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Friday, April 15, 2011

Notes: Don't forget Fontenot; two costly JSanchez mistakes, etc.

Some notes before the Giants embark on what could be a punishing stretch with the next 16 of 19 games on the road.

  • Mike Fontenot is back on the bench for tonight's game against Arizona, but his performance in the Giants' 4-3 win over the Dodgers Wednesday should not be forgotten.
He was in the lineup only by default, when Mark DeRosa, subbing for an ailing Freddie Sanchez, went down with his own injury. So, what's Fontenot do? He drives in one run with a double into the right field corner in the second inning, scoring fleet-footed Brandon Belt from first. And, in the sixth, after Pablo Sandoval homers to tie the game, 3-3, Fontenot, listed charitably as 5-foot-8, gets his first HR as a Giant for what proved to be the winning run.
  • It took until the first inning of Game 12 before the Giants got their first sacrifice fly.
  • Belt leads the Giants in stolen bases with two. He may not win a footrace with Andres Torres, but he is one of the team's fastest baserunners.
  • Pat Burrell may be playing for his future right now. Yes, he is tied with a handful of sluggers for second in the N.L. with four HRs, but he has only two other hits and is hitting .182 (6-for-33).
Could it be that he becomes the odd man out when Cody Ross returns? The argument for keeping him: great veteran presence in the clubhouse, he is responsible for "moving the line" with his good eye and high on base percentage. And, remember, he was hitting .212 with 2 HR and 13 RBI when the Giants acquired him on May 14, becoming a key power source in their title run. Arguments for jettisoning him: he's a year older, at 35, coming off a post-season .158, including an 0-for-13 World Series.
  • Jonathan Sanchez remains agonizingly inconsistent enough to keep from taking his place among the elite left-handers. Yes, he got the win Wednesday, and he chalked up a so-called quality start (six innings and three earned runs). But he was dominant that night, and, but for two mistakes, should have come out unscathed. 
I don't like to harp on a guy for two measly mistakes, but they were avoidable and seemed to be the result of hubris or laziness. In the top of the fourth inning, Sanchez had given up a two-out first-pitch single to Marcus Thames, but got ahead of Rod Barajas 0-and-2 on a beautiful sequence: an elevated fastball swing through and a split-finger swing through. After wasting a pitch, he had him set up. As Mike Krukow had it:
"Just think. He didn't have that pitch (the split finger) at this time last year. He's really locked in. He's totally changed his entire image as a pitcher. It gives him a third pitch, gives him a third speed, another pitch he could throw on 3-2."
But then he shook off Buster Posey, who was calling for a curve. And he laid a fastball that drifted over the heart of the plate that Barajas mashed for a two-run HR.

"That's one of those pitches that will get talked about when they get back to the dugout," Krukow said, rightly.

Sanchez' next mistake cost him another run. It came in the top of the sixth, with two outs and Thames on first. He'd struck out Juan Uribe and Barajas, his 7th and 8th strikeouts of the night, with No. 8 hitter Aaron Miles due up. Sanchez, pitching carefully to Miles, was aware that he had an escape hatch in pitcher Ted Lilly on deck, so fell behind 3-and-0. He got a strike and then got greedy, grooving a fastball that Miles drilled down the left field line for a triple, scoring even the slow-footed Thames from first for a 3-2 Dodgers lead.

Maybe Sanchez thought Don Mattingly was going to pinch hit for Lilly, and Sanchez preferred going after a No. 8 hitter than, say, Xavier Paul (who?) or Jamie Hoffman (who??). And maybe Miles' hit convinced Mattingly to keep Lilly in for another inning, which worked out for the best when he got lit up for the back-to-back jacks by Sandoval and Fontenot.

Obviously, Sanchez couldn't count on the fortuitous comeback for the Giants.

Here's Jon Miller's take:

"That's not only a mistake in location, but that's a mistake in philosophy."

And Krukow:

"That's game management. If you see a pitcher on deck means you can't make a mistake of location."

Other than that, Sanchez was brilliant, with nine strikeouts on an otherwise sculptured and polished performance. And the Giants won, which makes it easy to forget the blemishes.

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