The San Francisco Giants are 2-0 after the All-Star break.
We knew the series against the Diamondbacks was going to be big. And these two games had the feel of October baseball.
In fact, Saturday’s 4-3 win by the Giants over Arizona felt a lot like Game 5 of last October’s NL Division Series against the Reds.
Think about it.
Matt Cain gets the start, pitches well early, is given the lead, but can’t get through the sixth inning.
Jeremy Affeldt gets injured.
Buster Posey hits a big home run in the fifth inning to extend the Giants’ lead, and the homer represents the last of the Giants’ scoring.
The bullpen runs the gauntlet in the late innings, escaping jam after jam and hanging onto the lead.
Sergio Romo gives up a one run in the ninth, but locks down the victory.
CAIN’S START: After an ugly outing in St. Louis on June 1, Cain posted a 1.84 ERA over his next five starts, lowering his ERA from 5.45 to 4.29. Then he had two ugly starts vs. the Dodgers (2.1 IP, 8 ER) and Mets (0.2 IP, 3 ER) and his ERA was back at 5.06. Cain came out Saturday and threw up four zeros before getting charged for single earned runs in the fifth and sixth. He should have escaped with another zero in the fifth when he got Eric Chavez to hit a double-play ball to second. But shortstop Tony Abreu, playing in place of the mildly hurt Brandon Crawford, threw the throw to first away, allowing a run to score. At the time, the run was unearned, as it scored on an error. But when Cain followed with back-to-back walks, it turned the run into an earned run. But if Abreu makes the play he should have, no runs score. He opened the sixth by giving up back-to-back singles and exited with 102 pitches in five-plus innings. Again, the Abreu error in the fifth led to Cain throwing an extra 15-18 pitches in the fifth.
AFFELDT HURT: Last October in Cincinnati, Affeldt suffered a minor injury when he tried to avoid a foul ball in the dugout. Saturday’s injury was a bit more severe. Affeldt suffered a strain groin and is likely headed to the DL. It’s quite possible Affeldt may be out a month. Jean Machi likely will get recalled to fill Affeldt’s spot, but when does Dan Runzler get another shot in the bigs? He’s a lefty, even though the Giants have lefties Javier Lopez and Jose Mijares in the pen.
BUSTER’S BLAST: After Andres Torres singled with one out in the fifth, Buster Posey blasted a shot over the center-field wall for his 14th homer of the year. It gave the Giants a 4-1 lead.
BULLPEN STARTS, THEN PUTS OUT FIRES: After Cain got the hook with two on and no outs in the sixth, George Kontos gave up an RBI single to Martin Prado to make it 4-2, then got Cody Ross to line out to second for the first out. Affeldt was brought in for Kontos and got Cliff Pennington to fly out to Pence in Triple’s Alley. But then strained his groin on a 2-2 pitch to A.J. Pollock and Jose Mijares was called in. Mijares walked Pollock to load the bases, but struck out Adam Eaton to end the threat.
In the seventh, and Santiago Casilla pitching, Aaron Hill got a two-out walk followed by a single by Miguel Montero. So again, go-ahead run came to the plate. But Castilla got Martin Prado to ground out.
In the eight, Sandy Rosario came into pitch and gave up a lead-off single to Cody Ross that glanced off Rosario’s ring finger on his pitching hand (X-rays after the game were negative). After Rosario got Pennington to fly to center, Javier Lopez came in. Wil Nieves reached on an error by Crawford, again bringing the go-ahead run to the plate. But Eaton made the second out on a comebacker to Lopez and Gerardo Parra grounded to second to end the inning.
In the ninth, Sergio Romo came in and gave up an infield single to Paul Goldschmidt off Romo’s glove. Hill flied to center, and Montero grounded to first with Goldschmidt taking second. Prado hit a bloop single to right to score Goldschmidt, but Romo struck out Cody Ross to end the game.
Now, the Giants clinched the series win they needed to get. They are 4.5 game out of first place, four games behind the second-place Dodgers. A win tomorrow will get them at least within four games of the lead, maybe 3.5.
This is an opportunity with All-Star Madison Bumgarner on the mound. The Giants need to seize on these opportunities. And it would be nice if they could do without going too deep into the bullpen that used seven of eight pitchers in the pen on Saturday.
There came a moment in Thursday’s game against the Rockies when I knew the Giants were going to win.
It came in the fourth inning when Matt Cain slapped a single to left to score the final run of a five-run inning, cutting the Rockies’ lead to 6-5.
To watch Cain’s knock, click here.
Right there, I knew it was in the bag.
Why? Well, it’s because, with that RBI and the subsequent 8-6 win, the Giants are now 23-0 since last May 9 when one of their pitchers records an RBI. And that includes the postseason.
Don’t believe me? Here’s the list:
- May 16, 2013 — Matt Cain, d. Rockies 8-6
- May 10, 2013 — Cain, d. Braves 8-2
- May 8, 2013 — Barry Zito, d. Phillies 4-3
- April 11, 2013 — Ryan Vogelsong, d. Cubs 7-6
- April 10, 2013 — Zito, d. Rockies 10-0
- April 3, 2013 — Tim Lincecum, d. Dodgers 5-3
- April 2, 2013 — Madison Bumgarner, d. Dodgers 3-0
- Oct. 24, 2012 — Zito, d. Tigers 8-3 (Game 1 of World Series)
- Oct. 22, 2012 — Cain, d. Cardinals 9-0 (Game 7 of NLCS)
- Oct. 21, 2012 — Vogelsong, d. Cardinals 6-1 (Game 6 of NLCS)
- Oct. 19, 2012 — Zito, d. Cardinals 5-0 (Game 5 of NLCS)
- Sept. 26, 2012 — Cain, d. Diamondbacks 6-0
- Sept. 22, 2012 — Bumgarner, d. Padres 8-4
- Sept. 14, 2012 — Santiago Casilla, d. Diamondbacks 6-2
- Sept. 11, 2012 — Bumgarner, d. Rockies 9-8
- Aug. 23, 2012 — Zito, d. Braves 5-2
- Aug. 17, 2012 — Cain, d. Padres 10-1
- Aug. 11, 2012 — Cain, d. Rockies 9-3
- Aug. 5, 2012 — Lincecum, d. Rockies 8-3
- July 21, 2012 — Cain, d. Phillies 6-5
- June 12, 2012 — Bumgarner, d. Astros 6-3
- May 18, 2012 — Zito, d. Athletics 8-6
- May 12, 2012 — Cain, d. Diamondbacks 5-2
The last time the Giants lost a game when one of their pitchers drove in a run came on May 9, 2012, when Lincecum got an RBI in a 6-2 loss to the Dodgers.
So who needs a DH?
A big sigh of relief was released by San Francisco Giants fans on Friday.
For the first time since April 21, they didn’t have to sweat out a victory as Matt Cain pitched eight solid innings and the Giants tallied a six-run fourth inning to beat Tim Hudson.
It was the second consecutive solid start from Cain, who looks more and more like he’s returning to his ace form. Here are a series of tidbits about Friday’s game.
- The Giants fans finally got a breather. It was only the third time the Giants have won a game that didn’t require a save or a walk-off win. The other two came in shutout wins in games started by Barry Zito.
- The lone two runs allowed by Cain came on a two-run home run in the fifth by Brian McCann. Sixteen of the last 20 runs Cain has allowed has come via the home run.
- McCann’s home run was the 26th time an opponent has hit a home run on the fly into San Francisco Bay. We don’t call it a Splash Hits, because those are just reserved for blasts of Giants’ bats.
- It was the first win by the Giants over Tim Hudson since April 8, 2006. Hudson had gone 6-0 with a 2.48 ERA against the Giants since then.
- Cain contributed to the six-run fourth with his first RBI of the season. Cain was the last of the five Giants starting pitchers to record an RBI.
- Including last season’s postseason, the Giants have won 22 consecutive games, dating back to May 9 of last year, in which a pitcher has recorded an RBI.
- Marco Scutaro had two hits in the fourth inning, extending his hitting streak to 10 games. He will likely get the day off on Saturday.
- The Giants improved to 4-0 at home on games played on Friday.
The Giants completed a three-game sweep of the Dodgers on Sunday night with a 4-3 win. But what’s more important — alright, at least AS important — is that Matt Cain got his first win of the year.
Cain pitched 7.1 innings, giving up one run on 5 hits and 3 walks. He struck out 4. It was his walk to Matt Kemp in the eighth that led to his exit after 109 pitches. When three relievers could not prevent Kemp from eventually scoring, that’s when Cain picked up his lone earned run.
For only the third time in seven starts this season, Cain did not allow a home run. Not too surprising since eight of the nine homers Cain has allowed have come on the road.
But it’s also important to note because prior to Sunday’s start, 14 of the previous 17 runs Cain had allowed had scored via the home run. His ERA this season on balls that did not leave the yard: 2.57 — and that includes the disastrous nine-run inning against the Cardinals on April 7.
So the morale to the story is: If Cain can keep from giving up the long ball, he’s the Matt Cain we’ve all grown to know and love.
Or is it something else? Could it be, perhaps, the Dodgers?
Consider this: Cain’s ERA this season in two starts against Big Blue: 0.68 in 13.1 innings. Against everyone else: 7.85 in 28.2 innings.
We may get a better idea after his next start, which is slated for Friday at home against the Braves, who ranked second in the NL in home runs.
After that, his next start comes against the Rockies. Colorado leads the NL in home runs, and the game will be played in Coors Field.
Here’s a breakdown of Cain’s starts this season, courtesy of Baseball Reference
|1||237||1||Apr 1||SFG||@||LAD||L,0-4||GS-6||99||6.0||4||0||0||1||8||0||1||0.00||1b start tie||6b 3 out tie|
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|3||239||11||Apr 12||SFG||@||CHC||L,3-4||GS-7||4||7.0||7||2||2||2||6||2||0||5.94||1b start tie||7b 3 out d2|
|4||240||16||Apr 18||SFG||@||MIL||L,2-7||GS-6||L(0-2)||5||6.0||7||7||7||0||4||3||1||7.15||1b start tie||6b 3 out d6|
|5||241||21||Apr 23||SFG||ARI||L,4-6||GS-6||4||6.0||5||4||3||1||6||1||0||6.59||1t start tie||6t 3 out d4|
|6||242||26||Apr 29||SFG||@||ARI||W,6-4||GS-6||5||6.0||5||4||4||4||6||3||0||6.49||1b start a 2||6b 3 out tie|
|7||243||31||May 5||SFG||LAD||W,4-3||GS-8||W(1-2)||5||7.1||5||1||1||3||4||0||0||5.57||1t start tie||8t 1– 1 out a4|
So when you were in school, did you prefer teachers who graded on letter grades (A, B, C, etc.) or on a strict percentage basis (100%, 90%, etc.)?
I preferred the letter-grade system. Why? Under that system, a failure is a failure. If you bomb a quiz, you regroup and come back next time.
But under the percentage system, there are degrees to failure: 50 percent, 40 percent, 30 percent, etc. If you bomb a quiz under this system, it could take you a long time to recover.
If people use the ERA as way to grade pitchers, the majority of Giants starters are failing. But ERA penalizes degrees of failure, which are very difficult to recover.
If you give up six runs in a game, you’re probably going to lose. So if you give up an seventh run, eighth run or ninth run, those runs generally don’t turn many wins into losses. But they can blow up an ERA.
And it’s easier to blow up an ERA than it is to fix it.
So let’s break down the Giants starters.
First off, we’re going to excuse Madison Bumgarner from this exercise, because’s he’s been the teacher’s pet with his 1.77 ERA. Go out and play, MadBum.
Barry Zito: 4.86 ERA, 9 ER in 16.2 IP
Eight of his nine earned runs came in 2/3 of an inning on Monday. In his other 16 innings, he’s allowed one run or an 0.56 ERA.
Tim Lincecum: 5.63 ERA, 10 ER in 16 IP
Nine of his 10 earned runs came in two innings of work. In his other 14 innings, he’s allowed one run or an 0.63 ERA.
Matt Cain: 5.94 ERA, 11 ER in 16.2 IP
Nine of his 11 earned runs came in 2/3 of an inning against the Cardinals. In his other 16 innings, he’s allowed two runs or 1.13 ERA.
Ryan Vogelsong, 7.15 ERA, 9 ER in 11.1 IP
Seven of his 9 ER came in two innings. In the other 9.1 IP, he’s allowed two runs or 2.00 ERA.
Even if you looked at the team’s ERA, which includes the bullpen, right now the Giants rank 11th in the NL with a 4.26 ERA.
But if you removed Cain’s nine-run inning and Zito’s eight-run inning, suddenly the Giants’ team ERA is 3.08 or second-best in the NL.
Bottom line, blow-up innings are rare, but damaging to an ERA. They skew the numbers. If you look harder, the Giants pitching is just fine.
When you try to put a blog post after every San Francisco Giants (except when a spring break trip takes you away from internet access), it’s sometimes a challenge to try to post something positive.
Sunday’s game against the Cardinals was one of those games.
While we can’t guarantee any of these will perk you up after Sunday’s loss, these come from our best efforts
- The pre-game ring ceremony was cool. You can watch the video of the ceremony above.
- Angel Pagan, normally a cold starter to the season, continues to hit the ball well with a double and his first triple of the season.
- After getting just two hits in their first 24 at-bats with runners in scoring position, the Giants got two hits in three at-bats with RISP in the third inning. The Giants are now 5 for 30 with RISP on the season (.167).
- Brandon Belt got his first hit of the season.
- Nick Noonan got his first career hit in the ninth inning, a neat highlight if you were determined enough to wait around to watch it.
- Even though he still hasn’t found his swing, Pablo Sandoval got two more hits.
- Guillermo Quiroz is hitting 1.000 for the season.
- Chad Gaudin pitched three shutout innings, giving up just one hit and striking out four.
- Sunday’s loss only counts as one in the standings.
- To quote Marty Feldman from “Young Frankenstein”: It could have been worse; it could have been raining.
Did any of that make you feel any better? No? Well, if it’s any consolation, Matt Cain feels worse.
For three innings, Cain had Giants fans thinking two things: “Could Matt Cain possibly through ANOTHER perfect game?” and “Watch out Orel Hershiser; Matt Cain is coming after your consecutive scoreless innings streak.”
Cain sailed through the Cardinals’ lineup the first time through — nine up, nine down on 28 pitches. Extending back into last season, it stretched Cain’s scoreless innings streak to 11 innings.
But before the fourth inning was over, all that was a distant memory. Cain’s fourth went: single and error, single, sac fly (1 run), walk, single, ground-rule double (2 runs), single (1 run), single (1 run), foul pop-out by pitcher, walk, single (2 runs).
He left with two on and two out. Beltran’s single against Jose Mijares plated two more runs charged to Cain. All totaled: nine earned runs on seven hits and two walks.
Oh well. Luckily, there’s another game tomorrow.
MoreSplashHits got up Friday thinking how great it would be to be at AT&T Park for the pre-game festivities, but at least I could watch it on TV.
Then I turned on the MLB Network, which was carrying Friday’s Giants-Cardinals game. But instead of showing the pre-game, the network decided to show Brian Kinney and Harold Reynolds blabber at each other.
OK, no problem. I’ll just go to MLB. TV. But MLB.TV also did show the pre-game, joining the broadcast right before the first pitch.
So, we’d like to thank SFGiants.com show sharing video of the highlights of Friday’s pre-game activities as the Giants raised their 2012 World Series banner.
And it almost turned out like we called it.
MoreSplashHits posted 10 prime candidates to raise the flag on Friday.
Two of them did not participate, as we expected, because they were getting ready for the game: Pitcher Barry Zito, who was warming up in the bullpen, and catcher Buster Posey, who was catching Zito.
“It would have been nice, but I also like my routine,” Posey said of joining the pre-game festivities. “It’s a balance.”
Two other players we listed did not hoist the flag, but were given another honor. NLCS MVP Marco Scutaro and World Series MVP Pablo Sandoval got to throw out the ceremonial first pitches.
As for the flag itself, it was brought in via the bay on a San Francisco fire boat. After it was carried into the stadium, it was handed to Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who walked it to the outfield wall, and passed it off to pitcher Matt Cain.
Cain carried the flag into the stands and to the flag pole, followed by five teammates — each of whom took turns in hoisting the flag up the pole:
Matt Cain — got it
Tim Lincecum — got it
Ryan Vogelsong — got it
Sergio Romo — got it
Hunter Pence — got it
Angel Pagan — DOH!!
OK, we didn’t get Pagan, but 9 out of 10 isn’t bad.
Actually, when I was compiling my list of candidates, I wanted to have five pitchers and five position players. After coming up with Pence, Scutaro, Posey and Sandoval, I needed one more.
I went with Blanco because he’s defensive plays in the postseason stuck out more in my mind. But I could have gone with several candidates like Brandon Crawford (for his defense) and Pagan.
Pagan was a solid choice for his contributions from the start of the season through the playoff run. And he just signed a four-game contract with the Giants last winter.
“This is about sharing the joy, sharing the accomplishment,” Pence said Hunter Pence. “That’s what we do it for. We do it for each other. We do it together.”
Good choices all the way around, and it was a great ceremony. Still, it would have been nice to see Buster in the mix.
“Aw, I had fun watching ’em,” Posey said of his teammates.
Don’t feel too bad for Buster. He’ll get his time in the spotlight Saturday when he’ll be presented his MVP trophy in a pre-game ceremony.