Joltin’ Joe and Two-and-Oh

Full box here: http://www.espn.com/mlb/boxscore?gameId=380330119

by Dr Lefty

Hello all from gray, chilly Chicago. We fly back to California tonight, and I can’t wait to get home. Since I may not be able to do an official pregame post later (we’re headed for brunch/Art Institute/airport), I thought I’d squeeze one in now.

We did stay up past midnight watching the game and even the postgame show on my IPad. The last time we’ve had so much fun watching two Giants games in a hotel room was during the 2012 NLCS, when we saw the #RallyZito and then #RallyVogey (Enchiladas) games from Santa Barbara. You guys are on duty tonight, though, as first pitch is at the same time as our flight.

Here are my thoughts on the game.

 

Welcome back, 2016 Johnny

He looked a little off and behind during spring training, even to Bochy, and after last year and with Bumgarner out, that was a bit worrisome.

Guess Johnny was just saving it for the season. He was incredible, allowing and then immediately erasing just one base runner in seven innings. Everything was working–all his pitches, his command, his shimmy, his quick pitch…

Here are the Cueto highlights.

Would Bochy have let Cueto keep going, as the pitch count climbed? From Alex Pavlovic’s gamer:

Cueto is coming off a year in which injuries wrecked his season. He got a late start to spring training because of the flu, and this was just the second game of the year. It was a scoreless game and his spot was due up second in the top of the eighth. Bochy was planning to go get him after the seventh, no matter what the scoreboard said.

“But…“ he added, smiling. “Again, you’re talking to someone who let Timmy throw 140-plus pitches.”

Bochy looked pretty happy last night.

Bochy became the first visiting manager whose teams have won 100 games at Dodger Stadium.

 

The new closer and set-up man

I was glad that Bochy named Strickland the closer on Opening Day. I was worried he’d go with Dyson (last year’s fill-in closer) or Watson (who took over as closer in Pittsburgh after Melancon was traded). But Bochy went with the “hot hand,” the guy who gave up one hit and zero runs all spring, yes, everyone’s favorite firestarter, Hunter Strickland.

I agreed with those who thought Strick got away with a couple hanging sliders in the ninth inning on Thursday. Last night, though, he was masterful. Those two called third strikes to Utley and then Forsythe (who gave Strick a pretty spirited battle) was perfectly placed things of beauty. Kruk and Kuip were oohing and aaahing about the variety in his pitches. I’m not sure what John Smoltz did to him, but–wow. More, please.

As for Watson, he got a late start in spring training (wasn’t even signed until after camp opened), but maybe he Johnny Cuetoed us and also saved it for the season. In two games, he’s faced seven batters and struck out five and looked nasty doing it. Nerves about facing the same team he last pitched for, in the same park where the World Series ended? I didn’t see any.

 

The Giants’ invisible offense

OK, I’m not the slightest bit worried yet. The Giants have faced some fantastic pitching and did even less with Alex Wood than they had with Clayton Kershaw. Let’s see how things go against Kenta Maeda tonight.

However, I have to note that the reason why Steven Duggar couldn’t make the Opening Day roster was because of the nasty Dodger lefties, against whom he, as a lefty hitter, would be overmatched.

Well, Joe Panik (a lefty hitter) has driven in their only two runs. Brandon Crawford (a lefty hitter) got the only other hit for the Giants last night. Even Brandon Belt (a lefty hitter and a REAL lefty) broke his 0 for 37 streak against Kershaw with a single in his first at-bat.

How have all of those seasoned right-handed hitters done against the Dodgers’ lefties? One can overthink things like lefty-righty matchups.

 

Hunter Pence, left fielder

This little gem preserved Cueto’s perfect game for awhile. We were impressed by his jump on the ball and his concentration all the way through the play.

 

Austin Jackson, center fielder

Jackson doesn’t seem to be super adept at getting great reads on shallow balls hit in front of him (see the last run of the 2012 World Series, for example). But twice last night he overcame bad first steps to catch balls like that. We noted immediately that Span would have watched those drop in front of him. Jackson’s no Gold Glover, but he’s still an improvement. When you’ve been watching -27 DRS, you forget that even 0 DRS is an enormous improvement. Hell, -10 DRS would be.

 

Joe Panik, Public Enemy #1 in Los Angeles

So Joe not only helped the Giants win their first two games but he also made history.

Here’s the “Must C” clip of Panik’s home run off Jansen. It includes Miller’s and Kuiper’s calls, and they’re both great.

Dodger fans, who probably barely knew who Joe Panik was before Thursday, totally hate him now. Panik doesn’t mind.

You know what, it’s a good feeling when you come into Dodger Stadium and you hit a home run and they start booing you there in the ninth inning,” Panik said. “That means you’re doing something right. I enjoy that.”

Seriously, though: Panik made history and did so by hitting homers off Clayton Kershaw (generally considered the best pitcher in the game) and Kenley Jansen (generally considered the best closer in the game). No wonder Joe is flashing those pearly whites (and, according to Andrew Baggarly, almost took Ron Wotus’s shoulder off with a high-five while rounding third)!

 

Tonight’s game

Giants at Dodgers, 6:10 p.m., Chavez Latrine
Derek Holland vs. Kenta Maeda

 

I’ll leave you with this thought from Keith Olbermann, and I’ll hopefully (airplane gods permitting) be writing to you on Easter Sunday from sunny California.