San Fransisco Giants Sweep Houston Astros To Start the Year Off Right
Three games down, 159 to go.
What a three games they were.
So what did we learn about the 2010 San Francisco Giants?
Well, one thing I think we all know is that they can pitch.
Whoa, Nelly, can they pitch.
In game one, Tim Lincecum responded to a shaky spring with a Cy Young caliber opening day; he pitched seven shutout innings, struck out seven and only allowed four base runners.
Lincecum's command was dominant and the poor Astros were left flailing at the plate, just as so many others before them as the bottom fell out of Lincecum's patented splitter/changeup. He made them look silly. Giants won 5-2.
But that wasn't all the dominating pitching of the series.
Barry Zito came out in game two and responded with six shutout innings of his own.
Zito changed speeds and painted the corners with precision and the Astros had no answer for it. The bullpen came in for the seventh to preserve the shutout.
Brian Wilson looked like a Top-Five closer in two save situations. He threw only 20 pitches to close out the first two games and allowed zero base runners. Giants won the second 3-0.
Matt Cain took the mound on Wednesday afternoon for the third and final game of the series.
Cain was every bit as dominant as the previous two starters. He allowed one unearned run in the fourth as Pedro Feliz drove in Hunter Pence, who reached second on Pablo Sandoval's egregious throw into the stands.
After that, Cain was solid until he seemingly hit a wall in the seventh. He managed to record two outs, but failing to finish the inning. Sadly an infield hit from speedster Michael Bourne tied the game after Cain left and the Giants starter could not earn a win.
But the Giants hitters came alive in the eighth and ninth innings and dropped a six spot in the final two frames as the Giants cruised to a 10-4 victory and the series sweep.
So here you go, Giants fans, my series recap:
The starting pitching and all bullpen pitchers not named Brandon Medders. Giants pitching allowed only five earned runs through the series. They held the three and four hitters of the Astros for a combined 1-for-24 with zero RBI.
That is domination, pure and simple.
Edgar Renteria was huge in this series. He went 8-for-11 at the plate, with a double and three RBI. His defense was fairly solid as well.
Rich Aurillia commented about the cleanup Renteria had had done on his elbow, that he could now extend his arm, and the difference was there for everyone to see.
Renteria came through with big RBI as well as table setting hits. He was arguably the Giants' MVP of the series.
Aaron Rowand (who will later appear in the Ugly segment of this article) rebounded beautifully from an 0-for-10 start with a 4-for-6 game to end the series.
Rowand had four hits, including a triple and plated two Giants. Rowand was outstanding to end the series and though his hitting was atrocious in the first two games, there was a noticeable extra step in his defense as he tracked down a ball hit to deep left center in the first game and tracked down another in game three that just popped out of his glove.
All in all, it was an excellent rebound game and a game that Rowand himself needed to see.
Lastly, John Bowker was tremendous.
Bowker had two huge at-bats in the series, the first came in game one, where he missed a home run by about two feet. It ended up as a long single that plated the second run of the game.
The second, was a screaming line drive home run in game three to put the Giants up 2-0. Bowker played solid defense and showed some excellent clutch hitting. An A plus performance from the young right fielder.
Pablo Sandoval may have had four hits in 13 at bats but he looked far from solid.
His defense was suspect for the entire series and eventually lead to a horrific throw into the stands on a grounder that led to the Astros first run of game three.
He hit into too many double plays and he swung at too many first pitches. He had no RBI in a series where there were plenty of opportunities to be found with Renteria hitting directly in front of him.
All in all, it was a very forgettable series for "The Panda".
But before anyone trashes me for hating on Sandoval, just remember he had a rough start last year as well. I expect this series to be the exception, not the rule for the mighty "Kung-Fu Panda".
Brandon Medders was the only Giants pitcher that did not look solid in the opening series.
Medders was brought in for mop up duty in the ninth inning of game one and threw so many belt high meatballs that the score was 5-2 before Mike Krukow could say, "Grab some pine meat!".
Brian Wilson should not have needed to come in to save game one. Fortunately, he performed exceptionally and bailed out Medders. Medders never appeared again in the series. He did not even warm up in the bullpen.
With as much talent as the Giants bullpen has and as pitcher heavy as the Giants minor league system is, Medders had better fix his problems and fix them quick or he may be on the outside, looking in.
The amount of double plays the Giants hit into was inexcusable.
The Giants hit into seven double plays in the series and those are devastating rally killers. The may have won each game, but the potential to run away with each game was within their grasp. Situational hitting was not their forte whatsoever in the series.
Aubrey Huff failed to get a runner in from third with less than two outs and Rowand did the same. Sandoval hit into three of the teams double plays.
They cannot continue this trend if the hope to beat the upper-echelon teams in the NL.
Aaron Rowand's first two games at the plate were atrocious. He went 0-for-10 with three strikeouts.
The horror culminated late in game two when Rowand was jammed on a pitch on his hands that sent a weak liner to short and Rowand was left in the batters box staring at the sky.
He had no clue where the ball was.
You only lose a ball like that when you are taking your eyes off it. That is a major mechanical issue for Rowand. All signs pointed to disaster for Rowand. No one was more shocked than I to see a fantastic performance today. We need him to be a table setter for this team. 0-for-10 performance's simply will not do. But a 4-for-6 day will do just fine.
Well Giants fans there it is. 3-0 and on our way to 162-0!
Everyone go get your World Series tickets before they sell out!
In all seriousness though, this was a good opening series. There are many things that still need work, but all the necessary components are in place for a long and productive season.
The offense does look better than last year and while they are not yet the Philadelphia Phillies, they are certainly better than their 2009 counterparts.
Overall grade: B plus
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