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08/17/08 12:44 AM ET
Palmer stumbles as Giants fall
Hurler tagged for six runs; bullpen allows five more in loss
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- Matt Palmer's Major League debut fulfilled his wildest hopes and dreams. For one inning. Pressed into starting duty by the Giants after a strained left shoulder sent Jonathan Sanchez to the disabled list Saturday, Palmer stranded two baserunners as he blanked the Braves in the first inning. Then Atlanta raked him for six runs and seven hits in the next 1 1/3 innings, essentially settling matters as San Francisco lost, 11-5. Palmer became the 15th Giant this season to make his big league debut, breaking the franchise record of 14 established in 1926. But though the right-hander's 2 1/3-inning performance was anything but record-setting, he coped admirably with the disappointment, as shown by the broad smile he wore as he greeted reporters. He called the first inning "the highlight of the day," obviously enough. Having left tickets for 27 friends and relatives, Palmer had every reason to believe this would be a charmed evening. "I just wanted to have a good time in my debut," Palmer said. "I was excited, I was happy, it was a relief, and from there, it went a little downhill." Jeff Francoeur, who went 4-for-5, opened the scoring in the second inning with an RBI double and came home on Gregor Blanco's two-out single. The Braves chased Palmer in the third. Chipper Jones walked and scored on Omar Infante's double. After Greg Norton walked, Kelly Johnson, Francoeur and Mike Hampton hit consecutive RBI singles, finishing Palmer. Manager Bruce Bochy wondered aloud whether Palmer fell victim to a classic case of nerves. But Palmer denied feeling hampered by jitters, and pointed out that not having pitched since last Saturday was a bigger factor. "The past week I hadn't [thrown] off the mound very much, and I felt a little uncomfortable, I guess you could say -- not nervous," said Palmer, who toiled 6 1/2 years in the Giants' Minor League system after being drafted in the 31st round in 2002. The Giants expected Palmer, 29, to occupy a long-relief role after they purchased his contract from Triple-A Fresno on Thursday. But Sanchez's arm felt ominously stiff while playing catch Friday, so Palmer, who amassed a Pacific Coast League-leading 137 strikeouts as a starter, was the logical replacement. Next time, assuming he continues to replace Sanchez, Palmer insisted that he'll maintain a better approach. He didn't throw enough offspeed pitches, he said, and his four walks reflected a reluctance to challenge hitters early in the count. "I've just got to use more of the plate instead of hitting edges," said Palmer, who threw only 35 strikes over 66 pitches. Despite trailing 8-0 after four innings, San Francisco wouldn't let Atlanta snap its five-game losing streak easily. The club collected 14 hits, including 11 in the final five innings, although Braves starter Mike Hampton (2-1) allowed two runs in six innings while improving to 15-4 lifetime against the Giants. The most prolific Giant was Pablo Sandoval, who went 3-for-5 in his second Major League game. The switch-hitting Sandoval rapped two of his hits off the left-handed Hampton, and another off right-handed reliever Matt DeSalvo. "I feel very comfortable," Sandoval said. "I had good patience and got my pitches to hit." Starting at first base, Sandoval recorded a pair of assists by throwing to second base for forceouts, allaying unspoken fears among the Giants that he'd mangle plays at his adopted position. He then moved behind the plate, his natural spot, in the fourth inning. Bochy acknowledged that Sandoval's ability to play either position will create more opportunities for him to get the 22-year-old's bat in the lineup as San Francisco continues its late-season evaluation of young talent. "He did a good job of going with pitches, and he went from first to catcher and did a good job on both sides," Bochy said. "Obviously, with the bat, we're going to do all we can to get him in there."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.