Posts Tagged San Francisco Giants

UPDATED: World Series an anti-climax? SF Giants must top that Game 5 NLCS finish; Ishikawa home run legendary for so many reasons; And will we ever see Tim Lincecum again? UPDATED 10.21. WS-GAME ONE, MADBUM MAKES ROYALS LOOK PLEBEIAN; UPDATED 10.22. WS-GAME TWO–What a difference a Madbum makes; and a Lincecum sighting. UPDATED-10/23/GAME THREE BUZZ–KC PITCHER AND ISHIKAWA HAVE SOMETHING IN COMMON; UPDATED-10-24-GAME THREE IS A LOSS, BUT HERE’S HOW THE GIANTS CAN STILL WIN IT ALL IN 7.

(SEE UPDATES BELOW)

I am still buzzed about that dramatic home run by Travis Ishikawa. I wrote about it on the AALDEF blog here.

I was in the stadium that night and took this picture as Ishikawa was approaching home.

IshikawagreetedbyariasHe’s slammed down his helmet in exuberance, and is confronted by one of the runners who scored ahead of him, Joaquin Arias.

But notice the player in the left corner.

It’s Tim Lincecum, heretofore, the most incredible Asian American native born major league player of part-Filipino heritage ever.

He’s never been on the margins in his career. But he is now.

Lincecum hasn’t pitched an inning in the post-season. And in those times when his number would be called, it’s been someone else. Petit, most notably. But also Strickland. And the specialists like Lopez and Affeldt.  Lincecum can’t get in the game. Manager Bruce Bochy has him slotted where he can be trusted. Top of a fresh  inning where any damage due to Lincecum’s control issues can be minimal. But the longer Lincecum goes without pitching, you wonder how ready he’ll be for any situation. You kind of hope he doesn’t get in, because it means the Giants’ starter was ineffective, and the team is losing. Meanwhile between injured Cain’s $20 million a year, and ineffective Lincecum’s $17 million, that’s nearly $40 million on the Giants’ bench.

And the team’s still winning.

From having talked to Lincecum in the past, I know his attitude is, “I’ll pitch whenever they tell me.” He’s always positive; always a team guy. He’s never had his status fall like this. But I think, he’ll use this to come back stronger than ever.

I’ve always said he had an Eckersly like career arc forming. If he uses this period to get his mechanical issues straightened out, the man who never ices his arm, could find there’s a formidable second act in his future.

Just an odd thing to catch him on the edge of the frame, watching Ishikawa–who has never been  a star, always a marginal guy. But in Game 5, he was the man of the hour. And for more than just baseball reasons. See the AALDEF blog for that story.

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UPDATE GAME 3, 10/24/ 14  9PM   ROYALS PLAY GIANT BASEBALL BETTER THAN GIANTS

The Royals play the game the Giants would like to play. Get your lead off runner on, move him along. Knock him in with a hit or productive out.

When Alcides Escobar led off the first with a double off Hudson, it set the tone.  When the Royals scored the first run, it followed the blue print.

In the 6th, the pivotal inning in a bullpen series, the Royals did it again. After the pitcher Jeremy Guthrie ground out,  Escobar took over with a single. He scored on a Gordon double, and Gordon scored on a Hosmer single (on a huge 11 pitch at-bat).

Those were the three runs, manufactured to plan. And the Giants couldn’t match it.

They tried in their half of the 6th on a pinch-hit double from Michael Morse that scored Brandon Crawford. But the Giants got little from the 3-4 batters tonight. Posey,who has yet to get an extra base hit in the series, had a groundout RBI. And then with Blanco on third, Pablo hit a grounder to first to end the threat.

That was it.  The Giant’s defense kept them in the game. (Of note:  Sandoval’s barehanded grab of a Hosmer infield bloop with a subsequent throw to first, worthy of being called a web gem, but he didn’t use a  glove). And Hudson, pitching in his first World Series, performed well, at one time point retiring 12 in a row. But then came that 6th inning. And the Giants offense wasn’t able to deal with the Royals pen.

There’s talk of Madbum on short rest for Saturday. But why? Let Vogey and Petit get it done Saturday. Save Madbum for Sunday to go up 3-2. Then split in KC to win it all. That’s not the best plan,but it is a plan.

But things for the Giants in this series haven’t always gone to plan.

It’s a simple one. The pitching is good enough. So is the D. The O is a zero.

Get the  lead off man on,  move him along.  It’s been easier for the Royals so far. And that’s why they lead the series, 2-1.

UPDATE/ Pre-game buzz GAME 3  10/23/ 9pm PDT  More Lincecum; Guthrie and Ish

Giants Manager Bruce Bochy said Tim Lincecum was getting an MRI this afternoon, but added that the pitcher indicated he felt fine. Lincecum, the guy who doesn’t ice is arm, should be ready to be a bullpen weapon on Friday. Bochy said Lincecum has to feel confident about pitching, after his first appearance in 23 days on Wednesday.  “I know we do,” added Bochy. “He could play a bigger role now, if he’s healthy.”

When I saw KC starter Jeremy Guthrie, I just knew the guy was at least half-Asian. Sure enough, his mother is Japanese American, born in Hawaii. Guthrie was born in Oregon, and went to BYU and Stanford. He is a fourth generation Japanese American.

He told the Japanese ball players blog that he speaks no Japanese, and has never visited Japan. But his  favorite food is Shrimp Tempura. “I feel a strong tie with Japanese culture, but I don’t know why. I feel close to Japanese players,” he said. The blog added that  Guthrie “feels there is a sense of “Japaneseness” in him that is different from most Americans.”

The Giants game 5 NLCS hero, Travis Ishikawa, is also a fourth-generation Japanese American.

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UPDATE GAME 2  10/22/ 8:45 PM PDT

What a difference a Madbum makes

Without the 25-year old ace, the Giants looked like the Royals did on Tuesday.  Ordinary.

They sent out Jake Peavy for Game 2, and Peavy has a thing about the 6th inning in post-season.

He doesn’t get out of it. True to form, he didn’t.

The game seemed to start off like Game 1, with the Giants pouncing. Facing 99 mph fastballs from KC’s Yordano Ventura, the Giants didn’t buckle. Leadoff man Gregor Blanco hit a line drive homer to right for a 1-0 lead.

When the Giants score first this post-season, they’re 5-0.

But Peavy was rocky in the first, as the Royals tied it when Billy Butler singled in Lorenzo Cain.

They went ahead in the 2nd on doubles by Infante and Escobar.

But the Giants came back in the 4th when Brandon Belt doubled in Sandoval.

It was all tied at 2, and then came that 6th inning.

Peavy had retired 10 in a row and looked to have settled in. But after a single to Cain and a walk to Hosmer, Peavy was gone.

Jean Machi came in relief. And true to his poor form of late, Machi gave up a single to Butler, who again delivered an RBI single to put KC ahead 3-2.

Machi left to be replaced by the home-run inducing Hunter Strickland. He began with a double to Salvador Perez, which made the KC lead 5-2.

And then Strickland did what Strickland does. A home run ball to Omar Infante to left, put KC ahead 7-2.

The Giants’ bats were stymied by the KC bullpen.They hit the ball hard, but struck out 6 times and never could mount a rally.

One good news/bad news situation was the appearance in relief of Tim Lincecum, the first time in 23 days he’s seen action. Lincecum came on in the 7th, pitched 1.2 innings and struck out two batters. But he hurt something in his lower body as he delivered a pitch and was forced to leave the game. Still uncertain how serious the injury is and if it will prevent him from future action.

The series now goes back for three games in San Francisco, and if the Giants win Games 3 and 4, they could conceivably close it out in 5 with another start from their ace Bumgarner.

But the Royals showed what they had in Game 2. And they showed how the series can easily come back to Kansas City.

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UPDATE on GAME 1        10/21/14 9:45pm pdt

You can’t underestimate the value of game one of the World Series.

The winner of the first game has won 69 of 109 series, including 15 of the last 17.

So the Giants winning 7-1 on Tuesday night gives them a real edge.

This game was over early as the Giants shut up the crowd scoring 3-runs in the first, including a two-run shot by Hunter Pence into the right-centerfield seats.

The Giants bats were alive all night with 10 hits. Pablo Sandoval extended his post-season on-base streak to 24 games, and went ahead of Lou Gehrig into 5th longest of all time.

Lou Gehrig. That’s enough to make you forgive Panda’s physique issues.

But the streak of Bumgarner’s was more impressive. He entered with a record for road shutout innings pitched in the post season, 26.2 innings. He went 6 and 2/3rds more before giving up a home run to Royals catcher Salvador Perez in the 7th.

That’s 33 and 1/3 innings of shutout innings pitched on the road in the post-season.

And MadBum is just 25-years-old.

The only threat from the Royals came in the 3rd when Brandon Crawford’s error, followed by a Moustakas double, and a walk to Cain (in a contentious at bat) loaded the bases. But Madbum struck out two and got the Royal’s slugger Eric Hosmer  on  a grounder t0 second base.  That was it for the Royals.

Game Two on Wednesday puts more pressure on the Royals. They don’t want to go into San Francisco down 2-0.

But the Giants have the momentum now. And Jake Peavy on the hill.

The Royals may have better luck against the Game 3 pitcher, Tim Hudson, whom they beat last August.

If the Giants win Game 4, that sets up a repeat of Game 1—Bumgarner against the world for the series in Game 5.

Tuesday was more than a peek into the future.

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UPDATE  10/21/14  1:00 pm pdt

Game one about to start and I’m noticing how the Nation seems to be turning Royal Blue, backing the Cinderella team from Kansas City. Why? They haven’t been there in nearly 30 years and there’s a real sense of underdog entitlement. Like that makes sense in sports? People are all meritocratic and hard ass in sports and then get soft because the team in blue hasn’t been good enough in three decades, let them have a chance?

That’s not how sports is played. Rec league soccer for kids maybe, but this is hardball.

The Giants aren’t really all that great. They are good enough to be great when they have to. That’s the 2014 team. I watched them all year, suffered through June. Got really disgusted with their play late July and early August. But what do you know. They hung in there. Didn’t beat the Dodgers, but made it to be the worst qualified team in the NL.

The Royals were the least qualified on the AL side, and have come on strong in the post-season, but I think the fairy dust runs out in this Wild Series.

If you’re going to go with underdogs, the Giants are the more deserving among dogs. The Royals have a nice team, but I saw them play  Oakland in the summer. If the Giants starting pitching is sharp, and the Giants big bats wake up, then this is over in 5.

What people seem to respond to in the Royals is sympathy and nostalgia. The Giants had that a bit in 2010 too. But they were better than the Texas Rangers.

The sympathy vote for the Royals makes them slightly more lovable to some. And that’s the problem the Giants have. They are not villainous by any means. But their lovability factor for some reason seems low.

Doesn’t anyone out there notice those darn Panda hats?

I think the hats and the Panda himself are the key to this series. Pablo Sandoval had that huge 3-home run game in 2012. I was there. I still don’t believe it. But he has it in him. And he’s been fairly quiet with the bat. High average but no pop. I think he’ll be ready to pop this week. It’s his contract year, and he’s motivated. I’m looking for him, Posey, and Pence to make the difference. I won’t say sweep, but it would be nice to get in the full three game set in SF and win it all at AT&T on Sunday the 26th.

 

 

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Linceblog: Is Tim Lincecum saying goodbye to the SF Giants?

In an revealing interview with MLB.com, Tim Lincecum says a whole lot more than in his terse after the game clubhouse sessions.

Mostly he talks about being in a good place, how he’s learned how to create a plan from talking to teammate Chad Gaudin, and learned how to live without his blazing fastball.

In some ways, he’s so positive in the interview he sounds like he’s on some 12-step plan. Good for the Giants or maybe some other team.

 

That’s the speculation now as Lincecum returns to PETCO Park today for the first time since he threw the no-hitter that is now proving to be the highlight of the 2013 season for the whole team.

Here’s an excerpt:

Lincecum: Oh, things are going well. I want to see things get better and I want to get better myself. I’m just going to worry about me in the offseason and just go on to help out a team that needs it. Right now, I’m just trying to make my tools better.

(EG: Was that a major league hint? That he’s ready to say goodbye, if that happens? Gaudin, his “mentor” is a journeyman who has been around the block, maybe that’s part of the “mental” aspect of the game he’s passed on–changing uniforms, towns, teams but staying focused on one’s native athletic skill).

 

MLB.com: What’s the difference for you right now on the mound?

Lincecum: I think it’s taking every start individually and at a larger level, not making any one game or any one month too big or overwhelming. It can be at times and I’ve gotten ahead of myself, worrying about the future, wondering whether the stuff I have on the mound I’m going to be able to carry forward with me. That kind of negative thinking just leads nowhere. You get negative feelings and negative results out of it. I’ve just tried to steer my mindset to a different kind of thinking by feeding off the positives, even if they’re just little ones — liking myself at the end of the day, giving myself the benefit of the doubt even if the day doesn’t go great.

MLB.com: How have you been able to accomplish that?

Lincecum: I’ve had the pleasure of having Chad Gaudin on the team, who steered me in the right direction, as far as studying hitters and exploiting them the way I would like to, at least. I’ve never had anyone sit me down and do that, nor have I asked. To see the game from that perspective, that’s the way I’ve gone about it for the last 12 starts or so. Things have gotten increasingly better for me. It has me going out there with a plan, knowing that execution is the key. When anything goes wrong outside of that, I can always go back to my plan.

MLB.com: So you’re saying a lot of your problems the last two seasons have been mental?

Lincecum: Yeah, a lot of it is completely mental, just grasping the fact that I’m not going to throw 95-96 [mph] by guys anymore. I probably have to spot my fastball a lot more. That goes back to trusting it, trusting the stuff you have that day, regardless how fast it is and regardless of the fact that you’re probably not going to throw that hard again. You just have to trust it and know that it’s good stuff.

MLB.com: So why, at your age, the decrease in velocity of your fastball? Have you ever figured that out?

Lincecum: No, I think it goes back to getting into a good rhythm and timing with your body and having as many games when you have good results, but you might not be feeling at your best. That obviously goes back to being a good pitcher, but I’ve always fallen back on how I felt and what my rhythm was like on that day. Lately that velocity hasn’t been there, so I’ve had another crutch to lean on and that has been my game plan and the execution of that.

MLB.com: So you can fall back on the plan.

Lincecum: It’s just knowing that I can execute a pitch and it doesn’t have to be nasty anymore. That alleviates any kind of stress on any given pitch. If I do my pre-game studying, I know that a guy is or isn’t going to swing at a certain pitch or in a certain situation. It’s not 100 percent accurate, but it gives you a gauge that you can trust.

MLB.com: So how long has this taken to evolve?

Lincecum: The mental side started last year and the preparation part of it started this year. As far as preparing is concerned, I just wanted to be on the same page with my catcher, going with what I wanted that day whether it means shaking to a fastball away when he calls a curveball down, or any sort of scenario like that. I’m going with what I know I want so when he finally puts a sign down, I know, click, I’ve got that one. There’s not a whole lot of running over signs or confusion about, “What do you want to do here?” We already know what we want to do and we have an idea.

The interview was conducted by an MLB.Com national writer, and was fairly long compared to the Lincelength comments one usually gets after the games. But it is a digest of things he’s said throughout the season after both good and bad games.

Lincecum says he hasn’t decided what to do, nor has there been any discussion with the Giants so far.

But he sounds ready for anything. Positive. Upbeat. Prepared.

His closing comments are telling:

MLB.com: How do you sum up this part of your career with the Giants?

Lincecum: I’m happy because I’m healthy and that’s the biggest thing anybody can say, as far as their career goes. Being able to last is the biggest thing and staying in the game is the hardest. I enjoy being able to work, come in and be part of a team like this. It’s been fun. I’ve faltered the last few years here. I think I have a lot of good years in me, as long as I turn it around and start believing in myself again like I should. I’m not going to try throwing 96 anymore. I’m going to try and sit on the edges, not necessarily call myself a nit-picker, but exploit guy’s weaknesses and have them swing at pitches that I want them to. I want to keep getting better.

Is it over at AT&T? Let’s hope not. He sounds like a better Lincecum. Besides, how will the Giants ever sell out TWO Filipino American Heritage Nights….

 

 

 

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Linceblog: SF Giants in San Diego finally turning page on bad chapter? Yes, if Tim Lincecum can keep pitching like he has… UPDATE: LINCECUM NO-NOs SAN DIEGO PADRES, GIANTS WIN 9-0

There have been no darker times in the 2013 season than what we’ve experienced the last two months. Injuries, miscues, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong, and it all dates back to May 14th.

That was the start of that miserable series in Toronto, and to date, that’s covered 54 games that look like a death spiral to the NL West cellar.

19 wins, 35 losses, a .351 win percentage, the second worst in the majors (after Minnesota) since that May 14 date.

And then came San Diego.

The Giants streak has given hope to those who thought rigor mortis had set in at Third and King.

After these last two months, a good team gone bad needs a 10-run, 17 hit Friday victory.

And what do you know, they’ve got a two-win streak!

(Really, there is no dishonor beating up on the Padres. Not when you consider what the missionaries were really all about).

Here’s the bad news. The Giants have never won more than two in a row at any point since May 14th, while they like losing streaks of three games or more and have done that SIX times.

So can they add a third win?

Why not? It’s a Tim Lincecum night.

(Now you know all the Filipinos in National City are excited about this appearance. Lincecum is the pride of Filipinos everywhere. But he’s typical of a lot of 2nd generation American Filipinos).

 

 

The Linceblog has noted that Timmy has pitched well enough to win his last two starts, almost matching Homer Bailey in Cincinnati (who just happened to throw a no-hitter). And then in the last start against the Mets, Lincecum deserved a victory dueling All-Star Matt Harvey were it not for some horrible defensive plays and an offense that stopped after Posey hit a two-run bomb.

Still, Lincecum had the magic.  He had 11 strikeouts that night, the 33rd time he’s struck-out ten or more in a single game in his career, but just the first time this season he’s done it.

It’s an indicator that the bullpen talk is still premature.

Tim’s still got it. And the late-bloomer is finally coming around this year.

Now he’s up against the Padres. This season against SD, the Lince-line is decent: in two games, he’s 1-1, 1.32 era, 13.2 innings, 10 hits, 2 runs, 2 er, 5 walks, 17 K’s….

That’s more than one strikeout an inning. And the game he lost was a 2-1 duel with Cashner.

Timmy can do it.

And he has baseball voodoo on his side.

Just prior to the road series in May that began all the badness, the Giants took 3 of 4 from the Atlanta Braves, with Tim Lincecum winning the series ender, a 5-1 game on May 12.

The Giants were in first place, two games up. And it was a Mother’s Day special.

And now look who’s pitching exactly two months to the day of the start of that bad Toronto series, but Timmy L.

It would be a nice bookend to the badness, and the real beginning of a post-All-Star game streak that ends with a September beat-up of the NL West and a  three game final series in San Diego.

You see, there are  hopeful scenarios even without some trade deadline miracle.

Lincecum can help turn it around with a win tonight. 

And then Zito on Sunday to complete a sweep.

UPDATE: 10:16 PDT

Tim Lincecum, who has suffered through a hard-luck season of doubt and defeat, no-hit the San Diego Padres on 148 pitches, as the SF Giants won their third straight, 9-0.

Lincecum’s Giant teammates helped him out with a 10-hit attack. Hunter Pence added a home run and 5 RBI, and made a special defensive save, catching a low-liner off the bat of Alexi Amarista to end the 8th inning.

It was Lincecum’s first no-hitter in his career.

After the game he told a TV interviewer, “It was kind of surreal.”

Considering the way the first half of the season has gone, when his erratic performances inspired talk of being relegated to the bullpen, or being traded, or not being resigned by the Giants, Lincecum made a statement tonight.

He’s still something special.

 

 

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Linceblog: San Francisco Giants’ Lincecum shows old ace magic with 3-hit, 7-inning mastery over Toronto Blue Jays in 2-1 win; Best start this year comes amid bullpen talk, though Lincecum says that was no factor on this night

All the bullpen talk over the last few days must have done something to Tim Lincecum.

But he won’t let anyone think that.

The one-time, unquestioned Giants ace turned in a throwback performance—a solid 7-inning start, his best since Mother’s Day (May 12)–holding  the Toronto Blue Jays to just one run on three hits, walking just one batter, and striking out six.

Lincecum was in control. In 100-pitches, 61 for strikes, he showed everyone why he’s not quite ready to be relegated to the pen.

Later, Lincecum insisted that news reports where he discussed a bullpen move weren’t on his mind on this night, when he was just focused on being a good starter.

That, he was.

 

 

It wasn’t exactly an auspicious start.  Lincecum was ahead of Former Giant Melky Cabrera 1-2 but then gave up a single. The defense saved him with a 6-4-3-double play. But then the next batter, Edwin Encarnacion hit a 1-0 fastball into centerfield for his 17th home-run of the year to give Toronto a 1-0 lead.

Lincecum later said that pitch to Encarnacion was a “good pitch,” not a mistake. “You tip your cap to him,” said Lincecum. “And you move on.”  

But with 2-out and clean-up hitter Adam Lind coming up, would it be the beginning of that typical Lincecum pattern this year of the one-big inning, early?

Not on this night.

Lincecum restored confidence striking out Lind on a 3-2 pitch to end the inning.

And then the Giants, as they have most of this season, came back to pick-up Lincecum.  In the bottom of the second, Andres Torres hit a 1-1 pitch from Toronto’s Josh Johnson on a line over the centerfield wall. Hunter Pence, who had singled, scored ahead of him to make it 2-1.

That’s all they needed, as Lincecum was ready to throw a gem of a game.

In the second, despite a hard hit ball by Toronto’s Colby Rasmus, it was a quick three-batter inning. As was the 3rd.

The 4th.

The 5th.

And the 7th.

The noticeable exception was the 6th. He faced one more batter. The inning started creakily, with Lincecum giving up his lone walk of the game with one-out–to his opposing pitcher Josh Johnson. Pitchers are supposed to be outs, as Lincecum has acknowledged in the past.

Would it be his undoing in a close one-run game?

Cabrera, the former hero and doper,  who had been dodging boos and indifference all night from conflicted fans, then singled to right.

But then it was Lincecum against the dangerous former home-run champion, Jose Bautista.

Bautista hit a liner to Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who quickly relayed to second baseman Marco Scutaro  to get the lead runner Johnson.

Scutaro had the ball for split second, then in a scooping motion with his gloved, dropped the ball.

Did he hold it long enough? Did he even beat Johnson to the bag? Second base umpire Alfonso Marquez said he did, though Blue Jays skipper John Gibbons continued arguing as the inning ended .  Giants Manager Bruce Bochy later said he’d probably be out there arguing too. But he thought Johnson was out.

With solid defense behind Lincecum like that double play, and hard hit fly balls to left run down by Torres, Lincecum shutdown the Blue Jays methodically. He had the fast-ball command early, and got his slider and change-up over for strikes.

The bull-pen came in to hold the game with Affeldt in the 8th, and Romo in the 9th. The closer needed  20 pitches to get the Blue Jays’  heart of the order out.

But even in the final inning, the Jays were a threat, with the tying run on first, and the winning run at the plate in the person of Edwin Encarnacion.

The Blue Jay slugger’s 17th homerun in the first inning was his team’s only run. His soft liner to second base would be its last out.

So the Giants bullpen did its job.

And for a change, so did the Giants starter named Lincecum.

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