San Francisco Giants fans have been talking about rock-bottom for a month now.
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.
- Astros 34-68 .333
- Marlins 39-62 .386
- White Sox 40-60 .400
- Brewers 42-60 .412
- Twins 43-56 .434
- Padres 46-58 .442
- Giants 46-56 .451
- Cubs 46-55 .455
- Mets 46-54 . 460
- Blue Jays 47-55 .461
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
The San Francisco Giants have a menagerie of animal nicknames for their players.
Kung Fu Panda
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.
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.
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 dropping 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
The 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.
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.”
- 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
Madison Bumgarner takes the mound as the Giants face the White Sox at 12:05 p.m. in Scottsdale.
Lead: 4.5 games
Magic number: 24
When the Giants signed Xavier Nady to a minor-league deal early last month, no one was really sure what they were getting from the oft-injured veteran outfielder.
After two games, the Giants are getting quite a bit.
Nady went 2 for 2 with a double and two walks. He scored two runs, and it was his ninth-inning walk that sparked a two-run rally in the ninth, leading the Giants to a win.
The victory gave the Giants a 5-1 road trip. Given they were playing the two worst teams in the NL, it was a good results. But only slightly more than expected.
In two games with the Giants, Nady is 3 for 5 with two doubles, two runs, two walks and three RBI.
In fact, the Giants scored three runs in the third, two in the sixth and two in the ninth. All three of those rallies were ignited by Nady: a single in the third, double in the sixth and walk in the ninth.
On Monday, the Salinas native will play in his first game as a Giant in AT&T Park. Over his career as a visiting player, Nady has hit .299 with 1 HR and 6 RBI in 77 at-bats at AT&T Park.
And the change of scenery won’t be the only change. Nady, who has worn No. 68 in his first two games with the Giants, will wear No. 12 on Monday, Nate Schierholtz’s old number.
With the success he’s been having so far, why would Nady want to change anything?
“Hopefully, it’s not the jersey that affects you,” Nady said.
Probably not, but why risk it?
MoreSplashHits had two thoughts when watching Saturday’s win over the Cubs (and others may have had the same thoughts).
“I wonder if, somehow, Xavier Nady may be the second coming of Pat Burrell (circa 2010)?”
“And if that’s true, why the hell didn’t the Giants bring up Nady in August to make him eligible for the postseason?”
The answer to the first question has yet to be revealed. The answer to the second question is that the Giants know the rules better than MoreSplashHits.
Nady made his Giants debut Saturday wearing No. 68, which of course was worn by other Giants greats like John Ayers. (No, wait a minute, that’s not right. I’m thinking about the 49ers).
Nady made a splash in his first at-bat Saturday, by raking a bases-clearing, three-run double down the third base line in the first inning.
When Nady came to the plate in the first inning, the Giants were just 1 for 45 with the bases loaded and two outs this season. Yikes! I just had a 2011 offensive flashback there.
To make matters worse, the Giants has fanned 21 times in 53 plate appearances this season with two out and the bases loaded. They have also drawn five walks in those situations and have been hit by a pitch once (on Saturday by Hector Sanchez, right before Nady’s hit).
So it was certainly an instant impact. Manager Bruce Bochy was impressed enough with that he’s putting Nady back in the lineup Sunday against the Cubs and Monday against the Diamondbacks.
So can Nady pull off a repeat of the Burrell performance in 2010? Well, Nady was hitting .157 with three home runs and six RBI in 40 games with the Washington Nationals when he was released on July 29. Nady spent a month on the disabled list with a wrist injury before being waived by Washington. He hit .158 in 12 games with Class A Potomac as he tried to work his way back from the DL.
The Giants signed him on Aug. 4 and sent him to Triple-A Fresno, where he hit .270 with 6 HRs and 18 RBI in 25 games. After starting very slowly with Fresno, Nady heated up late, batting .371 with 3 HR and 8 RBI in his final 10 games with the Grizzlies.
By comparison, Burrell hit .202 in 24 games with the Tampa Bay Rays before being released in 2010. The Giants picked him up and he hit .266 with 18 HR and 51 RBI in 96 games with them that season.
Like Burrell in 2010, Nady is 33 years old.
So if Nady can get hot like Pat the Ball in September, why wasn’t he with the Giants in August, making him eligible for the postseason.
Well, as it turns out, the Aug. 31 postseason roster deadline applies only to players being acquired from other organizations.
The rule states that any player on a team’s active 25-man roster, disabled list, restricted list or suspended list on Aug. 31 is eligible for the postseason.
For the Giants, that would include these 35 players:
- PITCHERS (17): Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, Barry Zito, Ryan Vogelsong, Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez, Guillermo Mota, George Kontos, Jose Mijares, Shane Loux, Brad Penny, Clay Hensley, Eric Surkamp, Brian Wilson.
- CATCHERS (3): Buster Posey, Hector Sanchez, Eli Whiteside
- INFIELDERS (9): Brandon Belt, Marco Scutaro, Ryan Theriot, Brandon Crawford, Joaquin Arias, Pablo Sandoval, Aubrey Huff, Freddy Sanchez, Angel Villalona.
- OUTFIELDERS (6): Angel Pagan, Gregor Blanco, Hunter Pence, Francisco Peguero, Melky Cabrera, Justin Christian.
However, if any of those 35 players are injured at the start of the postseason, any of those players can be replaced with any other player who was with the organization on Aug. 31, whether on the 40-man roster or not.
So with Cabrera on the restricted list and Freddy Sanchez on the DL, those are two players Nady could easily replace in the postseason.
So that’s good news.
Now all Nady needs to do is peform like Pat the Bat, circa 2010.
Riddle: How many runs does it take to sweep the Chicago Cubs?
That’s how many runs it took the Giants to sweep a four-game series from Chicago, winning 4-3, 2-1, 2-0 and 3-2 on Monday.
And just conside how the Giants scored their runs over the weekend.
- A bases-loaded walk
- An RBI groundout
- An RBI single that should have record an out at home but the catcher dropped the ball.
- Gregor Blanco scoring from first on a single when Alfonso Soriano fell asleep in the outfield.
That trend continued Monday.
The Giants plated their first run on an RBI double by Brandon Crawford. But that led to the Giants having second and third with no outs, and they weren’t able to add more runs.
But after that, the Giants scored the tying run in the fifth on a double play grounder that didn’t produce a double play when Starlin Castro forgot how many outs there were.
In the fifth, the Giants loaded the bases with no outs. Joaquin Arias lined out to second. Brandon Crawford then hit a tailor-made double-play grounder to second. Darwin Barney fed the ball to Castro, who stepped on the bag, avoided the sliding Brandon Belt and started jogging to the dugout as Buster Posey sccored.
Whoops, Starlin, Belt’s forceout was only the second out of the inning.
The Giants AGAIN loaded the bases with no outs in the seventh. Arias hit a grounder to Castro. But the Cubs were willing to give up a run for two outs, as the Cubs turned turn as Posey scored the go-ahead run.
Lucky for the Giants, Dale Sveum forgot which team he was managing. These are the Cubs, who had scored six runs all weekend.
He was willing to give up a run for two outs. The Giants were glad to trade two outs for a run.
And the final was 3-2.
The Giants went 6-1 on the homestand scoring a total of 19 runs.
The pitching was great. The defense was solid. The hitting …..
Oh well, we’ll take the first four-game winning streak of the season.
And things have to get better for the offense. The Giants are heading to San Diego next.
Tim Lincecum’s best start of the season came against the Anthony Bass and the Padres. The Freak will get that matchup again Tuesday with a 7 p.m. game at Petco Park.