This was one of those special games in which both pitchers were in total control for the entire night. Through the first nine innings, Matt Cain and Cliff Lee combined to record 54 outs on 179 pitches. Lee went out for the tenth inning, which was another rarity — the last time a starter went past the ninth was Aaron Harang, back in 2007. Eventually, Brandon Belt — pinch hitting in the bottom of the 11th — knocked a single off Antonio Bastardo, and a couple batters later, Melky Cabrera drove him in for the walkoff win: 1-0.
- Matt Cain was unbelievable during this homestand: 18 innings, zero runs, three hits, 15 strikeouts, one walk. Now keep in mind that he did all of that in under 200 total pitches. Seriously, give it a moment to let that sink in — incredible pitching. He becomes the first San Francisco Giants starter with back-to-back shutouts since Livan Hernandez, back in 2000. The last time any pitcher allowed two or fewer hits in back-to-back complete game outings? 1994.
- Cliff Lee became the first pitcher to throw 10+ scoreless innings against the Giants since Joe Niekro, back in 1983. (Johnnie LeMaster was the Giants’ leadoff hitter in that game.)
- I’ve become an Angel Pagan apologist, but there’s little excuse for his failed execution in the ninth inning. And his reaction to the bunt sign (h/t @bubbaprog) was Tejada-esque. That double play (which caused a ~15% drop in win expectancy) was huge. On the other hand, he also happened to demonstrate a few of the reasons why I like him: in the first inning, he led off with a single against Lee, and went from first to third — excellent baserunning — on the Melky Cabrera single that followed. And in the 11th inning, he reached on an error. Nothing special, but he put the ball in play — and the result got Brandon Belt in scoring position. That’s the great thing about a hitter that rarely strikes out (he has two strikeouts in 54 plate appearances thus far), particularly one that never — er, rarely – grounds into a double play. One of the areas in which Pagan consistently adds unnoticed value: reaching base via errors. If Pagan strikes out in that situation, Melky doesn’t hit that walkoff single….By the way, Pagan has collected a hit in all five games since I wrote this (and three of those games were multi-hit games).
- Javier Lopez‘s strikeout of Jim Thome, beautifully pitched: +.195 WPA. For all the complaints this offseason about how much money the Giants gave to Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez, I wouldn’t have felt confident about Dan Runzler coming out to pitch in that critical situation. (For the record, I’m with Lefty Malo and Hanging Sliders on this one — the Lopez contract made sense; the Affeldt one didn’t).
- That Antonio Bastardo pitch to Melky Cabrera that resulted in the walkoff single wasn’t necessarily a great pitch (it was left over the plate), but it was down in the zone and Melky had a tremendous approach lining it over the second baseman for a hit. It was his third hit on the night, and even though he’d cooled off a little over the past several games, I’m still feeling very good about him this season. He looks like a completely different player than he was pre-2011.
- Clay Hensley is turning out to be the latest great, cheap bullpen addition. He’s only pitched a few innings so far, but his stuff really seems to translate well to the bullpen. For a non-guaranteed contract with a base salary of $750K? Excellent.
- The Giants grounded into four double plays in their first 11 games. The Giants grounded into four double plays tonight.
- Via GN contributor Daniel Rathman: “The starting pitchers combined to record 57 outs tonight. The winning pitcher recorded one.” Yep, wins are stupid.
The offense has reverted to its old ways, but the Giants are rolling anyway: three consecutive series wins, and 6-3 overall since they left Arizona.
Angel Pagan was 13 for 76 with a .505 OPS this spring. He’s now 3 for 27 with a .358 OPS to begin the season. We know that spring training stats don’t matter. We know that small sample sizes don’t tell us much about how a player will perform in the future. Yet here we are, seven games into the 2012 season, and everyone seems to have soured on Angel Pagan. Considering the downward trend in his numbers (122 OPS+ in 2009, 108 OPS+ in 2010, 94 OPS+ in 2011), it’s easy to rush to the conclusion that Pagan is nearing the end of his usefulness.
Fortunately, it’s much too early to give up on Pagan. In fact, looking through Pagan’s past, we can see that a slow start is nothing new for him:
- In 2010, Pagan had a .208/.240/.208 line through his first 25 plate appearances. He hit .294/.344/.434 the rest of the way.
- In 2011, Pagan had a .179/.304/.256 line through his first 46 plate appearances. He hit .269/.324/.383 the rest of the way.
For his career, Pagan is a .224/.300/.321 hitter in April. That’s by far his worst month. Even though I wouldn’t necessarily say his career month splits have much predictive value (I’m not expecting a .385 OBP this May), they do certainly serve as yet another example that a slow April doesn’t preclude a player from having a good season.
With one strikeout in 29 plate appearances, Pagan is doing an excellent job putting the ball in play. Eventually, those will start falling for hits. He’s hitting .000 on groundballs right now, and .000 on flyballs (all three of his hits have come off line drives) — that definitely won’t continue. And he hasn’t even looked all that bad at the plate — yesterday, for example, he had a couple well-struck balls, and a flyball that reached the warning track.
So, be patient. That’s all I ask. Even with a fluky UZR (-14), Pagan was worth 0.9 fWAR last season. And he’s looked good in the field so far. I expect that he’ll get things going eventually.