he promptly laced to center for a single.

Then he made the same mistake to Starlin Castro. Slider, slider, slider for a 2-1 count. Then, on his 20th pitch of the inning, a fastball that Castro doubled off the wall in right center for the game winner.

The Giants talked this spring about not overworking Romo as he makes the transition into a full-time closer. And yet, 11 games into the season, Bruce Bochy has turned into Dusty Baker.

Hopefully, if some good comes out of this loss, it will make the Giants rethink how they use Romo in the future.

Giants 7, Cubs 6: We’ve got the perfect nickname for San Francisco Giants rookie Nick Noonan

San Francisco Giants' Nick Noonan, center, shakes hands with Giants third base coach Tim Flannery (1) after hitting a triple during the eighth inning of an exhibition spring training baseball game against the Oakland Athletics, Friday, March 29, 2013, in San Francisco. Athletics' Josh Donaldson is at right. (AP Photo/George Nikitin)

San Francisco Giants’ Nick Noonan, center, shakes hands with Giants third base coach Tim Flannery (1) after hitting a triple during the eighth inning of an exhibition spring training baseball game against the Oakland Athletics, Friday, March 29, 2013, in San Francisco. Athletics’ Josh Donaldson is at right. (AP Photo/George Nikitin)

The San Francisco Giants have a menagerie of animal nicknames for their players.

Kung Fu Panda

Baby Giraffe

White Shark

Crazy Horse

They all make for good sellers at the Giants Dugout store.

And now that other items like the Timmy wigs (he cut his hair) and Wilson beards (off the team) are now in the clearance bins, maybe it’s time for another fuzzy nickname.

And rookie infielder Nick Noonan appears to be the perfect candidate.

Of course, the first thing that comes to mind when Noonan comes to the plate is to yell “Noonan! Noonan!” in reference to the Danny Noonan character from “Caddyshack.”

Well, that’s not a good nickname. You don’t want Giants fans yelling “NNNNNNoonan!” whenever he comes to the plate. But if you want a cute and fuzzy nickname, you just need to take the Caddyshack reference a step further.

gopher

Noonan = Caddyshack = Gopher!

Somebody cue Kenny Loggins!

Noonan has certainly earned it. He went 3 for 5 with two runs in Thursday’s game against the Cubs, raising his season average to .455 (5 for 11) and helping the Giants rally from an early 5-0 deficit.

And think about, the nickname worked on Thursday. Bill Murray is a big Cubs fan. Murray starred in Caddyshack as the groundskeeper who was tormented by …. The Gopher! The Gopher tormented the Cubs on Thursday.

Last season, the rookie call-ups from Fresno didn’t fare so well. Charlie Culberson, Conor Gillaspie and Francisco Peguero struggled to hit their own weight.

But Noonan is holding his own after he became the Giants’ fallback option for a reserve infielder. He may even allow the Giants to forget about Tony Abreu, who still hasn’t begun his rehab assignment from quad troubles that sidelined him during spring training.

Noonan can play second base (where he got his first big league start Thursday in place of the resting Marco Scutaro), shortstop and third base.

So let’s hear it for Noonan, a.k.a The Gopher. Let’s get some legs on this nickname. Spread the word.

I expect to see gopher hats in the Giants Dugout stores by the end of the month.

goferhat

San Francisco Giants Week 2 preview: vs. Rockies, at Cubs

Colorado Rockies' Wilin Rosario (20)rounds the bases after hitting a three run home run against the San Diego Padres during the seventh inning of an MLB baseball game on Sunday, April 7, 2013, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

Colorado Rockies’ Wilin Rosario (20)rounds the bases after hitting a three run home run against the San Diego Padres during the seventh inning of an MLB baseball game on Sunday, April 7, 2013, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

The Giants went 3-3 last week, leaving them 3-3 for the season, fourth in the NL West, 2 games behind the Rockies and Padres.

  • Monday: L 4-0, at Dodgers; LP: Kontos (0-1)
  • Tuesday: W 3-0, at Dodgers; WP: Bumgarner (1-0)
  • Wednesday: W 5-3, at Dodgers; WP: Lincecum (1-0); HR: Pence (1), Sandoval (1).
  • Friday: W 1-0, Cardinals; WP: Zito (1-0)
  • Saturday: L 6-3, Cardinals; LP: Vogelsong (0-1); HR: Pence (2), Sandoval (2).
  • Sunday: L 14-3, Cardinals; LP: Cain (0-1).

Mixed results in week 1, due in part to inconsistent hitting. Angel Pagan, Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval got their hits, but others are trying to find their stroke. Giants were able to win three games because of solid pitching. The first four starters did not allow an earned run. That ended over the weekend, and the Giants dropped two to the Cardinals. But this week they face two teams that they had big-time success against in 2012.

ROCKIES (5-1) AT GIANTS

  • Monday: Rockies (Jorge De La Rosa 0-0) at Giants (Madison Bumgarner 1-0), 7:15 p.m.
  • Tuesday: Rockies (Juan Nicasio 1-0) at Giants (Tim Lincecum 1-0), 7:15 p.m.
  • Wednesday: Rockies (Jeff Francis 1-0) at Giants (Barry Zito 1-0), 12:45 p.m.

The Giants went 14-4 against the Rockies in 2012. But the Rox are healthy and hitting in 2013 and have won five in a row since rockieslogodropping a 5-4 decision to the Brewers in the season opener. … It’s the first time since 1995 that the Rockies have won their opening two series of a season. They beat the Brewers 2 of 3 in Milwaukee and swept the Padres at Coors Field … Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler have been hot … OF Michael Cuddyer is sidelined with a sore wrist. Eric Young Jr. will start for Cuddyer and bat leadoff on Monday. … De La Rosa gave up four earned runs on five hits and three walks in 4 1/3 innings against the Brewers in his first start.

GIANTS AT CUBS (2-5)

  • Thursday: Giants (Ryan Vogelsong 0-1) at Cubs (Carlos Villanueva 0-0), 11:20 a.m.
  • Friday: Giants (Matt Cain 0-1) at Cubs (Jeff Samardzija 1-1), 11:20 a.m.
  • Saturday: Giants (Bumgarner 1-0) at Cubs (Edwin Jackson 0-1), 10:05 a.m., FOX
  • Sunday: Giants (Lincecum 1-0) at Cubs (Travis Wood 1-0), 11:20 a.m., WGN

cubslogoThe Giants won six of seven meetings with the Cubs in 2012. They swept the Cubs in four games in San Francisco in June and won two of three in Chicago in early September. … Like the Giants, the Cubs also have struggled with the bats. They scored 13 runs in their first six games. After one bad week, Carlos Marmol is out as the Cubs’ closer and replaced by Kyuji Fujikawa. Fujikawa was a closer in Japan for 12 season before signing with the Cubs in the offseason. … The Giants will meet former teammate Nate Schierholtz, who is playing right field for the Cubs and playing well. He’s hitting .316 with a home runs and four RBI in six games.

Spring training: Matt Cain in pain

San Francisco Giants' Matt Cain throws before an exhibition spring training baseball game against the Chicago Cubs, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013, in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

San Francisco Giants’ Matt Cain throws before an exhibition spring training baseball game against the Chicago Cubs, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013, in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Yikes! On the same day the Yankees lost Curtis Granderson for 10 weeks with a broken arm after being hit by a pitch, the Giants got a scare when Matt Cain took a line drive off his knee in the Giants’ 4-3 loss to the Chicago Cubs.

Cain hobbled around a bit after taking the liner. But made two warmup throws and remained in the game.

The results weren’t great. He gave up four runs in that first inning, although all of the runs were unearned because the rally was aided by a Brandon Belt error.

This is how Cain’s inning went:

David DeJesus flied to to center; Starlin Castro singled to center; Anthony Rizzo reached on Belt’s errant throw while trying to force Castro at second; Alfonso Soriano singled off Cain’s knee to load the bases; Nate Schierholtz grounded out on an infield nubber, scoring Castro; Dioner Navarro hits a 3-run homer; Brian Bogusevic doubled to left; Darwin Barney grounded out.

Cain came out after one inning, and had his knee wrapped in ice afterwards, but said he was fine.

“It was kind of an initial shock when you get hit,” Cain told the San Francisco Chronicle. “It takes a little bit to get the feeling back. I feel fine. It’s nothing to worry about.”

Other notes

  • Pablo Sandoval was told by manager Bruce Bochy that he would get to play in spring training games until the Panda got his weight down to a certain level. Sandoval hit that target weight and is the only Giant to play in both of the first two spring training games. He went 2 for 3 with a double and RBI on Sunday and is 3 for 5 this spring.
  • Francisco Peguero, trying to make the club as a reserve, went 2 for 3 with a double.
  • Angel Villalona made his spring training debut. He went 1 for 3, grounding to third, lining to center and adding a bloop single to left.
  • Seven relievers (Steve Edlefsen, Justin Fitzgerald, Santiago Casilla, Jose Mijares, Sandy Rosario, Dan Runzler and Heath Hembree) each pitched a scoreless inning. Most notable was Hembree, who pitched around a double in the ninth. He was topping out at 89-90 mph in his first outing of the spring.

Links of the day

A couple of nice posts on two former Giants: Cody Ross and Nate Schierholtz.

Monday’s game

Madison Bumgarner takes the mound as the Giants face the White Sox at 12:05 p.m. in Scottsdale.