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Thursday, June 30, 2011

If only Brian Sabean had pulled trigger on deal for Soto

If only Brian Sabean had pulled the trigger on a deal for Geovany Soto.

If only the Giants' bullpen would quit hanging two-strike pitches.

If only the Giants' offense had some life.

The Giants don't just lose. They kill you with the way they lose. They inspire regret in the way they lose.

Two strikes, two outs in the bottom of the 13th: Ramon Ramirez was one strike from getting a save and looking like a real closer. But then he hangs a slider (what is it with hanging two-strike sliders?) to Jeff Baker, who keeps hope alive with a double off the wall. Again, he gets to two strikes to Darwin Barney, but gives up a game-tying single.

And the rest. Yes, again, he gets to two strikes on Soto, and hangs another.

Brian Wilson's blown save in the ninth inning was devastating to be sure, but at least he didn't hang a slider with two strikes. He tried a 93 MPH two-seamer, the kind that has jammed many a bat. He just tried it with the wrong guy, Aramis Ramirez.

I can't choose between what's more frustrating: the failure to seal the deal with two strikes, or the utter inability of the Giants' hitters to come through in the clutch.

Not that there were many opportunities to miss Thursday. For the second straight night, a huge swath of outs was cut into the Giants lineup: 24 of 25 were retired between the third and 11th innings -- and they were held hitless for 10 1/3 innings. Wednesday night, starter Ryan Dempster retired 20 Giants in a row.

And again, the chances they had early in the game were potential game-changers, especially with Matt Cain's dominating performance on the mound.

Here's how they fared with opportunities beckoning:

-- In the first inning, with Manny Burriss on second with two outs, Pat Burrell strikes out.

-- In the second inning, with runners on first and third, a run already in on Miguel Tejada's bloop RBI single, Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano has to leave the game with a back injury. Marcos Mateo inherits a one-ball count and falls behind Eli Whiteside 2-and-0, a great hitter's count, but also, when you're hitting .225, a count that might dictate making the guy throw a strike before you swing.

But Whiteside chases a high fastball -- the kind of overaggressiveness that gives away your advantage, pulls the pitcher back into the count. Whiteside pulls ahead with a 3-and-1 count (could have been a walk if he hadn't swung at that high heater), but then goes down swinging, leaving it up to Cain, who pops out and the Giants have to settle for the one run.

-- In the third inning, the Giants get a one-out rally going with back-to-back base hits by Manny Burriss and Pablo Sandoval, Burriss scurrying to third. But Burrell strikes out on four pitches -- situational failure at its worst. After Sandoval stole second, Nate Schierholtz flew out.

-- Aubrey Huff comes up as a pinch hitter with the bases loaded and one out in the 12th inning against left hander John Grabow. It was a good move. Huff has hit lefties at a .349 clip. Something about keeping his shoulder tucked in.

Well, his shoulder must have untucked on this one because, on the first pitch, he hit a pop fly to shallow center field. Even with weak armed Tony Campana out there, Cody Ross would not risk it. Too bad he didn't: Campana's throw was off line and up the line. Did I say Huff swung at the first pitch? That's an affliction that is adding to the Giants' woes.

Aaron Rowand flied out to end that threat.

Sandoval's go-ahead home run in the top of the 13th promised to erase all that futility, a dramatic stroke that would once again paper over the team's glaring weakness. It didn't, and now Boss Bochy is promising change.

Sounds like a lot of the politicians I cover in Sacramento.


Rumors are floating around about possible pickups. None of them sound great. Juan Uribe's name was bandied about until Sabean gave a full-throated denial. During the Cubs series, Carlos Pena was mentioned: he's on a one-year contract, and he has been the hottest power hitter in the National League (10 home runs). But Wrigley Field AT&T ain't. All those wind-blown short-porch HRs in ChiTown would get swallowed up in S.F., and you'd have to deal with his all-or-nothing swing.

The Giants don't need a left-handed power hitter. They need another Pat Burrell pickup. A right handed power hitting corner outfielder.

Outfielder Michael Cuddyer fits the bill. When the Twins were in town, speculation touched on his name, but the thinking was that the Twins had, by winning 15 of 17, reinserted themselves in the A.L. Central Division, and wouldn't want to short circuit whatever magic they were playing out.

But the Twins went on to lose six in a row, including the last two games of the series with the Giants, which might have put Cuddyer back onto the market. They've won the last two, and are now 11 games under .500 and 8.5 games out of first place -- still within reach. So they'll probably wait until the trading deadline at the end of July before they decide on who they make available.

As for picking up a catcher, not sure Soto is the answer. But, if they do pursue him, they might want to wait a while to let some of the pain of his dramatic HR subside.


The Giants are trying to be patient as the calendar flips ever so slowly toward the trading deadline. So, as they head into Detroit, they'll need to choose a designated hitter from a corps of reticent hitters.

With righties throwing in all three games, it would be good to have one more lefty hitter to pull off the bench.

Who goes as the DH? It'll probably go from game to game. Huff, for instance, would probably not be the best choice in Game 1. He is 0-for-13 against Brad Penny, the one-time Giant who throws Friday vs. Madison Bumgarner. Besides, Penny is better against lefties (.250) than righties (.318). You might think Burrell, given his four HRs in 51 lifetime at bats vs. Penny, but he has that avowed aversion to the DH role.

So, Bill Hall, 5-for-15 against Penny, might be a good choice. He might also be a good choice Saturday against Max Scherzer, with his 4-for-6 lifetime numbers. Then again, who knows? Hall may be one of the scapegoats in the oncoming shakeup (because losing him would be less expensive than others).

But lefties do hit Scherzer better than righties (.301 to .246), as do they against Sunday starter Rick Porcello (.346 vs. .236). So, you want to get as many lefties in as possible.

A problem. One left-handed bat is basically out of commission: Even with his three-hit performance on June 24, Andres Torres is only 5-for-his-last-43 (.116), is now hitting .222, and telling reporters, quite candidly and poignantly, that things are going too fast for him.

As I pointed out in a previous post, Torres' funk goes back to last year. But, just since late May, he is 21 for 103, a .204 average. Take out that one nice three-hit game, and he's on the Interstate (.182). I wouldn't be surprised to see Torres shipped out to Fresno to work on his confidence.

Without Torres, the Giants' lack of depth from the left side severely hampers their ability to exploit the Tigers' main weakness.

One righty the Giants won't have to face is Justin Verlander, who won his 11th game Thursday.

Good thing. Verlander could be looking at adding to his pile of no-hitters if he got a shot at the hitless wonders from San Francisco.


  1. Thank you for taking this measured approach to a trade, My saw all along has been to acquire a power hitter, but that there's no rush. I don't know if Konerko is available from White Sox, and he's 35

    Many Chronicle/Giant fans say, "They'll just walk him. Like Bonds." True, but the guys on each side of the power hitter see a lot of fastballs. Bonds improved the careers of those hitting around him: Jeff Kent, I can't recall the others, can you?

  2. Rich Aurelia, for one. How about Glenn Burke? You can name any number of players on the '93 team.

    Konerko would be a great pickup, if the White Sox would let him go. I'm trying to remember if they just signed him to a long contract; not sure. But, even at 35, he is still one of the best fastball hitters in the ML. Of course, his numbers might be a bit inflated, playing in the White Sox band box, but left field plays fair at AT&T.

    Yeah, I think it's silly to worry that the opposition would just walk a Konerko every time; there might be some spots, sure, but that's moving the line, as Bochy always preaches. The Giants could use extra base runners, whoever it is; but, your point is right: others around him would improve because they would get better pitches to hit. Fresh blood can do a lot, too.