Friday, July 31, 2009

The PG Beat: Cliff Lee owns Giants, Affeldt and company self-destruct in the seventh inning

New Philadelphia pitcher Cliff Lee not only killed the Giants on Friday night with his pitching (9 IP, 1 run allowed), but also with his hitting (2-for-4, including a double).

Well...can't say I didn't see this one coming, even if I didn't want to admit it. Cliff Lee made his debut for the Phillies, and he couldn't have done much better as he mowed down the Giants hitters in a 5-1 victory on Friday night. Lee made every Giants hitter tonight look silly, even the Panda, who went o-for-4 against the reigning American League Cy Young award winner.

The Giants are exactly the kind of team that plays into Lee's strengths as a pitcher, and it was on full display tonight. Lee did what he always did (have great command, and mix it up with heat and breaking ball pitches, even though his stuff isn't great), and the Giants hitters did what they always did (overly aggressive, swinging at too many pitches out of the zone). It really was a rough game to watch if you're a Giants fan, and I'm sure a lot of people are fuming as Ryan Garko has only gotten one hit in his first three games as first baseman for the Giants. However, it was only one game for the Giants and this is only three games from Garko. In all honesty, I expected a loss in this game out of all the games in the series (Lee going against Sadowski just didn't look good on paper), and I think we need a couple of weeks to evaluate how good Garko is going to be. I think by next week, he should be getting into a comfort zone as a hitter. If he isn't? Well...then we're in some trouble, but we'll worry about that if that happens and when we get there.

The one thing I will say is that while I ripped him apart last week, you can't blame this loss on Sadowski (even though he did get the loss). Sadowski, who again for a third straight start, suffered from control issues throughout the nights, tallied a high pitch count early in the game (he was around 60 pitches at the end of the third inning and threw 82 pitches in four innings of work) and just didn't seem have that much confidence on the mound. However, he only gave up one run, a homer to Jason Werth in the second, and kept the Giants in the game as they continued to swing and miss against Lee's breaking balls. I am curious to know why Bochy pulled Sadowski so early. After pitching the fourth, the camera showed him wincing and holding his arm as he walked to the dugout. I haven't checked anything yet, but I have a feeling he strained something. Even though he wasn't pitching great, he merited at least another inning of work, especially with the game only 1-0. It's definitely something to pay attention to when carousing on Extra Baggs later tonight.

Surprisingly, if you want to blame anyone other than the offense and Lee, you can blame the bullpen. Don't look to the usual suspects to blame in this one though. Relievers who have been struggling as of late, Sergio Romo, Bob Howry and Merkin Valdez, actually looked very good tonight. It was the usual late-inning studs who struggled mightily instead. Jeremy Affeldt and Brandon Medders, two pitchers who had been looking very good in relief this year for the Giants simply imploded as they combined to allow three walks and three runs combined in only 1/3 innings of work...combined. That is a tough one to stomach, and after the game got to 4-0, I kind of just threw in the towel. Granted, these things tend to happen to relievers. They aren't perfect, and they're going to have their breakdowns every now and then. That's when you need your offense to step up and make up the difference. Unfortunately, that didn't happen tonight and in all honesty, the Giants offense hasn't picked up the pitching when it struggles since Opening Day. This Giants team goes how the pitching goes and that doesn't bode well I believe for Giants fans as we enter these last two months of the season. We just can't rely on pitching the whole time. We need the offense to set the tone sometimes, and unfortunately, that hasn't happened very often this year, especially against good teams like the Phillies.

That being said, I knew we weren't going to sweep the Phillies in this series, and this loss was definitely a predictable one, as tough as that is to say as a Giants fan. With Lincecum on the hill (going to the game tomorrow! Yahoo!) going against Joe Blanton, a pitcher who plays more to our strengths than Lee, I like our chances. If we can take at least two in this series, I can live with myself. If we can take three and win this series, I'll be ecstatic.

Tomorrow is the key to which direction this series will sway. For it to go in the Giant favor, Lincecum needs to have a good performance, and the offense needs to bounce back from tonight's lackluster effort.

Postgame Box notes:

Winning pitcher: Cliff Lee (1-0) 9 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 SO.
Losing pitcher: Ryan Sadowski (2-4) 4 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 3 SO.

Giants standouts: Juan Uribe, 2B (18). Aaron Rowand, 2B (25).
Phillies standouts: Jayson Werth, 2-for-5, HR (22). Ben Francisco, 2B (2). Cliff Lee (I know he killed us hitting too!), 2-for-4, 2B (1).

Probable starters for next game: Blanton (7-4) vs. Lincecum (11-3).

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