Furthermore, we must remain cognizant that the gauntlet has just because, the travel just begun. The road will be arduous, as the Giants still have 35 games over the next 38 days, with series against the D-gers, D-Rox, 'Dres, Braves, Phillies, Cards, Reds. Then right after that, an even MORE important stretch, playing 6 games against LA, 4 games vs. SD by Sept. 16th, 13 games in total in 14 days. In total, 44 of the last 63 games will be played against teams with over .500 records. These are the long days of the pennant stretch with every few days of rest, but at least we are still in the hunt.
Still, great month so far. And as Baggarly noted in his blog, the Giants need to go 4-2 the rest of the month of July to have their first 20-game win month since September 2000. And that includes all the playoff teams we had with Bonds early in the decade. This is the best winning streak this season, even better than the stretch they had after adding Posey to the lineup, from May 27 to June 14, when they went 13-5 in 18 games.
Now we get four games against the Marlins, a team that has struggled to reach and stay at .500 this season. However, much as I described Colorado's dependence on Ubaldo, they are very reliant on Josh Johnson, their ace, who has taken it to another like Ubaldo, except that unlike Ubaldo, he has shown no signs of regressing back to his prior level of excellence and is still delivering once in a generation type ERA.
His ERA is 1.61 (Ubaldo has ballooned since I discussed his probable regression), and has continued to drop since his first two starts of the season where nothing really clicked, but once it did, he has allowed 3 ER in a start ONCE in the last 18 starts. Still, the Marlins have only been 13-7 in his starts, losing four starts where he gave up 2 runs or less, three of them within his last seven starts. And lucky us, we get to face him this series, payback for missing aces in prior series.
In any case, Matt Cain drew the short straw and will be facing him, and that will make the series tough to win for that reason, we will need Cain to have his A-game going, if we are to have any chance of winning that game.
Game 1: Ricky Nolasco vs. Zito
Marlins: Nolasco reached a milestone in his last start, collecting his 50th career win, making him second all-time in Marlins history. He gave up two runs in eight innings while striking out eight against the Rockies. He suffered a loss to the Giants in Miami on May 6.
Giants: The Giants own a 12-8 record in Zito's starts. They've been particularly fortunate in his six career starts against Florida, winning each game. Typically a strong second-half pitcher, Zito has recorded a 1.17 ERA in his two starts since the All-Star break.Nolasco has been a good starter in his career, so this will be a tough game for the Giants. However, his ERA for the season is 4.50, as he has had a tough season, despite walking so few and striking out a lot relative to that, and his BABIP is not that bad, though a tad high, not enough to explain why his ERA is so high. His problem has always been giving up the homerun ball, and that has cost him apparently, as he is showing that his 2009 is the season that is more his talent level, and not 2008. But he does pitch better on the road, with a 4.18 ERA this season, and he shut them out in his one start in AT&T in 2008, again, a season that appears to be a fluke plus our lineup is much different now..
Zito has a great history against the Marlins and a great history in the second half of the season, after the All-Star break, plus has been great so far. Have to give this to Zito, for as good as Nolasco has been previously, I think all the factors point to a Giants win for this game, a good way to start any series.
Marlins: Thirteen and counting. JJ is riding a string of 13 straight starts without allowing more than two runs. He has given up one run in 12 1/3 innings since the break, but he comes off a no-decision, in which he allowed one run in 6 1/3 innings to the Rockies, fanning 11.
Giants: Cain's coming off an impressive performance at Arizona, where he allowed three hits in eight shutout innings. His nine strikeouts matched a season high. Cain is 5-3 with a 2.63 ERA at home, compared with 3-5, 3.50 on the road.
Marlins: If his first three big league starts are any indictation, Sanabia has the ability to pitch out of trouble. He has an 0.69 ERA in those games. His WHIP is 1.69 as a starter. He's given up 16 hits, walked six and hit a batter in 13 innings.
Giants: Sanchez experienced a bizarre five-inning outing at Arizona last Friday. He continually pitched from the stretch, resulting from four hits allowed and five walks, but struck out 10 and yielded only one run.
Game 4: Anibal Sanchez vs. Bumgarner
Marlins: Sanchez was in line for his eighth win when he took the mound last Saturday. But after a three-run lead disappeared, he was not involved in the decision. The team is closely watching his innings pitched. He has 115 1/3 right now after throwing 86 a year ago.
Giants: This will be Bumgarner's first start at home since June 26, when he made his season debut for the Giants in an Interleague affair against Boston. Since then, Bumgarner has recorded a 1.87 ERA in five road starts, winning the past four in a row.Sanchez is the second best starter in the Marlin's rotation. They forgot to note that he also had 26 innings in the minors in 2009 as well, so he's roughly at the workload he had last season, but still in a gray area in terms of usage, as to when he would tire, so they might pull him sooner than later, putting us into their bullpen sooner, which should be the goal for this series as the bullpen's ERA is 4.43. His numbers are better than his peripherals, but he's been much worse on the road this season, 4.75 ERA. He pitched OK against the Giants earlier this season at home, 6 IP, gave up 5 hits and 1 walk, struck out 3, gave up 3 runs with 2 earned, but now face them in AT&T, where they have one of the best home records, so he'll have a tougher battle here in SF.
Meanwhile, Bumgarner has been pretty good overall and very good during the surge, all on the road. Now he returns to home cooking, which should also portend another good start. He could also be tiring soon as well, but he has pitched great so far for the Giants. Should be a Giants win.
Posey has been incredible. He has three 4-hit games in July and 12 multi-hit games. His only oh-fer in July was on July 3rd. I just watched the video showing him in yesterday's 4-hit game, and as Kruk and Kuip were marveling in it, he was just putting a hitting clinic in that game. He has a beautiful stroke. And he might not only win the Rookie-of-the-Month award, he might just get the regular one as well. And his hitting has to have put his name up there with Jason Heyward and other contenders for the Rookie-of-the-Year Award, which he normally would have no chance for, given how late he was brought up, but given his significance during this Giants surge, he ought to be on the radar now for voters.
NL West View
Colorado should have Tulowitski coming back soon, and they have traditionally been a second half team, so those are good things for them, but Ubaldo has finally hit the wall of regression to the mean: after a 1.15 ERA into late June, over a span of 6 starts, he has had an ERA of 7.64 since June 23, with only one start where he allowed less than 4 runs. Still, D-Rox are a strong offensive team and scored enough runs that he was 3-3 in that very bad streak. And Colorado is searching for both a 4th and 5th starter who can hold their own against a strong pitching rotation.
Giants Are New and Improve Compare to Before
Angel's Take D-Backs
Have to take note here on Arizona trading away Dan Haren to the Angels: I think they got took in the deal, like they did the deal more to save money than to get talent back, which is good because that means that they are probably re-building for the next 3-5 years, and we won't have to worry about them battling for the title. Seems that way with this trade for a some now and some later.
Joe Saunders is the established vet in the deal, he replaces Haren in the rotation as a decent replacement, but he's even older than Haren. They also got Rafael Rodriguez (unrated by Baseball America), a reliever who has been pitching on and mostly off for the Angels the past two seasons, and Patrick Corbin (ranked 12th best prospect in Angels farm system pre-season) and a PTBNL, though I've seen one rumor say that it will be Tyler Skaggs (8th). Corbin has had an OK season in A-ball, but a 3.87 ERA there is not that great. Skaggs, if he indeed is the PTBNL, would be the prized prospect, he's only 18 but doing better than Corbin in A-ball, though both are young (Corbin in only 20 YO). Skaggs strikes out a lot, walks little, and at an age much younger than the competition. They are both viewed as only middle of rotation starters by Minor League Baseball Analyst, but given what Skaggs has done in A-ball this season, I have to view him as above that.
But the key thing to me is that none of them are a potential Dan Haren. That is quite a come down from all the players they originally traded away for Haren, which included Carlos Gonzalez, Brett Anderson, Greg Smith, and Chris Carter, though of course they got 2.5 seasons out of Haren before trading down. They took a big hit on talent, particularly for a player like Haren who would be the ace of most rotations, as they basically got a handful of middle rotation innings eaters plus a reliever, with only Skaggs (and he's not a sure thing yet) as a potential plus starter for them.
Giants Trade Rumors
Cantu might be cheaper to trade for because he's a free agent after the season, but the Rangers are looking into his cost right now as well and appears more aggressive about this being "the" year, probably because their young players are still mostly unproven and so this year is the year to win it with all their older players because the Angels are suffering a rare down season, while the Giants are currently jelling together for many years of playoff chases. The hottest rumor is the Orioles LHP reliever Will Ohman, though I would note that the White Sox has a hot young LHP reliever named Erick Threets, former Giants prospect, who has been shut-out great so far this in, like, 7 appearances. Sure could use him now, I wonder how much we would have to give up to get him back?
Thoughts on Marlin's Series
Lastly, this series will be tough to win since four games mean going at least 3-1, and Johnson gives them a great chance for at least one game, and another game is a coin flip plus for the other two games, you never know. It would take a lot of hot hitting to continue the winning stretch. And I have a feeling some blown games by the bullpen would figure into it as well.
Breaking even seems very doable, but would be a let down after this great stretch of great play. However, we can't expect the Giants to play at such a lofty level for the rest of the season, at some point they will slow down and that's when the other NL West teams will try to take advantage. But after this great winning streak, I can live with that.