One of the San Francisco Giants’ main objectives in the early going was to play the National League West like there was no tomorrow. 29 of San Francisco’s first 38 games were scheduled against NL West opponents, including ten games opposing the Los Angeles Dodgers. With last night’s taut, ten-inning victory over LA, the Giants are now tied for the best record in the National League with the Milwaukee Brewers at 22-13.
The Giants are 15-11 against the Wild, Wild West and 7-2 against the rest. They have taken five of the first seven games from the Blue Crew and will continue their efforts tonight, in the second game of the highly anticipated series. For a team that struggled last season against non-NL West opponents, the 7-2 record marks a huge improvement.
The Giants improved to 5-2 on this three-city, ten-game, killer road trip. Going back to last season, they have won six of their last seven game at Chavez Ravine. Conventional wisdom dictates that successful teams strive to play .500 ball on the road, and take advantage of the friendly home-park confines to rack up the wins. Being able to exceed that .500 win/loss record on the road lends credibility to the Giants’ hopes of being able to maintain their edge in the NL West.
One of the pieces of the complex Giants puzzle is Ryan Vogelsong, who enjoyed his third consecutive stellar start last night, going seven and a third innings, giving up just one run on five hits, all of them singles. After a start to the season which saw his ERA skyrocket to 7.71, Vogelsong has evidently made some sort of mechanical adjustment in his pitching delivery, subsequently pitching twenty and a third innings, giving up just two earned runs durning that stretch.
Having this particular piece of the puzzle fall into place for the Giants, strengthens what amounted to one of the only weak links in the chain that comprises the Giants’ pitching staff. With the bullpen functioning at the top of the major leagues, in terms of ERA, and with last night’s game having done nothing to diminish that glow, the emergence of the team’s number five rotation pitcher, as a force to be reckoned with, is huge.
In terms of defense, Brandon Crawford has continued to field his position like a Gold-Glover, last night making several key plays to limit the Dodgers’ scoring. It’s like I have always said about Crawford; he will save more runs with his glove than he will ever produce with his bat, and that’s why he gets paid the big bucks, or ought to.
Once again Crawford speared a lead-off hot potato in the ninth, from the bat of Hanley Ramirez, to begin a one-two-three inning, to get the game into extra frames. Earlier, his fourth-inning play on a ball hit by Adrian Gonzalez, prevented a run from scoring. On my scorecard, I have starred two plays as exceptional, and that doesn’t even count the two double plays he initiated to end both the sixth and seventh innings.
Once again, as it did in Atlanta, the big hit with runners in scoring position, eluded the Giants. Only Brandon Belt’s tenth-inning insurance run prevented the Giants from going 0-8 in this department. Fortunately, the trend of hitting solo home runs, this one by Brandon Hicks in the seventh, allowed the Orange and Black to carry the game into extra innings, where they prevailed.
Once again Hector Sanchez came up to bat in a pressure situation and found a way to get it done, nearly duplicating his heroics in Colorado earlier in the season, when he hit a grand slam to give the Giants a big enough edge to take one from the Rockies in eleven innings.
By asserting themselves as a road team, the Giants, who generally play well at AT&T Park, are setting the stage for another run at the playoffs. With Vogelsong pitching well and Matt Cain coming back to start Saturday’s game, the Giants are settling in for the long haul.
Right now there is nothing in their way; they can do a lot to maintain that status by taking this series from LA. With the Rockies coming on like gangbusters, it would be nice to make it a two-team race with neither team’s colors including blue.