After a miserable 8 game losing streak and the squandering of a long early home stand, the Giants faced a daunting task this week: 3 games against the rival Dodgers (the hot Dodgers at that), and then a trip to Coors field, house of horrors.
It’s not over stating it to suggest that how this week unfolded could possibly determine the rest of the season.
Not every question has been answered, but the Giants certainly answered the bell, sweeping the Dodgers (with two walk off wins no-less), and then splitting the two games of their rain shortened trip to Colorado.
There are still some troubling signs: the lack of ability to drive runners in from scoring position is truly remarkable, especially for a team that must hit well in this position if it has any hopes of competing this season. Casey McGehee is an abomination. He nearly broke the record for double plays last year in what was one of his better seasons, and now he is on pace to shatter the record. By all accounts, he is not feeling well, so shutting him down and giving him another go when healthy might be a good idea. But, it is ugly right now. The #FreeMattDuffy campaign is fully underway here. The bullpen and rotation still leave something to be desired, although they all did their jobs for the most part this week.
Despite those concerns, there is a lot to be excited about. First, of all the Giants won some games. A 4-1 week was desperately needed. Just as important was the way they won: getting ahead, pitching well, and playing downhill. This is not a team that can catch up very often. They need a strong turn the first time through the order by their starter, early runs, and then they can hang on for victories. They followed that formula for the most part this week.
Second, the Giants are getting Justin Maxwell’s best Hunter Pence impression and it is making a huge difference in the lineup. JMax (as we like to call him around our home) has been a much-needed shot of power. Also, Andrew Susac is here and making his presence felt, already sparking Bochy to think about putting Brandon Belt in LF from time to time (THANK YOU).
Third, speaking of Belt, both Brandon’s seem to be coming around with the bat, and that is a beautiful sign.
Hitter of the Week
JMax wins this award running away with his big home runs and walk off ways. It remains to be seen if he can keep this up. As good as he’s been he still has a strong propensity to go out of the strike zone. In fact you can already see teams making that adjustment. This is where his success can actually be a detriment: he’s so eager to keep hitting that he’ll expand his zone, only to find that he stops hitting. If JMax can stay disciplined maybe he can turn his hot start into a breakout season.
Pitcher of the Week
Once again I have half a mind to give this to Tim Lincecum. I’m also tempted to name Ryan Vogelsong the POW. I was thinking of writing a post about the potentially gut wrenching decision to cut Vogelsong, but he certainly bought himself a lot of time with his strong start again the Dodgers.
But, despite all that, I give the nod to Madison Bumgarner. Even though his night did not end well, he outdueled Clayton Kershaw in what, I think, was the most important game of the year to date. Even though the Giants got back in the win column the day before, losing to Kershaw and potentially losing the series the next day, could have sent this team right back into the doldrums. But, Bumgarner’s start, plus the walk off excitement, leading into the sweep the next afternoon, has helped changed the atmosphere around this team dramatically.
Well, speaking of the Dodgers, here we go again! This time the Giants will visit Chavez Ravine, but with the rainout, we can expect the same pitching match ups as last week (check that, it looks like we will have to see Grienke this time around). One interesting thing to watch: Don Mattingly continues to affirm his position as one of the weaker managers in the game. I know body language isn’t everything, and I’m certainly not in that clubhouse ever, but he seems to exude an aura of weakness (or wieneeness as I told my dad this week). He’s kind of like a toddler. He’s the baseball manager version of Jed York. He contributed to at least one of the losses and behaved poorly in one of the others. I cannot imagine him lasting long in under the new regime, especially he continues to act like this. It will be interested to see what he does this time around. After the Dodgers, the Giants head home and face the other LA team next weekend.