Friday, July 24, 2009

The PG Beat: Cain wins his 12th of the season, Lewis actually does something at the plate

Catcher Bengie Molina gives left fielder Fred Lewis a high five after the game in celebration of the Giants beating the Colorado Rockies 3-1, and as congratulations for Lewis' first good game in almost three months.

Big, big win for this Giants team. I admit, I was a little nervous in the ninth inning especially after Wilson gave up a walk and a single back to back. That being said, I give credit where credit is due, and the most dramatic late-inning imploder since Rod Beck actually came through to get his 25th save in a 3-1 win over Colorado, which now currently ties the Giants with the Rockies for the NL Wild Card lead.

Once again, Cain had another good start and continues to marvel baseball experts as well as fans. On paper according to traditional stats, Cain looks great and is up there with Lincecum and Dan Haren from Arizona in the Cy Young race. Watching him in person, he makes you squirm in your seat a lot more than you want to considering how many guys he walks and runners he lets on base. From a hardcore, sabermetrics view, Cain is vastly overrated I guess.

Whatever view you want to take of him, Cain is getting the job done this year, and that is good enough for me. From a consistency standpoint, there is no doubt Cain is our most reliable pitcher. What you see from him is pretty much what you're going to get every time he takes the hill. You can't say that really with anybody else on this staff, even Lincecum. There are times when Lincecum is absolutely dominating, looking like the next Pedro. Then, he has outings where his control is all over the place, and he looks more like an early Kerry Wood with the Cubs. Cain's control is always going to be suspect. Cain is always going to throw more pitches than he probably should, even when he gets ahead in the count. Cain is always going to allow one to two runners to get on base on average in an inning. Yet he still gets things done when it comes down to it, and if he is pitching with a lead, forget about it. It's Cain's to lose if the Giants help him out with a lead, and as we have seen this year, he doesn't lose with a lead very often.

While Cain was obviously studly again in this game, Fred Lewis had himself a redemption game of sorts at the plate. To be perfectly frank, I have been very disappointed with this guy this year. I thought he had a very good season a year ago until he injured his foot. I thought with the left fielder position his from the get-go (no more competing with Dave Roberts!), and a stronger role in the lineup, he would flourish. That hasn't been the case unfortunately, as Schierholtz has played him out of the lineup. This season, Lewis has been anemic at the plate, lousy defensively and seen more warming the pine than out roaming in the field.

While his defense didn't exactly sparkle tonight (he made a horrendous read that ended Cain's shutout and made Giants squirm in their seats for a moment), he came through with a 3-for-3 day at the plate and was one homer shy of the cycle. It's funny because he has hit for the cycle Colorado. He did it in May of 2007, and that's where he suddenly was catapulted onto the Giants scene as a legitimate player and not some "cup of coffee" minor leaguer. If I'm Bochy, I'm keeping him in the lineup for the rest of the series. He obviously has a groove in this park that only can bode good things. Furthermore, with Rowand struggling mightily since the break, putting him in a series this big is just a liability. Let Lewis ride out his hot game for the next couple of games. This will let Rowand regroup until he gets back to San Francisco, where he can get back to his element in front of his own fans supporting him instead of opposing fans heckling how he strikes out or grounds out to third on alternating at-bats.

After this win, I like our chances in this series. Colorado is solid defensively, but offensively, I believe they are more suspect than in years past. They seem to really rely on Todd Helton, Troy Tulowitizki and Brad Hawpe a lot and when those guys can't come through, the lineup really goes into a shell. Atkins is horrible (never mind his RBI single, that should have been an out had Lewis not taken an asinine route on it), Ianetta is nothing special and Stewart is average. They did have Barmes out of the lineup, which was peculiar (mainly because he is on my fantasy team and he has been raking for me as Chipper Jones has been Mr. Up and Down this year) and his absence makes me fear that they are saving their big guns for the next two games, knowing that this first game was probably their wash game in the series. If that's how they want to see it, that's fine. We avoided the sweep, and in my mind, that is a small victory in itself. A sweep would have absolutely annihilated our confidence.

There are some guys I'm still worried about on this Giants team. Ishikawa continues to be an inconsistent, up and down, Nicole Richie-esque show at the plate, and Uribe is starting to look more and more like his old self, which from an average and OBP point is not very promising. Furthermore, I wasn't happy with Sandoval's bonehead baserunning blunder, nor Molina chasing one in the dirt with only one strike on him to ground into the double play (though he ended up making up for it with a hit and run base knock on his next at-bat). However, in the grand scheme of things, it was a typical Giants win: enough offense to win (homer for Schierholtz baby!) and good solid pitching all-around.

Here's to Jonathan Sanchez not completely falling apart in game two of this series. We need him to be like Anne Hathaway for the rest of the season, not Wynona Rider (e.g. an underrated star who comes to their own after a big break, not some actress that completely falls apart when they finally get their big opportunity like Rider did in Godfather Part III when she dropped out after shooting started because of "exhaustion").

Postgame box notes:

Winning pitcher: Matt Cain (12-2) 7 IP, 3 H, R, ER, 4 BB, 5 SO.
Losing pitcher: Jason Hammel (5-5) 6 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO.

Giants standouts: Fred Lewis, 3-for-3, 2B (14), 3B (3). Nate Schierhotlz, HR (4).
Rockies standouts: Ryan Spilborghs, 2B (17). Garrett Atkins 2B (9).

Probable starters for next game: Sanchez (3-8) vs. De La Rosa (7-7)

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