Okay, so the losing continues. Saturday’s win against the Yankees ended the six-game losing streak, the San Francisco Giants have lost two more times since. Now they have dropped eight of nine games coming out of the break.
My take: But maybe that’s a good thing.
Your response: What’chu talking about, Willis?
Seriously. A good thing. Because, really, isn’t this what they do when they’re about to chase down a World Series?
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I was texting with some buddies last night, and one of them summed up the Giants’ championship pattern like this: “Actually the Giants are right on track with the World Series even-year playbook. Play like the best team in the league, play like the worst team in the league, play average down the stretch, sneak into the playoffs, win the whole (ahem) thing.”
It’s tough to endure while it’s happening, but take a step back and you’ll see this really is no big deal. During their recent World Series seasons, the Giants never won 100 games. And even though they won the division in 2010 and 2012, they were never favored to reach—let alone, win—the World Series any of three times they have done so this decade. That’s largely because they were inconsistent teams with easily identifiable weaknesses.
So, nothing to worry about. Unless the Giants never get healthy. Or that my bold declaration last week—that Clayton Kershaw’s injury effectively gives the Giants the division—is undermined by the Dodgers trading for the uniform slasher, Chris Sale (which is being rumored).
If nothing else in the meantime, though, it would be nice to see the Giants win games so that Giants fans can get their immediate gratification, rather than mope themselves to sleep. And, regardless of whether this current slump is part of some grand cosmological plan for the Giants to win a fourth World Series this decade, they do eventually need to get back to winning more games than they lose.
At least one positive came out of the Giants’ 7-5 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Monday night. Bochy decided to drop Brandon Belt to sixth in the batting order. Belt had been struggling lately in the three hole, where he was batting because of the extended absences of Hunter Pence and, in a less direct manner, Joe Panik. No, the move, in itself, was not the positive thing.
The positive was that Belt immediately responded to the change, going 3-for-4 with a 2-run homer—showing that the Giants desperately need to get back to normal. i.e. They need to get healthy and get Pence back in the lineup so that everyone else can back to their normal roles. (Belt should eventually settle back into the lineup’s fifth spot.)
We’ve seen this before, where Pence’s absence is directly correlated with the Giants’ offensive struggles. The team endured for a while without him, but that could only last so long. Fortunately, Pence’s rehab at Sacramento is going well, as he’s gone 4-for-10 since resuming playing in games last Thursday. Assuming no more setbacks in his recovery from a brutal hamstring injury, he should be back in San Francisco later this week.
With Pence back in the lineup and Belt batting lower in the lineup, the offense should be a lot better—and with Panik, too, who could also be back later this week. At which point, the Giants should start scoring more runs. And maybe at that point they will have made a trade or two to further help the offense and to shore up the bullpen.