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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Array of forces lined up against the Giants, who are in need of a paradigm shift

As bad as things have gone for the Giants lately, I'm not sure anyone could have braced for what hit them Tuesday. It was as if an array of forces not only lined up against the Giants but proceeded to slap them one by one and then insulted their mothers.

First, you get news that Carlos Beltran is indeed going on the disabled list. Fair enough. It was expected, though the long-term news on that may be more grim than we understand now.

Then, it's Sergio Romo who gets the call to the DL, which, again, was expected, though not any less painful to see the right-handed pitching savant go down.

Then comes word that Nate Schierholtz and Jeff Keppinger would be held out of the lineup, one worried  that he'd broken a foot on a foul ball (later determined to be not the case), and another having jammed his wrist. Though not as bad as feared, the injuries may land one or both on the disabled list. Ditto Aaron Rowand, who took himself out of play with an injured throwing arm.

The good news was that Pablo Sandoval was able to return to the lineup after missing most of Monday's game after fouling one off his foot.

Boss Bochy had to roll out a hodgepodge lineup with players sprinkled around the field in unfamiliar surroundings -- Aubrey Huff, the biggest sore thumb sticking out in left field -- and they'd have to make a go of it with the shaky Jonathan Sanchez going.

But it turned out that Sanchez brought something special to the mound. He was sharp, confident and in control, giving a glimpse of a possible revival that could have been a wonderful harbinger for the Giants as they prepared for the stretch drive.

And then, he went down! All of Giant Nation wondered aloud what they had done to anger the Baseball Gods, begged forgiveness and promised to hand over their young if only the endless cycle of bad news would stop.

Oh, did I mention yet that the Giants went on to lose to the Braves, a second straight walk-off loss in a second classic, tightly played, dramatic contest?

There was even a little bit of kizmit when the goat of last year's N.L. Division series, Brooks Conrad, the one player singularly responsible for the Giants moving on to the championship series, got a key blow, a one-out double, that led to the winning rally.

Again, a playoff-like intensity suffused the game, defensive gems and clutch pitching punctuating the scene. The two teams played as if they were reprising last year's National League Division Series, and that survival was at stake.

But, almost as if to puncture the sense of hope that was building, news came that the Arizona Diamondbacks had defeated the Phillies by waging a ninth-inning rally off Philadelphia ace Roy Halladay.

Moments later, Javier Lopez offered up a two-out off-field game-winning base hit to Martin Prado, who drove in Conrad.

Down by 3.5 games to the Diamondbacks, six behind the Braves in the wild card standings, with 39 games to go, the Giants' time is running short. They're without a legitimate leadoff hitter, their season-long offensive doldrums have shown few signs of lifting, and the sense of their misfortune is mounting.

Still, they've Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum going in the next two days, and if they can salvage a split of this four-game series, and hope that the Phillies can slow down the Diamondbacks over the next two days, the paradigm might just shift.


It was hard to feel angry at the Giants Tuesday. They'd played their heart out, and they'd done it with a patchwork lineup and only two position players on the bench as they headed into extra innings. Their bullpen had to go eight innings in relief of the injured Sanchez, another brilliant collective performance.

Even the offense, which had been silenced for six innings by rookie Randall Delgado, came up with the one big hit -- Cody Ross' monster home run that broke up Delgado's no-hitter leading off the seventh -- they needed to lengthen the game.

To put up such a fight against the backdrop of the injuries, and after such a devastating loss the previous night, proved that championship blood still runs through this team.

It truly was a display of their resourcefulness that the Giants were able to take the game into the 11th inning -- all hinging on defensive brilliance:

-- Chris Stewart's throw to nail Michael Bourn -- the N.L.s leader in stolen bases -- on a first inning theft attempt seemed to lift Sanchez, who had just walked the game's leadoff hitter.

-- Aubrey Huff's spectacular catch in left field just before crashing into the wall in the bottom of the ninth inning with the winning run on base had Web gem written all over it.

It robbed Martin Prado of a potential game-winner, and it was that much more sensational given it was only his second start all year in left field, and first since April. Huff seemed to kick into a gear he may not have known he had to catch up to the ball, then slammed into the wall, the kind of play reminiscent of the spirit he brought to the team last season.

-- What a beautiful throw by Brandon Belt, making his first start ever in right field, to nab Freddie Freeman after he'd rounded first base on his single to right in the 10th.

Freeman hadn't rounded the bag by that much but Belt saw enough daylight to exploit it. His throw was strong, accurate and had a touch of veteran savvy behind it. It turned out to be crucial, when after an intentional walk to Chipper Jones, Lopez induced Alex Gonzales into a dramatic inning ending double play.

-- Orlando Cabrera's smooth turn on that double play that ended the Braves' 10th inning threat with runners at first and third. The ball was hit hard to his left, and in a single motion, he lunged and grabbed it, stepped on second, and threw off balance to double up Gonzalez, leaving the winning run on third.


As speculation mounts over how the Giants can revive their offense, fans are clamoring for first baseman  Brett Pill, who has hit 24 home runs with 101 RBI and a .312 batting average. But Pill got a special  endorsement late Tuesday night when Fresno Grizzlies teammate, pitcher Shane Loux, tweeted:

"Brett Pill is hands down our best player. A professional hitter with power and the ability to just plain drive in runs. He needs a shot."

The problem is that the Giants are overstocked in first basemen. Unless they keep Huff in left (why not after his brilliant play?) and Belt in right field (why not after that amazing throw?).


  1. played their hearts out indeed! but with what soul....good heavens but do I love baseball !!! SH - excellent article + congrats on passing 20K readers

  2. Just another stupit (that's more than stupid), and more or less undeserved walk-off celebration by the Braves. Because of some all-out play by the skeleton-crew Giants, they couldn't win the game till the 11th. Nothing for the Braves to be proud of. They can take a hike.