Total Pageviews

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Eight-run outburst salve to the wounded soul

Ok, the death watch is over. The Giants have a pulse.

And the rest of us can stop panicking. The Giants' 8-1 win over the Diamondbacks Wednesday afternoon was salve to the wounded soul, a draught of calming medicine for those worried that San Francisco was sinking into the Bay.

Instead of snapping, the Giants snapped a five-game losing streak

Granted, it was just a matter of salvaging the final game of their three-game series with the upstart Snakes to avert a sweep. And they've got the Phillies in town for the next four nights, so we don't know if the light we see is the end of the tunnel or a Hummer careening our way.

But, the way the Giants put together their swings, assembling not one, but two, four-run rallies, resurrected the notion that the Giants are still the World Champions who won't go away gently into the night.

"It's been a while since we had innings like that," Boss Bochy said in his post-game press conference. "We're capable of that and we will do it more consistently. It's going to take innings like that to win, we know that."

Bochy said he'd only expected to use the 3-4-5 combination of Pablo Sandoval, Carlos Beltran and Orlando Cabrera for one game. But after the unprecedented offensive outpouring (it was the first time this year at AT&T they scored more than six runs), he said, "I'l revisit it. Cabrera did a nice job in the five spot. It was nice to have somebody there swing well, help finish the deal like he did."

Finishing the deal, or cashing in on opportunities, has been a problem most of the season for the Giants and had come into full display during their five-game slide, Aubrey Huff's failures with runners on base personifying the team's frustrations.

Bochy, who does not typically tip over to the hyperbolic, said that Wednesday's game was the "biggest game up to this point. We had to stop the bleeding and (Ryan Vogelsong) did the job."


Vogelsong, indeed, added to his growing legend with another high quality performance featuring a crackling, moving fastball, a sharp-breaking curve and a cutter that broke late -- all causing late, awkward and feeble swings.

He struck out Henry Blanco on a roundhouse curve to end the second and strand a runner at third base when it was still a scoreless tie. In the third with runners on first and second, by way of a walk and a hit batter, Vogelsong added another out pitch to his repertoire: a perfect peg to second base to pick off Willie Bloomquist to end that threat.

Though he wobbled in the fourth after assuming a 4-0 lead, with another walk and hit batter, Vogelsong escaped unscathed, once again using Blanco's vulnerability on the curve, this one eating a little dirt as Blanco flailed away.

Vogelsong got two of his seven strikeouts in the sixth, his last full inning, painting the corner with 93 MPH heat to freeze Arizona star Justin Upton (who may have still been a touch hesitant after taking a fastball off his tricep earlier); and blowing a 92 MPH fastball by the D-Backs' phenom, Paul Goldschmidt, who'd made a statement in the first two games by collecting his first hit off of Matt Cain and then his first home run off of Tim Lincecum. But on this day, the rookie got schooled.


But, the Giants had received a superb outing from Lincecum a day earlier, and he was tagged with the loss -- because he had no support from his lineup. So, Bochy's statement that Vogelsong "did the job" to "stop the bleeding" was not exactly on point.

It was unmistakably the offense that pulled the team from the brink. Can you imagine if they'd lost? They'd be nursing a six-game skid with the scorching Phillies coming to town having won all six of their games since the Giants beat them in the rubber match of their last series.

The way the Phillies tore through the Pittsburgh Pirates and Colorado Rockies this last week (outscoring them a combined 40-21), it looked like they'd taken the Giants series as a challenge to redouble their efforts (aided by the addition of former Astros star Hunter Pence). Already extra motivated to repay the Giants, they might have been poised to exploit the Giants in a time of weakness.

Visions of the San Diego Padres' 10-game losing streak a year go, en route to their late-season collapse, came into view. Recriminations were beginning to fly: the Beltran/Cabrera/Keppinger deals were messing with team chemistry; they'd blown their shot at acquiring game-changing center fielder Michael Bourne; they needed to sit Huff in favor of Brandon Belt, and all the rest.

Another loss would have brought the pressure cooker to a full boil (or optimum steam), especially one in which the offense lay listless and unresponsive like a former cardiac patient.


It all started with a single by Andres Torres to lead off the third inning, the kind of spark the Giants could depend on all last year but have clamored vainly for all season.

But even before Torres could even contemplate using his speed on the base paths, Keppinger was ripping a line shot past third baseman Cody Ransom to send Torres to third. It took seven games since Beltran's acquisition, but finally, the top of the order had set the table for the middle guys.

And what a sight to see: Pablo tomahawking a shoulder-high fastball into right field for one run, and Beltran, on the first pitch, stroking a line drive single to left center field for another run.

You could finally breathe, my gentle, suffering Giant fan. It wasn't just a 2-0 lead, it was catharsis. They would not get another hit in the inning, but they'd make two productive outs for two more runs.

Their second four-run outburst may have been more impressive because it was the big guns -- Sandoval and Beltran -- who started the rally with a pair of nicely placed singles, and the supporting cast who provided the knockout punch.

The first punch was landed by Cabrera, Bochy's stunning choice as the No. 5 hitter, which lit up the blogosphere with outrage:

"Cabrera hitting 5th? This is insane!" -- Ajax.

"Cabrera is the protection for Beltran, huh? Dang, this team is impossible to watch on offense, but that is just pathetic" -- Noway.

"Cabrera hitting fifth is a new low for this team." -- JPorny.

"Who would pitch to Beltran if they could escape thru Cabrera? Maybe it's just Bochy's way of keeping the line moving." -- me.

"Dear Bruce Bochy, Orlando Cabrera is not a No. 5 hitter, nor has he ever been in his career." -- Gotheem.

Actually, the genius of Bochy's move comes in two explanations. First, Cabrera had the best lifetime numbers against Diamondbacks' starter Jason Marquis, 8-for-24 (.333 batting average).

More important, Cabrera has as much experience, if not more, than most hitters on the Giants' roster as the No. 5 hitter and has acquitted himself just fine throughout his career: In 538 lifetime at bats as the No. 5 hitter, mostly when he was on the Expos, he's had 142 hits (.264 batting average) with 35 doubles, 10 home runs and 61 RBI.

So, when he stepped to the plate with Sandoval and Beltran on base, Cabrera might have been Bochy's best option. And when he scorched one into the corner to score both runs, Bochy had to feel quietly satisfied at the brilliance of the move.

Then, there was Aubrey Huff, looking a bit more relaxed as the No. 6 hitter, rapping one down the line for what could have been extra base hits but was knocked down by Goldschmidt. No matter, it was one of two hits for the maligned veteran, a beautiful pick me up, only made better by Cody Ross' bases clearing double to the gap and an 8-0 lead.

Bochy will have to tinker with the lineup for Thursday's opener against left-hander Cliff Lee, replacing Torres with Rowand. It's too bad, though understandable. You'd like the same guys to get back out there to keep that momentum going. But, as Bochy said, they've done well against left-handers with Rowand in there.

Who's to question Bochy's lineup moves after his sly maneuvering Wednesday?


  1. Great recap along with the crow pie service. Perhaps what Boch meant when he alluded to Song's performance stopping the bleeding I am pretty sure he only meant the 5 game losing streak. I think the context of his statement was about the team's results, not individual performances.

    Anyway, I don't think a whole about lineup juggling as having much impact. I like player-pitcher matchups more in terms of predicting tendencies. Your homework on Cabrera's history from the 5 hole was great reporting, and made Bochy's choice very logical, and not whimsical like a lot of folks believe erroneously.

    Keep up the great work, enjoyed the recap and analysis and commentary as I did not get observe nor listen to much of it.

  2. thanks, Ernie! Yeah, I don't mean to put too much into what he said about Vogelsong stopping the bleeding: it was more a way to segue into the real story, the offense. It was a very satisfying thing to watch.

  3. thanks SH for your excellent blog - ignore those nay-sayers on baggs - your stuff is an excellent compliment to those of us who can't read enough orange !

  4. Thanks for the analysis! Normally I, too, would put a hit batter alongside a walk in judging a pitcher's performance. But with a nice cushion, it's affordable, even pleasurable, to teach a batter to stay out of a zone. As Dizzy Dean would say, that pitcher was "pleasingly wild."

  5. Steve: What's your take on the apparent unwillingness to use Belt and now send him down, now that DeRosa has come back.

    Huff, could come around but there is no evidence to that effect that I can see. He's had 115 games to come around and nothing other than the sporadic output that one would expect from anybody with a sub-300 OBA and an 87+ OPS+. His pattern is even years-on, odd years-off

    I would love to attribute this to some mysterious Bochy and/or Sabean infatuation, but like a lot of guys who keep things close. When guys' constantly have their jobs on the line with Billionaire bosses, the concept of teachers' pet gets overplayed.

    Factually I have no idea what the deal is with Belt.

  6. I think Bochy simply wants to go with veterans down the stretch. I wonder if Belt's earlier weak performance put too much doubt in Bochy's mind, though he/they sure were impressed with his work that they brought him back -- and he came through in that first game in such a big way.

    But Bochy was just not going to sit Huff for Belt, and unfortunately, I think part of that was he didn't want Belt to get so hot he'd have to stay with him. He is convinced that Huff is getting his swing back and can be one of the team's key leaders I'm sure he's seen the numbers.

    I've written that the numbers show that since August, Huff's been mediocre (when the pressure was on). I imagine there must be economics involved in the decision, but if he were entirely convinced that Huff couldn't produce, he'd sit him like he did Rowand. Whatever the reason, I guess it makes it easier with Belt out of the dugout, out of sight. So, I guess we gotta accept it and move on. Maybe Huff gets untracked from lower in the lineup. I like hitting him down in the order, sixth or seventh.

  7. Thanks, goodsam73 and JamesPete! I appreciate it!