Saturday, March 15, 2008

Giants 11, Diamondbacks 6, March 14th

The Giants found some offense to support a very nice effort by Jonathan Sanchez as he became the 1st Giants' starter to go 5 full innings. Sanchez pretty much cruised through 4 of the 5 innings, with the only blip coming in the 2nd. In the 2nd, the first 2 batters he faced scored as he gave up double, walk, walk, single. In the other 4 innings put together, Sanchez only gave up 1 additional single and zero walks. Sanchez had to get 4 outs in his final inning as he struck out the 3rd batter and a wild pitch got by Benjie Molina to allow the batter to take 1B. This allowed Sanchez to strike out 3 batters in his final inning (also a flyball out).

For the day, Sanchez had 6 strikeouts, 4 swinging and 2 looking. Also very encouraging was the fact that this was against a D-Backs team who brought all of their starting position players to Scottsdale. So this was not just another ho-hum spring training performance against a bunch of non-roster players......this was the real deal. Those of us who are not at all enjoying the Giants' 5-11-2 spring record, can be comforted by the fact that the D-Backs are only slightly better at 6-11-1.

The Giants play back-to-back split squad games on Saturday and Sunday, so they will be using a few pitchers from the Minor League camp over the next few days. That was the case yesterday as Kevin Gryboski followed Sanchez to the mound. After getting 2 quick outs to start the inning, Kevin gave up single, single, walk, a bases clearing double, followed by yet another single. It looked like batting practice out there for the D-backs. Gryboski was replaced by Bartolome Fortunato, who immediately gave up another single to score the 4th run charged to Gryboski before he got the 3rd out of the inning on a flyball to CF.

Fortunato also pitched the 7th inning. After giving up a leadoff single followed by a fly out to shallow RF, Fortunato gave up what I was sure was a line drive single to the right of the 2B bag. Eugenio Velez had other ideas however, as he got a great jump on the ball and hurled his body at the ball, laying flat out and catching the ball on a line. The runner at 1B, like me, thought it was a sure basehit, got caught way off the bag and was doubled up easily 4-3 for the final out of the inning. Just a great play by Velez. He seems to be better on "reaction" plays where he just reacts and doesn't have time to think about it. His quickness also doesn't hurt in those situations.

The 8th belonged to Tyler Walker. Tyler had an easy 1-2-3 10 pitch inning (7 strikes) and recored 1 strikeout. Brian Wilson closed out the game and allowed a leadoff single. Ivan Ochoa then booted a sure double play ball at SS for an error to allow runners at the corners with nobody out. Wilson responded really well by getting the next three batters without allowing a run. Wilson needed 15 pitches to close out the game, 9 of them strikes. Wilson did not have more than a 2 ball count on any batter. Throwing strikes is the key........this staff drives me nuts when they come out and walk batters and give up base hits when they are forced to throw the ball over the middle of the plate on a 3 ball count.

Offensively, the Giants had a field day off off Brandon Webb and his successors. The team got 16 hits to go with their 11 runs. The big hitting star was Eugenio Velez who replaced Ray Durham after only 1/2 inning and went 2 for 4 with 3 RBI and 2 runs. Velez also had 2 stolen bases and a SAC fly. He had a very rare HR in the 3rd on a flyball that cleared the RF fence and landed in the Giants' bullpen. The wind was blowing out VERY hard to RF, so the HR was really a fluke.....but I will take it. It's a good thing Ray Durham got a headache in the 1st inning. It made for a much more exciting game.

Benjie Molina continues to impress in his role as cleanup hitter, even without any appreciable power. Molina had an RBI in each of his 3 plate appearances with 2 singles and a SAC fly. Benjie now has 5 RBIs in his last 9 plate appearances. Randy Winn had yet another good day as he went 3 for 4 (all singles) to raise his average to .429. Randy also scored a run and knocked one in. Winn also stole a base as the Giants had 5 SB on the day.

I could write more, because there were a lot of offensive highlights, but I just don't have the time. I know it is only Spring Training, but it is interesting to note that this lackluster offensive team featured 5 players over .300, 2 players over .400 and another player over .500 so far this spring. That's 8 players over .300 playing just in this 1 game, 5 of them probable starters. Now if we can get some of that "pitching and defense" this team is supposed to be based on.

I expect the Giants to lose most of the 4 split squad games over the next 2 days. The pitching will be stretched awfully thin, especially with Noah Lowry out. Whoever scheduled back-to-back split squad days should be shot.

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