I’ve seen a lot of things on this Arizona trip I never would’ve expected. The Giants lost the first game I attended by a score of 18-3. Barry Bonds said his biggest regret was that his relationship with the media wasn’t better.
Today, Marco Scutaro started against the Angels.
We’ve been conditioned to assume the worst when it comes to aging contact hitters who play second base. Freddy Sanchez’s return always seemed like it was just around the corner, until he never came back at all. Scutaro sounded so melancholy about his back problems last week that it seemed like he was sure to start the year on the disabled list.
That could very well still happen, but Scutaro looked like his old self from the start of today’s game. There he was, hitting second and reaching second on his first swing of the Spring — a double down the left field line.
“Lucky swing, I guess,” said Scutaro, who scored the game’s first run on an opposite-field single from Pablo Sandoval, who continues to look sharp from the right side.
Scutaro was active in the bottom of the first as well. He fielded a grounder from Josh Hamilton, and smoothly pivoted and threw to Joaquin Arias at second to force Mike Trout. Then he fielded a throw from Arias at second base to force Hamilton for the last out of the inning.
Scutaro got a dose of reality when he swung and missed at all three pitches he faced in his second at-bat. Still, not a bad day’s work.
“I only played a couple innings, but it was a lot of action. I got to run the bases, (field a) ground ball, scored a run,” said Scutaro. “It was a good day.”
Oh yeah, the game. The Giants mounted a four-run rally with two outs in the top of the ninth to take a 7-6 lead at Tempe Diablo Stadium (where the green-shirted crowd seemed to be split 50/50 between Giants and Angels fans). But Jean Machi gave up a hit to Shawn O’Malley (a perfect name for St. Patrick’s Day), then fell behind 3-0 to Kole Calhoun before giving up a two-run homer to send the Angels supporters home happy.
“He’s been throwing well,” said Bochy of Machi, whose ERA jumped from 3.38 to 6.35 today. “He laid one in there 3-0. With a base open, you’ve got to be smarter. He gave in a little too much there.”
— Tim Lincecum threw almost 90 pitches (they rarely provide pitch-counts here) today, giving up five earned runs in 5.1 innings. He allowed seven hits (no homers) and two walks, hit a guy and struck out no one.
— I asked Lincecum if he pays attention to the strikeout numbers. Even last season, he struck out almost one batter per inning (8.8 per nine innings during the regular season). Lincecum has only four strikeouts in 14.2 innings over four Cactus League outings.
I think my mindset’s been to try and stay within the zone a lot more. I’ve had my walks here and there, but (the key is to) bounce back from them – not back-to-back walks, that kind of thing. I think I’ve been trying to stick more in the zone, the bottom part of the zone where I think I am inducing more contact. I think I’ll go for the strikeouts when I need them. I don’t think I’ve really had that feeling of needing them yet. I’m trying to work on things that I need to. That’ll come when it needs to, I suppose.
Another reporter asked if he ever thought he’d become a “pitch to contact” guy.
Never. I never really thought of that question that way. In my mind I was trying to strike out guys, and that was my mindset even coming up. It’s different, but an out’s an out. I like going further into games. I know that trying to go for that strikeout has hurt me. Sometimes it hasn’t, but I’m trying to go for quick outs more than anything.
I asked Bochy if he takes away anything from Lincecum’s lower-than-average strikeout numbers.
“No, I don’t at all,” Bochy said. “We want to pitch to contact, pound the strike zone. He’s doing what we want him to do right now.”
— Bochy on Scutaro’s debut:
“He made it look easy, didn’t he? Stepped up there and got a double first at-bat. Three innings, couple at-bats which is a good start for him. It’s good to see him out there. He’s got to feel good to get a couple at-bats out there, on this field,” he said.
— Hunter Pence hit a ball that went a mile that flew just to the left of the left field foul pole. He was taken out of the game after grounding out in the ninth, so of course he walked over to the warning track and did a few wind sprints before the game concluded. It’s impossible to know what his 2014 numbers will end up being, but Pence certainly isn’t relaxing after landing that huge contract extension.
— Brandon Hicks was a part of the Giants’ ninth inning rally that also included hits by Tyler Graham, Chris Dominguez and Ryan Lollis. With today’s double, Hicks is 12-for-30 (.400) with five walks.
“That was a great at-bat. Down 0-2, and he battled back. He had a nice gapper there,” said Bochy. “The kids tried to pull it out for us. There was a lot of life. They did a great job, and we let it get away.”
— 22-year-old reliever Cam Bedrosian came in and got the last out for the Angels in the top of the ninth. Cam’s father, Steve, saved 34 games over two seasons (1989-90) for the Giants.
— The traffic getting here was insane. I traveled the length of about four blocks in 40 minutes on the road that leads to the stadium, so I got desperate. I turned left before I was supposed to, because my phone told me there was a narrow, winding road that might take me behind the stadium and away from the traffic jam. Google Maps was right, but that road ended up taking me through a cemetery. Luckily, the back gate was open just wide enough to fit my rental car through, which brought me a little closer to the park.
I flagged down a stadium employee, who told me I needed to make a u-turn and go back to the busy street I fled from, because the hotel nearby wouldn’t let me park in their lot. I told him “thank you,” but there was no way I was going back to that street. So I wound my way through the hotel’s parking lot, making five or six turns in all, before getting spit out into … a stadium parking lot, where there were exactly two open spaces.
I made it to my seat about 30 seconds before the game’s first pitch. Success!
— The wi-fi didn’t work here either, so I came to the realization that this is not my favorite Spring Training facility … and that’s not even considering the 2002 championship banners to the right of where I was sitting.
(Objectivity man, c’mon!)
Err … I mean, what a great place to watch a ballgame!
— Near the end of Lincecum’s post-start interview, the lights went out in the clubhouse. Lincecum joked that it must have been the same guy from the 2013 Super Bowl at the Superdome. When someone mentioned that they they had already forgotten who won the most recent Super Bowl, Lincecum (a Seahawks fan who once raised the “12th Man” flag) smiled and said, “Yeah, me too.” Uh, sure.
— Bochy’s parting words to the media after his postgame interview: “Go get yourselves some green beer.”