Results tagged ‘ Tim Lincecum ’

A Much Happier Flight to NY

If anyone at the park today was watching their first Giants-Dodgers game, they learned everything they need to know about this rivalry. This was an unbelievable game – like an entire season of highs and lows in one afternoon.

We had the benches clear in the fifth inning when the Dodgers pitcher hit Pablo. I was on deck, and Pablo was definitely hit on the arm. I thought at first they were arguing that Pablo had swung through, which meant even if he was hit, it’s a strike and he doesn’t go to first. But they said the ball hit the bat first then his arm, which wasn’t the case.

Pablo thought McDonald was intentionally trying to hit him, which is a judgment call on his part. Maybe he and McDonald have a history in the minor leagues or something. I don’t know. But you always back up your teammate, no matter what. I grabbed Russell Martin, the catcher, who wasn’t happy that Pablo was accusing his pitcher of intentionally hitting him. I was telling him to take it easy. Basically, your job as a teammate when the benches clear is to keep your teammates safe. You try to grab whoever you can to keep them from getting hurt or getting tossed.

Obviously, we don’t like the Dodgers, and they don’t like us. The only thing you hope is that nobody gets hurt. And nobody did.

Timmy pitched such a great game it’s a shame he didn’t get the win. Late in the game, I was just telling him to keep making his pitches. Don’t try to throw harder or slower. Just make his pitches the way he always does. It was a killer not to get the call at first. We get that call, and maybe the game is over in nine.

We had more than little bad luck as far as the calls during this series. I hated to see Bochy thrown out of the game, but I understand it. It’s frustrating when it seems like all the calls are going against you. It’s hard for everybody when the manager’s tossed. You want him making the decisions. We have great coaches, though. After Wotus got thrown out, Flannery took over. I was wondering who was going to manage if Flannery got tossed. Maybe Murph. He’s certainly seen more baseball in his 50-something years with the team than all of us put together.

But I’m not going to be too harsh on the umps. They’re human. They have bad days like the rest of us.

The best part of the game, of course, was watching Juan Uribe’s monster home run sail over Ramirez’s head. Ramirez didn’t even watch it. He just started walking off the field.

It’s hard to describe the feeling of rushing onto the field when a teammate hits a walk-off home run – much less in a game like this. Against the Dodgers. Ten innings. And it was especially exciting because it was Juan. He had a tough day. Left runners on base. Dropped the pop-up. I haven’t talked to him but I’m guessing the sun was in his eyes.

And then he clobbers the ball.

That’s the great part of this game. With one pitch, one swing, you change your whole day. Maybe you change a whole season.

This is a huge win. That goes without saying. It’s especially big not only because it’s against the Dodgers and the first-place team, but because we’re heading out to New York and the start of a long road trip. This win – and HOW we won – gives us so much positive energy going onto the road.

I’m heading home for a few hours before I have to catch a plane tonight. We have a day off tomorrow in New York. I’ll be resting.

I’ll try to update the blog sometime during the road trip.

Thanks for reading and for supporting us. This is an amazing team. I love coming to the ballpark every day because I get to watch these great guys play.

Great Day at the Park

Yesterday was one of those days when everything falls into place, when baseball seems like the easiest game in the world.

We scored 10 runs against St. Louis — Ishikawa and Renteria both went three for four with three RBIs a piece.

Timmy pitched what might be the best game of his already amazing career, a two-hit complete game – his third complete game in his last four starts.

And we were in St. Louis, so I got to spend time with my brother, Yadier, and my mother and aunt, who were visiting from Puerto Rico.

What more could I ask for?

One thing, actually.

I could ask to have a big game at the plate after a disappointing month of June.

And, sure enough, I got that, too.

I went three for five with an RBI and a run. To be honest, I hit the ball well all five times. I felt great up at the plate. It felt good to see the ball flying past fielders instead of right at them. Hitting is mostly skill, of course, but there’s a little luck, too. Sometimes you can be swinging the bat and seeing the pitches as well as you ever have, and every ball you hit finds a glove. And sometimes the balls fall exactly where you want them to.

Despite the slump, it’s satisfying to still have the most RBIs of any catcher in the National League and to lead the major leagues in game-winning RBIs.

The best part of yesterday’s game, though, was partnering with Timmy. I take a lot of pride in calling his games and strategizing with him through every inning, every batter, every pitch. I don’t need to tell you that this kid is really special. He’s one of a kind. I have never seen a pitcher exactly like him. He trusts his pitches. He trusts what he’s going to throw. When I call for a fastball, he just unleashes it. The real good pitchers, they execute their pitches.

Sounds simple, right? But there’s a confidence and trust a pitcher has to have in himself, his catcher and his skills. Timmy has four pitches he can throw for strikes. Four good ones – meaning he not only throws them for strikes, he throws them hard.

And this kid doesn’t rattle. He’s really relaxed before his starts, but he’s a very fierce guy when it comes to pitching his game. He has the perfect personality for a pitcher.

Even between innings, when most pitchers sit off by themselves on the bench, Timmy will ask me about the location of a certain pitch, things like that. This kid is the whole package.

I didn’t catch Ryan Sadowski, but I had fun watching him. He really, really impressed me, the way he controlled the game, the way he threw strikes, moved the ball around. He threw breaking balls, sliders when he had to. He looked like a veteran out there.

He spent more than six years in the minor leagues, and he learned how to pitch. Some guys have all the raw skills in the world but they get to the majors too quickly without first learning HOW to pitch. Believe, I understand why everyone wants to get out of minors as fast as they can. It’s no fun being the minors. It’s a tough lifestyle. But there are a lot of advantages to paying your dues in the minors.

That’s where you do all your learning. The major leagues aren’t instructional leagues. It’s not the place to be working on your skills. You get here and you have to execute right away. That’s what Sadowski did. He did his job and now he’s getting another chance.

Here’s another advantage. When you spend that much time in the minors, once you get to the majors, you really, really appreciate where you are. You appreciate the game of baseball and how blessed you are to play it for a living. I was in the minors for more than seven years, so I speak from experience.

Jamie is getting closer to having the baby, so I gave Bochy the heads-up that if I get the call that she’s in labor, I’ll have to go. I’ll keep you posted, of course.

Back on Track

It’s been great watching our pitchers the last two games – Randy Johnson on Sunday and Matt Cain yesterday. Both were in a groove and doing what they know and we know they can do.

 

Sometimes I can tell in the bullpen before the game when a pitcher is on – like with Timmy on Saturday. I wasn’t sure with Randy on Sunday. But I could see in the first inning he had his fastball and slider working and his change-up.

 

With any pitcher, with a no-hitter going, you just stay away. You kind of stay away from Randy anyway. That’s how he operates. Sometimes Rags or I will mention something to him – watch out for this or that. But there was nothing to say on Sunday. He was awesome to watch.

 

On our off day Monday, I just rested. Then Jamie and I went to McCovey’s restaurant in Walnut Creek and had the best experience. The food was great and there was a ton of memorabilia to look at. It’s only 10 minutes from our house, so I know Jamie and I will be going there a lot. Willie McCovey happened to be in Murph’s office in the clubhouse yesterday, so I told him what a great time we had at his place. He was really happy, and Freddie Lew was standing there next to me. Willie said I had to get Freddie to go now.

 

Got the news yesterday that Steve Holm is coming back up. It will be so great to have him back. You know by now how much I love that guy. I’m looking forward to sitting and talking about the strategy of catching with someone who loves the position as much as I do!

 

See you at the ballpark.

Perseverance

It was a quiet clubhouse last night, as you might imagine. To lose the fifth game in a row when we were so close after Aaron’s three-run homer – it’s incredibly frustrating. We were all very down and angry at ourselves for not coming through when we needed to. As frustrated as you are as fans, let me assure you we are ten times more frustrated as players.

What’s going wrong? A few obvious things.

We haven’t been putting the ball in play. You have to give a lot of credit to the opposing pitchers. They’ve been throwing great. That’s been a factor. Then the longer you go without hitting, the more you start pressing. And when you lose four, five games in a row, you go up to the plate trying to hit a seven-run homer with no one on.

Second, we haven’t been making our pitches. We’re not hitting our spots. We’re falling behind in counts. If we’re going for a fastball away, we’re leaving it over the plate. Curve balls are hanging. We need to hit the corners for strikes. Our poor hitting isn’t helping the pitchers – it puts even more pressure on them.

Last night was a killer because we were so close. Wilson came in in a tough situation – bottom of the ninth, tie game, bases loaded, no outs. He got a grounder to short – exactly what you want — but we couldn’t turn the double play. So with Loney up – who had hit a sacrifice fly on a high fastball earlier in the game – we wanted to keep the ball down so he’d keep it on the ground and we’d get a second shot at a double play.

Unfortunately, on a 3-2 count, the fastball was too low and Loney walked. Game over.

Like the other veterans on the team, I talk to the young guys and remind them that it’s a long season. We’re not even out of April yet. We have to stick together and work hard and make sure each of us does everything we can to be ready for every play, every pitch. That’s all you can do, and inning by inning, game by game, you rebuild.

The truth is, our young guys are handling this rough stretch really well – with much greater perspective than you might expect. Pablo Sandoval, who has really been struggling at the plate, is still really positive and energetic. His attitude is great – he lifts everybody up.

And Timmy’s another kid who has such a positive attitude no matter what’s happening. He loves the challenge of things. He knows what he’s facing, and he’s got that fierce competitiveness that gives you no doubt he’ll be absolutely fine.

I think returning home tomorrow and playing in our own park in front of our own fans will close the chapter on this awful past week and we can start fresh.

I know you’re disappointed and frustrated as fans. But it’s more important than you can imagine to stick with us. Don’t turn your backs on us in the tough times. We’re working as hard as we can to break out of this, and I know we will. We need you there with us in good times and bad – maybe even more so in the bad times.

I hope to see you this weekend when we play the Diamondbacks. This is a great group of players, and an even better group of men.

One thing I can promise: This team will never give up. I hope you won’t either.

Lessons in Perspective

One of the many things you learn playing baseball – perhaps playing any sport – is to accept what is out of your control. Sometimes the ball has eyes and finds the gap. Sometimes you hit into a double play with the bases loaded.

I went 0-fo-5 yesterday after a good game at the plate on Opening Day. But believe me when I tell you there was no difference – meaning that I wasn’t “on” one day and “off” the next. I felt good last night. I hit the ball well. Some days it goes right at people. Some days it gets through.

That’s baseball. A few inches one way or the other, and it’s a different game. Randy Johnson’s pitch to Gallardo last night, for example. We wanted a fastball higher than the letters on his chest so he would chase it for the third strike. The ball wasn’t as high as it needed to be. That kid is a good hitter, too, don’t forget. But if the pitch is just a little bit higher, we get him.

This game so often comes down to the slightest of margins, the tiniest bits of bad luck.

To tell you the truth, I never thought we were out of it last night. I always expected we’d come back. But we’re going to have many more chances, so you can’t dwell on what didn’t work for us last night. You have to just get ready for today’s game.

As for Tim on Opening Day, I was thinking he might have a tough day even when we were warming up in the bullpen. When he walked the first batter and hit the third, I went out to talk to him. I’m not going to tell him anything about mechanics, of course.

“Keep battling,” I said. “Keep grinding it out. You’re going to get out of it.”

He didn’t have command of his fastball or his curveball. Usually if one isn’t working, he has the other. But people have to remember this kid is a human being. He’s not a machine. I admired how he kept fighting out there. That’s one of the beautiful things about baseball. The days when you really aren’t at the top of your game are the days when you test yourself the most. Those are the days you earn your money.

And afterward I told Tim that sometimes you need to struggle to come back stronger. You have to keep it all in perspective, too, which is tougher when you’re young. There are way more important things to worry about than giving up some walks or going 0-for-5.

Today was the worst kind of reminder of that. I keep thinking about Nick Adenhart, the young Angels pitcher killed by a drunk driver last night. It’s the kind of news that gives you the chills. Makes you shake. We’re playing a game, but once those lights go out in the ballpark, it’s real life out there. I keep thinking how you can be doing everything 100 percent right, but some other guy right next to you isn’t doing the right thing and you pay the price.

I keep thinking that if Adenhart’s car had entered the intersection two seconds earlier or two seconds later, maybe he goes home thinking about his next start.

The slightest of margins, the tiniest bits of bad luck.

Hitting the road

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Another really tough loss today. Matt Cain had a no-hitter going into the fifth and we ended up losing, 13-8. Five losses in a row at home, and now we’re off to Colorado, Florida and Arizona for nine games on the road.

We’re very, very frustrated with what we’ve done so far as a team, I can tell you that. There were times during this homestand that I could hardly move from my locker after a game. I always try to talk to reporters because when I talk to them, I know I’m talking to the fans. But sometimes I take the losses so hard, I can’t talk to anybody.

I know other guys feel the same way. You always feel, if you didn’t come through when you’re needed to, that you let all your teammates down. And you let the fans down. That’s the worst feeling.

Still, you know you have to put it behind you. You have to keep fighting. That’s the only way. You don’t make it very far in baseball if you can’t battle through tough times. There is so much failure in this game that it’s easy to get beaten down by it. The ones who DON’T let it crush them are the ones who survive at the Major League level. And believe me when I tell you that this is a team not just of survivors, but of warriors. When we get to the ballpark in Colorado, we’ll put a fence around this awful loss and be ready to go 150 percent.

Part of what I do to get ready at the start of each series is to study the inch-and-a-half-thick scouting report on our opponent. Right now, I’m on the plane from San Francisco to Denver and going through the reports on each batter for the Rockies: How have they been swinging lately? What percentage of the time do they swing at curve balls, sliders, fastballs? What do they want when they get one strike? Two strikes?  How do they run?

Steve Holm is sitting in the row in front of me, and he’s going through the same stack of papers. We talk about the hitters and get an idea on how to pitch to each one, how to get each one out. At the ballpark, we’ll watch videos of the Rockies’ last few games with Dave Righetti and Mark Gardner, the pitching coach and bullpen coach. Those two guys are very, very prepared for every team. It’s amazing how much homework they do. So we go over the lineup together and come up with a plan for every batter.

Of course, once the game starts, what we prepared for and what actually happens could be totally different things. A batter might not do anything that the scouting report said he would. So Holmy and I have to be ready to adjust. Between innings, we’ll consult with each other and with Righetti about the next three guys in the order. Sometimes, in the dugout, I’ll look at the scouting report again to refresh my memory about a particular guy. Then, after all the hours of preparation, it’s up to the pitcher to make the pitch.

Two real positives of this homestand were Omar Vizquel’s return from the disabled list and Tim Lincecum’s continued great pitching. Omar is always so motivated and happy that he lifts everyone up. We feel pretty secure when he’s out on the field. Not taking anything away from the younger guys, but Omar is a veteran, a future Hall of Famer, and when he’s out there, we all feel pretty good.

People have been asking me what makes Lincecum special. The first thing I say is he has a great heart. He’s not afraid of anything. He’s not afraid of getting hit. His skills, of course, are amazing: He throws over 95 mph, has a great changeup, a great slider and curve. But what makes him so good, at least in great part, is that he believes no one can hit him. Sometimes pitchers give too much respect to batters. But Lincecum always seems to believe that no matter how great the batter’s reputation, he’s better, and he’s going to get him out.

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OK, I should get back to studying this scouting report. Thanks for checking in. I’ll try to write more often. But I admit, when we lose, I’m not very eager to share my thoughts.

And during homestands, I’m trying to spend as much time with my family as I can, so I run out of time for anything but family and baseball. I took my younger daughter to the Exploratorium on Saturday and had a great time. What an amazing place. She thought it was awesome. Then after the game Saturday night, I took her into the batting cage behind the dugout and tossed balls to her. I was still in my uniform and dog-tired. But she was so happy that we stayed until about 11. She flew back today to Yuma, where she lives with her mother.

The toughest part of any homestand, besides letting go of the losses, is saying good-bye.