April showers bring May flowers. What do May flowers bring?
Well, for the San Francisco Giants, significant injuries. At least that’s been true over the past few seasons.
Mark DeRosa, Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Ryan Vogelsong, Angel Pagan. All suffered significant injuries that cost them weeks of playing time in May.
Wednesday’s injury may have been the most frustrating.
In the top of the ninth, after he had just escaped a bases-loaded jam with the help of a double play ball, Santiago Casilla came to the plate for the first time since 2012.
Manager Bruce Bochy said afterwards that he gave Casilla instructions not to swing. But Casilla went up there hacking, working the count full before hitting a chopper up the middle. Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki charged the ball and threw to first. Casilla raced down the baseline with his hair on fire, as if they play were in Game 7 of the World Series.
It was a game in May, and the Giants were leading 5-1. Just before he reached the bag, Casilla pulled up, then fell over the bag and began writhing in pain. Casilla suffered a hamstring injury so bad that he could not put wait on the leg and had to be helped off the field by two trainers.
And this came after starter Matt Cain left the game early when he felt his hamstring tighten up.
Casilla is definitely going on the DL. For how long, we won’t know until an MRI is performed Thursday. But it didn’t look good. By the looks of things, if the Giants get Casilla back before the All-Star break, they would be lucky.
But it seems to follow a disturbing trend of key injuries suffered by Giants in the month of May.
Here’s a look back at others since 2010:
Mark DeRosa: Prior to the 2010 season, Mark DeRosa signed a two-year, $12 million deal to be a veteran presence in the lineup. But in May of 2010, DeRosa went on the DL with a wrist injury that ended his 2010 season after playing 26 games in 2010. He came back to play 47 games in 2011, mostly as a reserve. He also started a DL stint in May 2011.
Edgar Renteria: Renteria went on the DL twice in May 2010, the first on May 7 with a strained groin. He returned May 22, played three games then went back on the DL with a strained hamstring for about a month. He would return, suffer other injuries, but return in the postseason to deliver one of the biggest hits in Giants history in Game 5 of the World Series.
Buster Posey: The biggest May injury was Posey’s season-injury ankle injury on May 26 when he got plowed by Scott Cousins.
Jeremy Affeldt: Affeldt went on the DL May 2 with a sprained knee sustained when his 4-year-old son lept into his arms after Affeldt returned home after a game. Now, granted, the injury occurred in late April, but Affeldt went on the DL in May. Affeldt missed the minimum, so it wasn’t major injury, but worth mentioning.
Pablo Sandoval: Almost a year after breaking the hamate bone in his right hand, Sandoval breaks the hamate bone in his left hand, leaving a game early against the Marlins on May 2. He would be out until June 9.
Santiago Casilla: This isn’t the first time Casilla visited the DL in May. Last season, he went on DL on May 21 with a cyst in his right knee and did not return from the DL until July 14.
Ryan Vogelsong: Vogelsong was off to a bad start in 2013. But he looked to be turning things around with his best start of the season, throwing five shutout innings against the Nationals. Then he broke his hand swinging at a pitch at the plate. He would be out until Aug. 9.
Angel Pagan: Pagan supplied perhaps the most exciting play of the 2013 season for the Giants when he won a game against the Rockies with a 10th-inning, inside-the-park home run. But Pagan hurt his hamstring on the play on May 25. They waited until June 7 to put him on the DL. He tried to return later in June, but aggravated the injury on June 20 playing for Class San Jose. He would later have surgery and be out until Aug. 30.
Brandon Belt: Belt went on the DL after suffering a broken thumb when he was hit by a pitch from the Dodgers’ Paul Maholm on May 9. He’s not expected back until late June, at the earliest.
THURSDAY: NATIONALS 6, GIANTS 5 – BOX SCORE
FRIDAY: GIANTS 6, PIRATES 5 – BOX SCORE
When Brian Wilson went down for the season, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he would go with a closer-by-committee.
That committee quickly became Santiago Casilla.
Through June 18, Casilla had allowed four earned runs in his first 30 appearances, never allowing more than one run in any appearance. Only twice did he allow two hits or more in any of those appearances. He had 19 saves in 19 appearances with a 1.32 ERA.
But since then, Casilla has given up six earned runs in 4 1/3 innings. He’s allowed at least two hits in four of his last five outings. He’s blown three of his last four save opportunities.
Is this a funk? Or is something wrong with Casilla?
The Giants said Casilla would not be avaiable Saturday because of a blister on his middle finger.
But if the Giants don’t make a move to Sergio Romo as their new closer, Giants fans may want to show Bochy THEIR middle finger.
Romo has been lights-out nasty this season. He’s 2-1 with a 0.72 ERA. He’s 5-for-5 in save opportunities.
In those save opportunties (all occurring since June 2), Romo has not allowed a hit or a walk in 4 1/3 innings. He has four strikeouts in those outings.
Romo locked down the save Friday in Pittsburgh.
Afterward, Romo said he doesn’t want or need the closer title, throwing his support behind Casilla.
“Casilla’s done a great job for us this year … Who doesn’t have a rough patch during the season?” Romo said.
Who doesn’t? Um, Sergio, you don’t. Or at least you haven’t the past two seasons.
“We have all the confidence in the world in him,” Romo continued. “He’s our closer. He IS our closer. I’m just another guy in the pen that’s trying to contribute.”
It’s a nice sentiment, Sergio. But it’s not your call. It’s Bochy’s. It’s his job to put the right people in the game that give the team the best chance to win.
And right now, it’s Romo.
Casilla may just need a breather. He’s pitched more innings up to this point in the season than he’s ever done in the past.
His season-high for innings was 55.1 in 2010. He’s pitched between 48.1 and 55.1 each of the past five seasons.
He’s pitched 31.2 innings this season. He had a 1.95 ERA in 2010, 1.74 ERA in 2011 in setup roles. He’s at 2.84 this season with his recent “rough patch.”
So we say move Casilla back into the set-up spot for now. Let him catch his breath and regain his confidence.
And let’s get Romolicious in the ninth
That’s about all you can say about Sunday’s series finale in Oakland.
While it would have been great to complete the sweep heading into the series with the Dodgers. But the Giants won two of three, and ultimately that’s the goal of every series … to win it.
The Giants looked like they might get that sweep when they led 2-1 in the ninth after a stellar performance from Matt Cain.
But Santiago Casilla came in, gave up two singles to go with two strikeouts before giving up a three-run homer to rookie Derek Norris on a 3-2 pitch.
One pitch away from a sweep. Instead, it’s a loss.
Sure, you can make the argument that Bruce Bochy should have considered other options in the ninth than Santiago Casilla, who had pitched in each of the previous two nights and not completely effectively.
Actually MoreSplashHits would argue that Casilla should not have been used to protect a three-run lead with two out in the ninth on Saturday. Just because a situation becomes a save situation according to the rules doesn’t mean you automatically bring in your closer. Saturday’s game should have been finished off by committee, which eventually it was, and given Casilla day off. It would have left him fresher for Sunday.
Now, having pitched in three consecutive days, Casilla will not be available Monday against the Dodgers. Of course, with Barry Zito pitching, if the Giants find themselves in a save situation Monday that will be a blessing in itself.
You could argue all those points. But in the end, the Giants ended up winning a game that they probably should have lost in Oakland and lost a game they should have won. And that’s called a push.
Entering this series, the Giants were 1-29 when trailing after eight innings, and they got a win Friday to go to 2-29.
On Sunday, they were 35-0 when entering the ninth with the lead, and now they are 35-1.
Maybe a bigger issue is how the Giants scored twice in the first inning on a Buster Posey home run, then didn’t score again.
The Giants are now 1-21 when scoring 3 runs or fewer in games in Oakland.
But thanks to a win by the Angels on Sunday, the Giants still only trail the Dodgers by three games in the NL West.
And now onto the Dodgers, which starts a stretch in which the Giants play their next 10 games against division leaders — three with the Dodgers (NL West leaders), four with the Reds (NL Central leaders) and three with the Nationals (NL East leaders). The first-half the season ends with three against the Pirates (who are second in the NL Central).
Thirteen games that will tell us a lot about how the Giants expect to contend for a division title and playoff spot in the second half of the season.
MoreSplashHits had another solid month blogging about the Giants, finishing in the Top 50 for page views for the month of May.
It was the second consecutive month MoreSplashHits placed 46th among fan blogs. It’s the fourth time in the past two years MoreSplashHits has ranked in the top 50, never higher than 44th.
So as a thanks to those following and to commemorate that back-to-back showing at No. 46, we share this pictorial showcase of some classic No. 46s in San Francisco Giants history.
Most people around baseball are talking about how devastating it is for the Giants to lose closer Brian Wilson for the season.
But for those Giants fans who have watched Wilson over the past two seasons, we’ve seen something different.
In 2008, when the Giants turned over the closer job to a 26-year-old Wilson, he recorded 41 saves, and casual observers were impressed. But other numbers were less impressive: 4.62 ERA, 4.0 walks per 9 innings, 9.7 Ks per 9 and 1.44 WHIP.
Over the next two years, the numbers got better:
2009: 38 saves, 2.74 ERA, 3.4 BB per 9 IP, 10.3 K per 9 IP, 1.20 WHIP
2010: 48 saves, 1.81 ERA, 3.1 BB per 9 IP, 11.2 K per 9 IP, 1.18 WHIP
That’s what people remember, the 2010 Wilson who led the Giants in the NL West division title, NL championship and World Series title.
But then came the 2011 Brian Wilson:
3.11 ERA, 5.1 BB per 9 IP, 8.8 K per 9 IP, 1.47 WHIP.
One stat the was probably most discouraging: Between 2008-10, Wilson allowed between 13-18 percent of inherited runners to score.
In 2011, he allowed 46 percent.
Giants fans knew something wasn’t right with Wilson. The Giants knew that too. That’s why in the offseason they made moves to keep both Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt when conventional wisdom had it that they would keep one.
Then the Giants held Wilson back early in spring training, then later kept him out of major-league spring training games. Could it be they did that to hide him while he worked on adjustments and changed his pitching approach?
So, after watching those first two regular-season outings in Colorado, it was hardly a stunner to Giants fans that Wilson would be done for the year.
But moving forward, when the Giants look for a replacement to close games, what they need is someone who can replace the 2011 Wilson, not the 2010 Wilson.
The 2010 Wilson was long gone. The best the Giants could have hoped for Wilson in 2012 is a repeat of 2011.
Now that they turn to Santiago Casilla to close, they can hope for more.
Here are Casilla’s numbers since joining the Giants in 2010:
2010: 1.95 ERA, 4.2 BB per 9 IP, 9.1 K per 9 IP, 1.193 WHIP
2011: 1.74 ERA, 4.4 BB per 9 IP, 7.8 K per 9 IP, 1.123 WHIP
He converted 8 of 10 save opportunites in 2010-11, the bulk of which came late last season when Wilson went on the DL. He allowed 13 and 20 percent of inherited runners to score in the past two seasons.
Casilla’s numbers don’t measure up to Wilson’s in 2010. But they are MUCH better than Wilson in 2011.
So, the Giants will be just fine with Casilla as closer. Frankly, I feel better with Casilla going out there in the ninth than being forced to watch Wilson try to gut out three outs.
Now, I know there are some who will say pitching in the ninth is much different than pitching in seventh or eighth.
But I don’t agree. This is the Giants we’re talking about. Given their offensive struggles, they play in a high number of close games. And with their offensive problems, a run surrendered in the seventh or eighth is just as likely to cost the team a win as one given up in the ninth.
Giants relievers are well-versed in pitching under pressure.
On Tuesday, Casilla earned his first save of 2012, giving up just one hit — a bloop single by Juan Pierre — and no walks in his inning of work.
It’s Matt Cain vs. Cliff Lee in the series finale between the Giants and Phillies at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Woohoo! Finally, some news from the Giants to report.
- Outfielder Cody Ross signed for $6.3 million, a raise over his $4.45 million 2010 salary. The NLCS MVP was acquired in a waiver claim from the Marlins on Aug. 22. He hits 14 home runs with 65 RBI and hit .269 last season.
- Starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez signed for $4.8 million after earning $2.1 million in 2010. Sanchez was 13-9 with 3.07 ERA in 33 starts last season.
- Relief pitcher Ramon Ramirez agreed to a $1.65 million, after earning $1.155 million last year. Ramirez was acquired in a trade with the Red Sox last season. He went 1-0 with 0.67 ERA in 25 outings with the Giants.
- Also, relief pitcher Santiago Casilla reportedly agreed to a one-year deal for $1.3 million. Casilla made $400,000 in 2010, when he went 7-2 with a 1.95 ERA in 55 innings last season.