Playing for Their Lives

The Giants scratched out another win against the Dbacks tonight, and scratched may be an understatement. Matt Cain improved his record to 6-6 with the win, and was more resilient than sharp in his five innings of work. He allowed 8 base runners, but only surrendered 2 ER. It seemed to me that Cainer got a little upset about the strike zone early on, and never quite bounced back, issuing 4 BB. Maybe he was just off, maybe it got in his head. Either way, he ultimately gave the Giants a chance to win. His ERA now sits at 5.00 for the season.

Cain departed with a 2-1 lead, which Buster Posey padded with a monster home run to center in the bottom of the 5th, the Giants’ 30th long-ball of the year at AT&T Park (they hit 31 at home all of last year, and went on to accomplish a few nice things if you recall).

So Cain took care of the first 15 outs for the Giants. The final 12 broke down like this: Kontos 1; Affeldt 1 (left the game with a groin injury); Mijares 1; Casilla 3; Rosario 1; Lopez 2; Romo 3. Think that bullpen needs a little help? Romo allowed a run in the 9th before striking out Cody Ross for the final out.  A wild night, for sure, but another win over the division leader.

The Giants are now 4.5 back and in great position for a sweep with Bumgarner taking the ball tomorrow. The Snakes’ lead in the West is down to only a half-game…over the Dodgers. Baseball is a funny game.

Image

Advertisements

Mid-Season Top 40 Prospects: #6

#6. Andrew Susac – C, 23 yo, AA: Susac is a NorCal kid who graduated from Jesuit High before playing two years at Oregon State. The Giants took him with a second round pick in 2011, and after trading away fellow catching prospect Tommy Joseph in the Pence deal last year, Susac is now the top option for replacing Posey behind the dish if/when the Giants change Buster’s position some day.

Susac began his professional career at Hi-A last season, where he certainly had an up-and-down performance while learning the craft of pro catcher (which is not an easy one). He hit .244 with 9 hr in 102 games – certainly not incredible numbers for a highly-touted prospect. But the Giants showed faith in the kid by promoting him to AA this year, and he’s proven them right so far. Through 70 games, he’s hit .265 with 11 hr, 16 2b and a .373 OBP, and was named to the Eastern League’s mid-season All-Star team. His OPS has improved from .731 in San Jose to .862 this year in Richmond – which is opposite of what happens to most hitters in the Giants’ organization. He’d been on the DL since July 1 with a finger injury, but went 1-4 with a 2b and an rbi tonight.

Susac’s performance at the plate this year is great news for the Giants’ front office, as it was thought that he may repeat Hi-A before the season. Obviously he’s not Buster, but he still profiles as an everyday catcher with a strong arm behind the dish and the ability to hit for above average power (there aren’t a lot of those to go around the majors these days). He has shown that he can take a walk, and if he can stay healthy for the rest of the year, he could land in Fresno by Opening Day next season.

Image

Notes from the Break

Some stats and notes from the Giants’ (mostly) forgettable first half:

Overall Record: 43-51 (4th in NL West, 7th in WC) – 6.5 GB

Home: 25-20 | Road: 18-31 | Vs Div: 27-20

Run Differential: -40

Top Hitters

*Buster Posey: 90 g, .325(ba)/.395(obp)/.536(slg), 27 2b, 13 hr, 56 rbi – Truly one of the game’s young stars, and he’s still getting better!

*Marco Scutaro: 81 g, .316/.367/.400, 17 2b, 2 hr, 22 rbi – Below average defender, but he still puts on a hitting clinic despite nagging injuries.

Hunter Pence: 94 g, .262/.305/.455, 22 2b, 14 hr, 48 rbi, 14 sb – Streaky bat with lots of power, never takes a day off, and hasn’t been caught stealing yet. Classic Pence.

Top Pitchers

*Madison Bumgarner: 10-5, 3.02 era, 125 ip, 85 h, 122 k, 34 bb – True ace of the staff now, and still only 23 years old!

Javier Lopez: 39 g, 1.61 era, 22.1 ip, 19 h, 4 er, 25 k, 9 bb –Rock solid all year. Untouchable against lefty’s. May be a nice trade piece at the deadline (as he was for the Giants in 2010).

Chad Gaudin: 24 g (6 gs), 3-1, 2.39 era, 64 ip, 50 h, 55 k, 23 bb – Giants took a low-risk gamble on him before the season and it’s paid off big time so far.

*Sergio Romo: 38 g, 3-3, 21 sv, 2.86 era, 34.2 ip, 29 h, 38 k, 7 bb – Romo’s had a few rough outings, but overall he’s held the closer job down nicely.

*= MLB All-Star

Letdowns

Angel Pagan: 46 g, .262/.317/.374, 10 2b, 3 hr, 24 rbi, 6 sb – Walk-off inside-the-parker in Colorado (late May) will likely be his last time on the field this year.

Hector Sanchez: 26 g, .231/.318/.231, 0 hr, 3 rbi – Came to camp overweight and really hasn’t contributed at all this year.

Barry Zito: 4-7, 4.88 era, 103.1 ip, 130 h, 67 k, 41 bb – Giants are 0-8 when Zito starts on the road. Not what the team hoped for after his magical ’12 run.

Jeremy Affeldt: 37 g, 1-4, 3.55, 33 ip, 25 h, 21 k, 16 bb – After signing a nice contract this offseason, he’s been out of whack and unreliable for most of the year.

More to Prove

Pablo Sandoval: 76 g, .266/.317/.397, 12 2b, 9 hr, 42 rbi – Pablo went from out of shape and red-hot to out-of-shape and ice-cold after another stint on the DL. He’s not a .266 hitter, and he needs to show that in the 2nd half.

Matt Cain: 5-6, 5.06 era, 112 ip, 95 h, 103 k, 37 bb – Cain’s first-half ERA is alarming, but it’s mostly from a few disaster starts. He needs to cut those out if the Giants want to even sniff a winning record.

Trending in the Right Direction

After Thursday night’s win in San Diego, I made the comment that it had to feel good for the team’s soul. If that’s the case, then last night’s 10-1 Padre beat-down might’ve just helped the Giants remember what it felt like to be a baseball power again. For the first time since June 18-19, the Giants have won consecutive games. Baggs called it a winning streak in his postgame wrap, but I still follow the words of the skipper Lou Brown in Major League; three wins make a winning streak. Still, the last couple nights have to be a real confidence booster for a team that’s really been lacking its swagger lately.

A couple things from last night’s game:

  1. Buster Posey is crazy. The guy grounds into a double play with runners on first and second to kill a rally in one AB, then drives in five runs for the game. He had both a 5-hit and 5-RBI game during the workweek alone.
  2. Jose Mirajes changed the game with 8 pitches. If you didn’t see it, Gaudin walked the bases loaded to start the 6th. Mijares entered the game with no outs and a 5-1 lead that was anything but safe. He proceeded to go pop-out/strikeout/strikeout, and the Fathers never threatened again.
  3. Kensuke Tanaka is a saavy son of a gun. The guy just plays the game the right way. He pulled a fast one on the basepaths in the 7th that changed the game. Caught in a rundown between 2nd and 3rd, he wisely turned back into the San Diego defender, who was called for interference. Tanaka was awarded 3rd, and the Giants opened the floodgates soon after.
  4. 10 runs on 17 hits? Dang Giants, save some for the next three weeks.

Image

Giants Win!

No, seriously. Apparently the Padres are falling harder than the Giants these days. I had my doubts about this one when San Diego put 2 on the board in the first inning. But Bumgarner was locked in after that, and Tanaka’s RBI single tied it in the 6th. Again, I had my doubts when Pablo and Belt struck out in the 7th with a chance to take the lead. Pablo missed a ball at his eyeballs, while Belt left the bases loaded to end the inning. Blanco and Posey saved them in the 8th, driving in two to put the Giants ahead for good.

The Giants are like that last-place Little League team right now. Every win is cause for celebration. But this one really may have been good for the soul. They received another ace performance from Bumgarner, who has truly become the “stopper” of the rotation. Baggs pointed out this morning that the Giants are 5-1 with MadBum on the hill since June 14. They’re 2-18 with everyone else! That’s just unreal, but it really does put things into perspective.

On the offensive side, every position-player starter came away with a hit. Pablo hit his first big fly in what seems like ages. He’s starting to have better at-bats, as are Blanco, Crawford and Belt (the slump brothers).

Three more to go against the also floundering Padres before then the All-Star break. Can you imagine the lift the Giants could get from taking three of four heading into the second half? You just never know in this fickle game of baseball, folks. 

Image

A New Low Every Night

The turnaround will have to wait yet another night.  Two months ago, the Giants were making us immune to comeback victories.  Now, eight games under .500, we’re becoming immune to bad baseball.  On a night that started so promising, Buster kept his red-hot bat alive by taking Matt Harvey deep for a two-run shot in the first.  On the other end, Timmy was as good as he’s been in two years.  Heading into the 5th, he hadn’t allowed a hit and his split-change was something straight from 2008. The park was alive, and for a short time all the recent bad vibes were forgotten.  The Freak would go on to battle for seven innings, allowing three runs while striking out 11… seriously, ‘08 stuff (albeit against a team 11 games below .500).

In the end, Lincecum’s vintage performance and Posey’s career-high five hits weren’t enough to propel the Giants, who stranded runners for SIXTEEN innings on their way to a bitter 4-3 loss.  After tying the game at three in the bottom of the 7th, the Giant bats posted nine consecutive zeroes on the board, and a Brandon Crawford botched grounder allowed the go-ahead run to score in the bottom of the 16th.

The Giants signed Jeff Francoeur this morning, who was recently released by Kansas City, and who hasn’t been referred to as “The Natural” by Sports Illustrated in years.  He’ll play a few games in Fresno to get his bat going before coming to SF. His .208 average is rough, but he’s a decent hitter against lefties, and, come on, can we really get any worse at this point?