Giants

Giants a little bit short of everything

918629.jpg

Giants a little bit short of everything

BOX SCORE

Pablo Sandoval sat on the dirt, his legs forming a perfect 90-degree angle as he blew a gum bubble and silently bemoaned his short-hopped throw to first on Allen Craigs seventh-inning single. The visual shrieked futility, resignation, and a long and painful winter examining what happens when a good baseball team finds itself a little bit short of everything in October.At least that is the appearance as the shards of St. Louis 8-3 win over the Giants in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series are picked over. The Giants didnt pitch enough when it mattered, hit enough when it mattered, or field enough the one time it really mattered. They were just short of okay, when even okay is insufficient.And because there is just enough grumbling to go around, the 3-1 deficit they face going into Barry Zitos start seems well nigh insurmountable.And the problems seem to move from game to game to game. In Game 1, Madison Bumgarner got kicked around the lot, and the Giants got close but stopped hitting after the fourth inning. In Game 3, they hit plenty but scored only one. And in Game 4, Tim Lincecum couldnt find his fastball, Hector Sanchez couldnt find a short hop from the outfield and their nine leadoff hitters could manage only one hit, and that well after the game was competitively extinguished.So of course theyre down, 3-1. They should be down, 3-1. Their play says so. And if there is a rally in them (and only four of 33 teams have gone down 3-1 in an LCS and won), their play across the board must be, well, less like what theyre doing now.And all they have to claim as their own momentum-builders are the memories of the Cincinnati series, and Zitos left arm. They believe fine, but they have no evidence to back it up.Their offense was two homers by the freshly de-goated Hunter Pence, and the struggling Sandoval. But the rest of their work product suffered again.And it starts with Lincecum, who used 91 pitches to get through 22 hitters, but couldnt navigate the two jams he did create for himself one in the first, that was capped by Matt Hollidays line single and Craig's subsequent sacrifice fly, and one in the fifth that finished with RBI singles from Holliday and Yadier Molina.The first put the Giants in a hole. The second piled dirt on top of them. And the culprit, ultimately, was a fastball that refused to behave as it once did, or as he desired. It either avoided the strike zone or got hit when it achieved it, and only when he changed his pitch selection did things improve.There wasnt a lack of confidence in any of my pitches or a (lack of) conviction, he said in his typical slightly less than fully audible monotone. They just werent hitting the spots I needed them to.In addition, throwing 25 pitches in the first and 19 in the second set him on a course for a quick outing, which the Giants needed the way they needed a dugout flood.That second inning was a little bit laborious, he said, referring to the only inning in which the Cardinals got baserunners who didnt score. But that third and fourth was a little bit better. I thought I was going to carry it a little bit further in the game, but like I said, I ran into some bumps in the fifth.The biggest bump was Hollidays single, which scored Matt Carpenter from second after Angel Pagans throw, which was on line but a bit short, skipped past catcher Hector Sanchez, allowing Carpenter to evade being thrown out at the plate by about three full seconds. When Molina followed two batters later with his single, Lincecum was done.And the bullpen, being asked to juggle cleavers while those around them dont, cratered, allowing two more runs in the sixth and seventh, and rendering Sandovals ninth-inning home run inconsequential.Just not quite enough after every turn of the game the Giants story in this series. And now Barry Zito tries to defy all that with an outing as good as Ryan Vogelsongs or Matt Cains. And an outing that might inspire some actual hits in important moments. And a defensive play that must be made at a critical juncture.Thats a lot to ask a pitcher, but the Giants have been trying to win this series with two starters, two hitters and a lineup that defies tweaking. So far, they have gotten what such a manpower shortage deserves, and they are out of mulligans, excuses and speeches.

Given another look at fastball, Williamson gets revenge against Kershaw

Given another look at fastball, Williamson gets revenge against Kershaw

LOS ANGELES — Mac Williamson was sent up to pinch-hit when the Giants faced Clayton Kershaw earlier this month, and on a two-strike count, he watched as Kershaw shook off five different signs as he stood on the mound. Kershaw then froze Williamson with a fastball. It was a good lesson for Williamson, a player still trying to find his footing at the big league level.

“He’s a guy you can’t really guess with,” Williamson said. 

The outfielder admits he tends to overthink things. “I’m a perfectionist,” he said Sunday. But given a start against Kershaw, Williamson let his talent — and a little luck — take over. Williamson’s first hit off Kershaw was a bleeder that resulted in an infield hit. His second bounced through the middle of the infield for a single. The third one was the highlight of the day for the Giants. 

Kershaw had a shutout going when he tried to sneak a first-pitch fastball past Williamson in the eighth. He blasted it to dead center. It was the only run for the Giants in a 3-1 loss to the Dodgers. 

“It’s good to see him get those swings off,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “That homer was to the big part of the park. It shows how strong he is.”

The Giants have always known Williamson has the strength and raw talent. He hasn’t stuck for a number of reasons, including injuries and that aforementioned tendency sometimes to overthink at the plate. It probably hasn’t helped, either, that the Giants tend to sit him for days at a time and then play him against the Kershaws and Zack Greinkes and Rich Hills of the world. 

Williamson took advantage of the tough assignment on Sunday, joining a small group of Giants who have three hits in a game off Kershaw. 

“Hunter was ahead of me,” he said, smiling. “He beat me to it.”

Pence also had three hits, giving the Giants six from the corners against the best pitcher in the game. It wasn’t enough, but for Williamson, it was something to build off as the offseason approaches. He said it’s a winter he doesn’t plan to take lightly. Williamson’s agents are working to line up a Winter Ball job in the Dominican Republic.

Giants lineup: Three lefties out against Kershaw

span-usatsi.jpg
USATSI

Giants lineup: Three lefties out against Kershaw

With Clayton Kershaw on the mound for the Dodgers Sunday, Bruce Bochy is resting three left-handed bats...

San Francisco Giants:
1. Gorkys Hernandez (R) CF
2. Kelby Tomlinson (R) 2B
3. Buster Posey (R) 1B
4. Hunter Pence (R) RF
5. Nick Hundley (R) C
6. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
7. Pablo Sandoval (S) 3B
8. Mac Williamson (R) LF
9. Chris Stratton (R) RHP

Los Angeles Dodgers:
1. Chris Taylor (R) CF
2. Corey Seager (L) SS
3. Cody Bellinger (L) 1B
4. Curtis Granderson (L) RF
5. Logan Forsythe (R) 3B
6. Chase Utley (L) 2B
7. Yasmani Grandal (S) C
8. Joc Pederson (L) LF
9. Clayton Kershaw (L) LHP