Posted on: May 5, 2011 7:43 pm

3 to watch: The play the percentages edition

You might think this is the worst time to face Andre Ethier.

R.A. Dickey thinks it's the best time.

"The percentages are in your favor the more games his streak goes on," the Mets knuckleballer said. "I'd rather he had a 50-game streak. You think, this is going to end sometime."

It's hard to know whether it will end this weekend, and not just because an inflamed elbow kept Ethier out of the Dodgers' Wednesday game against the Cubs, and has his status in some doubt for this weekend's series against the Mets.

What we do know is that Ethier has a .147 career average against the Mets, easily his lowest against any National League opponent.

We also know that Ethier's hitting streak is at 29 games, which gives the next couple of games extra significance. The longest hitting streak in Dodger history is 31, by Willie Davis in 1969.

Davis' 30th and 31st games came against . . . the Mets. His streak ended in the next series, in San Diego against the Padres.

If Ethier gets a hit Friday, he could tie Davis with another hit on Saturday night. While Ethier has bad career numbers against the Mets, he has great numbers (12-for-29, with six home runs) against Chris Young, the Mets' Saturday night starter.

"I'll just pencil him in for a hit," Young said with a smile.

Young said he met Ethier last year in the Dodger Stadium weight room, when Young was with the Padres.

"He came up and asked how I was doing," said Young, who was coming back from an injury. "He's first and foremost a nice guy, a great player, who has a ton of success off me.

"I had to apologize to him, because by getting hurt I cost him some hits."

If Ethier can carry his streak until Sunday, he'll face Dickey.

By then, the percentages may be in his favor.

On to 3 to watch:

1. The Giants and Rockies have played some fascinating games the last couple of years. And any matchup of Matt Cain and Ubaldo Jimenez is interesting, even if Cain gave up six runs the last time he faced Colorado and Jimenez has a 7.20 ERA. It'll be Cain and Jimenez, in Rockies at Giants, Friday night (10:15 ET) at AT&T Park.

2. Young can joke about his lack of success against Ethier, but his first four starts for the Mets have been no joke. He's just 1-0 (losing two potential wins to blown saves), but he has a 1.88 ERA and has allowed just 12 hits in 24 innings (with a .146 opponents batting average). Young faces Jon Garland in Dodgers at Mets, Saturday night (7:10 ET) at Citi Field.

3. Rangers fans probably don't need many reminders that their team went to the World Series last year, for the first time in its history. But having the Yankees in town for the first time since the American League Championship Series can't hurt. This hasn't been the best of times for either team, as both the Rangers and Yankees had their first three-game losing streak of the season. It's still a big-time series, and maybe the most interesting pitching matchup of the series will be CC Sabathia against Alexi Ogando, in Yankees at Rangers, Sunday afternoon (2:05 ET) at Rangers Ballpark.

Posted on: May 5, 2011 1:19 pm
Edited on: May 5, 2011 1:22 pm

If not for Sanchez, Ethier would be at 31

Andre Ethier is a long way from tying Joe DiMaggio. He's not far from tying Willie Davis.

If not for Jonathan Sanchez, he already would have.

Sanchez was the Giants' starting pitcher on April 1, the only time this year that Ethier was held without a hit. He had a hit the day before, and he's hit in all 29 games he's played since.

Sanchez is why 29 isn't already 31, which would tie Davis's Dodgers franchise record.

"He just doesn't see me that well," Sanchez said. "Lefty on lefty. I get him out. I'm not sure why."

Ethier has just four hits -- and 11 strikeouts -- in 30 career at-bats against the Giants' left-hander. He's 0-for-6 with three strikeouts against Sanchez this year, going 0-for-3 on April 1 and also on April 13 in San Francisco.

In the April 1 game, Ethier went 0-for-3 against Sanchez, then grounded out in his final at-bat against reliever Dan Runzler. On April 13, after his 0-for-3 against Sanchez, Ethier singled against Javier Lopez to extend his streak to 10 games.

Sanchez isn't the only opposing starter to hold Ethier hitless this year, but he is the only one to do it twice.

Ethier also went 0-for-3 against Chris Carpenter (in Game 14 of the streak) and Tim Hudson (in Game 15), and went 0-for-2 against Barry Zito (in Game 2) and Ryan Dempster (in Game 20). Ethier also went 0-for-1 against Clayton Richard, who left after one inning because of a long rain delay.

The Dodgers face the Giants April 18-19 in Los Angeles. Good news for Ethier: Assuming the Giants stay with their current rotation, Sanchez (who is pitching against the Mets Thursday afternoon) would not pitch in that two-game series.

Posted on: May 4, 2011 7:35 pm

Eventually, the Giants will get home

NEW YORK -- By the time the Giants finish this week's series with the Mets, they'll have played more than a quarter of their road schedule.

And just nine games at home.

No team in baseball has played as many road games as the Giants. The Giants played their 21st on Wednesday night; the Pirates and Blue Jays each played their 19th.

No team in baseball has played as few home games as the Giants.

"Don't they know we won the World Series last year?" one Giants person asked, half-jokingly.

Yes, it all evens out eventually. From the beginning of August to the middle of September, the Giants will play 28 of 41 games at home.

Still, it's hard to evaluate the Giants' start (14-15, entering play Wednesday) without taking the schedule into account.

"I hate to say it, but I think it does have an effect," manager Bruce Bochy said. "It's been a grind of a month. Guys have felt it. I know I have."

Bochy said he mentioned the schedule in a Tuesday meeting, telling his players that he understands they've had a tough travel month.

Category: MLB
Posted on: May 4, 2011 6:45 pm

Torres could return to Giants Friday

NEW YORK -- Andres Torres could be back with the Giants as soon as Friday night.

Manager Bruce Bochy said that Torres, on the disabled list since April 15 with a left Achilles strain, has left extended spring training in Arizona to join the Giants' Triple-A Fresno team on a rehabilitation assignment. Bochy said it's not certain that Torres will be activated Friday, but said it's possible.

"We want to make sure he's ready," Bochy said. "He told someone, 'I'm not quite ready.'"

Torres has played just eight games with the Giants this season. The team has yet to field its regular starting outfield, as Cody Ross began the season on the DL. Ross is just 8-for-40 in his first 12 games, and Bochy held him out of the lineup for Wednesday night's game against the Mets.

Aaron Rowand has been playing center field in Torres' absence.
Category: MLB
Posted on: May 3, 2011 12:55 pm

Reyes would fit the Giants, except ...

The question I posed Tuesday morning was simple: Can Brandon Belt be this year's Buster Posey for the Giants?

The question sure to be asked during the Giants' series this week in New York is more complicated: Could the Giants trade for Jose Reyes?

On the surface, it makes perfect sense. Shortstop has been a problem spot for the Giants. Miguel Tejada is too old and too slow to play there anymore, and when third baseman Pablo Sandoval went on the disabled list, manager Bruce Bochy smartly moved Tejada to third and put Mike Fontenot at short.

But Fontenot is a utility guy, just a stop-gap.

Jose Reyes would be perfect, except . . .

"Brian never trades for loaners," said one baseball man who knows Giants general manager Brian Sabean well.

What he meant is that Sabean doesn't believe in trading prospects in exchange for a half-season of a guy in the final year of his contract. Reyes, of course, is in the final year of his contract with the Mets.

So for Reyes to become a Giant, here's what would need to happen: First, the Mets (now 12-16 and 6 1/2 games out of first place) would need to continue falling to the point they could justify giving up on the season. Second, the Giants would need to come up with the best package of prospects. And third, either Sabean would need to change his longstanding policy, or the Giants would need to negotiate a big-money extension with Reyes.

Could all that happen?

Sure it could, and there's no doubt that Reyes would be a great fit for the Giants. But making it happen won't be easy.
Category: MLB
Posted on: May 3, 2011 11:10 am

Can Belt be this year's Buster Posey?

The Giants went through a stretch last May where they scored 35 runs in 13 games, and lost nine of them.

Soon after, they called up Buster Posey.

Now the Giants have scored 23 runs in their last 11 games, losing eight of them.

Any chance Brandon Belt can be this year's Buster Posey?

Some people in the organization are already asking that question, wondering whether Belt can return from Triple-A Fresno (where he's off to a torrid start) and provide the offensive jolt that Posey did last year.

Belt began the season as the Giants' first baseman, but only because Cody Ross was on the disabled list. He struggled at the plate (.192 in 17 games) and was sent down when Ross came off the DL, but even scouts who saw him during that time were impressed.

"He's got a chance to be a pretty good player," one scout said.

For now, Belt remains at Fresno, but he had four more hits Monday night (while the Giants were getting shut out in Washington for the second time in four games). In nine Triple-A games, Belt is hitting .517 with two home runs, 10 RBI and a ridiculous 1.484 OPS.

He's also playing the outfield, which means that bringing him back to the big leagues wouldn't mean forcing defensively-challenged Aubrey Huff back into right field.

Belt has played the outfield before, and one scout who saw him play there was impressed.

"He's got the instincts to play there," the scout said.

And the Giants seem to need an offensive spark.

"We're awful right now," manager Bruce Bochy told reporters Monday night in Washington.

One reason they're awful: Left fielder Pat Burrell has now gone nine games since his last RBI.

The Giants weren't all that good last May, either. They got better, as we all remember, and Posey (who was called up May 29, and became the team's cleanup hitter by the middle of July) was a big part of the reason.

Now, the Giants need a jolt again.

Category: MLB
Posted on: April 29, 2011 12:50 am

3 to watch: The How do you know? edition

Already this year, Josh Johnson has carried a no-hit bid into the eighth inning. And another into the seventh. And another into the sixth. And another into the fifth.

In five starts, he's never given up a hit before the fourth inning.

The easiest thing to do would be to predict that Johnson is going to throw a no-hitter this year.

And I'm not going to do it.

Not after talking to Edwin Jackson, I'm not.

Jackson threw a no-hitter last year, when he was pitching for the Diamondbacks. But when I asked him to guess who will throw this year's first no-no, he politely refused.

"How do you ever know?" asked Jackson, who now pitches for the White Sox. "Because if you'd have asked me if I was going to throw one, I'd have said, 'Never.' I'd have bet my paycheck that I'd never throw one."

How do you know?

"I always said I'd never throw one," said Mark Buehrle, Jackson's White Sox teammate. "And I've got two."

Buehrle was willing to guess, though.

"Somebody like [Justin] Verlander or Josh Johnson," he said.

Verlander has thrown a no-hitter, in 2007 against the Brewers. Johnson hasn't -- yet.

Johnson gets another chance Saturday in Cincinnati.

On to 3 to watch:

1. Since the start of 2009, Tim Lincecum has at least one win over every National League opponent, with one exception. Would you guess it's the Nationals? Lincecum lost his only start against the Nationals last year, and a Bob Howry blown save cost him a potential win in 2009. He gets another chance in Giants at Nationals, Friday night (7:05 ET) at Nationals Park.

2. Back in spring training, we asked when Alex White would make his debut with the Indians. We didn't guess it would be in April, and we didn't guess he'd be joining a first-place team. It is, and he is. The Indians' 2009 first-round pick is only getting a chance this soon because of two injuries to starting pitchers, but he will get a chance in Tigers at Indians, Saturday night (6:05 ET) at Progressive Field. One oddity, though: White is actually four months older than Rick Porcello, the Tigers' Saturday night starter. Porcello will be making his 63rd big-league start.

3. You wouldn't think Johnson would no-hit the Reds. The Reds haven't been no-hit since 1971 (Rick Wise) . . . unless you count that Roy Halladay no-hitter in the playoffs last year. Then again, Johnson's first major-league win came in Cincinnati, and in that game he allowed no hits . . . in three innings of relief. But no, I'm not predicting he throws a no-hitter in Marlins at Reds, Saturday night (7:05 ET) at Great American Ballpark. How do you know?

Posted on: April 28, 2011 2:27 pm

DeRosa goes to DL, not to Marlins

The Marlins could use a true third baseman, but it won't be Mark DeRosa -- at least not now.

DeRosa went on the disabled list Thursday, because of continuing pain in his surgically repaired left wrist. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the Giants gave DeRosa an injection in the wrist, and want to rest him for seven to 10 days.

That will shut down any DeRosa to the Marlins talk, not that it should have been too hot a topic in the first place. According to sources, while the Marlins have had internal discussions about third basemen (as they should), they never got to the point of actually discussing possible deals with the Giants.

The Marlins have used four different third baseman in the first 24 games of the season, after prospect Matt Dominguez showed this spring that he wasn't ready to take over the job (and then fractured his elbow in a Triple-A game). "The four-headed monster," as one Marlins person described it, has combined for an .812 OPS that actually ranks right in the middle of major-league teams.

While that's not bad, the Marlins will keep looking. They just won't look at DeRosa -- at least not anytime soon.

Category: MLB
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