Is Bonds To Blame, Too?

(originally written 4/27/10)

When I first learned the Giants would be squaring off against Roy Halladay, the 4-0 ace of the Phillies, my first thought was that they’d be no-hit. They’d been dreadful with the bats for their last seven games (11 total runs; somehow they won two of the seven), especially with men in scoring position.

Then I gave the subject more thought. Halladay wasn’t going to no-hit the Giants. He was going to no-fair-ball the Giants. As hot as he was, and as cold as we were, all signs pointed to Halladay striking out 22 batters, picking off one walk, throwing another walk out stealing, and getting three others on foul pops.

Amazingly, Panda, ice-cold Edgar and company battered the future Hall-of-Famer for 10 hits in seven innings—none by their most fearless and menacing hitter, the gimpy Juan Uribe (note: I didn’t say “best”, so don’t start a debate) while Jon Sanchez survived a Kleenex-sized strike zone to get the W. Did you also forget about the Sanchez/Chase Utley history as I had? Sanchez once buzzed one over Utley’s head, and the star 2B held his composure, avenging his brushback with a majestic home run to right field. Though Sanchie did plunk Utley, it was with a breaking pitch, and no flare-ups took place. 

True, Eli Whiteside smacked a double and a line-drive HR off the pole, and true, Andres Torres made a ridiculous, backtracking, twice-redirecting catch that brought back memories of Alex Sanchez (without the catch), but the BEST part of this game: Mike Krukow eliminated two fans who thought it acceptable to show up for a Phillies-Giants game IN SAN FRANCISCO wearing Dodger caps (Duane Kuiper: “These guys made a wrong turn.”) That was on line with picketers outside a Baskin Robbins protesting Wal-Mart’s unfair business practices.

Next, Todd Wellemeyer saved his rotation spot by outlasting the ancient Jamie Moyer, whose career began right around the time the Pilgrims hit Plymouth Rock. He was supported by Matt Downs’ first MLB homer.


The moment we will always take from that game—Philly’s new $125 million-dollar man, Ryan Howard, laced what he predicted would be a sure double. Nate Schierholtz may not have a very powerful bat, but the same cannot be said about his arm, which erased a shocked Howard as he decelerated into 2B! Howard would rope one to Schierholtz again in his next AB; this time, he all but went statuesque upon hitting 1B. We athletes call that “intimidation”.

While I’m on Howard, there are people who don’t think he’s worth his new contract because he’s one-dimensional and strikes out too much. Which is among the dumbest things I’ve heard. Howard K’s 200 times a year and still has a .300 career average. Play a full season and you’ll make at least 400 outs. Who cares HOW he makes them when he produces like he does? Denouncing Ryan Howard for striking out is like Brian Austin Green rejecting a horny Megan Fox because she’s a Republican.

The third and final game of the series is the one that left people talking, and turned bartenders into counselors/therapists for the next day-plus(since the Giants were off the next day.) I think I can sum up the game’s disappointing, shocking end when I tell you about a conversation I had with a stranger on Friday morning. He mentioned how the Giants took two of three from St. Louis and then swept Philadelphia. I corrected him: they lost the final game against Philadelphia. The guy couldn’t believe it. He’d turned the game off after eight, fully expecting Tim Lincecum to mow through the Phillies in the 9th. I explained how Tim gave up a one-out walk, followed by Brian Wilson’s loading of the bags and Jayson Werth’s three-run double off the RF foul line. 

The guy’s first response: “WHY’D THEY TAKE OUT LINCECUM??”

Because these Giants are going to go, at minimum, deep into September, and as Bruce Bochy said, why use Lincecum’s bullets up now when they’ll be needed desperately later down the road? We didn’t need to send Philly a “message”; that had been done in Game 1 against Halladay. Wilson is an All-Star closer and deservedly so. Leaving Lincecum in is no guarantee that the win is preserved! I may have given Tim one more batter than Boch did, but I support the move. Werth’s hit was a total fluke—it just happened to be a three-run fluke that prevented a 5-0 start from Lincecum. 


People have a right to be upset about the loss, but not to blame everyone from Bochy to Wilson to Schierholtz for what was a serendipitous hit by a very good player. Flukes happen. Franco Harris’ immaculate reception? The Lorenzo Charles putback? More recently, the Sharks’ Dan Boyle accidentally scoring for the Avalanche? Sometimes, there’s just nobody to blame but Lady Luck.

⦁    Aaron Rowand, recovered from his beaning, is eligible to be activated from the D.L. Sunday. Count on seeing him in the lineup. (Vicente Padilla, who beaned Rowand, is now on the D.L. himself). Renteria, who was mired in an awful slump after his hot start, went 7-for-13 against the Phillies with four RBI and is still over .300 for the year. 


⦁    April 27th marked birthdays for ex-Giants Pedro Feliz (35) and Chad Zerbe (38); April 28th for Jim Poole (44) and Chad Santos (29); April 29th for J.R. Phillips (40) and John VanderWal (44), and May 1st for Randy Kutcher (50) and Phil Garner (61). 


⦁    Ex-Giant news: Livan Hernandez continues to dazzle for Washington; his 3-1, 0.87 performance is a big reason why the Nats have begun 13-10…Kevin Frandsen was waived by Boston and claimed by the Angels…40-year-old reliever Alan Embree was called up by Boston from AAA…Merkin Valdez was outrighted to AAA by the Blue Jays…Kevin Correia has begun 2010 4-1 with a 3.86 ERA for the Padres…Pittsburgh has a team ERA nearing 7.00, but Jack Taschner is at 3.95 in 10 games, with 14 K in 13.2 innings…Splinter-laden Omar Vizquel is 2-for-22 for the White Sox; he is about 300 hits shy of 3,000 career.


⦁    League news: Injured All-Stars Cliff Lee and Ian Kinsler made their season debuts 4/30 for Seattle and Texas, respectively…Oakland endured a tough injury week, losing SP Brett Anderson and C Kurt Suzuki to the disabled list. Justin Duchscherer (hip) may not be far behind…Pirates ace Zach Duke, who began the year 2-0, has given up 14 ER in his last nine IP and watched his ERA balloon to 6.11…Pudge Rodriguez has been another veteran surprise for the Nats, batting .413.

 

Jason Varitek, longtime Red Sox starting C now serving as backup, has four homers in just 31 AB. Only Dustin Pedroia has more among Red Sox…highly touted Brewer rookie Alcides Escobar is hitting .250, but has only K’d 10 times in 80 AB…entering May, the Pirates have a team average of .236 (with five regulars under .220), and a team ERA of 6.71, yet somehow went 10-13 in April. John Russell has MY vote for Manager of the Year.