DENVER – They didn't arrive handcuffed and in a briefcase, but Giants manager Bruce Bochy received the results of the player balloting Sunday. He knows who many of his NL All-Stars will be.
And so he planned to spend Sunday afternoon’s flight to Cincinnati going over the names that he'll choose to round out the roster. A first draft, if you will.
It’s going to be tough. But Bochy has packed the roster with his own guys before, and he plans on using executive privilege to find at least one or two spots for reserves. If there’s any way, he’ll try to get two first-timers on the club.
Both Madison Bumgarner and Sergio Romo have the credentials to go.
Bumgarner’s 3.08 ERA ranks 17th in the NL, but he’s fourth with a .197 opponent’s batting average and seventh with 107 strikeouts. More important, he has been the best pitcher all season on a staff that won the World Series a year ago.
[BAGGARLY: Not all was forgettable about Giants' June swoon]
“It would be great, and not just for him, but for our organization as a whole,” said right-hander Tim Lincecum, a four-time All-Star. “He’s definitely deserving because of the way he stepped up when we needed him. When the rest of the rotation wasn’t doing it, he was the one guy who was consistent every time out.”
Matt Cain, a three-time All-Star, knows he has no shot to go this year after an inconsistent and homer-plagued April and May. But he’d love to see Bumgarner get the experience.
“It would be neat to see,” Cain said. “He’s been consistent, really, from Day 1.”
There are too many variables to be certain, but there's a good chance Bochy will have one spot to choose either Bumgarner or Romo. It would be a gut-wrenching decision for the manager, but Bochy probably would have an easier time justifying a place for his closer. Romo is sixth in the NL with 19 saves, and that 34-to-5 strikeout-to-walk is as clean as they come. He’s got the visibility and name factor, too, after throwing the clinching pitch that struck out a Triple Crown winner last October. (The NL relief field is crowded, though. Jason Grilli, Craig Kimbrel, Rafael Soriano, Edward Mujica and Aroldis Chapman are all having solid seasons.)
Bochy also could reason that Bumgarner, who is just 23, will have plenty more chances to be an All-Star. That's not to suggest that Romo won't be deserving in future years, but relief pitching does tend to be fickle by nature.
Bumgarner certainly helped his credentials Sunday by holding the Rockies to a run in seven innings as the Giants won 5-2 to break a six-game losing streak. Bumgarner’s win was the first by a Giants starter since … Bumgarner, on June 19. And before that? Bumgarner again, five days earlier. You could make a strong argument that he's been the Giants' most valuable player in the first 81 games. If not for his consistency when everyone else in the rotation was getting hit hard, what kind of mess would the Giants be in?
“Bum has been consistent all year," Bochy said. "He’s had bad luck and we’ve cashed in some of his runs. But he’s been so consistent. He’s a special talent and he showed it today.”
Bumgarner will have one more chance to pretty up his stats on July 5, when the Giants begin their next homestand against the Los Angeles Dodgers. All-Star rosters will be announced the following day.
“There’s a lot of guys who are throwing really good, so I’m not expecting it, that’s for sure,” Bumgarner said. “Yeah, it’d be a huge honor. I’d be blessed for sure. But at the same time, I do know a lot of guys are throwing well this year.”
One more detail: Bumgarner's last start before the break would come July 10. So if he made the NL squad, he'd have five full days of rest and would be able to pitch.
What about Buster Posey? Well, if he doesn't win the popular vote, he's expected to make it on the player ballot. So Bochy won't have to pull any favors for the reigning NL MVP.
Fans don’t often see it, but Bumgarner really has a tremendous sense of humor. When he saw the media starting to creep towards his locker as he was putting his boots on, he compared us to the annoying passengers at the airport who crowd the gate area before they start boarding the plane.
“I didn’t call you yet,” he said, then finished buttoning his shirt. “Okay. Zone 1.”
Bumgarner did all he could to stop Michael Cuddyer’s hitting streak. Cuddyer managed to make it 27 games when he singled in his last at-bat, against right-hander Sandy Rosario.
“It’s fun to compete against guys in a situation like that,” Bumgarner said. “I didn’t want to walk him. I wanted to challenge him.”
As mentioned in the Instant Replay, the Giants caught a huge break. They made a mistake on the basepaths that’s been typical of the way they played most of June. Buster Posey hit a ground ball, Tony Abreu ran from second base and Andres Torres, standing on third, did not.
It turned into a run when Rockies first baseman Jordan Pacheco threw the ball away.
Maybe that’s the twist of fate from the baseball gods that the Giants needed. Sure, that stuff is all bollocks. (Mercury is in retrograde, by the way.) But there’s something to be said for how the mood of a club can drag, how guys can begin to feel cursed, when the breaks keep going against them. Sometimes it takes just one event to turn it around.
“Today, it went the other way,” Bochy said. “Today we got a break. It did seem to relax the guys.”
Brandon Belt said he really should have kept taking fly balls after spring training. But with Buster Posey not getting many starts at first base, it didn’t appear to be warranted. Belt took a “my bad” for that.
He said he looks forward to getting some outfield work in Cincinnati.
How about that stop sign that Tim Flannery put up on Pablo Sandoval in the fifth? I’d imagine that’s the facial expression someone makes like right before they get hit by a locomotive.
Brandon Crawford is having a tough road trip with the bases loaded. He popped up with one out in the fifth and is 0 for 3 with the bags juiced in the last two series. He’s got one hit in his last 27 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
It hasn’t been easy. Crawford is playing with two sprained fingers, and Joaquin Arias (hamstring) hasn’t been healthy enough to spell him at shortstop against left-handers on this trip. Wouldn't you know? The Rockies started another in Drew Pomeranz on Sunday after tweaking their rotation. So Crawford has just been forced to wear it for now.
I made a mistake in the Instant Replay file. I assumed that Tony Abreu flubbed when he didn’t cover second base on D.J. LeMahieu’s stolen-base attempt in the first inning. It took a running, stretching effort from Crawford to keep Gullermo Quiroz’s throw from going into center field.
Turns out I was wrong. It was Crawford’s cover, infield coach Ron Wotus told me.
If you watch the infielders when a runner is on first base, they’ll make a sign between the two of them before every pitch. They’ll put a glove in front of their mouth so the opposing dugout can’t see, then either open or close their mouth. Closed means “I’m covering.” Open means “you’re covering.”
They’ll decide based on how they’re playing the hitter, which pitch is coming up, etc. For example, Bumgarner gets a lot of ground balls to the left side on his cutter. The last thing an infielder wants to happen is to break for the bag on a hit-and-run, only to have a single go through the hole he just vacated. So if Crawford sees the catcher’s sign and knows a cutter is coming, he’s apt to tell Abreu to cover the bag.
That time, Crawford was playing pretty far to his right. But he still called for the cover, Wotus said, because he thought he could get there in time. Turns out it was a little further than he thought, and Quiroz’s throw, while it was on the money, was to Abreu’s side of the base.
Anyway, there you have it. That’s how infielders decide who’s covering second base.
Neat story in San Jose. Santiago Casilla pitched the first inning to start his rehab assignment, and then his younger brother, Jose, pitched the inning after him.
There are nine years that separate the two brothers, so they didn’t really grow up playing together. I’ve got three older brothers that are 12, 10 and 7 years older than me. So I know what it’s like to look up to them, and what a cool experience this must have been for Jose.
The younger brother had the cleaner outing. He tossed a scoreless inning. Santiago gave up a run on two hits and a sacrifice fly.
Santiago will pitch again Tuesday at Modesto, and he’ll probably send his kid brother to the store for some ice cream. It’s supposed to be 110 degrees.
Angel Villalona was promoted to Double-A Richmond, so reports San Jose announcer Joe Ritzo.
It’s hard to believe that this June was the Giants’ first losing month since August of 2011. Or as we call it in the press box: the Orlando Cabrera Era.
Ryan Vogelsong said he grew his fearsome beard because it was too dangerous to shave with his left hand.
Well, his right-hand is out of a splint. And the beard remains.
If it looks a little on the dark side, well … Vogelsong does get some salt and pepper in his beard. Hey, there’s no shame in admitting he dyes it. It’s been done before by a Giants pitcher, if memory serves.