Better Be Quick
The Giants are three games back of the Diamondbacks in the National League West, but it could be a lot worse. Last year at this time, they were six back, and no one was holding his or her breath. This year, after a month of adversity, many feel that the Giants are only hanging on through pride, and that they are out of the playoff picture.
Much evidence exists to support this point of view, including key injurious that need not be specified. Starting pitching has stumbled, principally through injury, but also because of additional pressure to shore up the team’s competitive edge by taking up the slack of a sporadic offense.
Several key offensive stalwarts are struggling to maintain consistency, and our leadoff spot has lagged behind the rest of the league all season. Reinforcements from Fresno have shown superior flashes of both defense (Crawford), and offense (Belt), but have been unable to bring enough consistency to make substantial contributions.
In any of these areas, one could say that things are bound to change, and be confident that that was accurate. The question would appear to be “When?” The answer would appear to be, “Better be quick.”
Now let’s look at what is still in place, upon which we can bank. There is still Timmy, and his August could not have been more opposite than last year’s. As long as we have Timmy, we have the best. We have the Cainster, the work horse extraordinaire. His history of dependability and durability is incomparable, and his value to the Giants is paramount.
Next is the National League’s poorest supported starting pitcher, Maddison Bumgarner, whose 2-1 victory over the undervalued Houston Astros, helped keep us three games back, and making up for another weak offensive showing. It was the seventh 2-1 decision in the past 23 games, almost one-third of the time. Bumgarner is one of those Southern farm boys, who stays steady and keeps lifting that bale, and towing that barge. (Last night's effort by Surkamp, produced the eighth 2-1 victory.)
Finally, keep Ryan Vogelsong in mind. He led the National League in ERA at one point last month, and made the All-Star Team this year. These four starters stack up well against any four in the league, in a seven game series.
In the past four games, each of the three deadline acquisitions has contributed significantly to a tight game, with Beltran hitting his first homer as a Giant, and with Keppinger doubling in the only two runs of the game that Bumgarner won, and adding a second game-winning hit last night. Orlando Cabrera has had several clutch hits, either tying the game, or putting us into the lead.
On top of everything else, there is still our bullpen, even if Wilson’s status is questionable. Ramirez and Cassilla have both stepped up to plug the gap, and Sergio Romo is expected back within the next few days. Our support pitchers have nothing to prove to anyone.
Something else that is in place is the favorable schedule, which has the Giants playing only teams with losing records, except six against Arizona. That is a telling point when it comes to making the playoffs. What happens then is anybody’s guess.
Baseball exists hugely on momentum and chemistry. Philadelphia, and even Atlanta to a great extent, have both in strong supply. The Giants are still incubating theirs, preparing as efficiently as possible for the run to the division wire. Whereas, that does not seem out of the question, especially given Arizona’s six-game losing sputter last week, stranger things have happened.
What the Giants must do is continue to take advantage of contributions by the newcomers, and then maybe get lucky with a kid like Eric Surkamp, who waltzes in and throws a quality start in his major league debut. It is just this sort of infusion which combines with the existing components, to produce a facsimile of last year's pennent-clinching unit. Better-be-quickly time has arrived, if the Giants' chances are going to revive.