- WP: Tim Hudson (2-0)
- HR: Brandon Belt (5)
Brandon Belt is off to a hot start, and that’s a good thing on many levels.
For one, it’s showing that the adjustments he made last season, when he finished the season with eight home runs, 28 RBI and hitting .346 in the final two months of the season, are still producing results.
And it’s gotten Belt, who has been plagued by poor Aprils in his young Giants career, off to a good start to the season.
In his first three big league seasons, Belt has hit .214 with three home runs and 20 RBI in the month of April (and March, too).
This season, through eight games, he has five home runs, nine RBI and is hitting .343.
Belt smacked his fifth home run of the season in the first inning Tuesday as the Giants beat the Diamondbacks in their home opener.
In doing so, Belt became the sixth San Francisco Giant to hit five or more home runs in the first eight games of the season, joining some nice company.
- Willie Mays in 1964 (6)
- Orlando Cepeda in 1959 (5)
- Kevin Mitchell in 1989 (5)
- Barry Bonds in 2002 (5)
- Jose Cruz Jr. in 2003 (5)
That’s two Hall of Famers (and a third who should be) and two players who would go on to win the NL MVP award.
In four of the five previous seasons in which a Giant hit five homers in the first eight games, the Giants would win 90 or more games.
In the last three seasons a Giant accomplished the feat, the Giants would go on to advance to the World Series.
Mays, Mitchell and Bonds would go on to hit 46 or more home runs for the season.
All good signs for Belt.
HOME SWEET HOME OPENERS
Tuesday’s win was the Giants sixth consecutive win in their home opener.
FINE IN SUNSHINE
The Giants improved to 4-0 this season when playing in the daylight. The Giants are averaging 7.5 runs in those four day games.
The Giants will send Tim Lincecum to the mound against the Diamondbacks and Bronson Arroyo at 7:15 p.m. in a pitching rematch of last Thursday’s game that the Giants won 8-5.
Family obligations kept me from watching the Giants on Sunday. And apparently, that was a good thing.
When I checked the score and saw the Giants ahead 6-0, I thought all was well with Matt Cain on the mound.
But things went downhill from there, and now the Giants are 0-3 for the first time in more than 25 years.
And we get to look forward to Barry Zito pitching on Monday in Colorado.
That’s because the Giants have no better option. Eric Surkamp received clearance to throw on Sunday, but he won’t be ready to pitch in game situations until early May.
If you want to read all the gory details of Sunday’s loss, check out Andrew Baggarly’s report.
Pitching and fielding has been a bigger issue than hitting so far this season, as the Giants are averaging almost 5 runs a game. However, there is a definite split in production in the lineup.
Hitters Nos. 1-5 in the starting lineup are 17 for 63 (.270).
Hitters Nos. 6-8 are 3-31 (.098). That includes Brandon Belt, who 1 for 10 with five strikeouts.
All right time to break some silver linings somewhere:
- Buster Posey hit his first home run Sunday since April 24 of last year. Good to see.
- The Giants are one of five 0-3 teams in the majors, joining the Red Sox, Yankees, Twins and Braves. So at least misery has good company.
- Freddy Sanchez took infield practice, and by all accounts, looked significantly better than before he was shut down in spring training. Sanchez should start at rehab assignment some time this week with Fresno, then he needs to be activated with 20 starts of starting the assignment. So he could be back anytime between 1-3 weeks.
The Giants open a three-game series at Colorado. Barry Zito faces Jhoulys Chacin at 1 p.m. Monday. And we’ll be watching … and hoping.
There was one person on Twitter — I wish I remembered who it was — who probably summed up the Giants 0-2 start to the 2012 season the best.
That person said, and I paraphrase, that it’s better that the Giants are 0-2 with two sub-par pitching performances and good hitting than with stellar pitching and no offense.
The theory there being that the pitching will come around. We’ll take the good hitting as a positive sign.
For the second time in as many days, a Giants pitcher failed to get out of the first inning unscathed and put the Giants in a hole that they were not quite able to climb out of.
On Friday, it was Tim Lincecum. On Saturday, Madison Bumgarner, who got tagged for two runs in the opening frame. Then he gave up two more in the second, putting San Francisco in an early 4-0 hole.
Though two games, the Giants have outscored Arizona 8-3 in innings 3-9. But the D-backs have a 7-0 edge in innings 1-2.
If Matt Cain can put up a zero in the first inning Sunday against Arizona, all will be right in the world.
Well, more or less. The Giants have scored eight runs in two games. Last year, they went 55-9 when score four runs or more. This year, they are already 0-2.
And of those eight runs, six were scored via the home run — two-run homers by Melky Cabrera (Friday), Pablo Sandoval (Saturday) and Brett Pill (Saturday).
The bullpen agains was solid, giving up one run on three hits in four innings. Santiago Casilla and Javier Lopez threw hitless innings.
So for Giants fans looking for a happy thought amid the sadness of an 0-2 start, we offer you this:
Last season, the Giants opened 0-2 with a pair of one-run losses to the Dodgers. In Game 3, the Giants won 10-0 with Matt Cain on the mound.
Now that would be a Happy Easter.
OTHER GAME NOTES
- Brandon Belt is 1 for 7 with a team-high four strikeouts. It’s early, but that’s a huge cause for concern. We wouldn’t be surprised to see Belt sit Sunday for Brett Pill, even with the righty Josh Collmenter on the mound.
- Leadoff hitter Angel Pagan is 1 for 9 with no walks. Manager Bruce Bochy already announced that Gregor Blanco will get the start Sunday.
- Buster Posey went 0 for 4, ending his 14-game hitting streak that dated back to last year when he was injured.
- Bumgarner threw 80 pitches in his four-inning start. He gave up four runs on seven hits and two walks, while fanning three. Bochy insisted nothing was wrong with his lefty. He just wanted to get him out after 80 pitches. MadBum wanted to continue.
It’s Cain vs. Collmenter as the Giants and Diamondbacks conclude their opening series in Arizona at 1 p.m. as the Giants try to snap a six-game road skid against the Snakes.
The worst thing about Opening Day is that everything is exaggerated.
A good game makes people think that the entire season is going to be wonderful. And bad game makes people fear the worst.
Friday’s season opener in Arizona was a mixed bag for the Giants, and in particular, Tim Lincecum.
The Diamondbacks jumped on Lincecum for two homers and three runs in the first inning. But then the Freak settled in to strike out five over the next four scoreless innings.
But a leadoff double by Justin Upton set the stage for the decisive sixth inning, which turned on an error by Buster Posey.
After Miguel Montero’s loud fly out to right sent Upton to third and Paul Goldschmidt walked, Jason Kubel had a swinging bunt in front of the plate. Posey went to pounce the bouncer but failed to field it cleanly, and Kubel was able to beat the throw to first.
Ryan Roberts followed a two-run double into the left-field corner that proved to be the game-winner.
If Posey fields Kubel’s nubber, it could have changed how Lincecum approaches Roberts with two outs and first base open.
Instead, the Giants were two down heading into the ninth and could only manage one run off closer JJ Putz on Pablo Sandoval’s two-out double.
- Trying to put a good spin on a loss, the Giants did manage 11 hits and 4 runs. In the game, they hit .297 as a team. But a few hits were good-luck knocks. Aubrey Huff was off-balance when he reached across the plate and pulled a soft looper into right field for a single. Pablo Sandoval turned an emergency hack into an infield single to third. And Ryan Theriot got an infield single off the glove of pitcher Ian Kennedy.
- Still there were good efforts. Melky Cabrera was 2 for 5 with a two-run laser home run in the sixth. Buster Posey was 2 for 4 with a walk.
- Ah yes, the walk. The Giants only managed two in the game. Posey’s first-inning walk when Kennedy clearly decided to go after Huff with Cabrera on second and two out. Huff acquiesced by flying out to center. The other walk was to Lincecum in the second, and Angel Pagan responded by swinging at THE FIRST PITCH from Kennedy and popping to short.
- The bullpen was solid. Guillermo Mota, Jeremy Affledt and Clay Hensley gave up just one hit and one walk in 2 2/3 scoreless innings.
Madison Bumgarner takes the mound against Daniel Hudson in a 1 p.m. game Saturday that will be televised live on Fox.
Well, it was hardly breaking news, but in Tuesday’s ESPN2 broadcast of the Angels-Giants game Giants manager Bruce Bochy announced that second baseman Freddy Sanchez would open the season on the disabled list.
Sanchez has been idle since receiving a cortisone shot in his troublesome shoulder on Sunday. The Giants hope Sanchez can resume light throwing by mid-week. He was getting at-bats as a DH in a minor-league game on Wednesday.
But until he can show he can make all throws necessary to play second base, he won’t be playing for the Giants.
Bochy said Tuesday that he’s hoping Sanchez can be ready to play for the Giants “sometime in April.” But at this point, we’re not really sure he’ll return at all.
The Giants have said Sanchez’s rehab from shoulder surgery last year has hit a plateau. They hope the cortisone shots will be the spark that will Sanchez to push through this plateau and get back on the road to recovery.
In the meantime, it looks as if Emmanuel Burriss is the front-runner to win the start at 2B on April 6. Mike Fontenot and Ryan Theriot are also in the mix.
The Giants face a Thursday deadline to guarantee deals for Fontenot and Theriot. It looks as if they will do just that.
Theriot was hit on the nose with a pickoff throw on Monday. Yet, he is starting at 3B against the Dodgers on Wednesday. If the Giants were thinking of releasing Theriot on Thursday, it would figure they wouldn’t bother playing him Wednesday.
What can he show them in two days that they haven’t seen already.
But given the uncertainty of Sanchez, the veteran presence of Theriot (plus his right-handed bat) is something the Giants aren’t likely ready to part with.
VOGELSONG TO START FOR THE GRIZZLIES
This isn’t the start he was looking for, but it looks as if Ryan Vogelsong will make his second opening-day start for the Fresno Grizzlies.
After making his spring debut with a 39-pitch outing against the Royals on Monday, Vogelsong will pitch in a minor-league game Saturday so that the Giants can start the clock on his 15 days on the disabled list to open the season.
The plan is for Vogelsong to be ready to open the season on April 15 against the Pirates.
To get there, Vogelsong will start the season opener for Triple-A Fresno at Tucson on April 5. His next start for the Grizzlies would come on April 10 at Las Vegas.
SNAKES IN A ROW
Arizona manager Kirk Gibson announced his starting rotation for the 2012 season. It means we can lineup the opening series between the Diamondbacks and Giants
Friday, April 6: Tim Lincecum vs. Ian Kennedy, 4 p.m. ESPN2
Saturday, April 7: Madison Bumgarner vs. Daniel Hudson, 1 p.m. FOX
Sunday, April 8: Matt Cain vs. Josh Collmenter, 1 p.m.
Those are three right-handers for Arizona. Good news for Giants, who figure to open with a lineup that will include four switch hitters (Angel Pagan, Melky Cabrera, Pablo Sandoval and Emmanuel Burriss) and three left-handers (Brandon Crawford, Aubrey Huff or Brandon Belt, and Nate Schierholtz or Gregor Blanco).
A little more than two weeks from opening day, the Diamondbacks and Giants met in a mini-preview of the season-opening meeting.
Both teams put out lineups that looked a lot like they might on April 6.
Barry Zito made 83 pitches, the most of any Giants starter this spring. That’s the most important stat. The other numbers were mixed.
He walked four and gave up three runs on seven hits in five innings.
Much of the bad numbers came in a rough first inning.
The game opened with a bunt single by Willie Bloomquist. Zito then gave up a two-run homer to Gerardo Parra. Two batters, two runs. Zito went on to walk two batters in the inning, but a double play helped him escape further damage.
In the second, he gave up a leadoff double to Cody Ransom, who was sacrifice to third and scored on a sac fly by Bloomquist.
But after that, Zito manage to put up three zeros in the next three innings. If he had managed a fourth, that would have been a quality start — the best of what Giants fans can hope for from Zito.
“He got better as he went,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He started locating better, getting a better rhythm there. Earlier he got some balls up, and he wasn’t quite hitting his spots. But he threw good his last couple of innings.”
- OF Angel Pagan continued an uneven spring by going 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. Meanwhile, OF Gregor Blanco, who was a late addition to the lineup for the injured Nate Schierholtz, was 1 for 3 with a walk and two more stolen bases. Pagan was batting leadoff, and Blanco in the No. 6 spot. Hmmmmm. But, again, Blanco was a late add, and was just plopped into Schierholtz’s spot in the lineup.
- C Buster Posey was back behind the plate. He went 1 for 2 with a walk.
- OF Melky Cabrera continue to hit, going 2 for 4.
- The Giants had eight hits, seven singles. The lone double was from Ryan Theriot, who was 1 for 2 with a walk as he continues to heat up from a very slow start. Henry Schulman of the SF Chronicle had a nice blog post on Theriot. I knew Theriot’s contract was a non-guaranteed one. I was not aware that Fontenot’s also was not guaranteed. To see the full post, click here.
It’s Eric Surkamp’s turn to take the hill as the Giants face the Indians at 1:05 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on the MLB Network.
It’s spring. It’s early. It’s in Arizona, where the ball tends to carry.
But the Giants should be encouraged by the early hitting results in spring training. In split-squad games Sunday, the Giants beat the Diamondbacks 11-1 and tied the Brewers 1-1.
Against the Diamondbacks, the hitters at the top of the lineup responded. Leadoff hitter Angel Pagan went 2 for 4 with an RBI. No. 2 hitter Melky Cabrera was 2 for 4 with a double and run scored.
“The two guys on the top of the order are showing we’re more athletic now,” manager Bruce Bochy told the San Francisco Chronicle. “It’s early, two games. Even with that, you like how it’s going right now. They’re swinging the bat.”
Bochy may stay with Pagan and Cabrera atop the lineup even when 2B Freddy Sanchez is ready to play. Sanchez’s right-handed bat may be needed toward the bottom of the lineup where the Giants get lefty heavy with Aubrey Huff or Brandon Belt, Nate Schierholtz and Brandon Craword.
Here are other hitting highlights vs. the Diamondbacks:
- Aubrey Huff, 2 for 3, run
- Brett Pill, 3 for 5, 2 runs, 2 RBI, 3B
- Ryan Theriot 2 for 3, 2 runs, RBI
- Mike Fontenot 3 for 4, run, RBI, 2B
- Hector Sanchez, 3 for 3, run, 3 RBI, 2B
Pitching was handled by a group of Fresno candidates: Brian Burres, Mark Kown, Ramon Ortiz, Justin Fitgerald, Shawn Sanford and Danny Otero.
Pitchers more likely to open the season with the big club were pitching in the game against the Brewers.
Madison Bumgarner allowed one run on one hit with no walkd and four strikeouts while getting through 2 2/3 innings.
Shane Loux pitch 2 1/3 score innings. He was followed by scoreless innings by Javier Lopez, Santiago Casilla, Heath Hembree (two strikeouts) and Wilimin Rodriguez. Only Rodriguez allowed a hit.
The Giants pushed across their lone run in the sixth off Brewers closer John Axford as Connor Gillaspie, Eli Whiteside and Brandon Crawford strung together singles.
Outfielder Gary Brown, in his first spring start, went 0 for 4 with a strikeout.
- Angel Pagan overran a single off the bat of Justin Upton on his first chance as a Giant. Pagan committed a whopping 10 errors — more than half his career total — last season with the Mets.
- Left fielder Melky Cabrera threw out Upton trying to score from second base on a single. He also doubled home a run.
- Brandon Belt, playing DH, made a strong opening statement, going 3 for 4 with a home run and two runs scored.
Well, the Giants are 21-16, exactly where they should be at this point in the season, according to MoreSplashHits theory of winning series at home and playing .500 on the road.
After Thursday’s win over Arizona, the Giants have played five home series. If they won 2 of 3 in each of those series, they would have a home record of 10-5 right now.
They have a record of 10-5 right now, thanks to a 6-0 homestand that included sweeps over the Rockies and Diamondbacks.
And they are 11-11 on the road — exactly .500.
But that’s where the expected stats stop. How the Giants got to their 21-16 record is pretty strange.
The Giants have amassed a 21-16 record while scoring 128 runs and giving up 126. If not for the Giants’ 10-0 win over the Dodgers in the third game of the season, the Giants actually would have been outscored by their opponents.
According to Bill James’ Pythagorean W-L record, the Giants should be 19-18. This stat helps measure a team’s luck. If their record is better than their Pythagorean record, their a little lucky.
OK, we’ll give James that.
But when you look at the Giants home games, the numbers get even stranger.
The Giants are 10-5 and have been outscored at home by seven runs.
That’s because nine of the Giants’ 10 wins have been one-run victories, including five walk-off victories.
The Giants are a major-league best 12-3 in one-run games. They are 9-0 in one-run games at home.
The bottom line is this: The Giants are 21-16 and in first place in the NL West despite hitting .236 as a team (ranked 12th in the NL), scoring 128 runs (15th in the NL) and have a team OBP of .305 (also 15th in the NL).
Some might say the Giants are lucky to be 21-16 right now, and that they’re more lucky than good.
But we these offensive numbers HAVE TO get better. And the schedule gets a bit more favorable in June, when the Giants have a 10-game homestand, and again in July, when they have stretch in which they play 13 of 17 games at home.
And they should have Pablo Sandoval back in the mix in June.
So if luck has played a role in their 21-16 start, we’ll take it. I don’t know if it’s better to be lucky than good, but it’s certainly better to be 21-16 than 16-21.
If there were a sobering part of the Giants’ recent string of wins, it’s that they entered Tuesday night’s game against the Diamondbacks having won five of their last six games by either scoring the go-ahead run in their last at-bat or by shutout.
So how did they open against the Snakes? By taking the lead in their final at-bat AND by shutout.
Is it selfish to ask the Giants for a boring 7-2 victory?
Maybe, but we’ll take the 1-0 victory over the Giants.
With his eight scoreless innings Tuesday, Tim Lincecum now has not allowed a run in his past 17 innings of work.
Before the game, the Giants got some good news for their scuffling offense when outfielder Andres Torres and infielder Mark DeRosa came off the disabled list.
The surprising news came on which two players the Giants sent down to make room for Torres and DeRosa: infielders Ryan Rohlinger and Emmanuel Burriss.
We knew Rohlinger was going. He had hardly played since getting called up when Pablo Sandoval went on the shelf. But the decision to keep outfielder Darren Ford.
It leaves the Giants very thin on infielders on the bench. With Torres and DeRosa in the lineup Tuesday, it left the Giants with a bench that consisted of catcher Eli Whiteside, infielder Miguel Tejada and outfielders Pat Burrell, Darren Ford and Nate Schierholtz.
While admitting that keeping three reserve outfielders is unusual, manager Bruce Bochy said he kept Ford because he brings a dynamic that the Giants are sorely missing: Speed.
At least on Tuesday, Bochy was right.
In the bottom of the ninth after Buster Posey led off with a walk, Bochy had Ford run for Posey.
Ford stole second base without a throw. Then one out later, Ford scored on a double down the left field line by Cody Ross. If Bochy had stayed with Posey, it would have been runners on second and third with one out — instead of a 1-0 victory.
The win was Giants’ fourth in a row, and sixth in their last seven. It improved the Giants’ home record to 8-5 on the season. Of those eight home wins, seven are one-run wins, including five walk-off wins. Sunday’s 3-0 win over the Rockies was the lone “yawner” at home.
So, really, Giants. Could we please get a 7-2 victory?