Fielder Looking for Big Second Half

If Prince Fielder heats up, that could provide enough juice to the offense to carry Milwaukee to the postseason. Check out this progress report on the Brewers and their next opponent, San Francisco.

Inside pitch

Prince Fielder, who was voted to start at first base for the National League in the 2007 All-Star Game, sat at home this year and pondered a disappointing first half in the wake of his 50-homer season of a year ago.

"Early in the season, I pressed," he said in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal- Sentinel. "And that's the frustrating part. If I would have just been (relaxed), especially in April, if I would have just relaxed, I would have been all right."

At the break last year, Fielder was batting .284 with 29 home runs and 70 RBIs. He finished with a .288 average, league-leading 50 homers and 119 RBIs.

This season, Fielder is batting .270 with 18 homers and 52 RBIs. He had just four homers in April.

"I think I was wanting to do (what I did last year)," Fielder said. "But I can't tell you how I did that to save my life. So, why would I try to do something I don't know how to do?"

Fielder says a strong finish can still make him content with his 2008 season.

"I just have to let it happen," he said. "It was good for me because for years to come in my career, I realize it's not how you start. It's how you finish."

Notes

--Left-handed pitcher CC Sabathia, who worked the final game Sunday before the All-Star break, will get the first start of the second half tonight in San Francisco. That assignment will be Sabathia's third start in 11 days since he was acquired in a trade from Cleveland.

--Righty Ben Sheets is scheduled to pitch Saturday despite starting for the NL on Tuesday. Sheets went two innings and threw 42 pitches.

--Right fielder Corey Hart, who entered the All-Star Game in the sixth inning, ended up playing nine innings when the contest went 15 innings. Left fielder Ryan Braun, who started for the NL, left after six innings, so his teammate played longer as a reserve.

--Shortstop J.J. Hardy has to hope the All-Star break didn't cool off his torrid bat. In 13 games in July, Hardy batted .373 (19-for-51) with seven home runs and 13 RBIs. He had a .429 on-base percentage and a .843 slugging percentage.

--Relief pitcher Eric Gagne, who signed a one-year, $10 million deal with the Brewers to be their closer, took a 7.33 ERA into the All-Star break. No longer the closer, Gagne allowed 29 hits, 16 walks and 19 earned runs in 231/3 innings.

By the numbers

22--Home runs combined for the third-base platoon of right-handed hitting Bill Hall and left-handed batting Russell Branyan.

Inside pitch

Now what? Does San Francisco go for it? Or do the Giants give up and dump the veterans?

What a silly question for a team that's 15 games under .500. Of course it's time to rid themselves of the old guys and let the young guys play every day. It's time to move the players who aren't part of the future, including Ray Durham and Rich Aurilia. Maybe even Randy Winn.

Right?

On the other hand, the Giants still think there's a chance to win the rotten NL West. They're only seven games out as they open the second half against the Brewers.

In recent weeks, general manager Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy have spoken of the Giants still being alive, but they may feel differently after the team lost six of seven entering the All-Star break.

It should be noted that the Giants were on the road in the final week, and now they're at home, where they're 17-28, the worst home record in the majors.

If the Giants made Durham and Aurilia bench players or moved them, along with Winn--outfielder Dave Roberts would be on the list if he were active--it wouldn't be shocking.

Notes and quotes

--Righty Tim Lincecum is fine, said his father, Chris, who accompanied the Giants pitcher to New York for the All-Star Game. Lincecum wasn't at Yankee Stadium because of flu-like symptoms and dehydration, for which he was hospitalized. Chris told the San Francisco Chronicle, "He had major league dehydration. It was a combination of flying in from the Chicago game (Sunday), a delayed flight. He didn't land until 1 in the morning." Tim, who's scheduled to pitch Sunday against the Brewers, watched the All-Star Game from his hotel room.

--Catcher Buster Posey (Florida State) won the Golden Spikes Award as the best college player, giving the Giants two of the past three winners. Lincecum (University of Washington) won in 2006. Posey was the Giants' first-round pick in last month's draft but hasn't yet signed. He led the NCAA in batting (.472), on-base percentage (.572) and slugging percentage (.908). Ex-Giant Will Clark (Mississippi State) won the Golden Spikes in 1985.

--Right-hander Matt Cain will start the second-half opener tonight against the Brewers. Cain is pitching better of late, going 3-3 with a 3.04 ERA in his last seven starts. In his 13 previous outings, he was 2-4 with a 4.67 ERA. In his only other career start against the Brewers, he was a 5-3 loser in September 2006, having given up five runs in seven innings.

--Right fielder Randy Winn has had plenty of rest to let his right knee improve. He missed the final two games of the first half with a bruise, though he did pinch-hit Saturday. He's expected to return to the lineup tonight.

--First baseman John Bowker and shortstop Emmanuel Burriss have been the best of the 10 Giants rookies who have made their big-league debuts this year. Bowker is hitting .274 and leads the team with nine homers, and Burriss (sharing playing time with Omar Vizquel) is hitting .286 in 112 at-bats and has seven steals, fourth most on the team.


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