The Giants completed the four-game series sweep over the D-Backs, but the sweep was hardly the headline. The starting rotation finally strut its stuff in a brilliant weekend series in Arizona.
It took a little over a month, but Giants’ fans were finally shown glimpses of how great this rotation can be. In the most recent four-game sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Giants’ starting rotation delivered on the preseason hype as a contender for the best rotation in baseball.
The Giants’ starting rotation had faced an extreme amount of scrutiny due to poor starts heading into this series. Yet, the combination of Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Jake Peavy, and Matt Cain seemed unfazed by the criticism of the rotation. The four starters went out and had some incredible starts this weekend versus a formidable D-Backs lineup, which is currently ranked fifth in the National League in overall offense.
The weekend started off with a quality start on Thursday night from number two starter, Johnny Cueto. Cueto has arguably been the best pitcher on the Giants’ roster to this point in the season, and continued to demonstrate why. In 7 innings of work, Cueto surrendered only two runs on 8 hits, while ringing up 9 batters in the process. Cueto relied heavily on his four-seam fastball, sinker, and cutter to induce a high number of groundouts. His number of various windups also kept batters from getting his timing down. Cueto continued to look like he’s worth every penny of the $130 million dollar contract.
The fun didn’t stop there, as Jeff Samardzija kept the pitching party going with another stellar performance on Friday night. Samardzija went 8 innings and only surrendered one run on 8 hits, while striking out 3. “The Shark” has never been a pitcher to rely on strikeouts, as he only has 47 on the season, which is just under 6 strikeouts a game. But what Samardzija does do well is induce groundouts, and he was doing that to perfection on Friday night. Samardzija relied heavily on his blazing-fast cutter and solid sinker to keep batters out of the sky. He also incorporated his slider a decent amount, with a sprinkle here and there of a splitter and a fourseam fastball.
Jake Peavy kept the momentum going by delivering his best performance of the season on Saturday night. Peavy relied primarily on his fourseam fastball and his cutter to carve up the D-Backs in spectacular fashion. Peavy managed to work his way through 6 strong innings, surrendering one earned run on three hits. Peavy found himself in a couple of sticky spots throughout the game that would’ve caused him to fold if this was earlier in the season. But Peavy was on another level this game, as he worked through these sticky spots like a pro after surrendering the one run in the early-goings of this game.
Then came Matt Cain to close out the series on Sunday afternoon. Cain found himself in a pitcher’s duel for the majority of the afternoon vs Rubby De La Rosa, as the two fought back and forth all afternoon in an excellent matchup of pitching. However, Sunday was different for Cain-Daddy. Giants’ fans saw glimpses of “The Workhorse” Matt Cain as number 18 effectively peppered the strike zone with a mix of fourseam fastballs, sliders, with the occasional changeup here and there. Cain delivered his best start of the season by delivering 7 solid innings where he only surrendered one run on 7 hits, while fanning 5 batters in the process.
Now, I’m not one to be overly crazy about Friday the 13th folk tales, but there was certainly some bad mojo in the Arizona air this weekend as the D-Backs faced a filthy Giants’ rotation. The four starters looked masterful and had the Diamondback hitters off-balance all weekend long. There weren’t many balls that got squared up by this lineup. The D-Backs have one of the best hitting lineups in the National League, and the Giants’ pitchers made them looks silly all weekend long.
This weekend in Arizona could be the turning point the Giants’ starting rotation needs. Cueto and Samardzija continued to look like solid investments, while Cain and Peavy finally flexed their pitching prowess as both pitchers delivered their best starts of the season. Assuming Madison Bumgarner continues to perform like the ace he is, the Giants may have finally found something that clicked with this rotation.
Until this point in the season, the number four and five spots on this rotation continued to be the lacking end of the roster. Peavy and Cain had struggled mightily up to this point in the season. Yet, starts like these could be turning points that could kickstart Cain’s and Peavy’s seasons, which should bring jubilation to all Giants’ fans. If Cain and Peavy can begin to carry their own weight, the Giants will quickly become a team that nobody wants to face come September.