Offseason Happenings

I thought we’d kick the week off with a little recap of last week’s hot stove action, including the signings of Brian McCann, Jhonny Peralta and Dan Haren over the weekend. Things are starting to really pick up now, so we’ll try to stay in the know here at Cove Chatter.

Giants Updates:

The Giants knocked another item off the to-do list last week with a 3-year, $13M deal for Javier Lopez. Again, Brian Sabean took some pretty good heat from callers on KNBR for signing another 35+ year-old pitcher to a multiple year contract (Tim Hudson being the first). Again, though, I think people are failing to understand the significance of this move… and I’ll be the first to admit I was skeptical a couple months ago about giving any kind of money to a lefty specialist in his upper 30’s. But look closely at the numbers; 2013 was Javy’s best season as a big leaguer. A 1.83 ERA… a .156 batting average against vs lefties. You have to have a guy like this in your bullpen, and Lopez is the best there is right now. He’s a stud, and yet another reason why the Pirates are probably done making trades with Sabean (Jason Schmidt, Freddy Sanchez anyone?). As long as Bochy keeps pulling the right strings and the Giants can keep Lopez’ arm fresh for potential postseason runs, I love the deal. Javy’s the man, and I actually thought it would take more money to bring him back.

Pitching:

Breaking news: Veteran pitchers love the California sunshine and spacious NL West outfields… and can you blame them? If there’s one commodity that’s not in short supply this winter, it’s veteran pitching, and the Golden State NL trio is on the case. The Giants pulled the first card with their two-year deal for Hudson, and the Padres and Dodgers responded with one-year reclamation deals last week. Sand Diego inked Josh Johnson for a year at $8M, and LA signed Dan Haren to a 1-year, $10M contract yesterday afternoon. Both Johnson and Haren wanted to be in California, and both were in at least some form of discussion with the Giants as well. All of these short-term deals could turn out to be major bargains, especially when guys like Jason Vargas are getting four years in the AL. To me, Haren would have been the better fit of the two for Sabean, as Johnson is just too much of an injury risk for a team looking for reliable arms. I think Haren could have a very nice season in LA, and I was hoping he’d join Hudson in a Giants uniform. My guess is Sabes isn’t interested in shelling out $10M for another starter at this point.

With the Haren signing, the Dodgers essentially have a full rotation. Are they still planning on going after David Price? What about Masahiro Tanaka, if he’s posted? I’ve got a slight hunch they’ll still be in on the bidding for Tanaka, but I certainly can’t see them pursuing both of these guys anymore. Of course, it’s not a guarantee that Tanaka will even be available this winter anymore, so Haren could turn out to be an underrated move for LA come April.

So, with some of the middle-tier pitching talent starting to drop, where does that leave the Giants? I guess it depends on what Sabean is looking to spend, but I get the feeling he doesn’t want any “5th starters” in his Opening Day rotation. I like that idea, although I’d say Tim Lincecum is about as close as you can get to a 5th starter these days. It doesn’t sound like Bronson Arroyo is going to be a good fit, as he’s looking for at least three years. Jason Hammel’s name has been tossed around a bit, and he might be a good fit on a short-term deal. Personally, I’d like to see Sabes make a push for a guy like Scott Kazmir, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Giants connected to guys like Bartolo Colon or Paul Maholm on a one-year offer when it all boils down.

Quick Take:

Mets sign Chris Young for 1-year, $7.25M – another possible Giants LF platoon option is off the books, and I don’t understand the Mets’ reasoning in paying out that much money, even on a one year deal. Kind of a head scratcher for a team trying to get out of the cellar.

Indians sign David Murphy for 2-years, $12M – Definitely not on the Sabes winter shopping list, but this deal could impact Cleveland outfielder Drew Stubbs, who looks to be the odd man out. If Stubbs is non-tendered, maybe the Giants look to him on the cheap as a right-handed partner to Gregor Blanco in left. Stubbs strikes out in bunches, but he’s a solid defender with wheels who sports a career .796 OPS vs LHP. Just a thought…

Royals sign Jason Vargas for 4-year, $32M – the AAV isn’t bad at $8M, but I’ll take Hudson and Lincecum and hope for Kyle Crick and Edwin Escobar in 2 years rather than giving 4 years to a soft-tossing lefty with a career 4.30 ERA. Don’t get me wrong, Vargas is consistent when healthy, but my gut says Kansas City fans will be fed up with that contract in less than two years.

Yankees sign Brian McCann for 5-year, $85M – The Yankees had Chris Stewart behind the dish for a good chunk of 2013. They’ll also likely be getting a compensation draft pick when Curtis Granderson leaves, so losing their first round pick for McCann shouldn’t have much of an effect. Comparing the McCann deal to the 5-year, $90M whopper the Giants gave Hunter Pence, I’d take Pence over McCann (for the Giants) every time. McCann’s lefty bat should play well in Yankee Stadium. The back end of that contract might look rough, but back ends of contracts usually do.

Cardinals trade David Freese for to the Angels for Peter Bourjos, sign Jhonny Peralta for 4-years, $53M – Freese is a solid but not elite 3B who’s had one great offensive season in his career. Bourjos is a fairly young outfielder with plus defense and injury issues. Considering everything the Cardinals touch these days turns to gold, I’m sure Bourjos will be a star in St. Louis. I guess I’m a little unmoved by this trade, but the Cards did just replace Freese’s production with the Peralta signing. I don’t say this kind of thing very often, but I hope Peralta just tanks for the next four years, or gets suspended for using PED’s again. This is getting to be a little ridiculous, and I’m not exactly seeing the downside for players who use these days. If MLB is serious about getting rid of the problem, they need to step it up… and they need to start by getting rid of A-Rod… for good.

Tigers trade Prince Fielder to Texas for Ian Kinsler – Wow, I didn’t see this trade coming at all. The Tigers get a solid all-around player in Kinsler. The Rangers get a big slugger to make the women swoon in Arlington. Everything’s bigger in Texas. How long was Prince in Detroit? Two years! He played all 162 both seasons, and was a huge bust in the playoffs. Now his $214M contract is headed for Texas, who seems to be in desperation mode after falling short the past couple years. Don’t get me wrong: I’d take Fielder’s bat in the Giants lineup any day. But that much money for a one-dimensional player? Maybe Uncle Sabes isn’t as crazy as we thought for staying away from these major free agent contracts.

Final thoughts:

A trade for a LF or a minor league contract is looking more and more likely for the Giants at this point, as I’d imagine the rest of the offseason money will be going to a pitcher. This shouldn’t surprise a lot of people, but it will certainly upset them. Yes, it would be ideal to start the season with Blanco as the 4th outfielder, but the (realistic) options just aren’t out there right now.

**Update** Here’s your minor league signing, but it’s not an OF. The Giants signed IF Brandon Hicks this morning. Hicks is a 28 year-old journeyman whose most recent MLB action was in 2012 with Oakland. He’s a former 3rd round pick, has 90 big league at-bats to his name, and is a career .247 hitter in the minors. He did hit 3 HR in 22 games with Oakland, though.

Keep your eyes open in the next couple weeks as we get ready to unveil a major project dedicated to the Giants farm system. I’ve been working on it for a couple months now, and can’t wait to go live with it. Exciting times here at Cove Chatter, folks. As always, thanks for reading.

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Fire up the Stove

As of yesterday, the options for Andres Torres and Barry Zito have officially been declined, making them free agents. No shocker there. Both guys had their time in the sun with the club, but it was time for the Giants to move on. Neither guy really made any significant contributions all season, when both were expected to play somewhat significant roles… the organization can’t let that happen next year.

The free agency period is nearly upon us. The exclusive negotiating window teams have with their potential free agents will end in the next day or so, at which point the offseason will officially begin. As it stands, Javier Lopez and Ryan Vogelsong’s status with the Gigantes is still very much up in the air. In his live chat last week, Baggs’ stated what most of us know on the Lopez front: there’s mutual interest, but no deal is in place. Javy’s been a huge (and underrated) piece in Bruce Bochy’s bullpen since he came over from Pittsburgh, and I expect there’ll be a deal announced shortly… probably another two years for the lefty extraordinaire. The Giants specifically didn’t trade him at the deadline because they wanted to bring him back. Generally, when a player and the club have mutual interest, a deal gets done.  I’ll say this though: if Lopez doesn’t sign, there are a few other intriguing lefties out there. A guy I’ve always liked is JP Howell. He had a very good year for the Dodgers, and he’s only 30.

As for Vogey, Baggs has been indicating for a while that the Giants won’t pick up the $6.5 million option for next year, but they’ll renegotiate a cheaper deal. There hasn’t been much talk either way so far, which isn’t all that surprising when it comes to Sabean doing business… but I did find the comments on from Vogey’s agent last week interesting. I can’t seem to find the article now. Essentially, that there hadn’t been any contact from the Giants yet… Can you picture Vogelsong sitting by his phone, staring intently, waiting for the call to come in? Me neither, but it really didn’t sound like there’d been a whole lot of communication. Vogey wants to come back, but Sabean would be absolutely nuts to give him anything more than $1 million at this point. If they could come to some reasonable terms, I’d gladly have him back to compete with Petit/Surkamp/Kickham for the 5th starter spot. I wouldn’t expect anything more than that at this point.

With Lopez and Vogey being the last remaining free agents-to-be on the club at the moment, the Giants aren’t going to be offering any qualifying offers. There’s some significance here, as at one point they could have potentially been looking at a couple of potential first round picks… but they weren’t willing to take the chance of losing Hunter Pence or Tim Lincecum to free agency. I have to admit, the more I think about the Timmy situation, the more I wish they would have waited and made the qualifying offer. It’s all water under the bridge at this point, though. The Giants will take their 14th pick in next year’s draft, and they’ll like it.

A few more offseason thoughts here. CSN has had a few free agent power rankings posts on their site lately. If I remember right, they basically copied and pasted the left field, starting pitcher, and relief pitcher rankings from hardballtalk.com. I want to address the site comments on these posts. It’s amazing to me how unrealistic or distorted a view people have on Sabean, the Giants and their offseason agenda. The front office has said numerous times already that they aren’t going to sacrifice their first round pick, which is not protected. So… Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo are out of the picture, as are any other players who receive a qualifying offer. If you aren’t familiar with the qualifying offer and draft pick compensation, take a look at this article from SB Nation. Pretty good explanation of the process.

Also, you have to look at the market for free agency. There’s not much talent out there this year. Cano, Ellsbury, and Choo are going to make some major green. Even if you take the qualifying offer out of the equation, when’s the last time Sabes forked out $100 million for a free agent not named Barry Zito? It’s not the way he does business, and the Giants have already committed nearly $130 million to the payroll for next season. Barring something very unforeseen (like a hard push for Masahiro Tanaka), Sabean has already spent his big money for the offseason. As hard as it is for those of us who support the orange and black to watch what the Dodgers are doing down in La-La Land, you have to understand the way the Giants do business. Every team has holes that need to be filled, and while the Dodgers may be willing to empty their pockets and farm system to acquire talent, the Giants just don’t play that game. They never have. You may disagree with the way they do business (as I do from time to time), but this club won the World Series only one year ago. Sabean is banking on his key players from 2012 having a bounceback season in 2014, despite his comments about windows closing.

Personally, I don’t see any indications that the Giants will be in on Tanaka. I don’t think they’ll even make the final three teams involved. The estimates being tossed around for his services are pretty outrageous, but there are teams willing to spend that kind of dough. Tanaka could be a game-changer, but I’m really not getting my hopes up anymore. I’d bank more on a Bronson Arroyo or AJ Burnett. Maybe Sabes ponies up a bit more for a guy like Ubaldo Jimenez.

One thing I do expect to take place this winter is a trade or two. Every indication I’ve gotten is that the Giants don’t think too highly of the free agent class (and how can they?). If that’s the case, maybe they’ll put some packages together to land a pitcher or left fielder. But who do they trade? Other than Kyle Crick, Edwin Escobar and Adalberto Mejia (all mentioned by Baggs last week as “untouchable”), I’d think every other minor leaguer in the organization is available. I think Clayton Blackburn could be a nice trade piece… Add Joan Gregorio and Chris Stratton to that list, as well as any of the high-octane relievers. Stratton is a guy I’d like to hold onto, though. On the hitting side, I’d have to think Sabean would listen on anyone. I’d like to see Susac and Williamson be off limits, but those are probably the two most coveted guys. Either way, the Giants understand the limitations of modern-day free agency, and may try to get creative in strengthening the roster.

I’m sure there’ll be plenty more to talk about in the coming weeks, but that’s all for now. The hot stove is almost upon us, so things should start to get interesting (or not interesting, depending on your expectations) very soon.

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Hope

Yesterday was a pretty emotional day for the Giants, from the front office to the players down to the fans. The trade deadline came and went without a move from Brian Sabean, and I decided I would take a little time to process my thoughts before posting. That turned out to be a good idea, because this post will likely have quite a different tone than the one I was going to write yesterday afternoon would have.

I’ll admit it, when the deadline passed and the Giants were quiet, I was pretty disappointed. Why? I guess I’d just become fed up with this season – like many other fans I’m sure – to the point where I felt it was time to make some changes for the better. While I was in favor of holding onto Hunter Pence, I didn’t understand why Javier Lopez wasn’t moved, why they weren’t listening on Scutaro, Pablo, or even Belt. Maybe they were, who knows. But when a bottom-feeder (which is what the Giants are this year) remains silent at the deadline, to me that doesn’t send the right message to the fan base. “We’re a last-place club, but don’t expect any changes.” That’s how I felt, at least.

A couple of things happened yesterday afternoon in the aftermath of the trade deadline that softened my stance somewhat. First, the reports about guys like Pence pumping his arms and Lopez shaking hands with everyone upon finding out they were staying in San Francisco. Professional sports are hard for most people to wrap their heads around – even the most serious fans. Yes, we watch the games, we read the reports and we crunch the numbers, but I think sometimes we forget about the human element. Sure, these guys are paid like kings to play a game that most of us stop playing when we’re 12 or 13 years-old, but for them it’s still a way of living. Can you imagine having to wonder at July 31 every year if you’d be staying with your company and co-workers? While there are many players who could care less where they play, and don’t give a damn about their managers, teammates or the fans, there are so many others who do care about those things. You have to give Sabean credit; he’s assembled one hell of a group of quality guys on this team. To hear about Pence, Lopez and some of the others whose names were swirling around the rumor mill all week expressing their gratitude for getting to remain a San Francisco Giant this year, now that says something to me. Most players are dying to get moved from a team 13 games below .500, and I think that just goes to show the bond that this group of guys have.

Sabean also revealed yesterday that he was a bit embarrassed at some of the offers he received in the hours leading up to the deadline. He said he wasn’t going to move his guys unless he was blown away, and apparently he wasn’t. Honestly, I think that’s fair at this point. If you don’t get what you’re looking for, there’s no reason to deal a player who doesn’t want to be dealt in the first place. Make no mistake about it, Sabean has some decisions to make in the offseason for how he can put a contender on the field again. Right now, I’m definitely concerned for next season, but I will say that I have changed my opinion about his lack of moves yesterday. Like I said, it was an emotional day for all of us!

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Gosh, the games have been tough to watch lately. I’ll be honest, I barely tuned in for Tuesday night’s loss. For some reason, I just couldn’t get myself too excited for a game with Zito and Quiroz as the battery. However, with Roger Kieschnick making his debut yesterday, that’s a game I’m not going to miss. Even in a season as dismal as this one, I still get pretty amped up to see guys get promoted from Fresno. Especially when it’s a player I’ve been following since he was drafted. So Kieschnick (and Brett Pill) gave me a reason to watch, and it turned out they gave me many reasons to be excited as well.

I don’t care whether your team is 15 games up or 15 games down, you still have to remember why you love the sport. If you can’t laugh with your best friend when Chad Gaudin pulls the bat back and slaps a seeing-eye grounder through the left side (as I did yesterday), maybe you need to rethink your fanhood. By the way, that first hit is the toughest Chad. For me, seeing guys like Pill and Kieschnick who’ve grinded their way up through the system make the most of their opportunity in the big leagues, I get pretty fired up. When those two drove in 3 runs in the first, I was a fist-pumping machine. A 2-5 with 2 RBI in your debut? Not too shabby, Roger.

Ultimately, Kieschnick and (our new power hitter) Pill led the offense to a blowout win, and Chad Gaudin was steady on the mound again. The Giants played like a team that was relieved to be together. Sabean showed a lot of faith in this group by keeping them intact yesterday, and I’m really hoping everyone will breathe a little easier, and maybe start winning some ball games again. Right now, we’ve got some fresh faces providing energy out there, and we might be saying goodbye to few older ones soon. This team is basically dead to rights in the standings, but there’s hope for a better finish… and that’s all I can really ask for.

Deadline Day

With the trade deadline looming today, it’s still not clear at all whether the Giants will be active. We’ve talked about this before; this could be a great opportunity to strengthen the club going forward, if the right deals are made. It sounds like Sabean is still very interested in finding partners for Javier Lopez and Hunter Pence. Apparently, Pence told the team last night that he’d be open to signing a contract with them in the offseason, even if he is traded today. I’ll tell you what, Pence is a class act… and even if you look at this game strictly from a business perspective, it’s hard not to want guys like that on your team.

Here’s my take on this whole ordeal. If Pence gets traded to a team like Cincinnati or Pittsburgh, and goes on to play in or even win another World Series, his love for San Francisco will probably be the last thing on his mind. To put it simply, if the Giants trade him today, don’t expect Pence to be coming back in the offseason. If you trade him, you lose the qualifying offer with draft pick compensation (although he probably would accept the offer and the subject would be a moot point anyway). So, Sabean has some tough decisions to make. If he does swing a deal, he’d better be certain he’s got a realistic option in mind to help make up Pence’s production.

I’m not saying Pence won’t get traded, and he really could fetch us some nice pieces if he is. But I’ll be honest, after giving this a lot of thought lately, I’d rather hold onto him, make a qualifying offer when the season is over, and bring him back on a two or three year deal. He’s not a superstar, but the Giants need his 20-HR bat and diligent work ethic in their clubhouse.

Another note on the trade front. I had no idea the A’s were willing to move Grant Green! They swapped him for Alberto Callaspo last night, and I think the Angels came out with a nice middle infield prospect. I like Green a lot, and wouldn’t have been upset if the Giants threw Scutaro’s name over to Billy Beane… maybe he wouldn’t have been interested, but that would have been a nice swap for the Giants.

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It was quite a night for Giants pitching, at all levels of the organization. Here’s a quick rundown:

San Francisco – Barry Zito floundered in another road start, and it was reported that he had a closed-door meeting with Bruce Bochy after the game. If the Giants want to get any kind of momentum back in the second half, they’ll probably need to get Zito out of the rotation. Maybe they’re looking to move him to the bullpen for now, but I wouldn’t be shocked if his up and down career with the Giants is coming to a close.

Fresno – Eric Surkamp had an impressive start last night in AAA, going 7 strong with 5 K. He allowed only 3 hits and 1 ER, and walked only 1 batter. Outings like that definitely help build Surkamp’s case for rotation spot in San Francisco down the stretch.

Richmond – Ryan Vogelsong continued his rehab with a start in AA last night, where he looked very good. He opposed Anthony Ranaudo, one of the Red Sox’ top arms, and Vogey won the battle. He threw 5 shutout innings, allowed 5 hits, struck out 3 and surrendered only a single walk. The Giants need a healthy Vogelsong back in the rotation soon, and it sounds like he’s well on his way.

San Jose – Top prospect Kyle Crick took the ball last night after giving up 9 hits in his last outing. This time, he was back to his dominant ways. His line: 5 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 11K. The 11 strikeouts are a season high for Crick, and possibly a career high too. His fastball was 95-96 according to Joe Ritzo, and was overpowering as always. Crick has now made 10 starts in San Jose, and I don’t think a promotion to Richmond is out of the question at this point.

Augusta – Kendry Flores made sure every level of full-season ball for the Giants had stellar starting pitching last night. The 21 year-old righty is having a very good season in Low-A, and tossed 7.1 shutout innings last night. He allowed 6 hits and struck out 7, without a walk.

That’s what I’d call a pretty impressive night of pitching… with the exception of Zito, of course. But these days, the major league Giants don’t really resemble a team.

Roger Kieschnick’s Debut (and some other stuff, too)

**Edit** I should know better than to post during the trade deadline. Forget what I wrote about Wilson. He took a minor league deal with the Dodgers. Can’t blame the guy for wanting to join a contender, but come on man, the Dodgers?!

Yesterday was a pretty eventful off-day for the Giants, including a visit to the White House (if you haven’t seen the picture of the team with President Obama, it’s pretty awesome, and I might have to tag a link to it) and a bus ride from D.C. to Philadelphia. Also included in the day was a major stir created by the greatest BS’er among the Giants’ beat writers, Baggarly, in which the Giants were making some roster moves and a trade was possible. Of course, people are already on edge this time of year with the trade deadline so close, so you can imagine the fiasco that ensued. It’s amazing to see the bevy of emotions people have regarding Hunter Pence and Tim Lincecum.

Ultimately, the scandalous roster moves resulted in Brett Pill and Roger Kieschnick getting called up from Fresno, with Kensuke Tanaka optioned and Tony Abreu placed on the DL to make room. For Pill, the return to the bigs came just a day late, as he was on a plane while guys like Moscoso, Francoeur and Tanaka were on the White House lawn. I know this game is a business, and I’m sure Pill would never put up a stink, but it’s pretty embarrassing to me that they couldn’t have gotten him to D.C. with the club. He’s put in his dues for the organization, that’s for sure. Oh well.

Kieschnick will be making his big league debut, which is pretty exciting for those of us who have followed his play since the Giants drafted him in 2008. Four years ago, Kieschnick was the Mac Williamson of the organization, putting up impressive power numbers in the California League. Like many prospects, he stalled out a bit in AA thanks in large part to nagging injuries. After spending a second season in Richmond, he worked his way up to Fresno for Opening Day 2012. He started the season on fire, flashing his signature power with 15 HR by the end of May. But another injury likely cost him a shot at a promotion last summer. He returned to Fresno this year, healthy, and has had an up and down season to date. He’s a .273 hitter with 13 HR and an impressive 49 extra base hits, but he still averages a strikeout per game… Contact has always been an issue with him.

Now, Roger K. is on his way to The Show, and I for one am excited. He’s a big, athletic guy with a powerful left-handed bat and a very strong outfield arm. Let’s hope the Giants give him a real chance to show what he’s capable of. I mean, he can’t do any worse than the rest of the lineup has lately.

Some other thoughts:

The latest report on MLBTraderumors has the Giants now saying they will definitely move Javier Lopez by tomorrow. I think most of us were expecting this. He’s one of the best situational lefties in the game, and Bochy’s bullpen will significantly take a hit when he leaves. But the story goes that he wants to be closer to his home on the East Coast. Yesterday I read Sabean was asking for a ML ready starting pitcher for Javy, which is probably not going to happen now that they’ve made it known he’s going to be dealt. That kind of lowers your leverage a bit, if it doesn’t kill it altogether.

Not much change on Pence and Lincecum. The Giants want to bring them both back next year, or at least make them a qualifying offer. However, they still won’t say they aren’t going to trade them. It’s a bit of a strange situation, but I don’t think you’ll see Tim going anywhere. There’s no way he’ll get much of a return, in my opinion. Pence is another story, but I get the feeling the Giants think they will regret trading him. Honestly, who knows what happens here. I don’t think the Rangers have enough to offer, but Pittsburgh and Cincinnati certainly do. If one of those two really wants the Rev, Sabean can get pretty particular with names. Both clubs have some serious talent on the farm, so that could be fun.

Lastly, it sounds like we’re down to three teams in on Brian Wilson: Pirates, Dodgers, and Los Gigantes. Personally, I think we are the best fit for Wilson (if the money is right). The Giants are looking for someone to give them a shot of life, and Wilson is looking to audition for an offseason contract. Both may be able to happen if he spends the final couple of months in San Francisco. Many probably see him as a waste of time for the Giants, but I really think the team needs him as much as he needs them at this point. Just my take, maybe you disagree.

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.

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2nd Half Baseball: Gaudin Rolls, Giants 5.5 Back

The Giants opened the second half like a team bound to forget about the last three months – which is exactly what they need to do. It sure felt like a classic Orange Friday last night, a 2-0 victory over the Snakes. And the Giants used a classic formula for the win: Offense scores early, starting pitcher goes 7 strong, bullpen locks the door, and it’s good night. That’s how playoff teams play, and it’s going to take many more games like that down the stretch if the Giants want to be a playoff team. But for now, the deficit is 5.5 with a chance to gain more ground tonight and tomorrow.

Some thoughts from the win: In case you forgot what kind of pitcher Chad Gaudin was before the Giants gave him a shot this spring, allow me to remind you. Since making his ML debut in 2003, he’d been with 8 different teams, hadn’t made a start since 2009, and hadn’t had a full-season ERA under 4 since 2006 with Oakland. Now, he’s the Giants’ #2 starter, and he just keeps getting stronger. Last night’s line: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K. That’s domination for any pitcher. For a pitcher with Gaudin’s history, that’s an epiphany.

Ryan Vogelsong is getting ready to start pitching in live games again, and could be back by early August. Tell me Gaudin isn’t the perfect source of motivation for Vogey to regain his 2011-2012 form…

It was nice to see the bats jump on Ian Kennedy early, but they really could’ve gone large in the 1st inning. Instead, Crawford flies out on one pitch, leaving the bases loaded. 17 runners left on base for the night. That has to get better.

That 8th inning… whoa. Four pitchers, Lopez (does his job), Rosario (does not), Mijares (does not), and finally Casilla, who promptly walked Aaron Hill in his first action since returning from knee surgery, loading the bases for the pitcher, which he easily…. Wait, no, he loaded the bases for Paul freaking Goldschmidt! A note for future reference: That can’t happen.  Goldy grounded out sharply, and the Giants were lucky to get out of the inning with the lead, let alone a shutout. If we’re going to climb out of this hole, that group has to pitch better.  But hey, a win’s a win, right?!

Matt Cain can make the Giants a very confident team tonight with a strong performance. 5.5 back.

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