Last night during the game, Jon Miller and Duane Kuiper were talking about Clay Hensley‘s season. Specifically, they were talking about the fact that Hensley to this point has been better against left-handed hitters than right-handed hitters. Looking over Hensley’s career, he actually has been slightly better against southpaws than righties. Which means that in the Giants bullpen three pitchers are better against lefties (Affeldt, Hensley, Lopez) and two others, due to their role, likely won’t be used specifically due to matchups (Casilla as the closer, Loux as the long reliever). That leaves two relievers who will likely be matched up against tough righties, Sergio Romo and George Kontos.
This could end up being very good for Kontos as his scouting report indicates that a middle relief ROOGY-type role could suit him well.
Kontos profiles as a middle reliever in the long-term because of two glaring flaws. For one, he’s always had trouble against left-handed batters because he lacks a changeup. The tagged him for a .281/.345/.484 batting line with six homers in 142 plate appearances in Triple-A this year, and he’s shown a similar split throughout his minor league career. On the bright side, he does crush righties.
If Kontos can end up being similar to Ramon Ramirez, a pitcher who was known for his platoon splits and had a similar home run rate in the minors than Kontos, then he could turn out to be a very valuable piece to the Giants bullpen this year.
This was one of those special games in which both pitchers were in total control for the entire night. Through the first nine innings, Matt Cain and Cliff Lee combined to record 54 outs on 179 pitches. Lee went out for the tenth inning, which was another rarity — the last time a starter went past the ninth was Aaron Harang, back in 2007. Eventually, Brandon Belt — pinch hitting in the bottom of the 11th — knocked a single off Antonio Bastardo, and a couple batters later, Melky Cabrera drove him in for the walkoff win: 1-0.
- Matt Cain was unbelievable during this homestand: 18 innings, zero runs, three hits, 15 strikeouts, one walk. Now keep in mind that he did all of that in under 200 total pitches. Seriously, give it a moment to let that sink in — incredible pitching. He becomes the first San Francisco Giants starter with back-to-back shutouts since Livan Hernandez, back in 2000. The last time any pitcher allowed two or fewer hits in back-to-back complete game outings? 1994.
- Cliff Lee became the first pitcher to throw 10+ scoreless innings against the Giants since Joe Niekro, back in 1983. (Johnnie LeMaster was the Giants’ leadoff hitter in that game.)
- I’ve become an Angel Pagan apologist, but there’s little excuse for his failed execution in the ninth inning. And his reaction to the bunt sign (h/t @bubbaprog) was Tejada-esque. That double play (which caused a ~15% drop in win expectancy) was huge. On the other hand, he also happened to demonstrate a few of the reasons why I like him: in the first inning, he led off with a single against Lee, and went from first to third — excellent baserunning — on the Melky Cabrera single that followed. And in the 11th inning, he reached on an error. Nothing special, but he put the ball in play — and the result got Brandon Belt in scoring position. That’s the great thing about a hitter that rarely strikes out (he has two strikeouts in 54 plate appearances thus far), particularly one that never — er, rarely — grounds into a double play. One of the areas in which Pagan consistently adds unnoticed value: reaching base via errors. If Pagan strikes out in that situation, Melky doesn’t hit that walkoff single….By the way, Pagan has collected a hit in all five games since I wrote this (and three of those games were multi-hit games).
- Javier Lopez‘s strikeout of Jim Thome, beautifully pitched: +.195 WPA. For all the complaints this offseason about how much money the Giants gave to Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez, I wouldn’t have felt confident about Dan Runzler coming out to pitch in that critical situation. (For the record, I’m with Lefty Malo and Hanging Sliders on this one — the Lopez contract made sense; the Affeldt one didn’t).
- That Antonio Bastardo pitch to Melky Cabrera that resulted in the walkoff single wasn’t necessarily a great pitch (it was left over the plate), but it was down in the zone and Melky had a tremendous approach lining it over the second baseman for a hit. It was his third hit on the night, and even though he’d cooled off a little over the past several games, I’m still feeling very good about him this season. He looks like a completely different player than he was pre-2011.
- Clay Hensley is turning out to be the latest great, cheap bullpen addition. He’s only pitched a few innings so far, but his stuff really seems to translate well to the bullpen. For a non-guaranteed contract with a base salary of $750K? Excellent.
- The Giants grounded into four double plays in their first 11 games. The Giants grounded into four double plays tonight.
- Via GN contributor Daniel Rathman: “The starting pitchers combined to record 57 outs tonight. The winning pitcher recorded one.” Yep, wins are stupid.
The offense has reverted to its old ways, but the Giants are rolling anyway: three consecutive series wins, and 6-3 overall since they left Arizona.