2006 is a new year for the National League West. A better year, even if it is only May. The Giants took a record of 17-19 into the weekend series against the Los Angeles Dodgers and sat in last place in the division, three games back of NL West leading San Diego. Before you hang your head and lament last place, remember what a train wreck this division was last season, and look at how close the teams are this time around. It’s a little too early to talk about divisional races but as it has gone the past few years, even game counts in the standings, especially come September. It’s just one of the many storylines the Giants and Dodgers get to develop in their three-game set in San Francisco.
Let’s get it out of the way early: the Bonds watch has yielded no home runs since his monster blast in Philadelphia on Sunday Night Baseball last week. Saturday was not his day, either, but the Giants had bigger problems. Noah Lowry’s second start of the year was one he struggled through. In 6.2 innings he allowed seven hits and five runs, and he was left in the dugout to watch his bullpen mates make a mess of inherited runners.
His problem was identified early, in that he could not keep the ball in the ballpark. Los Angeles took hold of a 2-0 lead by way of the home run, first Nomar Garciaparra in the third inning and then everyone’s favorite traitor Jeff Kent in the fourth. Before that, and until the seventh inning, Lowry allowed sporadic hits and kept the team alive as they were baffled by Dodger starting pitcher Aaron Sele.
That seventh inning was hard enough on the Giants, where Lowry permitted most of the afternoon’s damage. Third baseman Willie Aybar led off with a single and prospect Andre Ethier grounded into a double play, and with two outs the problems did not cease.
Sele singled and advanced to second on a wild pitch, then a pair of walks to Rafael Furcal and Jose Cruz, Jr. sent Lowry out of the game. Scott Munter came on in relief and provided none, instead walking Garciaparra and allowing the third Dodger run to score in the most embarrassing way for a pitcher.
Manager Felipe Alou wasted no time, bringing in lefty specialist Steve Kline to stop the insanity. JD Drew answered the call with a two-run base hit, then walked Kent, and when Sandy Alomar, Jr. grounded to Feliz, the Dodgers had in fact batted around. Ned Coletti’s patchwork lineup of former Giants and Sandy “insert words that aren’t appropriate for our family audience” Alomar, Jr., who before this game was presumed fallen off the face of the earth, batted around. But, to digress from the injustice and outrage of this embarrassing failure, it is important to point out how Sele owned the Giants through seven innings.
Here’s another fellow who had since fallen off the face of the earth. So he’s won a hundred games in his career, who had heard of him lately? Dodger fans know his perfect 3-0 record in AAA Las Vegas this season, so maybe the surprise, or better yet, shock, was all on San Francisco’s end. The problem here is that Brad Penny and Aaron Sele shut down the Giants for most of this series, and Penny was bothered by a side injury most of the night. Pedro Feliz had a hand in the offense in both these games, with the home run Friday night and two runs scored Saturday, but the fact still remains that the Giants were staring at a bleak 5-2 deficit as they limped into the ninth inning Saturday afternoon.
Steve Finley is doing a lot to win over Giants fan this season, hitting .310 and motoring around the bases faster than any man his age has a right to do. He furthered the sentiment by leading off the bottom of the ninth with a double. Feliz’s good turn of fortune at the plate translated to reaching first on Aybar’s fielding error at third. Lance Niekro drove in Finley from second, following Ray Durham’s fly out to left. Los Angeles backup closer Danys Baez looked shaky, shakier still when Todd Greene worked the count full then laced a ball down the left field line to score Feliz.
Dan Ortmeier had his chance last season with the Giants, playing a lot of meaningless baseball in September. This time he pinch-hit for Armando Benitez and tied the game with an RBI single. Jose Vizcaino did something useful, for once. He pinch ran for Greene at third, and watched Randy Winn take an intentional walk. Los Angeles manager Grady Little liked Omar Vizquel’s record against his fake closer better than he did Winn’s, and one can presume he liked Vizquel’s 0-for-4 on the day even more. Vizquel lifted a ball to right field and Vizcaino scored ahead of the throw from Drew, and the Giants could celebrate, at long last. This series is split one-and-one, and Sunday’s game means Jason Schmidt. Gotta like those odds for a series win.
SFDugout.com Player of the Game: Third base coach Gene Glynn curiously held both Finley and Feliz at third, before both eventually scored. IF the Giants ended up losing the game, Glynn’s judgment may come under fire. The Giants won, so the decision to play it safe was the correct one. He’s the unsung hero today.
Notes: Benitez has quietly regained his form, in the limited role he’s had lately. His season ERA still stands at 0.00 but it doesn’t tell the whole story. His ninth inning Saturday went quickly, and his second save of the year came on Lowry’s comeback start against Houston. It was also the last time both pitchers had seen action…Pedro Feliz has taken his batting average from .169 on April 25 to .250 this weekend. In his last ten games he’s only gone hitless twice…Sunday is Mothers Day, and Major League Baseball is celebrating Mom by using pink equipment; bats, armbands, and pink lineup cards. After the games the items will be auctioned off with proceeds going to the Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
Chris has been a Giants fan since her days in utero. She loves baseball and writes about whatever she can get her hands on…even the Athletics. She's a Bay Area gal through and through. This is her 23rd season of fandom and first where she's had the honor to write for the Giants on SFDugout.com. Love/hate mail can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, where the love mail gets top priority and the hate mail gets used for kindling.
The views expressed in the columns do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the site's publisher, writers, or other staff members. The content on this site may not be redistributed without the expressed consent of SFDugout.com.