PITTSBURGH Last week at AT&T Park, when the Reds MatLatos carved up the Giants like butterballs, Pablo Sandoval made an interestingpostgame comment.
Hes working so fast, Sandoval said. We didnt take himout of his timing. Hes coming at us pitch after pitch.
The Giants faced another unrelenting presence at PNC Park onSaturday. James McDonald was coming after them again and again, throwing hisexplosive fastball, getting them to chase breaking pitches and then flippingtwo-strike curveballs on the outer fringe.
The Giants tried. They kept stepping out of the box. Twice,they called timeout when McDonald was on the verge of kicking into hisdelivery. They got a timing disruption from above, too, in the form of a28-minute rain delay.
It didnt work. None of it worked. McDonald was just thatgood, and Ryan Vogelsong was just a bit less so in a 3-1 loss at AT&T Park.
Much has been made of the Giants performance againstfirst-place teams. They lost two of three to the Rangers and the Angels. Theysplit four with the Reds. The NL-leading Washington Nationals just swept them.Now theyre even in two games against the surprising NL-Central-leadingPirates.
But it might be more instructive to look at what the Giantshave done against top pitchers. In previous seasons, when their offense was atrue collection of duds, the Giants would get exposed almost every time theyran up against a stud pitcher.
Their record is a little better now. Theyve beaten ClaytonKershaw twice. They scored five runs when NL ERA leader Johnny Cueto startedagainst them. They even beat McDonald in April behind Matt Cains one-hitshutout.
But there are also the Latoses and Jered Weavers of theworld. And there was McDonald on Saturday, making the entire Giants lineup looklike a beer-league unit. Brandon Belt and Sandoval come to mind, but BusterPosey had just as tough a time. It made Ryan Theriots two-strike, two-out RBIsingle in the sixth all the more impressive an at-bat.
Great at-bat, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. He reallycompetes well and grinds out every at-bat. Those things help you winballgames.
The Giants needed a few more of them. Blanco certainly triedafter striking out in his first two at-bats. He lined a single in the sixth andalso contributed a bunt hit in the ninth. There was that sliding catch thatBlanco contributed in right field, too.
It was a nice game for the leadoff man, who has looked worndown in recent weeks. He had a .401 on-base percentage through the end of May butentered Saturday with just a .274 OBP in 31 games since June 1.
He acknowledged the All-Star break would come at a goodtime.
For sure, I want to get back on track and play like I wasplaying a few months ago, he said. I know I can and I will. Im working hardto start doing it again.
I know physically Im a little tired. But in this game, youhave to have the mentality to play hard and work harder.
Against McDonald, effort didnt seem to matter.
Sneaky fastball, and the breaking pitches we keptswinging at them and he kept throwing it, Blanco said. It was really hard tolay off, and his fastball is explosive. He did a great job and we didnt takeadvantage by laying off those breaking pitches to swing at a better pitch.
One more thing, Blanco said:
"I made an adjustment on him. If we face him next time, Ithink its going to be different.