…. Pressure cooker

Yesterday’s loss dropped the Giants into what is essentially a three-way tie for the wild card. The Giants, Astros and Cubs all have 70 losses, so once again it’s whoever loses least. The Astros are home against the Rockies (boy is that nice for them), the Cubs are home against the Braves, who have the ability to bite a big chunk out of them over the last three days. Since we may not get to do a Giants playoffs preview, we might as well do one for the last four games.

Giants (88-70) at Padres (86-72)
Jerome Williams 9-7 4.41 ERA (hasn’t pitched since July)
Adam Eaton 11-13 4.73 ERA 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA over his last three starts

This game is a toss-up, and I wonder if Alou is considering altering his rotation so that he can put someone out there that is certain of performing at a high level, as opposed to the possibility that Williams is ready. For the Padres, the wild-card is still a longshot, they’ve got to win out and watch just about everyone else lose out, but they’re not eliminated. Still, if Williams is healthy and has that low-90′s fastball…..

Eaton is an inning eater, no more, no less. His ERA has been at or near 5.00 for the last three months, in fact it was 5.52 in July, 4.66 in August, and it’s 4.79 so far in September. In the last three months, he’s allowed 18, 19 and 19 runs in right around 30 innings of work each time. He doesn’t walk too many guys, and he doesn’t strike out too many guys. In fact, his numbers show him to be a lot like Kirk Rueter. Here, you tell me which is which:

736 AB 196 H 38 2B 27 HR 52 BB 148 SO .266/.316/.436 .752 OPS

736 AB 222 H 51 2B 19 HR 65 BB 55 SO .302/.353/.465 .818 OPS

I guess the 55 strikeouts gives it away, huh? OK, so he’s better than Rueter. Who isn’t? Damn, that’s a horrible pitching record.

Giants at Dodgers

LA leads the season series 9-7

Kirk Rueter 8-12 4.81 ERA 1-1 2.45 over his last three starts
Jeff Weaver 13-12 4.01 ERA 1-2 6.75 ERA over his last three starts

Of course, the one win was against the Giants, when he managed to control his “effectively wild,” right arm and hold the Giants to three runs. Weaver is up and down, here’s hoping tomorrow is time for him to lose it in the third inning. One of the reasons he’s a Dodger and not still a Yankee is his propensity for crumbling under pressure.

Rueter has had a horrible season; in fact, he’s had two horrible seasons in a row. However, he’s actually on a bit of a run, with the last month or so being his most efffective stretch of pitching since 2002. He has shown the ability to respond to pressure before, he’ll need it in LA with a rabid crowd looking to clinch against the Giants. He’ll also need the outside corner call he hasn’t gotten all year, so pay attention to the first inning or so. If he’s getting it, he can pound it all day long. If he’s getting squeezed; it’s gonna be a long day for the Giants pen, and in game one of the penultimate series; the Giants can’t afford that.

Brett Tomko 11-7 4.19 ERA 2-1 with a 2.42 ERA over his last three starts
Edwin Jackson 2-1 6.75 ERA 0-0 with a 11.00 ERA over his last three starts

Tomko has been the Giants best pitcher since Schmidt hurt his groin. He’s turned in two 80-plus game scores, and two others above 70 since he fell to a season-low 5-6. He should be able to beat Jackson, who is young and has his whole life ahead of him. Jackson so far this season, has pitched 22.2 innings, allowed 25 hits and 11 walks. That should bode well for the Giants, leaving us with the series and season finale between……

Jason Schmidt 17-7 3.29 ERA 1-1 with a 4.71 ERA over his last three starts
Kazuhisa Ishii 13-7 4.69 ERA 0-0 with a 5.79 ERA over his last three starts

This is a matchup of aces, although the two pitchers go about their work in such different ways. Schmidt is the prototypical power pitcher (242 strikeouts), Ishii is the nibbler, (88 strikeouts). If Ishii cannot maintain command, the Giants should have a lot of baserunners. Here’s the ESPN scouting report,

“Except perhaps for Randy Johnson, Ishii’s stuff is as good as any lefthanded starter in baseball. His fastball registers in the low 90s and has a good deal of movement. His curveball has a lot of break to it, and his changeup is solid as well. Ishii runs into difficulty because his command is flighty. Not only does he walk a lot of batters, but he also gets behind in the count with most hitters. Occasionally, he will switch from the windup to the stretch with no one on base, or even pitch an entire game from the stretch position, just to try to find a rhythm.”

Schmidt is still trying to regain his own rhythym, the kind that had him poised to win this seasons’ Cy Young award. If he’s on, he can flat-out dominate, if he’s not, he can get lit up. In the six starts since the groin injury, he’s allowed several back-breaking home runs, most of which came with men on.

That’s it, boys and girls. Do the Giants have what it takes to finish the job?

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All commentary is the opinion of John J Perricone unless otherwise noted.
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