Back in Scottsdale I was truly surprised at just how good Pablo Sandoval looked in the locker room, and during his first game of spring training I was surprised at just how sprightly he seemed on the field. At the same time, I also wondered if the sprightliness was merely a function of first game adrenaline and if, smaller or not, he’d revert to his lumbering ways once he got back into the routine of playing baseball.
Seems there’s nothing to worry about:
“My first step,” [Sandoval] said after being asked about the biggest benefit to losing almost 40 pounds this winter. “Especially at third base, you have to be quick. That’s why I worked so hard on it every day” …
“He’s moving around so much better now — left, right, coming in on balls,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s feeling good about that first step. He’s bouncing around out there.”
Indeed, not a day goes by when someone watching a Giants game doesn’t tweet something about how quick Sandoval looks at third base. This transformation does in fact seem to be more than merely cosmetic.
Which will be hugely important for the Giants, because I’m a bit dubious about their chances to repeat as NL West champs.
I don’t like Miguel Tejada at short and I don’t have a ton of confidence that Aubrey Huff and Pat Burrell will contribute anything close to what they contributed last year. As such, a return to 2009 form for Sandoval is essential to make up for those places where I think they’ll regress.
Just one week after Taylor Cole and Felix Peña tossed a combined no-hitter against Seattle, Mariners right-hander Mike Leake worked on his own perfect game through eight innings against the Angels.
It was an ambitious form of revenge, and one that Leake served up perfectly as he held the Angels scoreless in frame after frame. He sprinkled a handful of strikeouts throughout the first eight innings, catching Matt Thaiss on a called strike three in the third and getting two whiffs — called strikeouts against both Brian Goodwin and Shohei Ohtani — in the fourth.
The Mariners, meanwhile, put up a good fight against the Angels, backing Leake’s attempt with 10 runs — their first double-digit total since a 13-3 rout of the Orioles on June 23. Daniel Vogelbach led things off in the fourth with a three-run homer off of reliever Jaime Barria, then repeated the feat with another three-run shot off Barria in the fifth. Tom Murphy and J.P. Crawford helped pad the lead as well with a two-RBI single and two-RBI double, respectively.
In the ninth, with just three outs remaining, the Angels finally managed to break through. Luis Rengifo worked a 1-1 count against Leake, then returned an 85.3-m.p.h. changeup to right field for a base hit, dismantling the perfecto and the no-hitter in one fell swoop. Leake lost control of the ball following the hit, issuing four straight balls to Kevan Smith in the next at-bat and giving the Angels their first runner in scoring position. Still at a pitch count of just 90, however, he induced the next two outs in quick fashion and polished off the win with a triumphant eight-pitch strikeout against Mike Trout for the first one-hitter (and Maddux) of his career.
Had Leake successfully closed out the perfecto, it would’ve been the first of his decade-long career in the majors and the first the Mariners had seen since Félix Hernández’s perfect game against the Rays in August 2012. For their part, the Angels have yet to be on the losing end of a perfecto. The last time they were shut out in a no-hitter was 1999, at the hands of then-Twins pitcher Eric Milton.