Posts Tagged ‘Pat Burrell’

Gorzelanny Dominates

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

After a so-so 2010 campaign, the Chicago Cubs didn’t want Tom Gorzelanny. “No,” the Cubs said. “No, no, no, a thousand times no.” The Cubs had bigger plans: they needed a star to supplement their budget cutbacks and had their eye on Matt Garza in Tampa. So off Tommy went as a part of a trade to the Nationals — for three prospects. The Nationals were happy to have him: they had missed out on the big fish free agents of the off-season, wanted a solid eatings inning lefty in their rotation and . . . and, well, Gorzelanny was available.

As it turned out, the trade for Gorzelanny might have been the best off-season move that Nats’ G.M. Mike Rizzo made. The evidence came at Nationals Park last night, as Gorzelanny dominated the world champion San Francisco Giants, throwing an eight inning shutout in downing the sinking McCoveys, 2-0. Gorzelanny mixed his pitches well, inducing seven groundouts and eleven flyouts, throwing 95 pitches, 62 of them for strikes. If Gorzelanny was the key to the win, the Nats’ defense was a close second; the Anacostia Nine showed off their stellar leather, with diving snags from Jerry Hairston and Rick Ankiel. Closer Drew Storen closed out the game, with his sixth save in six attempts.

Hard luck lefty Madison Bumgarner also threw well, extremely well — as the contest was a pitchers’ duel into the bottom of the 7th. Bumgarner, who came into the game sporting an atmospheric ERA, threw seven innings of four hit baseball (the Nats were hitless through four), but came up with the loss. The young lefty is now 0-5. “Both pitchers were outstanding tonight and we finally got a little break,” Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said following the game. “Guys were taking some hits away from each club. Gorzelanny was just outstanding. It was just a great performance and I’m really happy with the way he threw.”

The Wisdom of Section 1-2-9: The Nats tribute to the military on Monday night was filled with the usual out-of-town gaggle of rooters, including a young woman sporting a black t-shirt emblazoned with the words “Posey For President.” Buster has become a kind of fetish in San Francisco (which is, after all, a city of fetishes). A 1-2-9 wag called her on it: “Who’s Posey?” he asked. She was puzzled, but only for a heartbeat, then smiled . . . “so where ya from?” a fan asked her. “From Marin County,” she said. She said that she and her father were in town for the four game set, but would then head to New York to see the Giants play the Mets. “I’ve never been to New York,” she said. The fan smiled: “lucky you.”

“The Giants just look awful,” a Nats fan said. “They’re just not the same team as last year, really struggling.” There was this explanation: “They miss Uribe, and Rentaria. They were sparks. Who do they have this year? Tejada? Give me a break. They’ll get tired of him. He won’t last past the all star break.” The anti-Giants in the section were on left fielder Pat Burrell all night. “He’s always angry,” a Nats fan said. “Always swearing, tossing his bat. They probably love it in the clubhouse, but he’s a jerk.” Indeed, that’s Burrell’s reputation — ever since he roamed the outfield for the Phillies. “We don’t have to see him as much,” another fan added. “And that’s a good thing.”

A third fan chimed in, gesturing at a scoreboard graphic showing Aubrey Huff hitting just.190. “Get a load of these guys,” he said, “they can’t it worth a damn.” The silence that followed was finally interrupted by a Giants fan sporting an orange shirt: “Yeah,” he said, “and neither can you.”

It’s Becoming A Grudge Match

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

The Philadelphia Phillies-San Francisco Giants NLCS is now a nasty confrontation — as an angry and glaring Roy Halladay and an equally irritated Pat “the Bat” Burrell exchanged looks and words in the first inning of Game Five. Halladay stared in at umpire Jeff Nelson and Burrell noticed: “What are you looking at?” he yelled. The Halladay-Burrell mini-confrontation is symbolic of how these two teams feel about each other, as was apparent even in Game One, when Halladay tossed Cody Ross’s broken bat to the ground instead of handing it to him. Such simple discourtesies are noticed in baseball: the NLCS isn’t your back yard. For Halladay, the winner of the tilt’s fifth game in San Francisco on Thursday (and for Burrell as well) such exchanges are all about “the competition,” but we might expect more of the same at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday: “the competition” is becoming heated, the games more intense, the reward a spot in the World Series against the AL champ.

“This sounds like a non-story,” one Phillies fan reflected. “Burrell has struck out so many times in his career that he should know the drill by now — go sit down and shut up.” But in the pages of the Philadelphia Daily News (that model of journalistic excellence), Phillies’ fans are gearing up to give Burrell a typical Philadelphia welcome when the series resumes on Saturday. “In explicit, vulgar terms, with a reference to Halladay’s possible Oedipal issues, Burrell rhetorically asked Halladay what he was looking at.” Halladay was less confrontational: “You understand,” he said, “there’s a lot of emotions obviously at this point in this season. He’s a competitior and these things happen.” Well, okay. But “these things” are happening with some regularity now, as Tim Lincecum channeled Burrell in the 7th, staring down Jimmy Rollins at third as he stalked from the mound: “You stay there,” he yelled. “You stay there.” Lincecum’s words weren’t enough to keep Philadelphia from a must-win in the fifth game — and now the series returns to Philadelphia, where the Giants will send Jonathan Sanchez to the mound against Roy Oswalt. Phillies’ fans will be ready.

Brian’s New Team

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Back in June of 2009, rumors circulated among Giants fans that G.M. Brian Sabean was fed up with San Francisco’s inability to score runs and was discussing a trade of righty Matt Cain to Florida for power bat Dan Uggla. The rumors were more than believable — the Giants were suffering from a traditional lack of run production and Sabean (described on the S.F. website as a “brilliant” and “shrewd” G.M.), was known to do more than just dabble in the trade market. Nor was it the first time that Sabean considered trading pitching for hitting; the same kind of rumors were then circulating about lefty Jonathan Sanchez, with the young southpaw rumored to be headed to any number of teams — including the Washington Nationals. As it turned out, Sabean didn’t pull the trigger on any of the trades, settling instead for keeping the Giants’ formidable front four (Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez and Zito) intact. And it’s a good thing he did.

As the Giants scrambled to score runs through all of 2010 (and as Giants fans watched with increasing skepticism) Sabean kept his front line pitchers and nibbled at the edges: he signed Rays’ outfield bust Pat Burrell, traded for lefty reliever Javier Lopez and Ramon Ramirez, claimed Cody Ross off of waivers from Florida (but only, it was speculated, to keep him out of the hands of the San Diego Padres) and — in August — obtained Chicago Cubs second sacker Mike Fontenot from the Cubs for a prospect. Giants’ fans whined: when was the team going to get some hitting? Sabean ignored the pleas and forged ahead, with the help of Bruce Bochy, who juggled his anemic line-up to support his hurlers. His moves were controversial, and costly: San Francisco icon Pablo Sandoval was benched, former heavy hitter Aaron Rowand was replaced by journey slapster Andres Torres, and Barry Zito was told his place in the rotation was being filled by rookie Madison Bumgarner. In all, the Giants have some $30 million riding the pines, but Bochy’s moves worked, bringing the Giants an N.L. West title and a 2-1 lead in the N.L.C.S.

The new King of San Francisco is Cody Ross — but the other band aids and rusty struts have also paid dividends. Despite an error at third (where he doesn’t usually play), Fontenot has been a steady defender and his arrival has given Bochy a great late-inning defensive fill-in. Pat Burrell, meanwhile, has revived his career, which took a hit when he couldn’t hit in Tampa Bay. Javier Lopez (Giants’ fans scratched their heads when they learned he was headed their way from Boston), has been the perfect bridge to Brian Wilson — one of the most effective closers in baseball. Lopez threw in 77 games for the Giants, accumulating a measly 2.34 ERA. Don’t tell Ross, Burrell, Fontenot and Lopez that they’re a bunch of retreads who have finally found a home — check with the Phillies, who can’t match San Francisco’s steady defense, stellar starting staff and punch-and-judy offense. So with the Giants’ taming of Philadelphia (well, at least so far), Brian Sabean is finally starting to live up to his reputation as a “brilliant” and “shrewd” general manager. Giants fans would have never guessed it.

Giants Win! Giants Win! Giants Win!

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

Phillies’ fans were in fine form at “The Bank” on Saturday night, whistling derisively every time that Tim Lincecum came to the plate (“you forgot your skateboard”), picking away at the gaggle of orange and black clad fans grouped along the third base line (“is that the color of your panties?), and hooting the Phillie Phanatic’s pantomime of a ’60s hit (“Are You Going To San Francisco?”), that featured the disrobing of a Giants-clad hookah toker. But the Phillies’ faithful could not reverse the final score (a 4-3 Gigante squeaker) made possible by Lincecum’s steady seven inning performance, Cody Ross’s two home runs, and Brian Wilson’s five-up-four-down blow-it-by-em save. It must have been a humbling experience for the Broad Street Bombasts: by the bottom of the 8th, even the most feverish Phillie follower had to admit that in the battle of Bullies vs. Hippies, the scales had tipped decisively in favor of the pantywaists. “My God. You know, we’ve just got to bench Jimmy Rollins. He can’t hit anything. Charlie’s gotta sit him down.”

After the game, San Francisco ace Lincecum made light of the whistling that greeted his every plate appearance. The hooting wolf whistles (“you sure are pretty, Timmy”) from the City of Brotherly Catcalls didn’t bother him, he said. “I was thinking, ‘I must have a nice butt, or something,’” he laughed, then added: “Those Phillies fans must like something about me. I took it as a joke.” Well, maybe: but for Lincecum to say that he “must have a nice butt” would be Fightin’ Words in South Philly — where such jokes are made very privately. If. At. All. The hand-lettered made-in-the-kitchen signs (Wanna Smoke?”) that greeted Lincecum’s appearance seemed less than welcoming (“Hippy Trash”), in keeping with Philly fandom’s habit of picking fights simply for the sake of it: “Fix Your Teeth,” one said; while another (just a few rows over), evinced the struggle its author had with creativity: “You Stink!”

In truth, while the made-for-TV pitcher’s duel ended up being something less-than, it was Roy (“Doctober”) Halladay who struggled, while Lincecum proved more than capable (113 pitches, 71 for strikes). Halladay’s thigh-high fastballs didn’t impress Marlin import Cody Ross, a former rodeo cowpoke who planted two of them unceremoniously in the left field stands. And Halladay struggled in the 6th, giving up a double to the roundly booed Pat Burrell, a former Philly whose career has been revitalized by his steady play for Bochy’s Bashers. Burrell’s double angered Halladay, who complained that his third pitch on an 0-2 count should have been a strike. But Halladay wasn’t alone in his complaints, as the strike zone shrank as the game went on, so much so that a similar get-em-across offering from Lincecum to Jayson Werth resulted in an unnecessary two run shot. But that’s all that Philadelphia would get, as Brian “Beach Boy” Wilson (97 on the gun) set down five Ashburns on four strikeouts for the save.

The Wisdom Of Section 131 — Philadelphia Edition: There were dozens (but only dozens) of San Francisco hats at Citizens Bank Park, but only one “Curly W” from Washington. The appearance of the “W” brought puzzled looks and a few jabbing comments: “You’re kidding, right?” There was a suspicious squint and then a shrug: “Don’t worry pal, you guys’ll get here. You got that Strasburg guy and I hear you have a beautiful ball park.” Two rows up, and just behind the Giants dugout, a Philly fan (his Spiderman tattoos covered biceps the size of tires) reached out after the game, then stopped: “Am I shaking the hand of a Giants’ fan?” No, no. “Well, good,” he said. “And anyway. That was a heck-of-a-game.” So give them this: Philadelphia’s faithful know baseball. Between the 1st and 9th innings no one left for chili dogs or beers, but stayed riveted in their seats, snapping their white rally towels like a bunch of kids . . .

Philadelphia fandoms’ brutish approach might be a bit overdone, but the constant catcalls brought ushers down into the stands in the 6th, eyeing the environment like weathermen gauging an approaching storm. They herded the Giants’ faithful into the section’s first two rows, away from any offending comments. When a Phanatic (clad in a #26 Chase Utley jersey) seemed on the verge of picking a fight with a Giants fan sporting a large #27 on his back (Juan Marichal’s old number) — “Hey, number 27, sit down . . . do yourself a favor and just sit down . . .” — a Philly’s fan turned ominously in his seat and slowly shook his head, warning the offender. He got the message . . . Meanwhile, up under the stands in the middle of the game, a group of plainclothesman broke up a three-way fight, clapping the offenders in handcuffs, which brought a whining protest. “C’mon officer, Doc is pitching. Can’t you arrest me after the game?”

"Hey, number 27, do yourself a favor and just sit down . . ."

Lee Dominates: Rangers To Face Yanks

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

The Texas Rangers will face the New York Yankees for the A.L. Championship, thanks to the pitching of starting lefty Cliff Lee. Lee pitched nine complete innings, giving up just six hits in the Rangers’ 5-1 victory. Lee has been the difference in the post-season — continuing a trend that has seen dominant post-season performances from starters across the major leagues. “I expected to have success,” Lee said, following the victory. “I expected to pitch well. I just didn’t necessarily expect to allow one run and go nine innings.” Lee did not walk a batter and struck out 11. Lee’s performance puts an exclamation point to the trade that sent Rangers’ prospect Justin Smoak and three minor leaguers to the Seattle Mariners for the lefty — whose presence on the Rangers’ mound was the final piece for a team that had (until Tuesday), never won a post-season playoff series.

And We’re Back: CFG’s short post-season hiatus is over, thanks to the end of nearly two weeks of travels to exotic and faraway destinations — and (then too), it’s damned hard to ignore a post-season match-up that will feature two of the game’s best pitchers (Tim Lincecum and Roy Halladay) in a classic face-off at “the Bank” in Philly. The early, anecdotal, line on the Philadelphia-San Francisco series gives the Ponies the edge, if only slightly: they feature a homer-heavy line-up, while the Giants have struggled for runs. But don’t bet against the Giants, whose run-producing capabilities increased sharply with the arrival of Buster Posey. And you have to wonder whether the tussle in Philadelphia will fuel the competitive edge of a player like Pat Burrell, a former first round pick of the Phillies, who seems suddenly comfortable in a Giants uniform. While the Giants are justly proud of knocking off the Atlanta Braves, their post-season numbers are sobering: they plated only 11 runs against an anemic Braves’ line-up. They’ll have to do a lot better than that to beat the Phillies. Everyone talks about the heart-stopping triumverate of Lincecum, Cain and Sanchez, but the key to the series may well come down to whether Buster Posey, Pat Burrell and Aubrey Huff can hit Philly pitching.

San Francisco’s Weighty Revival

Friday, July 9th, 2010

Pablo Sandoval is still all the rage in San Francisco — “Kung Fu Panda” as Giants fans call him (or, more properly “The Round Mound of Pound“) is the life of the McCovey clubhouse, devising a handshake for every player and starring in self-directed Youtube videos that extol the virtues of playing in the Bay. But after a stellar ’09 season that featured a .330 BA and 25 home runs, the rotund sometime-third-baseman (he now plays mostly at first), has cooled off. He’s hitting just.270 with six dingers in 2010, a far cry from his all star-like assault on NL pitchers last year. Frisco fans know the problem — “the panda” is so impatient at the plate that the Giants’ in-dugout brain trust has to regularly remind him to wait on pitches. And his weight is ballooning. The official stats show him at 245 pounds, but that’s probably more of a wish. When the season started, Sandoval (“with a heart full of napalm“) predicted he would hit .350 with 30 home runs.

Not hardly.

The Panda has struggled — and Giants fans noticed, criticizing his “quirky ways,” lack of mental preparation and “top heavy” swing. They weren’t alone. Bay manager Bruce Bochy raised a hue and cry when he pinch hit for Sandoval at the end of June, a hint that Giants’ management was less than enamored of his free swinging habits and lack of production. But that’s not all: Sandoval’s mental mistakes were (and continue to be) exasperating for his teammates who, after one gaffe (he overran second, and was picked off), isolated him on the Giants’ bench. He shrugged: “Yesterday is yesterday,” he said in Spanish. “Today is another day.” Maybe. But the Panda’s early season struggles, and the eclipse of a whole set of Giants hitters, sent San Francisco G.M. Brian Sabean in search of hitting.

The most recent and important addition was the signing of Pat Burrell, whose free agent stint with the Rays was less than what Tampa had wanted. San Francisco welcomed the former Phillies’ slugger with open arms — and an apparently open wallet. Burrell has responded, adding pop to the anemic line-up. The front office made other changes: dealing fan favorite Bengie Molina to Texas for reliever Chris Ray and (not incidentally), freeing up the space behind the plate for waiting-in-the-wings Buster Posey. Posey is a kind of anti-Sandoval, a no-nonsense mature-beyond-his-years sleek piece of clay. Posey is a trimmed down version of Sandoval, a star in the making, a team tiger to Sandoval’s weighty bear.  The Molina-for-Ray trade not only shed a veteran presence, it lopped about 45 pounds (or more!) off the team’s collective weight. Sabean’s Molina message was clear: if you want to stay in San Francisco you have to produce. Bruce Bochy is with this program — he has benched slumping Aaron Rowand and built a new, younger and faster outfield that is anchored by a revived Aubrey Huff.

The result? Ask the Milwaukee Brewers. The Giants breezed into Milwaukee for a four game series against The Crew on July 5 and dunked the guzzlers in four straight. This was not your normal sweep, but a San Francisco blitzkrieg: the Giants outscored Milwaukee 36-7, notching 50 hits in four games while showing off one of the major league’s best pitching staffs: Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Barry Zito and “oh-my-god-he’s-finally-arrived” rookie Madison Bumgarner. Which is not to mention that “other” Frisco arm, Jonathan Sanchez who, since his no-hitter last year, has turned into a top-of-the-rotation (in San Francisco that term means “behind Lincecum and Cain”) starter. Sanchez (once viewed as trade bait to, among others, the Washington Nationals), is now a mere 7-6 with a 3.50 ERA. For most teams, those kinds of numbers would have a G.M. salivating, in San Francisco they’re only passable. Now, as a part of their midwest and east coast road swing, the once punchless Giants are headed into Nationals Park. The match-up starts tonight, as “The Kid” faces off against the savvy and relentless Matt Cain.