Now that the San Francisco Giants have lost four games in a row, it’s safe to say they’re in a slump. And if it weren’t for the York Mets edging out the Chicaco Cubs Tuesday night, 2-1, the Giants would have lost their sole hold on MLB’s best record.
So, what’s going on?
It’s a combination of factors, both with the bats and on the mound. But ultimately, this cold spell is a showcase of the Giants’ weaknesses combined with the team’s heap of injuries finally taking a toll. They badly need to get Hunter Pence and Joe Panik back in the lineup. The Giants’ backups have done an admirable job filling in, but they can only hold down second base and right field for so long.
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(Getting Matt Duffy back at third base is not as urgent.)
Fortunately, Panik is expected back Friday in New York against the Yankees. He took two at-bats Tuesday night with Triple-A Sacramento, on the first day of his rehab assignment. Pence, who is also on a rehab assignment, had a setback the other day when his surgically repaired hamstring started acting up. It was said to be a minor setback, though, and Pence will try to resume playing today in a minor league game.
The last time Pence took a couple days off when dealing with a sore hamstring, he ripped it upon his return and landed on his current DL stint. Let’s hope is hammy is far stronger at this point and that the soreness was merely a natural part of the healing process.
While the lineup has survived, even thrived at times, without Pence and Panik, the gum and tape can only hold the house together for so long. And when Brandon Belt is batting third and Brandon Crawford, it’s hard to outslug the Red Sox or any other contender. That’s not a knock against Belt and Crawford, but they’re being asked to do too much. The current state of the lineup also suggests the Giants would be well served to pick up a big bat before the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline (which you’ve probably heard from me about 87 times by now). Pence and one of Braun/CarGo/Bruce would solve a lot of problems.
While Panik and Pence are expected to return in the coming days, Matt Cain is returning today to take on Drew Pomeranz and the Red Sox. It’s nice to have the starting rotation fully intact again, but don’t expect Cain to wow you right away. His recent history suggests he is a bit rough when returning from injury and takes a while to get into a groove. I hate to say it, but there is a high probability that the Giants’ losing streak will reach five games tonight.
If Cain doesn’t get back into a rhythm quickly, that could compel the Giants’ front office to consider adding a starting pitcher. Jeff Samardzija isn’t pitching that well, and while Jake Peavy has been okay, he isn’t a shutdown-type. So the Giants need to figure out if, after Bumgarner and Cueto, they have a third starter capable of delivering wins in the playoffs.
But adding a bat, a starting pitcher, and relief help—their most pressing need—is a tall order. The Giants more likely have to settle for addressing two of the three.