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Monday, June 3, 2013
Giants end road woes but still have issues

By David Schoenfield


First off, great play by Brandon Crawford with the diving stop and throw from his knees.

Still, it's hard to believe Yadier Molina couldn't beat the throw.

Rookie umpire Clint Fagan did get the call right. Molina was out.

Once Molina slammed his helmet down in anger -- he tried to argue he was mad at himself, not at the umpire -- Fagan was put in a difficult situation: Should he let the incident pass or eject Molina for unsportsmanlike behavior?

Fagan definitely should have kept his cool and not ejected Cardinals manager Mike Matheny.

So once again the umpires have found a way to inject themselves into the story, when the big story of the Giants' 4-2 win over the Cardinals should be Chad Gaudin's terrific outing in his first major league start since 2009. Desperate for a win after losing seven in a row on the road and getting swept by a combined score of 15-1 in Saturday's doubleheader, the Giants found an unlikely hero in Gaudin, but that's often been the case for the Giants over the past few seasons.

Giants skipper Bruce Bochy was hoping to get maybe four innings from Gaudin, filling in for the injured Ryan Vogelsong. Instead, Gaudin delivered six innings of four-hit, no-walk baseball, earning the win when Brandon Belt doubled in two runs in the seventh.

"I wanted to go out there and give the team a chance to win and also give them some innings," Gaudin said. "I thought I was throwing aggressively and pitching with what I had."

But instead of Gaudin, most fans will be talking about the controversial ejections in the third inning after Molina grounded out with two on and two out, the Cardinals down 2-0 at the time. "It was a big situation," Molina told MLB.com. "I thought I got a base hit, and they made a play. I knew I was out. I wasn't upset that he made the call. I was upset with myself. I tried to hold my helmet."

That excuse seems a little dubious to me, as the helmet came flying out of Molina's hands about as rapidly as a Shelby Miller fastball. First-base coach Bengie Molina, Yadier's brother, said Fagan failed to understand the game situation. "The only thing I saw was that the umpire didn't have a feel for the game," he said. "I know most of them do, but the kid out there didn't have a feel for the game. And what I mean by that is Yadi was mad at himself for the guy making a good play. It was a big turnaround in the game. He was out. He slammed the helmet, wanted to go back to the dugout and he threw him out."

Rule 9.01 (d) reads, "Each umpire has authority to disqualify any player, coach, manager or substitute for objecting to decisions or for unsportsmanlike conduct or language, and to eject such disqualified person from the playing field." But the rulebook, under a section titled "General Instructions to Umpires," advises: "It is often a trying position which requires the exercise of much patience and good judgment, but do not forget that the first essential in working out of a bad situation is to keep your own temper and self-control."

Despite the protests of both Molinas, I think Fagan made the right call here. I don't think we want a sport wtih players throwing helmets every time they're upset or disagree with a call. Yes, in the heat of the moment players are going to lose their cool from to time to time. Molina's job is to not lose his cool in the heat of the moment -- especially when the call proved to be the correct one.

The bigger takeaway from the weekend: What to make of the Giants? They certainly can't count on Gaudin to right their starting pitching woes, considering his 5.16 ERA as a reliever from 2010-2012. Matt Cain had another blowup start on Saturday, allowing seven runs (all in the third inning) despite allowing no walks and no home runs with nine strikeouts over six frames. His peripherals suggest a pitcher better than a guy with a 5.45 ERA, but there's a tangible reason for that ERA: He's allowed a .166 average with the bases empty but .356 with runners on base. Tim Lincecum has a 5.12 ERA, with rate stats almost identical to last year, when he finished with a 5.18 ERA. His struggles have again raised the issue of him going to the bullpen, but Bochy says Lincecum will remain in the rotation for now.

Despite the win, the Giants are just 10-17 on the road, and while they are 30-27 overall, they've been outscored by 14 runs. They're going to have to start pitching better on the road, and soon; after two games at home against Toronto, they head on a nine-game road trip to Arizona, Pittsburgh and Atlanta, three teams with winning records.