Bonus notes and thoughts from our MLB on FOX broadcast of the Braves-Giants game on Saturday . . .
So, how will the San Francisco Giants counter the Los Angeles Dodgers’ blockbuster?
You’re kidding, right?
Actually, the Giants badly want to add a left fielder to replace the suspended Melky Cabrera. But they’re “getting nowhere fast” in that search, according to a major-league source with knowledge of the team’s discussions.
The Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks, both of whom trail San Francisco in the NL West standings, are in position to block any affordable hitter the Giants might want on waivers.
Generally speaking, only high-priced players clear waivers — assuming the money-mad Dodgers aren’t blocking them, too, just because they can. Problem is, the Chicago Cubs’ Alfonso Soriano has indicated that he wouldn’t waive his no-trade rights to play in San Francisco. And players such as the Los Angeles Angels’ Vernon Wells and Kansas City Royals’ Jeff Francoeur aren’t necessarily the answer.
The Giants are in a tricky position. Gregor Blanco, the primary replacement for Cabrera, is batting .200 with a .543 OPS since June 9 (though hitting better of late). Blanco essentially is a center fielder playing left, and the Giants do not want to compromise their defense behind a rotation that has the highest flyball rate in the National League.
A right-handed hitting complement to the left-handed Blanco seemingly would be the best fit, but even then the choice isn’t obvious. The Giants actually fare quite well against left-handers — they’re 27-14 in games started by lefties, 44-42 in games started by righties. They also have a higher OPS against lefties (.718-.712).
Long story short, beggars can’t be choosers, and the Giants will take any upgrade they can get. Their starting left fielder Saturday against the Atlanta Braves, Francisco Peguero, was making his major-league debut. Not the way the Giants want to enter their looming battle with the Dodgers.
BRAVES’ GONZALEZ: LESSONS LEARNED
FOX’s Tim McCarver posed an interesting question to Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez during our pregame meeting Saturday.
What did Gonzalez learn from the team’s collapse last September?
Gonzalez did not hesitate with his reply.
“To be less patient,” he said. “Sometimes you feel like you’ve got to go with a guy, and you go with him for a lot of good reasons. But you have to understand, April and May is not September.
“At the end of the season, you say, ‘You could have done this, you could have done that, maybe I stuck with this guy at this position too long, maybe I stuck with that pitcher too long.’”
Gonzalez didn’t mention any specific names, but second baseman Dan Uggla, batting .143 with a .537 OPS since June 10, appears an obvious candidate to play less. The Braves, though, don’t have a ready replacement.
“When I’m ready to cross that bridge, I’m going to have to cross it,” Gonzalez said. “Going through that last September . . . you know what, I’m not going to do it again. There’s pain. There are some valuable lessons.”
HEYWARD: MEMORIES OF BUMGARNER
Braves right fielder Jason Heyward, who entered Saturday batting only .224 with a .631 OPS against left-handed pitching, did not relish facing Giants lefty Madison Bumgarner.
Heyward and Bumgarner first opposed each other in the Class A South Atlantic League when both were 18. Bumgarner, Heyward said, was tough even then — he had the deception, the above-average fastball, the three pitches he could throw for strikes.
“Look up his numbers from that year,” Heyward said, referring to the 2008 season, Bumgarner’s first as a professional. Turns out Heyward’s memory was excellent: Bumgarner was 15-3 that season with a 1.46 ERA.
Well, Heyward was 2 for 9 in the majors off Bumgarner when he stepped to the plate Saturday with two on and one out in the third inning. But on a 1-0 fastball, Heyward improved to 3 for 10 in a big way, connecting for a three-run homer.
GIANTS’ POSEY: A FRESH PERSPECTIVE
If there is one thing that Giants catcher Buster Posey gained from his violent home-plate collision and subsequent season-ending ankle surgery last May, it was a new appreciation for the game.
When I asked Posey if he doubted whether he could return as the same player, he gave a thoughtful, telling response.
“I’ve had that question a lot,” he said. “Honestly, I feel like I went in with a good mindset this spring. I was just happy to be out on the field, happy to have the opportunity to compete again. I started the season with that attitude. I was going to go out and enjoy it, give everything I had.
“Hopefully, that’s something I can always keep in my career. To keep that in mind, to know it’s a privilege to play the game. Sometimes when I get frustrated, I can call on that a little bit.
“I saw how quickly it can be gone.”
I followed up by asking Posey if there was any point last season when he grew especially frustrated about his injury. Posey said no, explaining that he had the best possible thing to look forward to — his wife, Kristen, gave birth to twins, Lee and Addison, last Aug. 14.
“Anyone who has kids knows how much work that is, know how much of a distraction from work that can be,” Posey said. “I didn’t sit around and think about (the injury) that much. I was more involved with them.”
RIGHT NOW, McCANN CAN’T
Is Braves catcher Brian McCann playing his way out of a big contract?
The Braves hold a $12-million option on McCann for next season; after that, he is a free agent. This offseason would be a logical time for the two sides to discuss an extension, but as McCann tries to fighting through a cyst and frayed labrum in his right shoulder, he’s potentially damaging his value.
The injury bothers McCann most when he gets full extension on his swing, and it’s forcing him into bad habits. McCann had a big July before his shoulder started barking again, but he’s batting only .161 with no extra-base hits in August.
“It’s been tough,” he says. “but I still feel like I can be productive.”
McCann, however, could require offseason surgery that likely would require a rehabilitation of four to six weeks.
HUNTER THE BUNTER
Giants right fielder Hunter Pence has struggled offensively since arriving in a trade from the Philadelphia Phillies, but he executed a brilliant push bunt to the right side for an RBI single in the series opener on Thursday night.
It was an unusual move for a cleanup hitter, and Pence certainly had the element of surprise on his side.
“No one was ready for it but me,” he said.
Pence said he has worked on the play all season, in part because teams are shifting on him, playing their second basemen behind second base.
He also had a bunt hit while playing for the Phillies against the Red Sox, so he’s 2 for 2 on the season.
Giants first baseman Brandon Belt said he turned his season around after going 0 for 5 on back-to-back nights in Philadelphia in late July.
On the flight home to San Francisco, Belt recalled thinking, “This is ridiculous. It can’t be all about me. It’s got to be what I can do to help the team.”
The change in mindset helped, as did going to a more upright stance. Belt is 6-foot-5, but he was in such a crouch, hitting coach Hensley Meulens joked that he was making himself 5-foot-10.
Well, Belt is standing tall again.
Since his revelatory moment after the Philadelphia series, he’s batting .344 with an .865 OPS in 104 plate appearances.
CASILLA ON THE REBOUND?
A scout attending the series sent me a text message after yesterday’s game that said, “SF — bad pen.”
That might be overstating it — the Giants rank eighth in the NL in bullpen ERA. But without closer Brian Wilson, who made only two appearances before undergoing Tommy John surgery, the Giants’ relievers are averaging only 7.53 strikeouts per nine innings. Only two NL bullpens are worse.
The good news is that right-hander Santiago Casilla seemingly is recovered from a blister problem and soon could reclaim the closer’s role.
Casilla was resurgent in the Dodgers series, pitching 3 2/3 scoreless innings in two outings, and he contributed another scoreless outing Friday night.
“He looks like a man on a mission, like everything is clicking now,” Giants reliever Sergio Romo said.
WELCOME TO CHIPPER’S PUB!
Chipper Jones’ farewell tour will reach a new level when he reaches New York, where he routinely has tortured the Mets over the years.
Foley’s Pub and Restaurant, a popular Manhattan watering hole for sports types, will rename itself “Chipper’s” when the Braves visit from Sept. 7 to 9.
Foley’s also will serve “chips” (french fries) in 10 different ways in honor of Chipper’s No. 10.