By winning another series, the Giants are now 4.5 games back of LA and 4 games ahead of third place D-backs, who just cost their manager his job (and A.J. Hinch taking over), D-Rox (their manager should not feel secure either), and 'Dres, which, after a nice start has stumbled badly, losing 8 of 10 to fall from .500 at 11-11 to 13-19.
Back home, where the home cookin's fine - the Giants are 10-4 for the season at home - here are the matchups for the series, which looks good for a possible sweep, particularly since we won all 7 games last season with basically the same lineup (and the Nats have given up at least 9 runs for the 4th time in the last 6 games):
- Randy Johnson vs. Daniel Cabrera: Johnson has been good one game, bad the next; he was bad the last start, so maybe he'll be good this time. Also, as I noted, understandable that he got beat up in Colorado, since he no longer has the heat, and Arizona, where it was very emotional for him. Now he's at home against 10-19 Nats, who is starting Cabrera, who has been tantalizing teams for years now with his potential. He has not had one start that can be considered even OK, though his ERA is only 4.85, which is OK overall. Johnson should beat him easily unless those bad starts are really a sign of the beginning of the end for him.
- Matt Cain vs. Jordan Zimmerman: Cain has been dominating all season and look to continue again, as he has always done well in SF. Zimmerman, after two fine starts to begin the season, looks like the scouts have gotten to him, as he has had two horrible starts, both at extreme pitcher's parks, DC and LA. This is as much in the pocket as one can hope for in baseball, though there's always a chance we lose.
- Barry Zito vs. Shairon Martis: The prodigal son returns as Shairon, whom the Giants traded, essentially, for two months of Mike Stanton and the draft pick we used to draft Charlie Culberson, is now on the MLB club and doing OK, with a 4.67 ERA. Zito has been way hot, though, so he should beat the average and inconsistent Martis.
That's about all anyone can expect out of Martis, he was just slated as a middle rotation guy when we traded him and got two great months of relief out Stanton, plus got to draft Culberson, whose prospect star has dimmed but still has some potential. I would still do the trade, he's not that good.
However, he has had two nice starts in a row, one very good, one OK except for all the hits (Nats have Dunn in LF and at 1B, and he has been horrible at either position defensively, costly roughly 5-6 wins per season at the rate he's going). Still, overall, he had one DOM start, one DIS start, rest OK, using PQS rating, so he's not that good but not that bad either, as he limits DIS starts and that's a skill too. He could be tough if he continues his streak of good starts.
Meanwhile, Zito has been on a great streak, with four straight games of shutout for 6 IP and only 4 ER in his last 26.1 IP for a 1.37 ERA,, 21 hits and 6 walks vs. 16 strikeouts for a 1.03 WHIP, 2.1 BB/9, 5.5 K/9, and good 2.67 K/BB over that stretch, and 1.25 WHIP, 3.1 BB/9, 6.1 K/9, and good 2.00 K/BB for the season. I'm worried that he has so few strikeouts, but it's OK as long as he keeps his walk rate so low it's OK, which he's never really done before, though it was pretty good his first couple of seasons with the A's, and thus he had K/BB over the 2.0 level that marks a good pitcher normally those two seasons, another sign that he's back to his early career effectiveness overall.
The Giants have won his last 4 starts with just a combined 10 runs scored, only 2.5 runs scored per start; in fact, the Giants have scored only 2.5 runs per game for Zito the whole season, yet he has pitched so well that we are 4-2 in games he started. Thus, we should win the game, though Martis could put it back together again and make the game tough for Zito and the Giants to win and perhaps steal a win here.
The Giants have a good chance of sweeping the Nationals, who, despite picking up Adam Dunn and Joe Beimel via free agency, and Josh Willingham and Scott Olsen via trade, and averaging over 5 runs scored per game, has also been giving up a lot more runs, almost 6 runs allowed per game (despite 5.38 ERA; product of lots of errors and hits, particularly from Dunn's poor defense). Beimel and Dunn have been as good as advertised, but Willingham hasn't seen regular play yet and Olsen has been horrible for the most part. Their bright spots have been Ryan Zimmerman and John Lannan, but pretty bad otherwise; as there is only one starter and two relievers with ERA under 4.50 (and all below 4.00), two starts in the high 4's, and a whole bunch of pitchers with ERAs over 5.40, mostly relievers.
Once you get past their tepid starting, a team can feast on their bullpen for the most part. Missing their best starter, Lannan, the Giants can expect to boost their overall scoring average these three games facing three mediocre starters who have averaged less than 6 IP per game (Cabrera below 5 IP) and getting into their putrid bullpen that had kindled many a rally when the starters have been OK. The offense will appear revived and the Giants should win the series if not sweep.
Meanwhile the D-gers face the World Series Champion Phillies, which have struggled to stay at .500 this season, and get a good draw, facing 3 of the Phillies worse starters this season, though Hamels had his first good start after struggling all season, and starting to look like the pitcher he has been the past two seasons. However, Park has been as bad as I've been saying he would be outside of Dodger Stadium and Moyer appears to be finally succumbing to age, though perhaps it was just the Mets, as he had won his prior three starts with OK to good starts. And Park at least did well his last start.
So from the Giants viewpoint, the D-gers are facing the Phillies at the right time, as their starters are starting to warm up and start doing well. Still with Kershaw vs. Park, Wolf vs. Moyer, and Billingsley vs. Hamel, the D-gers look good for winning at least 2 out of 3 with an outside chance of a sweep themselves, though the silver lining is that they are playing in the Phillies hitter's park.
Still, this is mostly the same Phillies team that won last season. It has been mostly their pitching that has costed the team as the offense (about 5.7 runs scored per games) and defense (only 1 unearned run for the season; compared with the Nat's 21 uneared runs) have produced, and the pitching staff ERA is 5.39. And their pitching appears to be turning around.
The Giants look like they have a excellent chance to win the series (and a good chance to perhaps gain one game on the D-gers), just as they have been doing if for much of the season since that early 6 game losing streak on the road, either winning the series or spliting the two gamers: the Giants have won 6 series and split two series since losing those two series, for a total of 7 series won this season.
The following series will be a test for the Giants as they face the Mets, who has won their last 7 games and 8 of 10, to take the division lead in the NL East, rushing by the surprising Florida Marlins. The good news there is that the Mets has been only roughly .500 on the road this season.
And the rest of the month is now starting to look good for the Giants instead of tough when the month began. We could catch a break on the next road trip, as both San Diego and Seattle has been in a bad streak of losses lately, 2-8 for SD and 3-7 for Seattle, and thus not look as bad as they appeared to be when I first looked at the May schedule. Just goes to show how things can change suddenly for any team. And Atlanta and St. Louis don't look too tough right now either, though both could revive by month's end.
The Giants are now 6-4 for the month of May and it looks like they could be able to keep their record at or above .500 for the rest of the month, both overall and for the month. This could be the latest they have been .500 in a season since 2006, when they were at last at .500 on July 27, 2006.