Results tagged ‘ Emmanuel Burriss ’

‘Twas The Night Before Christmas…

       

…and at AT&T
Park… not a free agent was calling… not even as a lark….

                  

So Nick Johnson preferred the Big Apple and Brad
Penny
the Big Arch. And no seasoned catcher worth his salt is willing to sign a
contract for just one year. In a way, that suits me just fine. I much prefer
the Giants’ “wait-and-see” attitude this year over their customary
“willy-nilly” signing of the first free agent coming down the turnpike that
gave us the likes of Edgardo Elfonzo, Ray Durham, Randy Winn, Barry Zito, Aaron
Rowand
just to name a few who achieved mixed results here before. I’m willing to wait
this off-season and see what develops in the free agent market if the Giants are.

 

Common wisdom dictates that the Giants must acquire a
power bat or two to protect Pablo Sandoval in the middle of the batting order.
I dispute that notion for two reasons: (1) The Panda does not need protection
because he is a notoriously bad ball hitter. Many times last year, he took
pitches a foot outside and slapped them into the opposite field for hits. He is
not at all like Barry Bonds who would not offer at pitches even a few inches
off the plate and thereby broke the major league record for walks in the process. (2)
Without a primary power hitter, the Giants can still thrive as a singles
hitting team in much the way the St. Louis Cardinals were
successfully constructed in the 1980’s. If Bam Bam Meulens convinces the Giants
to become much more patient and selective at the plate next year, AT&T Park
is conducive to an offensive strategy of small ball. Adding a strong defense
and a superlative pitching staff, just averaging four runs per game for the
Giants will achieve excellent results next year.

 

My biggest concern is whether Aaron Rowand can dial it
down and retool his approach at the plate next year. Many times last year, I
saw him take mighty swings with spotty results. But he had his best stretch of
the season last year while batting lead off and just taking the ball up the
middle for singles and doubles. Also remember that Fred Lewis started
off the season last year red hot while batting low in the order. It was only
when Bruce Bochy promoted him to lead off that Fred’s production waned
precipitously and he never fully recovered. Perhaps he will rebound next year by
batting lower in the order. Also, Travis Ishikawa batted .349 at AT&T Park
last year while only .162 on the road. If he can improve his consistency, he would be
a valuable contributor next year.

 

I just heard a radio report that the Giants were
closing in on signing Juan Uribe for next year. If true, that would keep most of
last year’s team intact. I would construct the lineup in this order: Velez
(Torres); Sanchez (Burriss); Schierholz (Bowker); Sandoval (Uribe); Ishikawa
(Bowker/Guzman); Rowand (Lewis); Posey/Whitesides; Renteria (Burriss). This
presumes that Emmanuel Burriss will beat out Kevin Frandsen again next year for
a spot on the team. Of course the Giants will buy a free agent this off-season.
They cannot afford not to or risk a general uprising by its fan base. And I
expect they will wait until spring training before acquiring a short-term catcher on
the cheap. I noticed ex-Giant Eliezer Alfonzo is available. That would be a
nice reunion.

 

Well, the Winter Solstice has passed and now the days
are getting longer. I won’t be long until pitchers and catchers report to spring
training and it all begins anew. So until that time, stay warm and let the
visions of sugar plums dance in your heads. Merry Christmas to all and… Go Giants!

Redbirds Fly Into Town

       

And
the local cream-colored birds are ready for them. The Giants opened the gates
this Friday afternoon an hour early at 4:15. It was interesting watching them
take infield practice and warming up for the first half of their batting
practice session. I understand that the Giants are one of the very few teams to
take regular pre-game infield practice. The picture below shows Tim Lincecum,
Jeremy Affeldt, Randy Johnson, and Justin Miller (or maybe Brandon Medders?)
warming up in left filed. The little guy in the home Cardinals uniform in the
lower right picture had numeral “5” and “Pujols” on the back of his jersey so
that had to be Albert Pujols‘ young son.

       

The
wind was blowing pretty hard and the night was quite chilly but that didn’t
stop the hardy Giants fans from filling up the bleachers. Like Randy Johnson
last Wednesday, Matt Cain faced just one batter over the minimum for the first
three innings. However, the Giants jumped on pitcher Joel Piniero in the first inning
led off by Aaron Rowand‘s double followed by a walk to Randy Winn and a
fastball off the thigh of Bengie Molina. Pablo Sandoval came up for the first
time this week and drove the second pitch he saw into right field and Aaron Rowand and
Randy Winn home for the first two runs of the game.

       

The
Cardinals got their first two batters of the fourth inning on base with singles
by left fielder Chris Duncan and first baseman Albert Pujols. Although Matt
Cain
struck out right fielder Brian Ludwick on a 94 mph heater and induced
centerfielder rookie Colby Rasmus to fly out to Randy Winn in right field, he
threw a wild pitch in the course of walking catcher Yadier Molina to load the
bases. But third baseman Joe Thurston grounded out to second base for the final
out. So the Giants responded in the bottom of the fourth inning by punching out
four hits of their own, the main one being Fred Lewis‘ triple driving in Pablo
Sandoval
and Emmanuel Burriss singling home Fred Lewis from third base with two
outs and the pitcher Matt Cain due up next. I would have expected Cardinals
manager Tony LaRussa to walk Emmanuel Burriss there but Matt Cain also got a
hit next so maybe the question is moot.       

The
Cardinals got to Matt Cain in the next inning with singles by Albert Pujols and
Colby Rasmus sandwiched around a walk to Brian Ludwick producing their first
run of the game. And second baseman Emmanuel Burriss threw the relay on a
potential inning-ending double play into the Cardinals dugout that allowed
Brian Ludwick to score their second (unearned) run. But Matt Cain then struck
out Joe Thurston on a 93 mph fastball to end the inning. Ironically, Emmanuel
Burriss
may have had the defensive play of the evening in the next inning when,
with one on and two outs, he speared Chris Duncan‘s screaming liner through the
infield that prevented Albert Pujols from coming up with runners on base in a
4-2 game. And third baseman Juan Uribe may have had the next best defensive
play of the night in the next inning when he smothered Albert Pujols‘ hot shot
down the left field line and got up in time to throw and get the first out of
the eighth inning. And Edgar Renteria followed that on the next play by ranging
behind second base to barely glove Brian Ludwick‘s grounder up the middle and
spinning in time to just nip him at first base for the second out of the
inning. When Colby Rasmus next popped up to Edgar Renteria, Bob Howry had done
his job admirably.

       

Enter
Brian Wilson. Like relievers Jeremy Affeldt and Bob Howry before him, it took
Brian Wilson just ten pitches to get the job done. The three consecutive fly
outs were (1) to Aaron Rowand in centerfield; (2) a wind-twisted pop up down
the left field line that Juan Uribe caught in foul ground; and (3) a long fly
ball towards the right field stands that Randy Winn caught up to just before
having to run up onto the bullpen mound and caught it around his shin. It was a
nifty, well-pitched game that took under three hours to complete. I don’t
remember it being this consistently cold at night in San Francisco during the
month of May but maybe I’m just getting old. And maybe it works to the
disadvantage of the visiting ballplayers. Whatever. Go Giants! 

299

    

It was a nice Wednesday for a picnic. Randy Johnson was gunning for career victory number 299. The Braves were on the verge of getting swept by the Giants just after they got finished sweeping the Toronto Blue Jays in Atlanta last weekend. It was still the first third of the baseball season and no one was panicking on either team nor those in the stands neither.

       

Randy Johnson set down the first nine batters of the game mixing in three strikeouts into the mix. The Giants were getting after thirty-three year old rookie pitcher Kenshin Kawakami from the get-go. After starting off with two strikes in the second inning, Fred Lewis eventually walked, stole second base on Travis Ishikawa‘s strike out, took third base on a wild pitch shortly thereafter and scored easily on Juan Uribe‘s single into right field. Aaron Rowand doubled on the first pitch of the third inning and took third base on a passed ball shortly thereafter. After Edgar Renteria walked on four pitches and Randy Winn popped out, Bengie Molina swung through a hit and run play but Renteria stopped short of second base to avoid the out and get into a run down. But Aaron Rowand broke from third base and when the throw back to catcher David Ross short hopped him and bounced back in front of the plate, Rowand beat the race to the plate for the Giants’ second run.

       

Randy Johnson was the master of all he surveyed. He pitched to only one batter over the minimum through the first five innings but then allowed a lead off single to rookie centerfielder Jordan Schafer in the sixth inning. After Kenshin Kawakami sacrificed him to second base, first baseman Casey Kotchman drove him in with a single to leftfield for the Braves’ first run. But the threat was squelched when Randy Johnson struck out fellow future Hall of Famer, Larry “Chipper” Jones for the third time in the game and after he started the at bat with three called balls.

       

The Giants answered
by getting R.J. two more runs in the bottom of the sixth with doubles by
Emmanuel Burriss and Aaron Rowand and a single by Randy Winn driving in the
latter. Unfortunately, Emmanuel Burriss let third baseman Martin Prado‘s grounder to him leading off the seventh inning go by him for an error and reliever Brandon Medders next walked leftfielder Matt Diaz. Although Medders got Jeff Francoeur to fly out on the next pitch to Aaron Rowand in centerfield for the first out of the inning, Giants manager Bruce Bochy lifted Brandon for Jeremy Affeldt who then walked pinch hitter Brian McCann to load the bases. Although Jordan Schafer struck out, pinch hitter Garret Anderson drove in two runs with a single up the middle. Fortunately, shortstop Diory Hernandez bounced Affeldt’s next pitch to Emmanuel Burriss who forced Anderson at second base for the last out.

       

As they did in the previous inning, the Giants answered with four consecutive singles by Travis IshikawaJuan UribeEmmanuel Burriss, and pinch hitter Andres Torres thereby pumping the score back up to 6-3. Giants relief pitcher Merkin Valdez came in the eighth inning to set down the heart of the Braves’ lineup on seventeen pitches punctuated by striking out the afore-mentioned Hall of Fame cinch Chipper Jones on a 98 mph fastball. I learned later that it was the first time in Chipper’s sixteen-year career that he has worn a golden sombrero (i.e. four strikeouts in a game). The 2009 Merkin is a far cry from the 22 year-old skinny rookie I watched in his 2004 debut getting rocked by the Cincinnati Reds in a late inning game. He seems much bigger today in both stature and poise. I am slowly gaining confidence in him. It is somewhat ironic that we originally obtained him in a trade from the Atlanta Braves.  

       

Enter Brian Wilson in the ninth inning. Although he labored with a nine-pitch, two out double by former All Star catcher Brian McCannBrian Wilson earned his tenth save of the season on the next pitch to Jordan Schaffer who popped up down the line to Edgar Renteria and Randy Johnson moved to within his remarkable milestone on his stellar career: Victory Number 299. Poor Jordan Schafer. He was being ridden rather hard tonight by the fans in the bleachers. He wore the golden sombrero in the first game and made the last out tonight. But who cares? Not us hard hearten, bitterly cold bitten fans in the bleachers. We swept the always-ominous Atlanta in three games. We were feeling good. Bring on the St. Louis Cardinals! Go Giants!

        

Remember, Always Remember

       

Monday
was a day set aside to remember and honor all those Americans who have fought
and died in defense of our country. It is as patriotic as the Fourth of July if
not as celebratory. Memorial Day is a more somber experience calling for
personal introspection. And so it was at AT&T Park this holiday afternoon.
The players of both the Atlanta Braves and the Giants (as well as the umpired
themselves) wore red baseball caps with red, white and blue team emblems.

      

The
Giants once dedicated a five-foot high granite monument on Memorial Day in 1921
to the memory of former player Eddie Grant who died in World War One battle,
Argonne Forest, and placed it on the playing field of the Polo Grounds in
straight away centerfield 480′ away from home plate. The Giants conducted
remembrance ceremonies at the Eddie Grant Monument every Memorial Day
thereafter. In the photograph of Willie Mays making his famous catch in the
1954 World Series, the monument can be seen to the left of the Say Hey Kid.
(Link to photo: http://www.yorkblog.com/yorktownsquare/2847313257_df287ca331.jpg)
But when the Giants left the Polo Grounds for Seals Stadium in 1957, Eddie Grant’s
plaque mysteriously disappeared until it was reputedly discovered in 1999 in a
New Jersey attic that once belonged to a New York policeman. (Link to discovery
story: http://www.baseballreliquary.org/EddieGrantPlaque.htm)
In 2001, a WWI historical society offered to help the Giants install a replica
of the Eddie Grant plaque at AT&T Park but were rebuffed thereby creating
(or perpetuating) the myth of an Eddie Grant Curse preventing the Giants from
winning a championship much like the Billy Goat Curse linked to the Chicago
Cubs. (Link to replica story: http://www.worldwar1.com/tgws/thismonthgrant.htm)
If an identical monument were installed at AT&T Park 480′ feet away from
home plate, it would rest at the rear of the outfield food court at the spot
shown in the picture below.

       

Jonathan
Sanchez
started off the sunny afternoon game in fine fashion striking out the
side in the first inning on thirteen pitches. He allowed only two base runners
in the first three innings albeit one being Braves pitcher Javier Vasquez on a
ground rule double to deep centerfield. Javier bettered Jonathan by allowing
only one base runner in the first three innings and that being first baseman
rookie Travis Ishikawa who was generously credited with a single on an infield
popup because Javier ran into third baseman Martin Prado who was getting ready
to catch it.

Before
the top of the fourth inning began, centerfielder Aaron Rowand threw his warm
up ball into the bleachers and I caught it with my catcher’s mitt. There was a
preschooler sitting next me so I gave him the ball. Two innings later, he was
still holding the ball and staring at it. Jonathan Sanchez eventually finished
the fifth inning with an efficient 68 pitches thrown. In the bottom of the
fifth, Travis Ishikawa scooted a grounder through the infield and into right
infield, stole second base when Juan Uribe struck on the seventh pitch of his
at bat, and took third base two pitches later on a pass ball. Then, with a full
count, Emmanuel Burriss broke the goose egg with a single to right field.
Jonathan Sanchez laid down a two-strike sacrifice bunt that Javier Vasquez
unwisely threw to second base a split second too late to get a force out. So,
now with two outs, shortstop Edgar Renteria lined a double into the left field
corner that allowed Jonathan to circle the bases for the third run of the
inning.

 

However,
in return, Braves second baseman Kelly Johnson opened the next inning with a
triple into the deepest part of AT&T Park followed by two five-pitch walks
to load the bases. So when catcher Brian McCann singled to left field for the
Braves’ first run, Giants manager Bruce Bochy lifted Jonathan Sanchez from the
game. Relief pitcher Jason Miller struck out right fielder Jeff Francoeur on a
91 mph fastball but walked first baseman Casey Kotchman to force in the second
run. But shortstop Diory Hernandez bounced a ball to third baseman Juan Uribe
who got the force out at home. Then Jason Miller struck out centerfielder
Jordan Schafer with a 80 mph slider to strand all three base runners and
preserve the 3-2 lead.

In
recent weeks, us fans could almost predict a pitching duel for the remainder of
the game but under these pleasant blue skies, left fielder Fred Lewis and
Travis Ishikawa began the bottom of the sixth inning with singles. Although
Juan Uribe could only manage a fly ball to medium deep centerfield, Fred Lewis
beat Jordan Schafer‘s throw home by an eyelash for the Giants’ fourth run.
Then, with two outs, pinch hitter Nate Schierholtz smacked Javier Vasquez‘s 107th
(and last) pitch of the game into right field sending Travis Ishikawa home with
the fifth run on a nifty fade away slide.

 

But
the figurative fireworks were not finished yet. With left fielder Randy Winn on
second base and two were out in the seventh inning, Braves pitcher Buddy
Carlyle
intentionally walked Fred Lewis to pitch to Travis Ishikawa who already
had three hits for himself. I thought that was a counterintuitive decision by
Braves manager Bobby Cox at the time and my feelings were validated with an
exclamation point a moment later when Travis Ishikawa blasted a moon shot deep
into the right-centerfield Arcade seats for an 8-2 lead. By then, it was all
over but the cheering.

       

In
the bottom of the eighth inning when my buddy Aaron Rowand came up to bat, I
slipped my glove back on thinking maybe Aaron might send another ball my way.
Sure enough, on a 1-2 count, Rowand tied into Carlyle’s pitch sending the
baseball arcing directly towards me. Although it fell a few yards short of its
unintended target (me), it did elude the glove of Jordan Schafer and land up
against the outfield wall for a double.

        

All
in all, it was a very enjoyable game. The mood of the masses exiting the
ballpark after a Giants victory is almost as palpable as it is satisfying. It
is a perfect ending to a perfect endeavor which is what watching baseball is
all about. Plus, the fact were able to gather and honor our armed service
members with a minute of silence exactly at 3:00 p.m. was frosting on the cake.
Semper Fi, everyone, and go Giants! 

       

Betwixt a Bobblehead and a Bubblehead

      

Sunday was no ordinary day at the ballpark. By 2:00 p.m., throngs of thousands were already stretched out in lines meandering around the perimeter of AT&T Park like spaghetti-like strands of DNA with each human genome therein seeking their own personal Tim Lincecum bobblehead. I linked up to the centerfield entrance centipede but by 3:10, ten minutes after the gates opened, those bobblehead supplies ran out. So I ran over to join the leftfield entrance centipede but by the time I got to within sight of that entrance at 3:20, I could see that those supplies had also been exhausted.

Giving up, I walked back up King Street only to spot those little boxed prizes still being given away at the main entrance. So I joined that formless mass and by the time I squeezed through the turnstile, I happily received my unexpected reward; a bobblehead of the 2008 Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum. By the time I got to my seat, Mets starting pitcher, Mike Pelfrey (above), was already warming up by throwing long toss with his catcher, Omir Santos. As the evening evolved, Mike Pelfrey would emulate a bobblehead himself by issuing three balks to Giants runners that had a direct bearing on the final outcome of the game.

      

Even before the ESPN televised game of the week began at 5:05, the sold out ballpark was already nearly filled to capacity (above). The Mill Valley Middle School Choir (below) sang our National Anthem. And then, amid nearly perfect summer weather, the game began with Alex Cora blooping a double in front of the diving centerfielder Aaron Rowand. Although Luis Castillo sacrificed Alex Cora to third base, Carlos Beltran bounced out to first baseman Travis Ishikawa and Gary Sheffield likewise to second baseman Eugenio Velez leaving Alex Cora stranded at third. On the other hand, the Giants batters started out their first inning with two outs before Pablo Sandoval singled and, after a bobble or a bumble (actually a stumble off the mound) by Mike Pelfrey thereby sending Pablo Sandoval down to second base, catcher Bengie Molina drove in the Giants’ first run with a single. Then things got very interesting.

       

Pitcher Matt Cain walked the first three Mets he faced in the second inning. But on a 2-1 count, first baseman Jeremy Reed smacked a one hop shot to Travis Ishikawa who threw a strike home to force out David Wright and then received Bengie Molina‘s return throw to complete the double play. After that, it took Matt Cain only eight pitches to finally get Mike Pelfrey out and keep the Mets scoreless. I’ve seen Travis Ishikawa make several throws this season and they all seem to be right on the (big) money. If the Giants ever need a position player to take the mound in an emergency, I nominate that lefty Travis “Ish” to toss the pill to the “dish”. Another Travis Ishikawa bon mot for the night was when he was batting against 40-year old rookie Ken Takahashi leading off the seventh inning. With two strikes and protecting the plate, Travis took a one handed swing at Ken’s pitch that was very low and away only to single smartly through the infield. For just that one moment, I felt like I knew what it was like to watch baseball in Japan.

 

      

Matt Cain continued to struggle beyond the second inning. He threw two more walks and two more hits over the next three innings until he had his first three up/three down inning in the sixth which was his last. But before that, Matt Cain helped his own cause in the fifth inning when Mike Pelfrey balked Aaron Rowand to second base from whence he eventually scored the Giants’ second run on Matt Cain‘s surprising two strike single to centerfield. All in all, Mike Pelfrey committed three balks during the game. What a bubblehead!

      

Bob Howry pitched through Jeremy Reed‘s single in the seventh inning but when he gave up a walk to Luis Castillo leading off the eighth inning, Jeremy Affeldt came in and immediately gave up a line drive double off the leftfield wall to Carlos Beltran. With no out and two runs behind, Luis Castillo played it safe and held up at third base. But when Jeremy Affeldt struck out Gary Sheffield looking at a nasty 95 mph slider on the outside corner of the plate, it was a no brainer to walk the radioactive David Wright on four pitches to load the bases. Then pinch hitter Angel Pagan grounded his second pitch to newly recalled rookie Kevin Frandsen at shortstop who shoveled the ball immediately to newly installed second baseman rookie Emmanuel Burriss who pivoted and slung the ball quickly to rookie Travis Ishikawa at first base completing the double play and the eighth inning.

      

Amazingly, the Giants still led 2-0 after twelve Mets had reached base in the first eight innings. Enter Brian Wilson. No teeth gnashing, nail biting, and/or hair pulling tonight. Brian dispatched the bottom of the Mets line up in short order punctuated by a 99 mph strike out of Jeremy Reed (above). After pinch hitter Ramon Castro grounded out to third baseman Pablo Sandoval, the Giants walked off the field victoriously for the first time since the Tuesday night game against the Nationals. This was an unorthodox victory but one that we will gladly take in a heartbeat… or a bobblehead. Go Giants!

      

Was It McCovey Cove or Bodega Bay?

      

It was a scene directly out of the movie “The Birds” concerning cawing aviaries circling above unsuspecting humans all the while slowly unmasking their unified malevolent intent to injure, torment, and/or destroy those ignorant bi-pedalistic behemoths below. But in the black and white Alfred Hitchcock horror film shot in Sonoma County in 1963, the motives of the feathered fear mongers were unspoken. However on Monday night in San Francisco, the message of those wheeling white flocks of seagulls was clear: The Giants were inviting doom by dilly-dallying around with the Washington D.C. Nationals baseball team late in this wackily played game. But I’m getting ahead of the story.

It was a bitter, biting wind that began to blow Monday evening. Randy Johnson gave up consecutive singles in the first inning before he ended the threat to rightfielder Adam Dunn and centerfielder Elijah Dukes on off-speed pitches in the 86-87 mph range. It was fortunate for Randy that he did since leftfielder Joshua Willingham led off the second inning with a majestic fly ball that bounced half way up the left field fair pole. But Randy Johnson ended that inning striking out pitcher Daniel Cabrera. In fact, Randy had at least one strike out in every inning he pitched tonight except the last one; the sixth. But I’m getting ahead of the story.

The Giants responded to Willingham’s big blast by stringing together three singles and a walk in the bottom of the second for two runs. The big knock came from first baseman’s Travis Ishikawa‘s bat driving in Fred Lewis from second base with the second run. Maybe hitting eighth in the line up agrees with Travis? And the Giants added a third run in the next inning on an identical three singles and a walk. But the Giants also left two runners on base in each of those innings and only led 3-1… soon to become just 3-2 in the next inning when second baseman Ronnie Belliard crushed a home run into the left field bleachers after Randy Johnson had struck out the first two batters in that inning on those same 86-87 mph sliders(?).

And then things got really interesting. Pablo Sandoval led of the fifth inning with a double and went to third base on Bengie Molina‘s first pitch ground out to shortstop. Randy Winn got hit by a pitch and Aaron Rowand struck out on an 80 mph piece of junk And then when Fred Lewis popped the next pitch high into left field, I was ready to mark it down as the last out of the inning in my scorebook. But Joshua Willingham changed direction and ran quickly back in to catch the ball only to have it sail over his outstretched glove by inches for a two run, too out error. Weird.

      

Even weirder was Daniel Cabrera walking pitcher Randy Johnson on four pitches just after walking Travis Ishikawa on four intentional balls to load up the bases. And then Emmanuel Burriss walked on eight pitches to drive in a run. And then Edgar Renteria walked on six pitches to drive in a run and drive Daniel Cabrera out of the cold night and into the warm showers. And then relief pitcher Logan Kensing walked Pablo Sandoval driving in Randy Johnson from third base with the Giants’ eighth run of the game. I thought this could conceivably go on forever until Bengie Molina swung at the second pitch he saw in the fifth inning to make his second (and last) out in the inning. And then I thought, “Uh oh, Bengie didn’t give Randy enough time to relax in the dugout.”

Sure enough, Randy started the sixth inning giving up a long home run to Ryan Zimmerman who had already lengthened his hitting streak to 29 straight games earlier this evening. When the next two batters, Adam Dunn and Elijah Dukes, produced the Nationals’ run of the game on a single and double, respectively, Bruce Bochy brought in Justin Miller to put out the fire. As if to squelch any Nationals thoughts of a comeback, Randy Winn, Aaron Rowand, and Travis ishikawa added two more runs for the Giants in the sixth inning and added another in the eighth inning on hits by Fred Lewis and Aaron Rowand capped off by reliever Osiris Matos legging out a single to second baseman Willie Harris in short right field driving in Rowand with the eleventh run of the game for the Giants. Those who were left of the 23,934 paid attendees of cold AT&T Park were very happy.

      

But like Randy Johnson in the sixth inning, running the bases in the eighth inning seemed to tire Osiris Matos in the ninth inning. Ryan Zimmerman‘s batting average stood at .363 after he blasted a three run homer in the last frame. And while the sea gulls began their aerial uprising by soaring sinisterly around the ballpark on this cold and chilly night, Osiris walked Adam Dunn and then the next reliever, Brandon Medders, allowed a single to Elijah Dukes. And the few freezing throngs left were worrying.

       

Enter Brian Wilson. Will he end this madness? Will the curse of the freaky feathery flocks be forsaken? Three straight fastballs to Joshua Willingham ended all doubt. The Giants triumphed and Randy Johnson won career victory number 298. And Brian dispelled the potentially fowl portent with his arms righteously crossed (barely seen below).

      

I trust Wednesday’s day game will be warmer, but who knows for sure? Nobody. Not even Alfred. Go Giants!

Round Pegs Meet Round Holes

It’s a nice day for a ballgame. It’s neither too cold nor too windy. I bought my repast and refreshments before getting on the ferry to the city. Outside the ballpark, I had a leisurely lunch reading the new issue of the USA Sports Weekly and listening to “The Razor and Mr. T” on the local sports radio station. I learned from Manny Pacquiao‘s trainer that Manny will probably knock out Ricky Hutton before the ninth round next Saturday. We shall see.

      

The gates opened to the public at 5:15 p.m. and I went in to watch the Dodgers take batting practice. Standing at the outfield wall with his young son was this middle aged white-bearded white guy wearing a Dodgers uniform and artificial Mannyesque dreadlocks under his blue batting helmet. He shouted at Matt Kemp to throw him up a souvenir baseball but Matt just laughed at him and threw the baseball up towards another group of fans. As the faux Manny father took his son and walked back up the bleachers, I seriously considered whether it was my civic duty to report this man to Protective Child Services so that they could rescue that poor little boy and put him safely away in a foster home for mercy’s sake.

Tonight was the first time Boy Wonder (Tim Lincecum) would pitch against Bat—-Crazy Man (Manny Ramirez). Adding to the zaniness was Dodgers manager Joe Torre‘s decision to bat his pitcher Eric Stults eighth in batter order before Juan Pierre. Not since Dodgers manager Walter Alston batted hall of fame pitcher Don Drysdale seventh against the Pittsburgh Pirates had any Dodgers pitcher ever begun a game batting higher than ninth in the order. And Don Drysdale went on to hit seven home runs, a triple, and nineteen RBIs in 1965. Eric Stults has only has nine hits and two RBIs in his four years in the majors. (And not only did Don Drysdale not get a hit in that game but he ended up getting charged with the 4-2 loss.) I suspect Joe Torre is pulling a gimmick trying to get inside young Tim Lincecum’s head.

      

The mercurial Rafael Furcal came up and shot Lincecum’s first pitch of the game to the opposite side of the diamond where third baseman Pablo Sandoval snagged it out of the air on its way to left field. Them the methodical Orlando Hudson looked at a pitch but then clubbed a grounder down the first base line where Rich Aurilia short-hopped it before it could continue to the outfield corner and stepped on first for the second out. And finally, the mysterious Manny Ramirez also looked at a pitch before he stroked the next offering to the opposite field where rookie Nate Schierholtz rushed in to catch the sinking liner below the knees with two hands for the third out. Five pitches for three outs was a good omen to start off a game.

The Giants soon amplified that positive portent when Edgar Renteria hit a single to right field with one out and Pablo Sandoval followed suit with a single to left field. And then Bengie Molina cashed them all in with a deep fly ball to centerfield that bounced high off the wall and past Juan Pierre for a triple. Bengie Molina has only hit five triples in his twelve-year career. That is not to say that Bengie is a slow runner but this fly ball was a true thing of beauty to behold. And so was the Giants’ 2-0 lead after the first inning.

      

Over the next six innings, Tim Lincecum struck out seven swinging Dodgers (six on slow 85 mph change ups) and gave up no runs on three hits and two bases on balls. Meanwhile, the Giants battered Eric Stults for five runs in the initial three innings on more hits by Edgar Renteria, Aaron Rowand, Nate Schierholtz, and Emmanuel Burriss. When Fred Lewis walked with two outs in the sixth inning and came around to score the Giants’ sixth run on Edgar Renteria‘s double to centerfield in the sixth inning, the Giants fans couldn’t have been happier and the Dodgers fans couldn’t have been quieter. And then Bengie Molina led off the seventh inning with a home run into the bleachers and all was right with the world.

        

But then the world began to spin off its axel and the center was unable to hold. The Dodgers led off the eighth inning with three straight hits scoring Juan Pierre for their first run. Then Lincecum walked Ramirez on five pitches to load the bases and the 2008 Cy Young winner’s night was finished. In came lefty Jeremy Affeldt and, on his very first pitch, induced the ever-dangerous Andre Ethier to hit a sharp grounder to substitute third baseman Juan Uribe who stepped on the bag and threw to first base in time for a double play. Although substitute Dodgers catcher Brad Ausmus drove in Manny Ramirez with the second run with a single, Affeldt won his six pitch battle with Casey Blake when Juan Uribe leaned over the railing at the stand and caught his foul ball for the last out of the eighth inning.

However, the Dodgers fans began to get very vocal through all this. And the Giants fans began to get very demonstrative in their response. And the policemen were running up and down the bleacher stands with ballpark security personnel in tow leading miscreants and misfeasors by the dozens down the stands, through the exits and out of the stadium in their individual walk of shame as the pictures below detail.

      

But the Giants righted the listing ship in the bottom of the eighth inning primarily on the strength of htting by Edgar Renteria, Juan Uribe, Bengie Molina, and Aaron Rowand inability to duck out of the way of a Guillermo Mota shoulder high hard slider. The picture below shows Emmanuel Burriss up with the bases loaded before he eventually struck out on a 93 mph Mota fastball. So even when Brian Wilson drew out the drama in the ninth inning with a run on a couple of hits, the Dodgers finally succumbed at 10:15 p.m. to a score of 9 -3. I slept well last night. The Giants were able to end April with an even 10-10 record and I was able to witness six of those victories in person at AT&T Park. I think May will be even more interesting to watch.

     

Zito’s Zeros

        

I entered the ballpark Wednesday at 12:15 p.m. and immediately collected my reusable black Giants grocery bag commemorating Earth Day. Cool. And a cool light breeze blew a light haze over the light crowd, 26,563, purportedly was the smallest crowd ever to watch a game at AT&T Park since it opened on April 11, 2000. But that didn’t bother me in the least. I like a lot of room out in the bleachers; less people I can offend as I shout encouragement to my team. I even cheered Barry Zito as he played long toss in front of me with his catcher Pablo Sandoval on the fair line before the game. I was determined to give Barry all my positive energy today so he could match the heroic efforts of the Giants’ prior four starting pitchers.

Sure enough, Barry set down the Padres 1-2-3 in the first inning on twelve pitches and 1-2-3 (assisted by Chase Headley‘s double play) on only seven pitches in the second inning. Barry also escaped injury in the third inning despite two hits inflictedby Padres Luis Rodriguez and Scott Hairston. But the Giants were only able to muster two hits over the first seven innings against the Padres’ big (6′ 10″) righty Chris Young. (Chris Young has to throw right-handed because because the Padres don’t have a left-handed pitcher on their staff!) Ergo, this game turned into a fast-paced pitchers’ duel in which Barry rose to the occasion beautifully striking out five (including three in the fourth inning) and walking nary a one as only one Padre, David Eckstein, advanced as far as third base in the sixth inning before Barry induced power hitting third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff to foul out to Pablo Sandoval on a acrobatic sliding catch. But, because no Giants could likewise advance past Travis Ishikawa‘s eventual journey to third base in the fifth inning, Barry got lifted in the seventh inning for pinch hitter Nate Schierholtz who struck out on three pitches and the last Chris Young were to throw in the game.

And then things got interesting. Giants’ perennial pain-in-the-butt, centerfielder Scott Hairston, led off the eighth inning with a double off Bob Howry allowing equally perturbing David Eckstein to sacrifice him to third base. In came tall, hard-throwing Jeremy Affedlt and with eleven pitches, he sat down the fearsome duo Brian Giles and Adrian Gonzalez looking at Jeremy’s sweeping 80 mph curve balls to end the Padres’ best offensive threat of the game. Meanwhile, Padres reliever Luke Gregerson also met the day’s gold pitching standard by blowing through the Giants first six hitters of their lineup with only nineteen pitches causing three ground outs and three strike outs swinging. It was all Giants closer Brian Wilson could do to keep the game scoreless into extra innings despite giving up a single to Kevin Kouzmanoff in the ninth inning and a leadoff walk to pinch hitter Jody Gerut in the tenth inning.

  

So it was left up to substitute centerfielder Andres Torres to get the Giants third hit of the day with one out in the tenth inning and then easily stole second base on the first pitch by reliever Edwin Moreno to Eugenio Velez (pinch hitting for Brian Wilson). But Eugenio struck out three pitches later and Padres manager Bud Black decided to intentionally walk Fred Lewis with his .356 batting average in order to pitch to rookie Emmanuel Burriss with his less-than-imposing .163 batting average. But Giants skipper Bruce Bochy said, “Not so fast, Bud!” Bruce sent up not-so-fast Bengie Molina to pinch hit for his very fast second baseman Emmanuel. Bengie Molina swung wildly at Edwin Moreno‘s first pitch outside the strike zone but held up at Edwin’s second pitch similarly situated. And when Bengie looked at Edwin’s third pitch that could have easily been called a strike, I told myself, “Bengie’s going to swing at the next pitch” and I took my little Canon Power Shot camera out of its case in anticipation.

         

Sure enough, Bengie sent the next (and final) pitch of the game on a high arc out to near where I was sitting as I snapped away with my camera. The ball landed just beyond the glove of Scott Hairston, who was converging at the outfield wall with left fielder Chase Headley, and bounced off the warning track, over the wall, and high into the bleachers beyond. Andres Torres danced home with the only, and winning, run of the game and all the Giants danced joyfully out near second base where Bengie “Big Money” Molina came through in the clutch again. If I can post those pictures on this blog, I will. (If Keith Olbermann can post pictures on his mlblog, why can’t I?) But it was an epic game; even “epicier” than the last two 2-0 Giants victories I witnessed here this homestand. Barry Zito gave up zero runs and zero walks for a zero ERA but a zero decision nonetheless. It’s a crying shame that Barry was unable to get rewarded with a victory but the Giants’ team victory derived from such a superlative effort on Barry’s part is reward enough, right? Now if the Giants can just get their bats to do the talking, this season will get very interesting. Experts say Chase Field in Phoenix is a hitter’s park so we’ll see if the Giants can chase a few Diamondback pitchers back to their showers this weekend. Go Giants! 

           

Opening Day

It was raining like heck Tuesday morning. And not just h-e-double hockey sticks kind of heck but honest-to-goodness mythical Hades kind of heck. That’s how much it was raining Tuesday morning as my sleeping peepers opened its orbs to the dim sunlight struggling through the only window in my industrial warehoused studio loft. But I was excited nonetheless while showering and dressing in my new gray Giants “away” jersey with my last name and favorite number on the back. And then I prepared my backpack with tickets, camera, peanuts, glove, orange rally wig, sweatshirt, rain gear, scorebook, and whatnot.

By the time my friend Patrick and I had reached the Bay Bridge, the rain had finally abated. We parked in the Red’s Java House parking lot but that restaurant was already so full of fans that we walked along the Embarcadero to the other white Java House across from the ballpark and ordered our burgers. I slugged down two Pabst Blue Ribbons with mine while we sat in the back room looking out over the pewter-chopped waters. And while it was still chilly and overcast outside, the radio weather forecast confidently predicted that all the rains had passed. All was as it should be: Time to play ball.

      

By the time we entered the ballpark, the crowd was buzzing, the flags were flapping, and Renel Brooks-Moon was barking out the roster of names as the identified players dutifully took their places along the two perpendicularly intersecting “fair” lines (because any ball that lands on the white lines is fair and in play). It wasn’t until after 2006 American Idol winner Taylor Hicks finished the National Anthem that I got to sit down and write down the opening lineups. And then, with the ceremonial first pitch was thrown out by US Airways airline Captain Chester “Sully” Sullenberger and the game finally got under way.

2008 Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum‘s first pitch of the season was called a ball… which would be a recurring theme this day because Tim walked Brewers leadoff hitter Rickie Weeks on five pitches. Although lanky right fielder Corey Hart helped out Timmy on the next pitch with a force out to Edgar Renteria, Tim hit Ryan Braun on the fourth pitch of his at bat. It took thirteen more pitches (including a wild pitch to heighten the tension) for Prince Fielder and J.J. Hardy to end the inning on strikeouts without scoring a run. But then Tim walked Mike Cameron on five pitches to open the second inning which haunted him twenty pitches and two outs later after giving up back-to-back doubles to pitcher Jeff Suppan and Rickie Weeks before finally ending the nightmare by firing three straight pitches past Corey Hart for the last out.

Meanwhile, the Giants got their party started with a bases clearing triple by rookie first baseman Travis Ishikawa in the first inning. And the Giants answered the Brewers’ two runs in the second with another of their own when rookie second baseman Emmanuel Burriss bodily interrupted the natural flight path of an errant Jeff Suppan pitch and scooted to third when Lincecum’s grounder saw its way past infielders and on into left field before scampering home after Randy Winn hit a fly ball to the center of the outfield. However, the young Lincecum could not make proper use of his good fortune because he burned through another twenty-six pitches by allowing Ryan Braun to single and eventually score and he was done for the day.

      

And the Giants gave up their lead the next inning when rookie pitcher Joe Martinez gave up three consecutive single after hitting the speedy Rickie Weeks with an errant pitch of his own. It was during the midst of this frustration that I shouted, “Get ready, Edgar! The next ball is coming to you.” And then, feeling in fine form, I shouted to nearby center fielder Aaron Rowand, “And we want line drives from you, Aaron! We need a bunch of singles from you! We don’t need the big flies!” I said this because Rowand was constantly taking huge upper cuts last year while his batting average sank. And he popped up the first pitch he saw today leaving Travis Ishikawa stranded on third base. But then, as if by magic, the inning ended on a routine double play grounder to Edgar Renteria just as I had predicted.

And, as if to add further poignancy to my impromptu premonitions, the Giants retook the lead for good minutes later when Aaron Rowand again swung at the first pitch of his at bat sending the ball soaring majestically into the left field bleachers and both he and Ishikawa around the bases and on into the dugout. Everyone razzed me good-naturedly as I gladly ate my humble pie. And I was about the only one around me who was cheering and giving Rowand a standing ovation when he eventually retook the field on defense again. And Patrick was about the only around me laughing while Aaron spent most of that time in between innings doing a series of deep-knee squats with his backside facing me. But I didn’t take it personally. I was just glad I was able to help motivate him to refine his swing and turn this game around.

Most of the rest of the game was a blur to me. We joked with our neighbors and cheered our Giants as they padded their lead in the fifth and seventh innings with consecutive walks and a Bengie Molina solo home run, respectively. And Aaron repeated his heroics again that later inning by driving in rookie Pablo Sandoval with a double down the left field fair line. Even the gray clouds parted by this time of the game and blue skies emerged giving the Giants fans further warmth and sunny dispositions both literally and figuratively near and far. There were no obstacles nor interruptions in the vast unbroken horizon of the Giants Nation that day but, as we all know, storm clouds have a way of blowing to and fro capriciously and unconcerned with the hopes and prayers of hapless Giants fans observing and shaking their fists in futility below. Heaven help us all….

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