They just had a mano-a-mano series against LA, who also needed to win, and they won both games in the series, beating Kershaw, the Giants Killer. Still, after a nice win streak when they won five games in a row back at the beginning of June, ending June 10th, they have only been 41-42 since, so they clearly have not done well for a long time, win a few, lose a few, never getting too far from .500 since then. They need to have an extended period of good play to get into the playoffs but they are only 9-11 in their last 20 (19 games left) and 14-16 in their last 30. So it has been more that LA was falling back to them than them rising to LA. And San Diego is only 2.5 games behind them now, but has been playing well for over two months now. SD might pass up both AZ and LA if those teams don't watch out.
Game 1: Cain vs. Skaggs
Matt Cain: An errant changeup led to a wild pitch that cost Cain and the Giants a big run in his last start, when he allowed two runs in seven innings against the Dodgers. Cain is 12-0 this season when the Giants provide three or more runs in support.
Tyler Skaggs: Skaggs will be making his fifth Major League start against the Giants. He allowed five runs over in three innings at San Diego his last time out after working at least five innings in his first three starts.Cain has a 4.25 ERA in 15 starts in Chase Field. And that has roughly where he has been, generally, each season of his career, some up, some down. However, in recent seasons, he has been putting up DOM starts there. Still, some hitters have done well against him: Upton, Montero (2 HR in 40 AB), Hill (4 XBH in 15 AB), Bloomquist, Nieves. He has been close to DOM starts in this last few starts, just needing one IP or one less walk or one more strikeout, so he appears to be doing OK. It would be nice if he can continue doing well, which would signify that he's over the issues he had pitching after his perfect game.
Skaggs is one of their young wunderkinds, only 20 YO, with only 4 starts under his belt. He was close to a DOM start in his first career start, but nerves got to him and he walked 5 in that game (home game). Since, he has only walked 1-2, so had he done that in that first game, he would have had a 4 PQS DOM start instead of a 3 PQS. He then had two DOM starts (one home, one road) before having a DIS start in his last game against SD in SD. But that was a BABIP game, 5 hits in 3.0 IP but only 1 walk and 5 K's (and a HR). He is the first of three lefties AZ is throwing at the Giants, and the Giants are 30-15 this season against LHP. He has no career numbers against the Giants, first appearance and start ever. He has done well at home 2.92 ERA but poorly on the road 6.75 ERA (but only 2 starts each). And so far he has dominated left-handed hitters but been beaten like a drum by right-handed hitters.
Have to favor the Giants in this start slightly because of Cain, but only slightly because they are playing in AZ and Skaggs has done well there so far and done well mostly, though his last start was a DIS start, plus the Giants seem to get flummoxed by pitchers they have not seen before. But AZ is only 43-47 against RHP. However, AZ has been on a bit of a hot streak lately, not hitting all that well, .268/.341/.396/.737, but averaging 4.7 runs scored per game over the last 7 games, for a 5-2 record. But that was mostly on the road and prior to that, they were 2-8 on their last home stand, losing six straight to SD and Reds. But they started this homestand nicely with 2 wins over LA for a series sweep and beat the Giants 2 of 3 in SF just last week.
Game 2: Zito vs. Miley.
Barry Zito: In one of his biggest wins as a Giant, Zito pitched 6 1/3 innings last time out in a 4-0 victory against the Dodgers and a three-game series win. The Giants have now won seven straight Zito starts even with his 4.53 ERA in those games.
Wade Miley: Miley has pitched his way into contention for NL Rookie of the Year honors. He got the win last time out against the Padres despite allowing five runs over 5 1/3 innings. His lone appearance vs. Giants this year was a four-inning relief stint.
Zito has a 5.86 ERA in 11 appearances and 10 starts in Arizona. But he had an OK start earlier this season, a 4 DOM PQS start, as well as a nice one in 2010 (I discount his 2011 performances, as he was probably affected by the horrific car accident that he was involved in just before the season. Young, Bloomquist, Upton, Montero, Kubel, Goldschmidt, Johnson, Parra have all hit well against him. Keys are probably Uupton and Bloomquist for power, Young for walks, and Kubel in general.
The 25 YO LHP Miley is a rookie-of-the-year candidate for the D-backs with a 3.07 ERA. It will be scary if all their young starters ever start to figure it out (including Skaggs and Bauer). He has faced the Giants only once, one relief appearance 0 ER, 4.0 IP, no hits and 2 walks, plus 1 strikeout. So obviously, nobody has done well against him on the Giants. But the Giants have a good record against LHP this season. He has done well at home, 2.87 ERA but also have done well on the road, 3.27 ERA.
Miley has done well this season in PQS: after 3 relief appearances, he has started 25 games, 60% DOM and only 12% DIS, great numbers. After seeing this, I have to think the Giants will be hard pressed to win this game. Zito did have a nice start in his last one, saving us, but now he would have to do two in a row in a venue where he has not done well before, which is unlikely for him. He's basically pitching for a spot not only in the rotation but probably also the roster, because I don't see any way right now he makes it in as a reliever (see below).
Game 3: Vogelsong vs. Corbin
Ryan Vogelsong: Vogelsong is mired in a six-game stretch that has seen him post 9.56 ERA. On Monday, he missed locations on his arm side, after struggling glove-side in his previous start. He finished strong, though, retiring eight of his last 10 batters faced.
Patrick Corbin: Corbin allowed three runs over 5 1/3 innings in his last start against the Padres. He took the loss and has dropped his last three decisions. In two starts against the Giants, Corbin is 1-0 with a 3.75 ERA.
Vogelsong has only 2 starts, one in his new era, but both times he did well, In last year's start, he had a 5 DOM PQS start, so that was very good. However, Upton, Young, Hill, Parra, Ransom, and Eaton all have nice numbers against him, albeit, mostly just 1-3 games played against (includes SF starts). So while he has done well in AZ, they have beat him like a drum in SF. Talk about dichotomy.
He has not done well lately though, after 2 DOM starts, he has followed with two poor DIS starts. I'm willing to forgive one because it is a Colorado start and the other because he was BABIPed. So I'm not going to worry unless he has another bad start here in Arizona, which is an extreme hitter's park, but if he don't turn it around, it will be hard to not think his playoff spot is in jeopardy. .
Corbin is only 22 YO with a 4.19 ERA. The Giants battered him around in SF, but in AZ, he gave up only 1 ER in 7.0 IP, shutting them down. But that battering was just on Sept. 3rd and his good start was way back on May 11 when he was shiny and new. Small samples, but players have mostly sucked against him, Hanchez, Pence, and Sandoval have gone well against the youngster, who was not ranked in BA's rankings at all for the 2012 season. But he is doing very nicely, and probably is suffering some bad luck on the ERA, as he has an excellent 3.2 K/BB ratio plus both good BB/9 and K/9. And he does better at home than on road, 3.38 ERA vs. 4.81.
Hard to call this game. Vogelsong may just had some bad luck and therefore will continue his prior good spell, or he's actually going through another bad spell. In any case, he's pitching for a spot on the playoff rotation against Zito and both have been good and bad in recent starts. They will need to make a good showing in this series.
Have to think that if the Giants battered Corbin in SF and just recently, he was just lucky in his start against the Giants in AZ. His pattern this season is he comes in on a groove of sorts, pitch well for a while, then starts to peter out with DIS starts (he has 2 out of his last 4 starts). Though he was unlucky in SF in terms of hits, as he had 0 walks and 6 K's in 5.0 IP, no HR, so he could have made that a DOM start with one more inning. So he's a good pitcher (roughly 50% DOM), but very inconsistent (30% DIS). Anything could happen in this game, so I would call it a toss-up, but right now Corbin is on a definite downtrend, he could be tiring as it is his first MLB season, first pitching into September.
Amazing that they have a barely .500 record with these three good pitchers going for them, though not all season, admittedly. Series could go either way, but seems like the D-backs have the slight advantage right now, since they are 35-34 at home for the season (but 31-26 prior to last two homestands). And they need to sweep if they want to have a chance to get the last wild card spot, as well as a chance to win the division (as slim as it is now, it is pretty much gone if they lose any games to the Giants). The Giants, like the D-gers series, just need to win at least one game, and of course it would be nice to win the series too, to keep the heat on LA.
Wow, 7 games up with only 19 games to play. The Giants would have to collapse in a huge (perhaps historically painful) way in order to lose that lead. Kind of like how LA has gone 7-13 over their last 20 games while the Giants went 13-7. Even the D-gers going on a huge winning streak to the end of the season would not really threaten that lead, the Giants would still have to play losing ball over these last games in order to lose the division title right now. Just like how they need to keep the runners moving to score in a game, the Giants need to just keep the wins coming to win the division title.
But I've seen wackier things happen in the history of baseball, so I probably would not feel good about making the playoffs until we get the magic number down to one hand. Still, as that Dusty metric shows - if you can gain one game a week, you reduce the enormity of the task of regaining the division lead to an easier goal - the task for the D-gers is hard. The D-gers only got maybe 3 weeks left, so they really need to gain 2 games a week, plus 3 games one of those weeks, just to catch up.
Right now, Bumgarner is scheduled to start the last game of the year. Assuming we do eventually win the division title, I have to think that the Giants will fit in Yusmeiro Petit into the rotation at some point to both eat up innings as well as give our starters an extra day blow and to set up the rotation to Bumgarner, Lincecum, Cain, Vogelsong in the playoffs, currently. I can see the Giants wanting to go with that, unless Zito really pitches well and Vogelsong doesn't for the rest of the season. The best date for this appears to be September 28th game in San Diego, that gives an extra day rest before the last start of the regular season for all our regular starters, plus it is just SD, who we are currently not worried about (but now they are only 2.5 games behind Arizona). The main benefit here though is taking away one start away from Bumgarner so that he is fresher for the playoffs and less wear and tear on his valuable arm.
In addition, given Zito's recent comments regarding the possibility of making the playoff roster - where he said it was tough but made him stronger - I have to think that not making roster again might make him useless to us next season (kind of like Rowand in 2011), as he would no longer be motivated to play for Bochy, and we would have to eat the rest of his contract. However, if he pitches horribly, like he did in September 2010, then I don't see him making the roster.
And if he made the roster as a reliever, then who gets left off? Right now the team has a good thing going with Romo, Lopez, Affeldt, Casilla, Kontos, Hensley, Mijares, Mota. Zito could relieve, but who would he kicked out among those eight? I don't see it. And the bench isn't any easier. Right now, the bench looks like it would be Hanchez, Theriot, Arias, Blanco (assuming Nady is the starting LF, but Gregor is going good now, so they could platoon), Huff. I don't see any of these players being left off the roster right now, though Huff could implode at any point, for all we know. But in any case, I don't see how Bochy would want to go lower than a 5 man bench.
Same if Vogelsong ends up left out of the rotation. Don't know who would be removed to allow Vogelsong a roster spot, but given his prior successes, I can see Bochy making the tough choice to keep him and, say, leave Mota, who was gone for much of the season, off. I don't see the same thing happening if Zito were the one left off the rotation.
Best of Times
I was commenting on DrB's site when I realized that these are the best of times for the Giants, in terms of personnel for my lifetime as a staunch Giants fan (since 1971). Obviously, with Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, we clearly have the best rotation in San Francisco history, and up there with Christy Mathewson and Joe Iron-man McGinnity for the New York Giants (relatively speaking, different eras of expectations regarding pitchers).
Regarding position players, I've already touched here on my blog about Buster Posey as the best catcher ever that the San Francisco Giants have had. Before, for my fan period, Dick Dietz and Bob Brenly are probably the best during that span, and Tom Haller was well liked by fans of that era. But in writing my comment, I also realized that Pablo Sandoval is probably also the best 3B (though as someone reminded me on DrB, Matt Williams was a pretty good player too, and he was, I still think he could have reached 61 homers in that strike year; so how about among the top two?).
In addition, we have other young players who show the potential to be arguably the best ever on the San Francisco Giants. This might be blasphemous to Thrill fans (and I count myself as one), but Brandon Belt, if he reaches his potential, could hit for more power, do everything Will could do, plus could steal bases. Brandon Crawford (he's the reason I came to this thought on DrB), I've been impressed with his ability to make contact (high contact rate), get walks (higher BB/K ratio), plus has power. For the past month, he's been hitting .808 OPS, 10 BB/14 K over 84 AB (83% contact rate) and if he can continue that, he could be the best hitting shortstop the Giants have had while also providing gold-glove level defense. Remember, the best hitters keep their contact rate above 85% (he's close) and have a high BB/K ratio, and when they do that, they hit over .300 more often twice as often as they hit under .250, in the study Shandler's group did. Also, I've been very positive about Gary Brown's potential to be an all-around player for us: average, OBP, power, speed, plus gold-glove level defense. And if he can reach that, I've never see anyone like that (I started following the Giants at the very end of Mays' Giants era) playing CF for the Giants, most at best had defense plus speed/BA, but no power at all.
All this just makes me more and more confident about my projection/prediction in the late 2000's when I said that if the Giants play their cards right, they could be the Team of the 2010 Decade. Back then, it was more an inkling that it was coming, with the pairing of Lincecum and Cain, plus Bumgarner rising fast in the farm system and Dirty showing flashes of his potential, along with the development of Sandoval and Posey. But I was serious, as the potential for all these players suggested that with good health, enough money, and the will to use this money, these players could be with us throughout most of this decade, and lead the team to multiple World Series runs and wins. I see no reason to change my opinion, other than I'm more and more confident about this with each season so far.