So the Giants ended up 3-3 on the homestand, but that was good enough to keep the division lead, ultimately, plus a 1.5 game lead over D-Rox, when the D-gers finally showed that they had some pride, and came back nicely from a 6-1 deficit and steal the win away from D-Rox, making their dream-like ending take a serious bump in the fantasy. Now the Giants face the Cubbies, who, natch, happen to have their best pitchers lined up against the Giants, but the clubhouse mood could have been disrupted by Tyler Colvin's odd but lung-threatening injury (just surprised it hasn't happened before yet, a bat splintered and a chunk went into his chest).
Game 1: Carlos Zambrano vs. Cain
Giants: Cain continued his second-half dominance against the Dodgers, throwing seven shutout innings to improve to to 6-2 with a 2.71 ERA since the Midsummer Classic. Cain also reached the 200-inning plateau for the fourth straight season.
Cubs: Zambrano has been a lights-out pitcher since returning to the starting rotation. Over his past seven starts, he is 6-0 with a 1.37 ERA, including holding the Cardinals to one earned run in six innings in his last outing.Does not get much tougher than Zambrano on a roll. The above says it all, both players are at the top of their game right now, but Zambrano is on a bigger roll, plus he's at home (3.07 ERA vs. Giants at home) and Cain is on the road, where historically he has been much worse, but he's now at least good on the road last season and this season. It might take a Matty shutout to win, though the Giants have took down the other team's best pitcher often this season (just not often enough for some fans). Despite how well Cain has been doing, have to lean towards Zambrano on this, but pretty even contest otherwise.
Giants: Sanchez struck out a career-high 12 while walking zero in his last start against the Dodgers, holding L.A. to two runs -- one earned -- on four hits. In his last six starts, Sanchez is 3-0 with a 1.74 ERA and has worked seven-plus innings four times.
Cubs: Wells says he found his confidence against the Cardinals in his last start, restricting them to one run in eight innings. He struck out five and walked none.
Giants: In his last start, Bumgarner pitched a solid 5 2/3 innings, but shoddy defense behind him played a factor in the rookie lefty-hander remaining winless at AT&T Park. Bumgarner beat the Cubs on Aug. 9, allowing three runs in 5 2/3 innings.
Cubs: Dempster has looked sharp in his last two outings. Over that span, he has thrown a combined 14 shutout innings against the Brewers and Marlins, seven against each club.
Wow, looking over his career, Dempster has worked very hard to get to where he is today, people might complain about how long it took Jonathan Sanchez to reach a good performance level in the majors, perhaps bemoaning his time in the bullpen, but Dempster took even longer and went to the bullpen, where he eventually was made the closer, but really wasn't that good as a closer. However, when they made him a starter again, at age 30, he has blossomed into one of the best in the NL the past three seasons.
He has pitched OK against the Giants in the past in Wrigley, 13.2 IP, 13 K, 6 BB, but been a little unlucky with a 3.95 ERA, in two starts. And that is roughly his career against SF, 3.89 ERA. If we face that Dempster, we have a pretty good chance of winning because Bumgarner has been pitching pretty well for a while now. But if we are facing the Dempster who shut out the Brewers and the Marlins, it will be a tough, even, well-pitched game, which like, as some been saying, been torturing us with recently.
And that is the problem when you are wedded to a position, as most of these people are who I call Sabean Naysayers. You recognize the faults that are there but don't throw the baby out with the bath water either. And that is what these people have been doing, they have essentially divorced themselves from Sabean because of all the past trespasses, and despite putting together the best pitching rotation in the majors, plus adding Posey and Pablo, they just don't really care, and I'll bet that if the Giants do win the World Series under Sabean, they still won't be satisfied, there will always be that "yeah, but..."
And I was one of those questioning Sabean way back in 2002-3, particularly about the draft, when I did my draft study and realized how tough it is to rebuild via the draft. It is basically impossible to do that while you are winning, particularly if you are contending for a playoff spot, year in, year out. For every Matt Cain you find, you have to pick over the Torcato's, the Bumps in the road, Bonser, McDowell, Alderson, Fairley, Hennessey, basically for every ten you select, you will find one Matt Cain, plus useful players like Lowry, Hennessey, Bonser, who are complementary players, can fill a spot on the roster, and keep the team going so that the good players like Cain, Lincecum, Posey, can lead the team to victory.
You have to look at the big picture and accept that there is no perfect situation. Accept what you got, realize what you really have and not an idealized version of what you think it should be. You need to see the reality that is there and not be clouded by your past feelings.
The Big Picture
The Giants have a lot of good players who are struggling right now with the playoff pressure. In other words, they are thinking too much at the plate, swinging at pitches they normally either let go by for a ball or smash for a hit when it is a strike. The pitchers were going through that in August, but has come out with flying colors in September. The hitters actually carried the pitchers in August, but it is the other way around now. They will have to work through it just like the pitchers did.
Pitchers deal with this type of pressure often (RISP, late game action), so it is no surprise that they got over it sooner. The hitters didn't really feel the pressure until the 'Dres lost all those games and the division lead was in our grasp. Still, it is not like it is all bad, on the hitters part, they came through during the series in San Diego, enabling the team to pass the 'Dres and take first place.
Now there are twelve games left: 3 on the road with the Cubs, 3 on the road with the D-Rox, then back home for 3 against the D-backs and the final 3 against the 'Dres. Basically relatively easy then tough for both. The Cubs aren't as easy are originally seen early in the month, but with our good pitchers, it is not like they are going to run us over either. It should be another tough but good series. Ideally, we win the series, because the 'Dres are playing the D-gers (who have been pushovers lately) and D-Rox are playing the D-backs, but if we come out 1-2, it won't be the end of the world either, as I doubt the others will sweep.
SD coming up is facing 3 vs. LA in LA (3-4 on their road trip), then home against tough Cincinnati, the suddenly tough Cubs for 4 games, and then the final series vs. SF in SF. The way it is looking, SD is stabilizing and the Giants will probably be playing for the division title against them in the final weekend.
Colorado is on the road for 3 against the D-backs, which has been falling like a stone, which is bad here but good for the Giants since they also face three at home against them too. So the Giants should come out ahead relatively, when all said and done. Then D-Rox are home for 3 vs. SF and 3 vs. LA, before going on the road against St. Louis for 4. The D-Rox is probably playing the Giants for the division lead in that matchup and the Giants reportedly dodge a bullet in that Jimenez is not pitching in that series and Tracey said that he was not moving him up on short rest to pitch there.
Giants: 1-2 Cubs, 1-2 COL, 2-1 AZ, 2-1 SD = 6-6 and 90-72 final record
'Dres: 2-1 LA, 1-2 CIN, 2-2 Cubs, 1-2 SF = 6-7 and 89-73 final record
D-Rox: 2-1 AZ, 2-1 SF, 2-1 LA, 2-2 St.L = 8-5 and 90-72 final record
So, for the Giants the key is that they need to win the series in Colorado, which would put them 2 games ahead of the other two teams, and should win them the title. If they can win the Cubs series or sweep the D-backs, which has gone in a bad slide recently, that would be good too.
San Diego really need to win the series against SF in SF. It would be good to win either the Reds or Cubs series too.
Colorado really needs to keep winning series. Any slipup (particularly against SF) and they are probably done, though if they sweep anyone, that would really help too. Plus if they can win the St. Louis series, but LaRussa might still be battling then for a playoff spot, as they got 6 games against Pittsburgh in the next 9 games, sandwiching 3 against the suddenly tough Cubs. I noticed that the Cards have a TBD for one of their starters on Thursday, so it would not surprise me if he is modifying the rotation with an eye to the Colorado series, at home, as they will be the tough team to beat, while the Pirates and Cubs are not as tough.
Giants Hitter Need to Get Hot: Guillen?
There is nothing like a hitter getting white hot and the team just floats along for the ride. That happened in July when Posey got hot and that is happening now for the D-Rox as they ride Tulowitski's historic home-run binge (something insane like 14 homers in 15 games, forgot, only 1-3 other players have done that before). The Giants need a hitter to get hot like that, which would loosen up the other hitters, I think.
Jose Guillen could be that guy. He is 7 for 13 since he got that epidural (or whatever) into his bulging disc on his neck (why didn't he complain earlier and got the shot earlier?), with 2 HRs and 8 RBI in four games. We have only gone 2-2 so far, but if he continues hitting at such a high rate, we would have Guillen, Posey, Burrell hitting well, plus maybe that will loosen up Huff too, who is scuffling lately.
But the only guys hitting this month are Posey, Burrell, Huff, Schieholtz, and Renteria, and now Guillen, basically the vets. Everyone else has been scuffling. Torres was particularly bad, though perhaps that was related to his appendix needing to get out, though usually it does not affect the body for that long before needing to get out (leading to the speculation of some that his ADD medication might have led to this condition).
Speaking of Torres, he's already up and hitting with a fungo bat off a tee, and he is scheduled to practice in Chicago, so there is talk now that he might even be able to come back in the series in Colorado. If so, and if he is back to his pre-September goodness form, that can't be anything but great news for the Giants.