Surkamp gets wise counsel from Lincecum

704992.jpg

Surkamp gets wise counsel from Lincecum

GOODYEAR, Ariz. Eric Surkamp won an ERA title in Double-Alast season, he enjoyed the thrill of his major league debut and he got dousedwith the celebratory beer shower that accompanies your first major league win.

All good things.

But last season ended on the worst possible note.

In his second to last start, he didnt survive the firstinning at Arizonas Chase Field. And the Diamondbacks destroyed the Giants15-2. Surkamp faced eight batters and retired just one of them. It was fourwalks, two singles, a double, three stolen bases and an early shower.

It was a smoldering wreck of an outing. And it was the night thatArizona clinched the NL West title.

Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti told Surkamp to forgetthat night and take only the positives out of what otherwise was a startlinglygood season. But when Surkamp went to work out at Fischer Sports in the Phoenixarea, the reminders were all around him.

J.J. Putz, Miguel Montero those guys were there everyday, Surkamp said. A lot of Diamondbacks players train there. But it wasgood. It motivated me.

Surkamp didnt lack for motivation over the winter. Perhapsno Giants player made a bigger improvement in terms of fitness andconditioning. But Surkamp needed to improve his mind, too especially afterhis first Cactus League outing was another rough one.

The first outings, I was pretty tense, knowing I didnt endthe season so great last year, Surkamp said. When you struggle in your firstouting, you get down on yourself.

Thats where Tim Lincecum stepped in. Surkamp said he was runningwith the two-time Cy Young Award winner one day when he received a piece ofadvice.

He helped to take the pressure off, Surkamp said. Its justhave the mindset going into games, like, Maybe the weight of the world isnton you. So stay calm. That was the gist of it. Coming from a guy like him,facing No.1s all the time, it says a lot about him and the composure he pitcheswith.

Surkamp has looked more calm and composed with every outing,winning the confidence of manager Bruce Bochy and making himself into a solidoption whenever the club has a vacancy in the rotation. He got close to 90pitches in five innings of a 5-3 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Wednesdayat Goodyear Ballpark.

The only runs he allowed came on Shelley Duncans two-runhome run in the fourth inning. Surkamp didnt let it faze him, settling backdown and throwing strikes to retire the next three hitters.

I think the kids had a nice spring, Bochy said. Hesbetter with experience. It seems his confidence is growing. He threw 90 pitchestoday and thats a good effort. He seems to be commanding his pitches better,and when he gets out of sync, he seems to be regrouping out there.

Hes got a calmness about him that you like.

Surkamp said he began incorporating his slider in hisprevious start and started throwing it to right-handers on Wednesday. He stillchastised himself for getting lazy on a few pitches in the early innings, whenhe was leaving a few balls armside.

Ive got to eliminate the pitches I leave up and over theplate, he said. The home run was a wakeup call, almost. Ive got to learn tobe locked in. It shouldnt take a home run for that to happen.

Even if Ryan Vogelsong must start the year on the disabledlist, the Giants wont need a fifth starter until April 15 the ninth game ofthe season. So Surkamp probably wont be needed in the near term.

But if Barry Zito struggles mightily, Vogelsong needs moretime or an injury befalls the rotation, Surkamp wants to leave the clearimpression that hell be ready for anything even if a division title is onthe line.

Its hard because you want to go out there and prove it to Giantsfans and everybody else, Surkamp said. Really, you just need to prove it toyourself. Just know you belong up here and its the same game.

Giants get blanked by Braves, now have lowest-scoring team in majors

Giants get blanked by Braves, now have lowest-scoring team in majors

SAN FRANCISCO — Over in Cleveland earlier Friday, Brandon Moss hit a three-run homer for the visiting team and five other players chipped in a pair of hits. The Royals had six runs, which meant that when Jim Johnson closed the Giants out a few hours later, what has seemed true all season became officially true. The Giants have the lowest-scoring lineup in the majors.

At 3.32 runs per game, they have dipped below the equally-disappointing Royals (3.38). They are capable at the moment of making any pitching staff look dominant. A 2-0 shutout was the first of the year for the Braves, who previously had just two games this season where they allowed fewer than two runs. 

“Six runs in (the last) four games … I thought we would come home and get some rips in tonight, but it didn’t happen,” Bruce Bochy said. 

The manager’s frustration showed late in this one. After the only rally of the game — a two-run single by opposing pitcher Jaime Garcia — Bochy took his cap off and rubbed his forehead. He dipped his head and briefly stood as if he was going to fall asleep on the rail. The bats were equally still. 

The Giants had just four hits, all of them singles against Garcia, who is a nice pitcher but hardly one of the league’s best. One was an infield single by Eduardo Nuñez, another a single through Garcia’s five-hole, and a third a generous ruling by the official scorekeeper. 

“It comes down to, you’ve got to get some hits and create opportunities, and we’re not doing it very often,” Bochy said. “It’s just a matter of guys getting somewhat hot. We did, we had some success, and we won some games. The thing you like to see is some good cuts and I didn’t think we got enough of those tonight.”

That run, which spanned the last homestand and small parts of two road trips, has come to a screeching halt. The Giants have lost five of six. It seems silly to scoreboard-watch in May, especially when a team is playing like this, but it’s worth noting that the teams the Giants eventually need to catch keep winning. They fell 12 games back of the Rockies and 11 back of the streaking Diamondbacks. They are 9 1/2 back of the Dodgers, who might be the best team in the whole league. 

Matt Cain did his part to allow the Giants to keep pace. He got beat just once in seven sharp innings. The Giants intentionally walked Dansby Swanson to get to Garcia, who bounced a single into left. Brandon Belt had a play at the plate, but his throw was short and hit the runner. A second run scored. 

“That’s tough,” Cain said. “(Garcia) was throwing the ball really good and that’s what it comes down to, you’re looking for that one hit and he did it. He’s a good hitter. We’ve seen it in St. Louis. But it definitely is tough when the pitcher does that … it just stinks on my part to give up a hit to the opposing pitcher.”

Instant Analysis: Giants bats silenced, losing streak now at four games

Instant Analysis: Giants bats silenced, losing streak now at four games

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — The return to AT&T Park was a huge boost to Matt Cain, who has wild home-road splits this season, but it did predictable things to an already-limp Giants offense. 

The Giants entered the night as the lowest-scoring team in the National League and they got blanked 2-0 by Jaime Garcia and the Braves. Garcia out-dueled Cain and provided the only offense of the night, as well. The Giants have dropped five of six.

Here are five things to know from AT&T Park, where they keep having Star Wars Night but they’ve never once celebrated Super Troopers … 

--- Cain entered the seventh with a 0.94 ERA at home this season, but the opposing pitcher busted him. With one on and two outs, the Giants intentionally walked Dansby Swanson to get to Garcia, a career .145 hitter. He bounced a single into shallow left and it looked like Brandon Belt had a play at the plate, but his throw home hit the runner. That allowed Swanson to race home for a 2-0 lead. 

--- Cain’s final line: seven innings, one earned run, one walk, three strikeouts. Yep, that’s a Caining.

--- Justin Ruggiano is here for the opportunity he was given in the sixth. Ruggiano has always crushed lefties, and Bruce Bochy put him behind Buster Posey on Friday night. The Braves intentionally walked Posey to load the bases for Ruggiano, who grounded out to third. Even the platoon splits are failing the Giants. 

--- If you need a little perspective on Christian Arroyo’s struggles, look across the field. Swanson, the former No. 1 overall pick, is batting .198. The shortstop slashed .302/.361/.442 as a rookie but his numbers are way down across the board, and he’s nearly two years older than Arroyo. These things take time. Having said that, Arroyo’s hole is pretty deep. He’s hitless in his last 21 at-bats after an 0 for 3.

--- There were three no-pitch intentional walks. I hope you used the extra ninety seconds wisely.