The Brew Crew, they of the bowling pin variety, come in for a series, probably still stinging from the four game sweep that the Giants handed them at their home in early July. Being out of it too, they probably would love to play spoilers because the Giants just spanked them, outscoring them 36-7. But these Giants have a lot of pride and poise, and they are probably still stinging from Fielder's et al bowling pin stunt last season and his unrepentant unapology this spring, as well as knowing that they need to win every series down the wire to put them in good position to win the division in the season ending series against San Diego. Plus, they have spanked the NL Central this season, 25-11.
Strangely, we haven't heard the strains of people clamoring to trade Sanchez for Cory Hart, coming in with the Brewers, who has hit only .257/.312/.472/.784, 6 HR in 144 AB since the end of July - in other words, nothing special. Sanchez has merely had a 2.47 ERA, 61 K in 54.2 IP, only 24 BB. What a disaster trade that would have been!
Or how about those who have been clamoring to trade Matt Cain the past few seasons, particularly for Prince Fielder, but also for Alex Rios. How stabilizing a force he has been this season, as both Zito and Lincecum burned brightly early but then had horrible struggles during the season, Sanchez, while good overall, has been up and down in results, and of course, there was the Wellemeyer period, and even Bumgarner was not feeling it for a while. Cain was La Machine all season, what a disaster trade that would have been, especially considering how poorly both Fielder and Rios played after the trade rumors/speculation (Rios was released for nothing by Toronto; Fielder has been an offensive low-light this season, nothing like before, could be a cautionary tale for us Sandoval fans).
And that doesn't even include the ones who wanted to trade Lincecum for Alex Rios or those who wanted to trade Bumgarner (last three starts, 0.89 ERA) this season for any offense. And I'm sure during the off-season they will continue to agitate for more offense by trading one of our pitchers. What they are forgetting is that such trades are only sideway moves at best, assuming equal value is exchanged, and risk that the new player isn't all that he was advertised to be. Just because they can't stand losing 1-0 or 2-1, when the trade might just mean that we lose 4-3 or 5-4 instead: still a loss either way.
Game 1: Randy Wolf vs. Bumgarner
Brewers: Tossing eight innings and giving up just one run on a home run, Wolf thought his last outing may have been his best of the 2010 season. He'll look to continue his recent success, as he's gone 4-2 with a 3.07 ERA over his last nine starts.
Giants: If it weren't for teammate Buster Posey, the Giants might be pushing Bumgarner for NL Rookie of the Year honors. He has thrived against National League West opponents, recording a 2.47 ERA.Wolf has dominated the Giants the past three seasons in SF, but the caveat there is both who hasn't and the offense is different now. Still, he has a 3.06 ERA against the Giants in AT&T. Unfortunately, the one guy who has hit Wolf well is Andres Torres with 2 homers in 3 AB. Renteria has also hit him well, but that's only 17 AB, and as Aubrey Huff showed last night against Billingsley - after a career, something like 4-27, he slammed a triple and HR off him - career numbers are not absolutes.
Bumgarner has been on a roll recently himself, as we all know. And he and the Giants beat Wolf in Milwaukee, 6-1, earlier this season, so they will probably want revenge. Should be an even game, both pitchers have been on the top of their game recently.
Brewers: Gallardo worked seven scoreless innings Sunday for the second straight start following three in a row in which he allowed at least six runs. One of his most memorable starts was at AT&T Park last April, when he homered off Randy Johnson.
Giants: Lincecum's awful August now is a distant memory as he has won his past three decisions. In his last outing, he held the Padres to one run and struck out nine in seven innings. In six starts against the Brewers, Lincecum is 2-2 with a 4.76 ERA.
Giants: Zito suffered a loss in his career-high ninth straight decision in his last start, but appears to be finding himself. Zito said he's felt better in his past two starts, and it shows as he's allowed five hits in 11 2/3 innings.
The Giants just need to do as Aubrey Huff said recently in an interview: win each series (DrB noted this too), don't think about sweeps, that's hard to do in any situation, let alone with the playoffs on the line. They have done it recently, and despite the good pitchers lined up against them, they have been doing it. They luck out with Narveson pitching one game, but face to two tough customers in Wolf and Gallardo, both of whom have pitched well in recent games, but if the Giants can grab one from one of them (like we did with Kershaw/Billingsley) then we should be in good shape in the rubber game against Narveson.
The pitchers have been on a great run in September, like a switch was turned on. Lincecum and Bumgarner is seeing velocity that they haven't seen in a while. Sanchez has been unflappable and vet-like in shutting down the other team even when he didn't have his best stuff. He appears to be graduating to Lincecum/Cain status, taking his place next to them in the rotation. Zito, well, he's the 5th starter now, he's going to have to revert to his April incarnation for the rest of the season to change that impression, but as long as he pitches to his capabilities, that is nothing to be ashamed of, there are a lot of pitchers in the majors who would be a 5th starter when the rest of the rotation is Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, Bumgarner..
The hitters have been just doing enough, led by our young wunderkind, Buster Posey. I was so happy that Tampa Bay passed on him in that draft, but his production this season and particularly in September with everything on the line just makes me ecstatic that we have found our offensive leader for the foreseeable future. As Mark Purdy quoted from Will Clark, who probably is the closest in term of stature on the team in the recent past (Bonds was never a leader), "There are guys that are pretty special. Buster is one of them." And because the Giants didn't bring him up until late May, we get at least 6 more years of him, not 5 if he had started with the team.
And hitters are waking up. Renteria had an amazing game yesterday (great quote from him in Chron about leading off, about taking pitches, doing whatever to get on base, for big hitters), perhaps we found our replacement lead-off hitter; Bochy is going with him again in first game. Sanchez as been on fire for a long time. Huff has been doing better recently before busting out yesterday. Burrell has been steadily good. Guillen apparently had a pain in his neck/back (and didn't report it!!! for 2-3 weeks) and after getting a shot to help with that, was a pain in the neck/back of the opposing pitcher yesterday, looking like the guy who was an offensive force for the A's when he joined them on their pennant run. Plus the young guys, Schierholtz and Ishikawa has been contributing here and there.
If Sandoval can get out of his most recent funk (which is not to be unexpected, after dealing with such an emotional issue like a divorce, there will be ups and downs afterward, it is only human), the offense should be pretty good for the stretch run. Even if he is not, the offense has been good enough with our pitching to win a lot of games. Bochy appears to be platooning him now, which works if Renteria can continue hitting like this, as he would play SS and Uribe 3B against LHP.