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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.