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July 13, 1999

NL West Notebook

Game Report: San Francisco Giants at San Diego Padres, July 7

by Dave Pease

Game Report: San Francisco Giants at San Diego Padres, July 7, 1999:

Shawn Estes vs. Matt Clement

For much of the season, the upstart Arizona Diamondbacks have been giving the San Francisco Giants everything they could handle in the race for the division's top spot. The Snake offense has been more poisonous than expected, and to complicate matters, the Giants were without stalwarts Barry Bonds and Bill Mueller for months. Factor in the Giants' duct-taped pitching staff serving up more meatballs than your local Olive Garden, and you've got yourself a race.

Last Tuesday's tussle with the Padres was emblematic of the Jekyll and Hyde nature of the Giants. With all the subtlety of a Spike Lee joint, the Giants pounded home just how good their offense is, and how iffy their pitching is, in a 10-9 squeaker over the Frocked Pads.

Giant Problems for Estes

Shawn Estes got the start for San Francisco. After a terrible beginning to 1999, he had been looking like the ace in waiting he seemed to be in 1997, with an ERA of 3.24 over his five starts in June. The recently intimidating Padre offense had other ideas, and he left the game having allowed seven runs--all of them earned, and none of them cheap.

Even when he was good, Estes' control left quite a bit to be desired. The three walks he surrendered over his five long innings of work were about par for the course. What really seems to hurt Estes is his habit of making adventures out of the easy outs in the lineup. When he walked Matt Clement to start the third inning, it was apparent that Estes was back to his old tricks. Anyone with the kind of fastball/curve combination that Estes sports is going to be successful over stretches. But if he doesn't start going after the bottom of the order like he's got some of the best stuff in the National League, he's not going to be the consistent pitcher the Giants could really use right now.

Although there weren't any errors charged to the Giants defense, Rich Aurilia looked unusually stiff at shortstop. On a couple of ground balls in his direction, he got really late jumps. On one Eric Owens' groundball in the hole, he seemed to be positioned to make a play, but didn't move until the ball was already on the outfield grass. It was well-hit, but not that well-hit.

Offensively, the Giants were their normally opportunistic selves. Despite losing Barry Bonds to a groin strain in the third, they scored in double digits for the eighth time this season.

Clement on the Mound

One of the reasons I was looking forward to this game was a chance to see hot Padre right-hander Clement in action. Clement, winner of four straight after starting the season 1-9, is a much-heralded rookie who seemed to be putting it all together. Clement didn't produce against the Giants, though, having plenty of location problems of his own and giving up any ground the Padres were able to make up offensively.

After making Ellis Burks look really bad for the first out of the second inning, Clement allowed two singles, then a home run to Marvin Benard. His wildness was most evident here, as he generally wasn't getting ahead of the hitters. When he did get two strikes, he had a hard time putting people away. Clement ended up allowing seven runs in four innings before being pulled for Wil Cunnane. Cunnane did his best Willie Blair impersonation, getting taken deep by Burks to give the Giants the lead. The scoring was finished by the sixth inning, and the Giants' John Johnstone nailed down the save while Robb Nen nursed his injury.

Friar Defense

The Padres defense was a mixed bag. Big Ben Davis looked great behind the plate; on the only stolen base attempt by the Giants, Davis made a throw from his knees that beat Benard to second easily. Benard was safe anyway when Quilvio Veras bobbled the ball, but San Diegans haven't seen that kind of display behind the plate since Benito Santiago left town. Davis has reasonable quickness for a big guy on the bases and on defense, and looks like the real deal.

Both Veras and Damian Jackson misplayed balls that hurt the Padres badly in this one-run game, but George Arias turned a great double play in the fourth on Brent Mayne's pop foul to left. Arias ranged way out near the left field stands to make the catch, falling down in the process and inciting Aurilia to try for second base. Arias popped to his feet and threw him out easily.

Clement will have better days, and so will the Padres, but the Giants still pulled down the victory despite some daunting setbacks. If that isn't a metaphor for the way Dusty Baker's squad plays baseball, I don't know what is.

Dave Pease is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Dave's other articles. You can contact Dave by clicking here

Related Content:  Giants,  Giants Outfield

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