It's an even-numbered year, so if recent history is any indication, good things should be on the horizon for the San Francisco Giants in 2014.
The Giants won World Series titles in both 2010 and 2012, emerging with pennants for NL West Championships as well. While every major league team would be more than happy with two titles in four years, the seasons stuck in between those triumphs have many in the Bay Area wringing their hands.
San Francisco missed the playoffs in 2011 and then again last season, turning in its worst regular season in more than a half decade. The Giants finished 76-86, their campaign mired with underperforming stars and injuries nearly everywhere. Hunter Pence was the only everyday player who didn't miss at least 10 games for rest or injury, as the team finished 21st in runs scored and 22nd in slugging percentage.
The Giants didn't do much to stoke the offensive fires this winter. They added outfielder Mike Morse, now three years removed from his breakout 2011 campaign in Washington, on a low-risk, one-year deal. Pence was brought back—a bit of a surprise to most—but San Francisco is essentially hoping folks just do better this year.
Tim Hudson was also brought in to help bolster the rotation, which was quietly bad last season despite having talent. Madison Bumgarner was the only Giants starter with more than 15 starts who had an ERA below 4.00. Matt Cain should bounce back from a down year—every peripheral points to him being back near ace form—and Tim Lincecum is still a serviceable No. 3 or No. 4 starter. Hudson will be key, though, as he replaces former teammate Barry Zito—the obvious weak link at the end of the rotation.
Hudson is 38 and coming off an ankle fracture. Let's just say things aren't guaranteed to turn around.
With the Giants' spring training schedule getting underway, they should have an opportunity to see what they have going into the season. Check back here as we cover San Francisco throughout its spring training with recaps and analysis of every game.
|Wed., Feb. 26||Oakland Athletics||3:05 p.m.||L 10-5|
|Fri., Feb. 28||@ Oakland Athletics||3:05 p.m.||L 7-6|
|Fri., Feb. 28||Milwaukee Brewers||3:05 p.m.||W 4-3|
|Sat., March 1||@ Chicago||3:05 p.m.||Canceled|
|Sun., March 2||Arizona Diamondbacks||3:05 p.m.||W 5-3|
|Mon., March 3||San Diego Padres||3:05 p.m.||L 7-2|
|Tue., March 4||@ Colorado Rockies||3:05 p.m.||W 3-2|
|Wed., March 5||Los Angeles Angels||3:05 p.m.||W 3-2|
|Thu., March 6||Cincinnati Reds||3:05 p.m.||W, 3-2|
|Fri., March 7||@ Kansas City Royals||3:05 p.m.||W, 5-0|
|Sat., March 8||Seattle Mariners||3:05 p.m.||L, 18-3|
|Sun., March 9||@ Los Angeles Dodgers||4:05 p.m.||W, 3-2|
|Mon., March 10||Chicago Cubs||4:05 p.m.||L, 3-2|
|Tue., March 11||@ Cincinnati Reds||4:05 p.m.||W, 8-5|
|Wed., March 12||Chicago White Sox||4:05 p.m.||W, 4-3|
|Thu., March 13||@ Texas Rangers||9:05 p.m.||Tied, 4-4|
|Fri., March 14||Colorado Rockies||4:05 p.m.||W, 4-0|
|Sat., March 15||@ Seattle Mariners||4:05 p.m.||W, 13-6|
|Sat., March 15||Oakland Athletics||6:05 p.m.||L, 8-1|
|Sun., March 16||Cleveland Indians||4:05 p.m.||L, 5-1|
|Mon., March 17||@ Los Angeles Angels||4:05 p.m.||L, 8-7|
|Tue., March 18||@ Cleveland Indians||10:05 p.m.||L, 12-11|
|Thu., March 20||@ San Diego Padres||10:05 p.m.||W, 11-3|
|Fri., March 21||Oakland Athletics||9:35 p.m.||W, 3-0|
|Sat., March 22||@ Chicago White Sox||4:05 p.m.||W, 8-5|
|Sun., March 23||Kansas City Royals||4:05 p.m.||W, 13-9|
|Mon., March 24||@ Los Angeles Angels||4:05 p.m.||L, 11-4|
|Tue., March 25||@ Milwaukee Brewers||4:05 p.m.||W, 5-4|
|Wed., March 26||Colorado Rockies||4:05 p.m.||W, 8-6|
|Thu., March 27||Oakland Athletics||10:15 p.m.||L, 4-0|
|Fri., March 28||Oakland Athletics||10:15 p.m.||L, 4-1|
|Sat., March 29||@ Oakland Athletics||4:05 p.m.||Canceled|
March 28: Athletics Stifle Giants, 4-1
Tim Lincecum took the mound for the Giants on Friday. He wasn't in particularly top form, but still managed to pitch a solid game. Lincecum pitched four innings and allowed one run on three hits while walking three and striking out four batters.
Not too shabby.
Unfortunately, the same could not be said for Dan Runzler.
Runzler entered the game in relief for Lincecum and was torched immediately. He only pitched 0.2 innings, allowing two hits and three runs while walking two and failing to record a strikeout. He finished the game with a 6.14 ERA.
That's all the Athletics needed to get the victory, as San Francisco continues to struggle with its bats.
It took until the bottom of the ninth inning for the Giants to record their first run of the game. Joaquin Arias singled on a line drive to left, scoring Juan Perez.
#SFGiants fall to the A's 4-1 at AT&T Park.— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) March 29, 2014
The Giants recorded five hits from five different batters on the day—not quite the production you'd like to see at this point in the year.
San Francisco will try to get things going again on Saturday, as the team will finish out its preseason against the Athletics once again.
March 27: Giants Can't Get Bats Going in Loss to Athletics, 4-0
San Francisco couldn't muster any offense in its 4-0 loss to Oakland on Thursday.
#SFGiants fall to the Athletics 4-0 at AT&T Park.— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) March 28, 2014
Athletics pitcher Scott Kazmir had an outstanding outing, pitching 5.1 innings, allowing zero runs and just two hits while walking three and striking out four batters.
The Giants not only struggled against Kazmir, but only recorded an additional two hits against the rest of the Athletics' rotation.
Tim Hudson received the loss for the Giants. He had a rough go on Thursday, pitching six innings, allowing six hits and four runs while walking one and striking out six batters.
The remaining pitching rotation performed well for San Francisco, as they didn't allow another run throughout the remaining three innings; however, the damage had already been done.
San Francisco will look to get things back on track against Oakland once again on Friday.
March 26: Long Balls Deliver Win for Giants over Rockies, 8-6
The Giants weren't able to deliver consistent offense on Wednesday against the Colorado Rockies, but three home runs would be enough to pull out a win.
Hunter Pence delivered with a two-run homer in the seventh inning. Jarret Parker followed that up with a grand slam to knot the game up at six runs apiece, as the Giants account points out:
Following those two taters, Hector Sanchez delivered the final blow in the ninth with a two-run walkoff dinger. After trailing 6-0 going into the bottom of the seventh, the 24-year-old catcher's shot put the Giants over the top, as the team's account notes:
It was the final game for the Giants in Arizona and it ended with an exclamation point for the offense. Unfortunately for the pitching staff, Matt Cain had a shaky start the day after Bumgarner did the same.
Cain gave up six earned runs on nine hits, five of which were extra-base shots, one strikeout and three walks. Though he didn't finish off on a high note, several notable pitchers have experienced rough outings and Cain should be able to brush off this start by the regular season.
March 25: Giants Overcome Early Deficit against Brewers, 5-4
The final outing for any starting pitcher during the spring is an important one. When it's the Opening Day starter, it's slightly more pressing.
So when Madison Bumgarner gives up three solo home runs during 5.2 innings just one week before the start of the season, there's slight cause for concern. Thankfully, it's still spring training and no loss will affect the outcome of the regular season at this point.
And because it's spring training, Bumgarner was able to joke about the outing, telling Adam McCalvy of MLB.com, "There must have been a home run derby I didn't know about."
One of those long balls was by Milwaukee's starting pitcher Wily Peralta, who baffled the Giants bats for 6.1 innings. San Francisco was only able to register one run on six hits against Peralta before doing damage to the Brewers bullpen.
At the plate, Posey had another great day with a 2-for-4 performance, both singles. Michael Morse also had a good day going 2-for-3 with an RBI to raise his spring average to .296.
Pablo Sandoval also crushed a solo dinger of his own to help get the Giants back in the game after the early deficit. The final run of the game came on a sacrifice fly from Mark Minicozzi, plating a run from Juan Perez to give the team the win.
March 24: Angels Rout Giants, 11-4
The Giants struck first with two runs in the top of the third, but it was all Angels after that at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Those two runs were the only ones surrendered by Angels starter Tyler Skaggs while working into the sixth inning.
Skaggs bested Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong. The Giants right-hander allowed eight hits and four runs in four innings.
Josh Hamilton sparked the Angels offense and finished the game 2-for-3 with an RBI.
Meanwhile, in what is a great sign for the Giants, Mike Morse went 2-for-5 with two RBI. Morse has been slowed this spring by a calf injury, but he looked strong while starting at designated hitter and batting second.
March 23: Giants Win Shootout vs. Royals, 13-9
That was ugly—and then beautiful.
The Giants fell behind 7-1 on Sunday by the end of the fifth inning because the Royals so easily took advantage of a sloppy Tim Lincecum, who gave up three home runs and 11 hits over the course of his brief stint on the mound.
But then the Giants came back.
An eight-run sixth inning took care of the whole deficit thing. Brandon Crawford hit a two-run homer. Brandon Belt hit an RBI single. Hector Sanchez followed with a two-run single. Gregor Blanco, who had started the inning with a walk, hit a two-run triple.
Fans get the idea. The Giants added two more in the seventh and eight innings to make the ninth unnecessary.
March 22: Giants Survive White Sox Comeback Bid, 8-5
The Giants got a great effort on the mound from Tim Hudson on Saturday and complemented his performance with a big offensive surge in the sixth inning to top the White Sox 8-5.
#SFGiants defeat the White Sox 8-5 and win their 3rd-straight contest.— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) March 22, 2014
Hudson had some great stuff, pitching six innings, allowing seven hits and one run while walking one and striking out two batters for a 3.72 ERA.
Before Hudson pitched his final outs, the Giants' bats came alive.
Juan Perez started things off by ripping a three-run jack in the sixth inning. After a couple more great at-bats, Elliot Blair singled on a ground ball, effectively bringing home another run. Buster Posey capped off the inning's scoring, lining a single to center for two RBI's.
#SFGiants take a 4-1 lead over White Sox in the 6th inning as Juan Perez launches a 3-run blast.— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) March 22, 2014
It wasn't smooth sailing all the way through for the Giants.
Jeremy Affeldt struggled in a big way in the seventh inning. He pitched just 0.1 innings, giving up four hits and four runs for a 10.50 ERA. Suddenly, a large Giants lead dwindled to just two runs.
White Sox score four runs in the bottom of the 7th inning and trim #SFGiants lead to 7-5.— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) March 22, 2014
However, after a home run by Brandon Hicks in the ninth inning, the three-run lead was more than enough for Jean Machi to complete the save for the Giants.
This marks a three-game winning streak for the Giants, as the team continues to improve as the regular season approaches.
March 21: Giants Shut Out Athletics, 3-0
Starting pitching has been a bit up-and-down for San Francisco as of late, but the Giants' hurlers put forth an extraordinary effort in Friday's 3-0 victory, holding Oakland to just two hits for the entire ballgame.
Yusmeiro Petit turned the tide on what had been a rough spring, improving his record to 1-2 thanks to four innings of shutout ball, in which he yielded just the two hits and struck out seven while walking none.
Even though it's spring training, Petit's performance was pivotal. Manager Bruce Bochy discussed the significance of the strong outing.
An exceptional effort from the bullpen resulted in the Giants yielding zero hits the rest of the way, culminating in closer Sergio Romo pitching a perfect ninth for the save.
San Francisco added two insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth. Gregor Blanco socked an RBI triple and was driven in thereafter on a sacrifice fly by shortstop Brandon Crawford. That gave Romo a more comfortable cushion entering the last frame.
This marks the Giants' second consecutive win as the club is getting back on track after a bit of a rough patch. They will seek to string together a third straight triumph on Saturday against the Chicago White Sox, where veteran Tim Hudson will take the hill.
March 20: Giants Crush Padres, 11-3
San Francisco pounced on NL West rival San Diego from the beginning, using a five-run second inning to build a commanding 7-0 lead. All-Star catcher Buster Posey socked a grand slam in the second off of Andrew Cashner to bolster the Giants' efforts after four consecutive losses.
Cashner got shelled for those eight earned runs—though just four of them were earned—in 3.2 innings, and talked about what went wrong afterwards.
"I just didn't really make a good adjustment with getting my fastball down," said Cashner, per MLB.com's Corey Brock. "I threw some good changeups today, but the sinker was not to be found today. I thought I took a step forward with my sliders and my changeups."
Madison Bumgarner was spectacular on the mound for San Francisco, pitching seven innings of shutout ball, yielding just five hits and conceding just one walk while striking out nine.
The promising 24-year-old hurler continues to prove he can hold his own in a talented rotation, and he has been dominant throughout spring training, tossing five scoreless innings in his last appearance. That is encouraging as the club looks to bounce back after missing the playoffs last season.
This was a good victory for the Giants to stem the tide of all the recent losing, and they will seek to keep that positive momentum moving on Friday against the Oakland Athletics.
March 18: Giants Lose to Indians, 12-11
Four home runs weren't enough for the Giants on Tuesday, as the Indians bashed three of their own and scored seven runs in the third inning to defeat San Francisco 12-11.
In an utter mess for both sides from a pitching standpoint, the Giants watched Ryan Vogelsong give up nine runs in just 2.2 innings of work. Vogelsong, a 2011 All-Star, struggled mightily in 2013 and has now been roughed up in two straight starts. A steadying force during the 2011 and 2012 seasons, Vogelsong might be regressing back to his previously mediocre form.
That won't be a good thing for a Giants rotation that needs the consistency.
On the positive side, it was a huge day for pretty much anyone within 10 yards of a lumber yard on Tuesday. Pablo Sandoval hit his second homer of the spring, as Zach McAllister was whacked for six runs on nine hits in only three innings.
Unfortunately, the pitching staff couldn't keep it together long enough to hold out. San Francisco has now lost four straight games after an 11-5 start to the spring. The records don't matter as much as the positive signs going into Opening Day, but the Giants' confidence level cannot be high right now.
March 17: Giants Lose to Angels, 8-7
Following two days of silence, the Giants bats awakened at just the right time. Unfortunately, the pitching staff couldn't finish off the job.
Angels outfielder Kole Calhoun hit a walk-off, two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning on Monday to give Los Angeles an 8-7 and negate a thrilling comeback effort from the Giants. Down 6-3 going into the top of the ninth inning, San Francisco plated four runs off Angels reliever Joe Smith to surprisingly take the lead.
However, when Calhoun, the Angels' leadoff hitter, stepped to the plate, it spelled trouble for the scuffling Giants. Calhoun ran the count to 3-0 and then gave himself the green light when Jean Machi hung a pitch hanging over the middle of the plate. The homer capped off a 2-for-4 day for Calhoun, who also scored two runs.
In his most extended action of the spring, Giants starter Tim Lincecum looked shaky against a lineup of mostly Angels regulars. Lincecum gave up five runs on seven hits over 5.1 innings, failing to strike out a batter and walking two. Howie Kendrick knocked through two runs while Erick Aybar added two hits.
The Giants also got a relatively nondescript performance from their top hitters. Buster Posey went 0-for-3, Hunter Pence had only a single in four plate appearances and Joaquin Arias failed to set up the middle of the order as well. Their comeback came mostly with backups and minor-league players entered for starters.
March 16: Giants Lose to Indians, 5-1
For the second straight day, San Francisco's bats remained silent and only pushed one run across the plate in Arizona.
Brandon Crawford hit an RBI single to left field after a Juan Perez triple in the second inning, but it was simply not enough over the long haul.
This one was lopsided from the start, as Cleveland got on the board in the first inning via a bases-loaded walk. Tim Hudson played just over four innings and gave up three runs on five hits while throwing 100 pitches.
In the eighth inning, Cleveland tacked on two more runs to make things official. It was a dismal showing for the Giants against a split squad, and now the team has to look forward to having Tim Lincecum on the mound once again as he looks to turn things around.
March 15: Giants Fall to Athletics, 8-1
San Francisco couldn't make it two-for-two, losing the second of its split-squad games on Saturday to the Oakland Athletics, 8-1.
Things got off to a bad start, as the Giants gave up two runs in each of the first two innings and then three in the third. Digging back from a quick 7-0 deficit proved too tough.
Matt Cain really struggled on Saturday, surrendering seven earned runs in 2.2 innings pitched. Before San Francisco fans get too anxious, remember that he came into the game having not given up a run in eight spring training innings, per Carl Steward of the Bay Area News Group:
Cain not only came into today unscored upon in eight innings, he'd only allowed one hit, no walks and struck out nine.— Carl Steward (@stewardsfolly) March 15, 2014
The Giants offense couldn't find an answer for Tommy Milone, who pitched five scoreless innings, giving up three hits.
The lone bright spot for the team was Hunter Pence, who hit a sole home run in the bottom of the sixth inning. It's his fourth homer of the spring, which leads the team.
March 15: Giants Win First of Two Split-Squad Games
The Giants started Saturday off with a 13-6 win over the Seattle Mariners. With the nature of the split squad, a lot of the team's biggest stars were missing.
Hector Sanchez, Brandon Hicks, Juan Perez and Joe Panik were the standout offensive performers, all three driving in two runs apiece. Perez had the team's lone home run of the game, hammering a solo shot in the top of the second inning that gave San Francisco a 3-0 lead.
Kameron Loe earned his second win of the spring after coming on in the bottom of the fourth. He gave up one unearned run in one inning. Loe was one of eight different pitchers used by San Francisco during the game.
Things got a little hairy after the fourth inning, which saw the Giants behind 5-3. They would explode with nine runs over the next three innings to put the game out of reach for the Mariners.
March 14: Giants Shutout Rockies, 4-0
The Giants picked up their 11th victory of spring training on Friday, shutting out the Colorado Rockies, 4-0 thanks to dominant performances from Hunter Pence and Madison Bumgarner.
Pence homered twice to score the Giants' first two runs on Friday.
Meanwhile, Bumgarner, who struck out four and allowed just two hits in five scoreless innings pitched, picked up an RBI in the bottom of the fourth inning in addition to earning his second win of the preseason.
San Francisco would add a run in the bottom of the seventh inning to make it 4-0, but it wouldn't matter in the end as the Rockies had no answer for Bumgarner or any of the Giants' pitchers. Christian Friedrich picked up the loss for Colorado, allowing six hits and three earned runs in three and two-thirds innings pitched.
San Francisco will have a few hours to gear up for Saturday's doubleheader with Seattle and Oakland.
March 13: Giants and Rangers Play to 4-4 Tie
It looked as though San Francisco was going to come away with a third straight spring training win on Thursday, but a two-run single by Kevin Kouzmanoff in the bottom of the eighth knotted the score at four.
After both teams failed to plate a run in the ninth, the game was halted. Ryan Vogelsong got the Giants off to a strong start with his effort on the mound, pitching five innings of four-hit ball, yielding just one earned run—a solo homer by Shin-Soo Choo in the third—and striking out three.
John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle was impressed with how Vogelsong responded after being lit up in his last start appearance against the Seattle Mariners:
Impressive bounce-back start by Ryan Vogelsong, one run in five innings, faced three batters over the minimum. #sfgiants— John Shea (@JohnSheaHey) March 14, 2014
Vogelsong wasn't too concerned about being shelled versus Seattle, taking it with a grain of salt due to the fact that he altered his delivery in the offseason, per the Sacramento Bee's Matt Kawahara:
I worked all winter on changing my delivery a little bit and got kind of stuck in between the old way and the new way, and just couldn’t get myself to do what I wanted to do. But I felt fine. It wasn’t as off as it looked...I internalize a lot. That’s how you learn. I’m not just going to brush it off and say it was a bad outing. You need to analyze and fix, so that’s what I’ll do.
That confidence was reflected in the 36-year-old veteran's performance on Thursday, but it wasn't quite enough. Promising young catcher Andrew Susac drove in two runs for the Giants, including his first homer of the spring in the fourth off Michael Kirkman to boost the offense early.
Susac won't be pushing Buster Posey for time behind the plate anytime soon, but the 23-year-old did bump his average up to .308. Unfortunately, many of Susac's teammates didn't follow suit and some shakiness from the bullpen down the stretch prevented the possibility of a momentous win.
The Giants have to be disappointed with how this one ended, but can still take some positives from the outcome. They will seek to bounce back on Friday in taking on the Colorado Rockies at Scottsdale Stadium.
March 12: Giants Top White Sox, 4-3
Even in the spring, the Giants have a penchant for the dramatic.
Trailing the White by one heading into the bottom of the ninth, the Giants earned the win after Nick Noonan doubled home Juan Perez and Joaquin Arias singed home Noonan to wrap things up.
The Giants finished strong and started that way as well, as a Michael Morse double knocked in Gregor Blanco and a Buster Posey single plated Morse. It was the other seven innings where they struggled, as the White Sox staff kept them in check.
Meanwhile, for four innings Tim Lincecum was lights out for the Giants, holding the White Sox scoreless. He couldn't quite keep it going for five, giving up RBI singles to Alejandro De Aza and Leury Garcia, but it was still a pretty solid outing for the starter.
Recently, Lincecum talked to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports about his new mindset on the mound:
The mindset is something I come to a lot. I've spun out of control so many times in the last couple years. It's more been a mental thing than a physical thing. I tried to get to a place where I'm happy again. It's not just beating myself up over the critical things in the game. It's accepting the process by which things happen, the way things go.
I used to always want the immediate result, the immediate get-back. And I'm like, 'Oops. That didn't work. [Expletive] that.' Now, I've bought in. I take the good with the bad.
Lincecum is trying to be smarter and not focus as much on overpowering hitters, and for four innings in this start, it seemed the tweaks were working. He's probably not going to win another Cy Young award, but he has the look of a potential bounce-back pitcher.
March 11: Posey Powers Giants to 8-5 Win over Reds
Buster Posey wnet 3-for-3 on Tuesday with four RBIs and a home run to help lead the Giants to an 8-5 win over the Cincinnati Reds.
His offense helped the team overcome a poor start from Tim Hudson. The veteran started for San Francisco and struggled. He went 3.2 innings and allowed four earned runs off of five hits and three walks.
Getting to Hudson for two runs in the first inning and one in the second, the Reds took a 3-0 lead into the third.
The Giants scored three runs in each of the next two innings and never looked back.
Posey's home run came in that two-inning blitz. He hit a three-run homer off of starter Tony Cingrani in the third.
The only other Giant to have more than one hit was Hudson. So, at least he's got his swing ready for the season. Honestly, there is no sense getting worked up in Hudson's results in the spring.
The veteran knows what he needs to do to be ready for the season.
March 10: Giants Fall, 3-2, to Cubs as Barry Bonds Returns
Before Monday's matinee in Arizona against the Chicago Cubs, there was a major media horde surrounding the Giants.
In the spring training exhibition, Matt Cain threw five perfect innings to start against the Cubs before San Francisco eventually lost 3-2. But the big news of the day was the return of Bonds, whose career ended in controversy following his involvement in the BALCO performance-enhancing drug scandal.
The polarizing seven-time MVP and all-time MLB home run leader (762) has rejoined the team on a short-term basis as a hitting instructor. In the process, it ends a few tenuous years of non-involvement between Bonds and the Giants after he spent the final 15 years of his career by the Bay.
A few hours before the Monday's first pitch, Bonds spoke to the media, as relayed by Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com.
"It feels really good to be back. It feels really good to participate in this and it's good to give back to the game that I love," Major League Baseball's all-time home run leader said. "Right now, I'll only be here for seven days. Hopefully I'm here for longer."
With Bonds' seemingly endless legal problems behind him, he said "the timing was right" to rejoin the organization he played for from 1993 to the end of his playing career in 2007.
"Right now, I'm more nervous about this than playing, because back then it was only my mind and me," said Bonds, 49. "Now I have to help other players, so I'm more nervous about being on this side than on my side. Hopefully, I can bring some good value to the ballclub. Hopefully, I can bring some good value to these guys."
As Alex Pavlovic of the Bay Area News Group showed, Bonds didn't hesitate to give Angel Pagan some pointers next to the batting cage on Monday.
Bonds not wasting any time on Day 1: pic.twitter.com/KkihGuf1sL— Alex Pavlovic (@AlexPavlovic) March 10, 2014
While Bonds' appearance took hold of the baseball world, Cain took the mound and retired all 15 batters he faced, seven by strikeout. The veteran right-hander knows all about perfection, as he threw baseball's 22nd perfect game on June 13, 2012.
Following his stellar spring outing, Cain was naturally asked about Bonds, though.
Cain on Bonds madness: "It became a zoo like normal. If you want to get TV time, stay near him."— Alex Pavlovic (@AlexPavlovic) March 10, 2014
It's just too bad Cain couldn't have stretched out Monday's performance in a regular season game atmosphere, as Pablo Sandoval also staked his pitcher a 2-0 lead in fourth inning with a RBI single that scored Michael Morse and Hunter Pence.
But once Cain left the game, San Francisco's bullpen couldn't hold up.
In the top of the sixth, Cubs shortstop Emilio Bonifacio singled off David Huff to drive home Ryan Roberts, who was put in scoring position after Huff threw a wild pitch earlier in the inning. The Cubs took a 3-2 lead in the seventh off of veteran Jeremy Affeldt, when two singles and a bunch of bad defense piled up on the Giants.
San Francisco has to be encouraged by the early success of Cain, though, who has allowed no runs on one hit and no walks through eight innings so far in Arizona.
As for Bonds, it will be interesting to see if he can parlay this job into a bigger role with the team for the 2014 season.
March 9: Hicks' Homer Helps Giants Over Dodgers, 3-2
The Giants were without the services of Hunter Pence and Michael Morse for Sunday's contest, but 28-year-old Brandon Hicks stepped up in their place.
An MLB journeyman who spent his last Major League season with the Oakland Athletics back in 2012, Hicks made the most of his spring training opportunity by putting one over the right field fence off Clayton Kershaw to give his team the lead.
As for Pence and Morse, there is nothing to be concerned over as both are simply resting with some soreness during the spring. Pence spoke about his injury status, per A.J. Cassavell of MLB.com:
If it was the season, I could go, but you want to get it fully healed. It's a small left shoulder thing. [Bochy's] got so many things to think about, so he's just being cautious. Everything is good.
Some of the more recognizable faces for the Giants like Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval also had good days at the plate and on the field.
Posey went 1-for-2 at the plate with a single and a walk to improve his batting average to .286 during the spring. He also threw out Chone Figgins at second base on a perfect throw.
Sandoval also put together a good game, going 1-for-3 with a single of his own. While Posey was dazzling with defense, Sandoval wouldn't be outdone as he made a great diving stop on a hot grounder by Yasiel Puig.
The Giants continue their spring training slate with a game against the Chicago Cubs on Monday afternoon at their home stadium.
March 8: Mariners Slaughter Giants, 18-3
San Francisco's winning streak came to a sudden end, as Seattle manhandled the Giants to the tune of a 18-3 final score.
#SFGiants fall to the Mariners 18-3 at Scottsdale Stadium.— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) March 8, 2014
Ryan Vogelsong pitched the losing effort for the Giants, allowing six hits and seven runs over just 2.1 innings pitched.
Poor pitching plagued San Francisco on Saturday, as Yusmeiro Petit gave up two runs over 2.2 innings, and Sergio Romo was torched for five runs without recording a single out.
Seattle got off to a hot start, scoring four runs in the first inning and another five in the third. The Giants were unable to get on the board until Andrew Susac laced a two-run double in the sixth inning.
Andrew Susac drives in two runs in the 6th inning...#SFGiants now trail the Mariners 9-2.— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) March 8, 2014
The Giants brought another run home in the seventh; however, the Mariners just continued to pour it on. Scoring another nine runs over the final three innings, the game reached blowout status.
Luckily for San Francisco, pitching hasn't really been an issue until Saturday. Tim Lincecum continues to flourish, and Matt Cain, Tim Huston and Co. have been solid as well. Expect to see better showings from this rotation as spring training continues.
March 7: Giants Shutout Royals, 5-0
San Francisco's pitching staff shutdown Kansas City's bats en route to a 5-0 shutout win on Friday.
Tim Lincecum picked up the win for the Giants, throwing 26 strikes and allowing just two hits in three innings pitched.
Lincecum day: 3.0ip, 2h, 0r, 0er, 0bb, 0so. Threw 35 pitches, 26 strikes #SFGiants— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) March 7, 2014
The Giants wasted little time getting on the scoreboard, with Joaquin Arias bringing home Michael Morse on a sacrifice fly in the top of the second inning. A Tony Abreu single in the third inning would score Gregor Blanco to make it 2-0 in favor of the Giants early.
A homer from Hunter Pence in the sixth would make it 3-0 Giants, a lead they carried into the ninth inning. With the help of Mark Minicozzi and Andrew Susac, San Francisco would nearly double their lead in the top of the final inning, taking a 5-0 advantage to put the Royals under immense pressure in their final offensive series.
Unsurprisingly, Kansas City was unable to make up the difference, dropping just their third game of spring training.
March 6: Giants beat Reds, 3-2
Tim Huston, Jeremy Affeldt and Santiago Casilla combined to pitch five scoreless innings, Pablo Sandoval belted a home run and the Giants knocked off the Reds on Thursday, 3-2.
The Giants accounted for all three of their runs in the bottom of the fifth. Sandoval got things started with a solo home run before a Juan Perez double knocked home Roger Kieschnick. An Angel Pagan single then knocked in Perez, and that was all the Giants would need.
Cincinnati's Chien-Ming Wang gave up all three runs for the Reds.
Hudson was solid in the start, giving up two hits and allowing another two walks but striking out three.
Of the seven Giants pitchers to take the mound, only Jean Machi allowed an earned run in this game, after giving up back-to-back doubles to Tucker Barnhart and Yorman Rodriguez in the top of the ninth. Rodriguez would reach third base, representing the tying run, but Machi would get Neftali Soto to line out to preserve the win.
March 5: Cain Out-Duels Weaver in 3-2 Victory Over Angels
More stellar starting pitching from the Giants' talented rotation saw Matt Cain toss three scoreless innings of one-hit ball Wednesday, striking out two to upstage Jered Weaver in spurring a 3-2 Giants win.
Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com highlighted just how lights-out San Francisco's rotation has been thus far in the spring:
Matt Cain should be done after three scoreless innings. #SFGiants rotation now at 17 IP, 1 run, and amazingly just 1 walk this spring.— Andrew Baggarly (@CSNBaggs) March 5, 2014
Collin Cowgill socked his fourth double of spring training off the otherwise dominant Cain. That was the most damage the Angels were able to inflict on the right-handed ace. With outstanding command and his characteristic control, "The Horse" was firing on all cylinders.
Although the outing dropped Weaver to 1-1 this spring, he still felt good about how it went overall.
"It went all right," Weaver said, per MLB.com's Chris Haft. "I felt good coming out of it. Probably left a couple pitches up, a little excited, but other than that, I felt pretty good out there."
Giants reliever Jason Berken yielded two runs in the top of the seventh to allow the Angels to pull to 3-2, but the lineup absent many stars was kept off the board thereafter, and Heath Hembree pitched a perfect ninth for the save.
Two RBI singles by Pablo Sandoval lifted the Giants' offense, which was held in relative check by Weaver, and the Los Angeles bullpen kept the Angels in the game. An error in the third inning by left fielder Brennan Boesch proved costly in allowing Sandoval to drive the first run home.
The clutch hits by Sandoval are an encouraging sign at this early juncture of the season, as he came into camp significantly lighter. His dedication to getting in shape is something manager Bruce Bochy noticed to be sure, and he emphasized how important Sandoval is to the Giants' success in 2014, per MLB.com's Tracy Ringolsby:
He's an important part of our team. You saw how we struggled trying to score runs last year...We need him to be the player he can be, a switch-hitter with power and run production and a quality defensive third baseman. It's encouraging to see him come into camp like he has.
Scoring runs has been difficult as of late, as the Giants have plated just 13 runs in the past four games. However, they are 3-1 in that span thanks to brilliance on the mound, which can help overcome any shortcomings in the batter's box.
If San Francisco can get its offense on track and continue getting such strong performances from its top-flight pitchers, there's no telling what the Giants could do this season. It's still way too early, and the 162-game regular season has yet to begin, but there are reasons for Giants fans to be excited at the moment.
The Giants are back in action Thursday against the Cincinnati Reds, which should offer a stern test as they seek to keep the momentum of this two-game winning streak going.
March 4: Bumgarner Masterful in 3-2 Win Over Rockies
As he's done in his past few seasons and throughout this spring, Madison Bumgarner was once again sensational for the Giants. MadBum not only was the first pitcher to take a start into the third inning, but did so with ease.
Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle provides commentary on Bumgarner's second start this spring:
Three shutout innings for Bumgarner. Looked super-sharp. Two hits were a grounder and fly that should’ve been caught. 1 K, 0 BB, double play— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) March 4, 2014
On a team where Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain have been the perceived aces on the team in the past, before Lincecum's fall from grace of course, Bumgarner is proving that he's worthy of the title at this point.
The Hickory, N.C. native finished last season with a 13-9 record with a 2.77 ERA and 199 strikeouts in 2013. While it's just the spring, Alex Pavlovic of the Mercury News provides a look at Bumgarner's stat line through two games:
Madison Bumgarner's spring: 5 innings, 3 hits, 0 walks, 0 runs, 3 strikeouts.— Alex Pavlovic (@AlexPavlovic) March 4, 2014
Those types of numbers prove that the consistency is still there for Bumgarner. It also inspired a quote from fellow starter Ryan Vogelsong that puts pretty lofty expectations on the 24-year-old pitcher, per Pavlovic:
Vogey on Bumgarner: "I don't think you can put a limit on him right now. It seems he can do whatever he wants to do."— Alex Pavlovic (@AlexPavlovic) March 4, 2014
As for the offense, the Giants weren't able to put many runs on the board but did come away with an impressive 13 hits on the day.
Brandon Belt went 2-for-3 on the day with a single and a double to go along with one run. He improved his spring batting average to .571 with the performance.
In the lesser-known category for the team, Tyler Colvin appears to be making the most of the opportunity he was given earlier in the week by the Giants. After being signed to a minor-league contract by the team, Colvin went out and delivered with a double, a run and an RBI in just two plate appearances.
Colvin spent the last two seasons with the Rockies, so getting the chance to exact some revenge on them in spring training was sweet for the outfielder. It also came just a day after Colvin helped score the only runs of the game against the San Diego Padres, per the Giants official Twitter account:
Tyler Colvin puts the #SFGiants on the board here in the 8th with a 2-run single. SF trails 7-2.— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) March 3, 2014
Buster Posey also improved on his spring thus far with a 1-for-3 performance with a single. His .375 batting average thus far has come on just eight at bats, but he's still showing the same consistency as the past few seasons for the team.
The Giants will resume play against the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday at 3:05 p.m. ET.
March 3: Lincecum Sharp in 7-2 Loss to Padres
Tim Lincecum took the mound for the Giants for the first time since signing his two-year, $35 million contract with the club at the end of the 2013 season. Despite two scoreless innings to start the game from Lincecum, the Giants fell apart in the late stages to lose 7-2 to the San Diego Padres on Monday.
Lincecum looked sharp with a 1-2-3 frame to start the contest but wasn't happy with his performance in the second inning, when he gave up a double and a walk. Still, he told Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle about the positives he took away from his spring debut.
I think those are the kind of results everybody is kind of looking for, but each of us has our own goals in spring training, and it’s not always necessarily throwing zeroes out there. It’s getting the work in that we need. Today I felt that along with the zeroes, I got the work in that I needed.
As Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area noted, San Francisco's starters have combined for 10 scoreless innings so far in spring training.
Add up Lincecum, Bumgarner, Hudson, Vogelsong and Escobar and this is what you get: 10 innings, 3 hits, 0 runs, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts.— Andrew Baggarly (@CSNBaggs) March 3, 2014
This game was a scoreless deadlock until the sixth inning, when the Padres jumped all over Yusmeiro Petit and Santiago Casilla for a combined six runs. It wasn't a pretty result for Petit, who was charged with four runs and is contending with Ryan Vogelsong and others for the fifth spot in the rotation. Meanwhile, Casilla is expected to play a big role for the Giants as a right-handed setup man.
San Francisco finally got on the board in the bottom of the eighth inning with a two-run single from Tyler Colvin, but the Padres had the victory wrapped up by that point.
That wasn't the only Giants baseball activity going on Monday. After a rainout canceled a contest with the Chicago Cubs on Saturday, the two clubs took part in a lax 'B' level contest where top San Francisco prospect Kyle Crick had mixed results, per Baggarly.
Crick struggled with location in his first inning, allowing a run on two hits (one was a bunt single) and a stolen base while throwing plenty of heat at the letters. He settled down in his second inning while striking out the side, including a couple of fastballs he blew past top hitting prospects Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler.
“Even though it was a B game, it was still a major league game to me,” Crick said. “I was disappointed I couldn’t get a grip faster. I was worrying about hitting spots. … In the second inning, I just started throwing the ball and not worrying about where it ended up.”
Crick, 21, is expected to spend 2014 in the minor leagues but fans should surely keep an eye on his development this year, as he could be a nice addition to the staff for a September callup.
March 2: Giants Defeat NL West Rival Diamondbacks, 5-3
On the strength of a four-run fifth inning, the San Francisco Giants picked up their second win of spring training, beating the Arizona Diamondbacks 5-3.
Kameron Loe got the win, pitching two innings and giving up two runs on three hits. Jean Machi recorded the save after coming on in the ninth inning, though he gave up two hits and an earned run.
Pablo Sandoval singled in the bottom of the first to drive in Buster Posey.
After Arizona scored two in the top of the fifth, San Francisco responded swiftly.
Posey singled, driving in Angel Pagan. Tyler Colvin and Mark Minicozzi scored on a single from Hector Sanchez. The final run of the inning came via another single, this time from Joaquin Arias.
The Diamondbacks added another run in the top of the ninth and threatened to rally, but it was to no avail.
Perhaps the most noteworthy thing to come out of the game was Tim Hudson starting and pitching two scoreless innings. Sunday was his debut for San Francisco after signing a two-year, $23 million deal in the offseason.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy was impressed with what he saw, saying it was "a great job by him," per Alex Pavlovic of the San Jose Mercury News. Bochy added, "It's been a long time, but he looked sharp."
It was a smooth debut for Hudson, who figures to be a key part in a deep rotation in 2014.
March 1: Giants vs. Cubs Canceled
Fans in Arizona will have to wait to watch Matt Cain's 2014 spring training debut as Saturday's contest against the Chicago Cubs in Mesa has been canceled due to rain.
Following the announcement, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Cain would still throw a simulated game on Saturday and free-agent signee Tim Hudson will stay on schedule to make his Giants spring debut on Sunday against the Arizona Dimaondbacks.
Cain will throw 35 pitches off an indoor mound. Hudson will stay on schedule to pitch tomorrow, Bochy said.— Andrew Baggarly (@CSNBaggs) March 1, 2014
Since it's just an exhibition game, this one won't be rescheduled for the future, but let's hope the fans get a rain check.
Feb. 28: Giants Beat Brewers, 4-3, for First Cactus League Win
The San Francisco Giants went split squad on Friday for the first time of 2014 spring training. Undoubtedly, the team was much happier with the result in the 4-3 win over the Milwuakee Brewers.
The contest featured the spring debuts of Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong, who each turned in two scoreless innings. The same went for Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo, but the Giants were able to break through against young righty Tyler Thornburg with two runs in the third inning.
Longtime minor leaguer Mark Minicozzi, 31, has little to no shot of breaking camp with the big-league club, but he did deliver quite the highlight during the third inning with this solo home run.
"I didn't think I got it, but I'll take it," Mincozzi said via Chris Haft of MLB.com.
As Alex Pavlovic of the Bay Area News Group noted, it was remarkably similar to something Minicozzi accomplished last year.
Minicozzi just homered to right. Hit a homer in first swing at-bat last season, too. Unreal.— Alex Pavlovic (@AlexPavlovic) February 28, 2014
While Bumgarner is expected to be a leading force in this rotation along with Matt Cain, Vogelsong is trying to prove he can revert back to his form of 2011-12 after a disappointing campaign in 2013. It's a small sample size, but Friday's outing was a good start for Vogelsong, who allowed a harmless single and also struck out a batter.
The Giants added on two more runs in the seventh and it was a good thing, because right-handed reliever George Kontos looked shaky in the ninth. He gave up two runs on four hits, including an RBI triple to Hector Gomez, but was able to let the Giants escape with a one-run victory.
Feb. 28: A's Rally For 7-6 Comeback Win vs. Giants
It's a good thing that spring training games don't matter because Friday's split-squad, 7-6 loss to the Oakland Athletics would have hurt bad.
Despite building a 6-0 lead through two innings against their rivals from the Bay Area, the Giants collapsed down the stretch against a full-squad A's team. Oakland only sent three men to the plate against young righty Heath Hembree in the ninth inning, but it was an ugly one for the Giants.
Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area shared how outfielder Jake Goebbert made it around the basepaths to score the game's winning run.
The A's beat Heath Hembree on a leadoff walk, a balk, an error on the pitcher and a wild pitch. Yes, this qualifies as a day to forget.— Andrew Baggarly (@CSNBaggs) February 28, 2014
Hembree, 25, is vying for a spot at the back end of the bullpen for San Francisco, but this early show of nerves isn't the best start to his spring training.
Meanwhile, 21-year-old starter Edwin Escobar looked impressive in his two shutout innings, as he needed just eight pitches to record six outs. Other than his three-pitch strikeout of Josh Donaldson, the five other A's batters he faced were retired on the first pitch.
Only halfway through split-squad day, but it's already a success: 6 scoreless innings for Bumgarner, Vogelsong, Escobar.— Alex Pavlovic (@AlexPavlovic) February 28, 2014
In an encouraging offensive display, the Giants were able to rough up top A's righty Jarrod Parker for six earned runs on five hits and a walk while he recorded just four outs. Backup catcher Hector Sanchez started up the scoring with a two-run double in the first inning before the Giants received an RBI single from Gary Brown, RBI triple from Brandon Crawford and RBI double from Brandon Belt in the next frame.
But the A's slowly chipped away from there, pulling even to 6-6 on a pinch-hit, two-run homer from catcher Derek Norris off of minor-league righty Mason Tobin in the eighth inning. That all set the stage for Hembree's meltdown in the ninth, as the Giants are currently 1-2 following the first three games of 2014 spring training.
Feb. 26: Athletics Beat Giants, 10-5
If you want to blame anyone for San Francisco's rocky start to spring training, Josh Reddick is your guy. The Athletics outfielder made two jaw-dropping catches to rob Morse of home runs, and Oakland's offense pummeled the Giants' pitching staff en route to a 10-5 victory on Wednesday.
Oakland wasted no time getting to starter Yusmeiro Petit, knocking him for four runs (three earned) and five hits in his only inning of work. Petit has made only eight big league appearances over the past two seasons, and his rust certainly showed. His pitch location was all over the place, as the A's peppered the field with a series of solid hits.
Reddick, Alberto Callaspo and John Jaso each knocked in a run in the first, and an error by second baseman Tony Abreu accounted for the fourth.
Although the game proved to be little more than a pummeling, Reddick's heroics prevented it from being closer than it could have been. With the Giants trying to mount a comeback, Reddick scaled the right-field wall and brought back what could have been a solo shot in the second. Two innings later, Reddick did it again—this time with two runners on base.
"We were getting challenged right away," Reddick told reporters after the game. "That first one got my heart pumping a little bit."
Of course, Reddick's second catch came after another offensive explosion by the Athletics. Oakland tagged Sergio Romo for six more runs in the fourth, with Brandon Moss and Stephen Vogt each knocking through two apiece. At that point, the rest of the game was essentially about getting through without incident and getting to tomorrow.
Pablo Sandoval drove in a run in the bottom of the fourth, and the Giants got a rally going in the bottom of the ninth to bring the game toward respectability. Adam Duvall and Ehire Adrianza went deep for their first home runs of the spring.
Pre-Spring Training Prediction for 2014 Season
Totally, completely outlandish prediction: The Giants will have more than 76 wins this season. Really going out on a limb there, I know. But there are inherent problems with making predictions during spring training—especially right at the beginning.
Injuries are bound to crop up. There probably won't be a team in baseball without one or two key guys nicked up going into the season, and more serious injuries will obviously affect pennant races. Folks tend to tune out early-season struggles, but all 162 games count equally.
How will Giants fare in 2014?
Nevertheless, looking at the scope of the NL West, the Giants are going to be competing for a wild-card berth. Barring a catastrophic season in Los Angeles, the Dodgers have spent their way into the best collection of talent in the National League—and arguably in baseball. Everyone should get fired if the Dodgers won't take home their second straight division.
That makes San Francisco's chief competition mostly teams outside its division, and the Diamondbacks are lurking as a potential spoiler. Arizona general manager Kevin Towers spent his offseason tossing high-profile prospects out the window like the wrapper of an unwanted Fritos bag. In exchange, he got some veterans who could help the 81-win team from last season get over the hump.
Realistically, the Giants need to focus on the NL East and Central. One is hard-pressed finding a playoff predictions system that does not feature both the Braves and Nationals. The NL East foes are two of the half-dozen most well-rounded teams in baseball. Washington imploded amid injuries and disappointing performances last season, but there's an infectious energy in the nation's capital about this team.
And things don't get much more promising looking at the Central, either. The Pirates, Cardinals and Reds each made the playoffs last season and have the firepower to do it again. Pittsburgh is the obvious weak link, having lost A.J. Burnett and unlikely to get every break to go its way again in 2013. Cincinnati's offense will also struggle to replicate Shin-Soo Choo's production. St. Louis, even after losing Carlos Beltran, is just...St. Louis.
One of those three can and probably will fall off. Two of them? I'm just not seeing it. Look for the Giants to rebound in most every category from last season and compete down to the last couple of weeks for a playoff spot before falling short.
2014 Record Prediction: 87-75 (2nd in NL West, 3rd NL Wild Card)
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