Writing on the Wall

The Giants split an old-fashioned double header last night with the Reds, dropping the first game in ugly fashion and gutting out a win in the night-cap. The split kept the Giants at 8 games under .500, but they lost a half-game in the standings to the division-leading Dodgers, who made a furious comeback last night in Toronto.

Game 1: Reds 9 Giants 3

Eric Surkamp made his first big league start in nearly two years after recovering from Tommy John surgery… it did not go well. Surkamp’s start was eerily similar to Mike Kickham’s against the Reds in Cincinnati earlier this month; after breezing through a 1-2-3 first inning, Surkamp could not locate his pitches, and the Reds teed off. Apparently somebody forgot to tell Votto, Cosart, Bruce and the rest of the Cincy hitters that AT&T Park is not a hitter-friendly stadium, because balls seem to leave the yard frequently whenever they’re in town. Ultimately, Surkamp was tagged for 9 hits and 7 runs in less than three innings of work. Yusmeiro Petit, who was called up with Surkamp to provide some bullpen relief, did just that, eating 5.1 IP and allowing 2 ER. I know it probably wouldn’t have been a popular decision among the fan base, but maybe Petit should’ve taken the start rather than rushing Surkamp up before he was ready. Either way, Petit’s efforts may have saved the night for Bruce Bochy, who needed all the bullpen help he could get in the second game.

Game 2: Giants 5 Reds 3

After two embarrassing losses to start the series, the Giants needed a win badly in the night game. Luckily, the offense came out hacking, posting 3 runs in the 1st and another in the 2nd. Sandoval and Pence had two hits apiece in this one, which was nice to see. The four early runs were enough to earn the win, although it didn’t come easy. Zito allowed three ER and couldn’t make it out of the 5th, but Bochy used five relievers to seal the win, including a 4-out save from Romo, who allowed a hit but recorded all four outs by way of the K. The win marked #1,500 for the skipper Bruce Bochy, who is building himself quite a lengthy list of accomplishments. Way to go, Skip!

A few thoughts here:

The Giants are 6.5 back of the Dodgers right now, with a week left until the trade deadline. That really isn’t a huge deficit, especially for how the Giants have played. But let’s be honest here, are the Giants really a good baseball team this year? To me, the eyeball test is sometimes a better indicator than any statistic on how a team is performing. They’ve been battling injuries and inconsistency most of the year. They’re still not scoring many runs. They’re not playing good defense. They don’t have three, let alone five reliable starting pitchers. They can’t beat anybody outside the NL West, and they haven’t proven they can compete on the road… they play nine games against the AL East alone in August.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers are surging. They’ve won 22 of 27 and 9 straight on the road – and they’re doing this with a cooled-off Puig and almost entirely without Matt Kemp. To me, it’s pretty clear that one team is headed in one direction, while the other is headed in the complete opposite.

You’d have to think that Brian Sabean and his team know all of this much better than any of us, and I hope they use the trade deadline to make some tough decisions. There really isn’t one player out there who can transform the Giants into a contending team, but this certainly isn’t a time to completely sell the ranch either. The Giants are a proud franchise, but 8 games below .500 is a steep hill to climb. I think it was a mistake to publicly declare Lincecum safe at the deadline, but maybe they toss Romo’s name out there in the next couple days. Why not get some value for a few of these guys while we can? Yes, you’ll probably lose some casual fans in the process, but if the sellout streak at AT&T Park ends and the team is forced to lower ticket prices, allowing the die-hards to start attending more games again, that wouldn’t hurt my feelings one bit.

The Giants have given its fan base so much to be thankful for in the past few years, so there really shouldn’t be too much complaining here. And if today marks the start of a historic resurrection and they end up playing their way back into the playoff race, I’ll gladly look like an idiot for saying all of this. But I just don’t see it happening this year. At this point, though, what takes place between now and July 31 is really anybody’s guess.

Advertisements

Put Up or Go Home

*Edit: Congratulations, Ryan Braun. You have become the Lance Armstrong of MLB.

Entering this season, there were three NL teams that you had to think were just chomping at the bit to unseat the Giants. At least that’s how I felt (and still feel). It’s probably not hard to guess either. The Dodgers began 2012 red hot and made some blockbuster trades at the deadline, but the Giants buried them down the stretch. The Cardinals were one win away from heading back to the World Series until Barry Zito toed the rubber in St. Louis for game 5. But I don’t think any team has it out for the Giants as much as Cincinnati.

If you recall, there was already some bad blood between the two clubs long before they met in the NLDS last season. It was one of the few moments during the season where I was truly fired up over something extracurricular, and I remember it like it was yesterday: Vogelsong squares up to bunt, and Bronson Arroyo sends a fastball up and in. Vogey hits the dirt, gets up, throws hit bat down and gives Arroyo one of the best mean-mugs you’ll ever see. I don’t know why, but I love moments like that where you can get the competitive juices flowing.

Long story short, the Giants and Reds had some history when they squared off last year in the division series. After the Reds managed to piss off a collective fan base with two absolute beatings in games 1 and 2, the Giants pulled off the impossible, taking three straight at Great American Ballpark. Tell me when Posey hit that grand slam off of Latos in game five, it didn’t create a little bit of bitterness toward the Giants on the part of Reds’ players and fans.

My intention for all of this is not to create an “us against the world” mantra, but to make a point about the upcoming series with Cincinnati (which is just what the Giants don’t need right now). If the Reds take three of four, or even sweep the series in San Francisco, the Giants’ chances might be all but cooked. This is not so much a “make-or-break” series for Buster and co. as it is a “put up or shut up” series. Basically, the Giants need to split at the least, or they risk falling 7, 8, even 9.5 games out for the division. That kind of deficit is when you start kissing any trade deadline upgrades goodbye.

Do I think Lincecum can beat Arroyo in the opener tonight? Yes, I do, although Arroyo has been on a roll lately. I think the Giants have something to prove against that punk though. I also think Gaudin can take home the finale, although it’s another tough matchup with Mike Leake. It’s Tuesday’s double-header that worries me, with the two soft-tossing lefties Zito and Eric Surkamp taking the mound. The Giants need to pitch well, but the guys not named Buster need to start swinging the bat.

None of us wants to think about what happened the last time the Reds played at AT&T. Thankfully, the Giants improbably ended Cincinnati’s season. There’s no doubt in my mind Dusty Baker’s crew wouldn’t like to return the favor.

Image

Notes from the Break

Some stats and notes from the Giants’ (mostly) forgettable first half:

Overall Record: 43-51 (4th in NL West, 7th in WC) – 6.5 GB

Home: 25-20 | Road: 18-31 | Vs Div: 27-20

Run Differential: -40

Top Hitters

*Buster Posey: 90 g, .325(ba)/.395(obp)/.536(slg), 27 2b, 13 hr, 56 rbi – Truly one of the game’s young stars, and he’s still getting better!

*Marco Scutaro: 81 g, .316/.367/.400, 17 2b, 2 hr, 22 rbi – Below average defender, but he still puts on a hitting clinic despite nagging injuries.

Hunter Pence: 94 g, .262/.305/.455, 22 2b, 14 hr, 48 rbi, 14 sb – Streaky bat with lots of power, never takes a day off, and hasn’t been caught stealing yet. Classic Pence.

Top Pitchers

*Madison Bumgarner: 10-5, 3.02 era, 125 ip, 85 h, 122 k, 34 bb – True ace of the staff now, and still only 23 years old!

Javier Lopez: 39 g, 1.61 era, 22.1 ip, 19 h, 4 er, 25 k, 9 bb –Rock solid all year. Untouchable against lefty’s. May be a nice trade piece at the deadline (as he was for the Giants in 2010).

Chad Gaudin: 24 g (6 gs), 3-1, 2.39 era, 64 ip, 50 h, 55 k, 23 bb – Giants took a low-risk gamble on him before the season and it’s paid off big time so far.

*Sergio Romo: 38 g, 3-3, 21 sv, 2.86 era, 34.2 ip, 29 h, 38 k, 7 bb – Romo’s had a few rough outings, but overall he’s held the closer job down nicely.

*= MLB All-Star

Letdowns

Angel Pagan: 46 g, .262/.317/.374, 10 2b, 3 hr, 24 rbi, 6 sb – Walk-off inside-the-parker in Colorado (late May) will likely be his last time on the field this year.

Hector Sanchez: 26 g, .231/.318/.231, 0 hr, 3 rbi – Came to camp overweight and really hasn’t contributed at all this year.

Barry Zito: 4-7, 4.88 era, 103.1 ip, 130 h, 67 k, 41 bb – Giants are 0-8 when Zito starts on the road. Not what the team hoped for after his magical ’12 run.

Jeremy Affeldt: 37 g, 1-4, 3.55, 33 ip, 25 h, 21 k, 16 bb – After signing a nice contract this offseason, he’s been out of whack and unreliable for most of the year.

More to Prove

Pablo Sandoval: 76 g, .266/.317/.397, 12 2b, 9 hr, 42 rbi – Pablo went from out of shape and red-hot to out-of-shape and ice-cold after another stint on the DL. He’s not a .266 hitter, and he needs to show that in the 2nd half.

Matt Cain: 5-6, 5.06 era, 112 ip, 95 h, 103 k, 37 bb – Cain’s first-half ERA is alarming, but it’s mostly from a few disaster starts. He needs to cut those out if the Giants want to even sniff a winning record.