So any momentum and boosted confidence they might have gotten from beating the Giants two aces dissipated into the SF Bay mist, as it sinks into their head that they were shut down totally by the Giants #5 starter. So now they have to view themselves as lucky that they beat the two aces, instead of feeling, as some said, like they had done their job. Winning two of three on the road is good, but each loss to the Giants is a two game difference in the standings. They really needed to win that last game and achieved the sweep, though it will help that they are headed home now for a nice home stand against losing teams.
Bring on the Phillies!
Game 1: Lee vs. Bumgarner
Cliff Lee: Lee rebounded in his last outing, striking out 11 and allowing four runs over 7 2/3 innings against the Pirates. This will be Lee's first time facing the Giants since losing Game 5 of the 2010 World Series, when he was with the Rangers.This should be a great game between two great pitchers: which is probably the theme of this series. Lee has a 1.13 ERA against the Giants in SF, in two starts, 16.0 IP, 10 K's, 3 BB, 9 hits, pretty much dominated them, once in 2005, once in 2009, so no real recent history during regular season. Of course, there was his work in the World Series, and we all know what happened there.
Madison Bumgarner: Bumgarner walked three in his last start, ending a streak of 19 consecutive starts in which he issued two walks or fewer. That was the Giants' longest such streak since 1970-71, when Juan Marichal walked two or fewer in 21 consecutive games.
Madbum has only faced the Phillies once in his career, in the playoffs, and gave up 3 runs in 6.2 IP, but given his good work - 7 K's and only 2 BB - the 9 hits were a case of the BABIP gods giving to the hitters, if he can duplicate that performance again, he probably only gives up 6, maybe 7, hits, and mostly likely only 1-2 runs. This would suggest that he should have a good outing.
However, oddly enough, Madbum has a horrible 4.54 ERA at home. And that is true in both 2010 and 2011, about equal ERA, despite great K/BB ratios, the BABIP gods likes to play with him at home. That oddity hangs over this start: which Madbum will show up in this game? The good news is that he has been mostly good, with his stats being day and night: night in first few starts of season, Twins, SD; great starts otherwise. Other good news is that he had a bad start in his last start and he has been pretty good most of the time, so has rarely had two bad starts in a roll. He has been good in delivering DOM starts regularly as well.
Might be good game for Giants. Lee has been enormously lucky against Carlos Beltran, 2 BB vs. 0 K's in 10 PA, but only 1 hit, plus Carlos is now heating up. Also, Aaron Rowand and Aubrey Huff likes hitting off of him, though Huff's OPS is relatively low due to low ISO. Cody Ross, Andres Torres, and Jeff Keppinger have done well in limited (1-2 games) play. And Sandoval is 0-for-4, and with him hitting well recently, that should change as well.
Can't call either way, really, though I would have to give a lean to Lee because of his success as a pitcher and MadBum's maddening Jeckyll and Hyde routine at home. But there are all those hitters with prior success, so you never know. Plus, there is Pablo Sandoval , who has reverted this season to his prior 2009 goodness.
Game 2: Worley vs. Sanchez
Vance Worley: The four runs Worley allowed in his last start were the most since June 29 at New York. He hadn't allowed more than two earned runs in his previous seven starts. He pitched his first career complete game against Giants last week in Philadelphia.Worley is an unknown mostly, but obviously dominated the Giants in his last start in Philly. He is doing well but his minor league history and credentials suggest that this so far is an over performance that he will regress from at some point. But some (e.g. Brandon Webb) turn out to be the real thing, so there's that.
Jonathan Sanchez: Sanchez, making his first start in more than a month, allowed two runs on seven hits and three walks, striking out five in a rehab start with Triple-A Fresno on Wednesday. Despite his time on the DL, Sanchez is still third in the NL with 59 walks.
He dominates both LHB and RHB, home and road. Key to his success is a very low BABIP, which he needs because of his relatively low K/9. Schneider is his personal catcher for the most part, and he has done better with him than Ruiz. Looking over his minor league stats, his BABIP was in the normal .300 range, suggesting that he will regress to the mean, and hard, at some point. For now though, he's riding the wave.
Sanchez is a big question mark since this is his first start off the DL. Historically, he has a 2.73 ERA against the Phillies in SF, in 3 starts, 7 appearances. He has done even better against them in Philly, 1.29 ERA in 2 starts. Clearly, he has been a Phillies killer in his career, playoffs notwithstanding, especially in recent years, he did not do so well against them early in his career, when he was still figuring things out.
Oddly enough, despite his great numbers overall, Utley, Howard, and Victorino has owned Dirty bad, it has been his ability to leave them on base by taking care of the rest of the hitters in the lineup that has been his way to success against them. However, obviously, that's playing with fire, but the good news is that he's only given up one homer among them all. That's the beauty of baseball, one would think LHP Sanchez would dominate LHB like Utley and Howard, yet he doesn't, but then he goes ahead and dominates all the other hitters, many of them RHB.
Have to call this a push, too hard to call either way. Sanchez has done well at home the past few seasons, but this is his first start off the DL. Worley has done well, but his history suggests it will turn to a pumpkin at some point.
Game 3: Hamels vs. Cain
Cole Hamels: Hamels has allowed three runs or fewer in 14 of his past 15 starts, including Monday, when he gave up two runs in six innings against the Rockies before the Phillies came back to win, 4-3, in 10 innings.Hamels is a great pitcher but there is something about AT&T that bothers him: four career starts, all bad in some way, 6.12 ERA, but he has dominated the hitters, 28 K's in only 25.0 IP with only 11 walks and 0 homers. The Giants have just dinked him to death with a lot of hits. Lots of Giants hitters love hitting against him, including new Giants: Beltran, Ross, Sandoval, Keppinger, Schierholtz, Torres.
Matt Cain: Cain took the loss Monday after giving up five runs in the sixth inning against the D-backs for his seventh loss of the season. Cain allowed one unearned run on four hits and a walk in seven innings Wednesday, picking up a win in Philadelphia.
Cain has been pretty consistently good this season, much like Hamels, so one would think he would bounce back with a good start here. Amazingly, Cain has only had one start against Phillies in regular season and that was in Philly, where he shut them out in 7.0 IP. And there is his domination in the playoffs.
I was expecting this to be a too tough to call game, but I would have to give the lean to Cain for his dominance and Hamels' poor career stats, and only a lean because Hamels has really dominated the Giants, just has had a very bad BABIP against them, though it could be even worse as Beltran and Keppinger loves to hit him and they are here now.
Game 4: Oswalt vs. Lincecum
Roy Oswalt: NoneNothing much to say here other than two great pitchers and Lincecum seems to own him, beating him a number of times in face to face battles. But Oswalt came back later and beat us in the playoffs. In his career, he has a 4.18 ERA in AT&T, but that was really earlier in his career and during the Bonds era, he has dominated the Giants in the past few years.
Tim Lincecum: Lincecum gave up two earned runs in seven innings, striking out eight in Tuesday's loss to Arizona. With 1,067 career strikeouts, he passed Jason Schmidt for third on SF's all-time strikeouts list and ninth on the Giants' franchise strikeouts list.
However, he is just getting off the DL, this is his first start since being DLed about 6 weeks ago. He did do well in AAA, so there is that, but it is not like he dominated them totally, though that could have been because he was working on something. Could go either way, have to give Oswalt his due as a veteran pitcher.
Only Beltran and Ross have hit Oswalt well. The Giants have been able to beat him mostly because Timmy would limit his runs allowed just enough to beat Oswalt. And he is 2-1 against the Giants in SF from 2008 to now, with a 2.35 ERA. But neither Beltran nor Ross were in the lineups of those games, and Sandoval, for whatever reason, has not hit him yet, but that was two games in 2010, when he was not Panda-like much of the season.
Howard, Ruiz, and Polanco are the guys who have given Lincecum fits. But he has pretty much shut down everyone else. And really, he has dominated these guys as well, it is just that he has given up homers that boosted their SLG or walks to boost OBP, as their batting averages are low.
Important series again, mainly because the Phillies are so tough and the D-backs is heading into a cushy 10 game home stand against a bunch of losers: D-gers, Astros, Mets (then it is their turn for tough tasks, facing Phillies and Braves on the road). They have beaten up on the D-gers and Astros, but was swept by the Mets, and overall look to have it easy for the next 10 games, I would not be surprised by a 7-3 record over that span, though the Mets have actually been good on the road, hopefully they can keep that going against D-backs.
Meaning the Giants need to hold their own against the Phillies, if not win the series, to keep ahead of the D-backs in the standings. Then they face the suddenly tough Pirates, before going on the road and facing the Marlins and Braves, before getting Astros. The Marlins are 20-10 in their last 30 games, Braves 17-13 (but 10-10 last 20), Pirates 14-16 (8-12 last 20), so I guess the Pirates have cooled off after putting themselves into the NL Central picture. The Giants will probably need to win each series going forward to keep pace with the D-backs.
The good news is that the Giants have made their great record so far by beating good teams: they are 27-19 against winning teams. They have also won against the losing teams, just not as well: 35-30. Arizona is only in the race because they have dominated the losing teams: 39-25. They are only 22-25 against winning teams. But they are facing losing teams in this stretch, so they should be doing well for the next week or two. The Giants will need to raise things up a notch, both pitching and hitting.
The pitching I'm not worried about, particularly after seeing Vogelsong come back strong, having found his cutter again, and pitching a great game. I'm only really worried about Dirty, but the Giants probably would not be bringing him back unless he is ready. Lincecum, Cain, and Bumgarner will misfire every once in a while, but they should be solid for the rest of the season.
The Hitting Could Be On The Verge of Breaking Out
The hitting, with their 8 run outburst yesterday bodes well for the rest of the season. Keppinger, as I noted before, has been hitting well for us after some initial jitters, resulting in 3 strikeouts in 3 starts, but he has a hit in all but one game with us, and has been getting multiple hits in recent games too, boosting his batting average. I really like him as a hitter, he could be a cheap starter for us post-Franchez, should the team go that way.
Beltran has started hitting better but that's going to be a day to day thing until he has enough games under his belt to say that he's comfortable and hitting again. But you have to start from somewhere, and he's been hitting very well in recent games. A professional hitter like him, as good a hitter like him, don't get shut down for very long, typically, and as you can see above, he has done well against a good number of the Phillies starters. Potent mix for a great series out of him.
Sandoval has been continuing his good hitting, and I think Beltran is helping him to relax and channel his inner Kung Fu Panda. I expect a great final two months from him. That's our 2-3-4 hitters doing well. The rest of the Giants lineup just need to step up now.
Torres is getting pep talks and help from Beltran in figuring out his batting difficulties this season. He had a nice game the other day, but he will have to prove himself, game by game. It would mean so much to our offense if he can get back to his 2010 self.
Ross is having some nice games as well, but his game is not up to prior levels of expectations. While he might be contributing to the offense the same overall, he has usually been batting in RBI spots in the lineup and not generating the power to drive in runners. His game has changed to more walks, and frankly that is useless in the bottom of the order, with the SS and C typically hitting behind him, as they were not driving him or anyone in with their poor hitting. Batting him leadoff is an obvious way to capitalize on that change, so we might see him up there more often until his power shows up. Or maybe even third, where the reduced chances to drive in runs limits the impact of his lack of power.
Nate Schierholtz has gone on his typical cold streak after a hot streak, so he is getting some days off. He probably won't play much in this series, but could start getting starts again afterward. The Giants clearly believe in him, as they have given him way more chances than they have given any other prospect, and why not, when he is on, he can help carry an offense. The key is getting him to do that consistently, or at least not be ice cold after being very hot. If he could just be average in-between the hot streaks, he could be a very good starter. For now, he shares LF with Ross, though seeing most starts there probably.
Huff has had one of his down years that counter his up years. There have been whispers in the media about his conditioning not being the best this off-season, whether due to the shortened off-season due to the playoffs or just too much other activities. Others have wondered if the contract along with losing Posey and Franchez and having Burrell scuffling have made him go, as the saying goes, swinging for the 5-run homer in every swing.
One well known analyst (David Pinto) found that Huff was chasing too many pitches down low, that he is still hitting high pitches very well. I think he has fixed that a bit but still not making great contact, since May 27, he has hit .266/.316/.397/.714 in 214 AB with 6 HR (36 AB/HR), 26 K's (88% contact rate), 17 BB (65% BB/K, good but not great), .283 BABIP. He was horrible prior to that with a very low BABIP. That batting line is fine if he is batting 7th, not so much in the middle of the batting lineup. If he can focus on swinging only at pitches up in the zone and letting the ones down below go, he probably can get his batting line back up.
This has been a lost season but if he can heat up in the final two months, that could make up for a lot. Since July 23, he has hit .353/.400/.500/.900 in 9 starts, 11 games, with a homer in 34 ABs. If he can do that in the 5 spot, that would be great towards boosting the offense. Heck, if he and Ross can just hit well against RHP and LHP, respectively, as they have in their careers, then they can swap off the 5th spot and that would be good as well.
Orlando Cabrera had a great game yesterday but that's not going to happen frequently, but no one should be surprised that he's hitting 5th again. However, he is still a good hitter and will have a nice batting average, due to his good contact rate, which would be great in the bottom of the lineup. We need hitters who can get hits and drive in runs there, not guys who can take walks down there. Plus, he will be a huge improvement over Crawford's anemic offensive output, other than the occasional homer, and his defense seems to be good enough so far at SS. He has sounded good in the broadcasts.
The catchers had been doing well, as I wrote about, but suddenly around that time, they went cold. Eli Whiteside has been horrible the past two weeks hitting, but that could be perhaps due to being used more often than he had been just previously, because for some reason Chris Stewart has not gotten into many games in the past two weeks, since that downturn started for Whiteside, only 3 starts out of 10, though he is getting the start tonight. Before that in July, though, he got in 14 of the 19 games, with 9 starts. Something changed and he was used less, which appears to have worn on Whiteside, who was hitting well prior to that. If they continue to struggle, I would expect to see the Giants make a move for a catcher.