It is written: The last shall be first and the first shall be last. Meanwhile the San Francisco Giants are right in the middle of the Wild, Wild West. After a week of the 2015 season, the Los Angeles Dodgers (2-3) are on the bottom of the National League West, while the Colorado Rockies (4-1) are on the top.
The Giants have been tested early with injuries, the latest being Casey McGehee with a strained left knee, requiring that Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy make some decisions. Around the Foghorn’s Matt Connolly has presented a clear picture of the available options, here, so what I plan to do is examine the first six games of the young season to see how the Giants are dealing with hard times.
This allows me to reflect on what went wrong in the light of what went well, afterwards.
Stuff splatters across the windshield of reality for the Giants: It’s how they deal with the aftermath that counts.
At the present moment, with all of the adversity the Orange and Black has met, you would think that they would be crying in their beer. The reality is, the elements that are bright are brilliant while those which are dark, are not bleak.
I like to engage in an exercise I call pluses and wishes. I refrain from using pluses and minuses, preferring to stay in the realm of the positive at all times. The way this works is for every wish, there is a plus. For instance, I wish Matt Cain’s forearm had not tightened up, and he could have made his first start of the season as scheduled. The plus is Giants fans got to see Chris Heston makes his second big league start and earn his first victory. Heston is scheduled to start the San Francisco Home Opener on Monday.
Apr 8, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Chris Heston (53) throws against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first inning at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
I wish Jake Peavy’s back had not tightened up, but the plus is that now the fiery Jake is set to start the pivotal finale down in San Diego, his first appearance at PetCo Park as a San Francisco Giant. Regardless of the outcome, it is good baseball drama, and one of the reasons to savor the upcoming season with the well-crafted Padres team providing some lively competition.
I wish Tim Lincecum had gotten a win out of his first start of the season, a 1-0 loss to the Padres on Friday night, but the plus is that he was throwing his specialty pitches well. Additionally, his fastball, even if clocked between 86 and 89 MPH for a good part of the game, had good movement and location to keep hitters off-balance. One game-especially against San Diego-does not a season make, but it’s a grand start.
I wish Brandon Belt had not strained his groin, but preliminary indications are that it is not serious and he was available to pinch-hit in Saturday’s blowout loss to the Padres. Though it was deemed unnecessary, he is tentatively penciled in to start Monday back in San Francisco. Do not rule out Bruce Bochy inserting him into the lineup for Sunday’s finale in San Diego, because he would desperately like to escape with a split. It’s too early to refer to games as must-win…but this comes close.
I wish that Angel Pagan had been able to score in the ninth inning Tursday night, immediately after his confrontation with Derek Norris at home plate over ABC gum, but the plus is the Giants were able to score in the twelfth inning on Justin Maxwell’s pinch-hit single, so it all worked out perfectly in the end. Pagan is such an emotional player, that it would have been fun to see the Giants score off of Craig Kimbrel so early in the season.
I wish that Casey McGehee had not strained his knee in Saturday’s loss to the Padres, but as we all know, the plus is that it could have been infinitely worse. While talking about McGehee, I also wish that he looked better at third, but the plus is that I have seen some stellar play too, so I have to expect it’s just early season jitters, and that he will be able to balance errors with brilliance.
I wish Ryan Vogelsong was not getting hammered so hard because I don’t want to think the gritty veteran is done. He is being hit so methodically in the early going, that unless there is a mechanical flaw, things are looking iffy. The plus is that Vogie is the epitome of competitiveness and the Giants have one of the best the best pitching coaches in the league in Dave Righetti, so if there is a way out, he will help Vogelsong find it.
Sep 7, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy (15) talks to pitching coach Dave Righetti (33). Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
I wish that Hunter Pence had not had his arm broken by a pitched ball early in spring training, but the plus is seeing how well the Giants outfielders have been playing defense, with Nori Aoki looking as though he were born to play left field. Bruce Bochy is well-known for his ability to extract the most out of his players and to use his bench effectively. I would not be surprised to see Justin Maxwell start in right field Sunday.
I wish the Giants were 6-0, but one plus is that Nori Aoki has taken to the leadoff spot so well, that Angel Pagan’s presence in the number three slot is having the desired outcome. Five of his seven hits (.304 average) have been for extra bases, with four doubles and a triple.
Overall, I wish there were a lower level of adversity, but the plus is that San Francisco, under the steady hand of Bruce Bochy, is handing the negativity with a method to their madness, a winning method that we have become accustomed to seeing.
With the National League West temporarily upside down, the Giants have the opportunity to make adjustments without losing ground to the to teams which are ultimately going to provide the toughest competition: the Dodgers and the Padres.
That’s the biggest plus of all.