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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Torres' mixed day; and remembering Morganna

The endearing, spirit-lifting qualities of Andres Torres were back Tuesday. But so were the hesitance and deer-in-the-headlights aspects of his declining play.

Unfortunately, the latter were magnified in the Giants' 5-3 loss to the San Diego Padres -- San Francisco's third loss in a row.

Torres provided the spark at the outset with a line drive single to lead off the first inning, and scored all the way from first on a Brandon Crawford single that banged off the glove of Padres first baseman Anthony Rizzo. He'd stopped at third, but was waved furiously home by Tim Flannery when second baseman Orlando Hudson accidentally flung the ball backwards as he picked it up.

It's that kind of exciting jolt at the top of the lineup that Torres had provided last year, an all-too seldom lift this year.

Torres' 16-pitch walk in the seventh inning, in which he fouled off 11 two-strike pitches, was another classic leadoff hitter's performance: intent on making contact, fighting off tough pitches, doing what he can to get on base. He even stole second base.

But after moving over to third on Brandon Crawford's groundout -- the second out in the inning --  Torres did the inexcusable: he was thrown out at the plate with their best hitter, Pablo Sandoval, up representing the tying run in a 5-3 game.

Torres tried to score on a pitch that got away from catcher Nick Hundley, but a) the pitch hadn't gotten that far away from him and b) Torres hesitated before taking off. That moment's hesitation cost him.

He should have listened to his first instincts and stayed put. The count would have been full. Pablo had fought back from an 0-2 count, and the Padres appeared to be pitching him carefully. He may have had a chance to swing the bat, but at worst, Pablo would have walked, giving Aubrey Huff, who had a two-hit night, a shot.

Instead, Sandoval would have to hit leadoff the eighth, not ideal for your number three guy.

Torres' shot at redemption came in the ninth with runners at second and third. After base hits by Miguel Tejada and pinch hitter Pat Burrell, Boss Bochy pulled Bill Hall from the on-deck circle, and replaced him with Chris Stewart for the sacrifice bunt, which he executed perfectly.

Bochy's hands were tied: he had the injured Cody Ross on the bench ready to pinch hit, but with runners at first and second, he didn't want to risk Ross, idled with a hamstring strain, hitting into a double play. And Bochy apparently has lost all faith in Hall, who should have been in line to start second base when Manny Burriss couldn't go, but was bypassed by Tejada, who'd never played an inning at second.

But all Stewart's bunt did was to leave the fate of the game in the hands of Torres and Crawford. Torres had been at bat for more than eight minutes in the seventh inning, but was gone in less than one in the ninth, a three-pitch see-ya, the last a fastball in his eyes that Torres couldn't hold up on. (Crawford flied out to end the game, leaving the tying runner planted at second).

The game looked sped up once again to Torres, who has battled troubles with an attention deficit disorder. It is agonizing to watch him go back to the bench with such confusion and pain in his expression.


Matt Cain has been so good, especially so with runners in scoring position, and in shutting down the opposition after his team scores.

Not on this night.

Both times the Giants scored, Cain coughed up runs. After the Giants took a 2-0 lead in the first, Cain gave those two runs right back: after he yielded a single to Ryan Ludwick and a double to Hudson, he retired Cameron Maybin on a grounder, but provided the perfect location -- fastball away -- for Maybin to turn in one of those move-'em-in-move-'em-over productive outs.

The second run came on a chopper over the mound that Crawford muffed, though Hudson would have easily scored. Though Cain's statistics show hitters went 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position, Cain still allowed them to score.

He did turn in a shutdown inning in the fifth after the Giants had taken a 3-2 lead, and appeared to be on his way to getting out of a jam in the sixth. With Chase Headley at second, Cain struck out Ryan Ludwick (who was 6-for-12 lifetime against Cain) on a biting slider in the dirt for the second out. Cain appeared to pitch around Hudson to get to Maybin.

Which would have been fine. Maybin can be pitched to. But Cain hung a flat curve -- another hanging two-strike curve to add to the Giants' growing collection of questionable pitches -- where a Little League All-Star could hit it, and Maybin drove both runs in with a triple, scoring moments later when Rizzo pounded a single to left.

So much for pitching well with runners in scoring position.


Here's hoping that Bochy does not start Tim Lincecum in the All-Star game. For one, there would be too much scrutiny placed on the long-haired wonder; his 6-7 mark perfect fodder for those who want to accuse Bochy of favoritism.

It would extend the controversy over octogenarian Manager Jack McKeon's comments, and put Lincecum in a position of having to pitch against the perception that he was undeserving. The way he's pitching right now, I'm not sure I want him subjected to the national snide comment machine.

Lincecum's fastball never got over 92 MPH on Monday -- more often they stayed around 90-91 -- and his secondary pitches did not have the crisp bite he needs. It could be that he was fatigued from the trip home from Detroit, but he can blame himself: he turned down the chance to fly ahead of his teammates to get settled in early. Next time Giants management needs to require he fly home early.


The Giants need to lighten up and provide TV entertainment next time a fan runs onto the field.

Tuesday night, CSNBA viewers got a good view of the third base fans, and some shots of Giants players watching as security chased down a fan who'd gotten onto the field. Apparently, he tapped left fielder Aaron Rowand on the shoulder before taking flight.

But we never saw it because of the condescending practice that all television stations have of averting  cameras from such a spectacle. Supposedly, it's to discourage would-be copy-cats. But, it's also a part of the heavy security conscious, post-911 world we live in (you know, the era that ushered in Blackwater, color-coded alerts, and enforced patriotism of the newly established God Bless America seventh-inning stretch).

It wasn't always thus. In the 70s, when streaking was a national fad, we'd see bare-bottomed fools race across fields, faking out overweight security guards in hilarious keystone cops scenes.

Remember Morganna? The buxom blonde would somehow get onto the field -- did security avert its eyes? -- make it all the way to the mound, and give the pitcher a kiss. Nolan Ryan was once a "victim."

Today, if a modern-day Morganna were to run onto the field and kiss Tim Lincecum on the mound, we would never see it.

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