Daniel Leroux. 6th September, 2011 - 12:33 am
The Week That Was:
The biggest week of the year lived up to that billing, though not with the result Giants fans were hoping for. The series with the Cubs started with two of the more demoralizing non-pivotal games in recent years, particularly since the opponent has been out of it for a long while. After a nice little win on Wednesday, there was some optimism despite the fact that Arizona came in to San Francisco on a nine game winning streak.
That optimism bore itself out in the game on Friday, which combined a strong pitching performance from Matt Cain (especially after the arduous first inning) and hitting in terms of both approach and results. The Giants consistently generated good at-bats for the first time in quite a while and Cody Ross woke up offensively hitting at the top of the order. Unfortunately, that success did not carry over for the weekend games as they got worked 7-2 by Ian Kennedy and the Diamondback hitters on Saturday and blew a strong Ryan Vogelsong performance by getting effectively shut down after the first at-bat of the afternoon.
Shockingly, the team failed to win a game where they went 19 batters between hits and never had two in the same inning. Even with that futility, they still nearly won until everything went haywire in the eighth.
The Soapbox: Sunday: The Second Half in a Nutshell
I know, some will say that a first inning home run and a triple by Carlos Beltran cannot be a part of a supposedly representative game. What makes Sunday particularly fitting is how the starting pitcher brought the thunder despite sporadic offensive performance. It was strange watching the game today because it did not feel like either starter had a particularly dominating performance until getting into those mental discussions about when the last time a team got a hit (or even hit a ball hard). The marathon AB by Brandon Belt helped obscure Daniel Hudson ransacking the Giants lineup by striking out more men (five) than reached base by hit or walk (four) in his seven innings of work.
Beyond that, Ryan Vogelsong did an excellent job getting out of trouble the few times it came up. Well, at least until the eighth. After the hanging breaking ball he gave Chris Young (who luckily fouled it off), it looked like time to get him out of the game. Unfortunately, this Sunday mirrored last Sunday in that the starter stayed in for two batters two long with the team taking the consequences of either overconfidence in the starter or lack of faith in the bullpen.
Even then, there was not nearly enough offense to provide any margin of error for Vogelsong or any other Giants pitcher. There were some better at-bats Sunday than the team has had most of the rest of the second half, but there were less well-hit balls or even opportunities for base runners since Hudson only walked one batter. Furthermore, the absolute zero the Giants received offensively from hitters 6-9 was representative as well, giving the team even less to work from. Fortunately, the team is having their struggles in a year when two other National League teams look awfully formidable in terms of the playoffs, and there is always last year.
The Week Ahead: Keeping Pace
In what seems like a strange series of events, the Giants travel down to San Diego for three games against the Padres before returning to the Bay for three against the Dodgers (they go down to LA later in the month). While both of those teams are out of it, the only way for San Francisco to claw their way back into this is to take a vast majority of games that they should win with the knowledge that every team will give them their best shot regardless of their slot in the standings.
No matter how grizzly things look, all the team can do is beat the teams in front of them while hoping Arizona does not do the same.
Marquee Game of the Week: As long as the rotations line up, there is only one choice: Friday night. Lincecum vs. Kershaw. No further sales pitch necessary.