What's on the Menu?
The Giants won a game last night for only the third time in the past twelve games. Though that string of futility is a disappointing turn of events to what has been a most topsy-turvy season, it is what it is, and we need to put it behind us. Last night’s offensive effort, a six to nothing win over the Pirates, represents a shift in the right direction, and a shift is what we have been waiting for.
In all fairness to the players involved, one significant reason for the offensive slowdown centers on Buster and Freddy’s absence in the lineup. Every single player, especially guys like Huff or Ross, last year's heroes, want to be the man, and pick the team up. That was one of the cornerstones to our success last year, and one of the key ingredients in what constitutes chemistry, picking the other guy up.
What’s wrong with the chemistry this year? If you believe the knee-jerk reaction of a vocal minority, the problem is Carlos Beltran. They say he is a prima donna, and that Nate belongs in right field. They say that his taking Bruce Bochy’s number fifteen, was some sort of arrogant statement. And finally they say he is a rent-a-bat, and that he is a short-timer.
I don’t know if he is or he isn’t an acid in the dugout. The way I see him and the Panda with their heads together, bodes well for the Giants. Pablo’s been smacking the ball at a nice pace, and we have seen Beltran giving Torres tips on his batting stance. These are the ways that new additions become part of the mix.
Jeff Keppinger’s four hit night, with a sacrifice fly thrown in, emphasizes his readiness to step up the pace. I don’t remember Cody Ross being a significant factor last year until a certain series against Atlanta, which didn’t even start until-heart don’t stop-October. If we evaluated Carlos Beltran’s contributions to the Giants, based on what we have seen so far, limp wrist and all, then of course the whole thing is suspect.
But why would we do that? Why would we not wait to see if he catches fire in a similar way that Cody did last fall? In 2004, when Beltran was traded to the Astros, he ended up hitting eight home runs in the playoffs that year, tying a record for post-season home run production with none other than Barry Bonds. Let me think here for just a second-that sounds so familiar. A guy joins a team in mid-season and ends up being a huge producer in the playoffs by clobbering home runs. I think you see where I am going with this.
Different chemical reactions take different times to occur. Last night’s game reflected one of those shifts in production that I was alluding to. The Giants found several different ways to manufacture runs. Let’s begin with our "never-before-in-baseball" last night, Chris Stewart’s fist major league big fly, which was ten years in the making. How is that for determination and grit? How many other guys, competing in such a fierce arena, would have the perseverance to hang in there? We need that kind of player, contributing to our effort to snap out of it.
Teams that don’t continue to come to the ball park, willing to put their hearts and souls on the line, do not get back into it. If you saw the reaction in the Giants’ dugout, upon Stewart’s return from his “trot,” then you could see joy on every single face. That’s a chemical reaction, folks.
What happened next? Aubrey went yard, and that is a shift. We know he can still do it. He demonstrated that the night he put three balls into the seats, while showing off for his wife. Last night something motivated him to do it again, thank-you Chris Stewart. That was after Huff had already sent a ball to the wall to score Keppinger, who had also stroked a two-bagger.
In the eighth, Bochy’s boys really got into the act. Leading three to nothing, in the old-fashioned way, two homers and an RBI double, the Giants scored three runs on a ground-out to the infield, a Texas leaguer, and a solid single by Cabrera. So, six runs, in several different modes of delivery, represents a shift in operating procedures, and going into a string of series, with non-contending teams, this is what we want to see. Baby steps, if you will.
We have the opportunity to gain serious ground on the D-backs, whose schedule from here out, closely resembles the Giants’ own schedule for the past six weeks. That being said, and baseball being the crazy sport it is, we need to put that aside and put that spotlight back on run-manufacturing. By doing the many different little things to score one run here, and another there, the Giants take a major stride forward to repeating last year’s success.
Included in that stride is the need to incorporate all of the components. Sabean went out and got Carlos Beltran. Bochy gave up his number. Nate gave up his right field position, and the Giants gave up Zack Wheeler. Now it’s up for the players to give up their offensive futility, and return to a familiar pattern of timely hitting and picking each other up.
That’s what chemistry is all about. Think of it as a stew. Normally the better ones are the all-day variety, which have plenty of time to blend flavors and spices. Now think of the stew served up by the Giants last October, with only a few scant weeks to simmer and bubble, and how much spice and excitement it created.
Brian Sabean never stopped supplying the ingredients, Bruce Bochy has not stopped mixing, so why have some fans stopped believing? Keep checking the menu, come October, and see if the dish, served up by the Giants, is not once more the center of the feast, with Carlos Beltran acting as maitre-d.