Well, those rabble-rousers from across the SF Bay in Oakland have done it again. They beat my Giants for the second straight day today by a score of 4-2. Once again, anemic offense by SF was the primary cause of defeat. Both teams managed seven hits but the Giants stranded more runners and couldn't even capitalize on two Oakland errors.
Giants' starter Johnathan Sanchez lost for the third time in four starts, dropping his season record to 7-6. After a strong early start, he started leaving the ball high in the zone and the A's hitters, exhibiting unusual patience for the second straight game, out-waited him.
The loss didn't hurt the Giants in the standings as the NL West race stayed about the same, with the Giants clinging to a half-game lead over the Diamondbacks. Colorado picked up a win and moved within 3-1/2 games of the lead in what is quickly becoming a three-team race with 10 games left to the mid-season point.
Hopefully the Giants can escape Oakland tomorrow with a win before coming home to face the lowly Minnesota Twins and the AL Central leading Cleveland Indians. After that, they travel to Chicago to take on the lowly and perennially disappointing Cubs. The end of that three-game series marks the mid-point of the season.
Interleague play tonight saw the Giants lose to Oakland at the A's Coliseum, by a score of 5-2. It was a 3-2 contest much of the night but the G-Men played some sloppy defense and the A's played classic AL small ball to eke out the runs they managed off Tim Lincecum, who dropped to 5-6. Thing is, this was Lincecum's first-ever loss to a team he has flat dominated every other time he's faced them.
The loss stung a bit more because the A's came into the game with the second-worst record in the American League. But the A's have shown some savvy in the last few days as they made this their third straight win, a rarity for a team now being handled by an interim manager.
It also gave the Diamondbacks a chance to move within 1/2 game of the Giants' lead, which they did.
I've observed for many years that the teams who make it to the playoffs are very often those who avoid having too many stretches of three or more losses. The Giants go into tomorrow afternoon's game needing a win to stop their current skid at 2.
The G-Men lost to Arizona in 10 innings tonight on a walk-off homer by Justin Upton. The Giants trailed 2-1 from the 5th inning but managed an unearned run in the 9th that sent the game into extra innings.
SF stays atop the NL West, 1-1/2 games ahead of the Diamondbacks. Meanwhile the Rockies dumped the Padres to move within 5-1/2 of the leaders.
Both teams played ineffectively at Chase Field, but the Giants managed an anemic six hits on a night when hits were relatively easy to come by in other NL contests. Lack of offense has been the biggest result of the Giants' injury debacle which has gutted the heart of their otherwise potent lineup. The return of Freddy Sanchez (soon? please?) will help a lot but the squad is several weeks from being able to return star catcher and offensive hero Buster Posey.
Interleague play comes back next week and I, for one, couldn't be happier. When MLB decided a few years ago to institute this idea of NL teams meeting AL teams it gave fans a boost and jolted attendance figures up as well. There was a lot of fear early on that these games wouldn't draw as well as league contests since they have less impact on standings than intra-division play but the powers that be have done a good job of staging those games in such a way that new rivalries have developed and old ones that were obliterated by the division of baseball have been rekindled.
Back when the idea first surfaced, a key idea was that interleague play would be scheduled so that NL teams would meet AL teams who were nearby or who had some historical ties to one another so that a natural rivalry could build. But this upcoming interleague series at Ringy Dingy Park (I call it that so I don't have to keep track of which phone monopoly has the current naming rights) has the Minnesota Twins and the Cleveland Indians in town. Who cares? Both teams are out of the AL Central, there are no historical or geographic ties and to make things worse, the Indians are dead last (though on a four-game tear as of this writing).
As these things tend to go, the original luster is off the idea and now it's just more ho-hum baseball with virtually nothing on the line. It's too bad really because MLB could have saved itself a ton of money by staging regional rivalries in these interleague contests while also building strong fan partisanship and enthusiasm.
The San Francisco Giants conjured up quite an offense in Arizona tonight, scattering 10 hits all over Chase Park and thwarting the recently surging Diamondbacks 5-2. Even though Giants' pitching yielded nine hits to the home team, they were tough enough in the clinch to keep Zona from scoring a run after the fourth.
I continue to be encouraged by the G-Men, who have been bitten by the injury bug pretty hard the past few weeks and have seen the middle of their line-up erode faster than an Arizona sand pit in a gully-washer. Manager Bruce Bochy has to get a lot of props for the way he's keeping the lineup fresh and the players up and ready to play despite the difficulties.
Meanwhile, Colorado kept pace with a win that kept them 6 games back but the pre-season favorite Dodgers are playing el-foldo once again and find themselves nine off the pace while the Padres, also recipients of much pre-season hype, are in double-digits in the GB column at 10.
It's fun being a Giants fan at the moment and while I've been around baseball way too long to become complacent in mid-June, the fact is that they can only get better after weathering the current injury storm and heading into the stretch. We're two weeks from mid-season and I'm liking what I'm seeing there.
The San Francisco Giants remain in first place in the NL West tonight, up by a game and a half over the D-Backs who pulled ahead of them a week ago. This despite the fact that the Giants have been without a pretty core group of guys:
Catcher Buster Posey, who's out with an ankle injury
2B Freddy Sanchez, whose shoulder injury from June 11 has him sidelined
Ace pitcher Tim Lincecum who, after a great start, has had trouble finding his stuff lately
They did get third-sacker Pablo "Panda Bear" Sandoval back tonight after 47 days of injury-caused sit-downs and he played a key offensive role in the Giants' 6-5 win over Zona.
It's actually pretty surprising that the G-Men are in such good shape. Offensively, they rank in the bottom four of the NL in batting average (.241), runs (236), on-base percentage (.309) and slugging percentage (.363). Their pitching has been predictably excellent, though, with a team rank of fourth in the league on the basis of a 3.25 ERA.
But they seem to have just enough offense just enough of the time to stay at or near the lead in their division.
Good teams win when their good players are down, even though they have to win ugly. The Giants have had quite a few ugly games this season but they're atop the division and, BTW and FWIW, they have the second best winning percentage in the entire NL and the fourth best in all of Major League Baseball. They're clearly doing something right.
My good friend and consummate writing buddy Tony Seton sent me a column from the LA Times Sports section this weekend that attempted to tie together a number of depressing news stories from the world of sports in California. Here is my response to the column by Tim Rutten, which can be read here.
For me, it is certainly true that our tendency as a society to idealize both sports and athletes is a central key to understanding these kinds of events. It seems to me symptomatic of a larger problem in society, namely the lack of really legitimate heroes as leaders of our nation and our national interests. Political extremism causes the essentially nobly practical idea of compromise to become a patchwork of trade-offs wherein there is no compromise on a single issue, only between one issue and another. Such an atmosphere demands a hero who can overcome that tendency by appealing successfully to the broad electorate for support of reason and genuine compromise. Alas, no such leader has emerged despite the tragically false hope proffered by President Obama when he was Candidate Obama.
There is no genuine leader anywhere on the horizon. We are reduced, as a people, to choosing, not public policy positions with consistency of thought but rather individually singled-out positions on specific issues weighed dispiritedly against unacceptable stands on other, mostly unrelated issues.
The System — which is ultimately us — is fundamentally broken. No amount of tinkering will solve its woes. Absent a real hero of the people, the American experiment with democracy seems doomed to spin aimlessly down a drain while those entrusted with its maintenance bicker on the sidelines about whose petty interests are more important. We have attended the beginning of the Decline and Fall of America. If only someone were taking notes.
Well, after destroying the guy's career, ending his ability to earn a living, taking months and months to prepare a case, and giving it their best shot, prosecutors were finally able to convince a jury today that Barry Bonds was evasive when answering questions about drug use in baseball before a grand jury. Big whoop.
If you have ever testified at trial and been counseled by a competent attorney, you could almost certainly be convicted of the same thing. As a witness or a "person of interest", it's not up to you to blurt out the details of a truth you think you know. It's the prosecutor's job to drag the truth out of you. Not being evasive can land your carcass in jail even if you are completely innocent. Everyone with a brain and two eyes and two ears knows that.
The jury couldn't agree whether the government had proved its only really damning charge, that Bonds had lied about knowingly taking hormones during his illustrious baseball career. Couldn't agree. After the millions and millions of dollars the government spent persecuting…er, prosecuting…Bonds, they couldn't convince 12 honest men and women of their only meaningful charge. They snared him on a minor point that probably shouldn't even be on the books as a crime. "Evasive in grand jury testimony?" Gimme a freaking break.
“I think the government feeling was they had a really big fish with Bonds and they wanted to finish what they started,” said jury foreman Fred Jacob, 56. “Maybe they tried a little too hard to make him guilty.” (From LA Times coverage.)
Yeah, I wasn't in the courtroom but I agree, Mr. Jacob. I agree.
Well, the Giants are off to a start that's reminiscent in many ways of what happened in 2010. Which, of course, is a good thing since they won the World Series last year! In the four-game series they wrapped up in Dodgerland yesterday, the Giants:
- saw starting pitching shine fairly consistently despite a typically rocky Zito start
- lost the close ones
- exploded offensively in one
- benefited from some good decisions by Bruce Bochy
All of those were typical of 2010. For this season, though, the Giants added in these first four games (admittedly not a trend yet, but still….):
- lackadaisical, inattentive defensive play
- quite weak relief pitching
- a newly designed outfield sieve
Hopefully the relief pitching will get a major pick-me-up when The Beard is healthy again (which looks like it could be next week). There's no real helping the outfield situation but when we do get Cody Ross back Bochy will at least be able to strengthen the patchwork.
Does it seem to you that errors have been more prevalent and playing a more major role this season?
It's one thing to lose a baseball game by committing errors. They're part of the game. When an error results from a player pressing too hard, trying to make something happen, cutting down a fast-moving play, it can even be a positive.
But the way the Giants lost to the Dodgers 2-1 tonight was almost unbelievably ugly. It showed that some of the Giants' key players are either not quite ready for the season of defending their world title or had the kinds of jitters that ESPN commentator Bobby Valentine kept harping on in some of the worst color I've heard on an MLB game in a long time.
There was Pat Burrell letting a ball drop in front of him in left field that sure looked from here like it could have been caught on the fly. Then he let the ball bounce into his lazy hands which played hackysack with the ball while the hitter steamed into second. Pathetic. But perhaps only secondarily pathetic to Manger Bruce Bochy's very ill-considered decision to have Burrell play left. If that stands, it will jump up and bite the G-men more often than you think now.
Then there was that goofy mix-up on the attempted pickoff at third. What was that about? Third-baseman Pedro Sandoval seemed to entice catcher Buster Posey into attempting an impossible pick-off and Posey completed the bifecta by throwing wide, allowing the run to score. No excuse. Just rookie stuff.
Can't stop commenting on tonight's unnecessary loss without commenting on Tim Lincecum, who looked pretty shaky tonight. Even allowing for the errors, he was just not sharp, falling behind too many hitters, throwing a couple of cross-ups at Posey and generally looking more like August than 2009.
The G-Men are 0-1 and they have nobody but themselves to blame.