Lincecum tries to keep Giants in first vs. D'Backs


Lincecum tries to keep Giants in first vs. D'Backs

Aug. 2, 2011

ARIZONA (60-49) vs.
GIANTS (61-48)

Coverage begins at 6:30 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The Arizona Diamondbacks are hot at the plate. The San Francisco Giants are suddenly struggling on the mound.

That combination has tightened the NL West race.

The Giants send ace Tim Lincecum to the mound Tuesday night as they try to avoid a fifth straight loss and maintain sole possession of first place in the division.

Arizona (60-49) pulled within a game of San Francisco (61-48) for the top spot after a 5-2 victory in Monday's series opener. Ian Kennedy pitched eight strong innings and the Diamondbacks scored five runs in the sixth.

"It was nice to come in and get Game 1," said Arizona's Willie Bloomquist, who capped the decisive sixth with a two-run single. "Hopefully, it kind of sets the tone for the rest of the series that we beat one of their horses today and our guy pitched pretty dang good, too."

Arizona has won its last two against the Giants after dropping seven of the first eight meetings.

"They've owned us," Kennedy said. "We've got to keep this momentum."

The Diamondbacks haven't been in first since June 24, but they've been on a tear recently, winning seven of nine while averaging 6.0 runs. Justin Upton extended his hitting streak to 13 games Monday with a single in the sixth.

However, they may have trouble keeping things going against Lincecum (9-8, 2.78 ERA), who has dominated Arizona.

He is 7-2 with a 2.42 ERA against the Diamondbacks, lowering that ERA after allowing four hits while striking out nine in eight innings before leaving without a decision in a 1-0 victory May 10.

Lincecum improved to 3-1 with a 1.08 ERA in his last four starts, limiting Philadelphia to three hits in six scoreless innings of a 4-1 road win Thursday.

Though the right-hander is 4-1 with a 1.66 ERA against the Diamondbacks at home, he's only 3-4 with a 3.45 ERA in 10 starts overall at AT&T Park this season.

The Giants hope the two-time Cy Young Award winner can help get their rotation back on track. Matt Cain became the third straight starter to fail to make it out of the sixth Monday.

RATTO: In the stretch run, Zito is an afterthought

San Francisco has given up 25 runs in the last four games after beginning that stretch with the best ERA in the majors at 3.06.

The Diamondbacks will hand the ball to Daniel Hudson (10-7, 3.81), who looks to avoid a third straight losing start.

He gave up four runs and seven hits in six innings of a 4-3 defeat to San Diego on Thursday after surrendering five runs and 10 hits in 6 1-3 innings against Colorado on July 22.

The right-hander, who has set a career high in wins, has lost both starts against the Giants this year after winning both matchups in 2010. He gave up three runs over 6 2-3 innings in a 3-2 loss May 12 at San Francisco.

Pablo Sandoval, 0 for 6 the last two games, is 3 for 7 with two homers against Hudson while the newly acquired Orlando Cabrera is 3 for 9 with two doubles and a home run.

Durable Longoria ready for additional boost from ballpark, Giants fans

Durable Longoria ready for additional boost from ballpark, Giants fans

SAN FRANCISCO — The field at AT&T Park is covered with patches and small piles of dirt right now, showing the signs of a winter hosting holiday parties and concerts, and a week with plenty of rain. 

For Evan Longoria, though, that grass was a beautiful sight.

A month after a trade that had him switching coasts, Longoria was introduced at a press conference at AT&T Park and ran the usual gauntlet with team employees and season-ticket holders. He spent some time this week looking for housing in the Bay Area, but soon he’ll be back in Scottsdale, getting to know new teammates and preparing his body for the 2018 season. 

Longoria said his workouts have been a bit different with a new staff, but the goal remains the same. He is a player who prides himself on taking the field every day, and that’s one of the traits that drew the Giants to Longoria. He has played at least 156 games in five consecutive seasons, and 160 in four of those seasons. 

It’s no accident that Bruce Bochy has mentioned durability during every media session this season. Andrew McCutchen has a similar track record, and the Giants lineup certainly could use some stability, especially at third base, where seven different players made double-digit starts last season. Longoria will change that. 

“I have a desire to play every day, and I think that that is infectious,” he said. “Players that may feel the grind of a long season or might be in a little bit of a funk offensively or defensively or with pitching, something like that can give you a boost when you have guys around that you know come to play and compete on a daily basis, no matter what the circumstance is.”

[RELATED: Just a number? Longoria says slow down with concerns of Giants' aging roster]

For Longoria, who turned 32 early in the offseason, the circumstance has changed for the better. After years on the unforgiving turf at The Trop, he comes to a park and division featuring nothing but natural grass. 

“I hope it helps,” he said. “Going on the road (with the Rays), my body definitely felt better when I played on grass. I’m sure that it will help. It’s definitely not going to be a negative. Not playing on the turf anymore is something that crossed my mind as soon as the trade happened.”

Longoria expects to benefit from another aspect of AT&T Park, too. The Rays finished dead last in the majors last year with an average of 15,670 fans per game. Even though their sellout streak ended, the Giants still had an average of more than 40,000 per night. Asked about playing outdoors, Longoria smiled and added, “in front of fans.”

“The environment here is obviously much different, so it’s going to be nice to step into that on a daily basis and play in front of a fan base that’s obviously very storied,” he said. “It helps with energy. It helps with motivation.”

DeBoer's defense of Jones doesn't paint the whole picture


DeBoer's defense of Jones doesn't paint the whole picture

Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer passionately defended goaltender Martin Jones following San Jose's 5-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night. For the eighth time in his last 14 starts, Jones allowed four goals, but DeBoer tried to take a look at the bigger picture. 

"You guys like to grab little pictures of things that work for the story your writing," DeBoer told reporters in Denver after he was asked about Jones' recent struggles. 

"It's 14 games. You can go back six games and write whatever story you want. He's having a great year for us. Our goaltending has been excellent all year."

If you look at his save percentage, Jones is not having a great season.

His save percentage in all situations (.9097) is the lowest in his three seasons in teal, and ranks 22nd out of the 34 goalies that have played 1000 minutes in all situations, according to Corsica Hockey. His five-on-five save percentage (.9147) is also the lowest of his teal tenure, and sits 26th out of 30 goalies that have played 1000 five-on-five minutes. 

But save percentage doesn't always tell the whole story, as it doesn't take into account shot quality. As we've written previously, Jones has played behind a loose defense this season.

Among those aforementioned 30 goalies, Jones has faced the highest percentage of high-danger shots, the second-highest percentage of medium-danger shots, and fourth-lowest percentage of low-danger shots. 

Luckily, there's a metric that does take into account shot quality: goals saved above average (GSAA). GSAA works much like Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in baseball, and considers how well a league-average goaltender would do "based on the shot danger faced," according to Corsica's definition.

Jones has been better than his save percentage would indicate. His 0.54 five-on-five GSAA ranks 17th out of the 30 goalies that have played 1000 five-on-five minutes, and his all situations GSAA (8.69) ranks 11th out of 34 goalies that have played 1000 minutes in all situations. 

GSAA has the same downside as WAR, in that it's an accumulative statistic, and favors players that have played more. In order to equalize for playing time, we can look at GSAA/30 shots faced. 

Jones ranks 17th and 10th in five-on-five (0.03) and all situations (0.31) GSAA/30, respectively, among goaltenders that have played 1000 minutes in such circumstances. In other words, Jones has been about average during five-on-five play, and one of the league's better goalies across all situations, at least based on the kind of shots he's faced.

That's not neccessarily "great," but Jones has been better on the whole than his recent play would indicate. Of course, he's also been outplayed in his own crease.

Backup goaltender Aaron Dell not only boasts a higher save percentage than Jones, but his GSAA/30 in five-on-five situations (0.15) and across all strengths (0.44) are also higher than Jones'. Every 30 shots on the penalty kill, Dell (2.05 GSAA/30) saves nearly a goal more than Jones (1.06). 

DeBoer also acknowledged that Dell will have to play more out of necessity, with the Sharks halfway through a stretch of eight games in 13 days. That includes a difficult back-to-back this weekend, hosting the Penguins Saturday and facing the Ducks in Anaheim on Sunday. 

The coach was on to something on Thursday. Yes, Jones has been better than his recenty play, and his season-long save percentage, would indicate. 

But that doesn't mean he's been "great," nor does it mean he's San Jose's better option in net right now.