Giants 5, Dodgers 2
Today’s game was probably my favorite game of this Giants season. Zito looking like he did in 2002, getting a win (at home), and a come behind win against the Dodgers.
What more can you ask for?
When the season started, I thought this Giants team was gonna be one of if (if not the) worst teams in franchise history. With the franchise record for losses being 100 in 1985, one look at the roster prior to the season would suggest surpassing that mark easily. Most people (including myself) predicted this team to be the worst in baseball this year.
After years of Brian Sabean risking the future for small short term gains, it finally started to catch up to the team a few years ago. The last two seasons the Giants would have likely been the worst team in baseball had it not been for a guy named Barry Bonds. Without Bonds, the downward spiral seemed to reach rock
Yes, this team is still a lousy team, but a hell of a lot better than expected. Third place, only four games out of the division lead (and yes, I know it’s a horrible division, but still), and on pace for 72 wins is a lot more than expected. What’s more, they’ve gone 22-20 since May 19th, when they were 17-29 and on pace for 60 wins, about as expected going into the season.
What makes things more promising is that, if you look at the performance up and down the roster, nobody is really overachieving, and on top of that certain guys who were playing over their heads earlier in the season (Fred Lewis, Aaron Rowand, and Bengie Molina) have come back down to what was pretty much expected of them, and yet the team has been playing better since then.
If anything, this team should continue to play better. While nobody is playing above their heads, some guys should perform better in the second half. Offensively, things will probably be about the same as the first half, with a slight improvement, due to Omar Vizquel. While he’s never been a good hitter, especially at this point in his career, he’s a lot better than he’s been hitting and will likely improve upon his Neifi Perez-like stats in the second half. And if not, he’ll likely lose his starting job to Emmanuel Burriss, who himself is a mediocre hitter, but at least it’s a hell of a lot better than what we’ve been seing from Omar.
But look for the pitching to be a lot better in the second half. Tim Lincecum is the real deal and, barring (god forbid) injury, will continue his dominance in the second half. With Matt Cain, it’s not a matter of if, but when will he emerge into the ace we’ve been waiting for him to become, and it’s looking more and more like it will be at some point this season. His rookie year, he would have become an instant ace had he not walked so many batters (over 4 an inning). Last year, he cut down his walks, but the fewer strikeouts really hurt him. This year, the walks remain down, while the strikeouts are back up (slightly higher even) to what they were his rookie year. Mainly, he’s been having bad luck in that more balls in play have been falling in for hits, and that he’s been giving up a lot more home runs, which is essentially the result of one extra bad pitch every few games, something that can be easily improved upon. What’s more promising is that, since April when he had 29 strikeouts to 23 walks, he’s had a phenomenal 78 walks to 24 strikeouts. What’s been really killing him, however, are the occasional starts where he’s just gotten rocked, therefore skewing his percentage/ rate stats, and (which has been the biggest problem since his rookie year) the lack of run support and bullpen help, resulting in his weak records that fail to display his true abilities and performances.
Jonathan Sanchez is another guy waited in the wings to breakout. While not as heralded a pitching prospect as Cain and Lincecum, the 25 year old pitcher’s stuff ranks among the best younger pitchers in the game. And Kevin Correia is a little better than he’s pitching, and should be the best you can hope for from your #5 pitcher.
But Zito is the one who we’ll likely see the most improvement in the second half. Over his last few starts, his velocity’s been back to what it was in Oakland, and his stuff has gotten a lot better as well. While one would be dreaming to expect him to return to his Cy Young form from 2002, look for him to return to what he was his last few years in Oakland, which would be a really solid, reliable, #2 starter, which in a rotation with Cain, Lincecum, and Sanchez, would make him a great asset (salary aside), especially for your #4 pitcher. As for the salary, what’s done is done, and in a way, his salary is made up by the Giants paying the best pitcher in baseball league minimum.
Overall, this team still isn’t going anywhere this year, especially considering at least one of the teams in the division that are heavily underachieving (D-Backs, Rockies, or Padres) will likely go on a second half tear, but at least it will be fun to watch this team continue to move in the right direction. And an effort to continue in this direction, along with a strong system in the low minor leagues, this team has a decent shot at being once again a World Series contender in a few years (something that just a few months ago I thought would be a lot longer). And who knows, one or two really good bats in the off-season, and a slightly improved bullpen may be enough to bring the Giants back. All I know is, the Giants finally have a future to look forward to.
Before I start, I want to send my condolences to the friends and family of Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock.
Well, the Giants are on the verge of getting swept by Arizona. A few thoughts:
-It was just a matter of time before Barry started getting walked again. He has, at 43, resumed his role as the best in the game. His current numbers: .362 batting average, .519 OBP, .828 slugging percentage, and a 1.347 OPS. May I remind you that he’s a few months shy of turning 43?
-What does Matt Cain have to do to get a win? He’s averaged 1.2 runs , 2.4, and 7 innings hits in his five starts, posts an ERA of 1.54 and a WHIP of .089, and has an opponents batting average of .136 and OPS of .500. Despite all that, he only has one win, compared to DOntrelle Willis, who has a 5.59 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, and opponents are batting .312 against him. Despite all that, he’s won five of his six starts.
That’s just fair
-of course I had to jinx it by saying the bullpen was finally pulling it together
Hopefuly we can avoid the sweep. Right now the Giants are only one game of the division, so hopefully they can take the lead within the next few days. Playing catchup all year just isn’t fun.
Two and a half weeks ago, I sat there after the Dodgers trounced the Giants 10-4 to sweep us for the second straight time, completely depressed. Now, it’s the complete opposite.
I love payback.
Russ Ortiz, by some miracle, allowed 3 runs in 5 1/3 innings, and the bullpen gave us another good outing (with the exception of one home run given up by Brad Hennesey to Andre Ethier), and Armando had another great outing in which he pitched a 1-2-3 inning for the second straight night, culminating in a lengthy battle with Nomar Garciaparra, in which Mr. OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) struck out on the ninth pitched.
I’ve been one of Armando’s toughest critics (with good reason), but he has gotten the job done so far this year (knock on wood) and got the save in all three games. If he keeps pitching like this, the rest of the bullpen will fall into place (like it has been), and if that happens, look out for the guys in orange and black. The rotation has been the best in the national league, and the offense will be just fine as long as Barry stays healthy.
Some other positive notes from tonights game:
-the Giants were able to sweep without using Cain or Zito
-Omar finally came through tonight, Winn had a good series, and Pedro and Roberts both had key homers, which is huge considering those four guys have struggled
-THat Bengie Molina signing is looking very smart right now
Now it’s off to Arizona. Hopefully we can sweep them again, but 2 out of 3 shouldn’t be too hard with the top of the rotation going. Now that the Giants are in first place (I can’t believe it took me that long to mention it, so I’ll say it again: the Giants are in first place), they need to keep that hot streak going. This is the most crucial part of the season, as it set’s the tone for the rest of the year, so let’s keep on winning (not getting my hopes up though)!
On a strange night in which Pedro Feliz hit a go ahead home run in the sixth, and Armando Benitez pitched a 1-2-3 inning, at least something out the norm happened to contribute the Giants win: Barry hit a home run.
Noah Lowry had a weak outing (4 runs on 7 hits and 5 walks with four strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings, but he got the win, so that’s all that matters there. The bullpen looked strong too, allowing just one baserunner (a walk by Taschner) in 2 1/3 innings, at it was refreshing to see Armando look like he did in Florida back in 2004.
If the Giants win today, we’ll catch the Dodgers for first place, which would be huge considering the horrible start, not to mention how sweet it would be to get payback for them sweeping us in SF a couple weeks back.
The Giants are the hottest team in baseball right now, riding a 7 game winning streak and winning 9 of the last 10. I’m enjoying it while I can, because that won’t last.
Giants end their 8 game losing streak against the Dodgers with a 5-3 win
How long will Armando Benitez‘ luck last? He is still pitching like he has been the last two years, but somehow has been getting by. Despite allowing exactly 2 baserunners in 6 of his 7 outings (5 of which were his five save opportunities, include one in which he came in with two outs in the ninth), he somehow has managed to convert all five of his save opportunities, and now boasts an ERA of 2.84 (which in a way, truly goes to show you how both saves and ERA are overrated stats to evaluate relief pitchers). Something’s gotta give, as nobody with a 1.89 WHIP and a 1.2 K/BB ratio can pitch like this a whole season. Either way, he keeps pitching like this, and I’ll likely have a heart attack at some point this season.
Matt Morris pitched another great game, and is now 3-0 in four starts with a 2.49 ERA. He’s looking like he did back in 2001-2002, hopefully he can pitch like this the rest of the year, but even if it’s halfway between the way he’s pitching now and the way he did last year, that would be good enough. I also have to give props to Bengie Molina and Ryan Klesko for their contributions tonight with the bat, and Jack Taschner for getting Luis Gonzalez into a double play to end the 8th inning.
But the best part of the night (aside from beating the Dodgers, of course), was watching two guys that have been slumping all year coming through, that being Dave Roberts and Randy Winn. Just as I had stated he would eventually do in my first post, Roberts finally broke out tonight. The big surprise is that he broke out with a home run. It’s also nice to see that for the second straight game, someone who I considered deadweight (last game was Pedro Feliz, this game Winn), played a huge factor in the Giants
Before I talk about the Giants, how about them Warriors? Open the playoffs with yet another win against Dallas…BD is the best he’s ever been, he and Stephen Jackson carried the W’s tonight. All I have to say is thank you Larry Bird and George Shinn.
Right now things are looking good for my teams. The Niners have had a strong off-season after a season in which they had greatly improved from the previous couple seasons (remember, if you’re in rebuilding mode, all that matters is improvement). The Warriors just won their first playoff game in 15 years against the best team in the NBA. The Sharks are advancing to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
But most importantly, the Giants are on a roll.
I can’t remember the last time the Giants had a perfect homestand (after looking it up, it was May of 2004 when the Giants swept Arizona and Colorado during a six game homestand, although more impressive was the next homestand when they went 9-1 against Boston, Toronto, and Los Angeles, the latter being a four game sweep). But it’s nice to see the Giants finally clicking.
And how about Matt Cain? The guy is simply phenominal. He will win at least one Cy Young Award within the next few seasons. And Barry went deep again to become 15 away from the record.
Speaking of Barry, he’s proving he doesn’t need any steroids to dominate. He played four games this homestand, and hit homers in three of them. Going back to the two home run game in Pittsburgh last friday, he’s hit five homers in seven games.
Of course, Cain pitching another gem and Barry going deep wasn’t all a surprise. The biggest shocker is that, Pedro Feliz came through. The only things that were more surprising on this homestand was Armando Benitez pitching a 1-2-3 inning against St. Louis Wednesday and Pedro drawing a walk in the same game.
The only downer today was Richie’s hitting streak ending after 14 games.
Now it’s on to LA. Hopefully we can sweep them like they did to us, but realistically, I’d be happy with 2 out of 3.