Giants Drop Final Two in Tampa

The Giants lost by a run for the second day in a row in Tampa Bay this afternoon. The Rays took two of three from the Orange and Black, who probably feel like they should’ve had a road sweep against one of the top teams in baseball. If this were any year but 2013, the Giants probably would have swept the Rays. Guillermo Moscoso made his first start since coming over in a trade with the Cubs, and was decent for four innings. His control wasn’t great, he didn’t have amazing stuff, and he served up a monster home run to Wil Myers. But he gave the Giants a chance to win. Ultimately, he didn’t make it out of the 5th, but I’d say he was effective enough. This might have been his only start anyway, as Ryan Vogelsong cruised through another rehab outing in AA Richmond. I haven’t heard anything official yet, but I’d guess we’ll see Vogey back in SF some time next week.

Moscoso wasn’t the reason the Giants lost today. Nor has starting pitching been the reason the Giants have lost six of their last nine. Take a look at what the starting hurlers have done during that span, starting with the Cubs’ series: 

7/26 vs Chc: Cain 7 ip, 1 er, 7 k (ND)

7/27 vs Chc: Bumgarner 8 ip, 0 er, 7 k (ND)

7/28 vs Chc: Lincecum 7 ip, 2 er, 10 k (L)

7/30 at Phi: Zito 3.1 ip, 4 er, 2 k (L)

7/31 at Phi: Gaudin 7 ip, 1 er, 5 k (W)

8/1 at Phi: Cain 8 ip, 1 er, 7 k (W)

8/2 at TB: Bumgarner 7 ip, 1 er, 11 k (W)

8/3 at TB: Lincecum 7 ip, 1 er, 5 k (ND)

8/4 at TB: Moscoso 4.2 ip, 3 er, 3 k (ND)

Total: 9 gs, 59 ip, 14 er (2.13 era) 57 k (3-2)

That’s pretty impressive stuff. Take Zito and Moscoso’s starts out, and you get seven starts that rival even the greatest stretches from 2010 to 2012. The difference; the Giants are 3-6 during is stretch. So, no, starting pitching is not the problem right now. Actually, if Vogelsong can post even average numbers the rest of the way in the #5 spot, the Giants will have a very strong rotation. Essentially, guys like Vogey, Gaudin and Timmy are auditioning for spots on the team next season, so I’d expect them all to be competitive this month and next.

Honestly, the dominance of the Giants rotation right now makes those lousy two months of play sting even worse. Had the team been able to win a few more games against the Marlins, the Mets, the Cubs, or anyone else for that matter, we may be looking at a very exciting last couple months of the year. Instead, it’s 12 games below .500 and an offense that inspires little confidence these days. In a 162-game season, all you have to do is avoid the awful month, because you never know what might happen down the stretch. The Giants couldn’t do that this season.

I read a tweet from Baggs this afternoon that Giants’ leadoff hitters own a .150 average since the All-Star break. Can we please see someone besides Blanco or Torres out there? What’s Francisco Peguero doing these days? How about Juan Perez? If you don’t like those options, maybe you move Scutaro up. Wanna get crazy? How about Javier Herrera in AA? Either way, this offense needs someone to be a rally-starter at the top, and neither Blanco nor Torres is doing that anymore. I think we all understand why the Giants gave Angel Pagan $40 million this offseason. You have to have a good leadoff hitter, and Pagan is ours.

The Giants head back home for four with Milwaukee, which may be a great opportunity to get some momentum going into a tough stretch of games. With the offense still sputtering (aside from an upstart Brandon Crawford), here’s what I would like to see: address the leadoff position – try someone different! Also, no more platoons please. Play the hot hitter. Belt nearly hits for the cycle against Chris Archer, then sits the next day against David Price. Francoeur gets three knocks off of Cy Price, then he sits today. I don’t care if lefties aren’t supposed to hit lefties and righties aren’t supposed to hit righties. If a guy is swinging the bat well, let him hit against whoever is pitching.

Ok, that’s enough ranting for one day. The Giants are at least playing better ball lately, and hopefully they can defend AT&T with a little more authority this time around.



Brandons, Bumgarner Stun Rays

I’ve made it a personal goal not to use the word “sting” during this series. I’ve got too much self-respect for that, as opposed to most headline-makers out there, who think they’re so clever. I mean, “Cain is able?” Come on, that one ran its course about 8 years ago…

Anyway, the Giants have strung a winning streak together folks, all on the road to boot. We wondered how much they could take. What would be the breaking point? Well, apparently getting swept at home by the Cubs did the trick (although our starting pitching was phenomenal in that series). After taking the final two games in Philly, the Giants opened a weekend series at the Trop with the red-hot Rays in impressive fashion. One game in, and they’re already off to a much better start than the last time they played an AL East team on the road in a dome.

I’ll say this about the Rays: Their pitching staff is ridiculously talented. When Chris Archer is your #3 pitcher, you know you’ve got a talented rotation. This was the first time I’d seen Archer pitch, but had heard all about his recent two-hit shutout over the Yankees. The kid has impressive stuff. Touches 97 with the fastball and spots his slider exactly where he wants it. He’s got to be a top candidate for AL Rookie of the Year, and he was pretty filthy yesterday… which makes it all the more impressive (or shocking?) that the Brandons lit him up.

Brandon Belt was in the lineup after sitting out the entire Philadelphia series. It’s amazing what a little mental rest and extra practice can do for a slumping hitter. While the rest of the Giants’ starting nine were struggling to make solid contact against the young Archer, Belt looked like the second coming of the Babe at the plate. He tattooed a changeup in the 5th, tying the game at 1-1 with a solo shot to right. That was his second hit of the game. In the 7th, Belt and Brandon Crawford put Madison Bumgarner in position for the win. After a base-hit by Hunter Pence, Belt went after a pitch below his knees, ripping toward deep center. The ball bounced off the upper half of the wall, and Belt had a triple – although, again he wasn’t running very hard out of the box. What is his deal?! Crawford followed with a blast to right (his second HR in three games), and the Giants had all the runs they’d need. Belt and Crawford hadn’t exactly been contributing at the plate lately, so yesterday’s offensive output was very, very nice to see. When the Brandons are producing, the Giants are tough to beat.

While Belt and Crawford powered the offense on this stormy night in Tampa, the real story of the game was Bumgarner. As impressive as Archer was for the home team, Bumgarner was downright dominant against one of the better lineups in baseball. Aside from a pitch Wil Myers took to the deepest part of the yard for a long flyout, no Rays hitters even made solid contact against the Giants’ southpaw. In another 7-inning performance, Bumgarner allowed 7 hits, 3 BB and 1 ER. He struck out 11 while winning his 11th game and lowering his ERA to 2.69. Dave Flemming mentioned a couple times how MadBum had pitched at least 7 innings in every start since June 8. That’s 9 consecutive outings folks, and he’s 7-2 during that span.

Bumgarner has undoubtedly become the ace of the staff, and one of the top young lefties in the game. He seems like a wily veteran already, but he’s still only 24 years old. If the Giants can get Matt Cain back to form next year (and it seems he’s picking it up since the All-Star break), and just average performance from the rest of the rotation, they’ll be back in contention again.

So, an impressive night for the Brandons and Bumgarner, and the Giants take game one from Tampa. Tim Lincecum matches up against David Price tonight in a battle of former and current Cy Youngs. These AL East matchups are going to be fun. The Giants may be 10 games out, but you know they’d love nothing more than to play spoiler down the stretch against teams like these Rays. If they can compete like they have the last few days, we should have some pretty great matchups ahead.