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.
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.
Manager Bruce Bochy best summed up the Giants performance Thursday night against the Rockies.
“Ohhh boy, this is about as ugly as we’ve had. Just had an awful game tonight,” Bochy said. “Sure (a no-hitter) would have been embarrassing. We were embarrassed tonight. I don’t care if it’s a pickup game, spring training –We’re leaving here in about 10 days.”
Yes, it’s never good when you have four times as many errors as hits. It’s never good when you get one-hit in a spring training game.
It’s never good when you go 12-up-and-12-down against a 49-year-old pitcher.
But that’s what happened. The Giants only hit was a seventh-inning double off the top of the fence by Pablo Sandoval.
Sandoval has been scuffling this spring. Bochy said he would go to a minor-league game on Friday to get more at-bats and find his groove.
It was so ugly that I didn’t even link the box score. Nothing to see there.
But there are some possible explanations for Thursday’s performance. Some good. Some not so good.
- Giants announcers Jon Miller and Dave Fleming tried to explain that sometimes at this point in spring training players are ready to play games that count, so they lose focus. A good thought, but Thursday’s lineup included hitters who needed to focus because their swing is not quite regular-season ready.
- The Rockies rolled out a lineup that looked a lot like they one they’ll roll out on opening day. The Giants did not. SS Brandon Crawford was under the weather and got the day off. Emmanuel Burriss and Ryan Theriot, both candidates to start at 2B if Freddy Sanche is unable to go, sat out with minor injuries. C Buster Posey got the day off. OF Nate Schierholtz was playing his first game in a few days nursing a minor injury. Even Tim Lincecum passed on facing the Rockies, choosing instead to throw in a minor-league game. So the Rockies faced Brian Burres.
- The Giants have a tendency to struggle against soft throwers. And Moyer is the softest of soft throwers. This was the second time this spring Moyer has shut them down. He’s allowed just one hit in six innings this spring against San Francisco. The Giants can only hope that Moyer doesn’t make the Rockies rotation (doubtful) or that if he does, that he pitches in one of the Rockies first three games, and not in the Rockies’ second series of the season against the Giants (even more doubtful).
- It was just one of those days.
Madison Bumgarner takes the hill as the Giants face the Rangers at 6:05 p.m. The game will be televised on a one-hour delay at 7 p.m. on the MLB Network. But fans with an MLB.TV subscription can watch it live.
GIANTS 8, ROCKIES 6
The Giants rallied to beat the Rockies on Wednesday, after five relievers held Colorado to one run over the final seven innings.
That’s the good news.
And then there’s Tim Lincecum.
The Giants ace got battered by the Rockies for five runs on seven hits in two innings of work. He walked one and did not strike out a batter.
He struggled with his control, throwing only 26 of his 46 pitches for strikes.
His velocity topped out at 91 mph, a bit below the 93 mph he normally throws at. But Lincecum and the Giants were unconcerned.
“I feel like the ball is coming out fine,” Lincecum said. “If anything was a real problem, I’m sure (catcher Chris Stewart) would come out and tell me. I feel fine. Outside of the results, everything was good.”
OK, then. What exactly did Chris Stewart say?
“Nothing to worry about,” said Stewart, adding that Lincecum was just fighting to keep his fastballs down. “When the season starts, he’ll be the Timmy that we’re all used to.”
Henry Schulman of the SF Chronicle pointed out that the Freak’s spring ERAs the past four years were 4.50, 4.03, 6.94 and 4.37. Last season, Lincecum opened the spring with an outing in which he gave up three runs on five hits in 1 2/3 innings.
It is just March 7. There are four weeks before the season opens. Lincecum will get five more spring starts.
No time to worry.
OK, let’s focus on happy thoughts.
- The Giants rallied with three runs in the seventh and three in the eight to beat the Rockies. The runs in the seventh were aided by four walks by Esmil Rogers, a young pitcher who has a career ERA of 6.57. The Giants pound Stephen Dodson, a career minor league who has pitched about Double-A, for three runs on four hits in the eight.
- Tommy Joseph, a 20-year-old catcher, came in late and had two RBI singles to fuel the rally. “Here’s a 20-year-old that’s really done a great job of making strides behind the plate,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “And he can hit.”
- Melky Cabrera continues to swing a hot bat, going 3 for 3 with a double, run and RBI. He’s hitting .571.
- Nate Schierholtz went 1 for 2 and stole yet another base.
- Erik Surkamp, who figures to be first in line if the Giants need another starter, struck out four in three innings of work, giving up one run on three hits.
- OF Gregor Blanco also came off the bench and went 2-for-2. A speedster, Blanco is trying to the Giants that he can hit. He’s coming being named the MVP of the Venezuela Winter League. To read more about Gregor, see this story on the Giants website.
Madison Bumgarner gets the start as the Giants face the Padres in Peoria at 12:05 p.m. PST.
Buster Posey is raking, Brian Wilson is dealing, and Matt Cain is chilling.
Those were the headlines out of Giants camp on Thursday as the Giants beat the Colorado Rockies 7-5.
Posey went 2 for 2 with 2 runs and 2 RBI, including a monster home run of the Rockies’ Jorge De La Rosa. The blast to center was said to have traveled at least 450 feet.
“That’s the longest home run I’ve ever given up,” De La Rosa said.
Added Rockies manager Jim Tracy: “It’s safe to say Buster Posey is a pretty good player.”
Thanks for the expert analysis, Jim.
Meanwhile, back at Giants camp, Wilson threw batting practice to Aubrey Huff, Freddy Sanchez, Mark DeRosa and Andres Torres, and handled them with ease.
Said Huff: “I’m starting to question whether he was really hurt.”
Wilson has been slowed by a sore back. Pitching coach Dave Righetti said that if Wilson’s body responds well, the Giants closer will make his spring debut on Sunday against the Mariners.
The next time we’ll see Cain on the mound in unclear. Cain skipped his scheduled start Thursday with elbow inflammation, and now his status for his next start Tuesday is in doubt as he hasn’t picked up a ball since Sunday.
“We’ll have to adjust when he throws next,” manager Bruce Bochy said.
Cain seemed less concerned about the whole thing.
“It definitely feels better,” Cain said. “It just happens sometimes. You get a little irritation. I don’t think it has anything to do with last year or anything I changed this year.”
Here are some other highlights from Thursday.
DARREN FORD: Ford is an outfielder who the Giants hope can provide them with some needed speed in the future if he can show he can get on base. He went 2 for 4 with a solo home run in the leadoff spot Thursday.
EMMANUEL BURRISS: Starting at 2B, Burriss went 2 for 3 with a triple, run scored and two RBI. He left with a sore foot after fouling a ball of it. Luckily, it wasn’t the same foot he has twice suffered a fracture in.
RYAN VOGELSONG: Starting in place of Cain, Vogelsong threw three hitless innings with two strikeouts. Bochy sees Vogelsong as a candidate to be a long man in the Giants’ pen.
Todd Wellemeyer had his best outing of the spring, throwing four scoreless innings and allowing just two hits in the San Francisco Giants 9-2 win over the Colorado Rockies.
Juan Uribe hit a three-run home run and Bengie Molina with 3 for 3, including a two-run homer as the Giants won their third consecutive spring training game, beating a Rockies split-squad.
Inside the box score
Aubrey Huff was caught stealing. Why?
Matt Cain gave up one run on five hits in three innings of work.
The Giants have their first split-squad day on Sunday. Jonathan Sanchez takes to the mound agains the Diamondbacks. In the other game, Kevin Pucetas leads a bevy of pitchers battling for the No. 5 spot in the rotation against the Milwaukee Brewers. Pucetas will be followed by Madison Bumgarner, Todd Wellemeyer and Joe Martinez.