The title of Wedneday’s game in Houston could have been “Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Zito.”
Or is it “Dr. Zito and Mr. Hyde”?
That’s the problem. We just don’t know.
When you think Zito is going to get clobbered, he turns in a gem. When you think this is a game Zito can win, he gets lit up.
Take a look at the good and bad starts by Zito since June 20:
- 6/25 vs. Dodgers: 7 IP, 0 R, 3 BB, 4 K, win
- 6/30 vs. Reds: 6 IP, 1 R, 6 BB, 3 K, loss
- 7/17 at Braves: 7 IP, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K, win
- 7/22 at Phillies: 7 IP, 3 R, 1 BB, 7 K, loss
- 8/7 at Cardinals: 6.2 IP, 2 R, 0 BB, 4 K, win
- 8/23 vs. Braves: 8 IP, 2 R, 3 BB, 5 K, win
- TOTAL: 41.2 IP, 4-2, 1.75 ERA
And the bad
- 7/6 at Pirates: 5 IP, 4 R, 3 BB, 3K, win
- 7/28 vs. Dodgers: 5 IP, 4 R, 1 BB, 4 K, loss
- 8/2 vs. Mets: 4.1 IP, 7 R, 3 BB, 1 K, loss
- 8/12 vs. Rockies: 5.1 IP, 4 R, 2 BB, 3 K
- 8/18 at Padres: 4 IP, 4 R, 2 BB, 1 K
- 8/29 at Astros: 2.1 IP, 3 R, 0 BB, 1 K
- TOTAL: 26 IP, 22 ER, 1-2, 7.62 ERA
Since August, it’s been even more puzzling. Zito has been able to shut down playoff-contending teams like the Cardinals and Braves. But he can’t contain losing teams like the Mets, Rockies, Padres and Astros.
Luckily for the Giants, they’ve been able to produce enough offensive to counter-act Zito’s last three poor performances and still win.
That’s what happen Wednesday, thanks to Pence and the pen.
Hunter Pence gave the Giants 4-0 lead in the first inning with his three-run home run. Then Zito slowly started to give it back.
The odd part of Zito’s start Wednesday is he didn’t walk anyone. But he did give up seven hits in 2 1/3 innings before getting the hook. He left with the Giants leading 4-3 and was lucky not to get tagged with two more runs thanks to George Kontos’ nice escape act with two on in the third.
Giants relievers Kontos, Guillermo Mota, Jose Mijares, Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla and Javier Lopez limited the Astros to one run on three hits in 5 2/3 innings to preserve the win.
Zito blamed his Wednesday struggles on pitch selection, saying he should have shook off Buster Posey when the catcher called for changeups.
“That’s my job to shake,” Zito said. “It’s nothing Posey is doing wrong. … Sometimes you’re just fixed up togo. You see a sign and go. But it’s one me to throw my pitch.”
At the start of the year, Hector Sanchez was Zito’s personal catcher. Sanchez was behind the plate in Zito’s first 18 starts of the year. But with the Giants needing to keep Posey’s bat in the lineup after Melky Cabrera’s suspension, Posey has caught four of Zito’s last five starts.
So what’s next for Zito. Who knows? His next start comes Monday at home against the Diamondbacks. Then if the rotation stays in turn, it will be vs. the Dodgers, at Diamondbacks, vs. the Rockies, vs. the Diamondbacks, at the Dodgers.
Here are the important numbers after Tuesday’s win for the Giants over the Astros.
The Giants’ magic number to clinch the NL West title is 30.
The Giants’ record agains the Astros this season is 6-1.
The Giants’ record since the Melky Cabrera suspension: 8-4.
The Dodgers’ record since their blockbuster trade that was going to put them over the top: 1-3.
Sorry. That last stat makes me giggle.
But none of that would have been possible if not for one last record — Giants record when trailing after eight innings now stands at 2-50.
It’s hard to call a win over the Astros as a must-win game. But the Astros have been so terrible since the All-Star break that if the Giants don’t beat Houston, especially when getting a good pitching performance like they got Tuesday from Matt Cain … well, it’s those losses they’ll regret come October.
Fortunately, it only took the Giants eight innings to realize that.
The Giants managed only one run off the Astros through eight innings — a fifth-inning home run from Angel Pagan.
That was the Giants’ lone highlight up to that point, well at least on offense.
The defensive highlight was the tandem catch of a foul pop by Pablo Sandoval and Brandon Crawford that might remind some of the Bob Boone/Pete Rose catch from the 1980 World Series, only better.
Here’s a look:
But even so, it looked as if an eighth-inning wild pitch might beat them as the Giants trailed 2-1 entering the ninth.
Then the Giants started stringing hits together.
It started with a leadoff single by Brandon Belt.
Joaquin Arias came in to pinch-hit for Gregor Blanco and raked the first pitch he saw down the third-base line for a double, scoring Belt.
After a Brandon Crawford strike out, Hector Sanchez delivered a pinch-hit single to center to score Arias.
Then Sergio Romo pitched a perfect ninth for the save.
Now the Giants have a 3.5-game lead over the Dodgers, their largest such margin of the season.
And with Joe Blanton pitching Wednesday for L.A. in Colorado, it makes Giants fans feel better about not knowing which Barry Zito will show up Wednesday to take the mound for the Giants.
There was a time when Jonathan Sanchez was the pitcher with the most promise on the San Francisco Giants’ staff.
That time ended long ago, and now we’re left to wonder if Sanchez will be pitching in the majors for anyone anytime soon.
On Tuesday, the Kansas City Royals designated pitcher Jonathan Sanchez for assignment, in a move they probably thought was the rock-bottom moment from their offseason trade with the Giants.
They were wrong.
Sanchez and pitcher Ryan Verdugo were acquired in a trade with the Giants for outfielder Melky Cabrera.
On Monday, Sanchez was tagged for seven runs in 1 1/3 innings against the weak-hitting Mariners. That bumped his season ERA to 7.76 in 12 starts. He had not won since April 8.
On Tuesday, Sanchez was designated for assignment, making room on the roster for Verdugo, who was 6-2 with a 3.58 ERA with Triple-A Omaha this season. Verdugo made his MLB debut Tuesday against the Mariners.
Against the Mariners, Verdugo was tagged for six runs on eight hits and two walks in 1 2/3 innings.
All of this came exactly one week after Cabrera started in the outfield for the National League All-Star team, eventually being named MVP of the game, which was ironically played in Kansas City.
“You want them all to work out, but most of the time they don’t, unfortunately,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said Tuesday about the trade. “It’s part of the business, you move on and you accept it. You continue to look for solutions.
“There’s no need to spend a lot of time rehearsing what went wrong. You certainly analyze it, but don’t beat yourself about it because this game moves on. You can’t dwell on it. You can’t get stuck on it. You’ve got to move forward.”
OK, let’s move forward. On Tuesday, Cabrera went 2 for 5 with a hustle double, two runs and an RBI as the Giants beat the Braves 9-0. It was Cabrera’s NL-leading 41st multi-hit game of the season. He’s hitting .353 on the season.
As for Sanchez, it’s another fall along what has been become a steady decline since the 2010 season when it looked as if Sanchez had reached that potential the Giants fans had heard about for years.
Sanchez was outstanding in 2010, especially down the stretch. He pitched the Giants to victory in the regular-season finale when they clinched the NL West Division title.
He had another solid outing against the Braves in the NL Division Series. Then things started to turn.
He lost Game 2 of the NLCS vs. the Phillies and appeared to be headed another loss in Game 6 when he was pulled early and the bullpen came to the rescue.
He suffered the Giants’ lone loss in the World Series vs. the Rangers.
In 2011, things became steadily worse for Sanchez, who eventually landed on the DL with “bicep tendinitis” in June. When he returned from the DL, he was no better and a foot injury in August ended his season.
The Royals acquired Sanchez in the offseason, hoping a change of scenery would help him recapture the magic of 2010. Instead, things went the opposite direction.
His ERA jumped from 4.26 in 2011 to 7.76 in 2012. His WHIP went from 1.44 to 2.04.
Royal manager Ned Yost still believes Sanchez can be a quality pitcher, but the Royals could not continue to suffer from his struggles.
“It’s still there with Jonathan,” Yost said. “He’s still got the stuff to be successful. For whatever reason, he just wasn’t successful here. It just got to a point we needed to regroup for us and for him.”
So then what’s next for Dirty Sanchez?
It’s doubtful that another contender would want to risk throwing Sanchez into its starting rotation or even bullpen. If he latches on with a contender, it would involve him heading to Triple-A to figure things out.
The Royals are hoping he clears waivers and accepts a minor-league assignment with them. Sanchez had a 6.75 ERA in three rehab starts with Triple-A Omaha this season.
“We designated him and that gives us 10 days to trade him, but he also has an option and, if he agrees, he can go to Triple-A with us, which I’d personally like to see him do,” Yost said. “Because it’s still there, his stuff’s still there.”
Sanchez will clear waivers because no team will want to be on the hook for the remainder of the $5.6 million he’s earning this season.
If he wants to stay in the majors, it will have to be with a non-contender. A non-contender that is starved for starting pitching and preferably plays in a pitcher-friendly park.
And that leads to only one team … the San Diego Padres.
We’ll find out in 10 days.
It was time for MoreSplashHits to enjoy a little R&R over the weekend. When we return, the Giants find themselves in the middle of a four-game winning streak and three games ahead of the Dodgers in the NL West.
It almost made us want to NOT blog anymore until this winning streak ends.
But we can’t do that. So here’s what we missed over the weekend sweep of the Astros.
GIANTS 5, ASTROS 1: BOX SCORE
GIANTS 3, ASTROS 2 (12): BOX SCORE
GIANTS 3, ASTROS 2: BOX SCORE
Sure, we could focus on the negative: Barry Zito’s ever-climbing ERA, failing to sweep the Astros, the Giants’ post-perfect game hangover.
But we’re MoreSplashHits. So when there are more Splash Hits, we celebrate it.
Especially when it comes from Brandon Belt.
On Thursday, Belt hit …
- the first Splash Hit of 2012,
- the first since Belt accomplished the feat on Sept. 27 of last year,
- the 61st Splash Hit in the history of AT&T Park
- the 26th Splash Hit not hit by somebody named Barry Bonds
- and he became the 8th Giant with multiple Splash Hits, joining Bonds (35), Pablo Sandoval (6), Felipe Crespo (2), Michael Tucker (2), Ryan Klesko (2), Andres Torres (2) and Aubrey Huff (2).
It also helped the Giants avoid going the latest into the season before the first Splash Hit of the season. That came on June 15, 2009, when Andres Torres belted the first of three Splash Hits the Giants hit in 2009.
More importantly, it was Belt’s third home run in three games after hitting none in his first 48 games in 2012.
Belt came out of the gate in a funk, hitting .167 in his first seven games with seven strikeouts. Belt then found himself coming off the bench as a late-inning defensive replacement, as he continued to work with batting coach Hensley Meulens on his approach in the batters box.
The hits started to come for Belt. The strikeouts dropped off. His average rose to .294 on May 3. But those results came at the expense of his power stroke.
Then Belt took another turn, as he continued to find himself on the bench in favor of Brett Pill against left-handed starters. Belt went from May 18 to June 6 with just six hits and only one extra-base hit. He averaged hit its low-point Sunday against Texas at .224.
Then the Astros came to town. Belt, starting twice against left-handed starters, went 4 for 10 with two walks and three homers. All three homers came against lefties — a shot off Wesley Wright that one-hopped into the bay on Tuesday, a guacamole shot to center off J.A. Happ on Wednesday (it hit the avocado tree behind the center-field wall), and then finally his Splash Hit of Wandy Rodriguez on Thursday.
“I know from past experience I can hit righties as well,” Belt said. “That gives you a comfort feeling up there.”
He only hit two of his nine home runs last year at AT&T. Now, all three of his homers have come at home in 2012.
Belt’s opportunity came about in part from Pablo Sandoval’s activation, which led to Pill’s demotion to Fresno. Now, it looks as if the Giants will be without Aubrey Huff for a while (he sprained his knee trying to jump the dugout fence after Matt Cain’s perfect game).
Belt needs to the seize this opportunity, take over that first-base job and never give it back.
Giants fans have been waiting 1.5 years for this.
On Tuesday, Madison Bumgarner became the third pitcher in Giants history (since 1900) to hit a home run and strikeout 12-or-more in the same game, joining Juan Marichal and Mike Krukow.
Top that, Matt Cain.
Cain became the 22nd pitcher in MLB history and the first in the long storied history of the Giants franchise to throw a perfect game as he retired 27 consecutive Astros on Wednesday night at AT&T Park.
It was a historic night on many occasions.
- The 125-pitch outing was the most pitches thrown in a perfect game.
- That’s because Cain also struck out a career-high 14 batters. Cain tied Sandy Koufax for the most strikeouts in a perfect game.
- The 2 hour and 36 minute game was the second longest perfect game history, trailing only David Wells’ perfecto in 1998, which took 2:40.
- And the 10 runs of support the Giants provided Cain were the most runs scored by the winning team in a perfect game. In fact, the 10 runs were more that what the winning teams scored in the previous five National League perfect games combined.
In every no-hitter or perfect game, there are pivotal plays to keep the performance intact.
The first occurred in fourth inning, when Jordan Schafer hit a one-hopper down the first-base line. Replays appeared to show the ball kicking up some chalk about a foot in front of the first base bag. That doesn’t necessarily mean the ball was fair, but it does show how narrowly foul it was (if it was actually foul at all).
First base umpire Mike Muchlinski appeared to flinch, as if he were about to point and call the ball fair before raising his hands and calling it foul.
“There’s not really a good replay that shows anything, but I thought it was fair,” Shafer said. “Just the way it works.”
Houston manager Brad Mills came out to debate the ball.
That was the closest the Astros came to getting a hit … until the sixth inning.
That’s when, with one out, Chris Snyder hit a ball that off the crack of the bat looked like it would be long gone for a home run. But the thick bay air knocked the ball down enough to allow Melky Cabrera to make a catch up in front of the left-field wall.
Then, leading off the seventh, it was Schafer again. Schafer smacked a drive deep into triples alley that right fielder Gregor Blanco raced after and made a diving catch at the warning track to keep the perfecto going.
From there, it was pretty much all Cain.
He got J.D. Martinez to ground out to Joaquin Arias at third in the eighth, with Arias making a nice play on a slow roller. Brett Wallace struck out for K No. 14, and Chris Johnson grounded out to short.
In the ninth, Brian Bogusevic flied out to Cabrera in foul territory. Snyder flied out to Cabrera for out No. 2. Then Jason Castro grounded to deep third with Arias making the strong throw to first for the final out.
And the celebration was on. The Giants spilled out of the dugout as Buster Posey lifted Cain with a bear hug. After the initial mob scene, Cain spent time sharing congratulatory hugs with every teammate. Then Cain hoisted Gregor Blanco with an extra hug of thanks.
Ten runs scored for the Giants. Three home runs for the Giants (Cabrera, Brandon Belt and Blanco). A perfect game from Matt Cain. Could the night get any better than that?
Oh yeah, the Dodgers lost, too.
The Giants’ 16-game homeless streak at home ended Tuesday with the most unlikely of sluggers.
Madison Bumgarner belted his first career big-league home run in the third inning to snap the string.
It was his first home run since going deep on April 25, 2010 while playing for the Fresno Grizzlies at Portland’s PGE Park.
It was so long ago that PGE Park is no longer PGE Park, and the Portland Beavers are no longer the Portland Beavers.
Then in the eighth, Brandon Belt gave the Giants some breathing room by hitting his first home run of the season, a two-run shot that one-hopped off the arcade and into the bay (technically not a SplashHit; Belt has the last splash hit on Sept. 27 of last season).
So the last three home runs hit at AT&T Park by a Giants was that player’s first home run of the season: MadBum, Belt and Gregor Blanco. Um, not exactly Mays, McCovey and Cepeda.
But the real story Tuesday was another dandy from Bumgarner, who fanned 12 Astros before starting to wane in the eighth and getting pulled.
He finished with 2 runs (one earned) on six hits and no walks in 7 2/3 innings. He threw 98 pitches.
He’ll pitch next Sunday in Seattle against Felix Hernandez.
Matt Cain takes the mound against J.A. Happ at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday. It’s the first of three lefties the Giants will face over the next three days.