- 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.
Well, thank God for Barry Zito.
Who would imagine we’d ever write that a week ago?
But a lot of assumptions we had about the 2012 Giants in spring training haven’t been fulfilled so far in the regular season.
We thought the offense would struggle. Nope. The Giants are averaging almost six runs a game so far this season.
We thought Brandon Belt was going to rake. No. He’s hitting .091 this season.
We though Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner were ready for the season. Well, so far we haven’t seen that, particularly from Lincecum.
But before we get to the ugly details of Wednesday’s game in Colorado, let’s get to the stuff apparently everyone wants to know about — The Freak’s new haircut.
Lincecum had about 4 inches of length cut off his locks during Tuesday’s day off in Denver. But his hair was so long, it was hard to notice.
So we’ve included a picture from Wednesday game with his new haircut, and one from spring training, so you could see the difference.
The big difference we want to see is on Lincecum’s pitching.
The Freak got knocked around for six runs on eight hits and two walks in 2 1/3 innings, the shortest outing of his career.
Yet Lincecum needed 76 pitches to get seven outs.
His velocity was good, topping out at 93 mph. But he struggled to locate his fastball, which was up and catching too much of the plate. The Rockies then pounded those pitches, even after falling
behind 0-2 or 1-2 in the count.
“Just sloppy baseball for me,” Lincecum said. “Not really executing pitches, missing a lot, and it’s going to hurt you, especially in this park.
If there’s silver lining, it’s that Lincecum wasn’t alone in his pitching struggles, leading some to claim that the Rockies didn’t put the baseballs into their famed humidor Wednesday.
“I actually thought his stuff was a little crisper, he was just up,” manager Bruce Bochy said of Lincecum. “He left a lot pitches up, a lot of mistakes when he was up in the count. Tough time putting hitters away, really across the board with the staff. Rough night for the staff.”
Rockies starter Jeremy Guthrie couldn’t make it out of the fourth inning, when the Giants erased a 6-0 deficit with a seven-run fourth.
But that didn’t last long as Guillermo Mota came into the game and gave up five runs (four earned) in one-plus innings. Jeremy Affeldt didn’t fare much better, giving up five more runs (two earned) in two innings.
The low-point came when the Rockies put up a seven-run inning of their own in the fifth.
Ramon Hernandez’s single scored Todd Helton with the fourth run of the inning, then the Giants failed twice on the same play to get the third out of the inning.
Angel Pagan’s throw from center was not going to be in time to get Helton at home. Brett Pill went to cut the throw off, but instead deflected it to the right of home plate.
Catcher Hector Sanchez chased the ball down and threw to Affeldt covering home in time to beat Michael Cuddyer trying to score. But Cuddyer stopped short and headed back to third.
Affeldt threw to Pablo Sandoval, who ran Cuddyer back toward home. Sandoval attempted to throw to Sanchez at home. But Pill, who was between Sandoval and Sanchez, thought the throw was to him and attempted to catch the ball and swipe tag Cuddyer going by in one motion, and failed to hold onto the ball.
As Cuddyer scored, Sandoval picked up the ball and threw to Brandon Crawford at third trying to cut down Hernandez trying to advance. But Hernandez pulled a Houdini act in avoiding Crawford’s tag and was safe at third. That allowed the Rockies to pile on two more runs in the inning on a double by Chris Nelson and triple by Eric Young Jr., and take a 16-7 lead.
We’ll try to find some other good news to report.
- Nate Schierholtz got his first start of the season and belted two solo home runs and added a sacrifice fly.
- 2B Emmanuel Burriss went 3 for 4 with three RBI.
- Pablo Sandoval smacked two doubles, keeping his bat hot.
- Buster Posey’s case of the shingles is not that serious, as Posey himself said. He came into warm up Affeldt between innings when Sanchez was getting his gear on. He also flied out in the eighth as a pinch-hitter.
- Despite giving up 17 runs on 22 hits, the Giants pitchers didn’t allow a home run. Small consolation, I know.
Madison Bumgarner hits the start against Jamie Moyer at 12:10 p.m. Thursday in a battle of diverse ages. We’re not sure what the lineup is going to look like, but if we had to guess, this is what we’d say.
CF Angel Pagan
LF Melky Cabrera
C Buster Posey
3B Pablo Sandoval
1B Brett Pill
LF Nate Schierholtz
SS Brandon Crawford
2B Emmanuel Burriss
P Madison Bumgarner
Let’s see if we’re right.
Wednesday started out as just as any other mid-week day after a day off in Denver that followed a Barry Zito shutout.
Then things got REALLY wacky.
First came the announced lineup for Wednesday’s game at Colorado that did not include Brandon Belt.
This came just two days after manager Bruce Bochy said, when talking about Belt’s day off on Monday: “I think we’re getting a little caught up here. There’s no panic (with Belt).” And then he said Belt would be back out there on Wednesday.
Then Wednesday’s come, and no Belt. What?
We’re guessing Bochy wanted to get Nate Schierholtz his first start on Wednesday. Then after doing that, he looked at the lineup that would have had a struggling Belt No. 5 followed by Schierholtz No. 6, then Brandon Crawford and Emmanuel Burriss, and he didn’t like it. So Aubrey Huff, who had a nice game Monday, gets the start.
OK, it’s not unreasonable. But with the lefty Jamie Moyer starting Thursday, we would expect Brett Pill to start at first base. That means no Belt starting the entire Rockies series, which is a lovely park for a struggling hitter to find his stroke.
Then, Lincecum showed up to the park with four inches of hair lopped off, saying that he “just wanted a haircut.”
But that story would take a backseat to the next nugget: Buster Posey was out of the lineup with shingles.
Shingles is triggered by the same virus that causes chicken pox, leading to painful blisters. Posey has blisters on his arm, left shoulder and back. Posey said he had chicken pox as a young child, but the virus stays dormant in the box and can be flared by a cold, lack of sleep or stress.
So beware Ozzie Guillen.
Posey said he started to feel worn down toward the end of spring training and the blisters began to emerge Sunday.
“You feel zapped,” he told CSNBayArea’s Andew Baggarly. “I just feel worn down still. I’m planning on being in there (Thursday), though.”
Posey has been told the condition generally clears in four or five days, but can last as long as three weeks.
Given that, we wouldn’t be surprised if Posey plays first base on Thursday, with Sanchez drawing another start behind the plate.
Still two hours until game time, and no word if Brian Wilson is clean-shaven or not.
Ryan Vogelsong gave up two runs on six hits over six innings of work in his second rehab start with the Fresno Grizzlies on Tuesday and is set to make his 2012 big-league debut Sunday against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Vogelsong threw 93 pitches, 60 for strikes. He struck out six and walked one.
Vogelsong threw five shutout innings before giving up two runs in the sixth on an soft, looping single to left, an infield single and then a two-run double.
BARRY LOVES HECTOR: If you liked what you saw from rookie catcher Hector Sanchez in his 2012 debut on Monday, you’ll see him again on Saturday, at the latest.
The Giants are planning to make Sanchez Barry Zito’s personal catcher. And why not? The combination produced Zito’s first shutout in nine seasons.
“I’m really comfortable with him,” Zito said of Sanchez. “I thought he mixed it up real well. He has a great feel back there. I don’t think he gets enough credit as a catcher. He’s not scared to go out there and call a pitch that may not be a normal pitch to throw in a siutation.”
Zito will take the mound again on Saturday night against the Pirates. But it’s possible Sanchez could be behind the plate again on Thursday.
With the Giants playing a day game after a night game and with the left-hander Jamie Moyer on the mound, we could see Sanchez catching and Buster Posey making his first start at first base.
Given the Giants’ struggles against lefties, manager Bruce Bochy will likely want to stack Thursday’s lineup with as many right-handed bats as possible. That could include the switch-hitting Melky Cabrera, Angel Pagan, Pablo Sandoval and Sanchez, with righties Posey at first and Ryan Theriot at 2B. Bochy could also leave Posey at catcher and start Brett Pill at first base.
LINEUP JUGGLING: After getting a day off to clear his mind, Brandon Belt should be back in the starting lineup Wednesday against the Rockies.
Bochy said Belt, who started 1 for 10 with five strikeouts after an outstanding spring, was pressing a bit.
We also could see Nate Schierholtz make his first start Wednesday.
“I need to get Nate a start,” Bochy said Monday. “I know that. I need to let him get three or four at-bats.”
SET THE DVR: The Giants will make their second national TV appearance of 2012 next Tuesday when they host the Philadelphia Phillies at 7 p.m. on the MLB Network. Madison Bumgarner is set to pitch for the Giants.
If there’s one thing Giants fans have come to expect so far in the 2012 season, it’s the unexpected.
Backdropped against the prosect of the Giants possibly enduring their first 0-4 start since 1950, backdropped against the fact that Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain have ERAs of 8.44, 9.00 and 6.50, backdropped against a spring in which Zito was basically throwing batting practice in his final two outings, Barry Zito threw an absolute gem that goes beyond defying logic.
“Just when you think you’ve seen it all in baseball …” Aubrey Huff said without finishing his sentence.
He didn’t have to. Zito did all the finishing Monday.
The historic perspective is staggering.
- It was Zito’s first complete-game shutout since 2003, four years before signing a $126 million deal with the Giants
- It was Zito’s first complete game in which he did not issue a walk since his rookie season in 2000.
- He became the first Giants pitcher to throw a shutout in the 18 year history of Coors Field.
- He became the second visiting pitcher to throw a shutout at Coors in the past 13 seasons, joining Roy Oswalt.
“It was really satisfying,” Zito said. “I had a tough spring and made the adjustment I had to make, and I think my start in the minor leagues last week had a lot to do with it, just being able to work on stuff without worrying about getting guys out.”
Zito needed 112 pitches to get through nine innings. He only gave up four hits. With a couple of breaks, Zito could have taken a perfect game into the sixth inning, a no-hitter into the seventh.
In the third inning, Rockies pitcher Jhoulys Chacin reached on a swinging bunt that Zito couldn’t get to in time to throw him out.
Marco Scutaro followed with a single up the middle that Zito should have snared. In the fourth, Troy Tulowitzki hit a shot to third base that glanced off Pablo Sandoval.
Did Zito think any of this was possible?
“Yeah sure,” Zito said. “I mean, anything’s possible.”
Almost lost in all the Zito excitement was the fact the Giants scored seven more runs and pounded out 10 more hits. Pablo Sandoval belted another homer, Aubrey Huff had a double and two walks, Hector Sanchez went 2 for 5 in his season debut, Brandon Crawford had a three-run triple. Every Giant collected at least one hit (including Zito) except Gregor Blanco.
The Giants are 1-3 despite outscoring opponents 21-17.
“Not a personal thing, but from a team standpoint, it feels great especially to win in the fashion we did,” Zito said. “We had good at-bats early. We just played good baseball overall today. It’s a good feeling to motivate us to keep it going.”
Sounds good to us.
After a day off Tuesday, Tim Lincecum returns to the mound to face Jeremy Guthrie as the Giants face the Rockies at 5:40 p.m. Wednesday.
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.