Jul 23, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; San Francisco Giants right fielderHunter Pence
(8) hits a three RBI double in the ninth inning of a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. The Giants won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
With the pandemonium of the non-waiver trade deadline in the rear-view mirror, we can finally get back to baseball. Whether you are enraged that Giants’ GM Brian Sabean stood pat or thankful that he didn’t mortgage the future, both sides can agree that it’s time to refocus on the season left. Only 54 games remain on the docket, and thus time is of the essence for the SF Giants. I believe the legacy of the 2014 season will be defined in this two month stretch, and particularly during a crucial upcoming road trip. The Giants will either fade into oblivion, circa 2013 (albeit this happened much earlier last season) or will exert their will and be a force in the NL playoff race.
At first glance, August innocuously starts with a standard 10 game, 3 city road trip. However, this trip will have profound implications for the rest of the season. The trip is comprised of a visit to the Big Apple for 4 games against the Mets, followed by a 3 game series against the Brewers, and to conclude a 3 game set against the Royals. Despite the fact that Brewers sit at the penthouse in the NL Central and the futility of the Giants in AL ballparks, I feel this road trip can be successful.
If the Giants were to go 7-3 or 6-4 on this road trip, this would help kindle the fire needed to drive this team to the playoffs. It would help provide a much needed tune-up for a unit that has been leaking oil the last month, and re-gear the team for the final stretch.
The Giants sport the 3rd best road record in the majors at 29-20. The Giants are expected to get Brandon Belt and perhaps Angel Pagan back during the course of the trip. The Mets are not a high-caliber team and the Giants can outclass them by playing fundamentally sound baseball. They should be able to at minimum win the series.
Jul 22, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; San Francisco Giants catcherBuster Posey
(28) hits a home run in the 9th inning to tie the score at 5-5 with the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Eileen Blass-USA TODAY Sports
The Brewers are clearly the toughest draw. However, Milwaukee isn’t exactly infallible at home with a 30-26 record. Care to venture a guess at the extent of Buster Posey‘s success in Milwaukee’s ballpark? In 9 career games at Miller Park, Posey is batting an incendiary .406 /.487/1.031 with 6 HR and 15 RBI! I believe the Giants are capable of capturing a game, if not the series.
Kansas City represents more of a mental demon, given the Giants well documented struggles in American League parks. I am inclined to believe an exorcism of these maladies will occur against the Royals. With the expected infusion of healthy bodies, finding a player to DH whose swing isn’t bereft of contact will be easier for Bruce Bochy. The Giants are currently aligned to feature rotation stalwarts Bumgarner, Hudson, and Lincecum in this series. To the chagrin of the Royals, Madison Bumgarner’s road peripherals in 12 starts are 8-2, 80 K, 1.75 ERA, 0.93 WHIP. The Royals are 26th in runs scored and 30th in home runs hit in the majors at home. Frankly, it doesn’t take advanced sabermetrics to conclude the Giants can emerge victorious in this series.
While a sub .500 road trip doesn’t preclude the Giants remaining competitive, I believe it will be quite challenging to recover if the same uninspired baseball resurfaces. There has been a shift in momentum in the last week as the Dodgers have gained 5.5 games on the Giants. What seems like a benign 3.5 game advantage for the Dodgers could easily double in that span if the Giants falter. If the Giants do not want to remain mired in mediocrity, it is of utmost importance to have a productive road trip. Here’s to a road trip with frequent handshake lines and happy flights along the way.