Tag:San Francisco Giants
Posted on: July 11, 2009 2:02 am
Edited on: July 11, 2009 3:13 am

Giants' Sanchez paints his masterpiece

San Francisco has two legitimate candidates to start Tuesday's All-Star Game in National League Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. The Giants have another starter with five Cy Youngs who has thrown one no-hitter and one perfect game in Randy Johnson. And they have a fourth starter with a Cy Young award in Barry Zito.

Yet it was a little known, unheralded underachiever who turned up the heat on the meat-less San Diego Padres on a cool Friday night by the Bay and fired the Giants' first no-hitter since John "The Count" Montefusco in 1976.

Jonathan Sanchez has no such stylish nickname, and he had been bumped from the rotation three weeks ago because he was so ineffective. He had never thrown a complete game in the majors. He had won only two games for the Giants this season, and none since May 25.

Yet for one incredible evening, in an 8-0 triumph, he was as dominant as any of his bigger-named rotation mates has been.

For one incredible evening, he threw the same magic as Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry, each of whom also produced no-hitters as a Giant.

Now, maybe this is what propels Sanchez to the dizzying heights the Giants have long thought he could attain. And if it does, that should be one scary thought for opponents scheduled to face a team already rich in pitching.

Until now, Sanchez, 26, mostly was one of those names that kept popping up in trade rumors. It happened endlessly last winter.

But Giants general manager Brian Sabean was adamantly against the idea of dealing the rough-around-the-edges left-hander, even though it was clear that what the Giants needed to do was figure out a way to score more runs and maybe Sanchez could have been a chip to help them add those pieces.

One Pablo Sandoval and one Travis Ishikawa later, the Giants still don't hang crooked numbers on the board very often.

But they can pitch with the best of them, and this is why the Giants have a real chance to become the surprise team of 2009.

One night after Lincecum carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning, Sanchez finished the job against the Padres.

He was 2-8 with a 5.30 ERA when he threw his first pitch to rookie Everth Cabrera, just another arm with a lot to learn. He had 68 strikeouts in 69 2/3 innings, but he also had walked 46 and had major difficulty with opponents after the first two times through the order.

Just 109 pitches later, maybe Sanchez sees things now that he didn't before. Granted, the Padres aren't very good -- especially this lineup, with David Eckstein and Brian Giles on the disabled list -- but they still run All-Star Adrian Gonzalez out there.

Sanchez worked his fastball early, got ahead of hitters, and used his curve beautifully. On this night, he didn't struggle with his control. He hit his spots. And he gave the Giants a preview of what could be.

Going into this season, Sabean said he couldn't imagine trading Sanchez because the Puerto Rico native was bigger and stronger.

Four months later, Sanchez remains a work in progress.

But he's never looked bigger, or stronger.

The Giants look pretty good themselves right now, too.

Posted on: May 23, 2009 11:46 pm

Zito shows signs of life

Is Barry Zito back?

One glance at his record (1-4), and you might assume it's business as usual for San Francisco's giant of a disappointment.

But if the Giants could, um, actually, maybe, score a few runs once in awhile, you might be surprised at what Zito's numbers would look like.

Heading into Sunday's start in Seattle against Felix Hernandez, Zito since April 22 has posted a 2.21 ERA, eighth-lowest in the National League. He's thrown quality starts (six innings or more, three runs or less) in five of his past six outings.

But he's backed by the worst run support in the NL -- the Giants are averaging just 1.94 runs a game when he's on the mound -- so the air essentially has been let out from the drama of any Zito comeback.

"I'm encouraged that I've gotten back to where I need to be," Zito told me the other day. "I'm pitching better than I have at this point in the season than I have since I've been a Giant."

The key, he says, is he's finally reached the point where he's not "babying" his pitches. He's zeroed in on being aggressive with each of his pitches -- including being intelligently aggressive with his changeup -- and "if you do that, somehow, hitters can't pick stuff up as well. If you have aggressive arm speed and you're loose and not babying stuff."

The former American League All-Star, who signed a seven-year, $126 million deal with San Francisco before the 2007 season, Zito says that he thinks part of his problem during his first two seasons with the Giants has been that he's spent more time attempting to "trick" hitters than simply pitching, and that's tempered his aggressiveness.

He seemed to bottom out last year when he went 10-17 with a career-worst 5.15 ERA. The bounce-back this year has included Zito lowering his ERA to 3.62 (from 10.00 following his first two starts).

His slider and curve again are breaking late, and his changeup looks like a fastball. It comes, he says, from a narrow focus on making sure he stays aggressive.

Following all the talk after he signed for all that dough that the monster contract wouldn't affect him, Zito now sounds a lot like a man who indeed has been affected by the pressure and was pitching not to lose instead of pitching to win.

"You start to try to protect things," Zito says. "A guy on second base with two outs, you start being careful. No one can succeed trying to be careful. You start thinking, 'Don't do this' instead of, 'Do that.'"

Likes: The Seattle Mariners, in a class move, hosting sports staffers in one of their suites Friday night from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper, which closed this spring. The P-I has maintained a very small staff for its Web operation. ... The San Diego Padres, in a class move, hosting a get together in the press box late Friday night celebrating Tom Krasovic, the long time beat man for the San Diego Union-Tribune who was laid off in another of these despicable corporate bloodlettings. ... Running along the waterfront in Seattle, cruising by Pike Place Market, the P-I building, along Puget Sound. Every time I go back I marvel at what a beautiful city Seattle is. ... Green Day on The Today Show on Friday morning. ... The fish tacos at Taco Del Mar in Seattle. ... The shredded chicken enchiladas at San Diego's El Indio.

Dislikes: You can imagine my disappointment this trip into Seattle when I learned that the George Benson Waterfront Streetcar Line is not named after the pop/scat/R&B singer but after a local Seattle guy who was instrumental in getting the streetcar line started. Benson the musician is from Pittsburgh.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"The insurgency will rise
"When the blood's been sacrificed
"Don't be blinded by the lies in your eyes"

-- Green Day, Know Your Enemy

Posted on: May 1, 2009 6:44 pm

Dodgers-Giants best rivalry? E-Forbes

I about choked on my Quaker Oatmeal Squares this morning when I saw that Forbes magazine picked the Los Angeles Dodgers-San Francisco Giants as baseball's best rivalry.

What are those guys, high on Red Bull? Stricken with the swine flu? No wonder the economy is tanking if this is the way they go about their coverage.

There is no way the Dodgers and Giants are anywhere close to the game's best rivalry. Not anymore. Trust me, I thought about it often this winter as Manny Ramirez sat on the free agent market like dinner  equidistant between two sloths.

If Giants ownership was intent on winning, they would have zeroed in on Manny for two reasons.

One, because they ranked last in the majors in homers last year and power is a clear need.

Two, because not only would Ramirez have strengthened their own lineup, it would have seriously wounded the Dodgers'.

Meantime, if Dodgers ownership was hell-bent on winning, they wouldn't have risked Ramirez landing with the Giants.

As things turned out, the Dodgers played it perfectly. They not only landed Manny, but they did so with a deal (one year, $25 million) that won't hurt them in the future. (Had the Giants at least made more than a few inquiries, by the way, they also could have drawn Dodgers' blood by driving Ramirez's price up).

So hurray for the Dodgers, and because of it, the only way they're going to miss the playoffs is if vice-president Joe Biden causes such a swine flu panic that Bud Selig cancels another postseason.

Yes, the Giants' $83 million payroll is very respectable, ranking 13th in the game in 2009. And yes, they've got a bunch of debt to pay down on AT&T Park, and they've done a very admirable job of being responsible with their finances (the Barry Zito contract notwithstanding).

But when you're talking baseball's best rivalry, you have got to go with two clubs that keep the pedal to the metal all the time. Two clubs that will do anything to win -- in the summer and in the winter.

And right now, that's still Yankees-Red Sox. They go at it for a ludicrous number of hours each time they play, they've met in October three times since 1999 and they spent each winter thumping each other over the head with their wallets.

I'm tired of the excessive hype. And unless you live and die with the Yankees or Red Sox, I bet you are, too. But that's a rivalry. Comparatively speaking, the Giants-Dodgers is recess at the local elementary school.

I know Forbes compiled its list by crunching some numbers ("we looked at every season since 1950 and tabulated how many times the two clubs had finished first and second in their division and how often they'd finished the season within five games of one another. Weighted equally with those two stats in our methodology is how much the meetings matter to fans -- in other words, how much extra money people are willing to pay for a ticket").

What I also know is, if Giants-Dodgers is what their numbers spit out, then it's a bunch of hooey. Because these aren't the days of Giants pitcher Juan Marichal clubbing Dodgers catcher John Roseboro with a bat.

The top current modern rivalries (not counting Interleague play)?

Here you go. And I guarantee this is more accurate than the folks who obviously have been drinking buttermilk long after its expiration date at Forbes:

1. Yankees-Red Sox. In a league of their own -- and yes, it's run by U.S. Mint, not Tom Hanks.

2. Cubs-Cardinals. The fact that the Cubs can't get to the World Series only enhances it. Besides, these are two of the top four or five baseball towns in the land.

3. Mets-Phillies. They hate each other.

4. Dodgers-Giants. Their fans don't like each other, but it's not hate. It's more in the way they prefer to not eat moldy sourdough.

5. Red Sox-Angels. Both stadiums are full when they play, no doubt because they've met in three of the past five Octobers.

6. White Sox-Twins. The proximity of the two teams, the fact that they both regularly contend in the AL Central, Ozzie Guillen's mouth, A.J. Pierzynski's act, the mutual admiration between Guillen and Twins skipper Ron Gardenhire, the fact that the Twins channel Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction and refuse to go away. ...

Likes: Joe Mauer back on the field in Minnesota. ... Mark Buehrle of the White Sox on the mound. ... They're doing a very, very nice job over at the MLB Network. If you haven't watched yet, you should. And if you can't find it among your 200 channels, if you've got cable -- no matter the provider -- you have the MLB Network. You just need to find it. ... Ghosts of Girlfriends Past looks like a swell idea for a film.

Dislikes: Had to hit the television mute button watching actress Denise Richards sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame during the seventh-inning stretch of Friday's Cubs-Florida game. Wow, was that bad (and I speak as someone who can't carry a tune in a bucket, to I can both identify and sympathize). But in the booth with Len Kasper and Bob Brenly, she seemed like a very pleasant and intelligent gal.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Young girls
"They've taken husbands, every one
"Young men
"They're all in uniform
"They've gone to graveyards, every one
"They're covered with flowers, every one
"Young girls have picked them, every one"

-- Pete Seeger, Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

Posted on: April 17, 2009 3:46 pm
Edited on: April 17, 2009 4:07 pm

The Giants have issues, the Boss doesn't

The only drawback with that clever MLB 2K9 video game advertisement in which San Francisco Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum offers his animated double some tips on how to behave in the major leagues is this: It doesn't include wisdom from the real Lincecum that helps drag the Giants out of their crappy start.

They limp home this weekend carrying with them one of the game's two worst records. Difference between the Giants (2-7) and the Washington Nationals (1-7), however, is the Giants at least were supposed to have a first-class rotation, and even that's been disappointing.

Some thoughts after a couple of days with the Giants this week in Los Angeles:

  • Lincecum's Cy encore is off to a rocky start at 0-1 with a 7.56 ERA in two starts. Even at that, Lincecum is the least of manager Bruce Bochy's concerns. The manager's take: Lincecum hasn't yet harnessed his fastball. When the command returns, he'll be fine. Lincecum spent a long bullpen session this week working with pitching coach Dave Righetti on mechanics. In layman's terms, right now, Lincecum's upper body is not in sync with his lower body during his delivery.
  • Randy Johnson started the season five wins shy of historic No. 300 and, after two starts he remains five wins away. He's 0-2 with an 11.42 ERA -- but, for now, unconcerned. Johnson pitched very well in his first start, against Milwaukee until surrendering the first home run to a pitcher he's ever allowed. Yovani Gallardo was the villain.

As for Monday's flop against the Dodgers, in which he yielded seven runs in 3 2/3 innings, Johnson produced a thick fistful of charts from his locker during a conversation Wednesday afternoon, charts he keeps on opposing hitters and regularly refers to for intelligence. Among his points: He produced a similar clunker against the Dodgers while facing Hideo Nomo back in May, 2002 (seven earned runs, eight hits, five innings).

"And obviously, I was in my prime then," Johnson said of the season in which he won his fifth Cy Young award. "Bad games happen."

Johnson, 45, is happy and in good spirits because he's healthy. And he remains confident that things will soon get better for him, too.

And as for standing five wins away from 300. ...

"I'm still looking for No. 1 (this year)," he says. "So let's put things in perspective. I'm feeling good, that's the main thing."

Three more strikes vs. the Giants:

  • Mentioning Barry Zito's name mostly elicits cringing around here. He was blasted again by the Dodgers Thursday night, his ERA is 10.00 and scouts who have watched him just shake their heads. There still are no answers, and every day it looks more like there never will be any answers.
  • The young Giants hitters are pressing badly, as evidenced in part by their embarrassing and toothless streak of going 32 1/3 innings between a real, live base on balls from last Friday in San Diego to Wednesday in Los Angeles "We need to do better in situational hitting," says Giants veteran Randy Winn of a club that has left runners in scoring position in several key places during their six-game losing streak. "For a team that's not going to hit a lot of home runs, those are things we need to do."
  • Third baseman Pablo Sandoval had a big spring and looks like a future star. But he's slogging along at .212, and that was after collecting two hits Thursday night. What he mostly looks like now is a young player who is extremely overeager. And that's played right into the hands of opposing pitchers. "I think he's more overanxious," Bochy says. "We know Pablo, he's always in swing mode. But he's expanded his zone even more."

Hanging with the Boss

Two fantastic nights with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band this week at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. It never gets old. It's always fresh. And as I've said before, as the band heads East, catch them if you get a chance. It's like getting a chance to see Ty Cobb, or Babe Ruth, or Willie Mays in their primes. Even if you're not ecstatic with their new disc Working on a Dream , it doesn't matter.

The show is tailored to current events, as it always is (this time the economy and the struggles so many people are facing), and there are so many standout moments. The first encore song is culled (and updated) from Stephen Foster's songbook from the 1850s, Hard Times Come Again No More . A bluesy, gospel-sounding take, it's different and cool.

Mike Ness from Social Distortion was a special guest Thursday night and the band ripped through Ness' Bad Luck . What a moment. Ness, Springsteen, Steven Van Zandt and Nils Lofgren all blazing on guitars midway through the song was outstanding.

No Surrender , Growin' Up , Thunder Road , Backstreets , Racing in the Street , The Wrestler ... so many highlights. One of the moments that stands out, and it's part of what keeps people coming back, came Thursday night when Springsteen collected signs for song requests from the crowd (as he has taken to doing) and picked out Proud Mary , the old Creedence Clearwater Revival chestnut (I've always wanted to use that word -- I feel just like a rock critic or something!).

Hearing the E Street band play that song was cool enough, but the best moments were those just before they tore into the song. Bruce held the sign for the band to see what they were going to play next, and the look of incredulity on the faces of those on stage was priceless. Lofgren was shouting across the stage to either bass player Gary Tallent or pianist Roy Bittan ( I couldn't quite tell which), double-checking the key, grinning widely. Lofgren held his hands together in the form of a D -- key of D? was his clear question -- hollering and motioning as the band scrambled to get its signals straight.

During the guitar solo midway through the song, as Springsteen played, Lofgren and Van Zandt played a few steps back, grinning at each other in amusement or amazement. Maybe both. It's one of the greatest things about seeing the band in concert, and it's the same thing that happens every time you walk into a baseball stadium: You absolutely, positively can never be sure of what you're about to see. You never know what the next moment will bring. And sometimes they're incredibly uplifting.

At the Dodgers' home opener on Monday, I watched Orlando Hudson hit for the cycle. While I've covered two no-hitters (David Wells' perfect game for the Yankees in 1998 and Eric Milton's for Minnesota in 1999), I'd never seen a cycle.

Then, Thursday night, I'm watching the E Street Band scramble to get its signals straight before Proud Mary and then, later in the show, I'm watching 18-year-old Jay Weinberg sit in on the drums for three songs for his dad, Max (Lonesome Day , The Rising and Born to Run ). Max is going to miss six or so shows in Europe this summer -- I believe around the time when Conan O'Brien replaces Jay Leno on The Tonight Show in early June (Max is the bandleader on the show, in case you don't know) -- and Jay is going to play those shows for his pop.

Jay just killed -- the kid is really, really good. And making the moment even more special, I looked about 15 feet to my right as he was playing on Lonesome Day (I was lucky enough to score a spot in the front row in front of the stage), and Max had come around from backstage to watch his son. Watching the band, watching Max watch his son, watching Van Zandt grinning and beaming at Max down front while playing guitar in front of Jay ... wow.

With baseball and at a Springsteen show, you never know when the next special moment is coming. You just know that, when it does, you'd better catch it, and hold on for as long as possible.

Likes, Dislikes and Rockin'

Likes: Baseball as a social institution? Check out this study that says the divorce rate among people in major-league cities is significantly lower than that among those who dwell in cities that wanted major-league baseball clubs but didn't get them. Bet the NFL can't say that. ... Step Brothers has some pretty darn funny moments. I'm not so sure I would have been thrilled paying $10 to see it in the theaters, but it's definitely worth a rental.

Dislikes: Was going to check out State of Play with Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams this weekend, but I don't know. I've read two reviews that have scared me off.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"And I count my blessings
"That you're mine for always
"We laugh beneath the covers
"And count the wrinkles and the grays

-- Bruce Springsteen, Kingdom of Days



Posted on: November 11, 2008 2:30 pm

Correct answer in NL Cy Young? Lincecum

The thing about San Francisco's Tim Lincecum winning the National League Cy Young Award is, there is no wrong answer.

I believe Lincecum, who was dominant in going 18-5 with a 2.62 ERA, is the right answer.

But Arizona's Brandon Webb, who won 22 games?

The New York Mets' Johan Santana, who led the NL with a 2.53 ERA?

Philadelphia closer Brad Lidge, who was perfect in converting 41 saves in 41 chances?

Milwaukee's CC Sabathia, a late entrant who went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA after joining Milwaukee in early July?

You can make a strong case for each. To me, the only surprise is that Lincecum was a runaway winner, garnering 137 points to Webb's 73. I pegged this one as far closer than it actually turned out.

Whatever the point totals, though, I do think Lincecum is the guy. I did have an NL Cy Young vote this year - the only postseason awards vote I had -- and on my ballot, I listed Lincecum first, Santana second and Webb third.

What separated Lincecum for me was that, in a year in which the award could have gone one of many directions, he was the most dominant. He led the NL with 265 strikeouts, blowing away Santana (206, tied for third) and Webb (183, not in the top 10). He led the NL in opponents batting-average-against (.221). He was tied for second in innings pitched (227; Santana was first at 234 1/3).

Santana was light on the wins total (16), but the combination of the ERA title and the fact that he would have had far more wins had the Mets' bullpen not blown seven save opportunities in games started by Santana leads to a serious legitimacy in Cy consideration.

Webb was the leader for much of the year, and his sinker is the most devastating in the game. But he faded toward year's end: His three-start stretch against the Dodgers (twice) and Padres late in the season in which he was pummeled for 22 hits and 21 runs (19 earned) over only 13 2/3 innings coincided with Arizona surrendering first place in the NL West.


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