Bullpen Blues: Relief effort spoils another strong outing by Rodon in 4-3 Giants loss to the Braves

By Morris Phillips

Nothing typifies the Giants these days like a close game. They play a lot of them–36 of 68 so far this season–and they’re used to being in close games, winning close games.

Just hasn’t quite been their thing yet this season, and definitely not on this road trip. The Giants fell to 17-19 in games decided by two runs or less on Wednesday, allowing a three-run, bottom of the ninth rally by the host Braves in a 4-3 loss.

Jake McGee was given an opportunity to reignite his closer duties, and he belied his recent successes and got hit hard. The 35-year old gave up a leadoff home run to Darby Swanson, two more hits and was relieved by Trevor Rogers who allowed the game-winning base hit to Adam Duvall. Camilio Doval wasn’t available, he pitched in nine of the previous 12 games and was given a night to rest.

“We want to win every game, but at the end of the day, these are going to happen,” said McGee, who hadn’t allowed a run since May 10, a stretch of 10 appearances. “That’s why they’ve been really hot lately and they’ve been swinging the bat well. So you’ve just got to tip your cap sometimes.”

The Giants also tipped their cap on Monday when Camilo Doval failed to get through the ninth in a 2-1 loss. Last season’s 107-win campaign included a 31-17 record in one-run games, and the Giants locked in big moments offensively. This year, the record in two-run games is another reminder that the team’s offense has struggled. The bullpen–in spots–as well. But the subject arises in a series–not yet completed–where a team’s two best starters sprinkle magic dust for seven innings, only to see their work squandered in the game’s final inning.

“I’m not one to say one loss was better or worse than others. It’s just not my style,” said Kapler, who just doesn’t show raw emotion in postgame pressers.

Rodon was on point, capping a three-start stretch in which he allowed one run in 21 innings. He struck out 10, and walked one in his first appearance against the Braves. Matt Olson’s seventh inning, RBI double broke up Rodon’s scoreless stretch.

Darin Ruf and Mike Yastrzemski homered to back Rodon, and Tommy LaStella’s RBI single in the ninth provided insurance, giving the Giants a 3-1 lead.

And the news wasn’t bad off the diamond, as Brandon Crawford found out he suffered no structural damage to his knee, and he’s a candidate to start Thursday’s series finale.

Luis Gonzales would have been a viable, pinch-hit option on Wednesday after being declared out with back tightness, but that wasn’t all that he needed. The Braves followed right-handed starter Charlie Morton with two left-handed relievers, leaving Kapler with better options. Kapler said Gonzales should be okay, his back issues are considered serious.

Alex Wood and Atlanta’s Kyle Wright are the announced starters for the series finale at 12:20pm EST.

Giant Strides: SF looks to gain ground in the NL West race with favorable pre-All Star break sked

By Morris Phillips

A week ago the Giants were frustrating themselves and their fans. A week later, things are much brighter. Winning games in bunches, and beating the preferred opponent makes a difference.

Prior to facing the Dodgers and Royals, the Giants had lost 21 of 38, a step back for a club that got off to a roaring start to their 2022 season (13-5 through the first 18 games). Injuries to starters Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood and position players Evan Longoria, Brandon Belt and Lamonte Wade Jr. were a major part of a team didn’t measure up to other playoff worthy teams, and/or saw its offense disappear one too many times/or saw the bullpen blow a couple of leads.

Plus, when your coming off a 107-win season and the retirement of Buster Posey, the biggest name in local baseball over the last 15 years, the microscope gets a longer look. But overall, the Giants have held up without looking good throughout. Now with the team’s health improving and the schedule easing considerably, the Giants can–hopefully–look more like themselves.

The biggest thing that needs to change? And road baseball could enhance the chances of it happening? The Giants need more base hits, doubles and triples, anything that improves a .239 team batting average that’s a culprit when the team has scoring droughts.

The pitching’s been good not great with an ERA of 3.92, just ahead of the league average. But the numbers have swelled in recent weeks, suggesting a tweak or additional arm could lower that number. Even more encouraging, the Giants continue to be rough on opposing home run hitters, by allowing a MLB-least 48 homers thus far.

Power hitting could set the Giants apart as the season progresses, with health being the biggest factor. Of the guys who’ve missed time, Brandon Belt has returned to the lineup and hit his fifth home run of the season on Wednesday. Evan Longoria’s return has reached 28 games, but he hasn’t hit a home run outside of a five-homer-in-six-games stretch in late May. Longoria’s gotten fewer at-bats within games as well in June, that could continue when Lamonte Wade Jr. returns.

Darin Ruf, Brandon Crawford, Austin Slater, Belt and Longoria are all hitting below the .239 mark, and are the biggest candidates to pick up their offense. Wade enters this mix as well when he returns in the coming weeks. So far, Wade’s appeared in only ten games.

Twelve of the 28 games remaining before the All-Star break are against the Braves, Brewers and Padres and critical to playoff momentum and seeding. Starting this postseason, the top wild card holds home-field advantage in a short, opening round series. The other 16 games are against teams the Giants internally will be happy to see with the first six of 19 games against Arizona topping the list. The Giants also see the currently under .500 quartet: Reds, Pirates, Tigers and White Sox.

The schedule’s balanced: 15 of the 28 games remaining are at home, 13 on the road, but the Giants have winning records home and away.

The Giants have announced Carlos Rodon as their Friday night starter against the Pirates, who will be pressed to field a formidable lineup against him. The Pirates ranked 6th worst in strikeouts (562 through 62 games) and have a paltry .220 team batting average. Rodon just went more than a month without a victory before he shut down the Dodgers for six innings in his last start.

Cardinals hand Giants a second loss 15-6

In a game where everybody touches them all and the St Louis Cardinals Paul Goldschmidt (left) was no exception after hitting a first inning home run against San Francisco Giants pitcher Carlos Rodon (right) at Busch Stadium in St Louis on Sun May 15, 2022 (AP News photo)

Cardinals Hand Giants A Second Loss 15-6

By Barbara Mason

Saturday the San Francisco Giants (20-13) were shut out by the St. Louis Cardinals (18-15) 4-0. Sunday they were looking to bounce back in the final game of their series. It did not go as planned for San Francisco losing by a significant margin 15-6 at Busch Stadium in St Louis.

The Cardinals scored in the first, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh innings. They had 17 hits in this game and it was not until the ninth inning that the Giants showed much signs of life. The Cardinals bats were just too much for San Francisco to handle.

Joey Bart and Luis Gonzalez both hit home runs in the ninth inning for the Giants. Darin Ruf and Thairo Estrada both scored on the Gonzalez homer. San Francisco was trailing by the score of 15-2 going into the ninth inning so it was too little to late for the Giants.

Joc Pederson also had a homer in the sixth inning for San Francisco. The Giants had seven hits in the game in a very disappointing series for the team.

The Cardinals also hit three home runs in this game. Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado and Yadier Molina all hit homers with runners on base. St. Louis completely outplayed the Giants in front of their home crowd.

The Giants will now travel to Colorado for a series with the Rockies. The first game will be Monday with first pitch at 5:40 PM. Going for San Francisco starter LHP Alex Wood (3-2 ERA 3.60) and for Colorado RHP Antonio Senzatela (2-2 ERA 4.88) gets the call first pitch 5:40 pm PDT

Strike Three!: Giants throw the baseball past the Rockies in 8-5 win

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–Giants’ fans versed in what makes the team click under manager Gabe Kapler already know: Carlos Rodon and his contributions are special. It may sound trite, but the team’s key free agent acquisition is just what the doctor ordered.

Thankfully, Kapler comes closest to describing the newest phenomenon to hit Oracle Park.

“As good as he’s been, as many dudes as he struck out, there’s still probably more ceiling in there for Carlos,” Kapler said. “He’s that good.”

Rodon piled up 12 strikeouts, and mixed in two, timely double play balls in the Giants 8-5 win over the visiting Rockies Monday. The former Chicago White Sox threw 110 pitches and marveled at how easily the ball left his hand more than his ability to consistently dial up swings and misses.

“It worked out for us,” Rodon said of Kapler’s decision to allow him to pitch a sixth inning. “I felt like it was an easy fastball and I really wasn’t exerting a lot on all pitches, so it was an easier decision for me to say yes.”

“He has good stuff,” manager Bud Black said of Rodon, who frustrated Rockies’ hitters. “He’s not leading the league in strikeout percentage for any reason on that his stuff. It’s legit. We saw the velocity and we saw the slider, just like we talked about. We knew it was coming.”

Rodon’s first six outings as a Giant are in the record books. His 53 strikeouts over that span are the second most registered by a Giants’ pitcher since the turn of the century 122 years ago. Only Tim Lincecum with 56 in 2010 has tallied more.

The Giants’ offense did their part with a run in the first, two in the third and three in the sixth which ruined the evening for Austin Gomber. The Rockies’ starter surrendered a first inning triple to Austin Slater and a two-run shot to Mauricio Dubon in the third. After a pair of hitters reached in the sixth, Gomber was relieved by Robert Stephenson, who couldn’t keep the visitors within range, down just 3-2.

Darin Ruf’s single scored Dubon, Brandon Crawford drew a walk, then the Rockies got sloppy. Stephenson uncorked a wild pitch and catcher Elias Diaz’ throwing error allowed Wilmer Flores to score. Pinch-hitter Joc Pedersen’s sacrifice fly chased home a third run in the inning.

The Giants’ offense showed resourcefulness throughout with three sacrifice flies and a pair of stolen bases. They piled up 11 hits, performed late in counts as Kapler’s edict for his team to control a game’s “time of possession” played big. The team capped a brilliant offensive night with a pair of runs in the eighth.

The Giants won a third straight after losses in seven of eight. The momentum could build as the Rockies have dropped eight in a row to the Giants, with each of those eight wins featuring at least 10 Giants’ hits. The Rockies have dropped seven of eight away from Coors Field, possibly signaling that their unexpected fast start to the season could be ending.

Alex Wood takes the mound for San Francisco on Tuesday, and he’s had success against the Rockies across 19 starts against them for the Dodgers and Giants. What’s telling is most of that success has come away from Coors Field, where Wood’s ERA is an undesirable 8.50.

Antonio Senzatela starts for Colorado. He has a 5-1 record against the Giants.

Giants/Dodgers 2022 Is Here: What to know

By Morris Phillips

The Dodgers-Giants rivalry got a lot more entrenched last season after the teams combined for 213 regular season wins and an incredible 5-game series in the NLDS. None other than Vin Scully proclaimed Game 5 as the biggest, single game in the century-plus series.

The Giants lost Game 5, and the Dodgers lost in the next round to the Braves, who won the World Series, not the Dodgers or the Giants. But the memories and excitement persist, how could they not?

“It was phenomenal. It was a lot of fun. I think it was probably fun for all the fans that got to witness that,” manager Gabe Kapler said of last year’s high-level duel.

So 2022 is here, the rivalry returns Tuesday in Dodger Stadium, and both teams are still plenty capable of ruining things for each other and winning it all. Let’s get caught up:

The Dodgers saw big names move in and out, and one big name stay put. Kenley Jansen, Corey Seager, Max Scherzer left the Dodgers, while Freddie Freeman got a generous deal to leave the Braves and come to LA. Clayton Kershaw turned down some offers, and opted not to retire. So far this season–his 15th in Los Angeles–he’s been up to old tricks. It’s a slightly younger, less experienced team, but still heralded as the Series favorite. More importantly, the Dodgers are so good offensively and defensively, no other team comes close. Not surprisingly, they lead MLB in run differential despite seven losses to date (+47).

The Giants didn’t act all crazy in free agency and worked the margins of their roster with a couple of low-profile upgrades. But the results aren’t bad: Through 22 games, the Giants have the highest scoring offense in baseball with nearly five runs a game, and they won 14 times.

Heading into the series, the Giants have to be worried about their personnel with a couple names returning and a sizeable group still injured. At least one outfielder, LaMonte Wade Jr. will return and Mike Yastrzemski is a possibility for Tuesday.

The Dodgers position group is completely healthy, while their pitching staff has some omissions. Blake Treinen, Dustin May, Andrew Heaney and David Price are all out, and none are expected this week.

The Giants get an opportunity to make an early impression with Carlos Rodon, the hottest performer on either roster. Rodon has struck out a franchise-record (for debut pitchers) 38 batters and won three times in four starts.

Giants Good Again: Any drop-off from last season’s 107 wins? None yet

By Morris Phillips

A better win percentage than the Giants had in last season’s 107-win campaign? Weren’t they supposed to experience some measure of dropoff?

Yes, of course. A baseball team’s not supposed to better its best season in over 110 seasons. But so far, the Giants–purely by measure of wins and losses–are better.

And better despite two sidelined starting pitchers–Alex Cobb and Anthony DeSclafani–and fewer healthy outfielders than unhealthy ones. Yeah, they’ve taken advantage of a couple of downtrodden opponents but they’ve squeezed teams like the Nats and the Guardians for all they were worth.

The Giants led baseball in one significant category: fewest runs allowed, a real testament to the depth of quality arms, starting and relieving, they have. Offensively, they’ve been spotty, and overall good, but notably they don’t appear to be a threat to lead all teams in home runs like last season even if it’s just because they haven’t gotten off to a flying start.

The missing pieces–Mike Yastrzemski, Lamont Wade Jr., Austin Slater and now early pacesetter Joc Pedersen–are troubling, but none are expected to miss huge chunks of time. Other guys like Brandon Belt and Darin Ruf are on pace for better campaigns than last which really helps compensate for the absences.

Nothing speaks to the team’s success better than their different methods to win ballgames starting with their calling card: winning close games with big hits late. But they also score early, add on and frustrate opponents through the lopsided scores. They win low scoring ballgames with pitching and defense, and they concede the lead and rally soon there after to win.

The starting rotation isn’t among the National League’s best as some trumpeted, but three fifths of the rotation has been stellar with Logan Webb as the ace, Carlos Rodon and Alex Wood as the best supporting arms. Webb simply hasn’t shown much let up and that’s after factoring in that he finally dropped a home game at Oracle Park.

Rodon established a new franchise record for strikeouts to start a season, and his focus and success immediately after signing a hefty, two-year deal speaks of his professionalism.