And so it comes to this.
The best first half in the majors and the second-worst second half in the majors sums to the most important home stand of the year with twenty games to play.
Seven games: three against the Padres and four against the Cardinals who are outside looking in and trying, with the Mets, to pry us from atop the National League Wild Card standings.
The difference between eking out the Wild Card and seizing the division from the nemesis lies in these next seven games. We have to take five.
We were happy in June. This team looked built to make the run. The pieces all made sense and our record was the result of beautiful play. We were happy because we won without Pence, Panik, Duffy and Romo. If anything we were enthused because we knew we’d have them all back healthy for the stretch run. The pain of last year when all the injuries hit in August was fresh in our minds. (To be honest we’ve been pretty lucky in that regard).
Johnny Cueto tore it up and started the All-Star Game. We voted Belt into the summer classic with vigor. Cain and Peavy were mostly bad, but it didn’t seem to matter. Until he went down Romo was a great set-up man for Casilla who collected the majority of his 31 saves and looked like he could be the closer. (That team still exists).
Then this epic collapse of hitting and failures in the bullpen in the second half necessitated re-engineering the rotation, forced us to deal beloved Duffy.
I for one fully support what I think was swift and bold decision-making by Bobby Evans, Brian Sabean, Larry Baer, Bruce Bochy and staff. We had to do something quick and if we didn’t pick up Matt Moore, I am not sure we would even have a chance right now. Add to that the success Eduardo Núñez has had at third and at the plate, and I’m more than pleased we made the deal.
If we have to play the Mets or Nats in the play-in game I am confident we can send out MadBum and have a great chance to win. But thanks to the trade, I now also feel, with Cueto starting against the Cubs, then Samardzija/Moore and back to Bumgarner, we actually have a shot to beat the league leaders, to win the NLCS.
and today, David Schoenfeld, the SweetSpot Blogger on ESPN says,
- The Giants are due to play better. Maybe they weren’t actually the best team in baseball when they ended the first half with a better record than the Chicago Cubs, but clearly they’re not the second-worst team in baseball.
- Baseball teams are streaky. While the Giants’ extreme splits are abnormal, a bad stretch doesn’t necessarily predict more losing. They’re just as likely to go on a nice winning streak now. That’s baseball.
- The Dodgers play 13 of their remaining 20 games on the road, and they’re 47-27 at home and just 33-35 on the road.
- The teams have six games remaining against each other, including the season-ending series in San Francisco.
- Hunter Pence is hot, with eight hits in the Arizona series. Buster Posey is due to get hot as well, right?
- Strickland, if he does win the closer’s role on a regular basis, will be fine. He has a 2.41 ERA in his major league career and has held opponents to a .202 average (.213 this season). He has been the Giants’ best reliever over the past two seasons. So why has Bruce Bochy been so hesitant to name him the closer? It probably goes back to the 2014 postseason, when Strickland, with just seven innings of big league time, allowed six home runs in eight appearances. It’s tough to trust a guy in close games after seeing that, but Strickland is a solid reliever and has earned the opportunity. (As a bonus, rookie Derek Law, with a 1.94 ERA and excellent peripherals, is due to come off the DL this week.)”
Which brings us to the biggest home stand of the year.
Our biggest concern is a big one: the bullpen is a mess. Our second biggest concern is an ongoing lack of timely hitting, a situational slump at the plate particularly with runners in scoring position that has made #RISPsigh a thing now.
But on the positive side we got what we asked for, all the pieces we need and we are healthy. Hunter Pence just decided to turn it up several notches. Brandon Crawford and Buster Posey know the stretch.
Panik has to follow Núñez who has also been making it happen. Span and Pagan gotta get hot at the same time and Belt … I need you Brandon, I need some power from you. More aggressiveness at the plate. I love the walks and the on-base percentage, but take a chance and rock that thing.
The sharpness is returning to the starters. I like that. And the bullpen? Well I know this, they can’t do it without our support. I can’t be there, but the yard better be rocking.
Let’s Go Giants! Take ’em one day at a time and win ’em all.
25 Guys One Common Goal