San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum (55). Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
When I wrote that the San Francisco Giants had to take two out of three from the Los Angeles Dodgers on the current home-stand, and that anything less was unacceptable, I did so with the recognition that if things went poorly, I would adapt. If Tim Lincecum or Ryan Vogelsong had not come through, then I would be continuing to speculate as to what was “wrong.”
The fact is that Giants’ starting pitching has asserted itself big-time, the third go-through in the order, and this indicates that the team has shaken out the lethargy of the long winter months, and flexed its collective muscles in all phases of the game in the early going. The awareness that 29 of the first 38 games on the schedule were against National League West teams, and that ten of them (one more than half of the season total) were against the Dodgers, gave the Giants a plan of action and one that required implementing immediately.
For the Giants to have allowed the Dodgers to get an arm up on them in the early going, would have meant having to play catch-up. As good as the Giants are, no team in the game can afford to spot the Dodgers any kind of lead and expect to overtake them. Los Angeles is a formidable opponent and only a pitching staff as capable as the one the Giants possess, is going to be able to accomplish the task.
When the Giants’ bats erupted so early, it took the focus off of the fact that the starting pitchers were having trouble zeroing in on their targeted performance levels. Now that the pitching is establishing itself, the offense will undoubtedly balance out. What that means is that Angel Pagan, who scrambled out of the frying pan and into the fire, after getting off the disabled list last August, in an effort to ignite his team, can now retreat to mere mortal levels and conserve his energy for the long haul.
Balancing out means that Brandon Belt will stop swinging for the fences and go back to making solid contact, and drawing walks when he doesn’t draw strikes. It means that Buster Posey will continue to swing the potent bat that accompanied him to spring training from the first day. Balancing out means that Brandon Crawford will be given the occasional day off, as he was yesterday, and that he will not have to look over his shoulder to see who it is that may be platooning with him, when left-handed pitchers are on the mound.
San Francisco Giants center fielder Angel Pagan (16) is on fire. Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Most importantly, balancing out means both Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval join the starting pitching in shaking out the cobwebs, so we won’t see opposing pitchers walk Pence to get at Sandoval, as we did in yesterday’s game. On the other hand, the strategy failed when the Panda delivered with a run-scoring single, the one run he drove in being the difference in the game.
No one could have foreseen Clayton Kershaw’s back issues, but they played right into the scheme of things, because the Dodgers have been without their ace, a guy who has tortured the Giants since he came into the league. Now with the Giants having seized the first two games of the series, and with Giants’ ace Madison Bumgarner taking the mound, San Francisco is in position to deliver a demoralizing kick in the backside to the egotistical Blue Crew.
For San Francisco to not be able to take advantage of Kershaw’s absence would be a pity. In this wild, wild NL West, a team has to trump when the ace is away, and that’s exactly what the Giants have been able to do. They just need to keep on piling it on, so that when the hand is over, they hold as many of the cards in the form of victories as possible.
Madison Bumgarner takes the mound today, going for the sweep. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports