Last night, it looked like the Giants were going to waste yet another strong outing from Matt Cain. With the game tied 1-1 in the eighth, Cain surrendered a run, giving the Astros the lead. The Giants entered the ninth with a one-run deficit to overcome and the bottom of the order taking on the task; the odds weren’t promising. But four pitches later, Brandon Belt had singled to lead off the inning, and Joaquin Arias had ripped a double down the left field line to drive him in. A couple batters later, Hector Sanchez blooped a single into shallow center field, and the Giants took a 3-2 lead. It was the kind of game the Giants have lost hundreds of times over the past several years; except they didn’t lose last night.
August sure has been kind to the Giants. Well, in the win-loss column, at least. The Giants are now 16-10 on the month, good for a .615 winning percentage. That makes this their best month so far, which is somewhat odd considering that they’ve gone Melky-less since the 15th. But that’s the thing — others have been picking up the slack. Buster Posey should win NL Player of the Month at this point, as nobody in the majors has had a better August. In fact, this month has firmly placed Posey in the MVP race, and assuming he can finish the season well, he’ll have a strong case come voting time. If Posey weren’t putting up otherworldly numbers this month, Angel Pagan (.353/.422/.608) would probably be deserving of player-of-the-month honors. Given his extended struggles, it’s been especially refreshing to see Pagan hit a stride. In the month of August, he’s actually surpassed his combined June/July totals for walks and total bases. And then there’s Joaquin Arias, who’s posted a 200 wRC+ in 54 plate appearances. His 2012 offensive numbers are now somehow better than Carlos Pena‘s.
And like that, the Giants now have a 3.5 game lead in the NL West. It’s not huge, and it’s certainly close enough to make things interesting, but it affords the Giants some breathing room. The Dodgers have made some big splashes, most notably the recent mega-trade for Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Nick Punto. While I’m confident that the trade hurts — maybe even cripples — the Dodgers in the long-term, it’s very difficult to write them off in the short-term. There’s no denying the collection of talent on the Dodgers’ current roster. But the Giants are starting to pad onto their division lead, and with 33 games to go, things are looking good.
Well, that went better than I’d expected. With Barry Zito going up against a tremendous offense, I wasn’t exactly confident about the Giants’ odds in this game. Zito got off to a good start earlier in the season, but he’s quietly lost a lot of steam, and entering today’s start, he had a career-worst 81 ERA+ (that is, if you don’t count last year’s 54 innings).
But as Zito is wont to do, just as I had lost almost every ounce of faith in his ability to give the Giants something better than replacement level pitching, he came out and pitched well — and he did so against the National League’s best offense. Nothing fancy, but 6.1 innings of two-run ball — the only damage having come off the bat of the absurdly powerful Allen Craig on a pair of solo shots. Perhaps the best part? Zero walks, something that you don’t often see out of Zito.
And on another promising note, a bullpen that has been disappointing of late managed to shut the Cards down. (Actually, to say they’ve disappointed recently is probably an understatement — this is a team that’s supposed to get top-notch pitching from their ‘pen, and instead they’ve been mostly run-of-the-mill).
- In order to clear room for the newest bullpen addition, Jose Mijares, the Giants placed Shane Loux on the DL with a neck strain. Not sure if it’s a phantom injury or not, and I’m not sure if it really matters anyway. The bullpen just got better.
- According to Hank Schulman, the Giants have looked into signing Lyle Overbay. In terms of what we should expect over the rest of the season, there’s not much of a difference between Overbay and Aubrey Huff.
- I neglected to mention this, but the Giants signed Xavier Nady to a minor-league contract a few days ago. I doubt Nady will play much of any role with the Giants this season, nor should he — he’s been all sorts of horrible this season: .157/.211/.275, 31 OPS+.
- Angel Pagan continues to heat up. He reached base a couple more times today, and if it weren’t for a nice play by Jon Jay, Pagan could’ve added an extra-base hit. Even so, he’s raised his OPS a good 40 points in the past five days.
After the way that homestand went, I was kind of dreading this Rockies series. Sure, the Rockies have been battling it out with the Astros for the title of “worst record in baseball” this season, but the last thing the Giants needed after losing seven of eight was some quality time at Coors Field. That’s like a classic setup for hitting rock bottom: you could just imagine one of those hellacious marathon games in which the Giants scratch and claw for twenty innings and eventually lose to a last place team.
Except the way these past two games have gone, I’m almost beginning to — gasp — like Coors Field. The Giants scored a grand total of 29 runs over that ten-game span at home. They’ve scored 27 after a couple of days in Colorado. No lead is ever safe here — I mean, was anybody really comfortable with that five-run lead when Brad Penny took the mound in the seventh inning? Still, in back-to-back games, the Giants have managed to avoid that meltdown, padding the score with enough runs here and there to keep the Rockies at bay.
And so an offense that looked so helpless just a few days ago has now scored 10+ runs for two days in a row; it’s been two years since that happened.
- I have things to say about Brett Pill, but I don’t think they need to be said because this swing pretty much sums it up (.gif via @gidget).
- It’s not too often that you see a Giant draw four walks in a game, but Melky Cabrera did just that, becoming the fifth to do it since 2000; he joins the likes of Buster Posey, Juan Uribe (seriously), Dustan Mohr (no, seriously), and Barry Bonds (x16).
- Don’t look now, but Angel Pagan is starting to heat up.