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.
Sabermetricians will say Ryan Vogelsong had a bad outing Saturday against the St. Louis Cardinals.
And when you look at the final statistics, it would be hard to argue.
5.1 innings, 9 hits, 5 earned runs, two walks and six strikeouts.
But if you actually sat and watched the game, you’d say Vogelsong pitched well and had a good game … well, almost.
For the first four innings, the Cardinals were not making much solid contact against Vogelsong. Yet, St. Louis had a run on the board.
Vogelsong gave up the first earned run by a Giants starter this season in the first inning. The rally was fueled by two hits — Matt Carpenter’s swining bunt and Carlos Beltran’s two-out looper to right.
After Beltran’s single, Vogelsong would set down 10 of the next 11 hitters he faced.
Then came the most unfortunate fifth inning.
It started with Pete Kozma’s grounder into the hole at short that Brandon Crawford was able to glove. But Brandon Belt was unable to handle Crawford’s short-hopped throw to first, and Kozma was safe on an infield single.
After Kozma advanced to second, then third on a pair of outs — and then Carpenter walked — Vogelsong was in position to get out of the jam when he threw an 0-1 curverball to Matt Holliday. Holliday got out in front of the pitch, but was able to put the bat on the ball and hit a perfect seeing-eye grounder into left field to tie the game at 2-2.
Vogelsong may have escaped the damage right there when Allen Craig hit a sharp grounder between third and short. Pablo Sandoval made a diving smother of the ball, but could not come up with the ball cleanly to record an out.
What made the play even more unfortunate for Vogey and the Giants is that if Sandoval had let the ball go past him, Crawford was in position to field the ball cleanly and throw out Craig.
Instead, the bases were loaded. Then Beltran followed with a clean, two-run single to right to make it 4-2.
The bad luck didn’t end there for the Giants. Trailing 5-2 in the bottom of the sixth, it looked like they were ready to mount a rally when Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt drew one-out walks. Joaquin Arias was called on to hit for Gregor Blanco. Arias then hit a liner to the right side of the infield that first baseman Craig was able to snare and turn into a inning-ending double play.
“A step here or there and we’re talking about a totally different ballgame,” Vogelsong said. “I felt I was forcing the ball early, trying to make it do stuff instead of jut letting it come out. The middle innings got better. I didn’t feel I threw the ball all that terribly.”
And he didn’t. But that’s baseball sometimes.
The end result was a loss that snapped the Giants’ three-game winning streak. It also snapped a seven-game winning streak of meaningful games for the Giants at AT&T Park that dated back to Game 1 of the National League Championship Series.
POWER FROM PENCE AND PANDA: Last season, the Giants hit the fewest home runs in the majors. This season, so far, they have hit four home runs, tying them for 16th in the majors. All four have come off the bats of Pence and Sandoval. The duo hit homers in Wednesday’s win over the Dodgers, and both connected again on Saturday. Pence is hitting .294 so far, and Sandoval is hitting .274. Plus, the Panda said he still feels a little lost at the plate after missing time late in spring training with a sore elbow.
WHO IS THIS GUY IMPERSONATING MARCO SCUTARO? Marco Scutaro went 1 for 4 Saturday, raising his average to .105. At least we think it’s Marco Scutaro. It looks like Scutaro. But the Scutaro we know struck out swinging only five times in 2012 after joining the Giants. He’s already struck out swinging twice in five games this season, including with the bases loaded and one out on Friday. On Saturday, he did something else strange. Last year, Scutaro swung at the first pitch on 13 percent of the time while playing for the Giants. In the bottom of the ninth with two outs, a runner on first and trailing by three runs, Scutaro swung at the first pitch and flied to right to end the game. Who IS this guy?
GOOD THINGS FOR BRANDON BELT? It’s been a rough week for Brandon Belt. First he looks bad against Clayton Kershaw in the season opener in LA. Then he gets food poisoning, which sidelined him for two games and caused him to loose 11 pounds. After an 0-for-4 day on Friday, Belt went 0-for-3 with walk on Saturday, leaving him 0 for 10 on the season. But two of hits outs on Saturday were loud outs, a liner to center in the second and a rope to first in the fourth. After fanning twice against Kershaw on Monday, Belt hasn’t fanned in his two games this weekend. Good things could be on the way for Belt.
Six months later, and the St. Louis Cardinals are still looking to score a run at AT&T Park … or against Barry Zito.
After being shut out in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series, the Cardinals have now played 21 consecutive scoreless innings at AT&T Park, thanks to Barry Zito.
Now be honest: How many of you expected Zito to extend the Giants’ run of starting pitchers giving up no earned runs? Probably a similar number of those who thought the streak would last past Tim Lincecum.
But Zito was on again, pitching seven shutout innings, giving up four hits and three walks as the Giants won their home opener over the Cardinals, 1-0.
Here is the extent of the Giants’ offense on Friday.
The Fourth Inning
- Gregor Blanco walks
- Brandon Crawford singles to center
- Zito bunts, but Yadier Molina (of all people) mishandled the ball, and Zito is safe on the error.
- Angel Pagan walks, Blanco scores.
And then, if things weren’t strange enough, the Giants’ best contact hitter — Marco Scutaro — comes up in a contact situation … and strikes out swinging.
As it turned out, that one run is all that Zito and the Giants would need.
Zito continue his mastery of the Redbirds. If you added his seven shutout innings Friday to the 7.2 shutout innings he threw in Game 5 of last season’s NLCS and the two shutout innings on the back end of a quality start in St. Louis on Aug. 7, it makes 16.2 consecutive shutout innings by Zito against the Cardinals.
It also marked the 15th consecutive start — including last postsesaon — that the Giants won a game in which Zito started.
Zito’s start Friday marked the first time since the 1976 Milwaukee Brewers that a team had starting pitchers not allow an earned run in the first four games of the season. The Brewers, by the way, went 66-95 in 1976 in Hank Aaron’s final season.
Here’s another interesting stat: The last time the Giants won a game started by Zito by a 1-0 score came on July 16, 2010, when Zito pitched eight shutout innings on two hits, two walks and 10 strikeouts against the Mets.
And now the Cardinals get Ryan Vogelsong on Saturday.
Opening day is finally here. And the Giants begin Week 1 of the 2013 against two familiar rivals — the hated Dodgers and the Cardinals, who the Giants beat for the NL pennant in 2012. It marks the fourth consecutive opening day the Giants have played on the road: 2010 at Houston (win), 2011 at LA (loss) and 2012 at Arizona (loss). Week 1 will feature five games on national TV.
GIANTS AT DODGERS
- Monday: Giants (Matt Cain) at Los Angeles Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw), 1:10 p.m., ESPN
- Tuesday: Giants (Madison Bumgarner) at Dodgers (Hyun-Jin Ryu), 7:10 p.m., MLB
- Wednesday: Giants (Tim Lincecum) at Dodgers (Josh Beckett, 7:10 p.m., ESPN2
The Giants won the season series 10-8 from the Dodgers in 2012, winning 5 of 9 at home and 5 of 9 at the Ravine. … The Dodgers won the last series of 2012, the final three games of the regular season when the Giants’ lone win eliminated the Dodgers from postseason contention. … Prior to the series, the Giants won 5 of 6 vs. LA. … This is the 10th time the Giants and Dodgers have opened the season against each other since both teams moved West in 1958. The Giants have gone 6-4; the Dodgers have won the last two (2011, 2008, both in LA). … The Dodgers’ South Korean signing Hyun-Jin Ryu will make his big-league debut on Tuesday. … Giants 2B Marco Scutaro will open the 2013 with a 20-game hitting streak to end 2012 still intact. … Scutaro will be the sixth different opening day second baseman for the Giants in the past six seasons: Ray Durham, Emmanuel Burriss, Juan Uribe, Freddy Sanchez and Ryan Theriot. … Pablo Sandoval will make his fifth consecutive opening day start at third base, the longest such streak at one position for the Giants since Ray Durham started six straight at 2B from 2003-2008.
CARDINALS at GIANTS
- Friday: St. Louis Cardinals (Jake Westbrook) at Giants (Barry Zito), 1:35 p.m., MLB
- Saturday: Cardinals (Shelby Miller) at Giants (Ryan Vogelsong), 1:05 p.m., FOX
- Sunday: Cardinals (Adam Wainwright) at Giants (Cain), 1:05 p.m.
The Giants and Cardinals went 3-3 vs. each other last season, splitting two games in SF and four in StL. … The Giants beat the Cardinals in seven games in the National League Championship Series last fall. … The three pitchers the Giants will send out in this series and the same three pitchers San Francisco started in Games 5, 6 and 7 (all wins) of the NLCS — Zito, Vogelsong and Cain. … The Cardinals were the opponent when the Giants made their home opener in 2011 after their 2010 World Series win. … The Giants won the last 11 regular season starts made by Zito, last 14 starts overall (including postseason). When did the streak begin? Aug. 7 at St. Louis, a 4-2 Giants win.
Brandon Belt stepped up to the plate in the eighth against Cardinals closer Jason Motte. It wasn’t the game situation that Motte was hoping for. And the result wasn’t what he was hoping.
Belt sent a towering home run to right center. It was the biggest blast of the night for the Giants. And yet, they won 9-0.
The Giants learned a lesson that they needed to learn all season. Good things can happen when you put the bat on the ball.
No one taught the lesson better than Marco Scutaro.
But the Giants didn’t exactly tattoo Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse. They killed him with 1,000 pin pricks, and the Cardinals defense didn’t help him out either.
First inning, Angel Pagan leads off the game by singling to right (So huge to get that first hit out of the way). Then the Giants do the hit-and-run with Scutaro, who laced a pitch to right and Pagan took third. The next three hitters didn’t get the ball out of the infield, yet Pablo Sandoval’s bouncer back to Lohse was enough to get Pagan home. Giants 1-0.
Second inning, Gregor Blanco lines a one-out single to right and advances to second on a Brandon Crawford groundout to first. Then Matt Cain shoots a single to center, scoring Blanco. It was the third consecutive game a Giants pitcher recorded an RBI. And it was another example of sloppy defense. Running on contact with two outs, the speedy Blanco should have scored easily on a single to center. But because it was the pitcher batting, center field Jon Jay was playing shallow. He got to the ball just as Blanco was rounding third. A strong throw would have made for a close play at home. It was not a strong throw, and it was cut off before reaching the plate. Giants 2-0.
Third inning, Scutaro lines another single to right (what else is new) on the first pitch of the innng. On the second pitch, Sandoval lined a double to left. Buster Posey walked to load the bases and Kyle Lohse was done. In comes Joe Kelly. Then came maybe the weirdest double in NLCS play. Off the bat, Hunter Pence hit what looked like it might be a double-play ball when he got his bat broken by a Kelly fastball. Slow-mo replay actually showed the broken bat making contact with the ball THREE TIMES. The spin on the ball made shortstop Pete Kozma break to his right, then the ball looped to his left and into center, scoring Scutaro and Sandoval. Jay came up to field the ball, but mishandled it, and Posey scored all the way from first. It didn’t end there. The Giants would add two more runs on three balls that didn’t leave the infield. Belt hits a chopper back to the bound that a jumping Kelly deflected with his pitching hand. By the time second baseman Daniel Descalso field the ball, Belt was safe a first. Then Blanco walked to load the bases … again. Brandon Crawford hit a slow chopper that Kozma charged and fielded. His only play was to first, yet he tried to force Pence out at home. No chance. Pence scored, and the bases were still loaded. After Cain struck out, Pagan hit what again looked like a double-play ball. But Kozma’s underhanded toss to Descalso was high, forcing Descalso’s throw to first to be low and Pagan beat it out, scoring Blanco. Scutaro walked to load the balls … again … before Sandoval ended the inning with a line out to first. Giants 7-0.
The Giants added an eighth run in the seventh inning on a run-scoring double play by Aubrey Huff. Sorry, Aubrey, no RBI. And then a ninth run on Belt’s homer in the eighth.
The rest of the work was done by the pitching. Cain’s outing looked more like his 2010 postseason, allowing no runs on five hits and one walk in 5 2/3 innings. The reaction shot of the night was when from Cain when manager Bruce Bochy came to relieve him after Cains struck out David Freese for the second out in the sixth.
“NOW?!?!?” Cain said. Tim McCarver read his lips as saying “No!!!” But McCarver was wrong, as he often is.
But after 102 pitches, Cain had done enough. Jeremy Affledt pitched the next 1 1/3 innings, giving up no hits and one walk. Santiago Castilla got the first two outs in the eighth while allowing two hits. Javier Lopez came in to end the eighth. He got two more outs in the ninth, but also walked two as he struggled with his footing on the mound in a raging downpour.
Bochy went and got Sergio Romo to get the final out, which he did by getting Matt Holliday (fitting) to pop out to Scutaro (even more fitting).
And the Giants were singing … and dancing … in the rain.
After Sunday’s Game 6 win over the Cardinals, I went searching for some kind of karma, some signal that would tell us the Giants would prevail in Game 7.
I tried looking for Game 7 history. But the Giants haven’t played a Game 7 at home since 1962, and only played two other Game 7s since then … and lost both.
I tried looking for clinching games at home. But the Giants’ last four playoff series clinching wins have come on the road. They’ve only played three potential series clinching games at home since 1962, all Game 5s: 1989 vs. Cubs (won), 2002 vs. Cardinals (won), 2010 vs. Phillies (lost).
But then, it hit me … Monday.
Mondays have been very good to the San Francisco Giants in the postseason.
The San Francisco Giants have NEVER lost a postseason game played on a Monday — a streak of seven consecutive wins. Five of those wins clinched the series for the Giants.
On Monday, in the postseason, the Giants have (games with asterick were series clinching games) …
- Monday, Oct. 15, 2012, Giants beat Cardinals 7-1 in Game 2 of the NLCS
- Monday, Nov. 1, 2010, Giants beat Rangers 3-1 in Game 5 of the World Series*
- Monday, Oct. 11, 2010, Giants beat Braves 3-2 in Game 4 of NLDS*
- Monday, Oct. 14, 2002, Giants beat Cardinals 2-1 in Game 5 of NLCS*
- Monday, Oct. 7, 2002, Giants beat Braves 3-1 in Game 5 of NLDS*
- Monday, Oct. 9, 1989, Giants beat Cubs 3-2 in Game 5 of NLCS*
- Monday, Oct. 8, 1962, Giants beat Yankees 7-3 in Game 4 of World Series
The last time the Giants lost a postseason game on a Monday was Game 4 of the 1951 World Series, when they were the New York Giants.
Now some might point to the 1998 one-game playoff for the wild card spot against the Cubs, which the Giants lost 5-3. But that wasn’t a postseason game. Officially, it was regular-season game No. 163.
The Mamas and the Papas once sang “whenever Monday comes, you can find me cryin’ all of the time.”
And “Rainy Days and Mondays” always brought The Carpenters down.
But the San Francisco Giants LOVE Mondays.
Wait a minute. Mondays always bring The Carpenters down? The Cardinals have two Carpenters on their roster.
In 2010, the Giants captured the World Championship without facing an elimination game.
On Sunday, the Giants’ faced their fifth of the 2012 postseason. Thanks to Ryan Vogelsong, they’ll face their sixth on Monday.
For the second time in this series, Vogelsong limited the Cardinals to a single run over seven outstanding innings of work. Following up the effort of Barry Zito in Game 5, Vogey even delivered an RBI to his cause as the Giants won 6-1 in Game 6 Sunday, forcing a deciding Game 7 on Monday.
Vogelsong set the tone early, striking out six of the first seven batters he faced. Then the offense did its part by giving him a 5-0 lead before Vogelsong would face the eighth Cardinal.
“I just tried to do really the same thing (Zito) did, come out and set the tone early for us,” Vogelsong said, referring to Zito’s performance in Game 5.
And he did, with the bat as well.
The Giants struck first with a run in the bottom of the first. After a walk to Marco Scutaro and a double by Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey’s infield grounder scored Scutaro with the first run.
In the second, with Brandon Belt on third and Brandon Crawford on first and one out, Vogelsong squared to bunt with Crawford taking off for second. Then Vogelsong pulled the bat back and hit a slow grounder to short.
Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma, who had broken to cover second, changed direction to field the ball and dropped it, as Belt scored and the other two runners were safe.
“You try and put as much pressure on them as possible,” Belt said. “You put runners on base and push, and stuff like this happens. We’re doing the same thing we’ve been doing all season: Find some way to get on base, some way to get into scoring position and then some way to get home.”
After Angel Pagan struck out, Scutaro delivered another clutch hit, doubling to left to score Crawford from second and Vogelsong from first.
When asked how he felt after that, Vogelsong said: “Well, I was looking for the oxygen first.”
After Sandoval added an RBI single to make it 5-0 in the second, it was the Cardinals who looked like they were out of gas. Vogelsong kept going on strong, not allowing a hit to the Cardinals until the fifth inning.
The final numbers for Vogelsong: 7 IP, 4 hits, 1 ER, 1 walk and 9 strikeouts.
For the postseason, Vogelsong has given up three runs on 11 hits in 19 innings, for a 1.42 ERA.
And now it’s down to one game, as the Giants comeback magic continues.
They were down 0-2 to the Reds, needing to win three on the road to survive, and they di.
They were down 3-1 to the Cardinals, needing three wins to surviving, and they have achieved two of them.
When asked to explain the team’s resiliency, Giants GM Brian Sabean said: “I honestly don’t know. In some ways it’s just a human group dynamic. There’s an old saying in sports, it’s not how good you are, it’s how well you play. I don’t know if they love to win as much as they hate to lose.”
Well, the Giants aren’t alone in that description.
With Sunday’s win, the Giants became the eighth team to win five consecutive elimination games in postseason history. Three other teams have also won five: the Red Sox in 2007-08, the Dodgers in 1981, and the Athletics in 1972-73.
If you want good karma, all of those teams won World Series titles, except the 2008 Red Sox.
But to join those world champions, the Giants will have to win a sixth. And that would put them in a class with four other teams to win six in a row: the Tigers in a streak that extended from 1945 to 1972, the Twins in a streak that extended from 1987 to 2002, the 1985 Royals … and these Cardinals, who have six in a row dating back to last season.