SAN FRANCISCO – Want to know the biggest thing the Giants lacked this season that they got in 2012?
Four months of this: .346/.390/.516.
That was Melky Cabrera’s average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage in 113 games. He scored 84 runs. He was leading the majors in runs scored when he got suspended. He and Angel Pagan were reasons No.1 and 1a why the Giants were able to put together a functional offense, especially at home, while hitting the fewest home runs in the big leagues.
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They didn’t just get on base. They hit doubles and triples, they scored from second base on singles, they remained in constant motion, and so often, they pushed across an early run or two.
Losing Pagan to hamstring surgery hurt. But the Giants also had to replace four months of a guy hitting .346 and scoring almost a run a game, with plenty of extra-base power. And management just kinda sorta hoped it would come from somewhere.
That might have been management’s biggest misstep of the offseason. The Giants have struggled to hit everywhere, but especially at home. They needed RBI singles out of a broken-bat hit, an infield nubber and a ground out to score a four-run first inning in Saturday’s 6-3 victory over the Pirates. It was more an instance of breaks going their way than tremendous hitting.
But considering they hadn’t scored six runs at home since July 9 (a 10-6 loss to the Mets), they took it with no questions asked. They hadn’t scored six runs in a home game since the All-Star break, averaging 2.18 runs per game, and they were 7-15 over that span.
This isn’t a team that forgot how to hit at home. This is a different team – and Pagan’s injury doesn’t explain it all.
Sure, we all know Cabrera was fueled by performance-enhancing drugs. He was a fraud and a liar. The numbers he put up were artificial in a sense. But they were real in the box score. Their impact was real – and so is their absence.
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Pagan was 1 for 4 with a strikeout and made a running catch in center field for Triple-A Fresno at Las Vegas Saturday night. He played all eight innings in center field; the 51s didn’t need to bat in the ninth.
Sergio Romo on Tim Lincecum:
“As long as I’ve been a Giant, Timmy’s been a Giant. To see him go out and compete the way he does every fifth day, you definitely have to appreciate his effort.
"There’s a chance he could play for another team, and it’s kind of like a (Brian) Wilson scenario to me. I want to see my friend healthy with a spot at the table, doing what they love to do. If he’s on another team, I wish him the best. But he’s still a Giant.
“Seeing the effort he puts in, I’ve definitely learned to appreciate him that much more.”
Hector Sanchez has the 3-0 green light. Who knew?
The Giants gained a game in the NL West standings for the first time since July 31.
In fact, they’ll make up a game on everyone in the NL West if the Diamondbacks lose in extra innings. (And given that they’re still spinning in the 17th, and outfielder Casper Wells is taking the mound for the Phillies, I kind of think they lose either way.)
Hola to my high school Spanish teacher, Jim O'Brien, who came up from Southern California to watch his Pirates play on Saturday. I gave him a quick ballpark tour, and as a special bonus, we happened to ride the elevator with Willie McCovey.
Mr. OB's father scouted for the Pirates and he's a lifelong fan who still has some connections to the organization, including former ace Bob Veale. He extended a hand to McCovey and said that Veale is a family friend.
"Well then I don't know if I should be shaking your hand," said McCovey, in a tone that suggested he was mostly joking.
I looked it up: McCovey hit .188 against Bob Veale.
Anyway, it's because of people like Mr. O'Brien that I'm glad to see the Pirates return to respectability this year. It stunned me when I realized that the last time the Pirates had a winning season, I was a junior in high school -- and in Mr. O'Brien's AP Spanish class.