Giants Blank Dodgers Second Straight Time Behind Lincecum and Posey (Again)

Buster Posey was scintillating at the plate and on defense and Tim Lincecum tossed a real gem as the Giants won their fifth straight by shutting out the Dodgers at AT&T Park, 4-0 tonight.

TIM LINCECUM. On a tear, ERA down to 2.04.

TIM LINCECUM. On a tear, ERA down to 2.04.

Except for the fact that he walked LA’s starting pitcher, Brett Anderson (which never ceases to annoy the crap out of me), Lincecum was about as close to perfect as you can get. Posey drove in three of the four runs and made a spectacular catch over the Dodgers’ dugout fence.

In picking up his fourth win of the season, Lincecum also dropped his ERA to a remarkable 2.04. He came into the game at 2.35.

The Giants are now just 2-1/2 games back of the league-leading Dodgers, with whom they finish their three-game brief homestand tomorrow with a rare mid-week day game. Madison Bumgarner starts for the Giants, facing LA ace Clayton Kershaw. He has struggled against the Giants this year, making six starts against them and having an 0-1 record to show for it. His ERA against San Francisco is 5.59.

Bumgarner, meanwhile, has four starts against the Dodgers, a 1-1 record and an impressive ERA (3.16) and an absolutely brilliant WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) of 0.97.

Couple that with the fact that LA is winless in AT&T Park this year and I’m going out on a limb here and predict a rare Giants’ sweep. It may even be a series shutout sweep. Final score? 3-0.

Go, Giants!

Lots of Good News for Giants Fans After Sweep of Angels

TIM LINCECUM. Great outing vs Angels, on mound and at plate!

TIM LINCECUM. Great outing vs Angels, on mound and at plate!

The San Francisco Giants completed their second three-game sweep of the young season Sunday, dominating the Los Angeles Angeles in a 5-0 masterpiece that featured a sterling pitching performance from Tim Lincecum (2-2, 2.40) and lead-off back-to-back first-inning homers by Nori Aoki and Joe Panik. The Giants offense banged out 10 hits while Lincecum scattered three over eight full innings of dominant work.

The homers were the first of the season for the 1-2 hitters in the Giants lineup and were followed by a shot off the bat of Angel Pagan that barely missed clearing the wall in right-center and gave him a triple. Just to rub salt in the wound, Lincecum collected two clean singles and a walk.

San Francisco has won eight of 11 following a 4-10 start and is now just a game under the .500 mark at 12-13. Considering how badly the season started, they should be feeling much less anxious now.

Next up are a three-game home stand against the Padres followed by four at AT&T Park with the Marlins before a brief road trip. The Pods are two games better than the Giants (14-12) and both teams are coming off three-game winning streaks. The Fish meanwhile sport the same record as the Giants at the moment. This feels to me like a chance for the Giants to gain some ground; they should win the majority of the remaining games on this home stand and end the series at something like 18-15.

Madison Bumgarner (2-1, 3.73) gets the start tonight as he faces off against Tyson Ross (1-2, 4.56). Ross emerged victorious in his previous meeting with the Giants this year at Petco Park on April 12.

The Padres have dropped six of their last 10 outings while the Giants have won seven of theirs.

I look for MadBum to have a good outing tonight as he learns from Lincecum’s sharpness Sunday and expect the Giants to win by three tonight. (Nope, I never give up.)

Go, Giants!

There Goes MadBum’s 2015 Season: He’s Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year

Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants was named the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year today. Which means, if the decades-long tradition of the bad luck charm that comes with appearing on that prestigious sprts magazine’s cover holds, that he’ll probably have a crappy year in 2015.

But probably not.

madbumMadBum as he’s affectionately known, clearly deserved the honor. In  part that’s because he flat-out earned it with his impressive performance, particularly but not exclusively in the postseason. And partly because the competition this year was…well…his best-known competitors for the title were a sports businessman (Magic Johnson) and two tennis stars (Serena Williams and Roger Federer). The other nominees were far less well known, primarily representatives of minor sports. But in no case did any of them come even stratospherically close to the numbers MadBum put up in an epic year.

As the SI editors said in naming him their top sportsman of 2014, “The 25-year-old lefthander threw a record 52 2/3 innings in the playoffs and gave up just six earned runs for an absurd 1.03 ERA. He struck out 45 batters in his seven appearances, walking only six and giving up 28 hits.” But it was, of course, his Game 7 performance that ensured his place in baseball history. In five innings of two-hit relief, the Kansas City Royals looked completely befuddled by almost every one of his 68 pitches. Masterful doesn’t begin to cover it.

So it’s one more feather in MadBum’s cap. Richly deserved honors like these are, of course, mere capstones on the man’s career; the numbers speak for themselves Still, it’s nice to have the SI megaphone further proclaim what we all already know: MadBum is freaking awesome!

World Series Reflections 2014: In a Word, Historic

I think I have finally settled back on Terra-sorta-firma after an ebullient night of celebration and joy at my San Francisco Giants’ 2014 World Series victory last night in Kansas City.

Regular readers of this little corner of the blogosphere know that I am not only a longtime Giants’ fan and a life-long baseball fan, I am also a one-time sports writer. I’ve seen way more than my share of games over the decades (six of them now). So I believe I can bring some perspective to the 2014 World Series that may be lacking in many of my friends’ views.

Here, then, in no particular order, are my reflections on the 2014 World Series of Baseball.

Madison Bumgarner tossing a pitch

SF Giants Ace and World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner

MadBum is a Player for the Ages. I’ve seen Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Randy Johnson and Denny McLain. I never saw but have read a lot about Christy Matthewson. Madison Bumgarner may be the best pitcher of the modern era; it’s too soon to tell. He’s only 25. But his Word Series statistics are literally off the chart. Bumgarner’s final line for the 2014 World Series boggles the mind: 2-0 with a save and a 0.43 earned run average, with nine hits, one run, one walk and 17 strikeouts in 21 innings. All impressive but the one that stands out for me is his strikeout-to-walk ratio of 17:1. Most pitchers try for 3:1 or 4:1. The greats hit 5:1 or 6:1. But 17:1? That’s all but unbelievable. If you look at all his World Series appearances together, his ERA is 0.25, the all-time best for pitchers with 25 or more innings of World Series experience. Did I mention he’s only 25? (If you want to read one of the best print journalism pieces to come out of this Series, check out Tyler Kepner’s piece on MadBum in the New York Times. This is baseball writing as it used to be.)

SF Giants Second-Baseman, Rookie Joe Panik making unbelievable play in World Series

SF Giants Second-Baseman, Rookie Joe Panik making unbelievable play in World Series

Joe Panik, Brandon Crawford Unbeatable Combo. The start of the double play in the bottom of the third that I think was the turning point — the crushing point if you will — for the Royals was one of the finest defensive efforts I’ve ever seen in my years of watching baseball. Joe Panik’s diving catch and gloved toss to Crawford for the relay to first was impossible to believe even in slowmo. You can watch it over and over and over again here, as I just did for about five minutes. As one of the Fox commentators said in the immediate aftermath, “You can’t teach that.” Only the fact that Panik got called up so late prevents him from serious consideration for NL Rookie of the Year. The Fox broadcasters seemed to have a crush on the Royals’ outfield (which is surely one of the best in baseball) but never really mentioned the Giants’ infield, which has to rank among the best in Major League Baseball. We watched two or three 5-4-3 double plays in this World Series, one of the toughest plays to pull off in baseball, particularly given the fleet feet of the Royals.

World Series Trophy

World Series Trophy

One of Best Series Ever. This was one of the best World Series I ever watched. It had drama, explosives, blowouts, nail-biters and dazzling defensive highlights. It lacked home runs, which is just fine with this old geezer of a fan who vastly prefers Little Ball and the emphasis on strategy that the National League has upheld all these years that what we once called the “junior circuit” has been futzing with the DH. (About the only thing that would make me happier as a baseball fan than the Giants winning this pennant would be for the AL to admit it was wrong to adopt the DH and go back to the game we call baseball.) I honestly can’t remember enjoying a World Series nearly as much as this one.

The D Word. Immediately after the Series ended — actually, starting when Game 7 was under way — there was serious talk that if the Giants won the pennant they would be declared a baseball dynasty. I was right up there with them on this point. But this morning as I perused day-after coverage of the season, I ran across this piece by Cork Gaines on, of all places, BusinessInsider. Now, I don’t have a lot of respect for BI as a business news site, let alone sports. But Gaines makes an interesting point. Gaines says we should consider that, “the minimum definition for a dynasty would seem to be a team that is consistently very good and occasionally wins championships. That’s where the Giants fall short. It’s not just about winning three championships in five years. It is also about what they did in the other two years, which is not much at all.” He’s right. In 2011, the Giants played .531 ball and wound up in second place, eight games off the lead. Not bad, but not dynasty numbers. Then in 2013, they really stepped in it, finishing at .469 in third place, 16 games back. So I’m going to re-think the whole dynasty thing. But I do think 3 World Series rings in 5 years (and as many attempts) makes them one of the best all-time teams, and that may have to be good enough in an era of parity and rapidly moving player parts.

So Much More to Come. In coming days and weeks, I’m sure I’ll find a few more tidbits as I reflect on a truly memorable season in which the G-Men battled to earn a Wild Card spot and then burned through the NL before facing the other league’s Wild Card team (second time that ever happened) in an epic struggle that came down to the Royals with the tying run 90 feet away and two out. And Madison Bumgarner on the mound. Going forward, what happens to Pablo “Panda” Sandoval? What Giants are free agents? Which ones do we need to keep? What about our aces-gone-bad, the two Terrible Timmys? Yes, the Hot Stove League will have plenty to yak about in coming weeks.

But for now, just for this Now moment, let me savor the Best World Series I Ever Saw.