Madison Bumgarner is on the bump tonight for the Giants’ first in a three-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies at AT&T Park. The last time Bumgarner pitched against the Phillies was April 17, 2012, also at AT&T Park. Joe Blanton started for the Phillies. The Giants won that game, 4-2, thanks to a strong outing by Bumgarner, some nice situational hitting by the Giants, and three shutout innings from the Giants bullpen. Bumgarner pitched six innings total, giving up two runs on seven hits and one walk and striking out two.
The surprise of the night came from Buster Posey. Remember, it was Posey’s first season back after sitting out most of 2011 with a reconstructed left leg. If there was concern about how Posey would perform on his return, this game went a long way in alleviating it. Posey went 3-for-4 at the plate. More encouraging, however, was when he put his leg to the test before 42,000+ by stealing third base in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Yep, Buster Posey stole third base.
The throw from Philly catcher Carlos Ruiz beat the none-too-fast Posey by a country mile, but thanks to a headfirst slide by Posey and a high tag by Philly third baseman Placido Polanco, Posey’s left hand touched the bag before Polanco’s glove brushed Posey’s shoulder. The stolen base would set up the Giants’ final run of the game as Posey scored on a ground ball to Blanton by Brandon Crawford.
“It kind of surprised all of us,” Bruce Bochy later said of Posey’s steal. “He knows if they forget about him at second base he has the green light to go. I think he thought he was moving faster than he was and made a nice slide to avoid the tag.”
Even if you’re not Superman, it helps to feel like Superman.
Tonight, Cliff Lee toes the rubber for the Phillies. Last Wednesday, Lee went six innings against the Cleveland Indians, giving up five runs on nine hits and two walks and striking out four. The Indians won that game, 6-0.
You know Buster Posey is coming out of a slump when KNBR’s Dave Flemming starts gushing about him like a schoolgirl in the postgame wrap. You could already see signs of Flemming’s excitement seep out last night immediately after Posey hit his game-tying two-run home run over the centerfield wall in the eighth inning. Flemming
wrote on his Pee-Chee tweeted to his followers:
Tell me more, tell me more, Dave. Like does he have a car?
I kid Dave because he has no idea who I am or where I live, so he can’t physically hurt me. But I have to admit, I was feeling a bit of a crush on Posey myself last night after that home run. It arced so beautifully against the night sky. The stars and planets had nothing on it.
See, I’m moved to poetry.
The two-run shot put the Giants back into the game, a game it didn’t seem in the stars for them to win thanks to Ryan Vogelsong’s less than stellar pitching performance. The home run was especially impressive after the D-backs’ David Hernandez brushed Posey back with the previous two pitches.
“He can hit,” Duane Kuiper said after the home run. “He can hit,” Mike Krukow confirmed.
But the big star of the night was Brandon Belt. There’s nothing like a game-winning knock to bring back a struggling hitter’s confidence. Granted, Bruce Bochy made Belt his pet project before the game. And Tony Sipp helped set up the hit by throwing Belt three straight sliders. But give the kid some credit. After jumping out of his shoes on the first pitch and watching the second go low and outside, Belt waited for the third pitch, a slider that was up and caught too much of the plate, and looped it for an easy line drive to center. And it was a pressure situation. Tie game, bottom of the ninth, a runner in scoring position. Making these kinds of adjustments during an at bat is exactly what Belt needs to do. Props to Bochy for putting him into the game at a key moment. Bochy knew Belt needed the lift.
How about Cody Ross last night? He knocks in two runs in the first inning and makes a spectacular sliding catch in right field in the sixth to rob Buster Posey of a hit. Almost makes you wish the Giants didn’t trade him. Almost.
Tonight, Matt Cain takes the bump. The last time Cain pitched against the D-backs was on September 26 of last year at AT&T park. He pitched seven shutout innings, struck out six, and allowed only four hits and one walk. The previous two games, his control had been an issue–he walked nine batters–but this game he was mastering his pitches, getting ahead of hitters early. All his pitches were working for him. “It seemed like he was really effortless tonight,” Buster Posey told reporters after the game. “The ball was coming out good, and he was moving the ball around to both sides of the plate. He did a nice job.”
After Cain’s last two disastrous starts, it’s the kind of “nice job” he needs to do tonight.
The regular season is only a week old, yet already spring training seems like a distant memory.
Ah, the good old days. Remember? When the two Brandons were hitting over .400?
Those days have disappeared into the mists of time. Now that games actually matter, Brandon Crawford is hitting .200, with 4 hits in 20 at bats. Brandon Belt is hitting .071, with just 1 hit in 14 at bats.
Brandon Belt, who was born with a slugger’s name, is hitting below .100.
To be fair to Belt, he’s coming off an ailment that sucker-punched him prior to opening day and forced him to sit out the first three games. Since returning to the lineup, he has hit some balls hard that, unfortunately, found their way into opponents’ gloves.
But what happened to Crawford’s bat? Crawford has struck out six times in six games. That’s already half the number of strikeouts he had through all of spring training.
And what about Buster Posey? He’s matching Crawford, hitting .200 with 4 hits in 20 at bats.
Isn’t that like showing up to a party wearing the same dress as someone else?
Posey’s numbers are all the more troubling because, well, he’s Buster Posey. The 2012 MVP. Posey had an uninspiring spring as well. At one point, he was hitting .235. His bat came alive toward the end of spring training, bringing his average up to .294. Now it’s quiet again. He has yet to hit a single home run in the regular season.
Most troubling of all, however, is Marco Scutaro. Scutaro’s numbers were lousy during spring training and are abysmal in the regular season. In spring training, he hit .227, with 10 hits in 44 at bats. Those look like power numbers compared to what he’s doing in the regular season, where he’s hitting .087, with 2 hits in 23 at bats.
You read that right, .087. With no RBIs. Last year’s clutch hitter, whom you could almost always count on with runners in scoring position, has no RBIs in six games.
The regular season numbers are also poor for Gregor Blanco, Hector Sanchez, and Andres Torres.
As a team, the Giants are hitting .224 in the regular season. They’ve scored a total of 15 runs in 6 games, only 1 run more than the Cardinals scored last night alone.
The bright spots in the lineup are Angel Pagan, hitting .333, Pablo Sandoval, hitting .318, and Hunter Pence, hitting .286. Sandoval and Pence each have two home runs.
I know. It’s early. And even hot bats couldn’t have overcome last night’s 14-3 drubbing by the Cardinals. But Matt Cain’s spooky unraveling after three perfect innings can at least be attributed, in part, to the break in routine caused by the World Series ring extravaganza (the other part would be that the Cardinals are damn fine hitters).
The Giants’ bats went AWOL before any banners were flown, MVPs awarded, or rings handed out.
Here’s hoping they find them, and soon.