Offense showing a little life

San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler (left) greets Luis Gonzalez after scoring against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park back on Mon Apr 25th . It’s something the Giants manager is hoping to see more often out of the team that had been struggling at the plate (AP file photo)

By Jeremy Harness

SAN FRANCISCO – One of the big questions for the Giants heading into Friday’s game was whether or not they could tally as many runs as they have active COVID cases.

Early in the season, there were plenty of runs to go around, but as player absences have piled up and the competition has gotten a little tougher, scoring has been scarce, to say the least.

The Giants didn’t exactly set the world on fire with their bats on Friday against the St. Louis Cardinals, but they did show some signs of coming out of their slump. They mustered a pair of runs on Friday in a 3-2 loss at Oracle Park, which isn’t very much, but considering what has transpired lately, it is an improvement.

After starting the season 14-7 and thus owning one of the best records in baseball, the Giants have since hit the skids hard. In fact, they had lost four straight games prior to Friday, and they had scored exactly one run in each of the past three contests.

“One of the things we did very well last year was kind of kept the line moving,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We found ways to get on base, even when we weren’t driving the baseball, via the walk or a clean single here and there.

“We’re not seeing the string of base hits, we’re not seeing the string of walks. Right now, we’re not string together our best at-bats consistently enough.”

There are a couple of theories to kick around here, the first of which has to do with the team’s recent health woes. Third baseman Evan Longoria has yet to suit up for the Giants this season while recovering from hand surgery, and leadoff hitter LaMonte Wade, Jr. made his season debut Friday night after recovering from knee inflammation he had been dealing with since spring training.

“LaMonte’s swings were really on time,” Kapler said. “I know he didn’t end up with hits or walks, but his swings were excellent and was very aggressive in the batter’s box.”

Meanwhile, several key players have recently contracted COVID-19 and have also been out of the lineup. First baseman Brandon Belt and reliever Dominic Leone both tested positive for the virus last Friday and are both on the active COVID list. Outfielder Mike Yastrzemski was forced to miss seven games due to his own battle with the virus before returning to the lineup Friday night.

Another factor has been a significantly-tougher schedule. The first two weeks of the season saw the Giants feast against teams such as Miami, San Diego and Washington, clubs not exactly known for their pitching prowess.

However, this week has been a completely different story, when the Giants were swept in a two-game series in Los Angeles and have dropped the first two of a four-game weekend series here against the Cardinals.

Despite losing Friday night’s contest, an encouraging sign came in the bottom of the sixth, when Darin Ruf’s pinch-hit single drove in two runs and tied the score at 2-2.

“It’s good to have a little more depth, so that we have some explosiveness off the bench,” Kapler said.

Kapler validating MOY honors

San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler looks for some skin after Luis Gonzalez slugged a go ahead home run in the top of the ninth against the Milwaukee Brewers on Mon Apr 25, 2022 at Miller Park in Milwaukee. Kapler was the National League Manager of the Year for 2021 (AP News file photo)

By Jeremy Harness

SAN FRANCISCO – You see it all the time in sports. Star players of successful teams either get traded or simply walk away as free agents, and those teams often experience a drop-off. It’s a major factor of the ebbs and flows of a pro sports franchise, and it all just comes with the territory.

There are exceptions to the rule, of course. Over the course of the past 20 years, head coach Bill Belichick has guided the New England Patriots to six Super Bowl wins and only missed the playoffs three times in that span, despite losing key players along the way.

Belichick and his staff implemented what is called “The Patriot Way,” a culture that has pointed the way for a countless number of unheralded players to rise to the occasion and fill key roles that had previously been vacated.

It may be too early to tell, but thus far, Giants manager Gabe Kapler appears to have his squad on a similar path.

There was plenty of speculation when Kapler took over for the retired Bruce Bochy in 2020, especially considering his firing as the Phillies’ skipper the year before and that he was stepping in for a legend who had guided the Giants to three World Series titles.

After just missing the playoffs in a pandemic-shortened 2020 season, the Giants won a franchise-record 107 games in 2021 with a roster mostly made of relative unknowns – with the exception of mid-season trade acquisition Kris Bryant, shortstop Brandon Crawford and the recently-retired Buster Posey – and came within a game of reaching the NLCS before falling to the hated Los Angeles Dodgers.

As a result of that run, Kapler was named the National League’s Manager of the Year, both by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America as well as the Sporting News. The Giants also rewarded him with a two-year extension through the 2024 season.

The Giants have since parted ways with Bryant as well as emerging stars such as starter Kevin Gausman and infielder Donovan Solano, all of whom left the club via free agency. Kapler, however, has made sure the train never left the tracks, as the Giants entered Friday’s game with a 13-6 mark, which is second-best in the majors.

Just as the case with the Patriots, relatively-unknown commodities have stepped up and made an impact in this young season.

Right fielder Luis Gonzalez, who was waived by the Chicago White Sox last August and has been on the Giants’ major-league roster for exactly a week, entered Friday night with a .316 average with five RBI, including his first big-league homer on Monday, a go-ahead two-run shot in the team’s win at Milwaukee.

Another example is third baseman Jason Vosler, who is hitting .211 this season after finishing 2021 with a .178 average in 41 games with the Giants, who stepped up in the second inning and blasted a two-run homer off Washington starter Aaron Sanchez to cut the Nationals’ lead to 3-2.

However, the next couple of weeks will certainly test the Giants’ mettle, as it was learned hours before Friday’s game that five Giants players had tested positive for COVID-19. At press time, which players had tested positive was not disclosed, nor how long they are expected to be out of the lineup.

SAFEWAY OPEN: Cink roars back to win

Stewart Cink takes a swing on the second tee in the final round at the Silverado North Course. Cink was the winner of Sunday’s Safeway Open PGA Golf Tournament in Napa. (AP News photo)

By Jeremy Harness

A lot has happened since Stewart Cink’s last win on the PGA Tour, which came at the Open Championship in 2009, when he upended the legendary Tom Watson.

His wife, Lisa, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016, and then Stewart himself was diagnosed with skin cancer. Both, however, have since been given clean bills of health, but it took a lot of courage to get to this point.

Fast forward to this weekend, as Cink shot rounds of 65 on Saturday as well as Sunday, and he came away with the win at the Safeway Open, with his birdie at the par-5 18th being the decisive blow.

He got off to a nice start and never really turned off the momentum. He recorded back-to-back birdies at the fourth and fifth holes and the followed that up with birdies at the eighth as well as the ninth.

He added a chip-in for birdie at the par-3 11th before going birdie back-to-back at the 15th and 16th holes.

However, he did suffer a hiccup at the par-4 17th, as he could not get up and down and dropped a shot. He got that shot right back at the final hole, as he hit two good shots and wound up just past the back fringe.

He pulled out a putter and got it to about four feet and then drained the birdie putt to give himself a two-shot lead with two groups left on the course.

“Well, it has been emotional,” Cink said. “You can’t go wire to wire in the FedExCup year without winning the first one, I would like to point that out right now. In a way that was kind of a goal this week. No, it’s been an awesome time. My son Reagan caddying for me, Lisa was here. This is a really special place, I love being in Napa and I just had a really phenomenal time this week. And on top of that my golf ball was pretty agreeable most of the way, so it was a really great experience top to bottom all week.”

At that point, there were only two guys with a chance to tie Cink, Brian Stuard and Harry Higgs. Higgs was two back and needed an eagle, and his chance evaporated when his third shot landed way right of the hole.

“I would have loved to have hit a tee ball in the fairway on 18. I felt like I needed 3, especially seeing Stewart in the fairway when we got back to that tee,” Higgs said. “I can’t believe the putt on 17 didn’t go in. I was back and forth between does it straighten at the hole, does it keep breaking. I hit it exactly how I wanted to.

“All in all, super positive week obviously. Had a chance to win, great start to a new season. I felt like this was a really, really good chance, and it was nice to be in it at the end versus the last time I finished second.”

As for Stuard, who was four back when Cink sank his final putt, he needed even more. His chance fell through when his birdie attempt at the 17th burned the edge.

SAFEWAY OPEN: Three-way tie for lead

Alameda native and Cal grad James Hahn is in a three way tie for the lead at the Safeway Open in Napa on Saturday (photo from and

By Jeremy Harness

There are three players who are tied at the top of the leaderboard at the Safeway Open, and there are a total of 11 guys who are within two strokes of each other.

That is the current situation after three rounds at Silverado, and at this point, anything can happen.

One of those players is Alameda native and Cal grad James Hahn, who shot a five-under bogey-free round of 67 to vault himself into a three-way tie atop the leaderboard.

He recorded back-to-back birdies at the second and third holes, but he picked things up on the back nine with a birdie at the par-3 11th, sticking his tee shot to about three feet in the process. He again got back-to-back birdies at the 16th and 17th holes.

“I just had a goal in mind today, just to kind of have a clean scorecard,” Hahn said. “It would have been nice to birdie a couple of the par 5s, but anytime you birdie three out of the four par 3s I think you’re doing something good.

“It’s good to have a lot of family and friends up here. Unfortunately, there’s no fans, but it would be nice to win the first one.”

Brian Stuard also had a bogey-free scorecard on Saturday, with three birdies in a row at holes three through five, and he scattered three birdies on the back nine for a three-under round of 66.

“This is a course that fits my game,” Stuard said. “You’ve got to drive it straight, you’ve got to kind of shape the tee ball once in a while. It’s important to be on the right side of the fairway to some pins, I think. Reminds me a little bit of Hilton Head in that way and I think that’s another one of my favorites. It should fit my game, yes.”

Forty-six-year-old Cameron Percy did not have as clean a scorecard as Hahn’s, but it was good enough for a share of the lead heading into the final round on Sunday. He had a bogey-free front nine that saw him scatter three birdies, but he ran into trouble on the back side with bogeys on each the 11th and 14th holes.

However, he rebounded by picking up shots on both the 16th and the 17th for a third-round of 68, and with that, comes with a chance to pick up his first win on the PGA Tour.

“It would mean the world to me,” Percy said. “Yeah, it would be fantastic. It would mean I get to go to Augusta (for the Masters in November), which is a goal. I’ve never been to Augusta, which is the biggest goal you have when you come over here. I just thought I’d get there, I haven’t got there yet, so it’s a big deal.”

SAFEWAY OPEN: Burns takes over lead with second-round 65

(photo from Sam Burns who has a two shot lead at the Safeway Open on Friday in Napa 

By Jeremy Harness

Sam Burns shot a seven-under round of 65 and grabbed a two-shot lead at the Safeway Open Friday afternoon during the second round of play.

Burns, who finished last season 111th in the FedEx Cup race, was only one shot behind the lead after the first round, but he did not start out very well. After making par at his starting hole, the 10th, he suffered a damaging double bogey at the 11th.

That seemed to give him a jump start, as he birdied three holes in a row and then went on to birdie two of the next four holes. He kept that momentum going with four more birdies on his second nine.

“Yeah, I think it pissed me off a little bit, woke me up, I guess,” Burns said. “It was early, cold. It was kind of like it picked me up, like hey, let’s go. Just kind of stuck with it and the golf course opened up for me the rest of the day.”

He is two shots ahead of Harry Higgs, who made a huge charge on Friday. He had the shot of the day at his very last hole, when he holed out from 230 yards out at the par-5 ninth for a double eagle, otherwise known as an albatross.

Before that, he had a special, bogey-free round going, with six birdies on his first nine, including four birdies in a row at holes 15 through 18. His back none was rather quiet, other than a birdie at the par-4 third, before firing the big shot at No. 9.

He carded a 10-under round of 62, which was the low round of the day and launched him right into the thick of things at Silverado.

“What a wonderful way to end the day,” Higgs said. “(But) I was looking forward to a nap all day long, but now I might be too jacked up now to actually fall asleep.”

Russell Knox, who was the leader after the first round, shot a second-round 69 and is now three behind the lead, along with Cameron Percy and D.J Trahan.

“I hit the ball well today. I played fairly conservative into some holes,” Knox said. “I was kind of in between yardages, but I felt like I played well. I could have shot a lower score than I did. I didn’t really hole the putts today, but to finish birdie-birdie 3 under was very satisfying.”

NOTES: Five-time PGA Tour winner John Daly, who currently plays on the PGA Champions Tour, was diagnosed with bladder cancer.

The 54-year-old said he has undergone a procedure to remove the cancer as well as eight days of chemotherapy, and he was reportedly positive about the treatment despite an estimated 85 percent chance that it will eventually come back.

He is in the field at the Sanford International in Sioux Falls, S.D, and he is currently tied for 11th after a two-under round of 68 in the first round.

SAFEWAY OPEN: First round gets underway despite smoky skies

Russell Knox shown at the Silverado North Course at the Safeway Open during the first round at 13th course at the PGA Tournament on Thursday Sep 10th in Napa (AP News photo)

By Jeremy Harness

On Wednesday, golfers practiced under skies that looked more like a movie than real life. We’ll put it this way: During the hours that would normally feature bright sunshine during this time of year, lights had to be flipped on to the practice green.

Because of the numerous fires that have all but surrounded Northern California, the streets have been covered with ash and there has only been a faint view of the sun over the last few days.

Somehow, the first round of the Safeway Open, the first event of the 2020-21 PGA Tour season, got underway at Silverado Golf Resort, although play was delayed by about an hour.

Due to the darker skies, play was called off at 4pm PST, with a few groups left on the course, with those players scheduled to play the remaining hole or two early Friday morning.

However, most were able to finish in time, including Russell Knox, who leads the field after shooting a nine-under bogey-free round of 63. He went five-under on the front nine, including an eagle at the par-5 fifth, and then went on to scatter four more birdies on the back side.

Three guys are only one behind Knox, including relative unknowns Sam Burns, Bo Hoag and Cameron Percy. Burns made three birdies on the front nine and then got hot on the back side. He made three birdies in a row on holes 10 through 12 and then went eagle at the par-5 16th.

His only blemish was on the very next hole, when he made bogey before rebounding with a birdie at the par-5 18th.

Former Safeway Open winner Brendan Steele is among the players at seven-under, along with Pat Perez.

MadBum returns to SF as opponent

The photo proves it that this Diamondback is back . After suffering from back problems that kept him out for much of this season Bumgarner seen here threw against the San Diego Padres Sun Aug 8th Bumgarner will be into pay a visit to his former team the San Francisco Giants for the weekend series and will be getting the start on Saturday night (AP News file photo)

By Jeremy Harness

In spring training, Giants fans undoubtedly anticipated seeing Madison Bumgarner toe the rubber at Oracle Park as a member of the opposing team.

That moment will come this Saturday, as his Arizona Diamondbacks visit the Giants for a three-game series that starts Friday night, with the left-hander starting the second game of the series.

We witnessed Cavaliers fans giving a hero’s welcome to LeBron James during his second return to Cleveland as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers last season. In 2002, the Chicago crowd gave former Bulls great Michael Jordan a minutes-long standing ovation when being introduced in his first game in Chicago with the Washington Wizards.

Cutouts, and whatever kind of fake crowd noise that the Giants brass can think of will be in the crowd to greet Bumgarner this Saturday.


Fake crowd noise.

Another reason why this joke of an MLB season should have been shut down for good. That, along with the COVID-19 outbreak that ravaged the majority of the Miami Marlins team earlier in the season, as well as an employee of the A’s organization testing positive for the virus, which forced the postponement of their series with the Houston Astros and put the brakes on the ensuing series in Seattle before it even started.

Partially because of this, Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen was caught saying that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred “just doesn’t get it.” Van Wagenen is almost certainly not the only one who feels this way.

Yes, baseball is being played, but there is next to no energy and a severe lack of enthusiasm for obvious reasons, with seemingly the only reason to go on with the season is for owners to line their pocketbooks and to justify paying their players.

And because of that, here we are. There will be no fans in the stands, and that is an absolute shame. Giants fans will not get to see Madison Bumgarner in person to give him the hero’s welcome that he deserves. And that is an injustice.

Brodie Van Wagenen is right. Rob Manfred does not get it. And he has had many chances to figure it out, and he has come up short each time, and this is perfect example of that.

Giants bullpen blows lead vs. Rox in 9-6 loss

Colorado Rockies Kevin Pillar has second base stolen after the throw is late to the San Francisco Giants second baseman Donavan Solano in the fourth inning of the second and concluding game of the two game series (AP News photo)

By Jeremy Harness

A day after pounding the Colorado Rockies into submission, Thursday afternoon looked very good for the Giants.

Then starter Logan Webb exited the game, and in came the Giants’ bullpen, which has been lights-out in recent weeks. Not this time, however.

The relievers imploded, as two runs crossed the plate in the sixth while five more scored in the seventh inning to surrender their once-sizable lead. The Giants offense, which was dominant in a 23-5 win Tuesday and piled up a 6-1 lead after four innings, could not come up with anything in the last two innings, as the Giants fell 9-6 at Coors Field.

Webb pitched brilliantly for much of the afternoon, going 5 1/3 innings and striking out five while walking only two and was in line to get his third win of the season, but he was ultimately charged with four earned runs.

Mike Yastrzemski continues to swing a hot bat, as he went 3-for-5 with a pair of RBI on Wednesday. He started the scoring with a solo home run over the right-field wall, and then he singled in Joey Bart in the fifth.

For the Rockies, shortstop Trevor Story also had three hits and knocked in a run in the fifth with a double. He also made a fine diving stop and threw from one knee deep in the hole in short to rob Bart of a hit.

Center fielder Kevin Pillar, who spent last season with the Giants, had a nice afternoon against his former team, collecting a pair of hits, including a triple in the seventh that gave Colorado the lead for good.

Battle of the Bay getting ready to commence

The grinding of teeth as the San Francisco Giants pitcher Caleb Baragar is lifted in the sixth inning of Wednesday night’s game in Houston after the Astros Martin Maldonado tags Baragar with a three run homer. The Giants host the Oakland A’s at Oracle Park in San Francisco tonight (AP photo)

By Jeremy Harness

The Giants just dropped a series to the defending American League champs. Now they have to contend with the hottest team in the game.

The Giants and A’s will now head to Oracle Park to play a three-game series in front of an undisclosed amount of cardboard cutouts and synthetic, non-authentic crowd noise, a series that starts Friday night.

The A’s are sitting atop the American League West with a 13-6 mark, having won 10 of their last 12 games in the process. The momentum really kicked into high gear when they swept the defending American League champion Houston Astros last weekend.

The Giants, on the other hand, are in last place in the National League West with an 8-12 record, and have dropped eight of their last 11 contests. They have lost games in different ways, with subpar defense, bad bullpen and the meager offense that Giants fans have grown used to for the past few years.

They have also been bitten by questionable pitching changes by manager Gabe Kapler, which was the main sticking point of his getting fired by the Philadelphia Phillies last season.

With all of this in mind, things are not looking good for the Giants and their overmatched lineup, and it does not figure to get any better in the foreseeable future.

Frankie Montas will go for the A’s on Friday, and he will go head-up with Giants starter Johnny Cueto, who had a no-hitter against the Los Angeles Dodgers in his most recent outing, which is one positive that the Giants can take into this series.

If there is another for the Giants, A’s outfielder Ramon Laureano is currently appealing a six-game suspension that he drew after his altercation with Astros hitting coach Alex Cintron over the weekend. He could very well miss part of, if not all of, the weekend series.

Astros don’t need sign-stealing to beat listless Giants 5-1

Houston Astros’ Martin Maldonado hits a three-run home run against the San Francisco Giants during the sixth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

By Jeremy Harness

The Giants got off to a nice start on Wednesday, but they could not get any further momentum going, and they fell to the Houston Astros, 5-1, at Minute Maid Park.

In the process, they dropped two of the three-game series to the defending American League champions, who have been found to have used different elaborate forms of sign-stealing over the course of at least three years, including the World Series-winning 2017 season.

After Alex Dickerson singled in Mike Yastrzemski to give the Giants a 1-0 lead in the first inning, the Astros, who didn’t need the help of a banging garbage can to tell them what pitch was coming, began to tee off on the Giants’ bullpen starting in the fifth inning.

Houston tied it in the fifth on Alex Bregman’s single off Dereck Rodriguez scored George Springer.

The following inning, the Astros continued to tee off. Carlos Correa, who last week was struck out and then mocked by Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly, which touched off a benches-clearing confrontation (social distancing was not maintained, by the way), scored on a wild pitch to give Houston the lead.

Martin Maldonado quickly followed with a three-run homer off reliever Caleb Baragar to extend the lead to four runs.

The only thing that the Giants did well following the fifth inning was that they did not get into a benches-clearing incident – unlike the Astros and Dodgers last week – to put themselves in danger of contracting COVID-19.

On the other hand, things were so good for the Astros that starting pitcher Zack Greinke called out a pitch he was to throw to Mauricio Dubon – yeah, he actually did that – and Dubon took the gift and promptly flied out to center to end the inning.