Wellemeyer turns corner, tops Phillies
Huff, Downs go yard; Schierholtz sparkles on defense
SAN FRANCISCO -- Todd Wellemeyer had it all Tuesday night. Ample offensive support. Outstanding defense from right fielder Nate Schierholtz. Wellemeyer won his first game as a Giant and even got a hit.Yes, Wellemeyer left AT&T Park after the Giants' 6-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies with everything a starting pitcher could want -- except a regular turn on the mound. Wellemeyer lasted one batter into the eighth inning, an effort worthy of the staff that leads the Major Leagues with a 2.65 ERA. But his performance clashed with his status. As San Francisco's No. 5 starter, Wellemeyer's vulnerable to being skipped in the rotation when scheduled off-days arise, so those who outrank him on the pitchers' pecking order won't get excessive rest. The Giants are headed for precisely that situation. They're off Thursday and Monday, meaning that if they stuck with a five-man alignment, Tim Lincecum, who's scheduled to start Wednesday's series finale against the Phillies, would remain idle until next Wednesday at Florida. By skipping Wellemeyer, Lincecum would pitch Tuesday's series opener against the Marlins with only one extra day of rest. Manager Bruce Bochy said that he would discuss the matter with pitching coach Dave Righetti -- and, presumably, Wellemeyer -- on Wednesday morning. Chances are that Wellemeyer will be on hiatus from the rotation until May 8 at New York, the next time San Francisco needs a fifth starter. Whenever he pitches again, Wellemeyer (1-3) can reflect upon a successful effort. Removed after walking Carlos Ruiz to open the eighth inning, the right-hander allowed three hits, walked three and struck out four. Wellemeyer, who entered the game with an 8.16 ERA in three starts, thanked Righetti and bullpen coach Mark Gardner for helping him refine his pitching mechanics and suggesting that he work from the first-base side of the pitching rubber. Since Wellemeyer throws across his body, this availed more of home plate to him.
"It looks twice the size to me now," he said.Upon leaving the game, Wellemeyer received a warm ovation from the AT&T Park spectators -- many of whom have been calling for anybody but him to occupy the rotation's No. 5 spot. This realization didn't disturb Wellemeyer. "It's natural for them to think that way," he said. "I don't blame them. They can get on the bandwagon now if they want; it's fine. They're welcome." The Giants welcomed a second consecutive evening of robust offense against an accomplished Phillies pitcher. Following rapid right-hander Roy Halladay, they saw left-hander Jamie Moyer, he of the 260 career victories and the 80-mph fastball. The vast difference wasn't deceiving. Aubrey Huff and Matt Downs homered in the second inning. Edgar Renteria and Pablo Sandoval each rapped RBI singles in the fifth and seventh innings. "They've outplayed us," Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said. The Giants' excellence was embodied in Schierholtz, who performed a nifty Roberto Clemente imitation. Schierholtz made searing throws to second base to apprehend Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, who thought they were bound for doubles in the second and ninth innings, respectively. Schierholtz had an accomplice in Renteria, who pretended that no throw was coming as Howard neared second base. Fooled by the shortstop's passive posture, Howard slowed down until Renteria slapped the tag on him. "I just happened to get good hops off the wall and made accurate throws," Schierholtz said. "It's not going to happen every time, but tonight it happened that way." Schierholtz also dove to snare Placido Polanco's first-inning fly ball and ran down Carlos Ruiz's drive to deep right-center in the fifth. Asked if he believes that any ball hit in the air is his, Schierholtz replied, "I feel that way, as long as I'm positioned right. The ball doesn't carry very well, so you can play pretty shallow and take away the bloopers -- and the balls that carry a little better." San Francisco improved to 4-1 on its homestand against 2009 postseason qualifiers St. Louis and Philadelphia, with defending Wild Card winner Colorado on deck. Whether it's that record, or their 8-3 overall mark at home, or their 1.15 team ERA in their last 47 innings, the same conclusion can be drawn: The Giants are looking healthy again. Said Huff, "It's early in the season. You can't get too caught up in it now. We have a lot of baseball to play. But you certainly have to like the way we're playing now. Everybody was talking bad about us a week ago."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.