San Francisco Giants wrestle Bay Bridge Series from A’s


The San Francisco Giants engaged in an old-fashioned National League game Saturday afternoon, compliments of the Oakland A’s, as they combined dominating pitching with just enough offense to get the job done, 2-1. Tim Hudson made his final outing of the spring in pitching five complete, giving up no runs on four hits, while walking two and striking out one.

Justin Maxwell came through in the clutch, as he has been doing routinely this spring, knocking in the first of two Giants runs in the top of the fourth with a blistering liner that A’s third baseman Brett Lawrie managed to nick with the tip of his glove. Buster Posey (walk) scored on the play, while Casey McGehee (single) stopped at third. He would score moments later, when Drew Pomeranz was called for a balk, completing the scoring for the Giants.

Tim Hudson looked good, at one point getting three ground balls in a row to Matt Duffy at second, the first of the three to end the first inning, with two on board. Mike Krukow commented that Hudson looked sharp, and that if he missed on a pitch, it was down and off the center of the plate. In the fourth Ike Davis doubled to lead off the inning, but died on second as Hudson induced three consecutive ground balls to the left side. Vintage Hudson.

Yusmeiro Petit (2 H, 1 R, 4.63 ERA) came on in the sixth and yielded the only A’s run on a sacrifice fly by Brett Lawrie, which scored Ben Zobrist. Tim Lincecum (2 Ks, 5.95 ERA) came in for the seventh, and was simply filthy. His pitches were the result of an offseason of hard work with his father, Chris, combined with a highly productive spring. The Freak looked nasty and the sneer is coming back.

Mar 3, 2015; Mesa, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum (55) throws in the third inning against the Oakland Athletics at HoHoKam Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

George Kontos (4.50 ERA), continuing to apply pressure on manager Bruce Bochy, pitched a 1-2-3 eighth and looked sharp. Kontos is making the decision as to whether it should be he or Jean Machi who makes the final roster, not expected to be unveiled until Sunday, that much harder. These are the kinds of problems managers love.

On the other hand, Bochy may shock everyone and decide on Hunter Strickland (5.11 ERA), who made his own case in the ninth inning by striking out the side, after Javier Lopez (4.05 ERA) had made a mess of things by allowing a single and a walk to open up the inning. Against Oakland, in their own yard, this was a decidedly poor strategy, and it set the stage for Strickland’s heroics. That being said, I do not see Strickland up with the Giants until he has spent more time working on putting movement on his fastball.

Speaking of looking good, Hector Sanchez looked sharp behind the plate, handling the pitchers with the efficiency of the veteran that he is. When Marcus Semien was facing a full count, Sanchez went out to the mound and spoke briefly with Strickland, who proceeded to blow one past a swinging Semien, right down the middle. Sanchez’ bat was not especially in play Saturday, but that could be said for most everyone on the Giants. Maxwell’s double was the only extra basehit among San Francisco’s six.

Their third knock was a thing of supreme beauty by Brandon Crawford. Leading off the third, he put a bunt down the first base line, hard enough that it got past Pomeranz, easily, and there was no play. By the time first baseman Ike Davis fielded it, all he could do was watch as Crawford crossed first, just as second baseman Eric Sogard arrived to take the throw. Crawford, who hit in double digits in both triples (10) and home runs (10) last season, gets it done with a bunt. That’s what it’s going to take this year.

On defense Casey McGehee went to his left and down to a knee on a hard grounder off the bat of Billy Butler, and he looked pretty smooth doing it. It came in the bottom of the third, one inning after McGehee had hit into a double play, following a Buster Posey single to left field and a Brandon Belt walk.

Look at Brian Wilson in the background, signaling touchdown on Juan Perez’ play. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

McGehee’s defensive play set the stage for flashier stuff to come in the bottom of the sixth, when Gregor Blanco in center field, made nothing short of a brilliant play on a shallow pop fly to left-center from Billy Butler, snaring the ball just off the grass, and preventing Ben Zobrist from advancing from first base.

Juan Perez completed the defensive hat trick to end the sixth, robbing Stephen Vogt with a catch on a ball headed away from him in left field. Perez not only got a great jump, he took the perfect route in catching this rocket. It was exactly what we have come to expect from both Blanco and Perez, even though Perez is destined to start the season at Triple-A. If experience tells us anything, he will be back.

One of the game’s more stirring moments came when Barry Zito  completed a 1-2-3 sixth against his former teammates, and looked like a rejuvenated man.

Barry Zito is back in baseball-great success!

His return to baseball is a grand accomplishment, and I wish him well, until the Giants face him at some point later this summer.

Earlier in the second inning, an unusual incident occurred when home plate umpire Nick Lentz committed what Mike Krukow called an “umpire’s balk,” by bringing his right fist up to chest level, on a 3-2 pitch by Drew Pomeranz to Brandon Belt, but simultaneously awarded Belt first base. There was much confusion for a moment until matters were cleared up.

The Orange and Black victory gave the Giants a win in the annual Bay Bridge Series, after losing the first five meetings between the two teams. Though Oakland outscored San Francisco 9-8, the Giants took two of three. In a spring which has produced some concern about just how ready the Giants are, this game was reassuring. 

Superior pitching and clutch defense are going to play huge roles this season, as the offense adjusts to a different approach than that of last season. If Saturday’s game is any indication-and against the A’s-no less, I’d say the lads are ready.